Marked with Joy

I live a life full of comfort. I drive a new car. I go to a nice church where I sit in a comfortable 75-degree temperature. I worship a Lord who, despite my apathy and lack of motivation, loves me and desires to be with me.

One day, while worshipping in my cozy American church, this verse finally rang loud and clear to me: “For everyone to whom much has been given, from him much will be required.” I looked around and realized that despite having a multitude of resources and being a part of a stable church body, I spend most of my life just keeping “out of trouble.” I take for granted what has been given to me. I don’t take risks. I play it safe. I value security more than service. As a result I do not serve those whom Christ has called me to love.

It wasn’t until I took a trip to Uganda, Africa—through Food for the Hungry—that I came to my senses.

I cannot say that I fully know what it is like to be a Christian living in an African culture. I was there for less than four weeks. And even if I had stayed longer, I don’t know that I would have been able to fully grasp the depth of their suffering. Perhaps I never will.

People in Africa are impacted in some way or another by AIDS, war and poverty, just to name a few. I’ve lost count of the number of people I met who did not have even the basic necessities to sustain their lives and the lives of their loved ones. I’ve seen their faces—tired, weary and broken.

With images of despair vividly etched in my mind, I walked into a modest church in a small Ugandan town. It was my first church service in this little-known corner of Africa, and my mind was busy with preconceived expectations. I closed my eyes and imagined a group of people pleading and wailing, uncontrollable tears rolling down their faces. I pictured a society that would have to forge ahead long and hard through mountains of hurt if it was to ever reconcile with God.

I opened my eyes and realized I was wrong.

I came to a church that was abounding with celebration. Immediately, I was filled with joy and excitement in worshipping our living God. Shouts of worshipful praise rang loudly throughout the small, dusty church, held together by sticks and tarps. These people loved God, I concluded. They knew God, and they worshipped Him despite all that they struggled with in life.

To put it more clearly, I saw something that people in Africa have that we lack in America. Our African brothers and sisters live out their faith. They do not allow their misfortune or poverty come between them and their love for Christ. They take what is given to them, however much or little that may be, and they turn it back to worship. They are a people of hope. Not the kind of hope that goes away when things become tough, but a hope that’s real because it is anchored in Christ.

I saw lessons in leadership. I came to know a special people who strive to build a society enriched by God—a society that fully relies on God.

My trip to Africa more than inspired me—it humbled me. I thought I was going there to be a blessing. On the contrary, they blessed me beyond measure.

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And so this is my prayer: That we who have been given much would learn to let go of the stuff that distracts us from truly serving God and His people. That we would not be afraid to live for others. That we would live out the faith that God has given us and not allow the world to confine us into its own mold. That we would live a life marked by joyful service.

I decided to take the lessons of Africa to heart. So many times we hear of Africa as this broken and desperate place—and a lot of what we hear is true. But only after meeting the African people face to face did I see a profound truth: They love God even when the going gets tough.

“For everyone to whom much has been given, from him much will be required.” God holds us to a high standard. I pray we hold up our end of the bargain.

For more information on Food for the Hungry’s short term team trips or student ministries, go to www.fh.org.

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