Why I Didn’t Like What Africa Taught Me.

Yes, you read that title right.  It is now September and I left for Africa in the middle of July.  You may have noticed, I have not written any blogs on my experience there.  It is hard for me to write this and even more difficult for me to share, but I did not like what Africa taught me.  Jeremy, my brother-in-law, and Justin, my husband, and I have talked about this a lot.  What we learned in Africa is weighing heavily on our hearts.  Some days the weight feels like it might crush me.  But let me back up.

Before we left for Africa Justin was disheartened by the comments of those around us.  Now, let me say this, we understand why these comments were made.  We know that the Christians who said them meant well, but it still bothered us, deeply.  The first comment we got… a LOT, was “But is Tanzania safe?”  Okay, I realize this was being said because they care.  But Jesus never said “Go into all the safe places and teach the Gospel”.  He didn’t specify where, why?  Because sometimes He calls you to the dangerous places.  Now, Tanzania isn’t particularly dangerous.  It is not like Cairo or Syria.  However, it is much more dangerous than our little town of Villanow, Georgia.  Is it more dangerous than going to Chicago?  Probably not.  But that isn’t the point  The point is pray for our safety, by ALL means, but whether or not where we were going was safe…shouldn’t be an issue.

The other comment truly unsettled us.  We were shocked the first time it was made.  “Well, you’ll go over there, do some good, and come back feeling good about yourself”.  Yes, that is a real comment made to us.  We did not go to Tanzania to FEEL GOOD about ourselves.  If that is your motivation behind doing good that is pure selfishness.  We went to Tanzania because we feel like God is pulling us there.  HE wants us there.  That is why we went.  We want to glorify HIM in all our actions and if He feels the need to lead us to a third world country, I pray we always have the courage to follow.

Now, why haven’t I written about our time in Africa?  To be honest it is because I don’t think it is what all of you want to hear.  Last night I was talking with Justin and Jeremy and we realized we’ve all been asked the same question since we got back, “Coming back makes you realize how blessed you really are, doesn’t it?”  And we have all replied the same way, with a half-hearted smile, shrug, and “Yea”.  I am sorry friends, I hope you will forgive me, but that was a lie.  We have been lying to you and ourselves since we got back.  So here is the truth:

Tanzania taught me that America are the poor ones.  

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Most everyone who has looked at our pictures is startled by their dirty, ragtag clothing, and snotty noses.  Friends, we are the poor ones.  Why?  Because we can’t see past material things.  We are so materially rich we are spiritually poor.  We are destitute.  My heart breaks for the church in America.  It only took a day before the dirty clothes and snotty noses were overlooked by our team.  These children are the HAPPIEST children I have ever encountered.  I can’t imagine if you put 50 of our children in a place with no toys, one change of clothes, and corn paste to eat every single day that they would be filled with the joy these children have.

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Why is there such joy? Because they don’t KNOW they are missing anything. They have Jesus, what else do they need? Nothing.

Here is a small portion of the conversation between Jesus and the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-30:

“What do I still lack?”

 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect,go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

I am afraid this is us, America.  ALL of us.  We have become the rich, young ruler.  We are so attached to our things that we feel sorrowful for those who don’t have our things, so much so that we can’t see true joy.  Why can’t we see the joy?  Because we don’t understand it.  If Jesus were truly here today and told us to sell ALL of our possessions and follow Him, would we be able to?  Or would we turn away from him sorrowful because that meant no netflix, no college football games, no coach purses, no closet full of clothes, no fishing poles, no four wheelers, and possibly even going hungry more often than not.  Could we do it?  I am afraid we would all go away sorrowful.

Africa was an eye-opener for me, but not in the way I thought it would be.  I have always heard horror stories about third world countries, and let me tell you, it is NOT all rainbows and sunshine.  But it is a lot of joy, kindness, and Jesus.  Did most of the people we met have more than one change of clothes?  No.  Were their bellies full? No.  But they were a people of rejoicing.  They know that this life is temporary, and what is cable tv and a closet full of clothes when NONE OF THAT LEADS YOU TO JESUS?   All those things are distraction upon distraction FROM JESUS.  

Now, I am sure I will be attacked for this post.  We can’t ALL give up our jobs, we can’t ALL give up our things, and so on and so on.  You are right, you have to have senders and goers.  “How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” Romans 10:15 Even implies that someone has to be the sender.  

I hate to reduce things to numbers because Jesus doesn’t care about numbers, but for example…. Instead of us giving Jesus 10% and living off of the remaining 90%, why don’t we live off of 10% and use the 90% to further His kingdom.  Let’s preach the good news, it is just that, GOOD NEWS.  I wonder if we even believe that.  Jesus is the only thing in this life that matters.  His word is a matter of eternal LIFE or eternal DEATH.  Let’s start acting like it.  

