There is a book I've read by a missionary doctor whom God led to work and minister in Ghana, West Africa, but unfortunately after looking through my bookcases, I am unable to find the book to give you his name and credit for what he said. As many missionaries do, he has a remarkable testimony of how God brought him to the mission field, from a life of having grown up with his parents in Southeast Asia, to a ministry and career in West Africa. There were 2 things he said in his book that greatly stand out in my memory, even though I've even forgotten the title of his book. He said, "The best preparation anyone can have for ministry in Africa is to have to wait to go, and the longer and more insensible the wait, the better". He humorously adds in parentheses, as I recall, that his colleagues in Africa will know exactly what he means! Later on in the book, he states that without patience a missionary won't make it in Africa.
Obviously those 2 statements go together, and as one "colleague in Africa", I know exactly what he meant by both, and know the humor (and the frustrations) of what he's saying. If you haven't been to Africa, you probably don't comprehend fully what we are saying here. As Americans, we are used to a fast-paced, smooth-flowing (usually) lifestyle, and as a result, we tend to be very impatient if things slow us down. So I want to share the following story with you to give you some inside information on one of the reasons you should pray for your African (and other) missionaries, for patience!
In my last newsletter, I mentioned my truck having some intensive mechanic work done on it that prevented me from making it to a class I was teaching in a village. My truck has been a jewel in my rural work. It is a Nissan, double cabin, 4-wheel-drive, manual transmission, mini-beast, complete with a granny gear that has pulled me out of some tough mud holes. But it is about 15 years old, which by American standards would probably be the equivalent of 30 years old because of the hard driving conditions here. And as good as it's been to me, it's getting very tired.
Sunday I was out in a village with a Congolese refugee ministry team from Kampala Foursquare Church. We had had a wonderful day at the small village church, and at least 4 people had expressed a desire to begin living for Jesus. It was nearing 6:00 PM, and we were tired. The team still had to board a taxi (minivan) and go the hour-plus trip back into Kampala. Just as we got out to the paved highway, the truck jerked a couple of times, and quit. Thanking God for cell phones and an adequate network, we called my mechanic, Willy, who came the few miles to us on the back of a motorbike "taxi". He jiggled the new coil he'd just put in the day before, made it fit tighter so it wouldn't come loose again, and we were back in business.
We took the team back to Luweero and got them on their taxi, but the truck began acting up again. So I left it with Willy and went on home. The coil was brand new, but had proven to be worthless, so he put another coil in, and again, the truck ran fine.
On Monday, both Pastor David Kasule and I had to go to Kampala on business. That was all accomplished, as well as a lunch with a Canadian missionary friend, and then David and I remembered we were supposed to be back to my house for our Monday prayer meeting at 3:00. It was now 3:30 and we were an hour's drive from home. I still needed to go by the parsonage and drop off a sack of charcoal I'd bought for one of our new Kenyan Bible students who has just arrived to start the school term (our school year starts the first week in February). I didn't know where this guy lives, except he's in "Joseph Mwangi's old house". Because I didn't know where Joseph Mwangi lived either, I was going to drop the charcoal off at the parsonage, even though Fishers were gone to the USA for a few weeks. The church office is closed on Mondays, so I couldn't ask there. I also needed to check on an overdue FedEx bringing my plane tickets for my furlough in May. But since no one usually comes for the 3:00 prayer meeting until 5:00, I knew we would make it home in time.
As we were driving to the other side of town to deliver the charcoal, suddenly, right at the driveway into a gas station, my truck just quit. No warning, it just stopped. No luck restarting it, and I was not completely off the road. But African drivers don't care if you're blocking the road, they just drive around you, no horns, shouts, or gestures. We got several big strong guys to push the truck on up the steep driveway into the gas station, where several guys and more onlookers crowded under the hood, trying to figure out why the truck wouldn't run. Finally, they concluded the truck was out of gas! That seemed to be confirmed by the fact that my (faulty) gas gauge was on E. I tried to argue, saying I knew exactly how much gas I'd put in it the day before, but they patiently explained to me how I can be cheated at the pump (which I'm well aware of, and always watch to prevent). But since there were no other real options at hand, we put 10 liters of gas into the tank. Then they pushed me across the yard so I could clutch-start the now battery-dead engine -- and voila! It started!
So we took off after paying for the gas, heading on to deliver the charcoal. We got aways up the road, and guess what? The truck quit again! This time there was nowhere to pull off, there being a deep drainage ditch on the side. So I sat there with traffic going around me on the crowded, narrow street, while David walked back to the gas station to get the guys to find their mechanic friend which one had mentioned earlier.
Meantime, I was looking at all my options. It gets dark at 7:00 and it's too dangerous to drive after dark, not to mention with an undependable vehicle that seemed to be developing a habit of stopping without warning. So I tried to call Sarah Adams to find out about my FedEx and to discuss what to do with the charcoal. Her cell phone didn't work, and I just got a recording about "temporarily interrupted" service on their house phone. So I called David Adams on his cell phone, thinking he could tow me with his Land Rover to Fishers' house where I could safely leave the truck overnight, until I could get Willy to come and fix it. I got his voice mail. Then I thought of where I should just spend the night, not wanting to risk being stranded on the road at night (if we could even get the truck running!), so I called the guest house where I usually stay in Kampala. But they were full and had no rooms at all available. They made another recommendation, but not knowing the other places nor their prices, I was a bit hesitant. I could send David home by taxi (bus) then maybe I could just sleep at Fishers' empty house.
Meantime, several guys and the "mechanic" were working under my hood, as I sat there in the hot sun. David sent someone to buy us some cold drinking water, as the tropical sun dries you out really quickly. Dave Adams got my voice mail message and called me back. Yes, he could tow me if need be, but he had an evening class at the Bible school where he teaches -- if anyone came (students aren't too serious about school the first week back). But after that, he'd be glad to help out. Yes, Sarah's cell phone had something wrong and didn't work. The house phone? They'd paid their bill on Friday but on Monday the phone company came out and shut them off. He didn't know about my FedEx, but leaving the charcoal at the parsonage would be a good idea.
The mechanic found out that the fuel pump was clogged with dust, so he cleaned it out, and we were now back in business. The truck ran smoother than it had in ages, and we bagged all previous plans of what to do for the night. We left the charcoal, learned that the FedEx still had not come after 12 days (they usually take 5 from the USA). But when I called Dave Adams again to tell him we were heading home, he said he'd got a call from LA last Friday. Fishers had flown from here on Wednesday and should have arrived in LA about Thursday evening our time. But LA was calling wanting to know where they were, they had not arrived! They wanted to know if they'd left here on schedule. Afterwards, Dave went on line to check the news and learned a lot of European flights had been delayed due to terrorism alerts. So he said maybe this is why my FedEx also was delayed in its arrival. I hope so!
I finally got home close to 7 PM and dark. The prayer meeting was going on in my back yard, in my absence. I think they must have prayed for me when I didn't show up on time. I was very, very tired, and shortly after everyone left, I got ready for bed. But I had to call in my night guard to kill a bat that had decided to fly around inside my house. They tell me the bats suck blood, so I really didn't want to sleep with him in the house! After my heart calmed down, I went to sleep, a hard, deep slumber that was well earned.