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HERE'S MY HEART

by Linda Courtney, R.N.


Dear Missionary Recruit,
I have been trying for weeks--literally--
to write this letter. It seems I can
scarcely make it past the first paragraph
without crying. I wish that there was a
way I could take my heart and mind; with
all the joys, heartaches, praises,
recipes, and cross-cultural information;
and plant them within you. If only there
was a section of me marked, "AFRICA." It
would contain every prayer, every packing
list, every hot, windy day, every lizard
that ever crawled across my kitchen
counter, every vacation at the Indian
Ocean, every smile on every child's face,
every word of encouragement from a
supporting church, every tip on how to
survive without a refrigerator, and every
praise I ever lifted to the Lord for
sending me to such a continent as Africa.
First of all, I want to confirm my love
for you. I want you to be assured--beyond
the shadow of a doubtthat I will never
stop loving you and never stop praying for
your best in God's Kingdom. You cannot do
f-f 90-^
IW
anything so dumb, so ignorant, or sinful
that I can't forgive if you seek
forgiveness. I will always accept you
right where you are--joyful or depressed,
discouraged or elated. God blessed me
with friends like that during my years in
Kenya, and I want to be that kind of a
friend for you.
Through this letter, I want to give you a
glimpse of Africa as I see it, after
several years of experiencing the joys
and the sorrowsof that continent.
Africa.
Older than can possibly be imagined.
I/nchanging.
An old, old, mouldering circle.
Nothing is new.
All that has happened will happen again.
Birth, life, pain, love, defeat, conflict,
victory, famine, joy, disease, laughter,
death.
The circle remains
Always
The same.
Only the characters change.
But then came a manGod in human flesh.
And the black people named him Yesu
Kristo, The old circle was broken
forever.
The people with whom we worked were
ancient. They would have felt right at
home with Abraham, wearing animal skins
and following their flocks from one
watering hole to another. That brings me
to my first point:
1. "PRIMITIVE" PEOPLE ARE VERY RELIGIOUS
They are not likely to be impressed by
some ugly white man with only one wife, no
cows, and who doesn't even have gray hair.
The possibility that this strange creature
should be able to tell them anything about
God is absolutely preposterous!
We missionaries think we are so smart--at
first. The sad thing is that some
missionaries strut around for years,
secure in the belief that they could teach
God a thing or two about how to "convert
heathens."
I believe that God has placed within the
hearts of all people a hungering for Him.
We could save ourselves a lot of time--and
moneyby getting to know the people and
discovering the ways God might already be
revealing Himself to them. What are their
views of God? Do we have the ability to
speak to the people about God in their own
language? How do we really feel about
these people? Are they just a curiosity
from the pages of a 1946 issue of National
Geographic?
2. DON'T COMPLICATE THINGS!
I suppose one of my greatest regrets from
my years in Kenya was the time when I
participated in the promotion of the
western idea of a marriage ceremony. By
advocating white dresses and veils (and
shoes!), we have placed upon these
Christian churches a burden they cannot
bear without help from outsiders. In
years to come, it will be a hindrance to a
Christian view of marriage in the African
context. I don't think God intended it
this way. The Apostle Paul didn't write
our modern marriage vows. You don't find
John saying anything against wearing goat
skins to your own wedding.
Likewise, we have "westernized" Christ's
church in many other ways. One of our
greatest frustrations was the idea
promoted by some missionaries long ago
that the people should use American or
European hymns, translated into their own
languages, rather than letting the people
worship God with their own, original songs
of praise.
Decades from now, the church in Africa
will continue to struggle under the weight
of some of the excess baggage of our
western culture.
3. KILLING SNAKES
I became very adept at killing snakes.
Ordinarily I wouldn't even mention the
subject. I am basically opposed to
"missionary horror stories." But I want
to prove a point: GOD IS MIGHTIER THAN
OUR MOST BLOOD-CURDLING PHOBIAS.
Before going to Kenya, I had many
frightening pre-conceptions of what it
might be like there. Some of them turned
out to be true! But my greatest fears
prior to going to the mission field (not
the least of which was my fear of snakes),
were positively anemic when compared to
the mighty storms the Lord carried me
through.
I could go on for pages--and probably will
at another time--but the most important
thing is this: Total trust in the Lord
Jesus Christ is essential. It is the very
life blood of the missionary. There will
be times in your ministry when you
absolutely cannot see by your own power.
At those times you will need to place your
total life and ministry in the hands of
the One who can see past the valley to the
mountaintop beyond. It is there!
I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, 'You are my servant;'
I have chosen you and have not rejected
you.
So do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right
hand. Isaiah 41:9, 10
I am calling you away^
Away from home and all that is loved
and familiar^
Away from family.
Away from churches,
Away from friends.
Away from washing machines, running
water, indoor plumbing, lawns, flowers,
cake mixes, microwave ovens, carpeting,
bookstores, new shoes, potluck dinners,
and color-coordinated bath towels.
You are my servant.
In return, I'm giving you loneliness,
illness, outhouses, flat tires, flooded
rivers, sun-faded clothes, thorns,
goat intestine soup, snakes, roasted
termites, sunburn, and dysentery.
And I give you these promises:
I promise resources to meet every need.
I promise strength for your tired body.
I promise light for your darkest hours.
I promise spiritual refreshing.
I promise you My Word.
I promise you wisdom.
I promise a depth of fellowship you have
never before experienced.
I promise a solid footing in the depths
of your deepest discouragement,
If you will allow me, I will turn every
defeat into a victory.
Every tear you shed will become a diamond
drop of blessing.
The battles waged will become a tool for
your growth and My glory.
And I will never leave you or forsake you.
"For you are precious and honored in my
sight, and I love you." Isaiah 43:4
Mike and Linda Courtney have lived in
Kenya, Africa with their two children
since 1980. In 1986, they returned to the
States for an extended furlough, until
their children finish secondary school.
Mike is currently completing graduate
studies for a Master's Degree in
Psychology and Counseling. Linda is a
Registered Nurse and works as a
Psychiatric Nurse for a Mental Health
Clinic. She also works part time for an
adult alcohol and drug detoxification unit
and for an adolescent drug treatment
program.