During my recent visit to Kenya the Lord gave me a pleasant surprise. This is a story about George, the surprise.
Back in the 80s George and I were high school buddies, although we attended different schools. In fact, we met when George wanted some help in a certain subject and someone directed him to me. From the moment George and I met, we became inseparable. He was one of the most accommodating guys I had ever had the fortune to hook up with.
George was also a very handsome fellow and in 1987, after we finished high school, he applied and was automatically taken on as an air steward with Kenya Airways. From then on we would meet from time to time; but it was an encounter that took place three years later that really branded itself firmly on my mind. George had had an accident and was admitted in a private hospital in a Nairobi suburb. By then I was saved. On receiving news of his ill fate I visited him at the hospital. It was our first encounter since my salvation and I remember as I entered his room I had only one agenda: to tell him the Good News. We sat there, just the two of us, and I talked to him in clear terms about his soul and the redemption that was available to him.
George listened patiently but in the end he declined my invitation to get saved. I left not a little discouraged. But I never stopped thinking about him and he always had a comfortable place in my prayers.
I moved back to Tanzania in 1993 and in those days when telecommunication was a pre-historic affair George and I quickly lost contact with one another.
Twenty years later, in May of this year, George and I met again in Nairobi as I was travelling to Mauritius. We had re-connected through Facebook! It was a beautiful, grand re-union. Nothing had changed between us. Our friendship had weathered the test of time and we found we still yearned after each other like in the old days.
George took me and a friend out for lunch. I was fascinated by his choice of restaurant because right across the street was a hotel where, many years back, in one of its bars, the Lord had confronted me at 3 a.m. one night and set off my journey to salvation. I told George and my friend this interesting piece of news and we silently appreciated the coincidence – and the meal – together.
Ultimately, I asked George whether he had given his life to Christ yet.
“Er, no, although there is a church that I attend”, was his reply.
I told him that no amount of church attendance would atone for his sins; that he needed to make an unequivocal commitment to Christ as the Bible says in Romans 10:10: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
I told him, “George, I cannot rest in my spirit until you give your life to Christ.” He laughed at my seriousness but, unknown to him, i loved him dearly and I could not contemplate the thought of him ending up in hell.
While I was in Mauritius he would write often. That helped keep me in remembrance of him in my prayers. When I arrived back in Nairobi two months later George was on hand to welcome me and we set a date for me to visit him at his house.
In August I traveled to Nairobi again. George came to pick me in his car. As he drove I looked across at him and there was this strange feeling inside of me. I said to him, “George, I have this deep love for you, almost the kind you feel for a woman.”
He turned and looked at me and said, “Same here Zack! And that has been always.” It was an incredible moment. Still, in my heart I was unsettled because I knew that as long as he was unsaved there would always be a note of discord between us.
We arrived at his big bungalow in one of the upper-class suburbs and his lovely wife and two kids were on hand to welcome me. In the course of our conversation, I was surprised to learn that George’s wife was also saved. Then she said, “Even he got saved a month ago.” I thought she meant her son, but then she had indicated George!
I could see a big smile begin to brighten George’s handsome face as he sat back in his seat and said in his usual patient manner, “I wanted to tell you on the way here, Zack, but I decided to surprise you!”
Well, surprised I truly was – and pleasantly so! George said, “Ever since I received Jesus into my heart I have felt this big, unexplainable change in my heart. I feel peace, joy…”
I knew what he meant. God was confirming His work in his heart.
We spent the better part of the afternoon looking into God’s Word as George hungrily devoured every word that I had to say.
Much later, I would reflect on God’s faithfulness. When we pray God hears and answers prayer. George’s wife had intimated to me that many people had been praying for George’s salvation. For me, George’s story is one of a happy ending. My prayer to the Lord is that He may grant that it remains so till the very end.