It is always a good thing to evaluate our actions, and strive to improve on things. Like my sister Anna Maynard, I recently spent some time in Africa and truly had my eyes opened. Let me share some insights into what I learned from a third-world country. I hope that you will meditate on these things, as I did, and start each new day, with a new resolve.
Visiting Africa gave me a new sense of being thankful for my “daily bread.” When Jesus was teaching His disciples to pray, He said,
“Give us this day, our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) We have such an abundance here in the U.S. that we may have put food on our list as a “given,” and not thanked God for it lately. Do we honestly appreciate that He gives us food daily?
My husband and I visited the Cameroon Bible Institute of Wotutu, one of the extension schools that Bear Valley operates. On the first of every month, our congregation funnels money from various places and sends it to the director of the school to give to the students. One morning, I sat and watched as 24 men, training as evangelists, waited patiently for their name to be called. When it was, they walked to the front desk, and humbly picked up their support to live on for the month. Not one man counted his money, but returned to his seat and waited quietly. When all had been passed out, they burst into a song of praise to God. It was a touching moment. Tears filled my eyes (the first of many times that week!) Such gratefulness to God for His daily sustenance. “Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Psalm 106:1)
I watched also as people who had so little, materially speaking, give so much. They gave from what God had blessed them with. We received gifts of fruit and vegetables, almost daily, from the gardens that they were working in. One sister, who was new to the Faith, wanted to be sure that my husband and I had African clothes to wear for the graduation ceremony, so she worked all week sewing me a dress and Randy a shirt. They were beautiful and colorful! They were so gracious to us. It reminded me of the woman and the two copper coins, and how she gave all that she had to the Lord. (Mark 12:41-44) In this season of giving gifts to others, these people gently reminded me that gifts from the heart are the ones that touch us the deepest. I will treasure the gifts I was given there. Christ reminds us too, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
I was also reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:3-4, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever then, humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Everywhere I went, the children noticed me. Maybe because I was new in the village-or extremely white-I don’t know?! I loved their sweet reactions to me though-they wanted to feel my skin and touch my hair. Such innocence and honesty! When I visited the school, they all wanted me to see their backpacks and their papers, that they were working hard. They loved to sing, and welcomed me with their beautiful voices in a song of greeting, and presented me with a bouquet. No prejudice was shown to me-the new person in class-just huge smiles and soft touches. This made me contemplate how I treat visitors to our congregation. Are they welcomed with love and open arms as I was? Do I make them feel at home in these new surroundings? Let’s resolve to be the friendly face that is the reason someone returns to visit at another time, and wants to learn more about the church. “A joyful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)
I also have observed (over time, not simply in this one visit) that the congregation in Wotutu has respect for death as a natural part of life. Earlier in the year, the church there had lost a 24 year old woman. The first question that we would tend to ask is, “Why, what happened?” A lot of the time, they don’t even know why a person dies, or question it. They say it was God’s timing. Nobody asked us if we had heard of her death, being so young and all, it seemed that they had had their time of grieving and moved on in their mission in life.
This respect for the timing of God was seen again shortly after we returned home to Minnesota. We received a call from the hospital that they had rushed one of the students to the hospital with an asthma attack, and he had died. We were deeply saddened at the news, as was the congregation there, I’m sure. When we talked to them the next day, their focus was on his life being devoted to God and being faithful to the end. He was 50 years old, and he died only 4 days shy of his graduation. He was to receive the award for the “Student Best at Biblical Recollection.” Assah Menge Peter was a true student of the Word, and went on to his Heavenly reward. My prayer is for his family that he left behind; a wife and two children.
Brother Peter’s death reminded me to live each day for Him. We never know when the Lord will call us home, so let us turn any intentions we have into actions. He was prepared to go into the mission field and evangelize. What are you preparing to do? Do you have a plan? Let’s make our days count. “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives. Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:1-3)
Finally, Sisters, I saw focus on the realm above and not on worldly things. We were invited to several homes, which essentially were one or two rooms where the whole family lived. Bathrooms were outside, and cooking was done outside also. But the smiling, thankful faces were abundant! They were grateful for what they had, and welcomed us to come and sit with them. They were encouraged by our presence, yet in our minds, we were the ones so edified by the humble attitudes.
How does this hit home for me? The holidays can bring lots of visitors to our homes, entertaining to be done, and we can obsess over it all. But, let’s stop and think for a moment, will your guests remember your festive decorations and elegant dinnerware, or your welcoming spirit and the love they were shown? Will they notice your shiny floors or the way you “shine” for the Lord and His compassionate ways? Let your home be one filled with love of the brethren, and service to those less fortunate. “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in the land.’” (Deuteronomy 15:11)
Visiting other countries helps us to evaluate what we do here in the U.S. and why we do it. I took a hard look at what they did, and want to emulate them. I want to be pleasing to the Lord, and by watching the humble ways of the people I met, I was given a precious new perspective. What matters most is the life after, not stressing over worldly details here on earth. Let me encourage you to start each new day with this verse as your resolve: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:2-4)
Robin and her husband, Randy, work with the Lord’s church in Rosemount, Minnesota. They are blessed to have 7 children and 10 grandchildren. She is ever grateful for the grace of God and His undying love.