Alex McFarland: Peanut Butter and a Bible—Two International Trips That Defined Thankfulness Forever
GREENSBORO, N.C.—Religion and culture expert, author and national radio host Dr. Alex McFarland has preached in all 50 states and traveled around the world to evangelism conferences, special events and more.
These trips are not simply stamps in his passport, but rather, chances to see how much we have to be thankful for here in America.
“On my many travels, I been awakened to the fact that Americans enjoy amenities that people from other countries would faint over—hot water on demand, the ability to maintain personal hygiene, smartphones, paved roads, grocery stores with full shelves, hospitals and a mind-boggling choice of Bibles that we can have delivered to our houses for free,” McFarland said. “We are blessed to be a nation of over 300,000 churches, and we still enjoy the ability to freely broadcast Christian content via the airwaves and online. We know peace that many do not. America was founded on Christian principles. While perhaps not perfect, in our country, problems may be addressed with peaceful elections while violent revolutions and unrest in the streets of many countries are commonplace.”
For example, McFarland remembers a trip to Amsterdam in 2000, when he attended an enormous pastors’ conference hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. A warehouse had been turned into a hostel of sorts for some 10,000 evangelists and Christian workers from more than 100 nations around the world. Just as McFarland was beginning to turn up his nose at the smelly, foul water the pastors were expected to wash in, others were rejoicing for simply having water to splash on their faces and rinse their hands.
Not far away, while McFarland was wondering why he didn’t check into a hotel for a hot shower and decent meal, another man was thanking Jesus for the “bounty” of a meager piece of bread and block of cheese that had been laid on his wafer-thin cot mattress.
“I reflected on the surreal experience of seeing one humble servant shed tears of gratitude for bread, cheese, water and a cot—living arrangements that were ‘unacceptable’ to me,” McFarland remembered. “A conference organizer had told me that for many of these brothers, the accommodations would be some of the best they experienced in their entire lives.”
While packing for another trip several years ago to Zambia, Africa, McFarland made sure to include a three-pound jar of peanut butter—his favorite food. Then, he hurriedly added to his bag his Scofield study Bible to help with the preaching and teaching he would be doing on the three-week trip.
In the first village his group visited, McFarland met a pastor, church planter and farmer named Abel Tembo.
“Abel’s impact for the Lord was amazing,” McFarland said. “He was so full of joy and yet lived in conditions that no American would tolerate. I wanted to honor this tireless ambassador for Christ, and I asked how I might pray for him. My selfish heart sank as Abel said that he was saving up his money to go to town and purchase a treat he loved but could only experience about every other year—his own jar of peanut butter. I’m ashamed to say that there was a momentary struggle in my heart! But when I gave my jar to Abel he fell to his knees weeping, crying tears of thanks over a jar of peanut butter.”
Later in the trip, McFarland’s group was helping a fledgling church make bricks for a sanctuary. This village, too, was led by a selfless, joyful and hardworking Zambian pastor.
“It was an honor to work alongside the amazing African believers, so I asked this pastor, ‘How may I specifically be praying for you?’” McFarland recalled. “His answer surprised me, though it shouldn’t have: ‘Brother Alex,’ he said, ‘If I could ask the Lord for something, it would be for a Scofield study Bible.’ We were 100 miles from Zambia, literally in the middle of nowhere. How he had ever heard of the Scofield edition, I’ll never know. I knew what I had to do. The man sobbed as I handed him the Bible I had randomly selected while packing. Holding it up to heaven, he cried out, ‘Thank you God, thank you! You heard my prayer!’
“This Thanksgiving, I hope we are all reminded that we have it so good in America,” McFarland added. “We are so abundantly blessed. May we remember to be sincerely and consistently grateful to our Lord, and let’s not forget that with blessing comes responsibility.”
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