Good Friday morning ...
What does a fourth grader know?!?
I know they have a lot of questions ... and perhaps not so many answers at that stage of the game. But they are inquisitive nine and ten-year olds. I know! I was once one of them.
I remember my fourth-grade inquisitiveness. Mr. Carpenter was the only male teacher I had in grade school. I remember him well! He was a balding, big-shouldered man, standing over six feet tall and consuming what I thought was an enormous space standing before the class each day. But what does a fourth grader know?
Well ... I got to learn a lot that year ... because I learned a lot from Mr. Carpenter. I was exposed for the very first time to what we know as geography. We studied the world in fourth grade! We learned of its continents, its countries, its capital cities, its varied climates, its diverse geography and its political leanings. We took "road trips" in our minds ... traveling the roads and rivers and mountain paths of countries around the world through oral reports and make-believe stories. We considered the political and financial plight of many countries ... before the term "Third World" was coined. We spun the globe on Mr. Carpenter's desk and pretended to take imaginary trips to the country on which our fingers came to rest. It was a great year ... and I thank Mr. Carpenter for that world-wide exposure.
But it was also in fourth grade when I became an Africaholic. I was intrigued with the continent of Africa and especially with East Africa ... and one country in particular ... Tanganyika. That year was followed in time with much reading about the "Dark Continent" through the true-life travels of David Livingstone and Henry Stanley, the tales of Mark Ross in Dangerous Beauty, and the thrilling novels of Wilbur Smith. Planted in my heart was a wild dream of one day venturing to Africa!
And so, it happened! After years of holding back the dream while raising a family and seeing four children through college ... the opportunity presented itself to GO! The attraction initially was to visit my daughter, Tara, who was teaching at a small mission school in Macha, Zambia. But once on the continent, the exotic, mysterious beauty of the land and the gentle, simple-living people seduced me and sucked me in with all the power of an electromagnet.
I was hooked ... addicted to experience it over and over again. Little did I know what all was behind the dream … nor what hand God was playing behind the scenes. It has all become clearer in recent years after multiple trips to that marvelous part of the world and especially to my first love ... Tanganyika ... now known as Tanzania!!! And now for the past eighteen years ... Tanzania has been on my mind.
But the ultimate attraction to this part of the world became the people ... particularly the Maasai of northern Tanzania. Those precious herdsmen who live starkly simple lives on the edge of the Serengeti Plain within the Great Rift Valley ... have touched my heart again and again with their simple lifestyle, their generous hearts, and their open-minded acceptance of the things of God. In my mind it is no wonder that Christianity is flourishing in that part of the world. Life is simple ... yet rich; it is harsh ... yet rewarding; it is unencumbered ... yet complete.
It's not so much the trips to East Africa that have made the difference. But the trips have sparked certain relationships and those relationships have offered opportunities and those opportunities have resulted in God's hand at work. Seven medical bush clinics have been built and/or refurbished; three remote village churches have been built, three classrooms have been added to out-of-the-way village schools; a dam has been built; a pavilion has been erected for a thriving Christian bead project outreach for Maasai women; dozens of Maasai have learned English; twenty-one evangelists have been trained, six becoming pastors ... all of this for the glory of God.
Who would have thought all this could happen; who would have known? It is the hand of God.
It continuously amazes me that a small seed of interest and intrigue ... planted in the heart and mind of a freckle-faced, redheaded, ten-year old in fourth grade at Churchland Elementary school in Tidewater Virginia could have such enormous results ... especially after the passage of over fifty years. Who says God doesn't know what he is doing/ Who says God doesn’t have a plan for you? Who says God isn't at work behind the scenes preparing, promoting, prompting His work?
One wise man once said that the problem with visiting Africa is that you feel forever an exile after you have left. I'd rather put it this way: the problem with visiting the Maasai of East Africa is that the heart of Africa becomes your own. But what does a fourth grader know anyway?!?
I will call a bird of prey from the east. I will call someone from my plan from a faraway land. I have spoken, and I will bring it about. I have planned it, and I will do it. [Isaiah 46:11]
Have a great weekend in the Lord ... as God unfolds His plan for your life ...