One Last Note by Charlie King
I am on my way home… it’s Monday morning, in the airport at Amsterdam, and I am waiting a flight to Atlanta. I am drinking – gratefully – a good cup of coffee and staring at a bag of Rwanda coffee that Starbucks is selling for $15 a quarter kilo. Hmm, I bought some in a market in Kigali for $6
a kilo. Someone is making a lot of money out of this, and it isn’t the farmer. But that is the way it is in Africa. The social inequities, the arbitrariness of the authorities, the unfairness of it all, the seemingly avoidable sufferings, the constant threat of violence, and the ever present poverty are often the immediate impression I am left with when I leave. Africa just smells like Africa and everything about it is so foreign and so difficult. Or so it seems.
But the fact is that this is the place where I see the gospel played out. You want to know the problems and the suffering that Jesus saw? Go to Africa. And you want to see the conviction that was taken aboard by his disciples, despite all those problems? Come meet some of the men and women with whom we work and who live every day before God under conditions that would make us shrink. I don’t think I really understood the Bible until Pastor Pete took me on my first trip to Africa.
And now I see Isaiah’s words made real: “So shall my word be that goes from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:11-12).
The church in Africa is strong. Certainly there are very serious threats, most of which, quite frankly, come from within rather than without the church (after all Paul warned of “fierce wolves arising from among you” (Acts 20:29). And yes, the gospel is insulted by the charlatans of the health and wealth crowd, syncretism handicaps it, Muslim extremists try to kill it, and Western secularism certainly doesn’t help it. And yes, the church here needs discipleship, mercy missions, and fellowship with like-minded believers. But Christ will not be denied, and the center of His church is settling in Africa. We may be diminishing spiritually in the West, but the light is not going out – it’s just changing hands. I read a few days ago a lament by an American writer about the state of Christianity in the US. He complained: “The end of majority approval in society for exclusive Christianity, absolute morality, traditional moral standards, and in particular sexual morality, may soon make life very difficult for traditional Christians.” Well that may be, but we are not the center of the world, and certainly not the center of Christianity. Besides, how can we say that life is tough for Christians in America?
On the bus to Kampala on Friday night, the driver, after he came aboard and before we started, stood up and led everyone on the bus in a prayer for safe travels. No one thought anything of it, other than that it was a good idea. It was entirely normal. I have no idea what the prayer said, as it was in Kinyarwandan, but I saw in that simple act recognition that life is not limited to what we know and what we control. There is more, much more, than just the sufferings of this life. As Kabugo James says, “Whether I live or die, Christ reigns.”
Yesterday, I was invited to give the message in the church pastored by Pastor Milton Lipa, who has been teaching with us in Gulu and Kigali, and who leads the African board of TCWM. I thought of continuing on in my thoughts about “why is there suffering?” But that shortchanges all of us and it keeps me focused on the problem, and not the solution. So instead, my message was “why is there salvation?”
Why? Because He loves us and He takes joy in our salvation. It is become of Him that we will be presented blameless before the glory of God and He – God himself – will take great joy in that (Jude 24). The poorest African peasant, saved by grace alone, will delight the Creator of the universe upon his salvation. What an amazing God we serve…
This is what I am taking home. Not the memories of the poverty, or the dirt, or the smell, or the fatigue, or the constant problems. But the salvation that is already here, and yet to come.
Cheers and blessings,