One of the most enjoyable pastimes in our missionary years, especially when living “out in the boondocks”, was in visiting in the African village compounds and just sitting down in a one-on-one situation and talking – even playing “busolo”, mancala or whatever you call it!. Of course we talked about spiritual matters; often we talked about issues affecting the village or the family or the person. In that way relationships were established; I could get to know them and more importantly they could get to know me. In the course of those times I learned a lot about culture and how it affects African lives in daily matters.
When we were sent to open a new station in a new area, it was important to first visit the traditional chief and his advisors. For some reason the chief was very congenial to me and even when I brought the family out to the area to get an idea of what to expect, when we had to stay overnight in a government guest-hut the chief sent some food for the family though we were not expecting it.
Later I came out to ‘pace off” the land area we were asking for both the mission station and the church school the mission expected to build. Though the chief’s advisors “clucked” a bit when they saw the size of the plot I said was needed, the chief courteously said nothing and accepted the proposal.
Later, when I had to return to his court to admit that I had made a major mistake in “pacing out” the plot (I had made it much too big!), the fact that I was willing to make that admission seemed to cement relationships a lot more.
Throughout our years in the area, the cordial relationship continued. He even invited me to sit in some traditional court matter along with his other local advisors. The sad part was that in spite of witnessing to him, he never made a decision to accept the Lord. His primary wife (polygamy was much the norm, especially for a chief!) often attended the nearest local church and the evangelist there was sure she was a believer – though she never did follow through with baptism.
It is incidents like those relationships, though they bring good memories, also bring sadness and underline that it is the Lord who brings “harvest”. Whether the chief, or his wife, we can only pray and trust that the Word of God in their hearts brought real repentance and salvation.