To a true child of God, the invisible bond that unites all believers to Christ is far more tender, and lasting, and precious; and, as we come to recognize and realize that we are all dwelling in one sphere of life in Him, we learn to look on every believer as our brother, in a sense that is infinitely higher than all human relationships. This is the one and only way to bring disciples permanently together. All other plans for promoting the unity of the Church have failed. -A.T. Pierson
What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together because they have all been loved by Jesus himself. -D.A. CarJesu
Nsiowa smiles as she holds up a piece of my hair that she picked off of me. "Look what I have! They say a white person's hair is good luck." I try to take one of her hairs saying hers must be good luck too but my attempts to convince her of this are futile. And with this conversation, my heart breaks a little bit.
Nsiowa is an amazing individual that God has clearly hand picked to use in increasing His kingdom here in Africa. She completed the Growing Nations resident student program last year and now runs an after school bible study for kids three days a week. She has felt Gods call to be a missionary and is soon going to begin training to minister to the Muslim community somewhere in Africa. She's brave, strong, willing, and focused on following His call to unknown places. She has so much to offer and because of experiences and life circumstances that God has given her, she will be much more effective in bringing Christ to these people than I could be.
And though embedded in a silly tradition or saying, her comment reminded me that there is still this undeniable underlying idea of "us and them." Along with that comes a view that one group stands above the other for no differentiating factor other than the color of their skin because it has been engrained into the minds of our societies for years. This belief undermines the dignity of the so called "inferior" group and causes them to believe this ridiculous lie that they are somehow less capable and less called than others to spread His kingdom.
But this couldn't be further from the truth. Christ died for ALL of us regardless of skin color, regardless of economic or societal status, regardless of languages, regardless of choices made, regardless of ANYTHING other than the truth that He loves all of his people and desires to have a relationship with them, knowing them and being known. This gift He's given us makes us all His children, unifying us to be one giant, beautiful, colorful family.
"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Romans 12:4-5
He created all of us with a unique purpose in mind. We're all called to bring others closer to Him through loving but how we go about doing that is different based in the various gifts, personality traits, experiences, and passions that He's given each of us. We all hold value and play a crucial role in His overarching plan. Therefore, NO ONE is any less important but rather God desires to use EVERYONE.
Being a part of this body of Christ is a gift. We are loved by a relational God who uses people as a way to speak to us, influence us, and teach us more about Him. He brings all of His children together in these crazy ways that cause you to look back and know that these connections could only have come from Him.
For example my host sister, Rethabile, lives in a remote village tucked in a mountain valley, an hour walk from the nearest village. She's grown up in a country where people get around on donkeys or horses, carry water on their heads, wear blankets, and eat pap. We speak different languages, have different customs, spend our time differently, and have different goals and dreams. In fact, our lives couldn't be more different from each other. Yet regardless of all that, we still found ways to connect and even build a friendship. Jesus has shown us both who we are in Him and that's enough to unite us. Not to mention, a lot of perfectly orchestrated details had to line up in each of our lives for us to even cross paths. But God planned our meeting long ago and knew he'd use us as instruments to impact each others lives.
When you're on the other side of the world in a church where everything is unfamiliar to you and yet you still feel at home, that is the unity of Christ. Unity is when your cheeks literally hurt from smiling as you're standing in a line being warmly and genuinely greeted by every member of the congregation as they dance by.
It's each morning as you stand in a circle with your host brothers and sisters lifting all your voices as one to the same God who loves to hear His children singing to Him.
Unity is being welcomed in to join this group of loud, exuberant, middle-aged women who are acting as the cheering section at the big soccer game. It's feeling like instant friends as they immediately begin teaching you their songs and dances. Its laughing together as if you've shared jokes together forever. Its being able to connect and fun together without even speaking the same language.
Its standing in a crowd being one of the only two white people but not really even realizing it until you've already been standing there awhile.
It's sharing questions and thoughts with each other as you study His word and grow in it together.
It's working alongside each other to finish planting a field or joining together to teach children about Gods love for them.
In Christ, bonds are created with people you've never met who live thousands of miles across the ocean and live a completely different lifestyle than you. Lasting friendships are formed as you're able to be vulnerable with each other knowing we are all broken and growing together in Christ. God speaks, people are encouraged, and lives are changed.Foreign places start to feel like home. In the body of Christ, we appreciate others, seeing them as God does and knowing they have purpose and value.
When we're focused on Christ's great love and grace for us, everything just clicks. Theres no more room for petty disagreements or arguments. There isn't time to dwell on differences, on the things that keep us apart from each other. Instead, the focus switches to all that we have in common and seeing those differences as something to be celebrated. Walls come down and distinct colors seen before begin to fade into colors of all the same hue. Ideas of superiority are forgotten and we're all simply people again, masterpieces made in His image.
During these moments of unity I was given a small glimpse of what's to come in Heaven. A place where people of every color will be united with no walls of separation. A place overflowing with joy where brothers and sisters are joined together for the sole purpose of loving and praising their Father.
But God doesn't want us to just sit around in anticipation waiting for that day to come. No, we're supposed to bring His kingdom come. We're supposed to allow Him to use us to reconcile others to Himself.
Sometimes, we're the person that God chooses to be that connection, the reminder of who someone is in Christ. Sometimes others are put in our lives to show us the same thing.
The people I've met during my journey here in Africa have changed me. With each one I've met and gotten to know, I've gathered a little piece of God that I pray will stay with me. Through each person, God is shaping me closer and closer one notch at a time into more of who I was intended to be. And the fact that He decides to do that through the use of imperfect people shows who He is. He is powerful enough to gather a lot of little broken pieces to create something beautiful.