stop-playing-churchI remembered being awed when a new family started worshiping at my childhood church.   They were lifetime missionaries in Africa, and they had come home in order to get nursing degrees.  The degrees were part of a strategy to be better prepared to serve the African people they loved.

During their time in the United States, they lived in a very modest house which had no television or other distractions.  Their car had no amenities, and they lived in a very plain manner.  It was easy to see that they had very focused plans for their lives and did not want to lose their momentum or direction.

As an adult, it occurred to me that I had been witness to what it looks like when a vision takes over a person’s life.  Not merely entertains, but captivates, consumes, and ignites.

They finished their degrees and went back to Africa, only returning to the U.S. at an old age after they had spent their lives in obedience to a call.

I wondered what they thought about the American church.  Did they see how spoiled it is?  Did they ache for a return to the people they loved?  Did they see Americans as silly and shallow based on the things we pursue and give our lives to?

By contrast, some pastors I once knew prayed, “Lord send me anywhere you wish, as long as it is in my home state.”  They were serious.  They wanted a cushy salary and a life of convenience.

Our church’s African missionary family prayed, “Lord send us where you want us serving.”  Period.  No conditions.  Completely dependent on God.

These missionaries to Africa come to mind when I read about Paul the apostle’s journeys westward from Jerusalem.  He left home, kinsmen, and safety on a mission he believed was divinely inspired.  He suffered every kind of abuse, but it did not deter him from his call.

I sometime wonder if we in the West aren’t just playing church.  What would happen if we had to go to Lystra with Paul?  Or to Africa with my friends?