Hello everyone! I am officially back from a 6 week adventure with CTI Music Ministries and I’m crazy excited to share with you some reflections from my time there. Our group of 9 musicians spent almost 4 weeks in the country of Zimbabwe sharing our love of God with people of all ages and backgrounds. The experience was one of the greatest of my life and I felt God present in me in a way I never have before. I met a plethora of incredible people who have inspired my faith and my call to ministry.
I shared parts of this story at our final concert in Wilmar, MN and continue to be blessed by it. I hope it blesses you as well.
My first reflection is about my new friend Luke. Luke is a teenager at a boarding school in Zimbabwe and has lived a life of struggle. Three years ago, Luke started having strange medical problems and after seeing over 20 doctors was diagnosed with a very rare brain tumor. He underwent three rounds of chemotherapy and was declared cancer free. Shortly after, he had a stroke and was in a coma for 3 weeks. When he came out of his coma, he had a long recovery which involved re-learning to walk and talk.
Luke is a little guy with a big smile. Our concert at his school was one of my favorites of the entire trip. We played in this small, well-worn chapel that was one of those places you can just feel the spirit beaming through the beautiful stain glass and reflecting off the dusty hymnals.
As soon as we started playing, they turned off the lights and suddenly we were surrounded by a soft blue light and a couple hundred middle and high school boys who were ready to worship. They screamed (in a manly way), they chanted, “hey, hooo, hey, hooo” (when it was at least mildly fitting in the song) and sang along in the lowest part of their voice (to further emit their testosterone). They even worshiped in our slow songs.
Immediately following our set, Luke came up and asked if I would listen to his story. We sat together huddled on an oak pew as he shared more and more about the trials of his life. When he finished, I put my arm around him and prayed for him (with everything I had).
Luke asked when I was done, “is it good what I’ve been through? Is it good?” I froze. He repeated, “Is it a good thing, Sam?” I had no idea what to say. How could all of that pain be good? I walked him back to his dorm and with a heavy heart, said goodbye to my new buddy. We would be back at that same school for another night of worship in four days and I was determined to have an answer to his question.
Throughout the next few days I was haunted by Luke’s question. Is it good? Are the struggles of our lives, both big and small, a good thing? After some journaling I started to think about the struggles our team had gone through. We had a delayed flight that left us sprinting across the D.C. terminal. Our van broke down on the way to Bulawayo and delayed our arrival to the Youth For Christ center missing an event they had planned for us. After arriving, 20 minutes before our first concert our power transformer popped and became an unintended fog machine, leaving us with no way to play our show. (We did play that concert, thanks be to God). In addition, a team member’s luggage was lost for nearly a week, a YFC volunteer had her bag stolen, another volunteer ended up in the hospital, and yet another lost her father.
Seriously God, what am I going to tell this boy? Were his immense struggles really a good thing?
God, like He does, showed himself to me through Romans 8:28:
And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
I had my answer for Luke. It is not that brain tumors, broken vans, illnesses, losing a job, losing a loved one, or any of pain of this life is good. But the beautiful part is that God asks us to trust him to use ALL things for good.
Nowhere in the bible does God promise an easy, pain-free life. In fact, he often warns about the trials and tribulations we will face. God is not an evil puppet master in the sky, meticulously planning cancer or car accidents. He doesn’t want us to feel an ounce of pain just as a parent never wants to see their child get a scrape or bruise.
Yet, God knows that pain and struggle is just a part of the game and through that pain we yearn for our life to come, our eternal life with Him. So when earthly challenges arise (big and small), we have two choices: we can respond in an earthly manner with complaint and frustration, or we can respond in a Christ-like way with prayer, praise, and thankfulness for the blessings we do have.
In times of struggle, I hope you think of my friend Luke who is still praising God and asking strangers to listen to the amazing things God has done in him. He is still reaching out, asking for prayer and looking for ways to use his pain to encourage others who might face the same struggles.
So I leave you with one of my favorite verses Psalm 46 that says:
Be still and know that I am God.
Trusting God is an immense challenge, but once you allow yourself to fall into his arms, to trust that he can bring you through anything you are facing, there is a peace and healing that words can’t describe. It’s not that pain is good, but a God who loves you completely will use that pain for his glory. Keep praying and praising him because through everything, he has your back bro.
It’s a long walk through this world, but stand tall, you’re one day closer to being home.
Stay tuned for more reflections on my ministry. Consider subscribing on the right to receive emails whenever I update. And, as always, my offer for a cup of coffee is always open if you want to talk about anything -faith, struggles, my trip, platypuses, etc. God bless.
Found in my Music Playlist, “In Christ Alone – Worship”.