Some months ago, missionaries Bryan and Dana Bullington invited me to help lead a conference for church leaders in Windhoek, Namibia. He titled the conference This City Matters. Bryan didn’t have to ask me twice. I was all in. My assignment was to develop the biblical/theological basis for God’s love for cities and the urgency for cross-cultural missions. Other conference leaders focused on matters theological and practical that impact life in the city: the gospel, technology, demonization, fatherlessness, and sex-saturation. The conference began on Thursday evening and we didn’t say the amen over it until Sunday evening.
Here are some of my takeaways from the experience:
Most people don’t know where Namibia is. I wasn’t sure myself. As I was preparing for the trip, several people told me that were praying for me and my trip to Nambia (no doubt confusing Namibia with nearby Zambia). Namibia was once called Soutwest Africa. It is tucked into the southwest corner of Africa bordering South Africa on the east and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. It is high desert—Windhoek is slightly higher in elevation than Denver. And the country has a strong German and English heritage.
Some of the locals fondly refer to Namibia as Africa-lite. I’ve been four times to West Africa with its desert conditions, extreme temperatures, difficult roads, and Muslim culture. The people are wonderful and hospitable but the conditions are challenging. Not so in Namibia. It felt more like Europe than Africa. The city of Windhoek, anyway, is highly developed. You can even drink the water.
I didn’t need a translator. This is very rare for a foreign mission trip. The citizens all speak English. Heck, some of them speak it better than I do. English and Afrikans are the local languages. Most are fluent in both. In terms of preparation that meant that I got to prepare twice as much as usual when I preach or teach on a foreign field. That felt a little weird, but it was nice and I think increased communication between conference participants and myself.
I served among a company of heroes. I was the only pastor among the conference leaders. The other leaders are current missionaries. One of the leaders is a retired missionary—he and his wife have long been my missionary heroes. These are people who have completely sold out to Jesus Christ. They have been willing to go wherever He leads them. They all live half a world away from most of their family. They serve in challenging settings. They have a big vision, broad experience, a vital faith, a rich sense of humor, and a burning desire to see people from every nation, tribe, and tongue come to know Jesus. And every day of their lives is given to that end. I learned so much from each one of them. I wasn’t worthy of the company I was keeping.
The city matters. That was the theme of the conference, and it couldn’t be more on target. Currently 81% of the population of the USA and Canada live in cities. And by 2050 75% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Paul took the gospel to cities. God loves cities. Reach the cities, reach the world.
For a first try the conference was a success. Over 120 registered. Most were from Windhoek. Four came from neighboring Botswana. This kind of thing had never been tried before, so who knew how it might go. Bryan and the New Song Family Church who organized and staffed it were pleased. I can’t say enough about the quality of volunteers who put the conference together and made it happen. They enlisted the help of musicians from other Windhoek churches and utilized a speaker from the local Campus Crusade for Christ. It was a team effort and God blessed.
It’s time for Namibia to become a sending nation. More than one local person told me that like most of Africa Namibia has been a receiving nation when it comes to missions. Missionaries come to Namibia. But it’s time for Namibia to send missionaries deeper into their own city and local people groups. It’s time for the church in Namibia to send missionaries into other places in the outlying regions of their own country and other countries in Africa that need the gospel. It’s time for this to happen. I get a big smile on my face just thinking of the impact this could have on the kingdom of God, not to mention the Christians and churches of Namibia.
Oh, and on a lighter note, two last takeaways. First, I got to spend a few hours on a game safari in which I saw lions and giraffes and cheetahs and kudu and hembock and springbok and wildebeest and elephants and hippos and crocs. To see them from a Range Rover in their natural habitat was pretty cool. Second, on the flight over and the flight back I destroyed the competition in the In-Flight Trivia game. Why my feeble little mind retains essentially unimportant information is beyond me. But it’s always nice to be a winner.
And here’s the larger truth: anyone who takes a missional step is a winner. Anyone who prays and gives and goes and shares and seeks first the kingdom of God above all things is a first-rate winner. Thanks for praying for me, the conference, and the leaders. God answered many of your prayers and, I believe, will continue to answer them in the days and months to come.