Notes from Lana Elder’s talk to the “Young at Heart” group at our church about our upcoming missions trip to Africa (given October 25, 2005).
I was reading this verse the other day and was reminded of our trip to Africa and how God cares for the hungry and wants us to care as well. God desires for us to be His hands and feet to those in need.
“And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.”
I have always had a burden for the poor and for orphans and when I first heard about this trip there was a definite stiring in my spirit by God to go and do something for the poverty that is rampant in Africa. What I really was excited about with this trip is that we get to help the people of Africa learn how to provide for themselves through “Never Ending Gardens.” These gardens are not just a one time thing but can continue to provide the life sustaining food that is essential for their survival. I know there are food programs in place that bring food over to Africa and I think those are great as well. They are definitely desired by the Africans and needed to provide for the hungry. But this program is different in that we will be able to teach the people of Africa so that they can provide for themselves and for their families for future generations through the planting of gardens.
Again, this is something that has been a desire of my heart for sometime….to be able to go and do something for the people of Africa who are without food. I have 6 children of my own and I know how much they eat and eat and eat. They eat breakfast and then about when I’m done cleaning that up they want a snack and then it seems it is lunch time, another afternoon snack and then dinner time. I feel like sometimes we eat all day. I have never known what it is like to be hungry and I hope I never have to know what it is like. I imagine most of you have never had to experience hunger for a very long period of time. Maybe some of you lived through the Great Depression or at least heard stories from your parents about how there were food rations and the cost of food was more than people could afford. For us, that was just for a time in America’s history. But for the people of Swaziland and South Africa, this is something they have to deal with almost daily.
The organization we are going with is called Dream for Africa and I got this description off of their website.
Dream for Africa is a faith-based humanitarian movement that mobilizes volunteers from various nations to achieve enduring solutions in sub-Sahara Africa related to hunger and food security, orphans and vulnerable children, poverty alleviation, and AIDS prevention.
Besides the never-ending gardens program that Dream for Africa runs they also are teaching AIDS prevention classes through abstinance education and are working on building orphanages for the large number of orphans they expect to have in Africa due to the AIDS virus.
One of the first hesitations I had about going came when I considered the amount of money that we would need to raise. I imediately thought, “There is no way. It would have to be God if we raised that much money.” And I still think that. It will have to be God. We can not possibly do this on our own. But he continues to put the burden on our hearts and so we will continue to make people aware of what the Body of Christ is doing in Africa to alleviate the poverty and hunger that faces that nation.
When I considered the cost again I thought, “Why don’t we just raise the $14,000 that we need and then send it over there for the people to buy their own food or buy their own plants.” Then I thought, “Well, why doesn’t God just send the $14,000 to them directly. Why get me involved? And while He’s at it….why doesn’t He just send them the food and water and everything else that they need. Why get me involved? And I have to remind myself that God sometimes wants us to be His hands and feet to the people He wants to reach through us. I don’t believe it’s just the physical food that they need, but they are also in need of spiritual food. I know we will have the opportunity to tell people about God and His son Jesus Christ and how He has changed our lives and can change theirs, too. He can provide for the food that they need and for the money we need to get there to tell them.
In our Wednesday night women’s Bible study we were talking about God’s glory and how God’s glory is something that reflects Him and it’s the way He makes Himself known. When God revealed Himself to Moses in the cleft of the rock, Moses asked to see God’s glory and God passed before him. The Bible says Moses’ face was radiant. He was reflecting God’s glory. It reminded me that God may want to show His glory through us through the work of planting gardens for people to have the life sustaining food that they need. I can only imagine how happy a mother would be to know that the food she needs to feed her family is right out her back door. I pray we will be able to reflect His glory through our actions and through the work we will be doing of planting gardens. I believe God will receive the glory only He deserves for the work of planting the gardens.
I myself have planted many gardens in my backyard. And you would think it’s a very simple process of just sticking a plant down in the ground and waiting for it to grow. But first the ground needs to be tilled, then the plants can go in and then you can’t plant some plants in the same place year after year or the ground will be depleted of certain nutrients. Sometimes the things that look simple are actually harder than you think. And sometimes you have to be shown how to do something before you are able to do it yourself.
I remember when Eric and I went on a missions trip to the Philippines about 10 years ago. We went to share the gospel door to door through street evangelism. Many people came to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior that week. But this was another time when I had that initial question of “Lord, can’t you just send someone from the Philippines to go door to door. I mean, why do I have to go all the way over there from the United States to share the gospel when there are believers in the Philippines who could do the same thing.” Again, God reminded me that it wasn’t all about me but it was about what He wanted to do through me and our team of people in the Philippines. And I will never forget the young lady from the Philippines that I was paired up with to go door to door. She was the translator. I would share the gospel and she would translate into the native language. She said, “This is so simple. I can’t believe how easy it is to do this. Thank you so much for coming over here to show us how to share the gospel like this. We are forever grateful.” Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to come in show someone else how to do something like sharing the gospel. I don’t always stop to think of the impact that trip had on generations of people who came to know Christ. But when I do I have to say “Yes, Lord, it was definitely worth every penny it cost to get there.”
There is a verse in the book of James chapter 2 verses 14 – 18 that says….
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
Now you may not be able physically to DO the things James is talking about…. But I know we are all able to pray and some of you may be able to give financially. And I believe your prayers and gifts are recorded along with those who are able to go and do the physical work God is putting on their hearts to do.
Paul talks to the Philippians from Philippi about the act of giving and he says in Philippians 4:17
“…. you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.”
I believe your account will be credited for the prayers and gifts you are able to give.
Earlier I read a verse from Isaiah that talks about feeding the hungry and I want to finish with a similar verse. These verses encourage me that this is what God desires for us to do…feed the hungry…take care of the poor…give the thirsty something to drink. These are words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 25:31 – 46.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I believe this is what God desires for us to do…feed the hungry…give a drink to the thirsty …and I believe He is calling us to go to Africa to do this.
If you’d like to make a donation to our trip to Africa, please visit this link: Make a Donation. For a donation of any size to our trip, we’ll send you a reminder wristband than says “God is Here” to remind you that God is always with you as well as to remind you to pray for our trip. Thanks so much!