Saturday, September 3, 2011


so its 1:21am right now, and i drank a whole cup of coffee an hour ago so i would be able to stay up late and watch the georgia v. boise state game. we just found out that the espn here is out of south africa, so they are showing some riveting tennis matches instead of american college football. i guess ill stay up for a few more hours...
i just put up a long video on facebook, but i realize that some of you dont have facebook, so i am hoping that ben will be able to upload that video on to here sometime soon...

there is a lot of time to think on this ship. pretty much anywhere you sit, you can just stare out a window at either lush, green mountains, or an ever rolling ocean (not so lush, and full of dead cats and trash....along the coast anyway...), or a wonderful combination of the two. so whenever you sit down and stare out a window or go on the top deck and sit down, you are bound to eventually get lost in your thoughts after you have sat there for long enough. so i am cosntantly having hundreds of thoughts going through my head every day that i am processing (never resolving, just processing), things that i have rarely ever really had to think about, if ever. here's the processing thought of the day. matt and stacy, you will understand this i think :)

it is extremely difficult to be a white man in africa (or in any country that is in great need, really...). yes, they can spot a mercy shipper from a hundred yards away (even in the middle of no where in a village, they know us and have heard of us). they know we are here to help, and they are so thankful for what we do for them, their friends, and their country. the problem isnt that they arent thankful for it or dont appreciate it, it is that it has been engrained in them that if they see a white person, they are rich. if they are rich, try to be their friend. if they agree to being your friend, you will not only have another friend, but more importantly you will have a friend who can buy your family food, or pay for a car repair, or pay for your school books, or fund a new building for your church, or the jackpot, marry you and give you the golden ticket to america where life is perfect and obama walks door to door and hands out buckets of money to everyone...which he does. but thats not the point. the point is that this culture revolves around survival. not by choice, but because they have to. knowing a white man = an opportunity for better survival.
for someone who doesnt really know any better, you would come to west africa and be able to make 57 of the best friends you have ever had in a matter of hours. you wouldnt be able to write your email and phone number down fast enough. the problem is that if you answer "yes" to the question, "are you my friend?" they are expecting that you truly mean that, which means you will help them. i wish i could buy them new shoes, and i wish that they werent so hungry, and i wish that they didnt have to work 16 hour days to make 5 bucks, and i wish that they had money to pay for all their kids to school, and i wish they didnt have to live their whole life with parasites because they have no way to get rid of them. i really wish i could help them, but as truly hard as it is to accept, i do not want to do missions so i can rescue every single needy individual from the situations that they are in. i want to do missions so i can give living water to these people so that they will never have to be thirsty again. Peter and John understood this pretty well, like in Acts 3 at the gate called Beautiful. you probably know the story. this crippled man was in great need, begging at this gate near the temple every single day. anyone who had a shred of compassion had probably given him money or food or water at some point, but still at the beginning of every day he had the same problem. Peter and John were able to see past the immediate physical needs...yes they healed him, but after their interaction, that man who was once a crippled beggar, became a man who knew Jesus, and he became a testimony to all who saw him of who Jesus was. it was nothing that they did in their own power. They did not change that man's heart. it was the fact that they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they loved Jesus, and they allowed themselves to simply be available to be used. that was it.

so (continuing with this thought) today some friends and I decided to go to the beach for some relaxation time. it was a great day, beautiful weather, no rain (finally). i got toasted, and i drank a cold coke in a glass bottle. get in my mouth. there was no room in the mercy ships land rover on the way home, and i was feeling a little adventurous, so i decided to make the 2 hour trip back from the village to the ship by myself. i figured if i can hitch hike 900 miles in america in 2 days, i can make it back to the ship by dark. so i started walking, and very quickly got picked up by a man on a moto. "how much to aberdeen?" i asked. "oooh, abadin...." he looks down for a second. "you go 70,000 leones." (about 3 to 4 times what a local would pay, there was no way...). "whaaat? I no JC (just come), i live here! give me fair price." back and forth, back and forth, till he came down to 30,000, which is about 7 dollars for an hour + ride. we talked the entire way to aberdeen. he told me was a christian (before i told him i was from mercy ships), in theology school and is trying to get sponsored to go to seminary in America. i tested the waters a little bit, and asked him how he came to know Jesus.  explained how his father was an Imam, so he grew up Muslim, and his friend invited him to church when he was 19 and he heard a sermon about the great commission (he knew the book, chapter, and verses), and he had never known that Jesus actually died for every single person on earth. not just for christians, but for Muslims and every human that ever lived. it changed his life. but the first words out of his mouth when i asked him what started the change, was simply "love." he said, "my friend loved me. he loved me enough to truly be my friend, and invited me to church. he did not change my heart though- the Holy Spirit is the only one that can do that. if it had not been for my friend's love though, i dont know if i would have ever walked into church and come to know Jesus." i was listening intently at that point, while holding on for dear life to his bike at the same time...

i went on talking with him about how frustrating it is to be a white man really trying to love people here, but it just seems like all they want is my money or to somehow take advantage of me. i wished they thought i was black. he chuckled kindly, like he knew exactly what i was talking about. he was able to explain to me from the perspective of someone who had literally JUST tried to rip me off how many Africans view white people as a ticket out of whatever situation they are in, or atleast a way to make a couple extra bucks. he went on to encourage me with a simple, but such a good to hear message, "james, it is not your responsibility to change the hearts of the sierra leonean people. that is for the Holy Spirit to do. God has called you to love, and that is what you must do." i cant make these people think that i am black, or that i am poor, but i sure as heck can love them. the man's name was joseph, and we prayed for each other at the end of our ride. it was a gift.

it is not your job to change someone's heart.
never, ever underestimate the power or relevancy of the gospel. we were condemned to die, but because of love, Jesus came to our rescue.

oh, and i got back safe and sound :)



  1. James, Just had to let you know that your blog has been such an encouragement to me. Continue to allow the Lord to speak love and truth through you. It's beautiful!

  2. this is my favorite post so far :)

  3. Thanks so much Kayla! I'm so happy to hear that :) thanks for taking the time to read them! Elisa- I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about here...

  4. This was incredible James. Thank you.

  5. I read this through Matt & Stacey Ayers's blog; what a wonderful reminder found in such an odd way.