I knew it was going to be different when I spotted two ladies getting onto the plane at Gatwick. They had plastic carrier bags on their heads! This was to protect 2 wedding hats that they were wearing. Now call me fussy, but I haven’t seen plastic bags worn too often in the UK. They were of course from Sierra Leone, which is where I write this blog post from. A country which is as varied in character and interest as any I think I have ever been to.
Travelling on the plane over here, many thoughts crammed my head. I found myself reading a book about the noted explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes. It’s called Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know. The last part of that phrase sounds like Jesus to me. “Dangerous to Know”. Why is that? Well, I think it is because he challenges us to always up the bar, up the ante and to explore more of his divine possibilities in this world. Reading about Ranulph Fiennes (Ran for Short!) you see a man who is dedicated to his task and one orders his life around that task. That in short is what I found myself doing. Trying to find away of bending my life and that of my family to fit what we believe the Lord is calling us to do.
I don’t want that to sound romantic and fluffy, because quite frankly it is not. My will is involved and it is sometimes very unyielding. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to do the will of my Lord. BUT, his call, his instruction, is there always, pulling, pushing, gently encouraging me forward to do his work and his will. So as I was flying to SL, there was a tussle going on, a tussle about the future. Now just in case you had never picked this up, I love Jesus so very much. For me that means obedience to him and in seeing his will come to the lives of many people in this world. I’m humbled by the fact that the divine life of God can touch someone through me. I want more of Jesus and more of that. The problem is, is that it comes at a price. A price of sacrifice, a price that sometimes is a joy and sometimes hurts like fire. It means I ultimately (and my family ultimately) gives up our right to choose what is best for us, to choose what is best for our kids and to trust in someone who is greater than any of us, to look after us, direct us and shape us.
So, that process leads me out here to Sierra Leone. You have to have some sense of call because often travelling in Africa is very patience building. Take last night for example. To come from the airport you must get a ferry across a bay to reach the main city of Freetown, it takes 45 minutes. If you add in perplexing drivers, beeping, shouting and general African Chaos, it takes 5 hours to reach your hotel. You have questions that get to you when you are impatient, What am I doing here? for example. If there is no sense of call you’d just want to cry.
Saying all of that though, Freetown is a very interesting place. A heavy Creole influence makes everyone sound like they are from Jamaica, the city is perhaps the dirtiest I have ever been in, but at the same time it is filled with a life and vitality that I find entrancing. It is surrounded by lush green hills and trees, with dramatic vistas down to a swirling crescent of a bay with a golden beach. Whilst life is hard here for many people, it is hard t imagine that just a short while ago in terms of years, people were being killed here in the civil war.
Even with all of the interest, you wouldn’t really come here as a tourist, the ferry, dirty city and general pig of travelling here would put paid to that and that is where the sense of call comes in. I end up in these places with my friends because of a God who calls me to be involved, to not ignore the spiritual and practical plight of people. I do believe that Jesus can transform Sierra Leone through his people. Maybe this week we are a small part of that, responding to his call to be here this week. That’s an encouraging thought. We often feel that we do little, but as a friend said recently, maybe we are doing things that we will see the true affect of in heaven. Wow!
We do need your prayer this week as we speak into the lives of so many people. We need you to stand with us, it may be that some person we meet becomes very influential for the Lord and his will in this place. As the Lord’s will is always to bless, always to release, always to cause to grow, we need to recruit more people to the work this week, more people who will bring many into his Kingdom. That is my calling, hopefully of my friends who have come with me, and maybe even of you reading this. Let’s try and respond to it together.
So as I sit in my air conditioned room (that’s a bonus!) with a couple of mosquitos buzzing about my head, I’m excited about this next week and what can happen. I do believe God is going to release and encourage many people, and as I write this, I pray for you, that he will do the same for you.
God Bless, Jon