May 31, 2013 Tom Berlin


There is a pattern to life when I am at the Child Rescue Centre that is different from my life at home. I get up early with Eric and Gordon who are helping me identify new muscle groups with their work out routines. We eat breakfast with the rest of our team and then have a time of bible reading and prayer that lasts between 20-30 minutes. This is followed by work, lunch, and more work. We are making concrete pads over drainage channels to improve safety for the children and painting their homes. Then we play with the kids in the late afternoon, have dinner, go to vespers with the children, and then join for our own devotional time together. This time includes the discipline of Christian conversation, which is when people talk about what God is teaching them, and how they are experiencing the day. Such time can be particularly rich when time is not an issue and people have come together with a desire to grow in their faith. The day closes with prayer for sleep. Opportunities for prayer return whenever one is woken in the night by the barking of a dog or the rooster that begins crowing at 3 a.m. and has not been notified this is to be connected with the break of dawn.

As I type this, what I notice is that there is more God in my life in Sierra Leone than there is in Herndon. Humbling thing for a preacher to type, but I am afraid that it is true. What is required for a vital faith is this level of intentional living.  They are called spiritual disciplines, and I have never liked the sound of discipline. Discipline is what the teacher gave out when I forgot homework or talked in class, which is something that happened a lot. It was writing 100 sentences (I will not talk in class. I will not talk in class.) or sitting in the quiet area. But time with God, if it is to be rich, has to include the discipline of making time to read the scripture, pray, have a conversation with a friend, and examine the day to see where the Spirit is guiding you, and what is being said to you. It just takes time. And while there are 101 reasons that such time simply cannot be found in my normal life, but can be found when I am in Africa, they simply don’t hold a candle to the goodness that I experience when such time is taken. So it seems that while I hope our efforts change the lives of the children at the CRC, or the patients at Mercy Hospital, I am equally hopeful that another life that may be changed by the insights gained here will be my own.

Tom Berlin

Rev. Tom Berlin is the Lead Pastor of Floris United Methodist Church. Tom was raised in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and has lived in Virginia most of his life. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech and his Master of Divinity is from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He has co-authored three books and is the author of several small group studies. Tom and his wife Karen have four daughters.

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