Somewhere along the way there was a misunderstanding about this morning.
As we walked along the dirt path towards the large canvas tent ahead, I was hoping that this misunderstanding wouldn’t create a problem for our hosts.
Our little band of brothers and sisters were walking together towards the gathering place of Hope of Glory Church, located in one of the sprawling slum areas of Durban, South Africa. Four pastors of some of Canada’s most significant churches, along with our World Vision hosts and a couple of us from The Leadership Centre Willow Creek Canada, were all moving towards this Sunday morning worship service with a high sense of anticipation.
But I worried about the misunderstanding.
You see, usually when pastors from North American churches visit a church in a third world setting like this there is an expectation that the visitor will preach. In this case, however, despite the considerable ‘pulpit power’ represented in our group, none of us were either prepared nor desiring to preach. We were genuinely looking forward to hearing the Word of God taught to us by our host pastor, S. D. Chili.
However, she, in turn, had expected that one of us would be preaching. Now that this misunderstanding had been ironed out Pastor Chili had busied herself preparing a message, later telling us that she felt great pressure preaching in front of these distinguished Canadian pastors.
She needn’t have worried.
For as we settled ourselves into our chairs and entered into heartfelt worship with this congregation of about 150 people, I had a clear sense that God was about to do something profound through this humble but powerful woman.
And that He did.
Pastor Chili chose as her text Romans 8: 18-19,
18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
Could any of us from Canada have preached from this text? Certainly. And each of us likely has.
But what God communicated through Pastor Chili not only connected powerfully with these desperately poor people from these slums, but also challenged and encouraged each of us from Canada.
She taught us the difference between merely ‘waiting’ and ‘expecting’. When one merely ‘waits’, she explained, we tend to just mope through whatever life hands to us. But when we wait in expectation that God intends to meet us in each and every situation it completely changes our outlook.
This was a powerful truth, delivered with a conviction I doubt any of us from Canada could have quite matched.
She went on to describe a funeral she had recently conducted, in which they had buried the 7th of 8 family members. The surviving family member, though obviously in great mourning, said at the funeral that her hope was still in the Lord.
That’s waiting with expectation.
As the service ended and we filed out of the tent, I couldn’t help but think how glad I was that none of us from Canada had been called upon to preach that morning. Each of us were incredibly blessed to have sat at the feet of this woman’s teaching.
And I know that as our itinerary now takes us out to the rural areas where World Vision is at work, I trust that God will help me to further remember and apply that I am not only ‘wait’, but to ‘wait with expectation’.