Traveling under the spacious acacia trees of Africa in 2008, I had the privilege of meeting Rev. David and Eunice Simonson, Lutheran missionaries for over 50 years in Tanzania. Simonson took his young family over to Tanzania in the mid 1950s on a mission to share the love of Christ with the Maasai people. The Maasai are a tribe in Africa most known for their ritual of drinking the blood of the cow. Yet, I learned that they are also monotheistic and, according to Simonson and others, they have roots that go back to God’s people in the Old Testament.

So how did God bring the Messiah to the Maasai? He killed the lion seeking to devour them (literally). Having been terrorized by a man-eating lion, the Maasai turned to the young missionary with a shotgun. Simonson went out that night and shot the lion and sealed his place in Maasai legend and in the community forever. In addition to building many relationships with these people, Simonson built over 300 churches, 100 schools, and a hospital with many satellite clinics. In one weekend, Simonson and others baptized over 4,000 Maasai. The rest of Rev. Simonson’s story is chronicled in the book, The Cross under the Acacia Tree, written by Jim Klobuchar.

Churches, schools, and healthcare: the infrastructure of mission. Historically it was the means by which the LCMS reached so many lost people in our country with the hope of Christ. It was interesting to see a similar mission strategy at work in Tanzania, changing lives with the compassion of Christ. The thing that struck me most about the Simonsons’ story and all my experiences meeting with church leaders throughout Tanzania was the incarnational aspect of missions. When you get down to it, someone has to go live with the people in the mission field. By faith someone has to go into the community and touch the people in an intimate and prolonged way with the compassion of Christ.

Don’t ever forget the importance of incarnational ministry. You may never have the opportunity to travel to Africa, but God has put you in a community, family, workplace and/or school, so that you can touch the people around you with the hope and compassion of Christ. Be a part of the lives of your children and neighbors, for it was Christ who fulfilled the ultimate mission trip through his incarnation. In Him we celebrate the truth that our God came to dwell in the flesh with us to free us from the fear of the devil (that lion seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8)). And through his suffering and death he brought us life under his tree forever.

Have a great day in the Lord!