Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I’ve spent the better part of my adult life living in the USA even though I was not born here. It’s been, to say the least, a sometimes arduous yet incredibly rewarding journey. Having spent the last sixteen years of my life here, I still have people ask me where my accent is from. At this point I am quick to point out that I speak English the way it was designed to be spoken (I spent my early childhood years in London and so I speak with somewhat of a British affectation), and so I am not the one with the accent but they are. I relate this to you simply because I am learning that aliens stick out in a crowd. Apparently, no matter how I dress or attempt to blend into the crowd, there is something about the way I sound that always gives me away.

I am learning that this can at once be a benefit or a hindrance. I make my living as a speaker (pastoring a church) and so it certainly helps when my congregation thinks that my “accent” makes my sermons more interesting and easier to follow (I sure hope they enjoy the sermons for more reasons than the accent). However, on a trip across the border to Mexico, I learned that my accent does not necessarily make it easier for me to get back into the USA through customs and immigration. I had gone to speak at a church in South Texas (close to the Mexican border) and they had asked if I would be willing to do a TV recording for an international audience. I readily agreed, only to find out that the recording would be done in Mexico. After bribing me with the promise of a lunch of my favorite “Cabrito,” I was keener than ever to make this unscheduled visit to our friendly southern neighbors.

Everything went without a hitch until we arrived at the US side of the border on our way back. I was traveling with my American host who happens to be from Mexico by parentage but has spent all of his life in the USA. (For the purpose of clarity, I should mention to you that I am a US citizen by naturalization, but we will reserve details about that story for another day). The border immigration officer was polite but officious, and asked us if we were US citizens, to which we both replied in the affirmative. He leaned in to the car and looked at me a little closer. Now I am a big, black, clean-shaven man, with a goatie. I have in fact been accused of being an NFL player on many occasions (an accusation to which I don’t offer much resistance), and so you wouldn’t be overly presumptuous if you assumed that I was American. My host on the other hand looks every bit like a Mexican, and to all intents and purposes could have been using me to get across the border into the US.

The officer proceeded to ask me a series of questions, and the more I spoke, the more suspicious he became (He had probably figured me for a Mexican in disguise trying to get across the border illegally). Finally he asked me where I was born and when I told him, Lagos, Nigeria, he promptly had us pull over into a parking spot, where he proceeded to search our car and then ask me for proof of citizenship. As he processed my documentation to ascertain its veracity, I kept thinking to myself, “If only I had a more American accent, we could have driven straight through, into the welcoming arms of my adopted country.”

Interesting story but what’s the point? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about aliens (no, not the kind on X-files or anything of the sort), the kind of aliens that the Bible refers to Christians as.

Therefore remember that you, once gentiles in the flesh…were without Christ, being aliens…having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2: 11, 12)

I guess aliens stand out in a crowd of people who are all the same. This, I’m discovering, is often what it’s like to be a Christian. We wear our Christianity like a robe (or an accent) and sometimes it serves us well and other times it, quite frankly, stinks. My journey as a Christian in the USA has offered huge learning opportunities, and each time I take advantage of them, I find myself the beneficiary of improvements in my character, calling, and purpose. But there are other “aliens” out there. People who do not share my experience of knowing Christ. These are the ones that I am trying to reach. These are the people for whom I have chosen to make America my home, and responded to my calling as Lead Pastor of The Well. So over the next few weeks, I will be chronicling a lot of my personal journey here (good and bad), in the hope that, perhaps someone who is searching for answers might find them through my journey, and then begin their own journey in earnest. I love being an alien!