Having recently returned from a two week adventure in Bible teaching and gospel preaching in the African country of Mali, I now have some emotional distance from which to reflect on the experience. The country is 98% Muslim, so the advance of the gospel in the region I visited has not been rapid, but it has been steady.
The pastor was converted at the age of nineteen as he read through the gospel according to Matthew for the first time, responding to Christ's directive in Matthew 11.28 to "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden." He strikes me as a wonderfully consecrated and real live Christian man who embraces God's sovereignty without apology. How could he do otherwise, considering the circumstances of his conversion? Born and raised in the desert, kidnapped by soldiers and forced into a boarding school where he learned English and French, he had ripped apart or burned every gospel tract or New Testament he had ever previously seen. The day he actually opened and read God's Word its power as the means useful to God to save him was then experienced.
His conversion was some years ago, and now I reflect on my exposure to the ministry God has given him, and the harm that has been done to his ministry in Africa by American Christians! Life in Africa along the southern edge of the Sahara is very hard. Poverty is mind-numbing and grinding. Everything is hard there, so obstacles and difficulties that impede gathering to worship are simply and matter of factly dealt with . . . or were until the American Christian taught the former Muslims in Africa how things are done in the US of A.
She skipped church because she had a headache. She actually passed on the opportunity to worship God with the people of God because she had a headache. She preferred the sin of lounging in her quarters in isolation than the affliction of worshiping with God's people with a headache!
The African Christians had never thought of staying home for a headache before. Since life for them has always been so very hard, they just imagined that once one is a Christian one just continues to do the difficult things, endures the aggravations, and proceeds with life. Not so with the American Christian, who has now taught the African believers to stay home with a headache. Of all the things she might have taught the believers in that remote town in Africa, that was not the lesson she should have chosen. Sad.
Another white couple tired of being asked to drive people to doctors when medical emergencies arose, so they sold their car and now ride everywhere on bicycles. Imagine an entire population of Muslims (with a sprinkling of Christians) knowing that this white couple living in town to translate the New Testament into one of the local tribal languages sold their car so their "work" would not be troubled by medical emergencies. Now the people have been taught that western Christians do not believe in sharing. I wonder how the couple will translate the parable of the good Samaritan?