“You have brought light into our village,” said the mayor of F-village at the end of our first trip to Mali. At times it seems so long ago, and yet it is as fresh as yesterday. Our first night was in the heart of the village, gathered around a single kerosene lantern that provided our only light. I could see the first row and I could hear those who had gathered behind them. In the village it grew quiet as we started, “I want to tell you a story. This story comes from the very Word of God. It is not a story made up by men, but one given to us from the Most High God. He is the One true God.” Those were the first words of proclamation I would have in a village that we would return to some 25 times over the next 5 years.
We shared the story of Creation, and the origin of sin. We talked about God’s incredible love that sent the law and the prophets, and provided a sacrificial system. And in that very first message I made a bee-line to the Cross and the story of Christ’s sacrificial death to save us from our sins. That first night nine men in that village surrendered their hearts and lives to be followers of Jesus Christ. It was an unbelievable moment. It was for me a life-changing moment.
That night, after those first followers of Jesus in that village had left, I zipped myself up in a nylon sleeping bag. I had doused myself in insect repellant and was zipped up tight trying to not be bitten by mosquitoes for fear of malaria. It was hot, and I was on a concrete slab that formed the front porch of the rustic “guest house” provided by the mayor of the village. The donkeys brayed and the dogs barked. Babies cried and every sound for miles traveled to our ears. I couldn’t sleep. Not so much because of the heat, and not so much because of the noise, but because of the incredible realization that God could overcome language and cultural barriers with the truth of His Word and the power of His Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” And we had shared the story of Jesus. So that at the end of our time, our first time in that village, the mayor had said, “You have brought light to our darkness.”