Monday, April 02, 2007

Adventures In Africa! – Part V

Another man walked up to Edouard and whispered in his ear. Edouard turned to us and said that they would have to have the casket in the ground within thirty minutes or there would be no burial! We asked how much time we had to keep praying and he said ten minutes! We had thought we would have hours and here we were just told that we would only have ten minutes. We had only been praying about 20 minutes at this point. Without hesitation and in total desperation we threw ourselves on the ground and prayed with all of our heart, crying out to God to raise John Wesley from the dead. But we didn’t have ten minutes, we had one minute. Just a few seconds later they began to seal the casket. We were heart-broken; John Wesley hadn’t come back to life!

As the men closed the casket and began to carry it away, Edouard assured us that we would have a few more minutes on the way to the cemetery to pray and believe God. We got up from the floor and followed his men out of the house into the courtyard. There were two taxis waiting in the alley, one a small Toyota Corolla and a little van, about the size of a little VW van. David and another of Edouard’s pastors got in the back seat of the little Toyota and placed the casket on their laps. David began to pray. We started towards the van with Edouard’s brothers and a few people from his church. As we stepped towards the van we looked about fifty feet down the alley and saw a huge group of people, obviously fighting with each other. I asked our translator, the one who always had the goofy grin what was going on and he told us that it was the two families fighting about the death of the child. We actually had to walk towards the group of people to get in the van. As we stepped closer however, things got worse.


RIOT!
People in the crowd were picking up sticks, rocks, bricks and knives. Men were taking off their belts and beating each other with them. Men beat women in the group, showing absolutely no regard for the opposite sex. As they saw Edouard and his white friends heading towards the van, several in the mob broke free and started running towards us! My translator looked at me and with his trademark goofy grin said, “You are in great danger!” Instead of walking towards the van we started to back away. Edouard’s family was the only thing standing between us and the mob and they had to use physical force to keep them from attacking us. Seeing us, they went into a frenzy and made a push to come for us. Our translator looked at me and said without his trademark grin, “RUN!” So we ran for our life. David was still in the back of the little Toyota as Danny, Nathan and I ran as fast as we could. We ran down the alley and made a quick right hand turn, heading down the road away from the house. The two taxis, seeing the angry mob running after us, threw it into reverse and took off down the alley towards us.

Edouard’s family and the brothers from the church swarmed us like Secret Service agents would swarm the president and moved us quickly away from the angry mob. The taxis eventually caught up with us down the alley and we were thrown in the little bus. Now I know that we were concerned, but we didn’t really know what was going on due to the language barrier. But when you see native Africans FREAK OUT, you know you’re in trouble. Edouard’s brothers and the men from the church were screaming at the taxi drivers and totally losing their stuff. We started driving at breakneck speeds down the tiny little alleys, trying to reach the main road. The only problem was that many of the little alleys were obstructed by trash, deep mud and tree branches, so we had to work our way through the maze to hit the main road. At one of the intersections we got stuck in a little bit of deep mud for a second or two. I looked to our right and about two streets over; part of the angry mob was walking by. They saw our truck and started running towards us! We broke free of the mud and headed towards the main road. The mob was fanning out, trying to block our exits and prohibit us from escaping. Thanks to the amazing driving ability of our taxi drivers, we escaped and made it to the main road.


A DEFEAT
We had made it away from the mob, but we had a serious time constraint to get the body in the ground legally. John Wesley was to be buried in a state burial plot by state workers and we barely had 15 minutes to make a thirty minute drive! The taxi drivers drove at ridiculous speeds down the wrong side of the road, many times narrowly missing oncoming traffic! I just put my head into my bag and prayed with all of my heart for the angels to help us. Edouard’s phone started ringing as the in-laws were calling him. Through our interpreter we got the story.

In witchcraft, one of the highest sacrifices that you can offer is your first born son. Edouard’s in-laws, many of which are unbelievers, now believed that Edouard had offered his son to the devil. They assumed that because he had been hanging with these strange white guys who had been preaching a strange message, then we must be up to no good. In fact, they thought that we were performing a satanic ritual with the body before he was to be buried! When the in-laws were dismissed from the wake as we were praying, it was the spark that set off the fire. They flew into a frenzy and decided to kill Edouard and his Mondelis (white people). So, this wasn’t a crowd that just wanted to beat us up, they were after us to kill us! They were now telling Edouard that he could run, but he couldn’t hide. They told him that they would be waiting for us wherever we went.

