Tuesday, August 15, 2017

White American

I am an ignorant, white American who knows about as much French as a three-year-old Burkinabe child.

I could spend decades assimilating myself to the culture of Burkina Faso to lessen my ignorance, but no amount of time can fully erase the “FOREIGNER” label from my forehead.  It has its benefits, opening doors of opportunities for conversations and events that would not otherwise be possible.  It also creates a seemingly impenetrable divide between you and the people with whom you are trying to connect.  That divide is founded upon the concept of “us” and “them,” which even the most politically correct beliefs cannot seem to fully wash away.  “We” are coming to minister to “them.”  “We” have the truth that “they” need.  Go ahead and fill in “they” with your stereotype of choice.  Cultural diversity is an incredible gift that adds color and dimension to the earth, but its downfall is division.  And national pride, a socially acceptable title for believing yourself to be supreme.  The Gospel message is one of unity of the church through Christ Jesus, and there is no room for division in the body of Christ.

The first two weeks of my mission trip were spent with a group of Filipino missionaries who had been in Burkina Faso for nearly two decades.  They taught me many wonderful things, but nothing compares to the clear picture of discipleship that they painted for me.  These missionaries didn’t come into the country with grandiose presentations of the Gospel.  They came humbly.  They were led by God to take specific individuals under their wing and form them into nation changers.  Now many years later, I was able to experience the fruit of their labor.  I got to see a young man, who was once a dejected boy that was given a bike and some clothes for school, translate and animate Bible stories to masses of children in their tribal dialect.  Every single one of our translators were young men with similar stories of being taken in and loved by “foreigners.”  Now they, with their local Burkinabe status, are able to live among the people and show that God’s love is not limited by race, nationality, socioeconomic status, or religious background.

When I walked down the streets of Burkina Faso, children pointed at me while chanting “Nesara!”, reminding me of my foreigner status.  In the Philippines, they stared with wide eyes and ran their fingers across my pale skin.  In Romania the kids practiced a bit more Wdiscretion, but it was still clear that I did not belong.  I cannot change how I look or my background.  And I can choose to let that be a weakness, or I can let go of my desire to be the hero of the Gospel and instead invest in future heroes.  I want to go into all the world preaching the Good News, but without discipleship, lasting change is not feasible.  Whether or not I get to stand on a pulpit, I have a responsibility to invest in the people that God has placed in my life.  Believing the best for them, calling out the good and the bad, speaking into who they could be and watching their potential become their character.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Simple Gospel

I am fully convinced I have found the most fulfilling action that one can do on this earth, perhaps only topped by the act of knowing and being known by God.  I've seen beautiful places. I've talked to and learned from remarkable people. I've experienced some pretty exciting adventures, but never in my life have I felt the sense of complete joy that comes from sharing the perfect gospel with children.

My French speaking capabilities lie somewhere between embarrassing and almost comprehensible, so when given the opportunity to run a third grade classroom for two hours, my options were pretty limited.  Even when I did have the words necessary to ask the kids questions, I was met with blank stares.  I'm still not sure if it was my pronunciation, word choice, or just the fact that I am a white American and understandable words were not expected to come from my mouth.  However, with the help of a gracious and lively translator named Kader, I was able to communicate with the surprisingly well-behaved classroom.

"Voulez-vous une chant, une histoire, ou un jou?" was the question I learned to use over and over again, asking if the kids would rather a song, story, or game.  I was shocked to discover that more often than not the kids wanted a story.  From Jonah to the Prodigal Son, I had the opportunity alongside my friend Richard to tell story after story from the Bible and use them to teach the kids a little more about who God is.

One story stands out because while telling it I was given the exact message that needed to be spoken.  It was the story of the servant who owed a large sum of money.  In the gospel, Jesus tells how this servant was unable to pay what he owed, but rather than throwing the servant in prison, his master forgave him.  That same day, the servant ran into a colleague that owed him a much lesser sum, but the servant chose to throw him in prison until he was able to pay back the sum.  The master heard about this and was furious!  He threw the unforgiving servant into prison, ashamed that he could not forgive such a small amount when he had been forgiven so much.

I've grown up my entire life knowing that this is a portrayal of why we should forgive others since God has forgiven us an insurmountable debt that we could never pay.  However, while standing before wide-eyed Burkinabae children, the Holy Spirit gave me the words to go directly from this story into the weight of sin and the story of all that Jesus did for them and how much he loves them.

The gospel is simple.  I over-complicate it in my head and think that there is no way to show all that needs to be known about God and Christ's sacrifice in one sitting.  After all, you can't even know all that there is to know in one lifetime.  Yet God's grace can be understood, on some level, by even a young child.  It isn't my job to sugar-coat the gospel into an easy pill to swallow.  I am not called to somehow have every answer to every theological battle.  All I am supposed to do is tell those around me that Jesus died for them.  Now that is something I can do.

Telling Bible Stories in a Village Classroom

Monday, January 30, 2017

Change of Plans

                As many of you know, I was planning to go to Liberia this summer to assist The Last Well in their efforts to bring clean water to the nation of Liberia.  With the coming of the New Year, The Last Well has shifted their focus to fundraising in the United States and will no longer be taking in teams.  As I’m sure you can all imagine, I was initially quite disappointed.  Doing water well ministry has been a dream of mine for years.  However, I am excited to announce that ORU Missions has formulated a new trip for my team to Burkina Faso!  There we will be working with Pastor Danny and his ministry called HOPE BURKINA.  Hiis vision is to plant churches, improve education, and disciple others.  If you would like to learn more about Pastor Danny and the work that he does in Burkina Faso, you can watch the video found at this link:  http://world-outreach.com/people/danny-ruby-bayasen/

                Thank you all so much for your support.  I know this is a big change, but the Lord has used it to bring my team closer together and show us that serving God is a lifestyle not a destination.  My team could definitely use prayer that the Lord will guide us and show us His purpose behind this change in plans.  Pastor Danny has asked for prayer for his family as well as for their ministry’s needs.  I appreciate all of your willingness to partner with me as I do my best to follow God’s calling on my life.  If you would like to donate towards this trip, please follow this link:  http://www.orumissions.com/donate/ .  Thanks to the generous donations that have already poured in from all of you, I am blessed to be able to say I am about $500 away from reaching my goal of $3,600.  However, my team is still in great need of funds.  If you would be interested in meeting and supporting one of the other members on my team, I would be happy to make that connection.  All five of the others on my team are bright, spirit-led, outstanding individuals who I have grown to love immensely.  Please shoot me an email at christisleiman@gmail.com if you would like to continue to receive updates about my trip.

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