I am different now. There have been some changes during my time in Africa. I have a big round scar on my right calf from a motorcycle exhaust pipe. My hair has grown a couple inches longer and now has two white *quinine stripes near the roots. My feet have some new tan lines. I speak some French and have picked up a few African expressions and mannerisms.
Yes, I'm different now, but these changes will not last. They are only outward changes of speech and appearance. My scar will fade. The white stripes in my hair will eventually grow out. Tans vanish quickly and sadly my pigeon French will gradually become rusty pigeon French. If these were the only changes I would just be temporally different. After a little while it would be just as if I had never gone away.
There have been other changes in my life however . . . deeper changes. Not surprising, is it. I remember hearing people returning from mission experiences. They all said the same thing: "It changed my life forever!" It is nice to hear. We all smile and nod our heads approvingly. Many of us have told people preparing to go out into the field "You will be changed forever!" It seems we all know there is something transforming about the mission experience. Now here I am writing a blog about being "forever changed," adding my voice to the thousands of others. I have nothing new or earth shaking to add. I only hope you hear the meaning behind the familiar words.
When I say I'm forever changed, what I'm trying to say is I've been shattered to pieces and rebuilt again. I've faced personal failure and seen Christ's success. I've bled in order to love. I've been humbled, humbled and humbled again until my pride is shredded, but my trust is stronger. I've been led to Abraham’s alter and struggled to surrender. I've felt attacked by hell and cried for heaven. I've wanted to run, but seen the beauty I would have missed had I left. I've been nearly swallowed by fear and surprised by courage I didn't own. I've thought I was dying only to find I was coming back to life. I've begun to learn things I thought I knew and know things I only wondered. My love has become deeper, questions more searching, joy more vivid and peace less dependent on circumstances. I am changed. Next time you see me I'll just look ordinary, but though I look like the same person who left five-and-a-half months ago, I'm different inside. God has been at work. I am so far from being finished, but the light keeps getting brighter.
We all are on this journey. God is rearranging and forming us as we give Him room in our lives. Do not think there is anything magical about Africa or any one place. He is everywhere. He is beside you now. Think about it. The most incredible Change Force is hovering over you at this moment, full of light and love. Sometimes like a hurricane, sometimes like softly falling rain -- it is ever seeking to take you beyond. No matter how far He has brought you, there is always more. The journey never ends, yet you continually arrive at home. Home is God.
Seek Him. He isn't far. You will be forever changed.