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The Greatest of All

DECEMBER 2016

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by Taylor Wieczorek Taylor was a member of the 1-month Himba IMMERSION team that spent time with the Himba tribe of Namibia, Africa, in the summer of 2016.

Since returning from my time spent in Africa, I have received numerous questions, mainly regarding what my team and I “did” while being there. “Tell me! Tell me! What did you do?” And I laugh every time, because my team leaders told me that this would happen. The look on their face when I respond, “Well… actually, we did nothing,” is absolutely priceless. Nothing? What do you mean you did nothing? I funded you to DO something.

But what a lot of people (myself before this trip included) do not understand is what missions is not. Missions is not going into a foreign community, with our American goggles on, saying, “I’m here to fix you, fix your way of life, fix your community.” And although that sounds silly, and we may not actually say these things, it’s a lot of times how we act. While building a house or fixing a roof may not necessarily be wrong to do, we have to check our intentions. How many of us have been on a mission trip, where we were able to serve, help build, do do do, yet did not know the persons name in which we were “helping”? *raising my hand behind my keyboard*

What would happen if we realized that missions is not about doing, but being?

What if this is how we lived our everyday lives? Not focused on good works, planning, and schedules, but focused on being. Focused on how Jesus wants us to live—in relationship with Him and others. It is the greatest of all commandments isn’t it? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:30-31 (NIV). America, we’re missing this big time. We forget to see people, as, well... people. We forget that relationships should be prioritized over time. And so many times, we forget to love our neighbor... as ourselves.

My worldview and American mindset was shaken the minute I stepped off the plane in Africa. We were in the airport and I was looking for my next terminal. Completely lost in the South African airport, I walked up to the nearest employee. “Excuse me, do you know where gate…”, completely interrupted she looked at me and said, “Where are your manners!?” At this moment I completely realized that I had forgotten everything learned at orientation about the African culture. I didn’t say hello first. I didn’t ask her how she was doing, how her day was going, what her name was. I didn’t see her as a person, I saw her as an employee. This exact moment laid a perfect example of a foundation for the trip.

Every morning spent in Swartbooisdrift, Namibia, would start with heading out to the villages where we would sit with families and tribes. We wouldn’t go into their homes, tell them about Jesus, tell them to repent, and leave to head to the next one. We would sit with them, talk about their cattle and their goats, how they are doing. We would, for this short time, do life with them. We would greet them with song. And then, when welcomed (after building a relationship) we would share our views. Give a word of encouragement. And love them, to the best of our ability how Jesus loves them. In the afternoon we would go down to the river to play and love on the children of Swartbooisdrift. We would play games, teach a Bible story, and pray with them. We quickly built relationships with these children. We knew their names, and they knew ours.

One day we were out doing ministry in a local village. We walked up to this certain homestead to a couple adults that lived there, as well as an elderly man. As we were walking up and approaching this family, a handful of children came running down the hill towards us. It was our friends from the river! They ran and jumped into our arms. As we sat with the family, the children sat in our laps, with big smiles on their faces. We talked with the family, sang for them, and gave them a word of encouragement. When we began to ask the man if he had anything we could pray over him for, he interrupted us. He told us that he could see who Jesus is and the love that He has for us, through the way that we love this man's children. He welcomed us, and told us that we are now welcomed as family. We are living, breathing, walking representations of the Gospel. We are lights, and called to live as Christ does. Just through loving our neighbors, this man was able to see the love the Jesus has for us.

We weren’t the same as our neighbors. We weren’t the same color, didn’t speak the same language, and did not have the same culture, but love—the greatest of all—is what bonded us together.

Scripture doesn’t say love those who are kind to you, those who are just like you, those who believe the same as you. Scripture says to love your neighbor. Whether a Samaritan or a Levite, we are called to have mercy on each other. To wash each others feet.

What would happen if we took off our judgmental-Christian-bubble-glasses, and saw people the way that Christ does? When someone does something that we don’t like, will we still see them in the image of God? And what would happen if we put our phones down waiting in line at the store? If we actually took the time to ask the cashier how he or she is doing? What if we cared more about people, and building relationships, rather than time and schedules? Because everyone has a story, and you sharing yours may just be enough to change someones day, create a smile, and best of all, change the course of someone's life and salvation.

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