For the second time now I have watched my parents, Glen and Rita, leave Santa Cruz returning to Congo. My bags were not with theirs, and although I could visualize the planes they would be on, the airports they would be in, and the place where they would be arriving, I would not be with them. The first time they left without me was when I was in college. They were returning to what I knew as home, while I stayed in the US to finish school. Five years later, here I am again, waving goodbye.
As their departure date has drawn near, I have watched their excitement, and anticipation for getting back to Congo. A year in the United States seeing friends, family, and living a western lifestyle has been good, but there is a different kind of life waiting for them back in Congo. Both my mom and dad have many responsibilities there, but also so many opportunities to help and encourage the national church, and the people of Congo. This is what gives them that burning desire and excitement to get back to Congo, to join friends and colleagues ministering there.
As their departure date drew closer, and I myself am planning a trip overseas, this idea of going has been on my mind a lot. Adding to my thoughts, I have had multiple people in the last few weeks ask me “Why go to a place that is so difficult to work in, and with so few comforts? Why not stay here, where you can settle down and have a good life?" What makes us so excited and passionate about going back overseas? This question really requires a longer answer, but in short, I don’t think I could live here in good conscience, knowing that my God-given gifts and interests could mean the difference between physical or spiritual life or death.
God has given me a passion for central Africa. He gave me parents who showed me that they could and were making a difference in other people’s lives. Whether it be through helping nationals start a sawmill, or praying with someone, lives were being changed because of their willingness to be there. Even though life can be tough at times, someone has got to be there, and it is Christ who gives the passion and energy to keep going back.
Paul says in Philippians 2:4 "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
God is calling believers not to hold what they have for themselves and live a life of comfort, but to help others in their lives. Not to hold our skills, or hope we have in him to ourselves, but to share it. In my family’s case, it has been to the people of Congo who my parents have felt they could help. They are able to provide technical support, be godly members of the community, and encourage the national church.
While there are many people here in the US that need God’s love and people to help them, the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) calls us to our home towns, but also to the ends of the earth. Going halfway around the world is definitely not for everyone, and not everyone should or needs to go, but God has put it on certain people’s hearts. It does not make much sense from a worldly perspective, but the desires and nudging God gives people is powerful. Strong enough to cause people to do things that are sometimes different than what is expected. As a result, we go.
Watching my parents leave, and not being there in the excitement of returning for the start of a new term was frustrating. This goodbye was a little different from the last, though. I will be following them to Africa soon. Not the same place, not even the same country, but to where I can use my gifts, where I feel God is leading me, and that is exciting.
So what gets you excited? What talents and skills has God given you to share with others?