SARA’S STORY (cont’d from last week)...There are a lot of challenging things that come with Tanzania; however, for me, everything was exactly as it needed to be. And because you and I share the same faith, it should be for you too. You’re going to hear a lot about our trip. You’ll hear a lot about what Tanzania needs. You’ll hear a lot about how good the people, the food, and the country are.
Tanzania needs help with many of the physical, material aspects of life, and I expect you all to help them with that whether it be through giving or through prayer.
So since you’re going to hear about what they need, since you are going to help with what they need, I’m here to tell you what we need.
I’ve been in a lot of churches in my life. I’ve been an insider, an outsider, and oftentimes just an observer of my dad’s job. But let me tell you something, out of the seven churches I’ve been part of, I have never seen the deep, never-ending faith that these people in Tanzania have. I don’t think I’ve ever walked into a church and seen people actually dance, I haven’t seen kids younger than I get up on the spot to sing, I haven’t heard a pastor I met a week ago tell me he loves me and that I am his family.
Their way of life is simple. Their way of love is simple (and real!). Their way of worship is sometimes messy, but it is simple. And church, please listen carefully when I say this, God is simple. God is not primarily focused on the fact that one church has stained glass windows while another worships under a tree next to a corn field. And the last time I checked, God likes to look at what’s in the heart of our churches rather than what’s in or on the structures where we worship.
I cannot help but think that if churches in America were as simple and real and genuine as the churches in Tanzania-- how much good we could do, how much more we could love. If we could let go of our reservations, our prejudice, our laziness, our drama, what better things in the world could we focus on than our music on Sunday’s or how many steps we are away from an office?
I know these aspects of our church are very important to many of us. But from an outsider with pure intentions, let me tell you that what I remember about all of the churches I’ve been in. It wasn’t the music at Vineyard or the stained glass windows at Millington or the insanely expensive organ at Christ Methodist I’ve taken with me. The most important thing about all of them is how they loved, and after going 8,000 miles away, I can firmly say that none made me feel as welcomed and loved as a church who didn’t even speak my language.
And no, it’s not because we worshipped under trees or listened to sermons in plastic outdoor chairs. The love that I felt there was felt because those churches are really focused on sharing God through loving God. So church, I’m asking us to be focused and real. Not so that I can take memories of real love from this church, but so that our partnership with Tanzania will be as successful as possible. Our partnership will last if it is real, united, focused, full love from both sides. So to do that, I expect us all to unite, to be real on this, and to love like God loves us.
So watch out, church. Find where God can use you. Whether it be through giving the Church in Mika a roof, donating to the well fund, or praying relentlessly for those precious hands we were so privileged to hold, be real with it. Be genuine. And Most importantly, be Christ-like with it. From the bottom of their big hearts, I know the Mika Church is very thankful for what we have already done. May we continue to fearlessly love them, happily give to them, and continuously pray for them. Thank you. Join us this Sunday as we remember just how small this big world is, and we come to Christ’s Table to celebrate World Communion.
Sincerely in Christ’s service: Ed, Will and the First UMC Family