Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ministry of Presence

I met Fode for the first time in October of 2006. He was all decked out in Nike clothes and jewelry (African look-a-likes). Of the eight Susu men I met from the Hafia Church in Conakry, Guinea - former Muslims who were now Christ-followers - Fode stayed in the background and avoided the limelight. One morning he came to us very upset. I later learned from Phil Stombaugh (Alliance missionary) that Fode's grandmother had refused to acknowledge him the night before because of his faith in Jesus Christ.

Fast-forward thirty-nine months later. I meet Fode for the second time. One week ago today I spoke at a retreat that he attended with four other Susu Christ-followers. Our team joined them for two days and nights in the little village of Tanene about two hours north of Conakry. We stayed in an African motel. The accomodations were unlike any I have ever encountered before. A Motel 6 located on I-5 would suddenly become a 5-star motel in comparsion. Enough said.

This time Fode was decked out in his Adidas wardrobe. I immediately observed that he was a leader among his peers. In fact, he played a big part in planning most of the retreat - schedule, food, activities. Our last morning I was up early and met him outside at 5:45am - his had already been to the market and was setting out fresh bread for breakfast.

He listened intently to everything I shared. I watched him scratch out notes in his journal. He was articulate whenever he shared and evidenced a maturing understanding of his faith. There was a sense of self-confidence about him that was missing earlier.

The last evening of the retreat we walked into town to visit the market and grab something to drink and eat. The night was pitch black because of no electricity until we arrived in town. The night sky was bursting with star light. Orion was directly above us.

I started out walking with Fode. He understands very little English and speaks even less. We tried to have a conversation. I expressed my deep appreciation for his leadership at the retreat. He understood. And then he said something I'll never forget with excitement in his voice and a spring in his step, "I am so happy. I am so happy." I looked at him and caught his smile by the light of my flashlight which pointed forward. It was like he was saying "mission accomplished" or "we did it." I realized at that moment that our coming from Oregon to attend this retreat meant far more to Fode than I would ever know.

The ministry of presence is unbelievably important in Africa. Our presence at the retreat meant more to these Susu men than anything I said or could have said. They felt noticed, valued, affirmed, and loved. As Fode and I walked together into town I felt the same in my heart - "mission accomplished."

No comments:

Post a Comment