Relationship Is Better Than Meat

More than any other place on earth, Africa and her people have witnessed to me about the beauty of relationship. It’s no wonder she birthed this proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Some of the wisest words about relationship were spoken to me by my Ugandan friend, Pastor Elijah Sebuchu. I learned from him that “relationship is better than meat.” His mom taught him the power of relationship as a small boy.

“Work with all types and learn to relate well to people—even your enemies,” she told Elijah. “Your relationships with people will win them from evil to good. Always remember: relationship is better than meat.”

day 3 (7)Elijah’s empty belly and young mind were challenged by this saying. After all, he grew up in an impoverished corner of the world where the scarcity of meat drives people to eat rats. But by investing in relationships, he and others joined forces to provide life giving education and care to 1,850 of Uganda’s most vulnerable children. The ripple of effects of his pebble are mind-blowing thanks to God and the power of relationship.pic 75
I was reminded of meaty relationships recently when my family watched this IMAX film celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the national park system:

We ooohed and ahhhed at the parks’ majestic beauty while learning about America’s most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist, John Muir, and his powerful connection with Theodore Roosevelt.

After Muir published “Our National Parks,” he connected with Roosevelt in 1903 when the pair camped together in the beauty and grandeur of Yosemite Park. “There, together, beneath the trees, they laid the foundation of Teddy Roosevelt’s innovative and notable conservation programs.” john muir and rooseveltGod used that campout to light a fire within Roosevelt who later established 148 million acres of National Forest, five National Parks and 23 National Monuments during his term.

john-muirGod hard wired John Muir with a heart that beat for nature. His “pebble” was protecting nature and inviting others to enjoy her beauty. Roosevelt’s vast sphere of influence allowed Muir’s pebble to ripple much further than Muir ever dreamed. Thanks to this very influential friendship, thousands upon thousands of visitors have benefitted year after year from the stunning glory of our National Parks.

What lights your fire? Or makes your ears perk up? Which headlines cut you the deepest? Human trafficking? The refugee crisis? Foster children? The homeless gentleman you passed on your way home today?

Maybe you’re thinking, “Yes, but what am I supposed to do about it?”

Stop and consider those in your sphere of influence who might help your pebble ripple further than you’d ever dreamed. What’s stopping you from tossing your pebble in their direction? Take a step of faith today and pray with me now:

Father, whenever I hear about _________ or read or watch a story about _______ my heart hurts. I want to toss a pebble that matters. Show me who I know or send someone influential across my path so this tiny pebble can make a world of difference. Help me “to bring You glory here on earth by completing the work You gave me to do” ( John 17:4). Help me to invest in relationships that bear fruit for your kingdom.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

But I don’t want to be a missionary!

Belly down on the avocado green shag carpet in my brother’s bedroom, I listened to Journey pumping from the cassette deck on his stereo. With “Don’t Stop Believing” blaring in the background, my brother shared his dream of going on mission trips. I cared way more about making the cheerleading squad and which Izod shirt I was going to wear with my khaki pants, tightly rolled above my ankles. (If this makes no sense, you are not a child of the 80’s!)

12710202 - 1980s girl with attitude

My older brother had great concern for people he’d never yet met. People who lived far, far away. I found his international bent interesting. He’s always loved weird food, learning languages, and meeting people from all over the world.

I wondered if God prewires people like him for mission work. I felt guilty that I didn’t have the same desire. Maybe I should want to. But my teenaged attention span was consumed by friends, fashion, and having fun.

When God later got a hold of my heart, I began to care about people in a new way—all kinds of people. In David Platt’s book, Follow Me, he reasons that you can’t help but bring others to Christ once Jesus has transformed your heart. When you are saved, Platt argues, you’re regenerated, and things that were once unimportant (like caring about the nations) become a priority.

As I began to know Jesus personally, He began swapping out my old desires for new ones. Like the surprising desire that came one day in the mid-90s after reading a newspaper article about the Kosovo refugee crisis. Before I knew it, I was apartment shopping for a family of four refugees. There was another time when I got an insatiable urge to travel to dusty Kampala, Uganda, E. Africa.

DSC_0385At my church missions conference last year, this statement made by Danny Akin, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, grabbed me:

“The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of Jesus. Jesus was the first missionary. The closer you get to Jesus, the more mission minded you become.”

I believe all Christ followers are called to a mission field. But what if you don’t want to be a missionary? That’s ok. Instead, be missional. Being missional simply means you’re willing to be used by Jesus to love others. And today, I’m specifically addressing being globally missional with those who are not “from here.”

missionaryIt’s no problem if you don’t feel called to the mission field. But do you desire to love the nations? Or, is this a part of your heart you are withholding from Jesus?

If you love Jesus—if He lives within you—doesn’t that mean His love for the nations dwells in you too? So what’s keeping you from allowing His crazy love at work in you to toss some pebbles in a foreign place? Or to people who’ve traveled from afar to your area?

Perhaps you fear God would ask you to leave everything and go to some lonely place where you’d eat only tofu and beans and never take a hot shower? I have no idea what Jesus will ask you to do. I can only promise that loving the nations will increase your love for Him. It will increase your dependency on Him and understanding of His heart for all God’s children.

Which reminds me of a song I used to sing in church when I was five or six years old:

Do you love the nations? Please jump into the conversation by leaving a comment.