Recently, I was visiting with our good Canadian friends Carol and Frank in the city of Mwanza, a beautiful city situated on the shores of Lake Vctoria. At the same time that I was with them I was also translating an article by Brother Miki Hardy entitled “Fame, or Rejection and Persecution”, to be published in our local weekly Swahili newspaper, ‘Msemakweli’ (translated: The Speaker of Truth).
Whilst in Mwanza, I decided to go visit my parents who live in Musoma, a town some 200 km to the north. But I also had another, far more important reason, for visiting Musoma. There was a lady there whom the Lord had been impressing on my heart to go preach the gospel to for a very long time. I had known this lady for the 16 years that I lived in this town. She had a sewing machine which she operated right in front of the main bus terminal, and every day I passed by I would see her busy at her work.
I did not know her in any intimate manner. But Musoma is a pretty small town, and there were other things about her life that I knew, and I knew she needed the Lord.
After I moved to Dar es Salaam some four years ago, the Lord kept pressing me about this lady. In August 2012 my wife and I visited Musoma for a few brief days and, although the thought of visiting this lady did cross my mind, I had more ‘important’ things to do, so I never did go… Back in Dar es Salaam, my disobedience would torment me day and night.
This time round I knew I had to obey that Voice… I had to preach the Good News to this precious lady. So, the very next day after I arrived in Musoma, I boarded a town bus and headed for the bus terminal, my heart beating with excitement because I knew I was answering the call of God. My heart yearned deeply for this lady; and I just knew the Lord wanted to save her. As our bus made its way into the bus terminal, my eyes were already searching for the spot which I knew so well, and my heart beat with joy and excitement as I spotted her, still at her station, working steadily at her sewing machine. I said a quiet prayer of thanks to the Lord.
I alighted and purposefully walked up to her. At such times of heightened excitement I have a problem talking coherently, but I composed myself, and stood right in front of her. I knew I had a mission to accomplish.
I said, “Good morning, my dear lady”, to which she replied, “Good morning.”
“I would like to talk to you, please”, I said.
“Speak on”, she replied. She was a tough woman, that much I knew about her.
There were two other ladies standing by.
“I’d like to talk to you aside”, I said, at which she slowly stood up and led me to an empty shop verandah a few feet away. We stood there, just the two of us. Dozens of people were passing by, and many others in the waiting buses watched us. I would have loved to take her to a nearby café and buy us a drink and slowly introduce my subject; but that opportunity did not seem to present itself.
I decided to take the bull by the horns, and began: “Madam, you may not know me; but I have known you since 1993 when I first came to this town.” Of course, she would know me. I was just feeling my way about, although I knew exactly what I wanted to tell her.
“Well, madam, I have some Good News which I would like to share with you”, I finally broke through.
“Talk on”, she said rather brusquely.
“I feel in my heart that God has sent me to tell you that He loves you and He wants you to be reconciled to Him, and the only way to be reconciled to God is through believing on His Son Jesus Christ.” I made it as short and clear as possible.
Under normal circumstances, whenever I feel the Lord leading me to speak to someone, I know the outcome will be positive; God will have prepared that person. Somehow naively, I had approached this new assignment armed with that same expectation. I never anticipated a nasty shake-up like the one I was about to get.
“Well, I have already been baptized”, she said; “and as far as I am concerned, I believe on Jesus.”
I knew what she meant. She was telling me that she belonged to a certain sect which believes that all you need to do in order to get to Heaven is to be baptized. But I knew she needed the Lord in a lot better way, so I pressed on.
“Madam, faith in Jesus is not just so you can have a religion, but it is about God Himself coming to live in you and giving you a new life. Are you saved?” I spoke to her in short, clear sentences, willing myself and desperately desiring to put the message through to her. As I talked on, I began to get worked up, and I was just about to make the coup de grace – asking her to surrender her life – when she stopped me cold in my tracks….
“Now, if you have nothing better to tell me than this salvation stuff”, she interrupted with great deliberateness, “I have business to do. I already told you I have been baptized, and that’s enough for me. I don’t see anything more in what you are telling me. Goodbye.” Abruptly, she turned and walked back to her sewing machine, leaving me standing there, stunned. My mouth was still working, though, and I found myself speaking into the air: “Well, madam, forgive me, but I felt I just had to tell you about the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
I felt like the whole town was watching me as this tough woman humiliated me. I could feel all the eyes of the passersby and passengers boring into me. I felt a fleeting sense of embarrassment; but I was immediately reminded that I at last had paid a debt long overdue, and I felt peace in my heart. With measured steps I walked away from the bus terminal and went back home.
Later in the day as I was mulling over this event I recalled Brother Miki’s article that I had just finished translating (I had not even yet sent it to the publisher). In one part of his message he says: “This message will bring persecution from those outside. As the Early Church, we too preach the Gospel to people of many religions and traditions and it’s normal that it brings persecution from those outside, because we preach Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour… That’s what the Bible says; we will be opposed from those outside because of the message that we bring to the world.”
Further along he asserts: “If the Church is alive, preaching this message, and reaching out to others, it’s normal that it will come up against persecution. A church that is alive and preaching the right message is always going to be persecuted… We cannot expect people to speak well of us. We cannot expect the world to pat us on the back and say, ‘Well done!’ They will reject us, speak against us, and oppose and persecute the Church. Rejection and persecution are to be expected when the Gospel is being preached.”
As I thought over these words, I wondered whether it was just coincidence that I had been reading a message of persecution and then had immediately undergone the self-same experience (though shamefully so low-scale!)
A few days later Pastor Amas and I went back to Mwanza to join up with Carol and Frank. The couple came to pick us up in town and took us to the rented apartment where they have been living for the last one month. No sooner had we sat down when Frank drew his i-pad and read us a paragraph from an article he had been reading; and the keyword was: “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.”
I immediately asked him what that Scripture was and he replied, “Matthew 10:22.”
I was astounded. We had had no time at all to even talk about anything, and the first word that this man of God spoke was the very same word of persecution that I had read about and experienced so recently. I quietly knew that the Lord was confirming something. In these last days, we are going to be persecuted for the Gospel.
And I could not help feeling sad and angry at what is happening in the Church today. Today’s is a Church that is so lax all it can think about are the blessings. Preachers daily work out new principles and techniques for Christians to claim their “blessings” from God. As far as the majority of Christians today are concerned, they are in it for the good life – physically, materially, financially.
But really, the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is more about suffering than being “blessed”. Indeed, true blessings are only those that are attached to suffering for the Gospel’s sake.
The Church has to wake up to the reality of our calling.