Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Effect

A couple nights ago we had dinner with some friends here in Paso Robles and as we sat at their table, my friend's father asked me a question that took me a second to gather my thoughts and respond. "In living in Tanzania and seeing the needs everyday (poverty, disease, etc.) how has that affected you?"

It's a simple enough question and one with which I'm familiar. Many people have come in and out of Tanzania and their biggest takeaway is "wow, I realize how blessed I am to live in America, I'm now more grateful for that" or "seeing the way that they live everyday really wrecked me." I suppose seeing what man's depravity leads to does affect someone and there is plenty of that in such an impoverished nation like Tanzania. But, how has it affected me personally?

Shortly after the Lord called me to Tanzania, I had this training that I went to in Mexico for our 2008 trip. One night as we finished up our worship service and people began to meander and visit in their tents, I sat by the fire gripped by the Holy Spirit. I couldn't return to my tent, I couldn't hang out with others. God started to talk to me in a way that He hadn't done before, He spoke about children that die without parents.

A picture of a child curled up on a cold cement slab, sick and dying, permeated my mind's eye. I knew that this wasn't merely a figment of my imagination, but a reality that happens day in and day out throughout the world, especially in the majority world where death, corruption, disease and poverty are so prominent. One by one, God brought to my mind children that I knew, children that I loved, and asked me if they were sick and dying with no one else around, would I hold them? As I looked at the situation and given such a proposition to hold a dying child, I replied to the Lord's request "no, I can't."

As I paced back and forth under the sole streetlight on that dusty town corner in Mexico, children flooded my mind and God began to break my heart for these children. It felt like a fight, children were dying cold and alone and most people in the world just let it happen. It sickened me. After some time praying and pacing, I realized I couldn't tell God "no" anymore.

"Yes God, if this child were dying I would hold them, love them, pray for them. If they died, I would be their father as they passed and deliver them into Your hands."

That's the kind of experience that affects you.

Tanzania has affected me, the plight of these children has affected me. I still remember the first day when I moved to Tanzania in January 2010. I knew that one of the children at the orphanage was sick, little Anjela. As I was in transit, Anjela passed away. That was the first news upon landing in Kilimanjaro, now a full-fledged long-term missionary. A child that I knew, a child that I planned on seeing everyday and loving, has now passed away. That does affect me.

But as I think about Anjela, I know that she was surrounded by people that loved her at the orphanage. The missionaries, the Tanzanian staff, the other children loved her and they were there to deliver her in the Heavenly Father's arms. They had affected her.

As I sat at the dinner table, I tried to gather the words to respond to this man's questions, a common and honest question. How has Tanzania affected me? It's affected me in lots of ways, but I'm more concerned with how I affect Tanzania, how I affect these children and students, how I affect the church there, the unchurched there, what impact can I make for the Kingdom of God.

I want to see the souls of man healed and restored. I want to see children placed in families that know them, love them and will train them up in the Way that they ought to go. I want to see young adults lit on fire with the Gospel, passionate about making a difference in their nation. I want to be an ambassador of God's Kingdom to that land. I want to affect Tanzania.



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