Good Friday morning ...
I have seen a lot .... but I haven't seen it all!
I've seen elephants, rhinos (both black and white), leopards, Cape buffalo and lions (the Big Five) ... all in their natural habitat. I've seen zebras, impalas, gazelles, giraffes, warthogs, hyenas, cheetahs, flamingos, vultures, herons, spoonbills, wildebeests, jackals, hartebeests, eagles, secretary birds, storks, baboons, monkeys, hippos, bustards, ostriches, elands, dik diks, crocodiles, and more ... all in their natural habitats.
I've seen green hills, parched plains, acres and acres of red dust and huge six-foot termite mounds. I've seen gorgeous dawns and awesome sunsets. I've heard noises in the night ... serenades in the ,morning ... and annoying bush babies waking me before dawn.
I've seen acacia trees, fever trees, fig trees, sausage trees, candelabra trees, ebony trees, baobab trees and wait-a-bit thorn bushes. I've watched Maasai herdsmen with cows and goats and sheep and donkeys going off in the wee morning hours before dawn and returning as the last glimmer of daylight ends another day.
I've seen soda lakes and dried river gorges, grassy kopjes and Serengeti escarpments, both active and collapsed volcanoes, as well as snow-capped mountains in July.
I've seen prey and predator and scavenger ... the hunter and the hunted.
It's always magnificent ... always overwhelming ... always awe-inspiring ... always a take-your-breath-away moment readily recalled in an instant even while thousands of miles away.
Perhaps nowhere on earth is there a more suited place for impressing on us our own smallness with the world's great bounty than in Africa. A desperate, overwhelming urge to run out onto the immense flatness comes over me every time I come sliding down the highlands of Ngorongoro. Here, in the very cradle of mankind, you sense the pulse ... the rhythm ... the throb of a place apart ... a location, a site like none other.
Yes ... I have seen a lot ... but I have not seen it all.
For tucked behind the breath-taking scenery and the stunning wildlife and the early morning and late night sounds of everything but silence ... there are hundreds and thousands of stories ... stories of men and women ... warriors and herdsmen ... mothers and fathers ... and children of all ages ... stories of faith and new hope and promise. It is these stories I want to hear ... and see ... for these stories tell how Africa has become what many sense is 'the heart of Christianity" today.
That's right ... Africa! One of the most important trends reshaping the world is the decline of Christianity in the west and its rise in Africa and other parts of the developing world, including Asia and Latin America. It is a mind-boggling statistic ... but last Easter Sunday ... there were more Anglicans attending church in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda ... than all the Anglicans and Episcopalians attending worship in Great Britain, Canada and the United States combined.
And the further amazing thing is that many of these worshipers hike off to worship five, ten, maybe a dozen miles from home ... and make their five-hour, round-trip trek with desire.
All of this gives credence to an astounding present-day theory: where faith is easy, it is fading; where it is a challenge, it thrives.
It is the stories of these worshipers I want to hear. It is these people I want to meet and get to know. these are the things I want to see ... apart from the landscape and the thrill of the safari.
My observation has been over the past 18 years, that these Christians are seemingly more zealous and passionate about their faith and have deeper, more meaningful relationships with others, while living simple, uncomplicated loves and encountering daily hopelessness and uncertainty.
All of this intrigues me ... because while we debate the issue of prayer in schools and the display of the Ten Commandments in public places ... the truth comes home to me that faith doesn't need any special gussing up. Just look where Christianity is most vibrant today. Just talk to those who walk for hours to get to worship. Just observe the lives of those who have no Bible, no hymnbook, no catechism ... who have so very little ... and the obvious conclusion is that what nurtures faith is not special privileges ... but rather special relationships through adversity.
My eyes have seen a lot of surface stuff ... but there's a lot more underneath that I want to see ... and I can't wait to get at it.
In the meantime, we bask in the knowledge that we are loved. We are indeed privileged to claim the promise that "because He lives, I can face tomorrow" ... and the next day and the day after that!!!
Have a great weekend in the Lord ...