I would be the first person to tell you that it is easy to forget what God can do. Many times in the west we look at the activity of God, especially when it comes to evangelism, and we speak in long periods of time. We use words like friendship, relationship, years and decades. There is nothing really wrong with that, but I think sometimes we are so focused on the long-term method of evangelism that we can forget that God can do anything (and I mean anything).
Time and time again I have watched as God has moved in a single instant. How one conversation completely changes someone’s life for the long haul. I remember one such instance with a man named Bai. Bai is a friend of a friend in Tanzania. He is a young man, likely in his late 20s or early 30’s. While working in one of the mines in Tanzania, Bai’s leg was badly injured and he walks with a limp. He is a kind man and is quick you greet you with a smile.
We met Bai for the first time while spending time with our other Friend Miriamu. Bai lives in Miriamu’s house and helps her with various chores. He looks after her children and her home when she is away working. He is just there to lend a helping hand wherever he can. We were all sitting outside Miriamu’s home when Bai walked up and sat with us. We began to chat through our translator. He told us his name, and what he does for work. We asked him about his life and his family. Over the course of the next half hour we learned a lot about him. Then the conversation just slowly tuckered out and we simply sat in the sun quietly. In the quiet I felt like God was saying, share the gospel with Bai, others in my group felt the same way, so we decided to share. One of the other people in the group shared a little about Jesus, and another asked him about his experiences with the church, and I shared a little more of the gospel. By the time we were finished sharing the Holy Spirit had done a great work in Bai and he said, “Yes, I want to follow Jesus.” So he asked Jesus to save him, to forgive him and to teach him how to follow. When he finished praying we prayed a blessing over him.
After praying, we asked Bai how he was feeling. He said that he felt, “much new peace,” like he had not before felt. It was a great day. We gave Bai one of the audio bibles that we had with us and encouraged him to listen. The next day we headed into the bush.
A week passed and we returned for a time to Miriamu’s house before beginning the long journey home. There to greet us when we arrived was Bai. We were excited to see him. Later that evening after we had taken our bush showers and changed into fresh cloths, Bai came by to sit with us again. As we were chatting we asked him how he was doing and about his week of experiences following Jesus. He said things were good—really good. He explained to us that from the time he was a young boy he had experienced horrible nightmares almost every night. It got to a point, he told us, that he was afraid to go to sleep. He dreaded the approach of evening because it meant that sleep would come soon. Then he said something amazing. He spoke excitedly, “But, I haven’t had a nightmare for a week now, ever since I decided to follow Jesus.” For the first time since he could remember Bai was sleeping through the night– nightmare free. We praised God for what he had done and continued our conversation.
God was moving! We asked Bai, how has listening to the Bible been going? He replied, “ It’s been good. I have really enjoyed listening to the word of God.” We asked him if anything specific had been sticking out to him as he read. He proceeded to talk about Jesus’ dealings with the Pharisees. He told us that a story of Jesus healing on the Sabbath really stood out to him. Then, this week old Christian said, “I think the Pharisees cared more about rules than they did about people, but I think Jesus cared more about people than he did about rules. And I think Jesus wants us to care more about people too.” He told us, “Jesus focuses on people while religious people focus on days of the week instead of people.” We were excited to hear such insight from Bai. We knew for sure at that moment that he certainly was a follower of Jesus– a man who really had the Holy Spirit. At a week old, God had already taught Bai an important part of His heart, that people matter.
This may sound obvious, but many bush Christians in this region know little about God’s heart, and care more about religious practices. In this context, Bai’s understanding is a miracle strait from God himself.
God is a God of decades long prayers and a God of minutes long conversations. He accomplishes his will, that all would come to know him, in both ways. I hope that we as Christians can grow to remember that God is not dependent on our missions strategies. Rather we out to be dependent on his.