January 28, 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Sometimes you encounter things that really make you sit back and think. And some of those things hit you really hard. I had one of those encounters this month while just going around doing “business as usual”.
I’ve lived in Africa for eight years as of this month. So, needless to say I’ve come across poverty and seen sickness. It’s never easy to see these things and there is always a desire that I could help the people I see in these situations. But this time hit me differently for some reason. Nathan and I have been working with Kefa and Matilda in a village called Robinson trying to ultimately get a church started there in their house. Kefa and Matilda are not wealthy (if you saw their house you would probably think they are very poor), but they are doing well compared to some who live around them who really do live in utter poverty. They are good Christian people who desire to start up a church in their home and to minister to the people around them. So, in trying to start up a church here, Nathan, Kefa and I make visits to the neighbors and surrounding areas to meet the people, share the gospel with them, pray for their needs and invite them to our worship/Bible study meetings in Kefa’s house.
On one of these visits this month Kefa took us to a line of “apartments” to visit the people who live there. These apartments are just a string of one room, mud wall, dirt floor houses. The people who live there live in poverty. We walked into one of these rooms and even after eight years here I was still amazed. The room was dark—nighttime dark. The window was boarded up and the only light came through the now opened door. The smell was terrible, the air hardly breathable. The dimensions of the room were about 8 feet by 8 feet. The walls were mud and stick and the floor was packed dirt. Trash was piled up in one corner. Besides the trash the only other thing in the room was an old man lying on a filthy, disintegrating mattress which was on top of a wood slated bed. He was not able to get up to leave the bed. When he had to spit (which was often) he would simply spit on the floor or on the wall. He could not get up to use the communal pit latrine (so you can only imagine). When I saw his feet I could see why he could not walk. His feet were eaten up and mangled by jiggers. Jiggers are the smallest form of flea, hardly visible by the human eye. They burrow into human flesh where they live, feed and lay their eggs. They have to be dug out with a razor and treated with a medicine difficult to obtain. He had obviously been in this state for a long time as he was not able to walk, his legs had become emaciated and he looked to be near starvation. As we stood there talking to and praying for the man I could not help but think what it would be like to lie in this dark, filthy, stench-filled room day after day, not able to get up, not able to leave, with absolutely nothing to do but lie there until I died. Can you imagine?
When we eventually left the man I told Kefa that we would need to help this man. I told him it was one of the reasons for the existence of a church and was the ministry of Christ. I told him we couldn’t just leave the man in that room to die like that. Kefa was in complete agreement with me. When we returned to Kefa’s house we decided to take the money we had collected for offerings (which they had originally wanted to use to start a building fund) and use it help the man. We have been trying to teach them the Biblical way of using these offerings and now they were going to use them in a God-honoring, Christ-exalting way. Kefa and Matilda then took charge of the man’s care. That week they took him fresh fruits and vegetables to eat and cooked him food. They contacted a friend who had been trained in treating jiggers and was licensed to obtain the medicine (the medicine is restricted because it can be used in making bombs). When the friend was prepared he came with the medicines and he, Kefa, Matilda, Nathan and I went back to the man’s house to see that he was treated for the jiggers and was being cared for. My heart rejoiced to see Kefa on his knees in the dirt, gingerly holding the old man’s feet in his hands as he carefully cleaned them, cut his toenails, cut out the jiggers and treated the man’s feet. It was a beautiful picture of Christian service and of showing the love of Christ. Our small group is now caring for the man physically and spiritually. Please pray with us that he not have to die alone in that dark room, that he would regain his health and most of all that he would know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior so that one day, when his suffering here is over, he can rejoice in the presence of the One who took our suffering for us.
Until next month, beloved.
May God’s peace and joy be with you.
For the glory of God in East Africa,
Roger & Julie Tate (and Emily, Amy, Josiah & Chloe)
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