So, I am a procrastinating person. Which means by my own defining nature I put things off for a while, two and a half weeks to be exact. Sorry about that all who have been anxiously awaiting to hear what the bush was like. Ha. I know that is just the two moms out there. Anyway, here we go….
We left with Scott on a Monday morning. It was a 3-4 hour drive to Kita, Scott’s retreat town, then another 1-2 hours to the village of Dune, where Scott lives. We ate lunch in Kita a small restaurant that was cleverly named, “McDonalds”; it even had the golden arches! And I might say that it had much better food, in both quality and taste. I would take those chunks of goat meat over any ammonia bathed, mass produced, heart attack waiting to happen, meat from McDonald’s any day.
After lunch we headed out to Dune. This part of the country is west of Bamako. The people group that the Dune village belongs to is the Melinke people, who live along a mountain ridge that goes through Mali. Now, about two years ago there were two journey girls in this village. The girls were crafting stories from the Bible so that they could be taught to the people, this would, in way, serve as their Bible (there is not one in there language). Just before they left a few people became believers and these people are whom Scott is discipling.
During the drive to Dune Scott told us stories of a miracle that had happened and of the spiritual warfare that was going on. He told us about a believer in the village who is a middle-aged woman named Awa. While her and the other women were out doing women things they saw a boy fall from the top of a mango tree. Now these mango trees are enormous, about thirty-to-forty feet high, so try to visualize here. It was said that when he fell he hit several of the branches all the way down, and then landed on the ground lifeless. Awa said she ran over to the boy and saw that his eyes were rolled back into his head and that he look like the life was out of him. She later told Scott, “I did not want him to die so, I put my hands on him and prayed for him. Then he got up and went home”. That was it. Scott helped to put this in even better perspective. He told how this woman had lost children of her own before and has seen death many times in her life. She knows death and what it looks like. We discussed how often God works miracles, however, we excuse them as coincidence or give other reasons rather than giving God glory. We also said, “Wow, what faith. I would have tried CPR or something. I don’t think I would have even thought to just lay a hand on the boy and pray”. We never even found out which boy had fallen and been healed. You would think that he would at least have a broken arm or something to give him away, right?
The next story he told was a little more familiar to missionaries who have come here. It was a story of spiritual warfare. The week prior, at a retreat for all of the journeymen, he was sleeping in hut at a resort/hotel. Now, the hut had only a wooden door and a small window with a wooden shutter over it. In the night he heard a tap, as if something tapped on a glass window. He did not think anything about it and went back to sleep. Then, he heard two taps and again he went back to sleep. Then, he heard three taps, but this time he realized that there was no glass in the room. He grabbed his flashlight and shined it around the room; by this time the tapping was louder and continuous. His light stopped on a picture frame that was bolted to the wall. Within then frame was a small mask shaking violently, which was hitting the glass in the frame as it shook. He left the hut and awoke two others to tell them and pray about it. They prayed that God would remove the evil spirit, and then he went back to bed. I asked, “Where you scared to go back to sleep in there?” He said, “We prayed. If we truly had faith then I knew the spirit would be gone and if not, then it would still be there.” We discussed that when you are on the right rack Satan gets scared and will mess with you. But, the fact that Satan sees Scott as a threat gives him joy and hope that he is going to down the right road with God and doing something right.
In the village we met the small group of believers. We learned that the first leader of the group was not a very good leader and had a few wives, so after Scott gave them some scriptures to ponder upon they decided, on their own, to elect a new leader. Now, the believers were saving money to buy a bicycle, but the newly elected leader stole the money and ran away with it. So, a third leader was chosen. We are told this third leader should have been the leader from the start and is a good man. As you can see, the church has already faced a few trials.
On our first day the three of us split up. I went with the leader of the church, Cass went with Awa, and Scott – well, I am not sure what Scott did. The leader and I went to a nearby village and greeted lots of people. We hung out for the morning and then came back to find Cass and Scott sitting with Scott’s best friend. Cass had been to the well, pounded millet, shelled peanuts, and all that other lady stuff. That evening all of the believers and several others gathered and Scott played them a story that the journey girls before had created. The group tries to learn 1-2 stories a week so they can learn the Bible and be able to share the gospel with others. After the story is played the group takes turns telling older stories and then they all tell the new story; however, one man did not play by the rules well. The first night, in the middle of telling the stories the first leader of the church came up. Rather than greeting everyone then joining the story telling, he decided to teach Cass the names for all the parts of his face (eyes, nose, ears… etc…). After a few minutes a member of the group stopped him and he joined us, but this action became a trend. It seemed that every night, during the meeting he would do something to interrupt it. One night he refused to tell a story until Scott and I repeatedly told him to (we are talking a good five minutes or more him trying to get others to tell it for him). We also learned of other deceitful things this man was doing. I later read in Acts 20:30 about people from within the church who will try to distort the truth in order to take people away to follow them.
One day, I went with Scott and his best friend’s garden. As we were watering the plants Scott’s friend noticed some dying leaves around his watermelons. He discovered that someone had jumped the fence around the garden and cut the vines of the watermelons to kill them. Now, this was done because he is a believer. He told us how he often finds charms tied to the vines of his plants or animistic poisons left at the gate of his garden. But this time, they physically killed his plants. This time of year food is not plentiful and it draws a good price, so this was not just a mean gesture, but an attack at his lively hood, all because he is a follower of Jesus. It made me think about how many times my lively hood is threatened because of my belief – never. Maybe American culture is just less hostile or maybe I am not living with my heart truly set on Jesus. We encouraged him by referring to Acts, when it says that the life of a believer is a life of hardship and that he should consider it a joy that he is considered worthy to suffer and face trials because of his belief. So that afternoon we all ate watermelon.
Now, there were other events that happened, such as people, with no authority, deciding that we could no longer meet at our current location; which lead to no one showing up for our meeting. That night Scott decided to go and gather the believers for prayer, while Cass and I waited and prayed. This night had a bad spirit about it, so we sat and prayed, not knowing what was going on and at this point not knowing why no one had showed up. Soon, the bad spirit was replaced with a spirit of peace, just as Scott arrived back to us; then we all met and prayed for a long time that night.
The events of this week were intense, especially considering that there are only maybe five believers. And it is important to know that this was just one week, 3.5 days to be exact, but this goes on every day and I did not even mention the verbal harassment. If there is a purpose of this post I hope that it is one that depicts a faith and church that we should have in America. One that seeks Jesus so much that it scares Satan. Acts says that the life of a Christian is hard but I will be the first to tell you that my life back in America, it was not hard. I encourage anyone who reads this to go and read the book of Acts. Now, do not let that scare you, because for some reason it seems hard to read a whole book of the Bible, scary even, but it is not. It is just 28 short chapters. Read those chapters and see what real church is like. Even more, see what real believers are like.
Pray for Scott. He is one young man, only 23, trying to drive this huge train that is much bigger than him. He has a 1.5 years left to be in the middle of no-where, alone. With his sole task being the discipleship of these believers and helping to build this church. God is laying the tracts for him, and he is well aware of that, but take a second and put yourself in his shoes. Day in a day out he is struggling to learn a language and a culture that is not his own and has no one, by his side, to help share the burden. If any of you has ever felt the need to support someone, I promise you this kid needs it! His faith, wisdom, and willpower is stronger than anyone I have ever met and I can attest that he is truly relying on God and he is pouring out everything he has every day, so that he will not leave this placing reserving anything for himself. He needs your encouragement. So send him a letter, a picture, a pop tart, ANYTHING to let him know that he is not alone and that he is being prayed for.
Att: Scott Ferguson