Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. – Colossians 4:2-6 [ESV]
We were on the way to the airport in Houston and Aliou, our Uber driver, asked where we were going. “Tanzania,” we said. “No kidding!?!” he replied. “I’m from Mali!” Our conversation went on from there. We shared a little about our trip two years ago to dedicate the school in Mwanza, and now that we are going to teach pastors and their spouses about Leadership and Change for the Sake of Christ’s Mission. He was very impressed and encouraging to us.
But the lesson would come from Aliou. He told us about a trip several years ago back to his country. After staying in Timbuktu for several days (weeks?), he wanted to go out into the countryside to see his aunt. She was getting old and he wanted to see her and some other relatives where she lived. It would be a three day walk. Yes, Three. Day. Walk. His story:
Before we left we learned that there was a terrible rain storm in that area where we were going. The roads would turn into rivers. It would take 5 days for the waters to recede. So they wanted to know whether we were sure we wanted to go. I said that we had come so far, why would we turn back now? If the guide would take us, we would go.
We would start early in the morning, walk until noon, eat and rest, and then walk until evening. We would sleep under the sky, in the open. We had a horse or mule and a guide who helped us find our way. There are no roads, [and I got the distinct impression that there were few paths.] and sometimes when someone got tired the horse or mule would carry them. The animals also carried our supplies.
When we got very close to the end of our trip there was a large field that had 3 feet of water in it. It was like a river or a lake. But some people had built a stone wall in the middle of the field, tied a rope to a tall pole on one end, and to a tree on the other end. We got up on the stone wall and walked across this field holding to the rope above our heads. That way we all made it across the lake.
Later, on our way home, we saw the field that had been flooded and I went to see the stone wall. It had been built entirely by hand. They had no tools. There was no cement or mortar to hold the rocks together. Instead they put wooden slats and braces all along the wall to keep in in place. They did all that without tools! It was so amazing.
All that was against the backdrop of the difference in cultures. Here in Africa the community is vitally important. People eat together. The young children serve their elders. They wait till the older people finish their meals and then after they have eaten they clean up. They have little material wealth in much of his country, he said, but they have community and relationships are precious.
Aliou told us, “When I got to America, I noticed how so many people were angry and unhappy. You have so much, and yet you’re not happy?!? I don’t understand.” He was able to visit his aunt and was thankful to have done so because she died a few months later.
My big takeaway from that story was all about motivation. If you have the motivation, you will find a way. You can do so many things. I wonder whether all our material wealth has dulled our eyes to the richer things in life: faith, family, and friends. The whole community had to work together to build the wall, and the group had to help each other get to their destination.
When we are less individualistic and work together toward a common goal, we can do so much more. I wonder whether we just need some inspiration and motivation to do the more important things. I wonder whether we talk a better talk than we live.
I have no doubt, however, about our need for your prayers, dear reader, as we are teaching here this week. We don’t know of any flooded fields we will need to cross. But we do know we’ve come so far, and we want to finish our mission task. I suspect our challenges will be few and small, and I look forward to sharing a good report when we return.
What lesson will you learn from Aliou?