Justin settled into his seat on the plane bound for Africa. This was his first mission trip. The days leading up to the trip had been busy. Last minute shopping, shots, and getting the bills paid so that Helen would not have to worry about it. He and Helen had been married for three years. They joined the Crestdale Community Church last year. When Pastor Wallace mentioned that the Church would take a group to Africa, Justin was excited. This is just what he needed.
Things at home had been growing tense. He and Helen were both working full time. Helen was moving up in her company. She worked a lot of extra hours. They both attended accountability groups at Crestdale Church. Justin met with the men for breakfast on Tuesdays and Helen met with the women on Thursday evenings. With their work and Church schedule, Justin and Helen did not get to spend much time talking. He felt they were growing apart. With this sense of distance, they were fussing at each other more and more. Justin was beginning to worry about their future.
Work was not much better. Justin was assigned to a project that required about 70 hours a week. He had to make three trips to Washington in the last two months. His dream was to move up in this company. However, lately, it seemed he was invisible. When special opportunities came up, he was overlooked. He did not want to be a squeaky wheel, but how else could he get noticed?
The leader of the men’s breakfast group had told Justin that the solution might be to get outside of himself. If he found some way to serve other people, he would find greater happiness. Then Pastor Wallace announced this mission trip to Africa.
Pastor Wallace had challenged all of the team members to pray about the trip. He wanted them to ask God to work in their lives in a powerful way during the trip. Justin remembered this instruction and began to pray.
“Lord, I really would like you to do something remarkable in my life this next week. I cannot imagine what it might be. Here I am.”
At this point, Justin’s mind was suddenly filled with the problems back home. He prayed again. “I guess what I really need is for you to help Helen. She seems so distant from me lately. We don’t talk as much as we used to and I wonder if she loves me. I cannot bear the idea that this is what life has in store for us. I need her to be closer to me. What good is it to be married if your wife doesn’t love you? God, give her a greater love for me. Help her love me like a wife should her husband. Surely, that will please You.
“I also need you to help at my work. I am so discouraged. I thought it would be so easy to move up. I just needed to work hard and then people would see my value to the company. It is starting to feel so meaningless. My boss doesn’t notice how hard I work. Other people are advancing and I still sit in my same cubicle doing the same thing I have done for the last five years. It feels so unfair. God, I really need a better job. Will you please help? I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
With this prayer, Justin fell asleep. He was going to Africa.
Four days later, a van carrying Justin, Pastor Wallace, and five other missionaries pulled up to the prison compound. The team was going to conduct a worship service at the local prison. As they drove into the compound, Justin noticed that there were no trees. The ground was just dirt, trampled by thousands of feet for many years. Dust rose around a small group of prisoners playing soccer. The heat of the day struck Justin as he exited the van. “It must be 100 degrees out here.”
The group of men entered the fenced area where they met a guard with a three foot rubber hose. He pointed to the small concrete area with a roof and no walls. Men from all over the prison yard began to walk toward the concrete slab. Each man was smiling with those huge disarming African smiles. One of the men began to sing. The others joined in response to his words. Soon they were clapping, dancing and singing praise to Jesus. Justin could not understand all of the words. Occasionally, he could hear “Jehovah” or “Jesus” coming from the voices around him. He was deeply moved to see such love for God in a place like this. During the service the men sat in rapt attention as Pastor Wallace taught them from the Scriptures. One of the prisoners translated while the rest listened and offered an occasional “Amen!”
After the service, a man named Peter came up to Justin and said, “Thank you for coming to us.” Peter shared that he had been in the prison for seven years. He had not gone to trial because the police lost his file. He hoped that one day he would be free. His wife brought him clothes twice a year. He ate corn meal mush every day. When his wife came he would get some meat. Peter went on to explain his role in the prison. He helped with the Church. He preached once a month and helped tell other prisoners about Jesus. While he had been in prison, God had brought ten other prisoners to salvation. He smiled and said, “God is so good!”
Back on the plane, Justin reflected on what he had experienced in Africa. “God, You are good. You love me so very much. Seeing the contentment of the African Christians was powerful. They have nothing compared to me, but they know that all they really need is You. I am sorry that I am not satisfied with You. I spend so much of my time trying to get other people to respect me. I am frustrated that Helen doesn’t love me more and yet I rarely think about how I can love her better. I am ready to rest in Your love. Will You help me to show Helen how much You love her? Will you help me to lead her to You? Father, I want to be Your man at work. All that I am is by Your design. I want to be faithful in my call, just like Peter. You put him in a prison and he doesn’t complain. He has found ways to serve You even behind bars. I want to serve You at my job. Help me to see how. I love You Lord! Thanks.”
This is taken from my book The Train: A Model for Transforming the Heart available at https://www.amazon.com/Train-Model-Transforming-Heart/dp/1536912662/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+train+a+model+for+transforming+the+heart&qid=1575131787&sr=8-1