I had been doing well being home until yesterday. Yesterday, it hit me. I miss Africa. I miss little hands, hugs, little accents. I miss the sun. I miss the smiling faces. I miss the singing. I miss the stories. I miss it all in the worst possible way.
In James 1:27 we are told that,
27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Let’s be honest for a moment. Religion in the U.S. is insanely complicated. We have thousands of separate churches, hundreds of denominations. We are kept more separate that we hope to be together. And then we create all these rules on how to live our faith. Show up on Sundays and Wednesdays and get your “pass” for the week. Don’t do “this”. Do “that”. We are more likely to live like the Pharisees or Sadducees than Jesus Himself. How far do we need to go to “get by”? And we definitely don’t take James 1:27 seriously. Honestly, I hadn’t even paid attention to that verse until two years ago.
But it wasn’t like that in Africa. It wasn’t like that with those children. All of a sudden it was just about God and loving those kids. It was about showing the great love of our God and talking about what He did for all of us. It was about caring for their needs and making sure they knew that the One God of all loves them completely. That’s it.
No fancy services with impressive music or trained “communicators.”
No stages. No band.
No pretty buildings.
It’s amazing to experience something that simple, that…well, pure. Our team of 26 very different individuals came together, no talk about “flavors” of Christianity or whatever. We came as one team, to love and visit orphans and care for them in their distress. If “religion” looked like that in the U.S., we wouldn’t have difficulty in telling people about it. People would come just to see it. Pure religion is this.
I have a friend who is seeking right now. I wish he had been with me in Africa because you can’t deny our God as you look into the eyes of the fatherless. You see Him in the way that their basic needs are met, even when the rest of the world has forsaken them. You feel Him so much more tangibly among those children. Pure religion is this.
One of the orphanages we stayed at started the day – every day – with worship. As a community (family, really), they came together, sang hymns, did a brief devotion and prayed. That’s how they started their day. I had never truly listened to the words of the hymns until I heard them with little Kenyan accents, sang with more conviction than the biggest, most impressive choir in the U.S. Pure religion is this.
So the purpose of my trip was definitely simple. I know that many don’t “get it”, that we would go halfway around the world to love children. That this would be something that God would favor. But it was. It was pure religion.
And I suppose that’s why I miss so much.