THE SIREN SONG OF AFRICA
By Jim MacLellan, Elysa's husband
I love to read stories of adventurers. Several times I had read stories by adventurers and hunters who went to Africa and wrote that something about it kept drawing them back again and again. That stuck in my mind, how can a place that was more wild, harsh, uncomfortable and downright dangerous than where they came from (generally Europe or America) so grab a hold of a person that they had to go back again and again, or even leave the familiar and comfortable behind for good and live there? Until now, however, it stuck in my mind in a poetical sort of fashion, like a good song, or a picture, or a catchy phrase, not real but part of a greater myth. Now I get it in a real way because, you see, it happened to me. I have been to Africa and now I hear a siren's song that calls to me across the ocean.
Huh?!? Weren't sirens part of mythology who sang such compelling songs (ok, bewitching) that lured men to certain death? Doesn't the term, "siren song" refer to an appeal that is hard to resist but that, if heeded, will lead to a bad end? So why am I, as a Christian, using an obvious reference to pagan myths? Because that is what happened to me in Africa. I began to hear a song in my heart that bids me to come and die ... to myself.
Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a German pastor who was martyred for his faith by the Nazis) once said, "When Jesus bids a man come, He bids him come and die." Our Lord Jesus said that if any man would come after him, he must first take up his cross and then follow. The cross, an instrument of torture and death. In John 12:24, Jesus said that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and DIES (emphasis mine), it remains a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds. Now, that admonition from Scripture is universal, we're to practice dying to ourselves and to our sin nature wherever we may be, and I had been trying to live this out, but Africa really brought it out in me. When you see children picking thorns out of their feet while playing soccer, or mothers going down to a river that has run dry and digging until they find water, or people that, it would seem to us Westerners, have nothing to hope for, yet they still find joy in life, then you can't help but die more and more to your own little world. I want my life to be poured out like a drink offering (as Paul said).
So I challenge you, and I especially challenge young Christian men (because I saw many Christian women, but not many Christian men over there), to come and see. Listen to the siren song of Africa --- or Haiti or Thailand or Mexico or anywhere else in the world --- and let it work in your heart. Let the song lure you to come and die ... to yourself, and then, in the process, find more abundant life than you ever imagined.