Stories from Africa
My good friend Patti has returned from Africa. What a glorious time she tells of- read one of her stories below!
“Forgiveness Has a Name”
It was an ordinary Friday afternoon (July 17 2015), when I had an opportunity to visit the sick in a small Ugandan hospital. It was there that I met Andrew, a twenty-six year old Ugandan man who was lying on his stomach severely burned. The burns where appalling, white blistered skin marking a beautiful dark-skinned body. After a quick introduction, he told our ‘Awaken 2 Love’ team his story. He had been called by some friends to come to their house for fellowship of some kind. When he got there, they poured boiling water all over his back. Some friends! He was rushed to the hospital and had been there for weeks. He lay there in excruciating pain consumed with thoughts of revenge. He wanted his healing, mostly so he could have his revenge.
My heart sank. How is that even possible? Who would do such a thing? Only a people who are ravaged by anger, bitterness, or pain inside could or would pull off such an atrocity. The story of David, Nabal, and Abigail came straight to my heart, not that I remembered the names, major details, or even the biblical address at the time (1 Samuel 25). What I remembered was that a women, Abigail, intervened to stop an angry vengeful royal king (David) from taking his revenge for an injustice done to him, and in so doing, David was prevented from doing something he would later regret. So I shared with Andrew, a brother in Christ, the gist of the story. Then I asked Andrew if we could pray for him and for his enemies. (A bold move looking back! Would I be able to pray for the people who scalded me with boiling water while I lie in pain in a hospital bed for weeks? Sometimes the Spirit of God has a brilliant, but seemingly crazy, idea that leads us well if we are willing to follow.) My teammate, Ashley, then shared from Matthew chapter 5 where Jesus tells us to walk contrary to the ways of this world when it comes to revenge and our enemies, even asking us to “pray for our enemies”. Andrew softened somewhat and reluctantly agreed. We prayed for the people who had hurt him, that they would find the kind of love Jesus has to offer, and for Andrew’s healing, for new skin to grow and the removal of his pain. Then something happened that day in that run down Ugandan hospital, something that no one could physically see, at first.
We came back to visit Andrew the following Monday, three days later, continuing to pray for him over the weekend. What we saw was beyond words! We saw how “love could covers a multitude of sins”. Andrew was up walking around with a smile on his face. His damaged skin was pink and healing nicely and his heart was full of gratitude. (He was happy to see us, but probably not as happy as we were to see him.) It was astonishing actually! He described how his situation was very difficult but that God was teaching him things that were changing him through the difficulty. He told us that his enemies had been arrested but released from jail by a quick monetary bribe to the police. Then he told us that it was OK because he had completely forgiven them. He said that he could still sue them for the damages if he wanted, but instead he just wanted prayer for the resources to pay his hospital bills and to find a new job when he got out of the hospital. And so we had the privilege to pray with him again. His skin was no longer white but pink and healing and his pain was significantly small comparatively.
I have never seen anything like it before. Forgiveness may not change our enemies but it certainly changes us! Andrew is a testimony to the forgiveness of Christ and the love He has offered us with His unconditional forgiveness.
31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Matthew 10: 7- 8 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. FREELY YOU RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.”