Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Editor's note: Gavin Fothergill is a missionary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This story is reprinted from his family's ministry blog with permission.
I was driving home late one night from a meeting with local pastors in Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At first, the two men running at full speed behind my car unsettled me, but I soon made out the figures of two brothers I knew well: Shadrak and Mechak. “Come quick” they shouted through tears, “our father’s dying!” We ran quickly around the corner and while still a good distance from the house I could hear wailing.
In the Congolese context, wailing is a required process that goes on for days with family and friends after the death of a loved one. People from the neighborhood had already started gathering around the house to pay their respects and wail with their friends. I hesitated to go in. “What if he’s dead already,” I thought to myself, “what am I supposed to do?”
I moved to the DRC with my wife and children 18 months ago. Upon arriving in Lubumbashi, I made it a habit to speak to my neighbors. Most people are locked up behind their walls in my part of town, so I began to spend most of my time with the workers and other people who were more accessible. Shortly after making friends with the young men of the neighborhood, they began asking me to teach them about the Bible. Most of them had been conditioned to accept that they weren’t allowed to know much about the Word of God. We started meeting as a small group for prayer and Bible study. They soon began to ask for a church, but sensing that I myself didn’t have the time to devote to it, I declined. God had other plans.
Six months after the Bible study had started, two of these young men were running after my car, begging me to come to their dying father.
The air in the house was thick as people were crowded in; crying and wailing at the top of their lungs. I reluctantly pushed passed the other family members and saw Papa Jean – as he is known in the neighborhood – laying on his back, still. I began to call out to him, but there was no response. I put my hand on his chest to feel if it would rise and fall with his breaths. Even through his shirt I could feel that he was burning hot. The young men beside me were openly weeping. I shrugged my shoulders and turned to them looking for the right words to say.
Just then, a small voice rose in the back of my mind. “Ask in my name,” it said, “and I will do it.” My hands returned to Papa Jean and I began praying and asking God for healing. A few minutes later, as we were still praying, he began to move in his bed. After another few minutes, he was sitting up and responsive. I put my hand on his shoulder to steady him and noticed that the fever was gone. The boys tried to keep him in bed, but he stood up and walked out of the house. There in the presence of the small crowd he began to testify that God had healed him.
My head was spinning. “Is this what really happened?” I asked myself as doubt began to creep in. The Holy Spirit had just done a mighty work through me, and yet I found it difficult to believe. I was humbled and bewildered, and did the only thing that I could: I prayed thanking God for what He had done and asked for forgiveness for my disbelief.
In the three months since this time, the Holy Spirit has continued to use Papa Jean to build the Kingdom. We started a church soon after that night, and another one a short three weeks later. Even now, more preaching points are being established through Papa Jean’s connections. When we are open to being used by the Spirit, the Spirit will accomplish these “greater things” in and through us. Let us pray that we may be open, sensitive, and obedient to the Spirit.
I have always believed that the Bible was true. But it wasn’t until I moved to Africa that I realized how true the Bible was for me, personally. I had studied the Word, meditated on it, prayed over it, and taught it to others. But for some reason, there are certain things that I just didn’t fully grasp, various instances where it seemed that the message wasn’t entirely relevant. Again, it wasn’t that I didn’t believe the Bible to be true, but perhaps living in Africa has helped me to realize that the Bible is true, even for me.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
Jesus tells us clearly that if we are his believers, we will do not just what he has been doing, but even greater things than those. At times, we have misused this verse, thinking that it is telling us that Jesus will provide us whatever possessions or desires that we ask for in his name. A simple examination of this passage in context with the proceeding and following verses reveals these words as an exhortation to continue the work that Jesus himself was doing. Even though Jesus will go away (v.19), he assures his disciples that another advocate (v.16) will come and give us the power to continue Christ’s work on this earth. It is for this work that we have the promise that Jesus will not hold anything back from us; the Holy Spirit will provide all that we need.
Since coming to live in the DRC, I have experienced many things that I haven’t experienced in other places. Crowds of thousands have followed me as I walked through city streets; God has made me a witness to his power through divine healing; and at times the Word has flown through me to prophesy to those needing redemption. Perhaps living in Congo has reminded me so much of the stories that I’ve read in the Bible, that I have allowed the Spirit to work through me in ways that I didn’t understand and couldn’t claim to be my own power.