There are some things that have changed for us since this trip; things that we want to tell you about and get your thoughts on. That is part of the blessing of going on a mission trip – your perspective, patterns, habits, and ideas get challenged. So, even though you did not go with us, you can think through what we see differently since our trip, let us know what you think, and see what God is doing across the world and here at home.
I don’t need caffeine to get through the day. When I started in the ‘business world’, I began drinking coffee consistently. I started with just one cup a day. Then it grew to two cups, then I got a coffee maker (that also tells me the 5 day weather forecast-seriously) and drank more. Then I got into French Press Coffee, specialty Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffees then Hawaiian Kona Coffee. I even have a cast-iron espresso maker. Then I got to Sudan and all they had was instant coffee: I tried it, and it did not satisfy. Holleman had some Starbucks Via, but he wasn’t sharing (I don’t blame him!). So I went 12 days without coffee, and I think my body finally adapted back to it’s normal caffeine and energy levels. Coffee is a great thing when consumed in wise portions. I just need portion control -I don’t need to rely on artificial things to get me through my day. And that is a principle that applies to other areas in my life as well. I am started to see that it is difficult to feel rested and relaxed when by bloodstream is flooded with caffeine, sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup. So obvious, right?
It’s not so much that this trip makes me appreciate what I have here in the US, it’s that I envy the Sudanese for what they have and what I have so little of. I do appreciate what God has given me: don’t get me wrong. But being there did not make me long for what I had at home: hot showers, gas stoves, food that fits my palate, cars, and on and on… I guess I got caught up in how happy and joyful these people are, despite having so little. They are truly grateful for their salvation, their lives, food, provision, a roof, and the clothes they have on. All of the “extra” stuff that I have in the States tends to cloud my judgment and numb me to what true life is. When I am surrounded by comfort, I think that my life is about me and all of my stuff is just a testimony to how great I am. If I counted how many times I have said, “I want…” it would be a very embarrassingly high number. But being there showed me again how truly joyful a simple life can be and how my gratitude is sadly lacking. I have started to view “things” through the lenses Matt Chandler has preached about – what pushes my affections closer to Christ, and what leads my affections away from Him? Will I pursue the depth, accountability, simplicity, and conversations that I know will encourage my heart toward Jesus here as I did in Sudan? Instead of, “I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want…”, how about “I am thankful for, thank You for….”? Instead of me trying to fix my affections to amassing more things that won’t satisfy, a truly wise person runs to the source of satisfaction – God.
I am living my life in a distracted, anxious, self-induced busyness that robs me of joy and depth in relationships. My value at work in America is my ability to multi-task, be expedient, and be efficient. My worth is based on and measured by how much I can do in the least amount of time. But by design and naturally, my mind, body, and soul do not operate along the same lines – they take time, energy, and consistency to cultivate, and those are rare in this society. I am completely over-entertained, over-fed, under-awed, and far too easily pleased. I think I have traded depth for width, simplicity for busyness and for the gaudy, and quiet for constant noise. No wonder I am so easily distracted and find it difficult to focus and study the Word of God, find depth in prayer, and wait patiently for God to answer prayer.
Too much skin is shocking to me. While we were there, it was 85 degrees with 100% humidity, and the Sudanese women were wearing long skirts and high-collared shirts. We were immersed in a culture that is conservative. It was wildly refreshing, because there was no sense of status based on dress, there was not a lot of competition, and not a lot of pretense with how you made yourself appear. We didn’t even have mirrors. But it was shocking when we got back to Amsterdam (but especially to America) how little clothes people were wearing. I just felt shock. It is such a weird experience being immersed in a conservative culture where women are respected and known for their character, and then all of the sudden be back in cultures that are not conservative, and where men look at women for what they have to offer on the outside but not the inside.
I do not have enough deep and meaningful conversations here in the US. Every day we spent at least 4 hours talking about the Lord, our day, what we were learning, how we were growing, what we hoped for, theology, philosophy, and everything else. It was good for the soul, and I miss those talks. After we got back to the States, we realized that we have far too few of those talks. I realized that I need more deep friendships where these conversations can take root and grow and become consistent. I have to seek out, intentionally, deep relationships with my friends and ask them (with my actions and conversations) to meet me at a deeper level of friendship, accountability, and love.
I fear mosquitoes. They are harbingers of death. Nuf said.
Our 10 Days in Sudan were very full and rich. I learned that we will always have the poor with us. The poor are everywhere, from Dallas Texas to the middle of Sudan, Africa. But Christ is the greatest gift I can share with anyone, despite their situation. I re-learned a lot of things I knew already but have been forgotten through time. Joy is found in Christ, and true life does not involve internet, cars, great meals, a good job… Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The believers in Sudan get that. Christianity is not cheap there. Grace is not cheap there. It comes with a cost and a daily reminder. Prayer there can be deep and rich and powerful because there are truly desperate needs that only God can meet. I pray for faith like this. I pray for prayer like this. Comfort can be so much more deceptive and numbing than struggle and conflict. It is not so much that I came back to the U.S. thankful for what I have here, but more so that I wish I had more of what they have there – deep faith, strong convictions, heavy reliance on the Gospel, intimate prayer, joyful fellowship. These are possible to have here, but I need to view the implications of my thoughts, life, beliefs, and actions as infinitely more important and vital than I do now. Paul David Tripp teaches that most of us (almost all of us) do not live and are not defined in the “Big” moments of life, because we only have 4 or 5 of those in our entire lives. We live and are defined in the small, everyday, mundane “Little” moments of life, and that is where our character is tested, where we learn to apply (or not apply) the Gospel, and where we grow (or don’t grow) in Christ. I want to grow in Christ, and therefore I am focusing on the little moments of life, and praying that God would make me more like His Son, Jesus.