August 2, 2010
Sunday in Africa
This morning we traveled a long way...on dirt roads, paved one lane highways, and a very nice 2 lane highway that even had shoulder on each side to a place called Sopinho, a Monigan village where the Zambezi River meets the Indian Ocean. This is the village Jeremiah and Sobrinho were traveling back from when their accident happened. Jeremiah and Sobrinho came here in February and Jeremiah started playing soccer and gathering a crowd, as was his part of the job, and Sobrinho the evangelist would preach when the game was done. This community of believers has grown since Jeremiah's death until today Jeremiah's father, David and Charles came and baptized 17 new believers. All new Christians and all came to know Christ because of Jeremiah opening the door to the community with his soccer ball.
They welcomed us with song as we got out of the truck and sang as we walked to the beach for the baptisms. I really want to add here that these African pastors, under John Dina's lead, really prepare the new Christians before baptism. They come each week and have classes and ask the people questions about their understanding of the things they've learned. They fully realize the concept of salvation through Jesus' sacrifice and baptism being a public way of showing what's happened inside them. The new believers lined up 2 by 2 on the beach and walked in to Charles and David, where the pastors prayed for them and baptized them in the cold brown water of the Zambezi River, while all around them people washed things and brought in their fishing nets and boats. They came up from the water and were met with open arms and smiling faces to hug and kiss them, celebrating this public commitment.....very joyful!
It's not an easy commitment here. One man was a convert out of Islam. He even went to his Muslim leaders and turned in his hat and robe. They told him it would not go well for him, but so far there has not been a problem. He told the pastors that he used to live in constant worry that he was not doing enough to be right with God--that he would not make it into heaven. But now, hearing the gospel and putting his faith in Christ, he is fully at peace with this new faith and his eternal destiny. The Holy Spirit and the confidence the Scriptures give has transcended culture and background. It is a real faith and affects all who give their lives to Him in similar ways.
When one of the pastors was talking about Jeremiah's death four women began sobbing and covered their faces with their capelanas. They deeply loved Jeremiah there, the foreigner who became one of them. (common phrase we heard over and over about him) One of the women had cooked many times for Jeremiah and that boy loved to eat, so she especially had a connection with him. She gave her life to Christ and is now trying to give up alcohol, which is an addiction for her. She was baptized today along with the others and is fully committed to this new church.
When Jeremiah didn't show up for his usual Tuesday visit, the women knew something was wrong. And when one of the African pastors came to tell them of his death, the women knew and were crying before he even told them. The church there grieved, but they told the African pastors that they were going to continue in the faith and go forward as a church. John was explaining the other day that a person who has died has a special honor and respect, more so than when they were alive. A light came on in my mind. I asked John if Jeremiah's death made the message he brought even more strong among these people and he just said, "Definitely!"
It also dawned on me this day that Jeremiah's playful spirit, which got him in trouble all his life, is what God used to gain acceptance, welcome and entrance in these villages. And because of his death, the message he brought here is stronger and more respected, more so than if he had just come, been loved and then gone home. Even though his life was a short 21 years and his work in Africa was a short 4 months, the reward and the fruit Jeremiah brings with him to the throne will speak for itself. "Well done, good and faithful servant."
It is all for Christ.
Jesus is worthy of our lives, our all.
He can use anyone who decides to obey.