Friday, March 30, 2007

Will a house get me to heaven?

Arrived in Kigali, Rwanda about noon Friday (around 5 am Dallas time) after an overnight stop in Ethiopia. Long but smooth trip. On 15+ hour flight from Washington DC to Ethiopia I sat next to Fitsum, who’s in his late 20s. The youngest of 7 children, he was returning to Ethiopia after 5 ½ years away. He now lives in San Diego, where he works at 7/11 and a Ramada Inn. Through those jobs he saved enough money to buy his mom a house back in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. So not only was he going to see his mom for the first time in a long time, but also the house he bought for her.

He chose this time to return so he could spend Easter with her. In fact, the huge Ethiopian Airlines plane was full of families returning home. Lots and lots of kids with their moms and dads. In fact, it was the only time in all my years of flying that I was the only white face on the whole plane. It was fun watching all the families and friends interacting with each other in that “community for a day.”

Fitsum grew up as an Ethiopian Orthodox, so Easter is a big deal, even though he admitted he’s not much involved. When I asked what he believed was needed to go to heaven, he listed many good works he was relying on. I’m sure the house for his mom was motivated primarily by his love for her, but if it also helps in getting to heaven, then so much the better.

So I shared with him how Jesus had died for his sins and mine. How God the Father had raised Him from the dead, conquering sin and death on our behalf. How he was going to celebrate that resurrection as he returned home to share Easter with his mom in her new home. How eternal life, a ticket to heaven, was a free gift from God as we place our faith only in Christ for salvation. That it was not of good works, so that no one can boast. But that he needed to receive that gift, and not just know about it.

Just as he did not want his mom to pay for the house he had saved for, we cannot pay for our salvation, because the price is too great. He just wants us to live a life of “thank you” as we do the good works He has prepared for us to do.

For years Fitsum played soccer in the US in a league of Ethiopia teams in about 20 cities. He agreed that no matter how good he was, he would not be able to kick a soccer ball from San Diego to Dallas, for the distance is too great. The same is true of our sinfulness and God’s holiness—there is too big a gap for us to cross on our own.

As he heard these truths watching the EvangeCube unfold, his smile got bigger and bigger. He said he needed to think about this some more because it was the first time he had heard it. But he said he felt something inside that he could not describe because he did not know the English word for it.

Please pray for God to complete in Fitsum what He has begun. And pray for his whole family as he takes the Cube I gave him home, with the Gospel explanation in the instruction sheet, for he said he wanted to tell them all he had heard. Wouldn’t it be great if Easter came alive to that whole family as they all came to understand the real “reason for the season”?

Most of the trips I make are for the “ministry” of our ministry. But today (Saturday) here in Kigali Robert Mutijima (Rwanda e3 national leader), Mike Wagner (our US based Rwanda Strategy Coordinator) and I will be focused on the “business” of our ministry. God has blessed us with great growth here, so we are looking at office space, interviewing accountant candidates, and talking to a lawyer about registering as an NGO (non-governmental organization—the international equivalent of a non-profit org back in the States). So today I get to do the 30 minutes of lawyering a year that I still do (which is enough to suit my tastes now!).

Please continue to pray that God’s will be done in all this as it is in heaven.

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