Sleepless in North Africa

Got up real early today to catch the 0600 train to Sousse… wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t jet lagged and unable to go to sleep until 2:30am!

Also, God had me pumped up last night and I couldn’t sleep because of what I think he’s telling me. Not an audible voice as much as a impression so strong I just can’t shake it. An impression so strong it has my heart pumping hard and adrenaline flowing fast. The last time I felt like this was in Kansas City, coming home from an orientation for new students at the Nazarene Seminary, when I had this strong impression God wanted me to change careers and go into full time ministry. No way would I have considered quitting software engineering for church work before that evening, but the impression was strong enough that my mind was changed.

Yesterday we slept in and had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, lunch at a local patisserie, and B went back to the apartment while we shopped some more in the medina. Then we taxied back to Carrefour where we met up with B and “N” who gave us a ride to her home to meet the “youth group”. Not just the youth group for their small home church, but the entire country! There were only 7 of them at N’s house, but if they all showed up there might be 20. 20 youth in the whole country of XXXXX who are Christ followers. 20 youth who will some day be the leaders of the church. 20.

Anyhow, we talked with them and they shared their stories of coming to faith, which typically involved knowing a Christian, being mad at them for their beliefs, then eventually considering their claims, then most like talking to “N” who lovingly helped them become a Christ follower.

The kids all talked (through N’s daughter who is fluent in English, French, and Arabic), then played guitar and sang some worship songs they enjoye. Only one of those songs sounded “middle eastern”, the rest sounded very western or actually were western songs translated into arabic. As I said below, a big reason for my being here was to explore the church’s ethnodoxology, to see what worship was like in their context.

The kids handed me the guitar and we sang some songs together that we all knew, most of them knew the english verses as well as I did (although most of them did not speak english). Then they asked me questions about worship and worship leading, using N’s daughter as a translator. We asked them to brainstorm about what we (our church) could do to be a blessing to them. They came up with:

  • Putting on a beginner’s music camp for the community (similar to their english club)
  • Providing specialized training in leading worship for the youth
  • Finding drama scripts that they could use in their english club to ignite spiritual discussions
  • Finding teaching curriculum for the youth group

Obviously Christian resources are scarce in a country with no Christian bookstores. I immediately saw the benefit we could provide by bringing in supplies like this… but how do we find them in arabic?

After discussion, we had a large group meal in their home (cous cous, of course), then said goodbye and “L” took us to catch a taxi.

When the taxis dropped us off, Cam accidently left a suitcase in the trunk with hundreds of dollars’ worth of homeschooling curricullum for CJ, the worker in Sousse we were on our way to meet. Cam ran after the taxi, but he had already picked someone else up and was gone. So, we stood there on the street corner and prayed out loud that God would bring the suitcase back for the sake of His worker’s family. It was one of the few times I felt I was praying with some kind of confidence that I thought God would probably answer the prayer. Anyhow, Ryan and I went back to the hotel and Cam & B went to the police station to see what could be done. 20 minutes later, as they were talking to the police (several blocks from where we were dropped off), they see the taxi (out of the hundreds that crowd the streets of downtown Tunis) and the driver gets out holding the suitcase! We spent many minutes praising God for this miracle!

I realized tonight that I had been afraid of North Africans, afraid of muslims. Not a fear like you feel when you’re sitting next to a bully on a bus and you’re wondering if he’s going to hit you just for fun. More of a fear like I have no idea what these people are thinking or what they are like and no way to communicate. God has started to give me a heart to love them. My heart was encouraged, blessed, and broken for the teens and “N” and what they are trying to do. How much more important in the Kingdom it would be for the youth group to have a full time person discipling and pouring themselves into them, than it would be for DCC to have a full time youth director. This is why I had a sleepless night and felt a strong impression from God, I think, and I shared that with B tonight, that I could seriously consider being part of God’s work here, and committed to pray about it.

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