FENTON, MI – As many of you know, Sabrina and I have had the joy and privilege of engaging in missions around the world. These ministry opportunities have led us to countries and cultures that are quite different from those to which we are accustomed. Many of these afforded us lifetime experiences that will forever be embedded in our memories and souls.
On several occasions we have ministered in the African country of Kenya and had the privilege to work in various cities, towns and in the open bush country. The sights, sound and smells of the island city of Mombasa are still as fresh and present in my mind today as when we visited there some years ago. There are so many experiences that I would like to share with you, but space and time will not allow it. However, one such experience that I must share concerns our means of transportation while in Mombasa.
On this particular mission trip, 27 members comprised the group that we led in Kenya. They were from Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and of course, Florida. Our work schedule was such that we had to leave our accommodations at 6 am every morning in order to be at various witnessing points to encounter people as they walked to work. These points were spread over a large area of the city, so in order to get there, we hired several Matatus for our two-week stay in Mombasa.
A Matatu is a small passenger van that is made to accommodate 12 people. Most of these were built by Japanese companies for export, and are small in comparison to passenger vans in the United States. The name Matatu means "three more." They get that designation because the driver’s attitude is that there is always room for three more passengers. On several occasions, I saw at least 25 people packed into one of these vehicles. To say the least, personal space has no meaning in Kenya. I also have a new understanding of the term "stink bug." It was not unusual to see the side door open and someone hanging out.
Another matter that I might mention about the Matatu is that the drivers have no concept of speed, that is except one--as fast as it will go! My prayer life is on a new level after having ridden in one of these. On many occasions there was the distinct possibility that I was going to meet Jesus face to face much sooner than I had planned. But with all their faults and limitations, they did serve their intended purpose to get one to the desired destination.
It is my opinion that the family of God, as a whole, and the Baptist State Convention, in particular, have many similarities to the Matatu. Sometimes this family we call the BSCM is not as comfortable as we might like it to be and, in some instances, it sends forth a fragrance that is not so pleasing. (Our gatherings have been known to “stir up a stink”) We have also been known for venturing over into one another’s personal space. Of course, that brings about reactions as times that are less than appropriate. It has been my observation that in some situations I have felt like we were going too fast or too slow and careening down the road, totally out of control. This too has heightened my prayer life. Yet, I would not trade these experiences for anything.
As messy and as uncomfortable our “Ministry Matatu” may be, there is one fact that will always be true, and that is "there is always room for three more." With all our faults and problems God’s Word tells us that, "Whosoever will may come." The old hymn says, "There is always room at the cross for you". The family of God may not be all that it should be but there is one thing for sure, it will arrive at its appointed destination. In just a few short weeks, we will gather together as a convention body to share our hopes, dreams, visions and to hear about the great things God has done in and through us over the past twelve months.
Won't you join us? There's still room for you and two more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.