Tuesday, February 02, 2010

You're building a what, Noah?

Noah must have gotten some strange stares as people discovered what God was calling him to do. "You're building a what? Hey man, don't you know we live in a desert? Why don't you dig a pool or something?" I'm guessing that the only response Noah could give to those who questioned why he was building a boat was, "God told me to."

(A broken down barge in Sierra Leone which once carried people from Lunghi to Freetown.)

As I've explained our vision for Sierra Leone to people over the years, I've gotten some blank stares and cock-eyed looks. I remember once, after explaining with enthusiasm our plans to one African gentleman, he said with more than a hint of sarcasm, "Interesting culture in Sierra Leone" before he walked away in disgust. Another man, this one a white Anglican minister and scholar from South Africa, asked if by going to Sierra Leone I had a death wish. I couldn't help but smile and ask him how he deals with the numerous murders in South Africa where he lives. So I've learned not to expect others to understand why we're doing what we're doing. If others cannot see that God loves all countries and all peoples or that he has overcome death itself so that the Christian has nothing to fear, these are hangups between them and God. But as for us, we're building a boat.

(A smaller boat locals use to cross the same stretch of water.)

In the movie Master and Commander, Captain Jack Aubrey had to deal with a lot of morale issues. Faced with a battle against the newer, bigger, faster Acheron vessel, and frustrated by a streak of the worst luck they'd ever had, the men were loyal but fearful. They often raised their eyebrows when Captain Jack told them to steer the ship through huge swells or when he refused to quit after their ship took heavy damage in an early battle. I'm sure many of Captain Jack's sailors would've quite were it not for the fact that the boat was their only way home!

In many ways, starting a mission can be very similar to building a boat in the desert or commanding a battleship against great odds. To many, attempting to transform a place like Sierra Leone makes little sense, takes too long, or is just way too risky. Others may be on board but are wary of the journey ahead or frustrated by lack of a clear navigational route at present--loyal but fearful. But in the end, Captain Jack proved his leadership intution was right as he defeated his opponent and took the Acheron--the great Goliath of the sea. And Noah built an ark and saved humanity from utter ruin because, no matter how crazy people thought he was, God had told him to do this.

Question: What if you could see the destination before you started the journey? Doesn't a picture of the Hawaiian islands tempt us to book a vacation there so we can see it for ourselves? If you could look into the future and know that a certain stock was going to skyrocket, wouldn't you invest? If you had the assurance that your unpleasant job was going to lead to promotion after promotion, wouldn't you be apt to stick around? The reality is that God calls us to trust Him and step out on faith even if it might cause us pain, embarassment, or put us in a position of uncertainty. Noah trusted God. It may not be easy to trust God, but when we do He never fails to deliver us and accomplish what He calls us to.

The planning process for Leaders 4 Life is progressing steadily and nicely. And while it may seem a slow process of chipping away piece by piece, while it may at times even seem like a foolish endeavor to press on when there's not cloud in the sky, we must keep our hammers moving because God has called us to build this boat and only He knows when the rain will come!