John Newton, a former slave ship master, soon became one of history’s fondest and well-known evangelists. When on a ship one day, they believed that they would not make it through the storm. He reached out to the Lord in prayer, and received deliverance. Through illness, the Lord was with him and through all of this, he became an evangelist throughout the slave trade. This led to the writing of the well known hymn, Amazing Grace.
“I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see”.
When my team and I were serving in Swartbooisdrift, Namibia, we met so many wonderful and unique people. Through the focus of building relationships, we were lucky enough to catch glimpses into the hearts of so many of these people. Living alongside the Himba Tribe, we also learned the ways of their culture. One of the most prominent people in the tribe was the chief. Little did I know that this man was about to grasp my heart forever.
We met the chief the first day that we were there. In order to serve and pray with the people of the tribe, you have to first be invited and welcomed, just like ones home. You do not simply barge in, but first must build that relationship, be wanted in their home. We met the chief and shared laughs with him. He welcomed us into the tribe, and we were so excited! We began ministry the next day, sitting with the families, getting to know their hearts, and praying with them. We quickly learned that the culture was very different than anything we have seen or were used to. We also quickly realized the importance of seasons. There were times that we were able to share the Gospel for the very first time, and plant a multitude of seeds. There were other times that we were able to talk up our Jesus even more, sit with families that have heard the Word, and continue to water those seeds. And on the rare occasion, we were able to experience a harvest, and a beautiful sight that was.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in do season we will reap, if we do not give up” -Galatians 6:9
We were sitting at our campsite one day. It was a Saturday, and we were all relaxing, enjoying the stillness of the surrounding beauty. We were enjoying each others company when we saw in the distance the chief walking towards us with his two sons. We all ran over to the entrance to greet him, and sit around him. He looked differently than he normally did. He had just returned from a recent trip to Angola, so we figured he came to tell us that he was back and safe. Instead, with tears in his eyes, he began to tell us how he truly believed that the God of the universe is his God. He told us,
“Although I cannot read, I have felt the love of God running through me. I am getting old, and I now believe”.
Now with tears in our own eyes, we laid hands upon him and sang Amazing Grace. How amazing is it to know that we have a new brother, on the other side of the world. Someone who cannot read, still has received the Holy Spirit, and has chosen to believe the truth of the Gospel. One who has always been the leader of the traditions believed to be true in Africa. The chief of a tribe that believes witchcraft and dreams to be true, has now become a similar man as John Newton. Better yet, a product of grace, just like the rest of us. A representation that our God has no borders, and there is absolutely no limit to His love.
And the best part yet? God began moving in Africa long before a missionary stepped foot in that soil. The chief of the Himba Tribe is a perfect example that He is greater than we will ever know. Different seasons are so important. I am so excited for the experiences that I was able to live, but even more excited for the next team to step foot in Swartbooisdrift and lay hands upon the chief. Evangelism is an ongoing ministry. It didn’t start with me, or end with me, and it never will. We are vessels, we are the hands and feet of the same God who placed the stars in the sky and decided what temperature they burn. We are not serving the Lord, we are serving with Him.
And now, so is the chief of Swartbooisdrift.
Come on, how stinkin’ cool is that!?