Trip puts God's blessings into perspective

November 10, 2012 

I missed his name. He was a Californian, heading home after a business trip to Ghana. I met him Oct. 27 at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria, as we waited to board our overnight flight back to Houston.

He commented on my clerical collar. He struck me as talkative. Still, I noted his words.

When he found out I had just been in Nigeria for three weeks -- my first trip overseas -- he smiled. "When you get back to the U.S., bend down and kiss the ground."

I didn't do so, but whata gift from God it was to be back with my family.

My October visit torural Nigeria was fabu-lous, too. I went mainly to get to know and teach a dozen Lutheran seminary students in Akwa Ibom State.

What did I learn there, besides what a wonderful country we are privileged to live in?

n "Don't take God's blessings for granted."

In the Bible, David sings, "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits" (Psalm 103:2). David means especially God's forgiveness, the way by his Son's death in our place God has put our rebellious deeds as far away from us as, say, Nigeria is from Florida.

All blessings meanmore to us when we lose them. I've been back for a couple weeks, but it still surprises me that every time I plug in something to an electrical outlet, it works.

Many days in the Nigeria bush, my teaching partner and I had no electrical power, except for a diesel generator for two hours at night.

When lights went out, we would play a game of cribbage by candlelight.

n "Two are more than twice as good as one."

Joel, the pastor I traveled with to Nigeria, had been there before. I had not,nor did I know Joel except for some phone and email exchanges. We met for the first time in an airport in Houston.

What a friend he turned out to be -- funny, wise. It didn't matter that he snored. The Bible is right, as always: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).

n "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

I would love to show you the video I took of Nigerian Christians dancing their offerings up to the altar, accompanied by a boisterous band.

One offering I saw ook 45 minutes. The"conga line," to put it in American terms, was so long.

You should have seen the looks on the faces of the students at the farewell party when Joel and I gave each a shirt and three neckties.

You should have seen how eager those students were to dig into God's Word -- in a crowded classroom with no air conditioning, just a chalkboard.

I went to encourage others in their faith, but Michael, Eyo, Sylvester, Happiness (that's his real name) and all the rest so encouraged me.

The Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 941-747-5564. For more information, visit Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members.

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