I met a man today. He’s no one special according to his own definitions, just a man with a story and a future according to God’s plans. My husband and I were invited to have breakfast with three friends and this man, a visiting pastor from Africa. He spoke at our church last night about our God. It was something. We serve the very same Lord and yet his stories sounded quite different from ours here in the U.S.
You see he’s been involved in the planting of a new church where he lives. Away from the village he lives in, this new church planting began under a very large mango tree, to give shade from the sun that shines so brilliantly and hot. Meager beginnings with nothing but the Word of God. And the people came. And the pastor shared out of the Word of God.
They come from miles sometimes. They come because they heard something different is happening over there, under that mango tree. They sometimes bring others with them, some not able to walk on their own. They’re coming on bikes, and motorbikes, on foot, on blankets slung between two poles, any way they can get there. To hear God’s Word of life.
As this humble man speaks of the God who set him free years earlier, an interesting thing begins to happen. The people realize they want what this man has to share. I mean they really want this freedom, this new way of life. And about then, it happens. The enemy of their soul, the one who has fought so horrifically throughout their lives to keep them from this moment, begins to realize he can no longer keep this person from the truth of the Word of God. And OUT HE COMES!
The crowd dances, shouts, and sings in honor of the One who is able to keep us from falling. And then the person realizes they are free from the tormentor, free to invite Jesus into their heart, finally and forever, and so they do. Now the celebration is on as the rest of the congregation, singing and dancing and shouting, rejoice with this new child of the kingdom. That’s what we heard the other night at our church. And I wondered what everyone thought sitting there listening to this pastor tell of life in this place.
Personally, I tracked with him and loved sitting there listening to Pastor Douglas speak. And at breakfast the next morning, I wanted to hear so much more. Five of us peppered Pastor with questions. And somewhere in there I found myself watching him speak to us of his home and I became mesmerized by one particular aspect of this man’s persona. His smile. Pastor Douglas’ smile seemed to rise up from deep inside him and when he smiled, I just felt that life was good.
Pastor Douglas lived through the regimes of Idi Amin and Joseph Kony. He lost his father to the terror reigns and his mother abandoned her three children when Douglas was 10 years old. I would have loved to hear more about this, but instead we leaped to more present day situations and the emerging church in the country where he lives. He found his way to Christ and then found he was anointed for pastoring. And that’s what he does…
This man, Pastor Douglas, radiates when he smiles. Knowing even just this small bit from his childhood causes my heart to ache for a child who had to learn life the hard way. Watching him speak, both to our church and at breakfast, I became lost in his smile because I felt it was so genuine. That huge, brilliant smile comes only when one is at peace with oneself. It is both comforting and soothing. No matter the subject of our questions, that smile permeated the conversation. And peace ruled in my heart as I listened to him share.
My husband and I are involved in a home group this fall, one where we are studying how we can “Strengthen Ourselves in the Lord” by Bill Johnson. The subject matter the past two weeks has been about thankfulness and praise and how, just by entering into these two actions, we can literally turn our difficult circumstances upside down. The content has been rich and the resulting discussions in our group have been stretching and full.
Sitting across the table from Pastor Douglas, listening intently about a life peppered with difficult circumstances, some even traumatic, made me think of what we’ve been learning. And as if God knew I needed a living example, he plopped me down at a breakfast table across from a man who lives half a world away, sharing about extreme circumstances and about our God that we have in common. What do I notice? That smile. That radiating, full-of-life smile.
Pastor Douglas is at peace with our God. Through thanksgiving and praise he has been delivered out of the pit and into the wonderful Light of Jesus. He is living proof that God hears our prayers, He gives us His Hand in times of trouble, He guides us through trauma and hopelessness, and He sets our feet on solid ground.
God unfolded a new truth to me; thankfulness and praise. Powerful words. Life-altering words. Words that belong in our everyday life so we might be lifted up and out into His glorious Light. Be thankful and give praise to God for He will help you get through anything life can throw at you.
As our breakfast time came to a close, we prayed over Pastor Douglas. What struck me was a picture in my mind of the blazing sun in Africa, radiating light and warmth. And suddenly I was impressed with Pastor Douglas’ brilliant smile, a radiating beacon of hope, truth, and light for lost souls in his country. Pastor Douglas. Living proof that our God cares and that with Him, we can overcome, forgive, and become shining lights for others.
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” Psalm 100:4 (NKJV)
“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:2-3 (NLT)