This entry was written several years ago after a trip to Ghana. It is edited from it’s original version and was first posted on Holistic Christian Ministry’s Blog at www.hcmweb.org
So as many of you know, I got on an airplane a couple of weeks ago and travelled to another hemisphere to be a part of a team that was supposed to be distributing HCM Build-A-Buckets that were shipped on a container 2 months before. (I know that’s a run on sentence but so is my life.)
I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that the Lord laughs at me pretty often. We’re all familiar with that little yiddish saying, but the Bible speaks of the concept well.
Proverbs 16 tells us that: “The heart of man plans his way but the LORD establishes his steps”. James 4 is even more indicting: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (vv13-16)
Instead you should say “If The Lord wills”… anything more than that is arrogant and evil.
So I get on an airplane and fly halfway around the world and lo and behold, we have no container. We think there’s a chance we could get the container so we start shifting plans around— moving this thing here and that thing there and even still, some of that planning doesn’t go exactly the way we intended it. If it is true that God laughs at the plans of men, then it appears that I’m a pretty consistent source of comedy for God.
So, If God really does determine our steps… If He really does move us, shift us and guide us… If He really does work all things toward our good…Then what did He have me do?
Well, instead of handing out student buckets, I got to participate in 3 Bible Schools that I wouldn’t have if I had been busy handing out buckets. The team I travelled with had made plans to put on the Bible Schools, but I had no original role in them. I was standing around without a lot to do, so our VBS director asked if I’d be willing to emcee the opening and closing rallies.
God has given me certain giftings that go well in those kinds of circumstances.
1I seem to have a connection with kids that not everyone has (maybe it’s because I look funny or something, I don’t know…)
2God’s given me what some of the closest people in my life affectionately call “a voice that carries” Each day at the beginning and end of VBS (twice a day in Kotokata), I got to stand in front of a crowd of 75-150 kids and shout: “DID YOU HAVE FUN AT BIBLE SCHOOL TODAY? DID YOU ENJOY THE SONGS? DID YOU LIKE PLAYING FUTBOL? WHAT DID GOD DO IN THE BIBLE STORY?”
“A voice that carries” probably didn’t make it onto anyone’s “What spiritual gift do I have?” survey, but I think it should. I got to be a unique tool for the kingdom of God to get kids excited about studying the Bible the last couple of weeks. Buckets most likely would have kept me busy somewhere else. I had plans… God had better ones.
Instead of handing out medical buckets, I got to meet Rejoice and her parents. In case you haven’t been following the story, God used His people to raise over $10,000 so that she could receive life-saving surgery for hydrocephalus. Rejoice has received that surgery, she’s in the process of recovery, and it’s going take a long time before things are really good again— but I got be there when a missionary walked her parents through understanding what was going on. You see, the hospital never bothered to tell them. Could you imagine spending the last 5 months as a parent with a very sick child but not really having any of your questions answered? Why it happened? How it’s fixed? Why her head didn’t just go back to its normal size? But I got to be there and watch a missionary love a young family well. I got to see him patiently walk them through what’s happened and how it wasn’t their fault. I got to see him direct their attention to a God who saved their child’s life in an incredible way. I got to take pictures so that God’s people (who joyfully emptied their pockets for this little girl’s treatment) will get to see an update of what God has done. Buckets probably would not have allowed me to be a witness to that.
Instead of handing out pastor buckets, I got to preach in two different church plants. The first was in a village called Nto Krom. This is the newest HCM plant. It’s a place where I got to preach last year after doing a Jesus film there. Their church is doing well but they could use a few things. They’re working on building a roof and they could use some more leader training for the men that are there. There was a lady there that was just as gung-ho as a lady can be. She interrupted me twice while I was preaching to ask if she could sing a song that came to her mind with the last point I made.
So…I figured, why not? I had been wrong about every other timing thing on the trip so it was in my best interest to just let it happen. Not only that, but sermons tend to have these transitional moments where you move from one proposition to the next— this lady hit the nail on the head both times.
After the service we were gathered towards the front discussing needs that could be met and we learned that this woman couldn’t read. That was an interesting discovery because she quoted a lot of scripture while I was there. It turns out that this women so values God’s word that she listens as closely as she can when it’s being read in her presence. She listens closely so that she can memorize it as soon as she hears it. I have seventeen bibles in my office right now. Add the Logos bible program that’s synced across my laptop, phone, and iPad that has twenty or so versions of the English text. Add to that the stack of Bibles I have to give away to people and it begins to get pretty ridiculous how much access I have to the Scriptures. I literally bought a new Bible the week before I left for Ghana because I wanted a thinner one. I am surrounded by the word of God and I have never in my life memorized a block of text upon first hearing it. And the obvious and unfortunate answer to when we ask why that is— is because I have become inoculated to it. I love the scriptures! I spend my life trying to help people understand them better. I read, I study and I memorize, but my abundance has also made me lazy.
And if I were handing out buckets, you know what I would have been busy doing? I would have been sitting in a corner with whoever their leader is walking them through the notes of a study Bible. I would have been teaching a young pastor without very many resources how to use a Bible dictionary and the extra-biblical book that would be in there. I would have rightfully (and joyfully) spent my time flipping through the pages of good resources placed into the hands of a good man, teaching them how to use those materials to serve God’s people in God’s Kingdom for God’s glory. It would have been great, it would have been God exalting and I would have missed the forest for the trees. Because I probably would not have been able to see this woman with my own eyes and hear this woman with my own ears as she used the simplest language to reveal the deep treasure that is God’s Word.
And thankfully, God ripped those distractions from me! He was too good to me to allow me to miss that! “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
I traveled to Ghana with my own plans. They were good plans. They were God exalting plans. But God lavished His goodness on me by kicking my plans to the curb.
Soli Deo Gloria