My Life as an International Drug Runner – Part FOUR

Girl's handFollowing one of the crusade services, a young pastor-in-training asked me to walk with him to our next stop. I walked with him, even though I had no idea whatsoever where we were headed, or how long it would take us to get there. By this time it was dark, except for the full moon, which cast eerie and intriguing shadows on the path ahead of us. Of course, my active imagination pictured jungle animals about to pounce on us.

As we walked along the path, chatting about the goodness of God, and how he was blessing the crusade, the young man took my hand and held it as we walked. He shared with me how pleased he was that I had come all the way from The United States of America to be here. At first I was a little distracted from what he was saying by the thought he was holding my hand. But then it occurred to me how rare this opportunity was to be walking with a brother in Christ through the bush of Africa holding hands and by the light of the moon.

After we had walked several minutes, I could hear the chatter of people who had gathered at the home of one of the brothers. Some of the ladies were cooking in open pots that were situated over fires just outside the home, and other women were preparing food on makeshift tables. When it was time to eat, I was told that since I was the honored guest, I would go first. It was then I also learned that the head of the chicken that had been cooking in the pot would also be a gift to the honored guest. Another surprise.

Even with so many extraordinary experiences, there’s one thing about my adventure that comes to mind that warms my heart the most. It was just a couple more days until I would leave Africa, and I was sitting under a beautiful tree where we had set up for a Sunday morning service. The music was playing, and the people were singing and dancing. I noticed one little girl—maybe two or three years old—standing nearby. She had been looking at me rather intently for several minutes.

Lots of little kids had been looking curiously at me, simply because many of them had never before seen a white guy. Some kids actually cried when they saw me, thinking I was a ghost. But this little girl seemed different. She was curious. In stealth mode, I held my hand palm up on my lap. I continued to sing, pretending not to notice as she crept ever-so-slowly in my direction. My heart was warmed when she cautiously reached out her little hand, and placed it on mine. We connected. I remember the deep feeling of gratitude for yet another precious and priceless moment in time.

There was one final experience which, without a doubt, revealed the hand of God at work in a way that surpassed anything I could have dreamed up. Toward the end of the crusade, I was asked to be the “Ambassador to Kobare.” I was told that if I accepted the invitation, it would be my task to tell others about the wonderful things God had been doing there. And it would be my task to tell others that God needed people who would “invest” in the ongoing mission of Kobare. I was told we did not want contributions, because a contribution did not require follow-up. An investment, on the other hand, is tracked by the investor who has a personal interest in what’s happening with his or her investment. (Part 4 0f 5; to be continued…)

My Life as an International Drug Runner – Part THREE

Kenyan MusiciansI’m not sure if it was planned, or if it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, but the mission leader decided to hold a crusade in a little village a few miles from where he lived. The village was called Kobare. I found out about the plan while we were on our way, driving to the crusade. That’s when I first suspected I might be the speaker for these crusades.

We drove to the village on a road that rattled our teeth. The driver took special care to avoid the two-feet deep ruts that could have broken an axle. When we finally arrived, a stage had already been constructed out of rough-sawn lumber. We sat up the sound equipment, which was powered by a generator chugging along in the background. It was raining, but no one complained, because it would not be raining unless God decided a little rain on the crusade would be a good idea.

I couldn’t tell if there was a scheduled starting time. It seemed a little arbitrary. But eventually, the worship team began to play their instruments…a keyboard and drums and tambourines. And they sang. I have never been so moved by music, partially because of the beauty of the sound, and possibly even more so because of the love and passion expressed on the faces of the musicians, sometimes wet from the rain. When it rained a little harder, the keyboardist threw a piece of plastic over the keyboard…and kept on playing.

The sound of the music attracted people from the surrounding bush—from miles around. The musicians played and sang for a couple of hours, which gave ample time to those who lived several miles away an opportunity to find the source of real soul music.

When several people had gathered – I’d estimate somewhere between 150 to 200 – I got “the nod,” and I made my way to the makeshift stage. The people were totally attentive, standing on their feet for hours. Even the children, many of whom lived without parents in communal groups in the bush, stood motionless, mesmerized by what they were experiencing.

Toward the end of the service, one of the worship team members offered an invitation to the people to accept Christ as their personal Savior, and dozens responded. The scene was beyond anything I had imagined. I thought my heart would burst, just to think my Lord had invited me here for a time such as this.

One day we arrived early in Kobare so we could do some “hut to hut” evangelism. We walked for several minutes between huts, seeking those who might be ready to hear about God’s love, and his desire to have a personal relationship with them. Most were friendly, and some even invited us in to their homes.

