The day of evangelistic meetings in the villages was over. The team piled into the truck and we went to the home where another church evangelist lived. It was ‘way out there in the bush and as a new missionary I did not know what to expect. We were to spend the night there, leaving in the morning for another outreach into a new area. The local evangelist and his wife received us warmly. I was ushered into a fairly new grass-roofed hut where there was a small table and one chair. I had no idea where the rest of my African teammates ha been taken – but I had an idea! It was still “colonial Africa” and the protocol was that “whites” did not regularly associate with Africans. They did together whatever work they had to do but, when work was over, they separated, going their own way and didn’t mix.
After a long time of sitting there alone, the local evangelist came in, put on the table an unopened tin of sweetened condensed milk and an unopened box of Marie biscuits and immediately left. No utensils. I assumed a kettle of tea was to arrive and, possibly, another chair and occupant. So I sat – and sat – and sat. Nothing and no one came. It soon grew dark. The evangelist returned and saw the tin of condensed milk and the biscuits unopened. And he blew his stack! So out of character for an African, especially an evangelist. He said, “What I brought you wasn’t good enough for a white man. I guess you want some tea!” As I spluttered to answer he stormed out, taking the condensed milk with him and later sent his wife to bring me a pot of tea. That was the extent of supper. I slept that night “under the stars” and mosquito net in the back of the pickup next to the church.
In the morning I went back to the evangelist’s hut to greet everyone. He greeted me warmly and welcomed me in to eat a hearty meal with the rest of the team. I said nothing about the events of the preceding evening but learned later that the rest of the African team had heard and had roundly verbally chastised the local evangelist for his actions and expectations. For the rest of our two-week safari the team talked about this and the “ignorant” local evangelist.
In REFLECTION, the encouraging part is that the team highly approved of how I had handled it – I just “rolled”with it; did not mention it or rebuke the evangelist and even ate that morning meal together with all in a real sense of fellowship. Looking back, I say, “Thank you Lord for guarding MY response”. And, I believe my relationship with those team members during 25+ years of ministry with the African church, and also with that local evangelist whom I visited a number of times later, was built on that occurrence. And, again, I say, “Thank you Lord for controlling my tongue and actions”.