Missionary in Africa.

It had been a long hard, thirsty, African day; many people to see, many things to say, much help and support to be given, vehicle journeys over uneven and dusty roads. The two Bible missionary visitors returned to the lodging compound looking forward to a shower, a meal and bed. They had been up since dawn and now the sun was fat sinking in the sky. The short twilight was fading into darkness.

They entered the Spartan room where they were staying relieved to be ‘home’; a space of sanctuary. They switched on the electric light, put down their bags, flopped on the bed just for a few minutes. The first to stir went to the tap to fill a travel kettle with water for a ‘nice cup of tea.’ All that came from the tap was a gurgling noise, but no water – no tea, no shower.

“Do you have any bottled water left?”

“Only enough for a couple of ‘swigs,’” came the answer.

“It’ll have to be that then.”  And just at the moment the light went out.

“Power cut – no dinner, either!”  Both men suddenly felt really deflated. They shared a swig of water in silence and then flopped back on their beds.

Sometime later, they opened their eyes to discover the room now still in darkness and rather stuffy.

“Let’s wander out into the yard, at least it will be fresher outside.”

They did just that. Outside the door that led into the compound, the travellers looked up into the night sky taking deep breaths of the cool evening air. In the darkness, with no ambient light there was the most superb display of stars defining the immense dome of heaven, literally a universe of stellar glory. It took their breath away. Quite dramatically the travellers perspective was changed as they glimpsed the ‘world’ of the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth and realised just how small and insignificant, in the great scheme of things, they really were.

Two poems, one from the Bible, one from a hymnbook flowed into their minds.

“O LORD, our Lord how excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who has set your glory above the heavens!

When I consider Your heavens the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you have ordained,
what is man that you are mindful of him?”
(Psalm 8 NKJ)

And the hymn:

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens – a shining frame- their great Original proclaim.

Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth, repeats the story of her birth:
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll, and spread the truth form pole to pole.

In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
For ever singing as they shine. The hand that made us is Divine.

(2002 Christadelphian Hymnbook)

Somehow in that moment the two felt replete, hunger had gone, they were clearly refreshed. It put into a right perspective all they were trying to accomplish during their visit. The only thing which really mattered was sharing the wonderful hope that they had in God – the Good News about the Kingdom of God.

  1. Solace in the night.

The two missionaries we met last time, were about to drift back inside from their evening vigil when there was a banging on the compound, corrugated iron clad, double gates. Who could that be so late in the evening? The man who seemed to sleep beside the gates jolted into action and swung open the gates.

There standing on the other side with a box on handles between them was an African couple, who had met the missionaries only a few hours before. ‘The man’ let them in and they continued over to where the two stood.

“We knew you’d be here, in the dark, with no dinner, so my wife and I decided to share with you our meal,” said the man who spoke English well and sometimes acted as a translator for the missionaries. As they handed over the hay box with food there were huge smiles all around.

“Thank you so much. This will be lovely and so welcome, we had nothing since breakfast.

There was also a realisation that the family, two adults and four children had indeed shared their main meal of the day and each must have had tiny portions in order to provide for two hungry extra mouths. There’s was truly a hand to mouth kind of life but there was always apparently enough to share especially when it came to smiles.

“We must contribute to your meal tomorrow,” said one of the weary travellers.

Still smiling broadly, the couple left saying, “The Lord will provide.”

Having eaten they decided they should go to bed there still being no electricity torches were found (essential equipment for the travelling missionary) and as they made the necessary preparations a line from another hymn came to mind.

“In the darkest spot on earth some love is found.”

Truly there was solace in the night, especially in African smiles.

  1. Vision for the road ahead.

In our previous encounter with the missionaries and the African couple the wife had simply supported her husband bringing the hay box of food and always, with huge smiles. You will perhaps understand that she had little or no English.

Not long after that, one of the missionaries found himself standing at the side of the road waiting for transport, an elderly and battered pickup truck. He was waiting with the African lady, she would be the one able to say where they wanted to be dropped off and pay the driver appropriately. But apart from smiles there could be little communication between the missionary and the lady.

As time went by the silence went by it was something of an embarrassment to the missionary.

He retrieved a stick from the dust, nudged the lady and began drawing in the dusty surface. What he was drawing was a picture of her family as stick people like so:

Dad,      Mum,   Three healthy children and the fourth who was seriously physically challenged

And of course they were all smiling. No matter what, it seemed to be a family trait. Having drawn this, our friend shrugged his shoulders pointing to the big smiles on each face especially. Was it genuinely there all the time or was this something just for missionaries?

The lady, it didn’t take long for her to catch on, had a Bible in her bag, which she pulled out and opened at a particular page. Her Bible was, of course, in an African language, but our friend recognised immediately the passage to which she referring. He pulled out his own Bible and began to turn up the Bible passage.

I wonder if you can guess where it might have The ‘Future Glory of Zion.’

“The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall blossom as the rose;
It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing.

They shall see the glory of the LORD, the excellency of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
And make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear!
Behold your God will come with vengeance,
With the recompense of God: He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened.

And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing,with everlasting joy upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”   (Isaiah 35 NKJ)

What a glimpse we are shown into the kingdom of God. For that African family with a physically challenged child it enshrined all their hopes, no worries for the future, eternal health and  a safe place in which to live at peace.