It’s My Church and I Want to Go Home

Today I watched something in person I’d never seen before–the General Conference in session conducting business.

As a young person who had never before attended a General Conference session it was inspiring to see the church take action on items. So often young people complain that the church doesn’t respond to our concerns. While it’s true that the church’s mode of operating is much slower than young people are used to with today’s technology, the church can and does take action on issues. What was conspicuously absent was the involvement of young people. Only 6% of the delegates were under 30, while 45% of the church is under 30.

Why are young adults not involved? I’ve seen some on social media complaining that the young people in the church don’t care about the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the church. Others have complained that the young people in the church aren’t responsible enough to be entrusted with leadership.

It is true–many of the young people in the church don’t care and aren’t responsible. Of course I do know many Godly young men and women who care, but their number is far smaller than it should be.

As young people what can we do? How can we encourage our friends to get involved? The most important thing we can do is pray. Jesus can change apathetic hearts. That’s His specialty.

The next most important thing we can do is get involved. This is our church too. This is my church too. Let’s participate. Let’s attend our church business meetings–whether at our local church or the GC. Let’s let our friends know what’s happening and why they should care. Let’s get involved in the mission of the church. Let’s pray that God sends youth into his harvest field–the harvest is getting ripe! Let’s volunteer for things, and do with diligence the work that lies nearest.

People are right. Most of us are not involved like we should be. Let’s get involved–I want to go Home!

 

Belonging

Belonging–it’s one of the deepest longings of the heart. To have a sense of being wanted. To have a sense of purpose. To really, truly be loved.

One of the subtlest, saddest things here is the lack of belonging. For so many people, life appears to be a round of endless activities utterly devoid of meaning, appreciation or love. A life like that must feel worthless.

Of course, it’s by no means unique to Tchad. In fact, it may be just as common or maybe more common in the US. Maybe it’s being away from friends and family that makes it stand out. Maybe it’s all the suffering I see on a regular basis. Maybe it’s my own struggles. Maybe you struggle with it too.

Maybe you have been rejected in ways that cut you to the core and make you feel unloved and worthless. Maybe you feel unappreciated and unwanted. Maybe you feel like damaged goods–unloveable.

Jesus loves you. He finds you amazing. He cares. He wants you–you specifically. He sees your scars, wounds, inabilities and insecurities and says, “I love you.”

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.

C’est la vie.

“Life is Good”–at least according to my hat.

Is it really?

It’s a marketing slogan, but is it really true? Is life really good? C’est vrai?

I’m sure that whoever wrote that never visited Tchad. I’ve wondered if they really knew what life was when they wrote it. Suffering and pain and death are all around us. How can one blithely say that life is good? Life isn’t good. Life is suffering, misery, pain and death. Life is a burden.

C’est la vie–such is life.

Whoever said that life is good must have never experienced the depth of emotional pain the human heart is capable of. Does the woman whose husband paid a huge dowry for a second, younger, prettier wife think that life is good? Do the women in the local jail whose husbands pay the guards to beat them think life is good? What about the father whose baby son died? How can life be good?

Of course, the easy, trite, and true answer is that one day God will put an end to suffering and death.

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” –Rev 21:3,4

That is a truly amazing promise, and I am eagerly looking forward to that wonderful day. But what about life here and now? How can it be good in the face of the horrendous evil in the world?

Today I had the awesome, incredible privilege to scrub in on a C-section. As I helped Dr. Danae pull out a new life I was struck by the beauty of life. In the midst of the bloody, messy procedure, a brand new baby boy was born. True, he lives in a messed-up, horrible, evil world. Not only that, but he lives in one of the most dangerous places to be a baby. But despite all that, he has been given some of the most phenomenal gifts in the universe. He has an amazingly engineered mind and the beautiful gift of freedom of choice.

This baby boy has the freedom to love, the freedom to give, the freedom to live for others. He has the freedom to choose to live his life for God. That is beautiful.

We live in a messy, bloody world, true. Is life good? I don’t know. But I do know a God who can pull beautiful new life out of messy, bloody worlds. And yeah, I think that life–it’s good. C’est une bonne vie.

Sin

“Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

A 4-year old boy came into the hospital this week with a horrible infection in his neck. Horrible infections are not too rare in this country, but this kid has a hole in his neck. A hole that you can stick a Q-tip in all the way through to the inside of his mouth. Oh yeah, and he’s missing most of the skin on his neck. Oh yeah, the infection has also spread down his shoulder blade.

Will he live? I don’t know. Will he suffer so much it would be better if he died? I don’t know. Chances are, he will do one of the two.

He’s only 4. You can see the pain in his eyes as the hospital staff changes his dressings. It’s bad enough when little kids die here–it’s even worse when they suffer like that. It’s a cliché, but it’s true–there are things worse than death.

Watching it makes me angry. It’s not his fault–he’s only 4! It’s easier to feel OK when a man is dying of lung cancer after years of smoking–I mean, it’s still sad, but he lived a decent life and it’s sorta his fault. it’s a whole different ball game when it’s a 4-year old though.

