Matt Mason is the new Worship Pastor at The Church at Brook Hills. Last month, as part of his initiation on staff, he had the opportunity to travel with our Senior Pastor, David Platt and Global Pastor, Jonathan B. to visit partners in North Africa. In fact, this was his first trip to Africa. We asked him to let us in on his thoughts about the trip and here is what he had to say.
It took almost 30 years of waiting for it, but now I can officially say that I’ve been to Africa. My dad went on a missions trip to Kenya when I was 12. He came back with a Kenyan shirt which I wore until it was embarrassingly snug. I’ve been fascinated by Africa since I was really young – watching probably hundreds of documentaries about the land, the people, the wildlife over the years.
As a matter of fact, I took some flack for letting my travelmates know that I had a pack of collector’s cards that I took with me everywhere for about a year of my adolescent life. They weren’t baseball cards. They had pictures of African wildlife – mostly predators, and they had stats (weight, speed, danger level 1-10). I had every one of those stats memorized as a boy, and at various times on the trip, as I saw certain things, out would come a name and a stat, usually attended with a significant degree of excitement. These outbursts of wonder and enthusiasm on my part were usually followed by a battery of witty/derogatory comments from the other fellows, which I endured with biblical patience and grace. For the most part.
Actually the friendship-cultivating, memory-making side of the trip was incredibly enjoyable. Sleep deprivation and other kinds of challenges (spiders, mice, rogue mosquitoes that some – ok, I – thought were seeking to inject me with malaria) made us much more vulnerable and open. This made for both fun times as well as afforded opportunities to talk about family and personal experiences, biblical doctrine, evangelical subculture, and a host of other things. I left feeling that I know these men better and feeling grateful to get to serve with them.
Those are things I expected would happen. They were great aspects of my time in Africa, but then there were things I couldn’t have anticipated.
I had no idea how much I would enjoy the people we got to meet and spend time with. It was a joy to meet some of our Church Planters and the people serving with them. We gathered some mission workers from the broader region and worshiped God together in song. David encouraged them from the word. We heard so many stories of how God is at work in North Africa.
To sum up, I’d say the three things that affected me the most were:
- Getting in the van and driving through a large city in North Africa while praying together. Each person in turn prayed for aspects of gospel advancement. Doing this knowing that some of the people groups in that area had very little exposure to the gospel gave a kind of urgency to our prayers that couldn’t have been contrived.
- A conversation I had with one of the missionaries over there. He had such joy and confidence in the power of the gospel. He talked about a few of the challenges, but the over-riding theme was this phrase he used in passing, “but we’re very confident in God.” Taken in context that phrase pushed me to the verge of tears.
- The children and the staff of Vapor Sports. We ate in their one-room homes, in the slums of Nairobi. They fed us the meal that they would eat on Christmas Day. We sat and heard their testimonies of how God found them and brought them to Himself. We worshiped together. The Kenyans lined up and started dancing. And rhythmically challenged though some of us were (not to throw David under the bus), we all joined in as well. The children wanted to hold hands. I felt such joy having them on both knees and getting to hold many hands. God is using Vapor’s ministry in truly beautiful ways.
I hope one day to go back and bring my family to meet our many new African friends. Along with my newfound missionary friend, I’m “very confident” that the gospel is going to advance more deeply and pervasively into North Africa and beyond for the glory of God.