Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Getting out of your comfort zone (2)

I thought I could share some experiences we had in Swaziland about moving out of our own comfort zone. When I arrived in Swaziland in 1985, my eldest son was only five months old. Since my school days I had been an Alfa Romeo fan and I had always vowed that one day I would drive my own Alfa. This became possible in 1984 when I was able to buy a brand new Alfa 33 (the cheapest model available, but still an Alfa!) This happened on Friday the 26th of October 1984. The following day I received a phone call in which I was asked to come to Swaziland. I was given about three weeks to pray and decide about this and then agreed to move to Swaziland. On 4 January 1985 we arrived in Swaziland in our three-month old Alfa with our five-month old son. And one of the first things I realised was that Swaziland wasn’t made for Italian motor cars. The roads were TERRIBLE. In my entire congregation which stretches over 200 kilometres, I had a total of 3 kilometres of tarmac. The rest was gravel roads, of the worst kind imaginable. Soon after arriving I had to find another vehicle which would work on those roads! I kept the Alfa, but that was only used “high days and holidays” – or to be more honest, mostly only for holidays. This was a humbling but also a very necessary process that I had to go through.
Then the planning started for the church service where I would be formally introduced to the congregation. I had a colleague with many years of experience in missions and he helped us a lot in getting out of our comfort zone by exposing us to the new situation as quickly as possible. As I have mentioned before, both my wife and I grew up in Apartheid South Africa. Certain things were just not done in those days – regardless of how stupid it may sound today. Black people did not come into a White person’s house, unless it was to do some form of labour. Black people did not eat or drink from the same plates or cups as White people – they used tin plates and tin cups. Certainly they did not share the same table during meals – White people would eat at a table and Black people would eat outside on the grass somewhere.
And so it happened that my colleague informed me that he and a few others would be visiting us one day so that we could plan the church service. He and his wife arrived at our house together with some of their church leaders – all Black! And we had tea together in our house. And we had lunch together (we couldn’t sit around a table, because we didn’t have a table at that stage) in our house. Looking back over my years in Swaziland, I still consider that day as the best thing that probably ever happened to me. We were forced to move out of our comfort zone and to get used to the new situation in which God wanted to use us. Writing this story today I can hardly believe that something like that could have been an issue at all. But because of our backgrounds it was an issue. And God had to take us through this so that we could become usable for Him in Swaziland. This was just the start of a process of moving out of our comfort zone. Many other things followed, but I’ll write about that in a next post.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007 - Posted by | Comfort Zone, Mission, Theology

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