Good Friday morning ...
Some time ago I had a vivid dream. Because I do not often recall my dreams, I was taken aback by the unique reality of this dream.
In the dream I found myself stooping to enter the hut of a Maasai mzee (elder) whom I have met on several occasions on past visits to the village of Njoro. The mzee's name is Sitelu; he is the father of my dear Maasai Evangelist friend, Raphael.
In my dream, I am temporarily blinded as I entered his hut ... having left the strong light of the day-time equatorial sun ... and trying to adjust to the pitch darkness within the stick walls of closely packed mud and cow dung. After a quick left, then a rapid right ... I was through the typical, maze-like entrance and found myself in a large open area where a fire idled silently on the earthen floor in the very center, its smoke filling the room, as it slowly filtered through a grass-covered opening at the peak of the circular hut. The smell was immense ... a combination of stale human body odor, the fresh pungency of cattle, and the ever-present swirl of smoke ... all caught up in the closed-in space.
At the invitation of my host, I sat cross-legged upon a leather mat laid out on the floor, enabling me to escape some of the pent-up heat and to see more clearly and breath more easily. A cup of piping hot chai, thick with fresh goat milk and sugar, was offered in a customarily gracious manner by Sitelu's wife, after which she left the boma.
At Sitelu's instigation we quickly settled into conversation, but it was hardly a typical exchange. Gone were the typical questions about family, the bantering about current events and the inquiry about my health and well-being. In their place was an unusual seriousness, a slight hesitancy in his speech, a noticeable refusal to look me in the eye. I soon understood why.
Our previous relationship had been one of very high regard and supreme respect. After all, he was an elder Maasai and father of a prominent rising Maasai warrior in the local community. His word was absolute, his endorsement of the work my teams had begun on the mountain a prime reason for its continuation. And yet, he was not yet a Christian.
On my part, I was simply the team leader of mixed-aged Christians who had come repeatedly to serve the local churches and to work on several clinics in the Maasai area. I had become to him, the bearer of hope and promise for this small primitive community. He knew our work would have a tremendous impact on the future of Njoro.
But our dreamed conversation had nothing to do with the Olchoronyoke Church or the clinic down in the village or any other needs of the Ketumbeine villagers. It was not about issues or problems facing modern-day Maasai. It had nothing to do with inadequate maize crops or unhealthy goat herds. This conversation was about faith ... Sitelu's faith. This old man, this highly respected leader of his community, this man of favor in the eyes of his people, this bold, brash, out-spoken man who in previous conversations had wanted nothing to do with Christianity, this man wanted to talk about Jesus! And not just any talk ... but like the shepherds in their fields, like Simeon serving in the temple, like the Magi traveling from the east, like the fishermen brothers, John and Andrew, like Matthew, the tax collector, like Zacchaeus from his perch in a sycamore tree ... and like so many, many more ... this man wanted to see Jesus! And he didn't just want a glance; he had had enough of that! He wanted to see! He didn't want a peek; he was ready for the full view! He wanted to see ... he wanted to meet Jesus ... to get up-close and personal ... to invite Jesus into his boma.
And so it began, sitting cross-legged from each other, a cup of chai in hand, his Maasai shuka askew over his frail frame, without even an interpreter, this man, who years ago told me that one day he would become a Christian, said, "I want to see Jesus!"
Momentarily the flames of the fire stood still, its light a blazing inferno, its smoke refusing to rise. For a moment the tinkling of hollow cattle bells outside ceased, the clatter of children playing around the boma was not heard. Temporarily there was absolute silence, the earth seemed to stand still, and I sensed the angels in heaven were shouting "Hallelujah!"
Then suddenly I awoke from my dream, our unfinished conversation suspended, our dialogue about Jesus interrupted, and the smoky chat room quickly disappeared. Following that dream, I remember wondering, what was that all about?
Last January, on a cold Monday morning, I received a 2 am phone call from my friend Raphael with a simple message: "My father is baptized on Sunday." Then in May, as I arrived at the Njoro church to preach a Sunday morning message, I alighted from our truck to be greeted with a hug from Raphael and his father, Sitelu. Then I was privileged to have him sit among the congregation that morning, wrapped in his traditional red shuka, nodding his head as his son translated my message from English to Swahili.
Such is the working of God. In the fullness of time, Sitelu became a child of God. He is an old man who can rest in peace each night to know he is loved and forgiven by a gracious God, One who has saved his soul and promised him eternal life in heaven.
All the while I have known this man and his family, God has loved him with all his heart and I have no doubt that God's Word was sharp and two-edged when He declared "God rewards those who earnestly seek Him" [Hebrews 11:6] And "those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved." [Romans 10:13]
Blessings on your weekend ...