The year was 1987. I had been in Ivory Coast for over a year. How long does it take to understand a people so completely different from yourself? How long does it take to love them for who they are?
There is no right or wrong answer for either question. Some can live for decades among another people group without ever full grasping the culture or even loving them. That’s why we need Jesus. Only in him, can we love despite the differences and make an effort to understand them at all.
I reflected on my newly adopted people all those years ago, and with age and experience, still am amazed at what God was revealing to a young twenty-something. I was thinking about how amazed I was at new life, babies, and then moved on to the people around me. I wrote:
I find that same awe and fascination with Africa as a whole, and while at first, I trod carefully as one does when raising a newborn, I soon grew accustomed to her ways and loved her even more. Africa is new in so many ways, yet at the same time, she existed before other lands.
To watch an animated conversation among Africans, how some words or phrases can only be pronounced with the accompanying gesture, is a fascinating and warming experience. The African is a person of emotion, whether he is pagan, and fear is predominate, or Christian, and love and joy reign. He is an ever-changing presence, fatalistic in his views. Death is an every-day event, and life is not held as precious.
Does God love these childlike beings? Most definitely, yes; for when one comes to trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, they are on fire for the Lord, and Satan stands trembling, in fear of this blessed childlike faith.
For a child who knows he is loved by God is a powerful force.
To experience worship with African brothers and sisters is moving and humbling, for they have no fear or pride in showing their love for God. Yet, like children, the African Christians seems to lack a depth that comes with discipline and Bible study. Sometimes the emotions can hinder the true reality of the need. Or does it? Is that a hoax of the white man, that one must know all the right terms and manners to really be a Christian? Are we substituting knowledge for faith “as a grain of mustard seed”? I want to be able to say the answer, but I cannot. God knows.
I’m grateful for my years in Africa; for the lessons learned. I look forward to the day when we will all gather at the wedding feast of the Lamb and praise him together. I think the Africans will be on the front row, leading us all.
Are you living among a people other than your own? What lessons are you learning? What way is God stretching your understanding of self and faith?
Take time to record your thoughts. Reflect on them from time to time to see how your understanding has grown, along with your love. In Christ, we’re all parts of One Body. May we each learn to appreciate those who are different from ourselves and love better.
To His Glory.
Grace and Peace