Excuse me, it's my birthday week so I have had lots of activities to attend to and my Sister is in the area from California. With all that is happening, I am a blessed man.
But I have a newspaper column laying before me that has me troubled and I would love to have your thoughts. It touts a travelling evangelist with this heading.... "opens crusade, zeal and questions." To be certain, I have questions, but first, some thoughts from the column. First was the comment about "the tens of millions he has saved." That thought sickens my soul as I remember being in the home of a friend in Tulsa, OK, decades ago when I heard him boast, their contributions to his ministries would enable him to "win Africa for Christ". OK, he is an Englishman and I am not. I have never been to Africa and have no plans to go there, but I am also an educated man and I have grieved for the future of Africa for more years than I can remember. For me, it all started when I was instructed to help our USAF base where I was stationed to assist in the integration of blacks into what had previously been, an all white organization. I had never known a black person until I met the first seven assigned to our base and in the course of events, I became life long friends with three whose duties were closer to where I worked.
I had no real idea of the persecution they had endured during their several years of service including duties on foreign bases in the midst of World War II. And then I learned about growing up in the South and their hopes for an education in the predominantly North. All had joined the service in hopes that they might find a better life. They taught me something I had never considered, that if you seek a "better" life or way of living, you have a responsibility to create it. These were seasoned veterans talking to a young white who just then, learning how to shave myself.
One of the group became the "Mess Chief" in the area where I was billeted and we began to meet in the evenings and just talk about black/white relationships. Eventually, the subject turned to Africa and I would discover he was one generation removed from a grass hut on the barren plans of a nation that no longer exists. I learned a lot about poverty from him as he talked about his grand parents and the ones who had come before. At least they didn't have "governments" to tell them what they could do, or could not do, and I began to have a greater appreciation of our own. He loved being an American for that very reason; here, the government protects a person - as he would say, ..."even a black person" and most governments in Africa "used" the people for no other reason than to increase the wealth and prestige of their so-called leaders. When I reminded him that it takes followers to determine who leads and he would laugh and remind me, ..."the only reason there were leaders on those days in Africa was the fact that the people were hoping for something better for their lives."
I recalled those conversations as I listened to Evangelist Boenke talk. That was a good idea, I thought at first as I firmly believed that following Jesus was far better than following the voices of leaders who cared nothing about their followers. Later, I would hear of an Evangelist working in China and his group was "working" among the peasants. They had gathered a group of new converts together as they were about to leave and had distributed literature affirming their ministry. I will never forget the words of a young convert as they were bidding their benefactors good bye, "And now what?" he asked.
I wondered, would he be able to walk as Jesus walked and teach as Jesus taught? It was a question that resonated with me. I had been going to Church for all of my life and I had no idea.
Years have passed since I first met Evangelist Boenke and now he claims to have "saved" 72 million people during his crusades. And I think of Africa as it is today and I recall my conversations with my friend in the Mess hall. What do we hear about those great nations? Recently, we heard of one tribe kidnapping dozens of young girls - out of their beds in the dark of night, and distributing them among others so that they could become sex slaves. We also learn of E-Bola threatening the lives of thousands and their hopes lies in the efforts of Americans, our doctors, our care givers, our medicines, hoping and praying to halt the spread of this killer disease.
Decades have passed since that night in Tulsa, OK, and to be honest, I get sick at the thought of it. My thoughts go back to the teachings of our Lord, Jesus, who prompted His followers to move out and to change lives by changing hearts and those new disciples went on to build schools and universities and eventually, win over the hearts of those living in distant lands, far removed from the land where it all started. I am, you are, as well as millions of others, now live in a nation that prides itself that we have a government, "of the people, by the people and for the people" and the people of Africa are still under the yoke of poverty and disease that ought not to be.
The gospel is not a declaration that all is well, that the former life has ceased to be, but is a challenge to follow the One who declared, "...I have come that they might have life and might have it abundantly."
(John 10:10) It is not WILL be, it is MIGHT be. It is not because we admitted the sin filled nature of a former life. It is now up to you and to me and the counsel of other believers to make it happen in our lives, so that others might be aware of the joy that follows us from day to day, only because He made a real difference in how we are to live and to actually love one another.
My plea - pray for the people of Africa and seek to encourage those who care for their people to pray for disciples and teachers who will take the gospel seriously - as it was written