Missionaries Build Cathedrals, Not Strip Malls: My Final Post From Africa (For Now)

January 22, 2014

They say that patience is a virtue.DSC_3310

I think it’s one of those virtues that isn’t always at the top of our lists.

We like things fast.  We want things now. 

When we order food, we want it promptly so we can gobble it up and move on with our day.

This is my final post from Africa.  I’ll board my plane tonight and head back to America.  America, where we can see new homes and strip malls pop up like weeds.  America, where get annoyed when a friend is late to a meeting or a job takes longer than planned or a text message takes more than a few seconds to reach its destination.

The glacial pace of this earth does not suit our whims and timetables.

And when it comes to problems, we want the solutions now.  We wonder what is taking so long.  We complain because there is still poverty, there is still corruption, there is still evil in the world, and we want the job to be done today.

But what I have seen in Uganda and Rwanda is that if we want to be a part of the solution, we have to be willing to not even see the fruits of our labor.  Because it takes a very long time for the fruit to grow.

Think about this:

The rocks under our feet took millennia to be formed out of minerals, heat and pressure, to work their way upwards, to be broken apart ever so slowly.

In the Middle Ages, people spent their lives building cathedrals to the glory of God.  And the people who began the work of laying the first stones in the foundation would never see the fruits of their labor, would never see the capstones laid or the stained glass installed a century or more later.  They were building something they would never see.  But they believed that the next generation would finish the work.  The building could not be build all at once.  The windows could not placed until the walls were finished.  The walls could not be built until the foundation was laid.  The task was laborious and very long.

So I ask myself how long it will take to rebuild a nation which has been shattered into millions of pieces.  I wonder how long it will take to undo decades of damage and pain. I wonder how long it will take for our work to bear fruit.

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Educating a child cannot be done quickly.  Training up a child in the Lord does not happen overnight.  Raising up a generation who will live for Jesus and lead their nation takes a long time.  The generation we are raising will lay stones on top of ours and they will raise the next generation.

Redeeming a nation starts with the basic needs: water and food.  It continues with education and job training.  It goes on with spiritual renewal.  It reaches into the future with leadership.  And none of those things can be finished now. 

Missionaries are not in the business of building a strip mall.

They are building cathedrals.

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The people in the Old Testament were no different than you or I.  They wanted things done now.  They became frustrated when God seemed more like a glacier than a pillar of smoke and fire.  They complained because God did not seem to be getting the job done.

God told Jeremiah that He knew the plans He had for his people, to prosper them and not to harm them.  The catch was that God was talking about a future generation.  The people who first heard those words would not see the fruition of that message.  They died in exile in the hope that their children or grandchildren would see God’s word come to pass.

Which they did.  God just has much further vision than we do.

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But the thing is, God is already in the future because He is outside of time.  He is in a place and time when the world is made whole, when orphans are no longer motherless, when children are no longer hungry, when mothers are no longer in pain, when people no longer hurt one another.  God is in that place already.

We just have to carry our stones with faith, lay them in the foundation, knowing that we will not see this cathedral to completion, but God will.

Friends, again, thank you for your support in helping us build phase one of the infant rescue center!  If you have not already and you feel led to join the long labor of love, help us start phase two.

2 responses to Missionaries Build Cathedrals, Not Strip Malls: My Final Post From Africa (For Now)

  1. This is a really good point, Matt. We send a separate amount to specific charities that we like to focus on, but all our tithe goes to the church. Early on I questioned why we gave all our tithe to our big churches with their abundance of programs, but somehow was under the impression that it was cut and dry in the Bible. At our current church I don’t even know where the money goes, I’ve just been blindly trusting. I feel kind of stupid. Our tithe just goes, I don’t even think about it. I might actually enjoy tithing if I knew it was going directly to certain charities/people instead of a new sound system.

    And I liked that you weren’t afraid to use the word “kickass.” I’m still too chicken to use a cuss word on my blog. I’m afraid the old ladies from my old church are going to come after me. Haha, like they even know I have a blog.
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