Thirteen years ago, I …
Didn’t believe AIDS was a worldwide scourge.
Didn’t understand how God was moving in Africa.
Didn’t know I could share the gospel with someone who didn’t speak English.
Didn’t understand how much wealth I had related to the rest of the world.
Didn’t have a Christian worldview.
It’s amazing how quickly one short-term mission trip to the African continent changed my perspective on EVERYTHING.
For those of you planning and anticipating a mission trip this summer, whether it is in the U.S. or overseas, your world is about to change—radically. It will be an unbelievable blessing from God that will challenge everything you think you believe. My advice to you is simple: Let Him change you.
My world started changing forever on an Army base outside of Harare, Zimbabwe. A basketball team I was touring with had the opportunity to conduct a basketball clinic and share our faith with soldiers who were interested in learning the game. My role was sharing about strength training. Many of the soldiers I talked to didn’t really need much help in this area. They had biceps as big as hams and looked like they could bench press a jeep. But just as many of them were anemic and sickly, despite the fact that they had the best food and shelter in the entire country, thanks to dictator Robert Mugabe.
I asked one of the more healthy soldiers, Robert, what was the problem. “They have slim,” he said. “Many soldiers die of slim.”
That was my rude awakening to the growing AIDS pandemic in 1995. Mugabe, still clinging to power to this day, wanted his soldiers happy and under his complete control. So he brought truckloads of prostitutes onto bases like the ones we visited, having no idea he was speeding thousands of people to their deaths.
From that day forward, I haven’t thought about judgment and homosexuality when I think about AIDS. I think about hurting people and what Jesus would be doing if He were walking the earth today. He would be trying to heal them physically, spiritually and emotionally. He would trust His Word, His Father and the Holy Spirit to change the trajectory of their lives.
I also started thinking about the wealth God has blessed me with in a very different way. I spent the day in the village of Nyazura, where children needed basic medical care. An International Mission Board medical team, funded by the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program, was about to set up shop in order to treat polio—yes, polio in 1995—along with a host of other diseases long since under control in the United States.
The village of Nyazura needed medical care for its people, but it also needed a physical church. They had a pastor, as well as new believers and hundreds of lost people in the village who needed to know Christ. But they needed a building to set apart the Christian faith from the villagers’ cultic and witchcraft practices.
I thought about that need all the way home to America. When I talked it over with my wife, Tammy, none of the bills or “needs” we had seemed that important. So, we scraped together the money for the biggest gift we had ever given to a church and sent it through the International Mission Board, earmarked for the new church building at Nyazura.
Two months later, we received a photograph from Pastor Gabriel of the new church foundation that had been laid with our gift. A few months later, we received a picture of a new church. It remains the best financial investment I have ever made.
Thirteen years later, I am still not the same person. I think about singing “Jesus Loves Me” with a group of children in Nyazura. I think about the soldiers who have died from slim and pray for the families they left behind. I pray for Pastor Gabriel and his church.
I think about the needs of people in Africa I have never met.
Thirteen years later, I am a changed man in Christ.
When you go on mission this summer, let Christ change you.