On our wonderful eleven-hour car ride to Kara from Accra, Ghana when we first got to Africa, we talked a lot. There isn’t much opportunity for sleep because of the beautifully paved roads (please sense the utter sarcasm in that phrase) so we got to know Nicole and April and they got to know us. As we drove into the actual city limits of Kara, however, I was defying all odds and falling asleep with my heavily cushioned head against the window (at least once every couple of seconds), and sermons from Mars Hill Bible Church were playing on the radio. I soon found out about the Mars Hill Bible Church podcast that I, too, could subscribe to. So, I did.
I love the way Rob Bell teaches. He teaches from the Bible and speaks to his audience in a way that is compelling about things that are relevant. There are often other individuals teaching at this congregation on the podcast, they, too, teach straight from the Bible. I have so enjoyed listening to the sermons from this podcast, especially these past few weeks. Mars Hill Bible Church is in the middle of a series on the Beatitudes. It takes a while to download things here, so I was a few weeks behind as of the end of last week, but I got the latest ones downloaded and have since caught up.
Last night, as I cooked dinner, I listened to the sermon on “blessed are those who hunger and thirst.” Rob Bell was the teacher that day, and the message was marvelous. I highly recommend that you go subscribe to the podcast if only for this one lesson. Here is why (in a long, drawn-out Jacque way of telling reasons).
I’m a little worried about my reverse culture-shock. I’ve been more worried about reverse culture-shock than anything else since I decided to come here. And quite frankly, I don’t know how much I’ve had culture shock since I’ve come; we were (and are) aided greatly in our transition and in adjusting to life here in Kara. Here, I’m surrounded by people who expect culture shock to be a part of adjustment to life. When I go home, people won’t know what I’m thinking when I walk through Walmart or Target- I’m not even sure I’ll know what I’m thinking! I’ve always had inner turmoil when I think about the world and how it operates and how awful some things are. It’s why I can’t watch the news or read a whole newspaper without crying. There are so many things that I cannot fix in the world, so many things that are just not right.
In this particular sermon, I was affected on so many levels so many times. Rob Bell tells this story of a couple at his congregation that approached him with a dilemma. “We want to buy a couch.” Now, this seems simple and easily answered, “Ok, then buy a couch.” But this couple was faced with the knowledge they had that if they put the money they would put into a couch toward fresh water wells in Africa, they could save lives. If they used the money saved by buying a cheaper couch to sponsor a child, they could send that child to school and affect generations in that child’s family. OR they could buy a nice leather couch that was exactly the color and squishiness and size they wanted.
Those of us who have our eyes open should be facing this same dilemma. Now, Mr. Bell doesn’t provide an answer for people with that question. What he does provide is the assurance that God is with us in the tension that question brings up in us. The fact that we have tension is a sign that God is working in us! There is no right answer, necessarily, but we can take comfort in the fact that God knows that our world is not how it should be, and the tension we feel when we buy a couch is simply something we have to deal with in our broken world.
At one point, Rob Bell talks about an television interview he did for the BBC and how she asked him a question that caught him off guard. He and I are alike in how we deal with being caught off guard- he just started talking, thinking, “Wow, that’s interesting that I would say that,” as he spoke. Later, he replayed his answer over and over and over (courtesy of the “rewind demon”), dwelling on the response he wished he hadn’t given, beating himself up over the words that came out of his mouth
I do that almost every day. I re-live the things I did that were boneheaded and silly, the things I never should have said, the look I never should have given, the phrase I never should have laughed at, the couch I never should have stood on, the way I never should have been or reacted.
“The Gospel is Jesus’ counter-intuitive, exuberant announcement that in those moments of frustration beating myself up, God announces, “Blessed are you. I’m with you.” Not “When you get it together, then I’ll meet you.” No. God meets us in the frustration and anger, giving us “blessing, love, and acceptance, saying, “I’m with you in that.”
I’m so glad that when I go home and have no way at all of processing everything I’ll need to process, God will be with me in the tension. While I go to Walmart and buy ready made food and go to the furniture store a buy a couch that’s a tad more comfortable than half of the beds people sleep on here, God will be blessing me in the inner turmoil I will most assuredly feel.
He is with me now, and He will be with me then. And, He is with you always. Don't forget!
This is a picture of two adorable members of the Reeves family, Elijah (who is one of my students, in the orange) and Gabriel (one of the Kindergarteners, in the red). As we drove up to their house to drop off the girls who are in dance one day, I thought they had a lemonade stand... nope! They had a peanut stand set up outside their compound. And I thought I would share this hilarious memory with you!