Kenyan Mom & KidsMy favorite home was a 10’ x 10’ one-room mud and straw hut that provided shelter for a mom and her three children. We had to bow down low to get through the doorway. The floor was clean-swept packed dirt.

Kenyan GirlThe next home we visited was a little fancier, complete with a concrete floor and metal roof. When we told the teenage girl who lived there the reason for our visit, she began to cry softly. She explained in Swahili that she had prayed earlier that morning that God would send someone who could tell her how she could know him. We knelt with her on the concrete floor as she prayed and received Christ as her Lord. As we left, the thought came to my mind that if this girl had been the only one to receive life in Christ on this trip, the assignment would have been worth everything it took to get there.
(Part 3 of a 5 part series…)

My Life as an International Drug Runner ~ Part TWO

Brake job (2)The next morning I flew to Kisumu. The director of the orphanage met me at the airport and drove me to his home, where I stayed with him and his family for the next several days. Other than camping, I had never been without running water and electricity for any length of time, but I thought it sounded like fun for a few days. And it was fun.

The people I met were absolutely anxious for nothing. When I asked them why they seemed so content, they told me they believed that if God wanted them to have something more than what they already had, they would have it. If they didn’t have it, it was because God knew they didn’t need it, at least not now. I didn’t hear one word of complaint—not one—even though there were reasons to complain on more than one occasion.

One occasion to complain was when the rear brakes locked up on the SUV on our way back to Kisumu to pick up some supplies. The town was about 55 miles away. The solution? Drain the brake fluid…all of the brake fluid. It made sense, in a way, because without brake fluid there was no way the brakes could possibly lock up. Of course, that also meant we would not have brakes for the rest of the journey, but never mind that.

Keep in mind we had to travel several miles, down hills and around curves that tended to be scattered with people walking and riding bikes, and with little kids herding their cattle alongside the road. And I already mentioned the tanker trucks that flew up and down the roads with what appeared to be a reckless speed.

I asked if anyone ever got hit walking along the road. I was told it happened only on rare occasions. The reason: “People learn by experience to be alert.” So here we are, heading toward Kisumu with no brakes whatsoever. It was kind of like the rush of a wild Disney ride, without the assurance the ride would end well. No one else in the vehicle seemed concerned, so I settled in for the ride. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but notice how alert I was.

I had been told I would be asked to preach while I was there, so I had prepared a couple of messages. My first opportunity came the morning after I arrived, which was a Sunday. The service started with a very lively time of musical worship, followed by a lady pastor who preached from her heart of passion for about an hour or so. Then it was my turn.

My interpreter was doing a fine job (as far as I could tell) translating everything I said into Swahili. I was amazed at how he used the same tone and vocal inflections I used. I confess, a couple of times I threw in a little something extra just to see if he would get it. He didn’t miss a beat.

When I finished and sat back down, one of the leaders whispered to me that I wasn’t finished yet. I assured him that I was finished. He explained to me in hushed tones that many of the people had walked several miles through the bush and along the treacherous roads to hear from God, and they would be disappointed if I didn’t speak for at least a couple of hours.

I was amazed that God gave me a message—every time. It far exceeded anything I had anticipated, or had prepared for. I loved it, partially because it was so beyond me. There was something about the enthusiasm and receptiveness of the people that made it seem so natural. They showed up to hear from God, and they listened intently as he spoke to their hearts. (Part 2 of 5…to be continued…)

It happened on a hike in New Mexico…

It happened on a hike in the mountains of New Mexico, the very first time we met after connecting on Rose had invited me to come to Albuquerque for the 2004 International Balloon Fiesta. I lived in Michigan at the time -1613.3 miles away. A “safe” distance, we thought. No chance of anything “happening” other than meeting a new friend.

Rose took me hiking in the mountains, and it was on one of those hikes I encountered the grace of God in the form of woman. As we were descending the mountain, I told her my story of moral failure, and my eventual spiritual healing. I was totally unprepared for the response I got from her as she stopped on the trail, turned and embraced me, and told me she saw a man transformed by the grace of God.  She says that’s when she first fell in love with me…in the midst of my “mess confession!” Imagine that!

A few weeks after our first encounter I traveled to Kenya to deliver medical supplies to an orphanage. When I arrived back in Detroit, Rose met me at the airport, and we enjoyed our second “date.”  A few weeks later Rose and I were married in New Mexico—the 3rd time we met. We recently celebrated our 7th anniversary.

There’s something about the grace of our Lord that creates a bond that is beyond our ability to explain. For Rose and me, our personal stories are a living illustration of God’s amazing grace–and our love story is the Divine punch line!

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