Christianity isn’t a halfway thing.  You are either ALL in or ALL out.  He hates those who are lukewarm. “‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Rev 3:16

We are the ones who are blind.  Blind to the spiritual blessings God promises, because we want to see the material things as His blessings.  He NEVER promised material things.  He tells us not to worry about food, clothing, or shelter.  He wasn’t talking about a feast, an entire closet, and a mansion.  He meant we won’t starve, we will have clothes on our backs, and if a storm comes he’ll provide a tree for shelter.  He never preached a health and wealth gospel.  Christianity isn’t easy.  It requires us to give EVERYTHING to God in exchange for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Those are the blessings from God here on this earth.  Our homes and all our things are nothing but distractions, and I don’t know that they come from Him.  

Now, before you tar and feather me…think about why what I am saying makes you angry.  It is probably because you don’t WANT to give up your things for Him.  And I’m not telling you you have to.  I am only saying we at the very LEAST need to change the way we think.  

Let’s become on FIRE for God. 

Let’s become people who see the heart of men.  

Let’s become people who will give all of our possessions up to follow Him.

Before I close I want to tell you I am not just saying all of this.  You can’t talk the talk and not walk the walk.  This is why I don’t LIKE what Africa taught me.  I was perfectly complacent being an American Christian who attended church when the doors are open, talked about God on occasion, thanked the Lord for the piles upon piles of material things he had “blessed” me with.  But all of that is changing in the Maynard home, and I know it’s not just my home that is changing.  I have found many around me who feel the same way.  We are cleansing our home, purging our life from the material things that have blocked us from Jesus.  Can we all have things?  Yes, but if it is THAT important to you to argue your case to keep them then YOU are who I am talking to.  You are me.  

I am not accountable for anyone but myself.  I am choosing Jesus.  I just wanted to share with all of you why I haven’t written about Africa.  I was afraid to.  I was afraid of what it would mean in my life, and afraid of the reaction other Christians around me would have.  But, no more.  I have decided to be radical for Jesus and this is only the beginning. 

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Anna Maynard

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Mission-Trip-2014

In 2008 I was privileged to travel to the Chimala mission in the country of Tanzania as a teacher in the program of preacher training on the campus of the mission. Since then I have become the director of the school and a missionary to the native population. We have graduated numerous young men and women who are now spreading the “boarders of the kingdom.” Along with some amazing native and American teachers in the heart of east Africa we have a dedicated group of young adults who are going to work on the mission this summer. They are going to come to teach and minister with both spiritual and physical help. We have a church deacon, trained schoolteachers, a nurse, college students and construction workers. They all have a heart of compassion and a desire to share what they have received in Jesus. Most of them have expressed the desire to let this be the first of many trips in going to fulfill the Biblical mandate. Numerous others have said they want to go next year.

Their joy, zeal and excitement to do God’s work is so rewarding and heartwarming. I know this experience will change their lives and help them grow spiritually. We covet your prayers, thoughts and encouragement. Their hard work and dedication will reap not only benefits to the Tanzanians for now but most importantly for eternity.

We are going to Tanzania, from America, because we want to be like Jesus. Jesus left his home, the comfort of the Father to go. (Philippians 2:5-11) He left the comfort of heaven to be among the people. So we are going, going to live among the people, learn from them, eat what they eat, observe what they observe. We are going to glorify our Father in heaven.

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Garry L. Hill

Director: Chimala Bible Institute

You Are Radiant

 

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I am radiant. I am beautiful. I am wonderfully made.

My entire life I have been taught by my mom that in order to believe in God all I needed to do was open my eyes. By looking at the sunsets and stars I could see God’s existence. By feeling the wind and rain I could feel His power. By helping other people I could share His love. His fingerprints are everywhere. They are in the shape of the clouds and in the size of the mountains and in the faces of everyone around me. Every little thing is a beautiful miracle created by God to show me that He would always be there. This world and its people are beautiful because God made it that way.

I am going to Tanzania, Africa in one month. My sisters and I will be teaching the high school girls on the mission in the afternoon. Our theme for the classes with these girls is beauty. The only problem is that the world has the incorrect translation of the word “beauty.” To be beautiful in this world you have to be physically beautiful. Your outward appearance is what people notice first about you. Those who do not have the best features are thought of as “ugly.” Who are we to think that we have any right to call someone beautiful or ugly based off of his or her outward appearance?

In 1 Samuel 16:17 the Lord says to Samuel “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man look at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

We are a shallow world. We look for beauty in all the wrong places.

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God tells us we are made in his image. Nothing ever made in God’s image could be ugly so why do we think of others or ourselves as not being beautiful? Because we have been looking at the picture wrong. We are like the Jews who thought Jesus was coming with an earthly kingdom. We are foolish and naïve. God would not create a beautiful world and fill it with ugly people. We are His people. He will care for us, protect us, watch over us, and save us. We are beautiful through knowing Him.

