It's nowhere in sight now, but there is glory to come


Issue: "Building a better boycott," Oct. 4, 1997

The worship service focused on the celebration of the Lord's table. Just before coming to the table, the pastor noted that the Supper was in part a reminder that life would not always be the way it is now. There is glory to come. The King has put all things right, even though that restoration is not yet part of our present experience. Images began streaming through my mind. Scenes, sounds, and smells from the last 23 years of my life in Africa scrolled before me. The dirty hands of orphans held my fingers, and I looked into their fly-filled teary eyes. They emerged from houses without roofs and sat limp in their own excrement. Spent shells crunched under my feet and bleached skulls came to life enough for me to witness their death. Seas of people washed in front of me-to some I preached, some I fed, and others I watched. Bullet holes pierced everything and seemed to transform into hollow, hopeless eyes set in the faces of young men. I could not hear the screams of countless people, but I saw their twisted and contorted mouths, eyes wide in terror. Burned vehicles lined the roads, and boy-soldiers sneered at me while their AK-47s clunked against the car door as we stopped at the roadblock. I flew over endless valleys of blue-plastic tents and walked through houses and rooms with holes in the ceiling and blood stains running down from the holes. For the first time in 23 years I wept uncontrollably for the pain of my world. I saw the faces of pastors who fought for power, and those who were beaten down. I heard again the conflicts, hatred, and frustration. I tasted sweet tea and sour porridge in homes of poverty. I saw white people in big, white cars making decisions and giving orders. I saw masses of American faces, indifferent and worshiping their indulgences. I wept for the church: divided, broken, impure, ignorant, unable, African, American. After the Lord's Supper, two men who have befriended me this year [during furlough] came and prayed with me. I am sure they wondered what to do with a weeping missionary, but they made the right choice. This summer marked the 23rd year also since my wife, Debbie, was kidnapped. The mission returned two years ago and rebuilt the buildings and program. Then, 23 years to the day of Debbie's kidnapping, we heard that the hospital was being taken back by the government. Once again, the missionaries were forced to leave. What have we learned in these years? Simply that the King has paid the price. Peace comes through the cross. Easter morning followed Good Friday, but there were tears on Easter morning that accompanied deep perplexity. Pentecost was yet 40 days away. During those 40 days, the disciples seemed an unlikely, unschooled, and unable lot to usher a dynamic church into the world. In one way, we are still living today the experiences of a brutally fallen world in the glorious victory of the present Christ. Now in July we have returned home to Kenya. Home to a city without sidewalks or street lights. Home to watch the street boys crawl through dumpsters looking for food and sniffing glue when their bellies growl. Home to thinly covered political unrest in a world where the poor feed the foreigner the best of their food. Home to a city of endless evangelistic crusades where masses come to be healed, or catch the latest miracle, or be slain in some spirit-and return to the same grinding poverty. Home to some churches that preach the "gospel" that seems to free no soul, untie no bitterness, or drain few emotional swamps. Yet, it is home to people who in their poverty have found the riches of Christ, and in their desperation hold forth the hope of redemption that lifts their lives to infinite value. Our first Sunday home we worshiped with a church that received new members and baptized children with the covenantal promise of God. We again took the bread and wine of forgiveness as the visible body of Christ. Why go home to uncertainty, unrest, violence, disease, fear, and disillusionment? Because it will not always be this way. The King has come and is coming. Weep with me that your weeping may be turned to joy. Mr. Dortzbach and his wife, Debbie, serve as missionaries in Kenya with Mission to the World and MAP International. They have worked in Rwanda and the former Zaire. Mrs. Dortzbach was kidnapped by the Eritrean Liberation Front in Ethiopia in 1974 and held for 26 days.

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