Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don’t Send Me to Africa

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom. 12:2 NIV

In the mid nineties, Christian singer/songwriter Scott Wesley Brown recorded a song, Please Don’t Send Me to Africa, which poked fun at a stereotypical fear many Christians harbor. The thought of moving half way around the globe to be a missionary (let alone going next door to witness to a neighbor) is terrifying. At times Christians, myself included, shy away from really wanting to know God’s will because of a belief that we will not like it. God’s will is equated with “suffering for Jesus”. Being uncomfortable, inconvenienced and put out are not high on the list of our life’s priorities. Scriptures such as, Isaiah 55:8 NIV, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” can take on an ominous tone. This is reinforced with that old Christian cliché “you just never know what God is going to do!” pronounced in a somber, foreboding voice. Have we inadvertently painted a picture of God as a capricious trickster who just loves pulling the rug out from under His children with crazy schemes to shake up their lives? Perhaps.

In his song, Brown tells God all the things his willing to do to avoid being sentenced to Africa: tithe 11% (he must be desperate, most Christians don’t give 10%), volunteer for the nursery, chaperone a youth retreat and go door-to-door. In full panic mode, Brown offers to do what he should already being doing in order to escape foreign service. He admits to God that his life is just too comfy in middle class suburbia; he wants to stay put. Living in the U.S. though not perfect, has a measure of predictability that offers comfort and security with a sense of control. Willingness to step out into the great unknown of God’s will and all it entails is best left to the Peter’s of Christianity. The rest of us will stay in the boat and hang on for dear life until we reach the shore.

Romans 12:2 gives insight into finding God’s will and what its defining characteristics are. First, we will not find God’s will using an un-renewed mind. That said, God does not expect us to abandon the critical thinking skills He blessed us with. He wants our natural reasoning and logic exposed to and trained by His Word in order for us to tap into His plans and thought processes; otherwise they are incompatible. The more our minds are renewed to God’s methods of operation, the easier it becomes to know and do His will. It is true that sometimes God’s plans are “outside the box” and beyond the limits of our comfort zone; not even a blip on our radar. He can change us if we will trust Him to do a makeover. Let me share a personal example.

For anyone who does not know, my husband and I spent three years in Haiti working with the Assemblies of God school nutrition program. Neither of us had any desire to live or work overseas, let alone in Haiti. Like Scott Wesley Brown, we were happy supporting the troops on the foreign fields from the comfort of our stateside residence. Our church became involved with an independent mission organization in Haiti. We contributed to the effort by sending money, supplies and monthly support to educate a young Haitian girl. When the church announced a mission trip for a construction crew we were ready to assist, with both feet firmly planted on U.S. soil. Unknown to us, God had other plans. To make a very long story short, God not only changed our hearts about the trip, He miraculously provided all the finances to cover the expenses. He made two people, who viewed Haiti as a “nice (relatively speaking) place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there” open to return for another short visit, and then move there permanently. He accomplished that without any kicking and screaming on our parts. How? Our minds were renewed.

When we were at least willing to entertain the thought that perhaps this just might be something He planned for us, He had permission to mess with our thinking, and He did. This did not happen over night. Within eighteen months we sold our home and most of our possessions and moved to the Caribbean. We were excited, completely on board with God’s plans, truly a divine reversal. For us, His will was better than good, pleasing and perfect, it was awesome. Was living in Haiti a three year extended vacation in the sun? Not hardly. That said, I would not trade those years for anything; it was the adventure of a life time.

Second, God’s will is always good, pleasing and perfect when viewed through the lens of a renewed mind (often from the perspective of hindsight). Jeremiah 29:11 NIV assures us, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Our thinking and reasoning must be totally transformed in order to grasp this. God’s will does not always entail a radical relocation to another area. More often it involves changes to small habitual aspects of our lives and personalities. These are sacred cows that die hard. Romans 12:1 NIV instructs us to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices”. The problem with living sacrifices – they won’t stay on the altar! When we try to “wrap our heads” around God’s ways using our natural minds we get spiritual migraines. We complain to God. What He is asking us to do does not make sense. This is correct; but it does take and make faith. Faith is what pleases God; it is His “modus operandi.”

Third, speaking only for myself, deep down inside I do not like being told what to do. I enjoy having my own way. I would prefer to lay out my agenda before God for His approval, blessing and funding. I would like Him to open and close the right doors, make the path smooth and keep the process as easy and fun filled as possible. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try to convince Him to do things my way; He has a mind of His own and prefers His plans over mine. If I want to be onboard with His design for my life, I am the one who must change. My mind must be renewed. I have found that just being willing to consider options other than my own, allows God to start the transformation process. He will use His Word to show me new facets of Himself and how He operates. He will bring the right people into my life through media and personal encounters. He will guide me to the place where His desires are now my desires. These He will gladly grant. I have experienced this process personally, that is how He got me to Haiti.  

          Before moving abroad I adopted a saying, “there are three places I never want to live– Haiti, Florida and Texas”. God, in His marvelous sense of humor has moved us to two of those three locations. Texas is the lone holdout. Do I think that is next? I don’t know. My opinion of Texas has dramatically changed from being a land of cowboys and tumbleweeds to a place with great ministries and churches and BBQ. Texas would be fun, but Africa, that would be an adventure. I don’t know what next God has up His sleeve for me; whatever it is, I will need some brainwashing. My mind will have to be renewed even more in order to test and approve God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. For certain the next step will be an awesome adventure

For anyone who wants to hear the song, here is the link.


  1. well, we agree. except I draw the line at Texas. Too crazy for me. Are you planning a move?

  2. Giving Jesus true lordship and weight in our lives does take that willingness to change our minds and do things His way and things we might not naturally choose to but the end result is always good. He always means good for us --- we can trust His heart towards us and others and His character is unsurpassed. He's the one who makes life interesting and fulfilling.

  3. What a hoot! I went back and listened to the song "Please Don't Send Me to Africa". I had not heard that. How funny----but true.

  4. Back in the early 1980s I got so sick of people saying to me, "YOU'RE going to go to Haiti one day!" that I vowed I would never go to Haiti. Of course, I ended up repenting before the Lord about that. In fact, I went on two mission trips to Haiti, one in 1990 and one in 1991. I cherish the memories of those trips, especially of the second one!