Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I never dreamed

I remember sometime in my final year of university, I and my best friend were chatting one night about marriage and futures and dreams, and he asked me, “Where do you see yourself in 7 years?” And all of a sudden without a second thought, I said, “Probably I’ll be a missionary somewhere in Africa.” It wasn’t something I had dreamed or planned or talked about. It just sort of came out without thinking, as though it was simply meant to be.

But the truth is, I never dreamed of being a missionary.

I dreamed of the things little girls ought to dream about. I dreamed of houses with big wrap-around porches and babies and husbands and baking chocolate chip cookies and taking kids to soccer practice and home cooked dinners around the dining room table.

I never dreamed of being a missionary.

I never dreamed of dirt roads and spiders and angry mobs and trains and planes and buses. I never dreamed of fires and foreign languages and bunk beds and break-ins.

I never dreamed of cities or nations.

I never dreamed of cups of tea on the ground in Cairo’s slums. I never dreamed of the bright red of Maasai blankets or the deep green of the bush bush or the crystal waters of Zanzibar. I never dreamed of snowy castles in Germany or ancient bridges in Prague, of singing nuns in Austria or skyscrapers in Dubai.

I never dreamed of being a missionary.

I never dreamed of the stench of garbage cities or the depression of overflowing orphanages. I never dreamed of heart-wrenching overwhelming love for someone who can’t even speak your language. I never dreamed of strangers who cook everything they have for you, of acquaintances who give their last pennies for you. I never dreamed of long nights in the hospital with people you’ve just met or safaris with strangers-turned-friends. I never dreamed of the sunrise over the pyramids or the sunset over the Atlantic.

I never dreamed of being a missionary.

I never dreamed of the hundreds and hundreds of students - how could I never have dreamed of the students?

I never dreamed of students, of life-changing world-changers, who capture your heart and never quite give it back. I never dreamed of them.

And the crazy part is that sometimes I still lie awake at night and wonder if my dreams aren’t too big, too late, too impossible. I do.

And then God reminds me…

I never dreamed of being a missionary.

“What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet.”

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela, in Dad's words

Last night, South Africa and the world lost a treasure when Nelson Mandela died. I thought I would share with you the letter my dad wrote on his passing.

My family writes letters. When significant events happen, we write. It’s weird, I know, but true. Before my Grandmother (on my mother’s side) got sick a few years ago, she wrote long letters to me on significant occasions recalling beautiful memories or the simple joys of mundane activities. And even now I frequently get a well-written letter from my Grandfather (on my father’s side) to commemorate a big event or remind me of my heritage. It’s what we do.

This one was particularly fitting given my Grandparents’ life-long work as Methodist missionaries in Africa, and I think it eloquently articulates the significance of Mandela’s life in a very personal way.

Hi family, 
I […] thought I would share these thoughts of mine on Nelson Mandela since I heard of his passing Thursday night.

As people reflect on the life of Nelson Mandela of South Africa it is important to identify how he could become an agent of reconciliation and a statesman who not only respected the legal limits of his presidential power but stepped down from power when he could have remained there for life. The answer is found in the early influence of missionaries and Methodist pastors in his life. He went to church and was baptized when young, and although he strayed from it as an adult, when in prison it was renewed. Pastors I know in South Africa tell me that President DeKlerk became aware of it and, being a believer himself, felt he could take the risk to let Mandela go free, end Apartheid and give blacks the right to vote. But Mandela states it himself in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, on page 620. In explaining some of his reasons for his actions he said it was because "I was a Christian." Little more was told of it in his book, but this is part of the untold story that explains how God could turn this flawed man into a mighty force for good. 
I personally went to South Africa in the late 1980s to see the conditions under Apartheid. I went alone to the black townships of Soweto and Sharpsville (where a massacre there turned Mandela to believe peaceful protest was no longer enough) and met with various pastors and preached in some churches. When it was announced that elections would take place in the early 1990s that included blacks for the first time, I was contacted by those leaders in South Africa to come and help train them for leadership. I organized a team of speakers, although I personally could not go to South Africa when they wanted to have us come because I was speaking to leaders at Russia's parliament at that same time (The Soviet Union had just been dissolved). But Stephen McDowell went and a few others […] and they addressed thousands of leaders in a couple of national symposiums on how to have reconciliation and how to govern with a Biblical worldview. My book Liberating the Nations was distributed to thousands for their study. At that crucial transition point in the early 1990s, some of these leaders were elected into parliament and took other important positions of influence. I have had the privilege of returning and working with leaders since then, some of whom still serve in parliament. Though my role was but one part of the miraculous avoidance of civil war in that land (difficult for some people today to comprehend how much a miracle that was), I received an award a few years later from the South Africa parliament, which I treasure highly. 
The passing of Mandela will remind people of that crucial time in history and he will receive credit he deserves, but let us remind people of God’s greatness even more, that the King of the Earth chooses to use such men as Mandela and thousands of others who most people will never hear about, And let us pray that God would move on hearts of leaders among the nations today and raise up more statesmen who may overcome evil with good and bring healing to their lands. And finally let us be training the next generation of leaders and getting them ready to step forward both in America and the world. 
I am proud of all of you. Each one of you are a force for God and good in your own way where you are. I am so thankful for that. 
Love, Dad
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