I have been reminiscing recently about my time with the Samburu tribe of East Africa. They are a very remote people group in Kenya. They are so isolated they have no concept of a world outside of their village. They have no concept of money, do not know the world is round, and have rarely been exposed to “civilization”. To reach the village was a harrowing trip. Once we left the last improved road in Western Kenya, it was a 14 hour drive over dirt roads, animal trails and dry river beds. It was a very long drive in a crowded van with no air conditioning.
It was genuinely one of the high points of my life to finally reach and be welcomed into the Samburu village. These were the most kind and gentle people you would ever want to meet. We were able to share the Gospel in the village and that evening show the Jesus film. That evening people from the surrounding villages came for the film. Many made professions of faith. The local indigenous pastors made arrangements for one of their own to begin living in this village so the people could be discipled.
The great commission states in Matthew 28:18-20:
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go thereforeand make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Jesus commanded that we “Make Disciples”, not make converts. It is a simple matter to get someone to make a profession of faith, but truly Making Disciples is a lifelong endeavor. It was a blessing to be able to see these people begin their walk with Christ, but the real work will be done by the people we left behind to do the discipleship and training.
I have been reflecting recently on time I spent in the slums of Kipsongo. Kipsongo very well could be the saddest place on earth, filled with orphans, widows and many dieing of various diseases. In walking through the slums, I have never experienced such an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. It is East Africa neat the town of Kitale, Kenya.
Kipsongo is filled with the broken dreams of missionaries who have been there trying to make things better, you see faded and broken signs on buildings now fallen down . . . recreation centers, mission churches and the like. Started with great intentions but no follow through. More than one missionary has broken his plow trying to till the hard soil of this slum. The last time I was there, most relief operations appeared to be abandoned. The people did have a nice hand pumped water well that was still working . . . no doubt the work of some kind soul in the past.
The first time I went to Africa, I had my heart set on fixing the poor. I was sure that I could teach them skills, and show them how to be self sufficient, and help them pull themselves out of poverty. Unfortunately all my efforts were futile. I put in a chicken coupe, flock of chickens and taught how to raise chickens. When I returned, the chickens were dead, and the coupe was falling in. This and countless other efforts to bring relief to these people all failed.
I have come to understand a Biblical truth. God never told us to “fix” the poor, he told us to love the poor. In fact, he told us the problem is not fixable when he said “The poor will always be with you”. What I have come to realize is that what is needed more than anything else is the truth of the Gospel. Mission efforts centered on good works and relief are doomed to failure. There is not relief on earth to fix the problem. You can not fix a spiritual problem with mosquito nets, water wells and bags of ground corn. Only the hope that comes from knowing Jesus Christ can fix the problem. This requires that we spen more mission resources on the “First Love” . . . sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
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