"Brother From America"
The first time our hospital ship - the M/V Anastasis - arrived in the Benin, I was in for a big surprise. As the ship docked, one crew member disembarked and disappeared into the city. A few hours later she reappeared and told her younger crew members that she found a church for us to attend. On Sunday, about 10 of us gathered at the bottom of the gangway and walked to a small church. As we entered the church, I saw that the congregation was divided between the men and the women. I was the only male in the group, so I waved goodbye to my wife and sat among the French speaking men of the church. I do not speak French! After about an hour of African worship, the church pastor started to speak (in French) and after about another 30 minutes, he ushered another man to the podium and asked him to translate for him. I was so happy that I could now understand what was going on. The pastor spoke to the church members and told them that the "brother from America" would now come and give the "WORD." I looked around for this new speaker and found myself being used forward towards the pastor by many sweaty church members. I grabbed my Bible and walked towards to front of the church. I walked up the podium and as I opened my Bible, I prayed that there would be something highlighted. I read a passage and spoke for five minutes and then sat down. Church continued for another few hours. As church let out, the pastor called me forward and I shook hands as people left the building. Once everyone left the church, the pastor said to me (through the translator), "Next Sunday I want you to speak for an hour." I shook my head saying "Yes", but in my heart and mind, "No way" was my response. Now, I was quickly trying to figure out how to get out of coming back to this church! Once the pastor left, I was stood there with the translator. He said, "God sent you here today!" He told me that he was an elder and that this was his last meeting. However, now God wanted him to stay! "Why, does God want you to stay now?" I asked. "Because you are going to be here every Sunday and I am the only one in the church that can translate for you!" I shook my head and agreed that I would be coming back to the church. In my head, I was trying to think of how I could get out of this and not cause the elder to doubt God! A fellow teacher agreed to come with me and tag team preach. A men's Bible study, a women's Bible study, and a Sunday school were outcomes of our time with this church. Six months of being involved in the lives of this church in Benin was life changing for me. I had no idea what I was doing, but God showed up and took my willingness and turned it into an amazing adventure. The verse that I was highlighted in my Bible which I read on that first Sunday was...
" Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight."