Out of Africa
Fifty years ago today a young Texan boarded a freighter in New York Harbor, accompanied by his wife and young daughter. Two months later they arrived in Addis Ababa to begin pouring out their hearts (and their health) in service to the natives of southern Ethiopia.
Twenty-two years later I would marry that little girl.
Twenty-seven years later we are still in love with each other but even more so with the God whom we have the privilege of serving together. In these years we have learned that apart from Him we are nothing and can do nothing. Only what is produced in our hearts by Him is acceptable to Him.
We have been limited in the understanding and enjoyment of God by our faulty hearts and minds, but even with these shortcomings we have experienced mighty quickenings of both. We have tasted of the powers of the world to come and are hungry for more.
Meanwhile we are content to pour out our feeble gifts on the altar of His service, realizing that our sinful selves can never glorify God but our dedicated personalities can. He has led us all over the world, and this fall we will travel to Kenya and Ethiopia to serve Him one more time. We will return to Africa realizing that we are standing on the shoulders of spiritual giants of a previous generation – a generation that took the Gospel where it had never been heard before.
Today much of the church is a showboat instead of a lifeboat. It has gone in for theatrics, playing to the grandstand of a pagan age. We are no longer sufferers in the arena, as were the earliest Christians; we are spectators in the grandstand. But the “show” in the arena is not a play, it is real. We do not act the part; we must live it.
Nowadays, when joining a church is the thing to do because it enhances our standing in the community or garners for us votes, the saints of suburbia are ill-prepared for the challenge of being completely spent for Jesus’ sake. Not so my in-laws’ generation. They thought nothing of being on exhibit as “fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Cor. 4:10) in the amphitheatre of hidden, god-forsaken lands. They were people of the cross, preaching the message of the cross, and bearing the marks of that cross. Unconscious that they bore the marks of the Master in their countenance, they well knew that
The only heaven some will ever see
Is the heaven they see in you and me.
Churchill once said of Britain’s airmen, “Never did so many owe so much to so few.” Of God’s faithful witnesses of that generation we may say, “Never did so few owe so much to so many.”
July 15, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book is Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.