You are going to Africa? Are you crazy?
In February of this year, a ravaging epidemic broke out in the west African country of Guinea, and quickly spread to the countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia. To date over 700 people have died from the Ebola virus and hundreds of others are infected. There is no known cure and up to 90% of those infected do not survive.
For six months now, a band of 12 believers from BLDG 28 have been planning a mission venture to the island country of Cape Verde, 350 miles off the west coast of Africa. Though there is much excitement in our group, as the Ebola virus continued to spread, and the clock ticked us ever nearer to departure, feelings of trepidation grew within some of those on our team. Over the past week Dink and I have been saturated with emails and phone calls from well-intended friends and family pleading for our health and fretting over our sanity as we continue toward this venture.
Since the age of 18 I have been a staunch believer in the full, unbridled sovereignty of God. The Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, is not constricted or limited by anything, and has full and complete reign over all sickness and disease. One need only glance through the gospels to see the might of Jesus in the face of illness and even death. In this astonishing truth there is solace and rest.
At the same time though, Scripture calls us – in light of His sovereignty – to be wise, cautious, and discerning. The reality of God’s strength does not release us to wallow in our stupidity. There is a colossal difference between taking a risk while resting in Jesus, and living recklessly while blaming Jesus for the outcome. Risk is right. Reckless is not. It is easy to state our belief in sovereignty when all is well in our world; it is quite another thing to actually trust in the Sovereign knowing that He controls the outcome to all things. Juxtaposed to this can be a fatalistic mentality that takes no responsibility and bears no blight for poor decisions made. I have been uncomfortably aware of all of this. Thus, I have done the one thing that I know without question the Lord has called me to do: pray. It is sad that this single word is viewed with such triteness and treated with such disregard amongst Christians. As Spurgeon would say: “Pray is the rope that rings the bell in the ear of God.” It is the greatest thing we can do, all the time.
Last evening I sought the counsel of our elders and pastors. I laid out all known facts to our mission team. I researched the epidemic and the potential for grounded flights. I sent correspondence to the church planters in Cape Verde. I discussed this with my wife. Most of all, I prayed. When I awoke this morning I was almost startled with the clarity and peace that God had provided. The missionary had responded assuaging fears and assuring of safety. The elders and pastors had replied with encouraging, thought provoking musings on the might of God and the responsibility that I carry as a shepherd. Dink and I had batted ideas about. The comfort though came from, without doubt, from the Spirit of God. I knew what we were to do (at least Dink and I). We will leave Monday morning flying Tampa to Boston, Boston to Praia. To fly to Cape Verde is a risk – but then, almost everything we do in our life is. To fly to Cape Verde is not, in my estimation, reckless though.
We have a Sovereign God whom we can trust. In His sovereignty He has given us minds whereby we will endeavor to be prudent and safe on this endeavor. We will go, armed with the prayers of the saints, the sufficiency of God’s Word, the power of the Gospel, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. What an astonishingly cool thing to fly into high alert zones, staring death in the face and knowing that our God has truly ripped the stinger from death, and holds the most fatal of viruses between his thumb and little finger. Church family (and family scattered all across the world), your petitions for us will be invaluable; so I beg you to lift us up continually. Pray for protection. Pray for open airways. Pray for health. Above all, pray that the Gospel would go forward, and that the Spirit of God would advance His church, and encourage His people through this endeavor.
Soli Deo Gloria