Yesterday was our last Sunday in the United States for a couple of years. We were blessed to worship with Stones River Church in Murfreesboro (our sending congregation). The preacher mentioned Ephesians 4 kind of in passing, and I thought I’d take some time to read it this morning.
Tag Archives: service
I just got back from a couple of days out in villages, and thought I’d share with you guys a little about my trip in short form. I often get requests for more information about day-to-day life and work in Tanzania: Continue reading
I need to set a few things straight.
I am not a superhero or a martyr. Nor is it likely that I will ever be a superhero or a martyr while here in Tanzania.
In my recent surfing of ministry blogs, I found there are some missionaries who would lead people to believe they are serving while every day in the midst of great peril. Now, let me be clear: there do exist some missionaries who are serving while every day in the midst of great peril.* But the majority of us are not (nor will we ever be) in that category. It wasn’t so very long ago, during a three-year stint in China, that I would read all kinds of scare stories from other servants about the dangers involved in being “undercover” missionaries in a communist country. It is true that Chinese believers attempting to share the gospel with others can be in serious danger of relocation or even prison. But the missionaries themselves are in little danger beyond the possibility of being sent back to the United States. [On my first night in China, I cried myself to sleep while praying that I myself would be "found out" and sent home. However, God did not grant my wish, and I'm so very glad.]
One thing Christie and I strive toward is transparency in our work. While it makes a good story that missionaries in Tanzania are suffering greatly for the cause of Christ, it is generally not true. I’m no Stanley, and Christie’s no Livingstone, I presume. Sure, there are things we give up and difficulties we face — but these are often and largely overstated. I want to be honest about our situation here, and so, I’d like to clear up some exaggerations concerning the lives of missionaries in Africa. I hope those of you who financially contribute to us will not pull your monetary support after reading the following list. Even more so, I hope those of you who regularly pray for our family and ministry will not pull your intercessory support upon discovering just how easy we have it. All the same, I feel it is my duty to straighten out these common missionary misconceptions:**
- The government is not angry with us, or even distrusting of us. In fact, I’m friends with a policeman, and have had several pleasant conversations with government officials.
- There are no cannibals near where we live.
- There are no lions near where we live.
- There are no government dissidents with guns near where we live.
- There ARE monkeys near where we live… but they don’t seem to be dangerous (though I am still VERY afraid of them).***
- We do not live in a grass hut. We live in a nice, concrete home with a tin roof, wooden doors and working windows (with mosquito screens).
- We have electricity at least 5 days a week — and even more during the World Cup.
- We have indoor plumbing and water available to us at least 6 days a week.
- Malaria is like a really bad flu. It is generally, for healthy people, not life-threatening. And none of the Harrison clan has had it yet.
- I don’t wear a loin cloth, and Christie doesn’t go topless. Neither do the Tanzanians with whom we work.
- No one in our family is in any danger of being sacrificed to pagan gods.
- While I often do use my bike as a means of transportation (diesel is $5/gallon), we have a 4WD truck.
- We don’t eat rats and generally don’t eat bugs. [Right now I'm enjoying coffee and cinnamon toast.]
- We have medical facilities, trained doctors, and a pharmacy in Geita.
- Very rarely does the local Tyrannosaurus Rex attack our village and eat our young. For the record, his name is Ted, and he’s largely misunderstood.
What else have you heard about missionaries in Africa? Do you have any questions about our lives here?
* There certainly are missionaries who serve in dangerous places. And there are also missionaries who have been forced to give up much more than Christie and I, in order to serve in their locations. This post is characteristic of my thoughts and opinions, based on my own experiences in China and Tanzania, and is not meant to be representative of the lives of all missionaries in all places.
** Perhaps at another time I will share with you a list of those things we indeed have given up in order to be in Tanzania. Bacon is not on that list, or I would not have come to this place.
*** Monkeys and baby dolls… monkeys and baby dolls.
image courtesy of photobucket.com
This post is the last in a “dear diary” series from Matthew 20. The first three:
Friday, July 16 — 6:00 am
I’ve completed my study of Matthew 20:1-28. I journaled through this portion of the chapter as if I were James, the son of Zebedee. I enjoyed a great deal creatively working through the text — but more importantly I’ve learned a lot. The text looks like this in form:
- Matthew 20:1-16 — The Parable of the “Unfair” Vineyard Wages
- Matthew 20:17-19 — Jesus Predicts His Death
- Matthew 20:20-28 — Salome Acts Like the Parent in a Parent-Teacher Conference
I’m convinced Matthew ordered the events as he did, not necessarily because they happened so close together and in this exact order, but because he uses Jesus’ prediction of his own death as commentary on the stories resting on either side of it. The vineyard parable makes clear that the last will be first, and the request of the brothers Zebedee (by their mother) gives Jesus the opportunity to teach on becoming great through servanthood. Between these two stories, Matthew places Jesus’ perfect example of making himself servant, slave, and last of all. Here’s what I’ve learned:
The Parable of the “Unfair” Vineyard Wages
- God seeks and draws workers to him. It is not our responsibility to “apply.”
- God is honest and keeps his word.
- God is extremely gracious and gives us more than we deserve.
- Salvation is a gift that none of us have earned, and so, it is mercy and grace to each one of us, no matter our prior condition and situation.
Salome Acts Like a Parent in a Parent-Teacher Conference
- Human nature seeks a high position.
- Truly gaining a high position requires sacrifice of self. This is in direct conflict with our nature.
- We are called not to exercise authority, but to serve others.
Jesus Lowers Himself in This Text
- I think Jesus is the foreman in the vineyard story. He pays the workers as the vineyard owner desires. He is humbling himself to serve the Father.
- Jesus speaks of the cup of sacrifice he will drink in the story with James and John.
- Jesus again demonstrates his submission to the Father when he explains that the seats on either side of his thrown are not for him to give away.
- Jesus explains he came not to be served, but to serve. His life is meant to be given for others.
- In vv. 17-19, Jesus explains how he will humble himself to be placed in the hands of the chief priests and teachers of the law. Ironic that salvation will come to the world through a King tossing aside his authority in order to be killed by those religious officials who are seeking authority. The juxtaposition of Jesus and the chief priests paints a beautiful picture of what to do and what not to do.
- In the end, Jesus will be raised to life. It’s interesting to me that Jesus tells his disciples the last will be first and the servants will be great. And this one line is the only testament in this chapter to such occurring in his life: ”On the third day he will be raised to life!” But this one line is enough, as it’s forever changed our world.
- I’m afraid too many of our religious leaders today seek authority, popularity, and greatness — yet are unwilling to be servants. Oftentimes today, those most like Jesus are found cleaning up after events, stacking chairs, and teaching children’s classes — there’s no glory in those jobs.
- I live in a culture where it’s easy to serve others, because many Tanzanians are sitting around, waiting to be served. I’m struggling to serve responsibly, though, so I don’t encourage others to depend on handouts — but, rather, show them love through my own humility. I believe my service to others should prompt them to praise God (not me) and hopefully even to themselves serve others.
- I’ll be honest. I want Christianity to be about doing what’s right merely because it’s right. We would serve others, only because that’s what Jesus has done for us and it’s the right thing to do. BUT, Jesus continually offers rewards for our service — the last becoming first, higher wages than we deserve, greatness, etc. Jesus, in a way, plays on our selfish nature and our desire to obtain greatness. So, to some extent, it’s less about not desiring a high position, and more about desiring the right kind of high position.
- We make fun of the apostles’ inability to understand Jesus’ words. But how much worse is it that we understand the stories, but refuse to live by them?