In Psalms 34:5, David calls those who look to the Lord radiant.
I am radiant. You are radiant. WE are radiant.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 states that “God has made everything beautiful in its time.”
I am beautiful. You are beautiful. WE are beautiful.

David sings to the Lord in Psalms 139:14, “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”
I am wonderfully made. You are wonderfully made. WE are wonderfully made.

I am going to Tanzania, Africa in one month to share the beauty that God has given to everyone.
And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

You are radiant. You are beautiful. You are wonderfully made.

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-Samantha Edwards

Radical Christianity

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source:http://girlmeetsdream.tumblr.com/post/30320076005

I have an obsession with the book of James. Maybe I am way off base but I feel like James and I are kindred statements. Possibly because he makes giant, soul searching statements that shake you to your core. He isn’t someone to read if you want to be a “comfortable” Christian. If you want to examine yourself, strip away what you think Christ wants from you, and then fill yourself with a fervent passion to change all aspects of yourself, to be a true radical Christian… read James.

He makes statements about suffering being a blessing.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

That is how he starts out his letter. Yes, that is only the beginning. Who starts out a letter with saying to consider suffering and trials a blessing? James, that is who. He is radical.

We think of being radical in a negative way. I don’t mean it that way at all. Merriam-Webster defines radical in this way:

very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary

: very basic and important

: having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people

James was different from what is tradition and ordinary. He was a Christian, and Christianity is of the upmost importance.

James warns us against the sin of partiality in James 2. He then goes on to tell us how faith, without works, is dead. They go hand in hand folks, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” James 2:18-20

This should be an eye opener for us. James is being radical again. He is telling us we can’t simply believe and be saved. We also can’t “work our way to heaven”. We have to show our faith BY our works. We have to be true Christians who not only mean what they say, but do what they say. We can’t preach and not act out what we preach.

In chapter 3 he tells us how dangerous our words are. He compares our tongue to a fire, a small light that in any given moment of carelessness can set a forest ablaze. James tells us to bridle our tongue for it is a small member of our body, yet it “boasts of great things”. Chapter 3 is where I struggle daily, but James, by the inspiration of God, has called ME and YOU to be radical. So I am working on taming my tongue.

Chapters 4 and 5 are where I fall in love with James. It is where he tells us that making friends with the world makes us enemies with God. Whoa. Radical? Right. But for James that is mild. Here is where he gets really radical, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.” What? Okay, so as Christians we get the whole no pre-marital sex, no drunkenness, no stealing or lying, we can’t murder or commit adultery, but James is taking this a step further. James through the inspiration of God is telling us that we are not even to SPEAK evil against our brethren.

Chapter 5 is a real doozie from this radical Christian. James begins with a warning to the rich. He basically tells us that storing up for ourselves here on earth is not going to get us to heaven. In fact, it will do the opposite. Storing up for ourselves here leaves us with nothing but moth-eaten materials and a selfish heart. The selfish won’t be inheriting the kingdom of God.

So, why am I bringing up the book of James in this blog? As I look toward our mission trip next month to Tanzania, Africa I am seeing how much I need to change my life. I want to become more radical, like James, but with the heart of David. I have skipped a couple of verses from James that I want to bring up now. These verses don’t just apply to our upcoming mission trip but to the mission field right outside our own door. Let’s change the world, brothers and sisters, let’s become radical Christians.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

I am going to be radical here, so listen up. I do not care how many times you sit your fanny in a pew. I do not care if you believe in God. If we are not out taking care of the orphaned and the widows, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and living the words that we preach… then that fanny in that church pew isn’t going to get you to heaven, and neither is your belief. We have to get out into the world, whether it be at school, work, or Africa and BE Christ to this dying world.

How are we going to do that? James has already told us. We need to count our trials as blessings. They are shaping us for our battle against the dark forces, so that we can overcome the evil one. These trials are pushing us one step closer to our goal of eternity in heaven. Rejoice!

We need to start taming our tongue. Out of the same mouth we bless God, we curse our brethren. This has to stop. Instead, let’s fill our mouths with God’s word, with praises, and with blessings. Let’s be a joy and light to others.

Here is a hard one, here is where we really have to be radical. Stop trying to be rich. Stop working your life away for earthly gain. God will provide the necessities, food, shelter, clothing. Everything else we don’t need! Instead let’s use what we have stored up and help those around us. Let’s feed and clothe the world, let’s house and love the orphans, let us give until it hurts!

God has called us to be radical. To set our eyes on things above and never look back. How are you going to do that? Tanzania has changed me and I have not even been there yet. Read the book of James and be transformed.

I will leave you with these last words of James. Here is how James ends his radical book:

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20

How many sinners are you willing to save from death? Let’s start today.

-Anna Maynard