For me, the sufficiency of Christ was the most profound lesson I learned on our trip. Let me approach this from a couple angles.
1) As I mentioned in my last post , we expected to minister to the people we encountered. After all, we were from the United States. We own plenty; the Africans have little. I don’t think we realized the arrogance of our mindsets until we realized how little we did have to offer. For one, the needs are so overwhelming that we didn’t even know where to begin. Additionally, we found ourselves being served more than we were able to serve. Families sacrificed their only meat for the month, so we could have a meal that we didn’t need. Our hosts gave us chairs, while everyone else sat on the floor. Children serenaded us with songs prepared in advance for our arrival. It impacted all of us deeply. I was completely humbled by the fact that I had absolutely nothing to offer, although I thought I was going to be some sort of hero, serving them. All I had to offer was Christ, and He was sufficient.
2) We visited many Christian communities during our visit. One such group was a church comprised of people suffering from HIV/AIDS. They banded together as a community because their communities had rejected them. In East Africa, AIDS is a socially isolating disease, which is a major part of the problem. Several people shared their testimonies with us. They talked about the lack of access to proper medications, the lack of food to eat – not only so they wouldn’t be hungry, but so the drugs they were able to take didn’t make them sicker, the lack of clean water and the lack of love from their families and former communities. But I don’t believe they shared these problems with us to gain our pity. Their testimonies didn’t stop there. They talked of their love for God who watches over them, who cares for them when no one else had and who they can’t wait to see when they leave their earthly bodies. Then they sang praises…praises from the lips and hearts of people whose God is sufficient for them. As our group debriefed that evening we could barely talk about our experience. As I sit here and type this, I can hardly keep from becoming emotional all over again. From an earthly point of view, these people had no reason to be joyful, and yet their love, their joy and their hope was more profound than ANY place I have ever been. He alone is sufficient.
3) Lastly, the so-called title of this little blog series came from my lowest point during the entire trip. I lay on my bed in a grass hut in Sudan, and it was about half way through the trip. I saw and experienced so much in those first three weeks and the weight of it all began to press down on me. I cried out to God, “I can’t do this, Lord. I don’t know how in the world to love these people. They are nothing like me. I have nothing to offer them. I can’t live in a grass hut. I miss running water. I don’t like the bugs. I’m tired. I don’t know how to even make it through the rest of this trip.” And I recalled the verse in Philippians, chapter four. We often quote verse 13 (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me) as a sort of mantra that “we can do it”, but we pull it out of context. Verses 12-13 say, “…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” What is Paul saying? Christ is sufficient. He is sufficient in any situation we are in, and His sufficiency is what gets us through.
I know this is a long post, but this lesson was monumental to me. I’ll leave you with a few pictures and words that I shared during our reports back to the churches who supported us. I’d love for you to comment on how you have found Christ to be sufficient for you.
Where we expected to find despair…we found HOPE.
Photo: Church service at AIDS church, Rwanda (2004); Congregation at AIDS church, Rwanda (2004); Genocide Memorial, Kigali, Rwanda (2004); Coffins holding at least 10 people each from genocide, Kigali, Rwanda (2004); Street children, Rwanda (2004); Sudanese orphanage, Sudan (2004); Family watching, Rwanda (2004)