My good friend Pete just returned from leading a missions team to Sierra Leone, West Africa. Like many other sub-Saharan villages, the ones that Pete’s team visited lack not only adequate medical care but clean water as well. They are also increasingly dominated by Islam, which steadily advances south.
All this spells opportunity to Pete, and to Roland, director of Water of Life, the ministry that organized Pete’s trip. Water of Life had previously drilled wells in the villages, providing many with their first-ever drink of fresh water that is free of the usual disease-causing bacteria.
This set very well with the Muslim village elders, who welcomed Water of Life back to treat medical needs beyond the reach of sanitary water. Pete and Roland’s team worked with their African Christian partners who set up medical clinics with the approval of the village leaders.
The team consisted mostly of trained nurses, including Pete’s daughter Lauren. Their healing hands worked efficiently and compassionately. A full report of their work is forthcoming. So far Pete has given me only tantalizing clues to the significant progress that was made.
This story could stop here and be enough to illustrate what God accomplishes when Jesus’ followers do what He Himself did, something referred to as incarnating the Gospel. But it does not stop here. If it did, then most of us would say, “That’s all very good for them, but I don’t see myself in that picture. I’m not a doctor, nurse or professional well digger. I have no skill to incarnate the Gospel.”
Don’t tell that to Alec, Pete’s younger son who was also on the team. Alec is an 18 year-old with a desire to serve God but no known talent that might have made him the MVP on Pete’s medical team. But he does have one piece of equipment that proved invaluable: hands.
Pete noted that very often, American missions teams descend upon a village, cordon off the area, film themselves doing their “good deed” and then leave with a minimum of contact with “the natives.” Pete and Roland’s team did not follow that pattern. Alec in particular, used a previously unnoticed, highly technical skill possessed by only an elite group of experienced people. He played with the African kids. All day most every day, while their parents waited for medical treatment, Alec entertained their children by tickling them, playing ball with them and teaching them songs with hand motions.
While the rest of the team was working hard to heal the people, Alec was wasting time with their children. Well, no, the children didn’t see it as a waste of time. Neither did the imams. They were impressed that the American Christians enjoyed spending time with their Muslim children.
Thank God for experts who are willing to go with their talents. But we all know that most of us are ordinary. Nevertheless, when ordinary Christians use the ordinary equipment that Jesus has given us, He will accomplish extraordinary and eternal good.
Alec did not feed thousands with a few loaves and fish, give sight to the blind or raise the dead. He didn’t need to. Before the team left, the elders of one village asked the African Christians to take over their school and teach their Muslim children.
“He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:16). Alec used his hands and Jesus blessed the children. Right now, look down at your hands. Start asking God who He wants you to bless with them.