Cheap Rocks

For the first time in her life the old woman heard the story of how God created the world and how much He loves her.  Overwhelmed with God’s love, tears filled her eyes.   She asked,  “Am I too old to know God?”  Tony reassured her that there was no way she was too old.

I drove out one day with Tony to pick up some rocks for my new carport posts.  About 15 km north of Lichinga there are some folk who sell different sized rocks for construction.  I was looking for smaller rocks to mix in the cement.  Their piles are about 18 inches tall and vary in length, but they are all broken up by hand and hammer.  The going price for my small truck filled is about $400 mtz, which is about $5.70 USD.  I know, it’s incredibly cheap but the food here is not!  It all balances out.

As we waited for the local guys to shovel the rocks into the pickup bed, Tony began to relate to them, telling them who we are and what we do – mainly Discovery Bible Study.  They welcomed us to come so Tony made arrangements for Sunday.  That Sunday I dropped Tony off on the way to pray for Musa.  On the way back we stopped for Tony and prayed for a woman there who had her hand amputated by the hospital because of a severe burn (I know what you’re thinking – cut off because of a burn?)  This is the way it is.

Somehow that prayer touched their lives and they opened up all the more.  The chief of the village encouraged Tony to come on Friday so he could invite the whole village as most are working in their gardens on Sunday.  They say they want God, that they don’t want to be Muslims any longer, and they don’t want to go to the witchdoctor anymore!  This is huge.  This is God.  It remains to be seen what happens there, but I’m telling you the harvest is ripe and plentiful.

That day I picked up a truckload of cheap rocks.  The cost of getting there was relatively cheap for me, but not for The One who gave His life for those precious souls.  In the song by Michael W. Smith ‘Here I am to Worship’, part of the chorus reads: “I’ll never know how much it cost, to see my sin upon that cross…”.   It cost me a little to go to that obscure little village, the name of which I can’t even pronounce, in a land far, far away from everyone I love and what I am comfortable with as an American.  I had to leave my family behind.  Jesus left the glory of heaven, the presence of His Father, and who knows what else to take the form of a humble servant only to die the death of a criminal. He paid the ultimate price for me, why shouldn’t I sacrifice for Him?  In the words of a great missionary who gave his life attempting to reach the ones who eventually killed him: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  Jim Elliott.   What are you keeping?

Musa

My friend Musa died today.  Tears flooded my eyes as I tried to tell the team what happened.  I have seen more death in Africa than in all my 50 years in the States, but I still have not grown accustomed to it.

I met Musa four years ago in the bush.  I was out cutting down trees for our African cabana and he walked up to me wearing a t-shirt that said:  “Eu amo Jesus” (I love Jesus).  I knew that God had sent this man into my life.  I was at the right place at the right time.  Funny in a way that I could be doing such an “unspiritual” thing, as cutting a tree down but be right smack in the center of God’s will.  If I had never obeyed the call to go to Africa, if I had decided not to go cut trees that day, if….  I don’t know.  I just know that God loved that man and sent him to me.

From there a relationship began.  I’ve been to his home in Kazegwa, way out in the bush, and also his home in the city.  As a Muslim man Musa had married two wives 45 years ago and through the years was faithful to both.

Then I was sent out of the country in 2012 for nine months until we could get our visa situation worked out.  After that we kind of lost touch, although I had communicated to him a few times through David, one of our team members.

All of the sudden I hear he is in Sanga and would like me to come visit.  I jumped on the opportunity and made the arrangement with the guys to find the place.  So Sunday morning we head out.   Little did I know what I would encounter.  Musa was sick.  He was skin and bones and had been fighting illness for nine months.  Oh, if I had only known sooner, but Jesus knew and got me there just in time.

I’ve seen the look of death before, but I have never backed down from praying.  Healing a body is nothing for my God.  Before we prayed for him I had the opportunity to speak with him about our Jesus.  “Do you remember the first time we met?”  “Yes”, he said with great effort to communicate.  “Do you remember the shirt you were wearing?”  “Yes, I love Jesus”, he said.  “Do you love Jesus, Musa? Do you know that the Bible says that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to God except through Him? Not through Mohammad, but only through Jesus.  Do you believe this?”  “Yes” he said, “I believe”.

