one to one: Lessons about life, ministry, and grandkids!
by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists
Taking Too Much for Granted
I had the privilege of participating in a building project in the Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, in the early 1990s. Altogether there were nine Free Will Baptists from the United States who spent the better part of three weeks building the youth center at Bondoukou. For me, it was a life-changing experience. In the process I learned a lot about the mission field and myself.
Like most Americans, my knowledge of how things worked in an international mission setting was, at best, limited and superficial. This experience brought to light a number of misconceptions and the fact that I had taken too much for granted.
For one thing, we take creature comforts for granted. Except for the missionaries’ automobiles there was little or no air conditioning. We sweated—profusely! Thankfully fans were available; however, they are of little value if there’s no electricity. In Côte d’Ivoire the power seemed to be off a lot.
We’ve become accustomed to driving on good roads in the States. “Good” is a relative term in the bush country. A rough ride seems to be the order of the day there. It’s no wonder the missionaries’ cars wear out so quickly.
Food is another staple we take for granted. Most food we buy at the supermarket can be readily prepared. Not so in Bondoukou. Meat, vegetables, and fruit purchased at the open air market requires painstaking preparation. If you don’t disinfect it, you’ll probably get sick.
I discovered we take many common resources and conveniences for granted. In the building process this proved to be particularly noticeable. Generally speaking, lumber is not immediately available. Unless you place your request in advance you are probably going to wait a few days for the saw mill to fill your order.
Of course, there are no ready-mix trucks. Concrete is mixed by hand. Gravel for the mixture is made by repeatedly smashing large rocks together. The whole process is a time-consuming, back-breaking chore.
Most of us take getting to church for granted. One of the first things I noticed at an African church service was the conspicuous absence of automobiles. A few Ivorian believers rode mopeds or bicycles. Most of them walked.
There were no padded pews, indoor restroom facilities, attended nurseries, expensive musical instruments, or high-tech sound systems. Occasionally, worship had additional challenges when the message had to be translated into another tribal dialect.
Lest you think I only focused on the things the African Christians do not have, let me hasten to point out some of the things they do possess. They have the joy of the Lord. It’s written all over their faces and evidenced in their voices as they sing. They have self-discipline and extraordinary patience. Small children sat on wooden benches and listened intently without being disruptive. Services typically lasted two or three hours!
They hold missionaries in high esteem and treasure the Word of God. They value Christian fellowship and exhibit true courage as they bear witness of their faith in Christ. They are genuinely proud to be Free Will Baptists. In significant ways, they are much better off than North American believers.
Honesty dictates I tell you I am occasionally prone to drift into complacency. Fortunately, there is a simple antidote…recalling my experiences in Côte d’Ivoire. When I do, God gently reminds me to not take too much for granted.
About the Column: One to One is a regular feature of ONE Magazine. Written by Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the column explores life, ministry...and grandkids!