[notice]While on a mission trip to Europe, Port Elizabeth pastor, Afrika Mhlophe, muses on how you, and I and he, fit into God’s purposes for the nations[/notice]
In chapter 17 of the book of Acts we encounter Paul looking over the city of Athens and being agitated that the whole city was given to idolatry. It is in this city that Paul preached one of his most eloquent messages where he used their own inscription, “To an unknown God”, to explain to them who the real God is.
In his sermon Paul revealed God’s purposes for nations. He brought forth the fact that God has a plan for every nation on earth. Paul put it this way, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him…” (vs. 26-27, NIV). God has a redemptive purpose for every nation and our role is not to determine it but to discover it.
As I am writing this I am in the city of Tallin which is in Estonia. Now Estonia is a small country which borders Russia and Latvia. We are here on a ministry assignment because we feel the Lord has called us to do missions in this country and others in Europe.
We know that Europe has in the past sent missionaries to Africa but now this continent needs Africa to return the favour. This continent is in a terrible spiritual state. Coming here I used an airline which connected in one of the Arab states and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to you when I say about 80% of my fellow passengers travelling to Europe were Muslims. Most of them were groups of families. Now their birth rate far outweighs that of indigenous Europeans and it is clear that in a few years’ time there will be more non-European Europeans than European Europeans. You get my drift.
So what if the complexion of cities changes and every major city becomes more cosmopolitan. This should be good for diversity and interracial connections, right? Yes and no. Yes the world is fast becoming a global village and there are benefits to this development. And yet there are pitfalls we should avoid. Globalisation does not encourage the celebration of diversity and uniqueness but forces us into starched uniformity and commonality. This has led to the decimation of cultures, languages, values and ultimately identities.
In Stockholm Sweden we met a lot of people who are of African descent and many of them are economic migrants. We heard a lot of stories from these folks but one that disturbed us the most was from a Christian lady who told us that she has lost her Kenyan citizenship because she wanted to be a Swedish citizen. She told us that her native country does not allow dual citizenship so she had to choose between the two countries. When they went on ministry trip to Nairobi recently she had to apply for a visa to visit her native country.
Now it is one thing to go and study in different countries as Moses did in Egypt but completely a different matter to forsake the country of your birth. You can even work in a foreign country, after all many families in Africa are surviving from money remitted by relatives working abroad. There are many things that people learn from foreign countries and some people even return to their native countries to share the lessons they have learnt.
There is definitely a lot one can learn in Europe. For instance in Stockholm the roads are designed in such a way that walking is much better than driving, if you are not going too far. Streets are always full people who are walking and this is healthy. Secondly, it is much safer there than my own country. Jogging one morning I noticed a couple leaving their car idling and getting into a shop. I cannot imagine anyone doing that in South Africa.
Those of us who dream of a blissful life like this; must we now migrate to Europe? God forbid because this would mean we would have to forsake His plan and the role He has for us in own nations. Remember He determined our time and place of birth. The fact that I live in Port Elizabeth, South Africa is not an accident of nature but something God has predetermined and planned. It is His pleasure and will for me to live there and be fruitful there.
There is a redemptive plan for every city. The missionary journeys of Paul were not focused much on individuals as on cities. Paul did not plant churches that were confined to suburbs but planted churches that affected cities. There are only three individuals he addressed letters to and the rest were addressed to cities.
Jesus told His disciples that after the infilling of the Holy Spirit they would become His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. These are cities ladies and gentlemen. He also told them that they were to make disciples of all nations. Your pigmentation, your language, your culture, your geographical area — God has a plan for all of these.