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The trip that started it all

February 1, 2013

By Mark Cutliffe

It was 1996 and as a fresh faced 20 year old I had the opportunity to go to Kenya on a sort of reconnaissance trip in an attempt to try and find something of God’s plan for both myself and my wife to be. A friend was going through the process of starting up a charity that would work with street children and the question for me at that time was, ‘Am I supposed to work with this charity, or am I supposed to be a missionary in Africa?’

During just a few weeks in Kenya I met some fantastic people, people who were generous even though they had very little. One young man opened his home for me to stay with him for a few days, and gave up his bed for me to sleep on. Another couple I stayed with actually went out and bought a new mattress when I stayed with them. One church gave me a bottle of cola that cost the equivalent of a week’s wages for some people. I saw buildings filled with thousands of people praying, fell asleep at ‘All night prayer meetings’, and had an amazing yet tough time with some level of culture shock. A cup of coffee with a couple of local youth workers was to blame for having the most impact on me however. We went out to a shopping centre which sold everything you could ask for including having a very smart coffee house. We put in our order and when our coffees arrived, prayed together and began to drink. It was at that moment, through the aroma and steam from the coffee that I looked up and through a window I could see that just outside the coffee house was a dual carriage way. The other side of that road was a slum area, a place where everyone that lives there has to scratch around for some sort of a livelihood. Open sewage running through the spaces between the tin roofed living areas. Kids were playing barefooted in the middle of it all. How could I sit there and drink my ‘Pukka cuppa’, with that staring me in the face. This just wasn’t fair, my coffee went cold.

Something happened in the core of my being that day.

I never wanted to see that place again, and that feeling lasted a long time. It hurt too much. It also took a long time to process the whole experience.  I arrived back in the UK and wanted to put it all behind me but I was unsettled. I was pretty sure that Africa didn’t need me as a missionary, actually the western world could learn a lot from the Christians out there and over time began to sense that maybe both my wife to be and I could be some sort of missionaries to this country. But there was still something that niggled me. That coffee plagued my conscience, could there be a connection between me drinking coffee and others living in filth? I recently found out that even the ground that slum was on, was made up of waste and rubbish.

So, mission to the UK, but what is mission supposed to be? Who is it towards and how does it work? Those were just a few of the big questions that needed answering and I don’t intend to try to answer all of those. But I found a verse that has really characterized what mission could look like, or at least what my family and I have been guided by for some time. In Luke 10:4 whilst preparing his disciples to head out to the various villages before him, Jesus says, ‘Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.’ Whilst conducting some research on this verse I found out that some of the old Celtic missionaries had taken this verse and done just as it said, they took nothing with them, headed out and introduced people to Jesus wherever they could. I found that extremely challenging. The essence of this verse however, especially where it says ‘do not greet anyone’, focuses on the old rituals involved with meeting and greeting someone that could be long and draw out, with, hugs, kisses, even lying out prostrate on the floor, really means to not get distracted from the call, to rely on God and keep focus. Translating that to our own life meant learning to living simply, uncluttered lives, or living lightly unhampered by too much stuff. Our Aim has been to keep our lives as free as possible from anything that would enslave us or distract and prevent us from being ready and able to do, or go, where ever, whenever God said the word. It remains a challenge. We are still learning.

 

 

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