“And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” -Matthew 10:14
Settling into Loyangolani at the edge of Lake Turkana was a frustrating process. We had come to survey the area and preach the gospel. Our budget was tight, but the people were accustomed to taking advantage of outsiders in this rundown tourist town, and prices kept creeping up.
At one hotel (restaurant), githeri jumped from 20 shillings to 30 from dinner to lunch the next day. When I went to pay the bill at breakfast, the ladies in charge tried to charge me 40 shillings for a cup of tea. Pastor Longisa’s wife had already paid for it, and she had only paid 15 shillings.
We wanted to take our meals there all week, but frustrated by the way they were treating us, I decided to confront them and see how they reacted. Pastor Pokisa told the ladies that we were there to do the work of God and not as tourists. Her response, even though she claimed to believe in God, was “God is God and business is business.” I was honestly furious. You cannot separate God from other parts of your life!
This story is just one example of our entire time in town. Nobody cared about why we came. They claimed to be spiritual but were more interested in ripping us off than listening to the Good News we had to share. Matthew 10:14 was on my heart as we left to survey the El Molo villages our first morning. I was fed up with the people of Loyangolani town.
Out in the village was a completely different story. The chief and elders of Komote welcomed us. They were extremely helpful and never looked at us with dollar signs in their eyes. We decided to travel to the farthest El Molo village because the elders at Komote asked us to return later when people were back in from fishing.
Palo is the farthest El Molo village at 25 kilometers (1 hour drive) from Loyangolani. When we arrived, there was a group of elders sitting under a tree. After introductions, they welcomed us to share our message with them. The previous week we had been rushing from village to village, so after preaching, we would give a salvation invitation and then take names for the local pastors to follow up with. Today we had time so I encouraged Pastor Longisa to take questions.
And [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. -Acts 18:4
The Apostle Paul didn’t preach and then say raise your hand if you want to go to heaven. He reasoned with the people and made sure they were prepared to believe in the message he was giving and then live out the gospel with their lives.
After Pastor Longisa answered a number of great questions, 6 of the men decided to commit their lives to Jesus!!! There was maybe 15 people at the gathering so this was a great response. In light of the frustration of the town, I decided to ask the others what they thought of spending the night in Palo and continuing to teach the people there. Both our team and the village elders were favorable so we headed back to town to gather our belongings and buy some supplies (we decided not to burden the people with feeding us).
Back at Palo in the evening, the village designated an unfinished manyata (hut) for us to use. It was big enough for the women, and the men were given a cow’s skin to put on the sand for sleeping outside.
Just as food was being served, we got news that a child was bitten by a snake. The village was going to be gathering in half an hour for me to continue teaching the scriptures, but I handed the lesson over to Pastor Pokisa (2 more gave their heart to Jesus as he taught what it means to follow Christ through the 10 commandments) and loaded the boy and his family into the car. Longisa’s daughter, Margaret, applied a tourniquet to slow down the spreading of the poison.
I was glad to have driven the road a couple times as we sped through the darkness. My focus on getting to the hospital as fast as possible was interrupted as I was told to pull over. I stopped just in time for the boy’s mother to jump out and find release for her motion sickness outside. We quickly reloaded with her positioned by the window so she could spew on the go. I am grateful that she got 99% of throw up out the window, although the side of the car was in need of a good wash…
In town, we rushed to wake up the catholic mother who summoned the doctor. A few minutes later the boy was being checked out and given shots. Probably not the best first doctor experience for the one and a half year old. Once everything was settled, we left the parents to spend the night in town and we loaded up for the drive back to Palo.
We arrived back just before midnight ready to crash. For as hot as it was during the day, it was surprisingly cool outside on the ground at night. Luckily I grabbed my jacket out of the car for a pillow, so it became my blanket when I woke up cold in the middle of the night.
The next morning just as our breakfast of chai was almost prepared, one of the elders came to our tent to because a young man was terribly sick. They were afraid he was going to die. When we arrived at his tent, we found him rolling on the ground uncontrollably. His whole body was tense, but for as much pain as his body seemed to be in, his face showed almost no sign that he was hurting.
We immediately began praying and singing worship songs over him. He seemed oblivious to the fact that we were there, but from time to time he would snap out of it and begin talking with us. Making a long event short, through multiple series of him entering an uncontrollable state, us praying, and him sharing a little bit with us, he told us what was happening.
He was not in any pain but felt like he was being pressed. When the pressure began, his vision would go black, but he could see dark figures moving around him (all the actual people were standing still and he was seeing something other than physical people). All he could feel was fear.
Realizing that this was not a physical sickness but a spiritual attack, we began to discuss what could have caused this. This was actually not the first time this happened, and he shared a story of traditional practices involving money and alcohol gone wrong. This was the night before his first attack.
I told the other men with me, “this is spiritual and not medical and I am not going to stop praying until this young man is delivered.” Honestly I was clueless and feeling uncertain about what to do, but I knew that God was greater than the forces at work and that He wanted to show that to the people of the village.
I began sharing through the translator that sin in our lives separates us from God and leaves us vulnerable to demonic forces. But,the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection overcame the power of sin and evil. Through confession of our sin and faith in Christ, we can be set free from the bondage of sin.
As soon as he confessed and received Jesus into his life, the attacks stopped! He was clearly tired but the fear was gone. We left him to rest and returned to our area to drink chai and prepare for the day.
Many people left to tend to their daily needs, but those who were still around gathered under a tree. We took the time after prayer and worship to give God the glory for His demonstration of power and share a short teaching from scripture.
Another one of the men gave his heart to Jesus, and we decided since it would be some time before we could return, it was best to baptize the believers who were still around. Since many were out working, there was only 3 of the 10 new believers available, but God has a plan.
We were able to leave them with a Proclaimer, which is a radio like device that plays the Bible in audio. I have had one sitting around for months frustrated that I did not know where to give it away. It just happened to be one in the Turkana language, which is what a majority of the people speak! We encouraged them to listen to God’s Word regularly and to come together at least once a week to worship, pray, and listen to the proclaimer as a group of believers.
With that we headed back to town.
Over the the years I have studied missions methodologies, learning the techniques that different missionaries have used to build effective ministries (and I am grateful for a wonderful education). At Palo, I feel like I left all that I had learned behind to meditate on what they did in the Bible and especially 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.” We spent a couple days living with a group of people, sharing their lives, showing the love of Christ, and sleeping on the ground. God did the rest.