It was last spring and my first day in Cameroon when I seriously asked myself this question: What am I doing here?
Cameroon is a beautiful country and the people are amazing, but during the rainy season it can get very hot and humid. And wet. Did I mention wet? Now mind you, I lived in north central Kansas for last fourteen years and have seen my share of rain storms. But let me tell you: Kansas ain’t got a thing on Cameroon. When the rain falls in Cameroon, the rain falls in Cameroon!
We had just finished lunch shortly after arriving at the motel where our team was staying when the first drops started coming. And then came more. And then more. Before we knew it, we were all soaked head to toe and running as fast as we could to our individual rooms. During my escape from the storm all I could think about is whether or not Toto would have thought twice about singing about “blessing the rains in Africa” if they experienced a storm in Cameroon. At that particular moment, and in my cynicism, I guessed not.
After I got out of my soaking wet clothes, I tried to warm up with a quick shower. However, the water in my room wasn’t working. After the storm subsided I asked one of the motel staff about having it turned on. I was assured someone was working on it and it would ready within the hour. Hours later – and still no water – I inquired again and was told it would be on later that evening. Evening came and still no water. By this time the doubts began to creep into my mind…
What am I doing here?
A member of the hotel staff finally moved me to different room with working water. She gave me a heads up that it wouldn’t be cleaned until the following day when the rest of the staff came back for work. At that point, I really didn’t care. All I wanted was a (moderately) hot shower, a warm bed and to get some rest.
Now, when I travel internationally I try very hard to not be one of those fussy Americans who constantly complain because the environment around them isn’t what they are used to back home. Doing these kinds of trips into the developing world calls for leaving creaturely comforts behind and being willing to embrace new and different experiences. I get that. And I was prepared for that reality…or so I thought. But when I walked into the bathroom and saw two of the largest spiders I had ever seen in my life scurrying about – no joke! – I just about lost it. Now I don’t have a spider-phobia and regularly dispatch them around my house on my wife’s behalf, but at this point I was tired, jet-lagged, homesick for my family, and still wearing wet clothes from the storm. So again I asked myself:
What am I doing here?
In God’s good providence, the answer came the very next day. After getting a tour of the city, our host pastor took us to an evening worship service at his church. There were probably close to seventy people packed into a small worship space. But worship they did! The people danced, sang and praised God with exuberance and delight. And the music? Wow! With our hearts filled to overflowing, we went home that night rejoicing in the work God is doing through the Cameroonian church. The next day, we introduced our training program at a regional conference for pastors. They travelled far and wide to meet with us, taking invaluable time away from jobs and family. Many of them have suffered greatly due to political challenges the country is currently facing. And yet here they were, hungry for the training ELLS International has to offer. So I asked myself again:
What am I doing here?
By this time, the answer to that question had become very simple:
I am here for them. For the 85% of the world’s pastors who are leading churches in areas where Christianity is exploding with growth, and yet do not have access to formal training or theological education. They are the future of the global church, and it’s a joy and privilege to serve them.
I am here for Him. The One who saved and called me to serve Him over twenty years ago. The One who has seen me through every difficulty and struggle, and promises that His grace is sufficient for my every need. The One who calls me to follow Him without imposing my own conditions upon the kinds of places and people He send me.
I am here for me. Not for my own self-aggrandizement or the applause of men. Not for clean rooms, hot showers, and the absence of larger-than-life spiders. But to be reminded that serving Christ is not about ease and comfort, but glorifying Him and building His church.
So while I didn’t necessarily “bless the rains” I experienced in Africa, I do bless God for allowing me to catch a glimpse of the amazing things He is doing through His church on that continent. There is nothing else I would rather be doing.
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