It seems sometimes like the longest, most exhausting days are the best ones in Togo. That was definitely the case last Sunday when we went out with Jean and Alaza to two remote villages in Lamba land.
Alaza, as you may know, has started a church at his own house and has a desire and passion to bring the hope and redemptive power of Jesus to villages all around his region. His efforts, along with those of others in his church, led their county chief to say recently that the whole region should accept the message of Jesus and follow him.
Knowing that Alaza’s village was in desperate need of water, we put Alaza in contact with a local well drilling team who does hand-dug water pumps at a very low, subsidized price for villages. Alaza mobilized his village to begin saving the $150 needed for each well, and just recently the work was finished on five wells that are now pumping out fresh, clean water even in the middle of the dry season!
The head of the drilling team asked Alaza if he knew of any other villages that were just as desperate for water, so Alaza hopped on his bicycle and found the twin villages which are 30 kilometers from his house. I can’t imagine riding 30 km on a bike in this African heat! Regardless, he has now mobilized these two villages as well to pay for their own wells too. Alaza, however, is not only concerned that people receive water for their physical thirst, but living water for their spiritual thirst as well. And this is how Andrew, Jean, and I ended up in one of the most remote places we’ve been in Togo.
Last Sunday we had church at Alaza’s house before heading out on our motorcycles to the two villages on the edge of civilization (quite literally—they border a protected reserve to the north of the Lamba region). If there’s one thing I have learned about riding motorcycles in Togo, it’s that you don’t want to be following behind anyone during the dry season, yet somehow I ended up in the rear of our little motorcycle gang which had Jean and Alaza on the first bike, Andrew on the second, and me eating everyone’s dust! I’m speaking literally again. This is what my pants looked like after just one day of riding! I think it’s time to retire these ones.
We got to the first village where around 30 adults crammed under a little, wooden, low-ceiling shelter to listen to what we had to say. We began by explaining that God is not far off and unknowable like they have been taught, but that He has made a way for us to know Him, and that way is through Jesus. Not only is Jesus the way to God, but He is also the source of satisfaction, peace, and hope in life.
After this introduction, we played the Good News audio recording, which is something we have just begun using as an evangelistic tool since it summarizes the entire Bible story in around 30 minutes. This goes along with a picture book as well, which captivated the attention of everyone there.
Following the audio, we asked if anyone had questions or wanted to say anything. A few people had some very good questions, the most notable of which being from a young man who wanted to know the difference between fetishes and Christianity and why he should choose to follow Jesus. I was ablet to use a great analogy another missionary gave to me years ago that speaks of a bicycle mechanic who fixes your bike but at the same time messes something else up so you have to come back again. He keeps doing this again and again until your bike is falling apart every day, and the person who was supposed to be helping you is actually bringing you harm.
In a typical Togolese anti-climactic kind of way, after the people had finished asking questions they stated that everything we said and shared was good and that they would like Alaza to continue coming to share more with them.
The second village was much the same as the first, with the exception that the people seemed to be a bit more open and excited than the first about what they were receiving. This could be due to the fact that there is a follower of Jesus in this village who perhaps has been sowing seeds there for a while. This second village has already begun mentioning starting a church there, which is an encouraging sign.
In speaking with Alaza, it was clear that he was going to need some sort of help in getting out to these villages so he doesn’t have to ride his bike so far, but we found out
that he had already saved up $200 towards a motorcycle, but only needed about $100 more, so we gave him around $80 to encourage him to save up the last bit needed, which he did over the following week. So the next time we were at his house he proudly showed off his “new” (more like “old-but-still-running”) motorcycle to us.
Please be praying for these two small villages and for Alaza as he continues to disciple these groups to faith in Christ.