Inheritance from a grandfather to a grandson

Inheritance from a grandfather to a grandson

For the past several months, ever since I heard Oscar Muiru's sermon at Urbana, my thoughts have repeatedly been drawn back to the things that he said and to the passage in Philippians that he spoke from. As I prepared myself mentally to head for Toronto for the launching of Village Schools Canada, I wanted to listen again to Oscar's sermon, to take in again all of his words, and the Sunday before I left the village to begin my long journey, I just had to listen to that sermon one more time, and I wanted to listen to it with my boys.

On my way to Canada, I took a long detour to Denver so I could be a part of the graduation of one of the really fine young men who had served with us. After graduation was all over as he drove me to the airport, Jeff, who had also been at Urbana last December, brought up, of all things, that sermon of Oscar's. I smiled inside. I was glad to know that Jeff couldn't get Oscar's sermon out of his mind either, and suddenly in the car, I felt again all of the joy I felt the year Jeff was in our little village in Tanzania when I got to watch his heart and his mind be challenged and shaped and molded anew by God.

How is it Mzee that so much of the way VSI is designed in Tanzania reflects what Oscar was talking about at Urbana? That was Jeff's question.

Repeatedly while I was in Canada where I got to spend some time with Andrew and the board members of Village Schools Canada, to meet Andrew's pastor, to speak to his church, repeatedly my thoughts kept going back to Oscar's sermon at Urbana.

What Jeff wanted to know was how was it that we had taken him, and for a year of his life in the little village of Igoda, we had asked him to act out Oscar's sermon long before he had ever heard Oscar's sermon.

My last night in Canada, I laid awake in bed for hours thinking of Jeff's question.

Was it something that my grandfather had taught me long ago in Congo? Or was there some day when as we were laying out the founding principles of Village Schools International when it suddenly all came together, a stunning moment when we came to see clearly what God had used Oscar to speak about at Urbana?

No one had ever asked me those kinds of questions before. One of the reasons I had so loved living in the same village with Jeff was that he often asked me those hard, penetrating questions

I could recall over the years having spoken many of the words Oscar spoke that night at Urbana. Not with Oscar's eloquence, of course, but still I could remember the theme during lectures I had given at Calvin College, at Whitworth University, conversations I had had with the curious over dinner, the times I had tried to speak from my heart when Sarah had asked me and Godfrey and Emmanueli to speak to our new missionaries during their training and before we sent them out into the villages where they would serve. I could remember sermons I had preached and times I had sat down with people trying to explain about VSI and what we wanted our missionaries to be like. Oscar's plea to those 15,000 young people at Urbana was that they might make the incredible choice to seek to imitate Christ by setting aside their position, their wealth, their great education, their everything and to take the Gospel out into the world in seeming weakness -- they they might choose to make themselves poor and vulnerable and needy, laying down all the trappings and the toys that we have convinced ourselves must be so incredibly essential to the sharing of the Gospel, and instead to go and live among the poor and to be poor with them and to share their lives with them -- just as in Christ, God Himself came and lived among us and shared momentarily in our poverty and in our weakness and chose to share with us our lives.

Oscar had not discovered some new and wonderful formula for missions, and neither had VSI. This was not some magic formula that my grandfather had found that had worked so well that he passed it on to me like some wonderful inheritance from a grandfather to a grandson. The reason that Oscar could preach those words at Urbana, and my grandfather could share those same words with me around the fires in Congo long ago, that my sons can see those words in the daily life of their mother, that Jeff could live out the words day after day in a village -- the reason was because the truth of those words is timeless. They are found in the Scriptures, in a passage that clearly makes of us a demand that seems so utterly and completely unthinkable. And yet Paul does not present it as a potential option, as one way that we might consider perhaps maybe using as we serve Him and share the Gospel. No. We are presented not with an option, but with a command. And so we choose, we must choose, we are, as my grandfather used to say to me, compelled to choose to make ourselves nothing, to not think of ourselves as better than those who are poor but instead, to set aside our great wealth, and our everything else, and to humble ourselves, and to choose to live among the poor just as God in the most incredible way chose to come to live amongst us, and to set aside our position and our power and our privilege and our money, and to make ourselves poor so that we might reach the poor.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing -- made himself nothing! -- taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself ... (Philippians 2:5-8)

[I truly wish Urbana had a link so I could just point you all to it and you could easily listen to Oscar's sermon. Instead you'll have to spend $5 and order it from them -- www.urbana.org. Oscar is one of the finest preachers I've ever heard, one of the great gifts that the church in Africa has to give to the world at large. I hope you find it possible to listen to his sermon and to share it with others!]