The only path of escape for the noise inside my head was through a trail of tears streaming down my cheeks.
Life isn't fair.
Oddly, it began with a dose of pop culture: watching "24 – Redemption". Jack
Bauer, living in Africa, rescued orphaned boys from being captured and
forced to become child soldiers; it continued with a casual mention in an email I received. A moving post from a long-time blog friend delivered the next blow, and when I followed the links she referenced, I lost my breath. The knock-out punch came from NPR of all places, in a segment that aired last week.
Africa Africa Africa AFRICA AFRICA!
When I'm confronted over and over and OVER again with the same thought–whether it's a particular passage of scripture or a call to action or even if it's just an idea–I listen… eventually… believing the recurrence is not coincidence, that there's purpose and intent in it.
Being moved to tears while driving 70 m.p.h. took me by surprise. I questioned "Why now? Why this?" and the answer struck me in a God "Ah ha!" moment.
I had prayed for this very thing.
The previous Sunday night I attended our evening worship service; it was a departure from typical music/testimony/sermon format. Instead, it was devoted to prayer–not just our pastors and elders leading in prayer, but by everyone praying in groups of six or eight.
Prayer was guided, and our focus was thanksgiving (in essence, for the wealth we've been given in Christ) and other- mindedness–how we can BE the kingdom by incarnating Jesus and loving others the way He did (and does). We prayed for the eyes to see as Christ does, and to respond with compassion and kindness; we prayed that we'd be transformed, that our own selfish desires would be put to death, and in boldness we'd speak the gospel, sometimes in word but mostly in action.
We prayed to recognize the needs of others…to look beyond ourselves…and to minister in prayer and deed.
As the tears continued to fall while I listened to that NPR broadcast, the prayers from Sunday night's service reverberated in my mind's ear. Suddenly, the veil lifted and I understood why I wept–
God had given me the eyes to see a people in need thousands of miles away. People who didn't know I existed. People I had given no thought to the day before. People who were doing whatever it took to survive! People created in the image of God, and for whom He has great love.
Children whose "treasure hunt" consisted of finding a few scattered kernels of corn scattered along a dirt road.
Old women who hadn't eaten in days, reduced to fishing out undigested corn from animal waste, washing it, grinding it, then preparing and eating it.
Political unrest, lack of running water, intermittent electricity at best (and then, only for a few of the more fortunate), "staggering inflation…shortages of fuel, foreign exchange, local currency and basic goods."
Their story is heartbreaking. So is the father of three who said he couldn't complain–he exchanged his city job as a manager to barter crops. "…at least I know I'm surviving and my family is surviving, I cannot complain," he says.
He's not complaining.
Shame on me for saying there's nothing to eat when my pantry and refrigerator are near full.
This is no message of self-condemnation; it's a message of hope and encouragement and a vivid reminder of the power of simple prayer–
Lord, open my eyes to see others the way You do and to love them the same way You love me–generously, sacrificially and demonstrably. Change my mind and heart to care less about my own interests, to be more concerned about others. Help me to recognize people in need, whether it's my neighbor down the street or my neighbor half-way around the world. Thank you for the abundance of blessing in my life–spiritual, material, relational–and to use all I've been given for your glory and the advance of the Gospel. Amen.
Will I be able to make a difference in the lives of these precious Zimbabwe people? I'll never really know for sure, but I'm now looking for ways to extend the love of Christ to them–praying for those unnamed faces I saw in the stories linked to this post, educating myself through The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, evaluating the best place to make a contribution whether it be The World Food Program or Zimbabwe Benefit Foundation or some other reputable organization…and, thanks to God's insistent voice and the mystery of prayer, sharing their story–and mine–with you.
And now an admission: sometimes I wonder what God has up His sleeve when He inspires me to write a post like this. Maybe…maybe…it's not just about me. Perhaps, like a popular TV show, a friend's email, a meaningful church service, or a report on NPR, this is God's way of tapping on your shoulder :).
Have you prayed similarly and heard your own whisper-shout of "Africa"? Would you begin praying for open eyes, ears and heart…and then share your story? Someone needs to hear….
Photo credit: NPR