What if it was my kid on that table? What if my kid was suffering like that? I’d be looking for who did it to him. And whoever did it would be getting a bullet between his eyes. At the exact same time, I’d be doing everything for my kid. Anything to make him better. I would spend any amount of money, any amount of time. I would fight to see that he got the best care.

So who did it to the kid? In one sense, no one. It was just the result of life in Tchad. But in another very real sense, sin did it. And ultimately, Satan did it.

Sin is horrible. Sin is awful. We say that, but do we really recognize it? That kid’s suffering–it’s the result of sin. As a human race, we chose Satan. This boy is suffering as a direct result of that choice.

When you tell that lie, when you don’t help out that homeless guy by the side of the road, when you selfishly choose your work over those who really need you, you are choosing Satan’s way. It may seem harmless, but sin is never harmless. It always leads to death. Always.

“Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Really? Hate the sin, sure. Love the sinner, sure. But why not say instead, “Love sinners so much that you hate sin.” Love people so much that you hate what causes their suffering. Love that little boy so much that you hate the sin-filled world that caused his pain. Love the people around you so much that you hate the sin in your life that causes them pain.

Only when you start from love for the sinner–the love that God gives–will you truly hate the sin. You can’t start from hating the sin–you’ll just hate the sinner too. You have to start where God does–from love.

“God–give me your heart. Help me to love those around me so much that I hate sin. Help me to love every person and to hate every sin.”

Pain

Pain. It’s something you see every day here. A baby with an amputated leg screams as the gauze dressing over his severed stump is pulled off exposing his flesh to the air. A grandmother bravely grimaces as the bandage over her broken leg is changed and the bone pieces that are exposed to view scrape and grind with what must be awful pain. A heartbroken, bereaved father sobs for his son who was suddenly robbed of life in a terrible motorcycle accident.

The sadder fact is that baby will never be able to run on that leg. He will never be able to ride a bike with it. He may be fortunate enough to have a family who can afford a prosthetic, but his childhood won’t be the same as yours, I promise you.

That grandmother will end up losing her leg to an amputation, after which she may very well be abandoned or neglected by her family who can’t afford to spare someone from the fields to take care of her day in and day out. There are no nursing homes here.

The agonizing father will never get to see his son grow up. His son didn’t get to live a full life. The father will never see him run or play again. He will never see him get married or start a business.

How do you handle seeing pain? How does it affect you? We all see pain in the world around us. Much as we’d like to live in a perfect, painless world, we don’t. Some people ignore the pain around them by focusing solely on themselves. Others drown out the pain with entertainment. But these responses do nothing to help those in pain. How does one help those in pain? How can you avoid being overwhelmed?

There are no pat answers. There is no simple explanation. Biologically, pain has a purpose–to warn us of impending damage to our body. It has reason for existence. But what useful, noble purpose do we assign to the baby’s pain? How can we explain the grandmother’s sad situation? How do we make sense of an accident costing the life of the father’s son?

Ultimately, I don’t know. I can’t explain it.

I know it is a sad result of life in our sinful world. But I can’t explain why this baby lost his leg or why this grandmother is likely going to die from neglect or why this father lost his son.

I can’t explain why. I can, however, choose to live a life of service–to help those in pain–those who have experienced more than their share of this world’s burdens. I can choose to spend my life trying to make a difference. I can choose to refuse to ignore the pain of those living around me.

This is how God calls us to deal with the pain we see around us. This is what he says:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
(Isaiah 58:5-7)

God asks us to be agents of healing in the world. He asks us to love our neighbor and be the good samaritan. But he does more. He makes a promise–”He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4)

Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” –Hebrews 12:1,2

As I was going for a jog yesterday, I began contemplating this verse. It struck me–how often do I run the race of life fixing my eyes on something other than Jesus? It doesn’t say “fixing our eyes on friends” or “fixing our eyes on family” or even “fixing our eyes on the souls in need of salvation.” It simply says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus.” Jesus is to be the one we focus on. People will always let you down, but Jesus never will.

When God lets things in your life come to pieces, when people fail you, when you are left standing all alone–look to Jesus and keep running.

When you look at something while you run, you naturally run towards it. When we look towards Jesus, we’ll naturally draw closer and closer to Him. Our character will be closer and closer to His. Our life will become more and more similar to His. As we get closer to Him, we will see less and less other stuff. He will fill our field of view.

Life is a run. Run to Jesus.

First Week in Tchad!

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week since I arrived in Tchad. One can do an amazing amount in a week. I’ve been helping with rounds every morning (and learning what to do and thoroughly enjoying it.) I’ve helped with moving a bunch of stuff between containers that has to be done. I’ve ventured out into the market and gotten a taste of negotiating in an open-air market. I’ve learned just enough French to confuse whoever I’m trying to talk to.

At the same time, it’s also amazing how Satan attacks you so much more when you are where God wants you to be. It’s been said so often it’s almost a cliché, but it’s true. In less than 48 hours after arriving in Moundou, a number of things happened. Trusting God is a continual, daily, moment-by-moment struggle. And I’m sure it will get harder–it’s only been a week after all. But God is there through everything.

Excuse me while I go over to the hospital to watch and help Dr. Scott check on a lady whose wound won’t stop bleeding. Life in Tchad goes on!