Clouds of dust trailed the speeding Land Cruiser as my frightened driver hurried to the airstrip. “Slow down, Samuel, they won’t leave without me.”
“Missus, they think you are onboard. I took your suitcase to the plane when you talked to the men with microphones.”
I shook my head at such an absurd suggestion. However, the thread of doubt changed into a certainty when Samuel pulled the vehicle across the airstrip, attempting to stop the take-off of the twin-engine plane.
The plane executed a one-eighty at the far-end of the dirt-packed runway. In stunned unbelief, I watched the aircraft rise nearly close enough to grab the landing struts out my window.
Back at camp, the crackling, coded radio communication spit out the second try scheduled for four the next afternoon. Because I’d accidentally witnessed government soldiers killing innocent people, fleeing thousands of straw huts just set ablaze, I’d been ordered into hiding.
The following morning, having slept under borrowed blankets, I headed for breakfast in the tin dining shack. Greeting the team as I came through the door, I hoped that yesterday’s clothing didn’t smell too badly; the plane had taken absolutely everything I had. My African colleagues expressed concern when I asked for someone to lend me a stethoscope, while my American friends urged me to obey radio orders. “Will I endanger anyone else by going to the clinic today or checking on my in-patients?”
The camp director gave a stern reply. “No, but the soldiers will see you weren’t in the plane; they’ll come for you.”
“God has not given me a spirit of fear. He has sent me here to help the people. Have all the people left, as the officials said, or are they still waiting for medical care?”
“Many have fled to the hills around us, waiting to see what will happen. Tashali said there are people waiting in the clinic courtyard.”
“Well, then, let’s not keep them waiting.” I held out my hand as I spoke, smiling when a stethoscope was laid across my palm. “Please, don’t worry. If God isn’t able to keep me safe while I obey His orders to help the people here, He certainly isn’t able to keep me safe when I hide in my tent.”
The clinic load fell far-below our average numbers, but for those with the courage to come, I treated their sick children. I finished examining the last patient, returning him to his father, and leaned back.
“Sir, why did you risk your life to bring this child to me? Surely, you know he’s not ill.”
“Because I had to see for myself if it was true that you were still here. You are risking your life to treat our sick children. Why? I don’t understand. You came from rich America to live here in our poverty. You eat the same pot of stew we eat, wrap yourself with our gabbie, and you get sick with our diseases. Why, when you could be safe and have all that your people in America have?”
From the moment we’d come to this camp, show the Gospel, don’t speak one word had been our warning. Indeed, I’d been exposed to a culture far different from my own, but my heart longed for the people to know Jesus.
“My brother,” I said as I reached to take his restless child, “I’m here because Jesus asked me to come. I can be here today, because Jesus left His home to come to this earth for me. He had all that you can imagine and more in the glorious riches of Heaven, but Father God sent His Son here to save me. Jesus ate what the people ate; He dressed as they dressed; and though He was a King, He lived as the people lived so He could show them He loved them. He brought to the people a message of life, and that’s why I’m here. If my God could come to live like me, how could I not come to this land to live like you, when He asked me? God loves you; that’s why I’ve come.”
“Your God must be very powerful.”
“Yes! He’s All-Powerful.” I looked up to see the director in the doorway. “I must go now, but my interpreter will go with you to share God’s message.”
As the plane lifted me to safety, I remembered the man’s radiant smile. He’d been exposed to the power of Jesus; he was ready to hear the Gospel.
The names have been changed, but this is a true story.
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