Mambo Sawa Sawa

I just returned from Nairobi, Kenya, where I spent time training the pastors and management staff of Mission of Hope International.  They believed I was there to teach them.

I knew I was there to learn.

And I did.  Here are two lessons, gifts really, I was given and am still processing…

Every ministry leader faces common challenges no matter their location or work. 

The premise of the course I taught was this:  Serving in ministry leadership will bring emotional, mental, and spiritual trauma.  If we’re not prepared for it, this can take us out.  And that must not be allowed to happen.

The external realities of our ministries could not be more different.  They serve people subsisting in the slums of Nairobi; I serve people satisfied in the suburbs of Indianapolis.

Yet our internal realities are congruent.  We both feel the pressure of unrealistic expectations.  We both face exhaustion and the propensity for work-life imbalance.  We both endure criticism and betrayal and loneliness.

These come with the job.  And so does this powerful and encouraging truth:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

I consider this lesson a gift because I have been reminded of what a high calling and divine privilege ministry is.  This keeps me “standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:9)

Things are getting better because Jesus is on the throne.

I learned a new song, both literally and figuratively.

At the beginning of each session we opened with singing and prayer.  At one of these times I heard a simple but beautiful melody that was made all the more captivating when the verses were also sung in English.

Mambo sawa sawa.
Mambo sawa sawa.
Yesu akiwa enzini.
Mambo sawa sawa.

Things are getting better.
Things are getting better.
When the Lord is on the throne,
Things are getting better.

Too many times, I believe things are getting better only when my own circumstances have improved or my comfort has increased.  And my comforts and circumstances, as commonly measured, are many times “better” than my co-laborers’ in Nairobi.

But that is irrelevant.  They understand this.

The things that get better where and when Jesus in enthroned–things in my heart, in my life and church, in His people and through us in this world–these are the things that matter.

This is the faith and vision I need.  These leaders have it, exude it, act on it.  In my eyes they walk on water and I am privileged to watch and learn.

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5)

Ministry constantly reminds me that things are not easy.  But they are getting better.  Sometimes immediately, always ultimately…when the Lord is on the throne.

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