Is It A Magical Wish Or A Commitment?

Hard-working Liberian ladies helping to build a school. Those are cinder blocks being carried on their heads.

All too often, we say that we are going to do something. But we really mean, we'll do it if nothing better comes up. I remember that we were attending a church a while back. We were praying that we would have better community with the people in the church. And as with most things we pray about, we had to follow that up with action. A lot of time prayers are just wishes rather than things we are committed to. For instance, we might want healing. That usually entails that we have to change our lifestyle too. We may want more money. That can entail working harder, going back to school, or switching jobs. We want a better family life. That entails spending time together. We want to stop world hunger. That entails raising money and helping. But we like to keep what we want as a wish rather than a commitment. What we often really want is for our lifestyle to not have to change in order to accommodate the blessing we want to receive while our prayer wish just magically happens.

So we were at this church, praying for better community with people from the church. We were inviting people over for dinner. The whole nine yards. Attending Bible studies. Doing what we could do to make community happen. But nothing seemed to be clicking. Then we were asked over for dinner to a couple's house. Only the second invitation we had ever received in our time at that church. We couldn't pass it. Or could we? They invited me over during the Colts AFC Championship game. Now, I wanted to stay home because they asked us over during a Colts playoff game, a game they weren't going to watch. I was invested in the Colts. I had watched every Colts game that year. And I wasn't about to miss a playoff game. On the other hand, I had been praying for better community. Was my prayer just a wish, below my desire to watch a Colts playoff game? Was I really committed to better community? Or was it just something I wanted if nothing better came up?

How would just wishing have worked for Marlin, Nemo's father in Finding Nemo? If Nemo had just been taken by the scary humans and Marlin didn't go after Him, what would have happened? If Marlin had just sat around, watched television, and wished that he would have his son back, would he have got him back? Or if he would have posted every day on Facebook how he wanted his son back, would that have been enough? Or he could have joined a group and talked about how he wished he had his son back. Would talk be enough? But that isn't what Marlin did. He went out into the great unknown because he was committed to finding his son no matter what the cost. It wasn't just a wish. It was a commitment.  

Or, take a story from the real world. I met a guy named Eric Wowoh in Liberia.  He's one of the group of people from Liberia, who during the Civil War, found themselves in a refugee camp in Nigeria. Eric decided to go visit his friend in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, to get out of the refugee camp. He knew that he could have a better life living with his friend. Yet when he got to the city and went to his friends' place, his friend had moved and nobody knew where. Eric found himself broke, destitute, and stranded in a strange city. He decided to begin walking back to the refugee camp. Eventually night fell, and he found himself tired. So he discovered an abandoned house to sleep in as he tried to walk his way back to the refugee camp. Yet a band of thugs found him, beat him up, and told the police that he was trespassing. While in jail, Eric and another inmate began dreaming of educating Liberians once they got out of jail, out of the refugee camp, and back to Liberia.

Now this is a crazy dream. You're untrained. You're broke. You're imprisoned in a foreign country. You can't start schools.

Big Dave. Right picture taken just one year
prior to the left one.
Crazier than a 385 pounder saying he's going to run a marathon. But now my friend Dave, has ran three marathons.

Crazier than me, a boy who used to go to school here in Antwerp wearing a shirt that said "God is dead", preaching here on Easter Sunday.

Crazy like Joseph, sitting in prison, being used by God to save a whole nation. Crazy like David, a shepherd, becoming the ruler of God's people. Crazy, like Esther, an orphan raised by her cousin, becoming queen of a foreign land and saving all her people.

God is in the crazy business. The impossible business. Our God wants to do crazy, amazing things. Things that will make this world better than it is. But it can only happen when we do things differently than we are used to doing them. Are you committed?

Back to Eric. He didn't know anything. All he knew was a refugee camp. He didn't have a clue. He hadn't received an education. He didn't know how to start a school. He didn't have any money to start a school. Eric was so clueless that when he flew to the US to raise funds, he didn't accept the food offered on the plane because he thought he would have to pay for it and had no money.

Yet, while in prison in Nigeria, a lady believed his story and fought for his release. She gave him a computer. Eric used this computer to start a computer training school in the refugee camp. Students would take fifteen minutes on the computer at a time. With little things, Eric was faithful.

The day came where they found themselves able to go back to Liberia. He sent his close friends, who had now become brothers, back to Liberia to start a school while he traveled to America to raise money for that school. But it didn't work out the way he wanted. About nine months after he arrived in the States, he still wasn't having any success in raising funds to start the school that God had laid on his heart. He was ready to give up.  He felt that he couldn't accomplish what God had called him to. He emailed a British friend named Martin, who had started making a documentary on him back when Eric was in the refugee camp in Nigeria. Eric told Martin that he couldn't do it and that he was going to give up.

Martin replied, "You are not a normal person. I wouldn't be following you around and recording you if I thought you were normal. You're extraordinary. You can do this." (this is not verbatim. It's going from memory.) And Eric kept on. Eventually, the money came.

Now, you can go to Liberia and see a school that is educating nearly 2,000 kids - providing a free education in a nation where everyone has to pay for their education. You will be able to see two more schools being built. Kids receiving education. Schools bringing hope to their community. Kids learning skills to make their own dreams a reality and their broken nation whole again. All because one man, in a prison in Nigeria, who wasn't qualified, who didn't have the training, stayed faithful and remained committed to the dream that was laid on his heart.

A commitment.

What are you committed to?