>Sundays In The South


I can’t say that before I visited Africa, that I ever dreamed of going to Africa. It seemed so foreign to me. I can remember my 6th grade Sunday School teacher saying that God not only loved me, He also loved even the savages in darkest Africa…… It seemed like a place that no one wanted to go. Me included. But when I learned of the enormous need, I was willing to go.

I originally signed up to go to Nigeria to help establish a library in a Seminary. Library I can do. After all, I do know the Dewey Decimal System and would have an opportunity to interact with the Seminary staff and students and share with them my ministry experiences in the U.S.. About two weeks prior to my departure, I received a call informing me that due to political unrest, the Seminary and its library had been burned and furthermore, they were evacuating U.S. citizens from the city for their own safety. Before I could hang up, they said we do have another opportunity for you… There was a need in Burkina Faso. They needed someone to cook for about 70 college students who were spending their summer visiting villages out in the bush country, digging wells, establishing latrines and sharing the gospel. I reluctantly agreed to go.

I am no Emril, but I can and did get by on some basic cooking concepts my grandmother taught me. “Prepare simple food, dip it in lard, fry it up crisp and the masses will come running.” This came in handy as I made official visits to the villages and time and again was presented with chickens as a gift from the village chiefs…

The days were long, and the temps were high. Mostly in the low 100’s. I was up at 5:30 to prepare breakfast, finish by 8 a.m. and begin to prepare for lunch and then for supper….. My day ended with me falling into my staw bed around 10 p.m.

My opportunities to minister became apparent to me on the second day of my stay. Two school age boys showed up at the mission house to “help”. Actually, they were curious to see what the big white man was doing in their village. They spoke no English and I spoke no Marense, yet an instant bond was formed. It never ceases to amaze me how the language barrier can be broken down by a smile and knowing the Marense handshake which I learned my first day in Burkina.

I did not recognize it at first, but I began to loose track of the days. No television, no radio, no secretary at the bank telling me what meetings I’m missing, just the work at hand for the day at hand. They never seemed to worry about tomorrow. What a concept…..

The villagers keep up with the days by “sleeps”. Every 3 sleeps they have a market day. We and the “boys” went to market every 3 sleeps. It was fascinating to see all the ladies walking into town with the large bowls and pots on their heads trying to sell what they had made to eeek out a living….

The entire time I was there I attended no church service. There was no church to visit. It was just me and my Bible. I can report that my quiet time with God was the most intense moments I have ever spent with God and it taught me an important lesson. The Church is not a building, it was never intended to be. The Church is the body of Christ. My body, your body living in a real world. It also occured to me that the only Jesus some people will ever see, is the Jesus in me.

Needless to say that I had a very difficult time leaving those boys behind when it came time to leave. To this day the thought of them brings a tear to my eye and to this day I dream of them and of Africa…

About Chris VanCleave - America's Favorite Rose Gardener

Christopher R. VanCleave – America’s Favorite Rose Gardener Nicknamed "The Redneck Rosarian”, Chris VanCleave is passionate about gardening and growing roses. He is an active member of the Birmingham chapter of the American Rose Society, serving two terms as President. In 2007, he created the Rose Chat Podcast which has reached over a half a million listeners with news and information on growing on growing the world’s most beloved flower, the rose. He was a contributor to the 2015 Southern Living Gardening Book, has appeared on P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home television show and was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southern Living Magazine. Locally, Chris serves as Chairman of the Helena Alabama Beautification Board where he has spearheaded efforts to create a sustainable landscape in one of the top one hundred places to live in the United States. His writing is seen at About.com and on his popular website; RedneckRosarian.com, where he chronicles his gardening adventures and explores an intrinsic mix of life, faith and gardening. An agent of change with over 20 years’ experience in process innovation, Mr. VanCleave is leading the charge to reinvigorate horticultural societies and helping them to reach their full potential in the social media age.
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4 Responses to >Sundays In The South

  1. >You have a nice message today. It is like you were transported to another world. As a reward you have the memories of that time to reflect on. As you may recall I have been part of a prison ministry for a long time. We go to strange places thinking we are there to bring Christ and find that he has been there long before us.


  2. grouchy says:

    >American missionaries in Africa (Uganda) are a 'hot' topic these days. I like Star Treks take with the 'Prime Directive' approach. No interference of the natural progression (evolution/course) of the culture and society.


  3. Tom says:

    >Powerful message, and you summed it up beautifully…"It also occured to me that the only Jesus some people will ever see, is the Jesus in me. "Thanks ~ Tom/@SolakNC


  4. >Dear Chris, Such a moving account of your time in Africa! I really believe our most valuable task is to reach the children, as you did with those young boys. Thank you for the kind comments on my blog. P.


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