Urban lights and flashes of nature,
So this is the last country of our journey. In a sense the last stretch home. We have experienced a lot up until now and it is with mixed emotions we approach the finish line. Some of us are sad that our travels are coming to an end mixed with excitement of seeing our homeland again. Some of us are excited at the prospect of wearing new outfits. And then there are those who are excited about the full farmhouse breakfast awaiting us in Johannesburg...eggs sunny side up, no toast, lots of bacon, and a good cup of coffee.
It is our first morning in Yogyakarta in Indonesia. I wake up at around 4:30am to the now forgotten but still familiar sound of the call to prayer being boomed into the neighbourhood from the rooftop of ten plus mosques. Not long after as the dawn starts breaking another strange sound claws its way through my sub-conscience. It's a clanging empty noise accompanied by the shouts of a man... Later the day I see that the centre where we are staying at is surrounded by rice paddies. And it is a ritual for the workers that sleep around the fields to pull a rope connected to empty cans and bellow at the birds that stop by for an early morning breakfast. Every morning during my quiet time I see men and women trudging to their patch of land before doing anything else. It is as if they need to claim their piece of land, their harvest every morning. Making a noise. Our time in Indonesia we spend with a beautiful student church called Destiny Generation. It is my second visit to this family of believers and again my time is filled with many lessons and revelations on what church could and should look like. And again the simple beauty of devotion stays with me. Every morning we get up for early morning prayer where we sometimes start worshiping before even greeting one another. On my previous visit I stayed with one of my sisters and would wake up to the simple beauty of her and her guitar, devotedly praying and singing with so much passion. On a Sunday morning the whole body gets up early to meet at strategic places where they spend the time praying for one another, sharing testimonies and worship. It is on a morning like this that I sit on the back of my friend Juan's scooter. The otherwise traffic-laden roads are remarkably quiet and the morning air is fresh as we drive halfway across the city to his campus for prayer. I cannot think of a better way to start my day. Making a noise with family through fellowship. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, writes David. And as the blessed morning quiet times in Indonesia heap up, both individually and as a team, I realise that the clanging sounds that rise up from the rice fields is a great image of what our lives can look like. As if starting your day by making a noise in the Spirit is the best thing you can do. Bellowing and proclaiming to all that wants to steal from you that day that this is God's piece of land, you belong to a Greater King, this day is going to be full of His peace because the harvest is His.
So this is the account of our Luke10 faith journey. This story starts with two guys setting out on an adventure. Jesus sent out his disciples two by two into towns to prepare the way for the kingdom. We prayed and felt God said we should travel through Argentina to the city of Asuncion in Paraguay. I asked God to show me His love on this Luke 10...He did.
Leadership gets defined when you are thrown into the back of an airplane wondering if all the team members are on board. Or when, a supposedly agreed upon, 5 minute per person shower, turns into a self proclaimed 10 minute spa treatment with 6 other people waiting for their turn with a "what are you going to do about this" expressions on their faces. Or even that moment when someone tries to convince the guys that lentils have the same amount of protein as a steak. And all this before breakfast.
I'm being reinvented. Trying new things. Beliefs are broken. New ones are being formed. It's not an easy process. The values Jesus taught are treasures. They bring life. They bring meaning to a world in need. They make our world a better place. The values will change humanity and the way we are living. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Love your neighbor. Take care of the widows. Honor your parents. Don't kill someone. Don't take stuff that don't belong to you. Treat others the way you want to be treated. And then in the end...do this all out of love. Because we can not do this without Jesus. We can not boast in any of our endeavors because it is his values we are living out. And we can not be proud of ourselves for bringing these values to society because we didn't think of them. Jesus did. We can not take any credit. And living these values have nothing to do with you getting a ticket into heaven. That's free. So the only reason to live these values is to show God's love to people. And the values show the love. Not you. You are only doing them. We have no grounds to think we are the business. It's all Jesus. Because if you think about it you would rather stay at home than go give out food. But once you start doing this you will start to see that there is a world in need. That there are people out there hungry for hope. People thirsting for more than a glass of purified water. Your heart will grow to love people and their stories. It is in doing that we start loving. And then we will realize even more that Jesus is the only guy who can bring hope in the final outcome. That he is the one who restores. We can just live the value and not worry about our flaws because Jesus is perfect. And we should remember that Jesus is not a product that we try to sell to people. These values create platforms on which we can share Jesus with people without using words. Our faith is a faith of action. Each one of us should just figure out where we are needed to create platforms for Jesus to show His glory. We set up sort of a stage and wait to see what Jesus will do. It's in the waiting and anticipating that he arrives and blows us away. These values are confrontational. They tend to lead us into dark areas of urban mazes or to desolate savannas or thick jungles. They show us that we are not as great as we think we are and that Jesus is the coolest person who ever lived and is still living. And all these values and actions and platforms should all have the foundation of love. A selfless attitude. And this is where Jesus really comes in. Helping us to be selfless. We forgive because we are forgiven. We love because we are loved. We give because we receive freely. We value because He values. It is in this that we change our hearts towards those around us. To think of them more than of ourselves. To see that Jesus loves everyone. Everyone. He loves everyone. He values each and every person. Every person. That's a lot of people. We need to enter society with humility. Admit that we need help. And that we are here to help. And that Jesus is the only one who can help through us. Through anyone. Through all of us. We are in this together. We need each other because we need Jesus. All of us. Through us
