Director of Development Matt Brock recently visited Africa with International Director Bob Sartoris. This was Matt’s first trip to Africa. He visited Nairobi, Eldoret, and Pokot, Kenya and Mbale, Uganda. Matt will share his trip reflections in a four-part blog series. Watch for the next articles coming soon (The Gathering Place, Food for the Soul, and Dressed for Success).
Matt Brock, GNPI Director of Development
I take for granted the fact that I have a reliable car. If I want to go somewhere, I get in, turn the key, and go. I don’t have to worry about the reliability of my vehicle. It’s not new, but it’s newer. I never worry about putting gas in my car; I just fill up the tank when it’s running low. Most of the roads I travel, even in their worst condition, are fairly navigable.
These are the hazards of living in our affluent society where even the poorest among us have more than those considered wealthy elsewhere.
This reality came to life for me as I traveled the roads of Africa. For the first time I saw, with my own eyes, what traveling conditions were like for the people who live there. I’d never thought about the roads in Africa before. What I observed was new and shocking. However, what I witnessed, with the eyes of my heart, was encouraging and inspiring.
One of the first things I noticed as we set out in Nairobi was everywhere we went there were people on the road. It was the same in rural areas. In the United States, it’s unusual to see anyone walking on the side of the road during my drive from Carthage, Missouri, to the GNPI office in Joplin. However, the streets were packed all the time in Nairobi.. Not only were people on foot, but there were hundreds of bicycles, scooters, public transportation (Matatous), and people riding rides on the back of trucks. Even between the cities and in rural areas, people were on the road walking, biking, riding, or catching rides.
In fact, it was common to see four or five people riding on one bicycle. Protus Sibukule, one of our NOMaD team members, told me that up to 30 people can sometimes ride in a Matatou, which is the size of a 12 passenger van. He said, after taking such a journey with of all of the people sitting on you in the van, sometimes you have to wait about five minutes after exiting to regain the feeling in your legs!
The roads looked like they had been been cut out initially, surfaced (in the urban areas), and then never touched again. In many cases, it seemed our vehicle might not make it out of the pothole where we had just landed. As we were headed to the very remote region of Pokot, it took us about six hours to travel the sixty miles we had to cover. I was glad I took some ibuprofen before we began that leg of our trip. I’ve never been jostled around so much.
Besides being thankful for the privilege of having my own vehicle that I can fill up whenever I want and roads that are great for traveling from one place to the next, something else dawned on me. All of the people I saw on the sides of the roads and using the highways in Africa are going somewhere. There’s someplace they’re trying to reach. Whether or not they realize it, they’re heading someplace spiritually too.
Our amazing God keeps track of each one of us on those journeys. Regardless of whether we are saved or not. He knows who we are and where we are. That’s both comforting and awe-inspiring. God in His vastness can keep track of more than seven and a half billion people. He’s also using the roads we’re traveling in this life to provide each one of us with evidence of His existence and to encourage us to reach out and find Him. I love what the Bible says in Acts 17:24-27 as Paul is speaking to the men of Athens:
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us …”
I don’t know where all of those people were going, but most of them were working a lot harder to get there than I usually do. I can’t know their spiritual journeys either. Though we’re working at GNPI to influence the lives of millions of people in Kenya, Uganda, Africa, and the world, I’ll never know even a small fraction of them until we meet in Heaven. Yet, God knows them all. He knows where they’re going. He knows just what they need to find Him, and He’ll offer it without exception.
I read something once that has always stuck with me, and I think it’s relevant to what I learned while traveling the roads of Africa. Not all roads lead to God, but God will travel any road to find us.