Every time that I come back from a trip to Africa, I have to write about it for a couple of weeks here on the blog. It’s hard to go on such an incredible journey and not share the experience with others. Last week, I wrote about our amazing experience with the well, and how God proved faithful once again! This week, I want to tell you about a new friend that I made in Zimbabwe named Mthulisi.
Related Post: What we see is not what we get
As I mentioned in the post last week, we encountered a few problems while attempting to complete the well and the church building in Zimbabwe. With all of the issue going on, we found it easy to get distracted from our real mission. Yes, we had traveled to Africa to oversee the process of building a church and drilling a well, but that wasn’t the main reason we were there. The real goal was to reach out to people with the love, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. The building and the well were just outward expressions of that mission.
The ideal picture that I had painted in my mind for the trip was that everything would go perfect with the well and the building. Then, while the crews who had been paid to complete those projects were working, we would be out in the community loving, serving and witnessing. When the projects started to get held up, we naturally felt the need to step in and keep them moving along. We felt that it was part of our responsibility as the stewards of the finances for these projects.
However, there came a time in the middle of the first week where we were just sort of sitting around at the building site. The building contractor had not yet showed up, we had no tools or instructions for what had to be done next, and we found ourselves just sitting around talking about how nothing was going right. Then the lead pastor of the church, Pastor Dixon, asked if we wanted to walk up to the local store and grab some Cokes. With nothing else going on, it sounded like a good idea.
Once we got there, I was reminded of why we had come to Zimbabwe in the first place. I think Pastor Dixon was just using the Cokes as a means of taking our focus of the projects and placing it back on the mission, because when we got to the store there were several local people hanging out there.
Keep the main thing the main thing
We decided to not only buy Cokes for ourselves, but for some of the people hanging around the store as well. This enabled us to strike up conversations, and before we knew it we were sharing the love of Jesus with a young man named Mthulisi. We encouraged him, told him how much God loves him, and then invited him to church on Sunday. At the time, I had no idea that I would actually be the one preaching at that service.
Later in the week, Pastor Dixon asked if I would preach at that Sunday. I was so busy preparing that I didn’t have much time to think about whether or not my new friend would actually come. Then Sunday morning came around. I was delivering the message to the congregation, and about 2/3 of the way through it, out of the corner of my eye I saw Mthulisi making his way into the service.
When the service was wrapping up, we started to make our way to the car, because we had to get back into town for an afternoon service. Before I made it to the car, Mthulisi came out of the tent and found me. We spoke through the local pastor who was interpreting for us, and Mthulisi explained to us that he wanted to surrender his life to Jesus Christ. We led him in a prayer right there of repentance, forgiveness, and surrender. It was amazing! God is so good!
As I sat there in the car on the way back to town, all sorts of emotions ran through me. I was obviously excited, but I was also a bit convicted. I had been letting the earthly mission of the trip distract me from the eternal, heavenly mission of the trip. The goal of everything we were doing was to partner with the Holy Spirit in winning souls for Jesus Christ. We only had so many days on the ground to build relationships, encourage people, pray with people, etc. Yes, we still had a responsibility to oversee the projects, but not at the expense of our real mission.
Pastor Mike, the local missionary for the church in Zimbabwe, had a saying when he described the mission of the church there. He would always say, “We keep the main thing the main thing.” What he meant by that was that the church there tries not to get too involved in what is going on in politics, social debates, or anything else that could distract them from there true mission.
While the church may sometimes have to address their congregation regarding some of those issues, they do everything in their power to keep their focus on the gospel. They know that the power lies in Christ, His crucifixion, and Him being raised back to life for each and every one of us. That is where transformation begins.
In truth, the mission never changes. Our mission is always to share this amazing gospel with the world. However, the distractions do change. Since I have returned home, the well and the church building haven’t been the big distractions fighting to keep me from the mission, but there have been others. Sometimes it’s something as simple as social media or television. Other times it’s something a little more complex like fear. Regardless, the thought of my friend Mthulisi keeps me pressing forward. It is motivating to know that there are so many more people out there like him who don’t yet know the unconditional love of our Father in Heaven.
There are so many different distractions in this world that fight for our attention and try to keep our eyes off the main goal. Some of the big ones in the Unites States right now are things like the election (politics), terrorist attacks, and race relations. Let’s face it, our country is in the middle of a distracting time. The enemy would want nothing more than for us to get focused on those distractions and to take our eyes off of the true solution. The enemy does not want our focus on the love of Jesus, which is the one thing that can unify and unite us even in the midst of divisive times.
As Christians, we have to fight to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus; to keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is the gospel. As Paul would say,
“For I resolved to know nothing but Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2
That is where the power is. That is where love conquered everything that tries to distract and divide us. So let’s keep the main thing the main thing.