This is a thank you. Or an attempt at acknowledgement. To the countless faces and people that I have crossed paths with in the past few years.I once heard a sermon of the way that we are rocks on a river bed, being tossed and turned and swept downstream. And as we bump shoulders with one another, a forming takes place. God determines the length and the depth but still - we are formed in different ways by the people around us. Words cannot describe the forming that has come in different shapes and sizes in my own life. In the colours of a Quecha woman in the Andes mountains or the quiet determination of an Indonesian woman. In the silence of a submissive wife or the exuberant sounds of worship. In the laughter of an Egyptian family or the tears of a Syrian family. In the dreams of friends in Cuba or the passion of friends in Brazil. People have become part of life, new people or old people. Life happens, somewhere in the deep conversations and quick conversations and sometimes even in the conversations without words. Sometimes it is simply in the glimpse of what is happening in your life, even when passing through your village with a train or in seeing you bath your child in the river that my worldview and life view is shaken and shaped. You, the pastor that taught me something about leadership. You, the missionary whose life taught me something of sacrifice. You, the Syrian child who taught me about joy. You, the Turkish man who wowed me with hospitality. You, the stranger who stands closer to help with translating. You, the Guyanan woman who loved on me. You, the Zanzibari woman that brightens up the day with your smile. You, the man who dreams big dreams. You, the Croatian man that made me think about my heritage. You, the German woman that personifies grace. You, the South African that shows me the Father's heart. You, the wise. You, the brave. You, the inspiration. This is the school of the nations. This is life. This is my inheritance. I often think that a journey can be summarised in the people that you meet. It is a kaleidoscope of faces and conversations and memories that take shape as an ever winding and inspiring journey. Why do we travel? Yes we see new places and eat new foods and it is all new experience. But in the end its the people that make a place.We were not made as solitary human beings, the world is rich - sometimes overwhelmingly so - in humans. And how beautiful is the face of our Creator, caught up in the scores of people around the world that make up His body and His bride. We all tell a story, a much bigger story. I am a fleeting whisper, in and out of your lives, off to the next place or the next adventure. But you are not forgotten. You have shaped me, you are shaping me. This is a thank you. Weak, but still. Thank you.
Flight. Midnight. Arrive. Panama. Airport. Sleep. Morning. Adventure. Taxi. Gamboa. Church. Pastor. Carmelita. Canal. Boats. Coffee. Breakfast. Explore. Shower. Outside. Mangoes.
In Jamaica I discovered why the word "challenge" is at the centre of ''Global Challenge Expeditions''. How ironic that the pastor's wife gave a sermon on the very first Sunday in which she repeated the phrase: ''Challenges, troubles, trials'' almost 50 times in a time frame of an hour.
From the north to the south, the beaches of the Galilee to the stone-cobbled streets in Jerusalem, the country shouts the name of our Emmanuel - God with us. But the echoes in the religion and the hate and the noisy youth murmur the depravity of our human souls.
In C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian, Aslan says to Lucy, "Every year that you grow, you will find me bigger." We just completed our third country, and I find Jesus bigger than ever before.
Israel, the promised land, the country where Jesus walked, the place where God revealed so much of His character to us through the Israeli nation. Visiting this special place is an experience that can hardly be captured or described in mere words or pictures. It is seeing a piece of living history, a walk through the gospels. From Bethlehem where Jesus was born to Capernaum next to the sea of Galilea where Jesus ministered to Jerusalem, the city that Jesus loved. How strange and heartbreaking to see the same historic events being viewed so differently through the glasses of different worldviews and religions and how these differences are used as a platform for blind hatred.
From Biblical times until today, the Middle East has been a region subject to near constant unrest and war. Throughout the generations, the kingdom of Jordan has been a safe harbour offering refuge to countless people fleeing from war torn countries on all sides.
During my stay in Jordan I have developed a new outlook on life. As we disembarked, the name of this capital city of Jordan came to mind. Amman means steadfastness and perseverance. Now, looking back on our mission in Jordan, I realise that the people here are blessed with these two noble qualities.
Pink dolphins in the amazon, wild horses on the Guyana plains, red parrots in the Iwokrama forest in Guyana, coconuts of varies kinds just falling from trees around you, small wild mangoes, cake for breakfast, free condensed milk coffee on the amazon, acai, brigadeiro and more acai...
In the late afternoon dusk the city is settling down under a cloud of dust. A few blocks away the image of dreary stone coloured houses is broken by a blue and green kite that sweeps over and through the buildings. Yells of delight are carried on the early evening breeze toward where I am sitting.