We prayed for Him.  I held his hands and looked into his eyes with a smile on my face.  I loved that man.  He smiled back as he lay there with head in the lap of his wife.  We parted and decided to come back again in a couple of days to pray some more.   That opportunity never came.  The next morning I received the call.  He was gone.

I believe Musa is with Jesus today.  I believe that God brought him to me four years ago, and I believe yesterday God brought me to him.  Like the thief on the cross to whom Jesus declared “Today you will me in Paradise,” Musa did not have opportunity to live for Jesus or even be baptized, but he lives with Christ now.

I went to the funeral this morning with Tony, Nelson, David, and Boa.  I was the only white guy among a few hundred men and women.  We sat quietly on the stoop of the dirt porch.  I had no clue what was going to happen.  As I sat there I looked around the courtyard, fenced with capi (tall grass) with wood posts.  Two of the posts stood out to me because they had began to grow.  Most posts, having been cut in the bush, don’t come alive again.  They are cut and that’s the end of it – they’re dead.  But then there were those two, out of maybe 60 or so.  I asked the Lord, does Musa live?  He pointed to the post directly in front of me.  Yes.  Though he died, he now lives!  Boy, I wanted to get up and preach right then.

They invited me to come into the house where Musa lay and pray.  So I and the guys went in and knelt down next to the covered body.  I prayed, not for Musa, but for that family and that village.  It was an emotional moment and I put my arm over the shoulder of Musa’s son kneeling next to me.

Gravesite. Not much of a photo but I was trying to be sensitive.

As they brought the casket around everyone put his hand to it to help pass it along.  I did the same.  Then we sat again in silence and some of the men did some Muslim prayers.  The temporary casket was put into the bed of a pickup and all the men followed.  Some got rides, most just walked.  The women, including the two wives, were not to go to the gravesite.  At the gravesite they sang and prayed, each giving a helping hand to put dirt over the body.  A body that will one day, unbeknown to them, will rise again when that trumpet sounds!  And we will be joined together with those who have gone on before us.  I will see Musa again. I long for that day.

Come and See

Yesterday my grounds keeper sent me a text telling me he was sorry for not being able to come to work because a new friend came to see where he lived.  If this happened in America it would be grounds for a write up or maybe even firing someone.  What kind of nonsense is that?

When someone in Africa says to you: “I want to see where you live” it is not as strange as it may sound to us westerners.  Folks in the market used to say this to Katherine all the time.  She just figured they want to come and see our house so she paid no attention to their request.  After all, strangers do not need to see where we live!  They might come and rob us!

In African culture “I want to come and see where you live” is not meant to be intrusive, in fact, just the opposite.  It really is a friendly request. What they are actually saying is that I want to know you better, I want to be your friend!  For us it seems quite strange that someone we might only know as an acquaintance makes such a request.  Here in Mozambique and other parts of this continent called Africa, if you want to have relationship with someone this is what you do.  You invite them to see where you live, or invite yourself to see where he/she lives.  It is quite normal.

And so my groundkeeper, who also works as an evangelist with Great Harvest, invited someone to come see where he lives.  It doesn’t matter how far or how long it takes to get there.  Some will travel hours for a visit, expect to be fed, and maybe even spend the night!  Can you imagine people doing this to you in America?

This is how one shows his earnest in building a relationship here in this nation where I live.  For my groundskeeper I was glad to hear it.  He is building lasting relationships to win the lost to Christ.  It cost him time and perhaps precious food, but those he is inviting to see where he lives will be changed by a God who is inviting them in to see where He lives as well, through this simple, but powerful way of friendship.

In contrast to my last article “Things I Hate”, this is something I love about Africa.  Not all is evil here.  In some ways the simplicity of the culture is profoundly inviting.  Perhaps we should start a new movement -“Come and see where I live.”  Maybe if we started inviting the lost to our house and began to build relationships in this way, evangelism might be a whole lot easier.  I dare say few would come to church if we invited them, but most would come to our house for a meal, good conversation, and perhaps even one day a little bible study.

This is what we do here for Jesus.  It starts with an invitation to “Come and see”.