NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
I was in Marangu, Tanzania, for a pastoral conference with men from the Moshi District. Our conference was being held at the Banana Jungle Lodge just outside of town. I was staying in a hut at the lodge. It was nice, but it had a few problems. The glass was missing in one of the windows in the bathroom. The water heater had a slow leak. The cold water handle on the shower wouldn’t budge. The biggest problem was the shower. I couldn’t take a shower without getting scalded unless the cold water handle was fixed. I didn’t want to bother anyone, and I am pretty handy, so I set to work on the handle. But I didn’t have any tools—not one. I wrestled with it, but it was no use. “If only I had my tool box from home,” I thought, “I could fix this.” Finally I had to give up and call in reinforcements. No problem, they said. They would take care of it. One person came to fix it, then another. Finally, they were picking up my things and moving me to a different hut. It couldn’t be fixed—at least not with the tools that were at our disposal.
The same is true with the spiritual problem of sin. We try to fix our problem with all kinds of remedies. We try to cover it up, excuse it, or compare our actions with the actions of others, instead of with God’s perfect will. We try to make up for these failures with more “good works” or seek atonement for them by making things right with those we have wronged. But none of these “solutions” fix the problem. There is only one solution to the problem of sin—Christ. And Christ is revealed to us in His Word.
It’s a humbling, and yet necessary reminder: We don’t fix people. We don’t solve their problems. We simply bring them the Word, the most powerful tool of all, and the only tool for the job. The Holy Spirit does the rest.
Work in Africa has many challenges: language, culture, distance, and time available all pose major hurdles to the work. But how rewarding it is to work with people who hunger for the Word! The conference at Marangu was a good one. We covered the first two articles of the Augsburg Confession (Of God and Of Sin). There were excellent questions and edifying discussions. At the end of the conference, several of the men expressed their thankfulness for the material presented and the time taken to organize the seminar. They requested that the seminar be done here every year. They were eager to grow and learn more about the God Who created them and redeemed them from their sin through the cross. They desired that most powerful tool of all, the only one that can fix their problem of sin—God’s Word.
As a Christ proclaimer, I have confidence that my work is not in vain, because I am using the most powerful tool in the world—the very Word of God. The Word that God used to call this world into existence in the beginning is the same Word that God uses still today to create new hearts in those who are dead in trespasses and sins and without hope in this world. This second creation is no less of a miracle than the first! But we often doubt its power because we don’t always see a visible change from spiritual death to spiritual life. We don’t always see the spiritual growth in those around us as we would a full blooming flower burst forth from a simple bud. And yet, seen or unseen, the Word of God is at work, creating and sustaining faith.
Thank God for that same miracle in us!
Nathanael Mayhew is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota and Faith Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota, and a member of the Board of Missions of the CLC.