Alfred Kamara suffered a massive heart attack in the middle of the night. Without warning and within moments, he had gone from life to death. Over the next few days I sat and spoke with his African community about funeral arrangements, care for his widowed wife, and the Gospel. The last conversation I had with him was regarding membership at our church and his understanding of the Gospel.
Thousands of people attempt to make their way to Italy against impossible odds. Physical danger and eternal paperwork and changing politics threaten the hopes of these people at every step. Understand that the African community is largely unwelcome in Italy, and therefore Africans regularly hold the most menial of jobs when there is work offered. Their rights rarely concern government officials or employers. Whether as refugees or visa holders, their living conditions are often the poorest possible. Kamara had arrived from Sierra Leone to Italy 20 years ago, he had a job, was recently married and truly loved those around him. I’ve heard countless stories of his kindness from both the African and Italian community.
“I thank God”.
This is the response I get from every believing African to whom I ask, “How are you?” Cultural or intentional, I don’t know, but as a believer, it should be our answer, no matter what circumstances we are facing. Romans 1:21 explains that the wrath of God is revealed against mankind because they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs believers to give thanks in all circumstances. This is the posture of the believer who acknowledges that God has done all that is necessary for our eternal salvation through Christ Jesus. The work that affords us eternal life is accomplished. Gratitude must be given, not as penance, but as genuine rejoicing in the undeserved benefit of a personal relationship with life’s Maker. With this lens, everything else that God has richly provided us can be seen as the additional grace that it is.
The Gospel spreads through the most unlikely of people. God chose to display his glory through the foolish, the weak, the low and despised (1 Cor. 1:27-28) who hear the Gospel and believe. Much of the groundwork of Gospel spreading in church history comes through the common man telling his neighbors, family and community about hope in Jesus while they display a changed life to the world around them
The wealthy in this life are warned of the temptations to which they unwittingly succumb (1 Tim. 6:6-10). The poor are tempted to despair in their lack, lest they know the incalculable price paid for their eternity. Timothy is to charge the wealthy to hope in God, not money; to do good, be generous and plan for life after this one (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Oddly enough, this charge is often better lived out by those who have little to nothing than by those who have much. Case in point: an estimated 150 people attended the meeting to discuss arrangements for Alfred’s funeral and offer their assistance. Within a few hours, the money was put forth by those in attendance to more than cover the funeral price of 2,500 euros.
I thank God for the opportunity to build relationships within the African communities. I thank God that I have been given the opportunity to preach the Gospel to a crowd that will include many Muslims. I thank God that he has provided all that we need for life in Italy and godliness among the unsaved. I thank God for the many who give sacrificially to the work of the Gospel among international communities here in Italy.
Alfred Kamara did not have much according to worldly standards. But, he had the one thing that mattered, life in Christ. His life and death is a testimony to the community as one who took hold of that which is truly life (1 Tim. 6:19).
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