Exiting the familiar and entering the unfamiliar, in terms of culture, has been a learning curve for me. It is teaching me to be more observant as I try to respect the African people by conforming to their cultural expectations.
In the African culture, it is considered rude to give something to one person and not the other. This week, a small team of us went out into the streets for Bible distribution and evangelism. One of our team felt the Lord highlighting a young woman and offered her a Bible in front of a large group of school children. Slowly, as we were trying to communicate with this young woman, school children started to gather around us. As we stood in this sea of children we knew that it would be rude to withhold Bibles from them after giving one to the young woman; but we also knew we did not have enough for everyone.
Not knowing what to do, we decided that it would be better to give out as many as we could rather than just giving one to this young woman, so we opened the backpack and started handing them out.
Suddenly, all these hands started grabbing at the backpack trying to get a Bible. When the Bibles had run out the children started arguing, pushing and shoving, trying to get the Bibles from each other. We felt awful.
Not knowing how to fix the situation, we decided to head back home. As we trudged away, a young boy called out for us to come back, pointing toward a man who was watching us. Thinking we were about to get into trouble, we went to talk with the man. Antony, a French teacher at the school, did not intend to scold us. He is a Christian and asked for two Bibles – one for him and one for his wife. We told him that we did not have any Bibles left but that we could go and get some and bring them back to him. He agreed and told us that he would be back in the classroom.
We prayed, asking the Lord to turn our mistake into some kind of success… so that we would not poorly represent our Father in the disaster we had just created.
On our way back to the school to give Antony the Bibles, we prayed, asking the Lord to turn our mistake with the school children into some kind of success– not so much that we could be redeemed, but that we would not poorly represent our Father in the disaster we had just created.
We asked for Antony as soon as we got to the school. The man who came looked similar, but it was not the Antony we had spoken to. We explained that the man we were looking for was a French teacher and two more men came down from their classrooms; again, not the man we had spoken to.
In our confusion, we gave each of these teachers – who were Muslims – tracts and Bibles. Although none of these men were the one we were looking for, they offered to show us their classrooms. We walked from classroom to classroom, greeting the children, and were given permission to hand out tracts to the children in the older classroom.
Concluding that we had gone to the wrong school, we left in search of Antony. Entering another school, we asked for Antony and we found him and were able to give him his Bibles. We were then presented with the opportunity to give Bibles and tracts to another four men who gladly received them.
As we left that school we could not help but thank the Lord for His hand at work, making our mistake into a success. If it weren’t for the commotion among the school children, this teacher would have never sought us out for a Bible, and we would never have gone to the wrong school and been given an opportunity to give Bibles to those Muslim men and their students.
Often we give up because we’ve failed. We forget that our God is a redeeming God.
Often we underestimate the power of God. Often we give up because we’ve failed. We forget that our God is a redeeming God. We forget that all He wants is our best and that He will make up for the rest. Trust that in your weaknesses He is made strong, and that he can take our failures and make them successes.