The last month has been a third-world whirlwind. I am sitting in the crowded airport in Johannesburg, South Africa waiting to board a plane for home. A few hours ago I was walking down the main street of Harare, Zimbabwe listening to Christmas music coming from the many stores. There was even a Santa Claus with a tattered red outfit and a lopsided white cotton beard. Just three weeks before, Gloria and I were among the sick, the poor and the wounded in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Dreams come in many forms in the third world. Right now I am dreaming of getting home to Gloria, since these last nine days are our longest time apart in 37 years of marriage. I am dreaming of having our kids and grandkids home for Christmas. While very important to me, this is insignificant compared to the desperate dreams of so many in Cambodia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Unemployment is rampant – over 40% in Harare. Real starvation faces 25% of Zimbabwe’s population. The AIDS epidemic is exploding in all three nations. Cambodia is the hardest hit in all of Asia. Thirty-two percent of Zimbabwe is HIV-positive. South Africa may lose a million people to the epidemic. I dream of a family reunited. Millions dream of a job, a full stomach and living to see another Christmas
“. . . on his way he [Philip] met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians . . . reading the book of Isaiah the prophet . . . Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’ And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”
This Ethiopian man, whose name we do not even know, went off alone as a baby Christian to evangelize the “Dark Continent.” He must have been successful, because church historians tell of strong churches existing there in the second century. How could one inexperienced person accomplish this? He didn’t. God did. When will we ever learn that all God needs to accomplish the goal of making disciples of all nations is a few sold-out vessels of flesh through whom he can work?
In 1986, a multi-racial group of 16 brave disciples once again ventured into Africa to claim it for God, starting in South Africa, the land of apartheid. Now less than 12 years later, over 9,300 disciples meet in 37 nations on the continent. Amazing growth? Yes, but it was God. God’s miracles in Africa are inspiring and challenging disciples everywhere.