Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Returning to Senegal

In August a deacon and I made first contact with our Unengaged Unreached People Group in Senegal. Much to our surprise and delight, a few people there trusted Christ for salvation on our very first journey. Thursday morning I begin the journey to return there with the same deacon plus two others.

This entire experience has awakened in me emotions that I didn't know I could have. The strongest follower of Christ whom we left behind was a young man named Marcellin. How I've prayed for him! How I've feared for him! With so much against him, so little given to him, so much riding on him, and absolutely no contact with him, all I can think about is to wonder how I will find him on Saturday (it will take that long to get all of the way there).

Our experience with the Embrace project of the IMB has affected my understanding of the New Testament in ways that no survey class could ever accomplish. I knew that Paul tried to write back to the churches that he had planted and tried to return for visits whenever he could do so, but now I find myself wondering whether Paul felt the same emotions with regard to the converts he left behind that I've been feeling about those I've left behind. I can't help but imagine that he did. Was his letter-writing and step-retracing strategic or compulsive?

I can't help but feel that my personal experience as a cross-cultural evangelist and a planter of churches in untilled land have given me stronger insights into parts of the New Testament than I had before.

The whole experience makes me wonder: How understandable is the Bible to those who are not actually trying to live the life of a disciple? Every time I obey more carefully what God has commanded in scripture, I come to understand scripture better. Does God really even care to communicate with armchair quarterbacks, other than to challenge us to rise up and get to work when we're in that category? Are our primary vehicles of Bible study (Sunday School, small groups, discipleship classes, etc.) places where we ought to invest more in praxis not as an alternative to propositional study but as a facilitator for it?

These are unstrung thoughts, needing much more time in the pot before the soup is ready to serve. The point of this post is not really to feed anyone, anyway, but rather to give me the opportunity to express my gratitude for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and the life-changing experience that their Embrace project has been for me and for our church—and, I trust, will be.

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