It was a good Christmas conference. Beings that it was a very rainy season, it took me almost 4 hours to drive the 35 miles to the out-church location but that was now behind me. Water! Mud! Mired vehicles! What was that to my 4-wheel drive Land Rover? I “plowed” through the cotton-soil swamps, used my tow chain to pull other vehicles out of the mud – but was now well settled and cleaned up and fed with a great pre-Christmas meal. Tomorrow, Christmas day, was to be the big meeting and everyone was looking forward to it.
Morning comes early in an African village. The roosters make the pre-announcement while it is yet dark, the lowing of the cattle indicates milking time and the soon-herding to take them to pasture, the drum sounds just as the sun comes up. Meal time – chai (sweet tea) and maandazi (African “doughnuts”).
Soon we hear a clanging “bell” (actually a vehicle tire rim struck with a short iron bar!) and we find our way to the church. People have gathered; the evangelist leads the singing; church choirs sing.
Time now for the offering. As custom was in that church area, the people filed forward and bring their gifts to the front. Coins; farm produce; eggs; even chickens with their legs tied together. Quite an ingathering!
Suddenly there was a commotion outside. Loud speaking and shuffling of feet. To my ears, the commotion sounded like some one (or ones) had just come from a beer-drink. One man, evidently well know to the church members, came down the aisle. His wobbling from side to side gave evidence that he was from the “tipsy” crowd outside. He made his way up front and with a flourish produced a currency bill. I think it was Shgs. 5; in those days a large amount as a laborer made about Shgs. 5/50 a month. He said, “Nelaga lulu. [“Now I am clean/holy]”.
Me, in my early-missionary zeal (I was sitting at the front as I was to be the preacher that morning), got up from my chair, retrieved that currency note and gave it back to that tipsy man. I said, “Here is your money. The Lord wants you and not your money”!
I had no idea that the man was the district chief judge. The others yet outside were his “bashindikiji” – those who accompanied him as he moved around whenever he left the district court. He took the money from my hand, tried to stare me down and then turned around, muttered and walked out. The whole group of men outside moved away.
After the service, I was ushered back to the evangelists home. The noon meal was served – this time “bugali” (stiff corn-meal mush), chicken, greens, rice followed with more chai. It was at that meal I learned that man’s identity and that the church leadership were concerned that I had alienated him and that this would lead to difficulty for them.
Fast forward several years. I was in another church area visiting one of the church leaders and in walked that same man. The church leader introduced me to him; he was now one of the elders in a near-by local church.
He recognized me just about the same time I recognized him. With a huge smile he came forward and grabbed my hand and shook it warmly. “I know you” he said. “You are the man who refused my church offering. You said the God wanted me and it made me think. Now, Christ is my Savior. I have given up all drinking and sinful things I did and now am glad to be able to serve the Lord in my church”. He was still an influential government judge but now his actions and reputation showed the Life of Christ in him. PRAISE GOD for the power of His Word.