Jim and I recently spent two weeks cruising the Baltic Sea and seeing things I had only read about before. History becomes very real when you stand in front of a glass case and look at a letter Martin Luther wrote to a church in Estonia, stand on markers that indicate where the Berlin Wall once stood, and travel on train tracks that carried thousands and thousands of Jews to their deaths. We saw original paintings from Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Renoir and visited royal palaces that were gilded with pure gold. Jim and I stood in churches where people had worshiped Jesus in the first century and where people still worship Jesus today. After two weeks of historical information, I was reminded that everything changes except Jesus, who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
We were talking to a man who worked for the cruise line one morning, and he said something I’ve thought about often. We were discussing the amazing things we had seen and all the people we had encountered on the trip when he said, “But here is what you should know. Almost everyone you meet wishes they could go home to America with you.” I believe him. I loved visiting those countries, but I was glad to come home.
It was hard to turn the television back on and watch the Americans who felt the need to protest while other Americans argued with those protesting. I listened to reporters discuss the aftermath caused by everyone who acted stupidly. I saw police lined up to protect people on both sides and wondered about their families, waiting for them to come home. We traveled to a part of the world that has seen and experienced the worst events in human history. It occurred to me that if everyone protesting and shouting exchanged lives with some of the people in Poland, Germany, Norway, or Russia for a year, they might be a little more grateful to wake up in America. I wish our citizens knew what the man who worked for the cruise line understood. We are so blessed to live in this flawed but wonderful country.
America isn’t perfect and never will be. Every country struggles with politics, power, crime, poverty, and racism. The human condition is universal, and sin will always exist on this side of heaven. But in each country we visited there was a common bond. People had always worshiped Jesus on that soil, and people still worship him today. A major difference between the countries we visited and the United States: almost half of all Americans attend church and most call themselves Christians. In most of the countries we visited, that number was less than 10 percent. In Poland, the number was 2 percent. Those beautiful churches we visited were often more of a tourist attraction than an actual place of worship.
We live in a great country led by imperfect people. That has always been true. But God’s blessings are not nearly as dependent on the people sitting in Washington as they are on the people sitting in the pews. God told King Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:13–14).
If we want to “make America great again,” we need to help Americans honor God again. I downloaded and read almost every book readers recommended to me in my last blog post, “Over and Out.” (I’ll discuss those soon!) You are an intelligent and committed group of Christians. It is a privilege to serve God with you. Our country is an important mission field, and God has called us to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8).
I’m rested and ready to get back to work. Everyone we meet today has an eternal life. Let’s make sure they will spend it with Jesus.
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