Reflections from a Mini Bus:
As I ride through the streets of this city in the dead of night, I am brought to a solemn silence reflecting on the last week and a half… The days seemed so long as we trudged through them, joyfully exhausted, but in these moments, deep in the city night, it feels as if they sped by all too quickly, not unlike all of these passing streetlights, pointing us toward our final destination: Home. The city seems so different at two in the morning. The streets aren’t filled to the brim with frogger-style pedestrians constantly crossing, dodging, weaving. Even weirder still, the road ahead isn’t brightly lit with a thousand tiny brake lights on hundreds of stop-and-go cars.
It brings me back to those first moments of the combination of excitement, nervousness, and readiness, stepping off of a Lufthansa mid-class aircraft and getting the “Express” treatment through and out of the airport. Back to those first hours of complete and utter dependency on our M friend and having zero clue about anything that was happening. Back to hopping in a large taxi, and flying through city traffic. Oh, city traffic. In a lot of ways, the way city traffic worked was very much the way the rest of the city worked as well. I mean, except the hospitality. I don’t think anyone was very hospitable speeding through the streets of this city, wedging between other cars, and forcing themselves into self-declared lanes without warning. That was the city in all its glory.
But it wasn’t N. Africa. It didn’t include the stunning natural beauty of the sunrises and sunsets, the crashing waves of the Sea, or the glorious purity of looking out from the top of a sand dune, seeing nothing but waves of sand before you. There is something that is undeniable about God’s majesty when one looks around at things such as these. There is truly a stirring to awe — awe that a landscape, a combination of colors tossed forth, to and fro, taking shape, making form, could stir the heart. It is no surprise that Paul sent word to Rome that, “[God’s] invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20 ESV). But even in all of these things, their splendor, their beauty, pales in comparison to magnificent man – even unrighteous man — who, out of all creation, God made in His own image.
Which is probably why, driving through the streets of the city, head filled with visions of sunsets and sand dunes, a name refuses to leave me. Subtle whispers of the Holy Spirit repeat one name: ‘Mr. S’. Mr. S was the oldest of the men in his family, a butcher and patriarch. He taught me how to tie a head scarf, smiling the entire time. He offered to us his home, his food, his tea. He opened up all that he had to us and brought forth his best if only we would sit down and dine with him. Eating with Mr. S and the other men in his family was beyond blessing. The way God stirs hearts to love who He loves comes in a lot of ways, and sometimes all it takes to go from the abstract, distant, arms-length love that we have for so much God loves to a real, in-your-face, heart-aching sort of love is a shove in the right direction through a shared meal. Its no wonder that Christ’s earthly ministry was filled with dining with the sick, that he placed such weight on his final meal with his friends, and that the early church “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46 NIV).
So pray for Mr. S. Pray that God do a mighty work in his life, that the Holy Spirit would prepare and soften his heart and ultimately open up his eyes and ears to receive the gospel, and that through the new relationships our M friend has with his family he might hear the Good News that was to Paul, of first importance: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve” (1 Cor. 15:3-5 NIV). And pray that in these things, God might raise up a great multitude from Mr. S’s tribe would sing at the end of days, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10 NIV).
Written by Matt Kramp