Links Daily Devotional

Lessons Learned in Africa

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV)

Earlier this month I had the privilege of traveling to Kenya and Uganda with Athletes in Action (AIA) on a golf missions trip. AIA is a sports ministry helping athletes around the world be a Total Athlete—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The purpose of our trip was to offer golf clinics and build relationships with local golfers. We introduced AIA’s vision and how they could partner with the ministry to impact golfers in their respective countries.

Before leaving on this adventure, I was unsure what to expect. I only knew I desired to use the gift God gave me (golf) to give back to the game, I wanted to help people, and I was hopeful my heart would also be impacted. God did all of this and more. The Kenyan and Ugandan people deeply touched each one of us, and we arrived back in America different than when we left.

Today’s passage was our theme scripture for our trip. Paul illuminates the free gift offered to us through God’s grace, and states that through that grace we are God’s handiwork to do his good works. Too often we believe the “things” we do are because of our own ability. However, Paul reminds us of the truth, “…good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” It is God who enables us to do this.

We went to Africa to do good works, but for this to occur our trip leader shared we would need to be flexible, be humble, and risk entering into deeper conversations about the Gospel.

There was a basic plan for each day, but it seemed it was consistently reshaped every morning without much notice. In our western culture, we navigate through our day by what the clock tells us. In Kenya and Uganda, time is relative and it’s all about the “event.” The event will happen; it just may not be on time. Being flexible and offering grace was essential for the success of our mission. Our team learned God does great things when we give over our agendas and follow his.

Golf has a way of exposing our pride and humbling us in an instant. After playing professionally for so long, I have come to expect a certain standard for course quality, especially on the greens. After the first two days in Kenya, I found myself complaining about the conditions of the courses and it was stealing my joy. I had a decision to make. I could either keep complaining and miss what God was doing or I could humbly enter into relationship and enjoy the people I was with. I chose the more important, the latter.

Even though nearly 80 percent of people in these countries consider themselves Christians, a very small percentage actually have a personal relationship with Jesus. Our challenge was to risk taking our conversations deeper by asking those we met, “What does being a Christian mean or look like to you?” To our delight, this opened the door for connection and meaningful discussions about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

By faith, our AIA team traveled to Africa to share the Gospel through sport. Doors were opened, relationships were built, and the momentum has been put into motion. As we remained flexible, walked through each day with humility, and took risks in our conversations, we experienced the many good works God already had planned in advance for our time in Africa.

Tracy Hanson

February 5, 2013

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