We raced off and arrived at the state cemetery. There were lines upon lines of freshly dug graves and mourners coming from burial sites. I have never seen so many graves in my life. We found the place where John Wesley was to be buried and brought the casket to the grave site. They lowered the casket in and we opened it one more time, praying and believing that he would be alive. He wasn’t. They resealed the casket and Edouard took a shovel-full of dirt, spreading it over the casket of his only son. When we realized that it was over and that we had failed to get him back from the dead, we lost it. All of us Americans fell to pieces and wept openly. What a terrible price Edouard had paid for the Gospel! But as we wept, Edouard looked to heaven and lifted his hands, praising and worshiping Jesus with all of his heart! He sang a song that said, “Goodbye, I’ll see you in Heaven”. Edouard had to sing alone, we were too busy grieving and weeping to sing with him. Some brothers form the church gathered around us and comforted us!


GET US OUT OF HERE!
After the burial, they put all of us into the little Toyota and sent us to our hotel. Our flight left in a few hours and Edouard said that he would go the church, encourage his people to press on and then come and see us off before we left. A few minutes into our drive back, Edouard pulled us to the side of the road and split us up into two taxis, putting one of his guys with us in each taxi. In our grief we had forgotten that we still had an angry mob trying to find us and kill us! They were calling Edouard and telling him that they would be waiting for him and they knew where we were staying and that they would be waiting for us. Edouard’s guys were in the taxis with us to show the taxi driver a way of escape if the mob found us! It was a very tense drive back to the hotel as we did not know if they would be waiting for us or not. They took the taxis down back roads to avoid the mob on a main road where we would be expected to travel. We arrived at the hotel and found that there was no one there.

Edouard’s guys rushed us out of the taxis into our hotel rooms and told us to lock the door. They would wait in the lobby should anyone show up intent on hurting us. We went to the room and got completely ready to leave the country, not knowing if we would have to run for our lives. We devised an escape plan to hide out at another large hotel until our flight left that evening and called our families, asking them to pray. I wept with my wife over the phone as we were heart broken that John Wesley had not come back and due to the tension of the mob coming after us. About a half hour later, we received a call from Edouard saying that we were out of danger. The mob had ended up at his church facility and had taken out their anger by destroying his meeting place. Now, not only had Edouard lost his son, but his wife was being held by her family and his church was in ruins! Edouard met us at the hotel a little later and came into our room simply saying, “Pray for us”. We all fell on our knees together and prayed for him, we prayed for the work there in his district and we prayed for his church. The presence of the Lord was near to our broken hearts. Edouard then asked if he could pray for us and we fell at the feet of this great man of God, receiving everything he had to impart.

We literally had to tear ourselves from each other as we prayed and wept together, asking the Holy Spirit to take the life of John Wesley and make it a seed unto a great harvest in the Congo. A few hours later we caught our flight back to the USA. On the plane home I tried to listen to some worship music on my IPOD, but quickly fell to pieces and started shaking and sobbing, just crushed by what we had witnessed; the terrible retaliation of the enemy on the innocent and a great man’s godly response to terrible persecution. As of this moment, Edouard has lost his child, who he said he loved more than any other person on the earth, he has lost his wife, who still hasn’t returned from her family and he has lost his meeting place, which the mob destroyed on the day of his child’s funeral. But has this stopped the work?

No way.

Edouard and his guys are preaching the Gospel in their district every day, seeing God heal, save and deliver, working with them as they preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Gospel rolls on, unhindered by persecution.

Pray for Edouard and the work there in the Congo.

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I’ll write more soon about my feelings about the trip and also post a tribute slide show that Nathan put together for John Wesley.

Blessings,
Ryan

2 comments:

MaryAnn M said...

wow.
amazing story.

brings a sober reminder to the cost of preaching the gospel.

was really really wanting LIFE to come back to John Wesley...

praises that you are safe...and undone.

Anonymous said...

Eduord reminds me of David when his son died and he said his son could not return, but he could go to him.
What a man to praise God when everything fell apart! We need to be more like him.