Thursday, August 7, 2008

His Name Was James

I watched carefully where I stepped as I followed my translator through Ashaima. The animals roamed free in this densely populated village and there appeared to be a small creek of raw sewage winding its way through the dirt streets. We turned into an alleyway lined with small kiosk's that sold everything from spools of thread to sun-dried fish that smelled worse than the sewage. After so many twists and turns I was hopelessly lost but finally my translator stopped at our destination - a small kiosk where a woman had expressed a desire for a Bible study.

It was 1983, and I was in Ghana, West Africa. This was my first time in a foreign country, my first time to not understand a single word being spoken around me, to have to go through military checkpoints with soldiers carrying automatic weapons, to see such extreme poverty and the affects of famine, and be the only white face in a sea of black ones. But none of those firsts concerned me at the moment. This was also my first time to lead a campaign Bible study and I was scared to death.

The lady at the kiosk brought out some chairs and we pulled them into a circle in the only space available, right in front of her little clapboard stall. I took a couple of deep breathes to get my thoughts together and started. A lifetime - or perhaps only an hour - later the woman declined our invitation to become a Christian. Then I heard another voice and looked up. I had been so focused on the Bible study that I had not noticed a crowd gathering but there was a semicircle of at least 25 people behind me completely blocking the alleyway. They had been standing there listening quietly. Now a young man who worked at the next kiosk spoke to my translator, telling her that he wished to be baptized. Sadly, he was on duty and could not leave the shop but he asked that we return the following day when he would be off. His name was James.

The next morning my translator again led me through a maze of dirty streets to the market alleyway but this time we also had in tow my husband, Jimmie, and his translator. I held my breathe most of the way, wondering if James would be there, so it was a relief to find him. But James was not alone. He had taught his brother the Gospel the night before and they were both waiting there with their towels to go to the water! Jimmie sat down with them to be sure they understood the plan of salvation and the one true church while I continued on to another Bible study farther down the alleyway, so I did not get to see them baptized. But I was thrilled just the same.

And I was thrilled again in 1985. Jimmie returned to Ghana on another campaign and my only request before he flew off was to please find James. Happily that turned out to be easy because James was still a faithful member of the congregation in Ashaima.

Most of the time we have no idea how our words or actions affect others outside our immediate circle. We focus on our own life and never realize that the world is watching us, judging us, deciding if they should follow our example whether good or bad. I am so thankful for the young man in Ghana that brought that lesson home to me. I hope to meet him again one day.
- Linda

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