Sunday, August 7, 2016

What I Learned From My Trip To Africa

Recently, my wife and I spent 3 weeks in Tanzania, Africa. My son and his wife are missionaries there, working with a Bible translation team, making Bibles available to those who have never had one in their own language. They have 2 children, a boy who is almost 3 yrs. old and a girl who just turned one. They've been in Tanzania 6 years, and they've come back twice - for the births of each of their children. 

We've visited there once before, in 2012. This time, we stayed for 3 weeks. It was a somewhat different experience this time - not so intimidating, and not so much culture shock. After all, it is a third-world country. And when you experience that for the first time as an American, it's intimidating. You wonder if you are safe, or if you will get sick, and if you will be able to communicate. This time, however, we didn't feel that way at all. Instead of feeling unsafe or intimidated, we were fascinated with the culture, and took it all in. Of course, it helps that our son and daughter-in-law speak fluent Swahili. And that they are very comfortable in the culture where they live. 

We had a great family connection time while we were there. And we came away believing that we have a good feel for how our son's family live, and the things they deal with on a daily basis. We also got a good taste of what the culture is like, as well as the climate and the geography. In many ways, we can see why they call Tanzania home. It's a beautiful place and the people seem warm and friendly. 

One night I got to sit around a campfire with my son and some of the missionary guys who are on the translation team. I asked a ton of questions about everything from life in Africa to their backgrounds to their area of expertise. All of these guys were amazingly talented in their field - linguistics, computer programming, Bible. They are excellent at what they do, and any of them would be in high demand in America. I had to ask myself what motivates them. 

Their motivation can't be money, that's for sure. They aren't paid by their missionary organization - they must rely solely on monthly donations, support that they raise. To them, the term "the Lord provides" is something that's real, and something they depend on. 

And their motivation can't be prestige or power. They certainly didn't choose to become missionaries to gain recognition or praise. Many of their team's accomplishments involving the translation of Bibles aren't widely publicized. Actually, they all tend to display humility. 

As we talked around the campfire, I realized that they all have somewhat of a spirit of adventure. They all agreed. Maybe a better description would be one of courage. 

These missionaries and their families sacrifice so much. For one, they sacrifice good health care. The closest hospital, at least one that you would dare to walk into, is a four hour drive on rough roads. And there is always the threat of malaria and other diseases. Some of the missionaries have had malaria, and they all accept the fact that they will probably get it sooner or later. 

Another big sacrifice is just being away from family and friends. They miss so many things like weddings, funerals, and family events. I'm sure they battle homesickness from time to time. All I can say is that I'm thankful for technology - the internet, texting, and video chats - so we can communicate with them. 

And they sacrifice the many comforts found in America, like air-conditioning, or stable electricity, or fast internet. We sat around one night and talked about things we liked about America. Here are some: the ability to brush your teeth with water out of the faucet. Water that actually comes out of the faucet. Water that comes out of the faucet that you can safely drink. No fear of malaria or yellow fever. Foods that are safe to eat. Good restaurants. Abundantly stocked stores. Doctors, nurses, and hospitals. Safety and security. The ability to call 911. And so much more. 

One time my daughter was in Starbucks here in America, talking about her brother in Africa who gave up a big house, a high-tech computer programming job, sold his car, and left everything to live in a third world country with his wife. The lady she was talking to was startled and said, "How could he do that!?" She couldn't understand why anyone would make such a move. And I suppose if you were not a follower of Jesus, and not in a personal relationship with Him, and not a faithful servant, you would not understand. 

So, what is the answer? What is their motivation to be missionaries in a third world country? It's got to be a strong feeling that God wants them to be doing what they are doing - where they are doing it - using their talents for Him. It's got to be conviction. It's got to be a commitment to their team and to the ministry of spreading God's word to people who have never had it in their own language. It's got to be a matter of faith, trust, surrender, and obedience. 

Bottom line...what I learned from my trip to Africa...missionaries are very special people. And I'm sure that's true in the Lord's eyes as well.

And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Chip. Good insights. There is so much we take for granted here in the states. Blessings to your work there in DE. Hugs to the fam