Our team has made multiple visits to Diada’s shop and today John Meyer and I found time to greet our friend of almost fifteen years. When we first met Diada he was right-hand-man to Françoise Pedeau, the visionary French missionary how founded the Center for the Advancement of the Handicapped in Mahadaga, Burkina Faso. After years of service overseeing the facility needs of this burgeoning ministry for and by persons living with disability in the region, Diada is now the owner and leader of a successful fabrication business in Mahadaga. Although we miss seeing our friend at the Center, we are thrilled to now be partnering with a local entrepreneur for the fabrication of pump and well drilling technology and perhaps soon the mobility technologies designed in the Collaboratory. Christian service must ultimately be a partnership with and for the empowerment of local people and the Church who then lead and sustain new ministries on their own. Diada’s shop moves us one step close toward this goal for the work of the Collaboratory and our SIM partners in Mahadaga. This is one of many testaments to the excellence ministry leadership here of Dale and Florence Johnson and Matt and Julie Walsh, all alumni of the Collaboratory. Our friend Brendon Earl, another Collaboratory alum who recently completed a year of service here, also played a significant role in helping Diada establish his business.
Lindsey and Tony have organized an excellent study of Jesus’ parables to help us pay attention to what God is teaching us through our service. Today we studied the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:23-32), and I was reminded that the father calls us to work in his vineyard on this day. He does not call us to get along as best we can in the kingdom of this world until Christ comes to take us away, rather he invites us to live and work today for the rule of King Jesus until he returns. Betty Eichorst came to Mahadaga as a missionary nurse in 1954. She preached the Gospel, of course, but last night at supper she shared story after story of how it also took acts of love and generosity, sometimes carried out over years, to draw people to Christ. This coming to Christ among the Gourma and Fulani people was no mere mental assent to an idea, it changed many to also share the active and sacrificial love of Christ so that they too became salt and light to win others to the Kingdom. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’”, Jesus said, “will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Today the church in Mahadaga is growing and many are faithful, but too many share one thing in common with too many at home, they are in love with the idea of Christ but they do not follow him. I am so proud of the young adults on our team. They have sacrificed much to be here and the work is difficult and sometimes slow. Their willingness to count the cost of the grace they have received from Christ to live out the Gospel gives me great hope for the future of the Church.
Please join us in prayer for our missionary partners. Through their obedience, many of come to faith and the local church is being built up, but day-to-day life is difficult. I sense that some of my friends here need encouragement and a season of rest. Join us also in prayer for the Church in America. The Barna Group has found that American Christians make up only about 5 percent of Christians worldwide but control about half of global Christian wealth, yet only 9 percent of self-identified born again Christians tithe. We give a little over 2.5 percent of income to God’s work, 27 percent less than was given at the height of the Great Depression, and of this only 2 percent goes to overseas ministry of any kind. The team is studying Richard Stearns’ book, “The Hole in our Gospel”, which is really challenging us to think deeply about the responsibility we have to steward such wealth for Christ. In world where billions live on less than 2 dollars a day everyone one of us on this team is wealthy. When historians look back, Richard asks, what will they say of the 340,000 US churches of the early 21st century and their response to the great challenges of our time: poverty, hunger, terrorism and war? Will they write of an unprecedented outpouring of generosity, moral leadership and compelling vision, or will they look back and see a Church too comfortable and insulated from the pain of the rest of the world.
For the team, thank you to all who are partnering with us in prayer. We are truly grateful for the difference you are making in us and through us for the Kingdom. Please do pray for the success of our service, but more than anything I ask that our hearts would be turned toward the heart of God and for courageous faith to obey him in all of our days.