I was relaxing in my little rented house on the Mission Field on a regular Sunday when some converts came to me.
“Pastor. Please come. Some followers of another faith are holding a crusade in the village and they are disputing the Bible. They are actually asking that any Christian who is able to challenge them should come out. Please, come defend us. Come defend Christianity!”, they said frantically.
If you know me, you will know that I am not the confrontational, apologetic type of Christian. I love God. Though I’ll stand for my faith even to the point of death, by the grace of God, I don’t do debates! What was I to do? These young believers needed assurance and to know that we have answers to the predictable questions of the followers of this other faith.
I invited my wife and we opted to go with them. When we got there, we decided to first evaluate the context. Two young men were preaching their hearts out in the local dialect which we didn’t fully understand at the time. So, we had a huge language disadvantage. I got an indigene to translate what they were saying.
They were quite incongruous, jumping from one subject to another. I could not get the sense of what they were trying to communicate. If they had any goal at all, I think it was to confuse the Christians and prove that they had a better faith. I concluded that their speech was not worth responding to and I told the believers so. “Just watch and enjoy their presentation and arguments. They are not worth responding to, at least, not today!”
But I decided to sit through it. I wanted to learn their ways, their flow of thought and watch how the local people took it. So we sat for another hour or two. They were younger folks than we were. So when they finished, the believers excitedly invited them to “come meet our Pastors”. They came, greeted and I could immediately see the uncertainty in their eyes.
They asked me, “Did we preach well?” I told them, “You tried, though, there’s a lot of room for improvement. There are a few things you don’t get quite correctly. If you’ll visit my house, I’ll gladly share some with you.” They agreed to see me the next day at noon. I felt my mission was accomplished and we returned home – we had just made friends of potential enemies, we thought. Good deal!
The next day came, we set up the Jesus Film, prepared snacks and drinks and when the visitors showed up, we warmly received Leo and his friend. After a general chat, I told them, “No need to re-invent the wheel, let’s begin with a historical presentation of the gospel message. Let’s watch this film together and after that, we can talk some more.” So we began. They watched with some interest while chewing snacks and enjoying the drinks. Towards the end of the film, I began to notice a restlessness in the leader, Leo . We were interceding.
When it got to the point of praying and accepting Christ, Leo jumped up, became unruly and began to talk, “Mister,” he called me, “this is not true. This film is not true. This is how you missionaries go everywhere to confuse the people.” He said many more indecent things and when I felt he’d had his say, I stood up. I feigned anger and called him by his name, “Leo, I am very disappointed. I am very angry with you. I cannot take insults from a little boy like you!”
“Moreover, what you have done today is the height of ingratitude. You came to my house voluntarily, I did not force you. You ate my food. You drank my water. You watched my film and you think the best way to repay me is to insult me. You are probably not an African. We don’t do that in Africa. That’s unacceptable!”
The atmosphere was thoroughly charged. My wife wasn’t sure again who to appease. The partner of Leo – a gentler fellow by the name of Gerald was full of apologies. I concluded, still feigning anger, “Can you get up and leave my house now? Right now, leave my house!” I called Gerald aside and gave him two small apologetic booklets and though I held extra copies, refused to offer Leo one! I thought that was the end of a bad outing!
Three months after, I got a long letter in the post. It was from Leo which read, “We got back to our villages. I read the booklets. I gave my life to Christ. I was dismissed by the Religious Association that sponsors our Da’wa activities. I’m sick at home, in such and such a place, please come and visit me.”
I ran to show my wife the letter, joyfully asking “could this be true?” “Well, we have to go and see,” she said. I invited a friend and disciple, “Mr. Goba, we have a trip to a village near Monkey-Bay tomorrow. Read this letter.” He read and agreed we do the 60km journey as early as possible the next day on his motorbike.
Fast forward, we met a sick and seriously emaciated Leo. He was a shadow of himself. What happened?
Bewitched By Fellow Propagandists
The story goes something like this.
Leo got home, rested, then went on several propaganda missions. Finally, their Propaganda team went to Tanzania. Leo being a gifted orator was always ahead and shining and some of his fellows didn’t like that. They decided to bewitch him. He would take the podium, open his mouth in an attempt to preach and no word will come out. He makes all the features but no words. Worst of all, his compatriots would be laughing at him. He returned home sick and broken.
In his brokenness, he took the books offered to Gerald, read them, got convicted and fell on his knees to accept the Lord. A few days after our initial visit, we arranged and moved him and his wife to our house in the southern region of our East African country base. My wife nursed him while we discipled him and his wife.
I constantly asked him, “What do you want to do with your life?” He said, “I have very basic education, I have not had any serious skills training. The only gift God has given me is my mouth. I’ll like to be a preacher.”
Gone Too Soon
We rehabilitated Leo and found a short-term Bible School for him. He studied for a few months, became very amazing at preaching the gospel and especially in confronting zealots from his former faith. But not too long after, he fell sick again and just went to be with Jesus! We had great plans for him, how he would be an evangelist and help open up many places, confronting opposing propagandists but God had a different plan for Leo.
5 Missionary Lessons
- To advance the gospel, make the connections. Whichever way you do it, step out, connect with the lost!
- Not all arguments are profitable. Don’t waste your time. Pick your fights carefully!
- Do not fear confrontation. Sometimes, you need to ‘roughen the feathers’ to achieve peace!
- Tactful, discriminatory, confrontational, and/or loving actions sometimes prick the conscience and awaken the sleepy souls of the lost people!
- Pray always that the lost will not have peace, joy, and comfort in their depravity and darkness. That is a loving prayer to pray!