What Things?

Praying til Pentecost Day 11

  • "He appeared in different form to two of them, while they were walking along their way to the country." Mark 16:12
  • "What things?" Luke 24:19

From 1972-1974 I served as a missionary Journeyman to the Baptist Mission of East Africa. My job title was, Field Evangelism Assistant, but the job description was more revealing. I was responsible for the construction of churches in the Rungwe District of Tanzania. This was a beautiful place located in the Southern Highlands of the country where three mountain ranges merged. It was in the rain forest, and total annual rainfall for the area was 120 inches a year. Over 40 of that accumulation came in the month of April. There were a miniscule number of paved roads, and most of my work carried me off road anyway. We made our own bricks, cement blocks, trusses, window frames, and pews. The only manufactured item we could import was the tin for the roofs from Communist China. Gasoline costs in those days were $2.50 a gallon and Land Rover pickups loaded with cement and sand were not very eco friendly.

To maintain proper accounts, and assure clear documentation I had to have contracts written in English, Swahili, and the local tribal language. Progress was slow, tedious, and often dangerous due to the weather and road conditions. I was on my second Land Rover pickup. The first had rolled over the mountain side when the brakes went out on it. I was able to bail out, but my partner was hospitalized. Until it was replaced, I checked on all my projects on a 150cc Yahama trail bike, and carried what supplies I could in a back pack and saddle bags.

My assignment was for 22 months, and the time I had left was slipping away with all the rain and mud. I was in one of the garden spots of the world, but it was very frustrating work. Cross cultural communication, supply shortages, theft of supplies on the projects, cement and lime ruined by the water, and the washed out roads and bridges conspired against any Western concept of time management and project completion. Did I mention 120 inches of rain?

August 20-26, 1973 I took a week off to attend the Annual Mission Meeting in Narobi. We were hosted by the Limuru Conference Center, and 300 missionaries and MKs (Missionary Kids) were in attendance. I was asked to carry a sign from the truck of one of our BMs (Big Missionaries) and take it to the Worship Center. It was a six foot long sign and about two feet high. I balanced it on my shoulder and started walking across the camp ground. Everywhere I went, I caused a ripple of laughter to start rolling across the green commons area. As I approached the dining hall a group of BMs were slapping their legs and laughing and pointing at me. The loudest of all was a guy named Eucled Moore. He shouted out something about type casting, self-fulfilling prophecy, or truth in advertising. He was on a roll. I stopped in front of the group of comedians, and took the sign off my shoulder, and saw that it had printed in huge block letters "F-R-U-S-T-R-A-T-I-O-N!"

This story is a little funnier to me now, but the truth always hurts the first time it hits. Like a salve placed on a sunburned skin, there is an increase in the heat before there is a release from the pain. What I know now is that the guys laughing the hardest had forgotten more about frustration than I would ever learn. They were husbands, and fathers and were seasoned veterans of the AWA Wars (Africa Wins Again!). They may have been laughing at me. I am pretty confident that Eucled was, but they could feel my pain too. They had been there more than once, and they enjoyed seeing a young gun earn his spurs at this rodeo.

When the Risen Christ walked into the lives of Cleopas and his wife Mary on the road to Emmaus, he encountered them at the lowest point of their lives. Their dreams had been crushed at the bloody grounds of the crucifixion of Jesus. Their plans for a future and a hope were frustrated. The account in Luke describes them going down hill figuratively and physically as they travelled the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were so engrossed in conversation and discussion of their problem that they missed the Presence of Jesus when He came along side of them.

When Jesus asked them what they were talking about, Cleopas sarcastically rebuked Him for His ignorance about "the things" that had been happening the previous three days. Jesus did not take offense. He just asked, "WHAT THINGS!"

These two words were the key that unlocked the door to the pent up frustration of the two travelers. Cleopas poured out a perspective that was totally saturated with all "the things" that had happened in the past. He had failed to bring his past problem to God. He had been overwhelmed by what he had seen, and as a result he missed the Presence of Jesus walking right beside him.

Jesus still asks the question, "What things?" The message of the Risen Christ to us today is still and invitation to bring our frustrations and fears to Him and let Him make sense out them. When we add up what we have seen with our own eyes, but leave Jesus out of the equation, we are in danger of miscalculating the right answer.

What is it that frustrates you? Have you talked to others more than you have talked to Jesus about it? Take the time to place "the things" that are on your back and roll them over onto the shoulders of Jesus. His yoke was designed with you in mind.

Getting something off your chest does not mean that it has been removed from your back. Giving someone a piece of your mind does not give you peace of mind. Jesus still asks the question, "What things?" When "the things" that you have seen begin to choke you and trip you up, stop in your tracks and turn to Jesus. He calls on you to cough up the bone in your throat and the rock in your shoe. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!