Dear Marketplace Friend,
Last year, we had a family week in Maui; ten of us, traveling en-masse, enjoying a great break from the routines (complements of Bob-o's frequent flier riches and Marriott points!).
While we were there, we had dinner one night at Roy's. We had a reservation, and they ushered us into a section of the restaurant where they had the "gang tables" arrayed. We sat down - the whole brood - with the Patriarch at the end. There was a "ten-top" next to us, awaiting the arrival of another tribal group. When they landed, the same seating pattern emerged ... and their Patriarch was parked alongside me. I was tempted to hum a little tune, all during dinner: On the road again, can't wait to get out on the road again ...
It was just me, Willy Nelson ... and our respective families, enjoying Roy's Asian Fusion, like two old men holding court ... Boy, I hope I don't look as patriarchal as he does!
No point there, except to say ... I'm "on the road again ..." These weekly missives hail from often-peculiar locales ... but none more peculiar than this one. Here all week, staying at the Somitar Bungalows, right next to the Estadio de Nossa Senhora do Monte - the site of Franklin Graham's Festival of Hope ... in Lubango, Angola. Angola? Who ever dreamed of a trip to Angola?
You really have to love flying to get here. Twenty four hours in a plane seat, from Los Angeles to Windhoek, Namibia on scheduled, commercial flights. There, you connect with two missionary pilots who are flying the DC-3 owned by Samaritan's Purse into Lubango. We had to circle the field to get clearance to land; the antique Soviet MIG fighter jets that are the pride of the Angolan Air Force had the right-of-way, landing just before us. My visa checked-out; passport control waved me and my colleagues in ...
No American stumbles on Angola; fewer yet land in Lubango. Convincing their consulate of a valid reason for an entrance visa is a roll-of-the-dice experience. Our team of 25 are the "skeleton squad" of the normal Crusade contingent who work together to stage these evangelistic opportunities. Angola?
Why Angola? Franklin was last here 21 years ago - during the two decades of civil war - and met Dr. Robert Foster. Son of English-born missionaries, born in Africa, trained as a surgeon ... and called as a missionary to Africa. Bob's son, Stephen, is third-generation; his medical care for this city of 300,000+ makes him a local hero. Yesterday, we attended the dedication of a brand-new mission hospital, built by Samaritan's Purse ... that will be Angola's finest medical facility as its vision is realized over the next decade.
For 20 years, the communist government of Angola - assisted by the Cuban and Russian troops - oppressed the free exercise of religion here. This weekend, thousands of poverty-level locals will be offered the gift of adoption into the family of God, through faith in Jesus Christ and what he did for them 2000 years ago at Calvary. Is that a good deal ... for them?
I just walked back from our Saturday morning Kids Fest, where 6,000 children came to the field to place their trust in Jesus. I stood on the platform and smiled while I cried.
I'm a lot more kid-sensitive, now that I'm a five-time grandpa. I looked at 6000 faces who are just as precious to God as my five are precious to me ... and realized, maybe at a new level, how awesome the offer of heaven really is. How much better is heaven, to you... than home?
Newport Beach has messed me up. "The O.C." - where I go "home" - is too close to Paradise. Folks there debate between five-star dinner options ... and complain if they have to wait on the valet for their car. Here in Lubango, there are no options: for many, there is no food. No car. No job. No home. No hope. They don't know what they don't have ... they're just surviving. Heaven, forever? Where do I sign up?
I'll be back in Paradise in a few days ... but reminded of two things I already knew. First: we (that's you and me!) don't get out of our comfort zone often enough. It's not too late to jump in on a short-term mission trip somewhere before 2005 runs out ... and Second: lots of our American lost friends are enjoying their current conditions ... but headed for an eternal loss. Newport is too close to heaven; Lubango is closer to hell. Everyone needs what those 6000 kids just got: an invitation to heaven, bought by the Savior.