Don't think twice, it's alright: part II
Photo by Andrew
Being a travelling journalist for OM in Africa allows Andrew to reflect on God’s sovereign control of his life as he visits different ministries. Recently, Andrew returned from a three month trip that took him to three OM fields. In this two-part blog Andrew reflects on what God taught him throughout his travels. Read part one here.
After a horrific stomach bug made me miss my flight (the other exciting bookend that I would have rather not experienced), I arrived in Malawi ready to work.
Amidst a flurry of activity, including the Ride 2 Transform (R2T) cycle tour for the benefit of the Yao people, I started to miss my South African church. I’d gone to a couple of services on the trip, but I realised it had been several weeks since I’d fellowshipped with the local body. Maybe I’m just a creature of routines—I like my Sunday morning service and familiar faces—but at the time I was listening on my computer to a sermon series on the book of Hebrews, and one day, when the pastor was preaching through chapter 10, he mentioned, “It’s no coincidence that right after urging his readers not to forsake the gathering of the saints in verse 25, the writer of Hebrews warns against deliberate, continual sin.”
And I said out loud to my empty bedroom, “Yep.”
I realised that I needed the weekly worship, the fellowship, the accountability. When I signed up to do missions work, I figured being a traveling journalist would be easy, given that I’m just a little bit introverted (people who really know me and read this will laugh because honestly, I’m pretty much a hermit), and it’s not difficult for me to uproot and move around from place to place.
And life on the road is easy for me, in that sense; but I didn’t realise how attached I’d become to my church in South Africa.
It helped that I developed some good friendships in Malawi, including one of the teachers at OM Malawi’s community school. (You can learn lots about the Yao people through OM’s news site and social media.) His name in the local dialect is Yamikuri, but he goes by Chris. Or, rather, his stage name, Chriss V—because in addition to teaching grade one, he’s also a rapper.
He talked me into recording a rap song with him. That day, at the recording studio, I learnt that I am very white, and I should not consider a career as a rapper. Chris is pretty amazing, though—and he was thrilled that I would rap with him, so it was a blessing just to see him get excited. I have the MP3 of our song and I still listen to it sometimes to remember that fun experience. And no, you will never hear it. But apparently it’s a big hit at OM Malawi.
I also enjoyed some great discussions with Daniel, a brother from Paraguay who cycled the R2T and stayed for a few weeks afterward to volunteer. We filmed ourselves eating mice, a local delicacy.
They weren’t that bad. Tasted like chicken. The tails were the best part.
We talked theology, missions and hobbies; all of it was really stimulating and encouraging; but as the weeks went on, I kept thinking more and more about my home church.
If you are reading this and thinking about pursuing international mission work, don’t forget to consider the implications of leaving your church—can you handle that? And listen, you may be a hermit like me, and you don’t feel particularly attached to your church, but once you leave, you’ll notice the difference. And Hebrews 10:25 is true no matter where in the world you are.
I’m nobody special
When I arrived in Bunda, Tanzania, for a two-week stay after my time in Malawi, the OMer there, Jacob, put me up in a nice hotel. A big surprise.
It felt strange, after six weeks in Malawi with no running water and limited solar-powered electricity, to suddenly have something of a luxury room all to myself, with meals delivered.
(If you’re reading this, Jacob, don’t get me wrong: I appreciated your hospitality. You treated me like a king.)
But after the first night there, I asked Jacob if he had a spare bed at his house. It just didn’t seem right to indulge in all the luxuries of a foreign ambassador. I’m not a politician or a celebrity. I’m nobody special.
Besides, it doesn’t help my job as a journalist to be tucked away in a hotel, away from the hustle and bustle of local life. I’d much rather experience what life is like on a day-to-day basis. It comes out in my writing much more clearly. If I only stayed in hotels, then my readers on the OM news site would get hotel journalism. I’d much rather paint a picture of real Tanzanian life. And to do that you have to live like a Tanzanian, right?
Fortunately, Jacob did have a spare bed, so I moved in—if only for two weeks. I shared a room with one of his younger sons and ate with his family. I went to the market and saw the crowds. For a brief time, I was a Tanzanian; I even stumbled my way through a few Swahili words and phrases—which was tough, coming from two other countries with their own languages.
And in Tanzania, I enjoyed the involvement with churches. Jacob is a church-planter, so we visited several locations in remote villages where he has set up rugged church buildings and trained pastors to lead small congregations.
I learnt to worship God wherever you are, even with three people in a tiny church made of mud and sticks.
After three months away, I returned to South Africa and my home church with overflowing pocketsful of stories and experiences. I’m glad to be home. But I’m also looking forward to my next trip—which is right around the corner.