Dean Winchell - 05/29/2012
I want to relate one instance where prayer was needed for professing 'Christians' who were offensive. I know that the Lord will grant you discernment. During the time of this account, I confess that I had made my own mistakes dealing with the national staff. Sometimes, it's not what is done but how things are done. Not in what is communicated, but in the spirit in which the words are spoken.
I may have only related this story briefly once to my mother.
It was in Zaire in 1995 on breathtaking Lake Tanganika. I working as an Operations Manager with a well-known Christian NGO. I was the only male among four other Christian female workers like myself. Our mandate was to protect the unaccompanied children in 12 refugee camps (population 250,000). My job was not so much in the camps with the Rwandan Hutus, but more in our compound with the accounting, procurement, security, transport, communications, staff, volleyball etc. I brought my big tool box with me from the U.S.
The local NGOs and GOs took turns hosting a fete every Saturday night. There was swimming in the lake on Sunday (look out for the hippos) and afterward, our NGO invited all comers for volleyball at our compound every week. This was to reach out and instill cooperation in our international relief community. We provided cold, filtered drinking water for all ex-pats. The water was boiled on charcoal, ceramic filtered, bottled and then we would run the generator to power the fridge.
But it was also a dark, cursed place and we were all pretty tired. We lived in our office. You sweat under the mosquito netting until 1:30AM with no fans. The 28 local workers would arrive at 7:00 AM and 12-plus hour days. Think of malaria and getting robbed at gunpoint by the local gendarme at night, which happened. No banks, no phones, no post office, no buses, no power, no justice. If you bought a coke in town, they would open it in front of your eyes so you could be confident that it hadn't been poisoned. It was that kind of place. Some of the times were fun and then other times weren't fun at all. Like a switch: Fun/Not Fun.
One evening, we received word by HF radio from Nairobi during our nightly check-in. We were to pick up a visiting couple at the airport in Bukavu, Zaire, 90 miles away, mostly by dirt track. Once per month this road was mined by the Rwandan military. We would wait until a random truck exploded and then drive to the 'resort' town where the airport was. It was a three hour-plus drive along the hostile borders of Burundi and Rwanda, but at least you could get out of town for a day or two. We would also bring back drums of gasoline and provision in the back of the pickup truck for our mission. At least the local population didn't have many guns. Sadly, this was because, if while in the process of robbing your food or ravaging a family member at night, the local Gendarme should find a weapon, they would take the man of the house outside and shoot him. No questions asked. We drove along the beautiful, mountainous escarpment with the Ruzizi River Valley far below. Later, this would be where the Zairois military/NATO contingent 'tied up' and then fed over 100 innocent local men to the crocodiles because of their Rwandan Tutsi descent (Banya-Mulenge). Some of the victims had lived in the community for over 100 years. Stuff you remember.
We picked up the couple, as instructed, at the airport and, as requested, brought them to an expensive resort overlooking Lake Bukavu, a water-filled dormant volcano ringed with hills from the last eruption. It was a very beautiful lake in appearance, but a lake where no one could swim or fish because of the frequent release of toxic volcanic gases. People just disappeared or were found dead on those waters. The American woman was a professor in Israel and had come to collect refugee data so she could publish her dissertation. There were 'experts' in the field in those days. The running joke was than an 'expert' meant someone 3000 miles from home with a briefcase. Some of these experts entered into the suffering of other people to glean data. I learned they would use this data to augment their credentials while enjoying the appearance of a real humanitarian back home in their ivory tower. When we arrived back at our compound, the couple immediately began demanding things and issuing orders to the ex-pat staff. This seemed out of place to us because we all shared, helped and tried to love each other in the Lord, despite the conditions and in spite of ourselves. Off to the side, I mentioned to the husband that the girls were tired and suggested that we should just take things in stride.
At this, the husband told me in no uncertain terms, that if I didn't do everything and give them everything they required, that he was going to report me to the important people at our NGO headquarters and they would not look kindly on any dissension and there might be repercussions.
At that time, our NGO was located in a very wealthy area in the U.S. He had an air about him that suggested he was connected and had some money, too. The old man inside of me started talking really loud about then. The old man offered two options, only one of which was verbal. I chose neither. I guess this man had pegged me for just another ambitious grunt in the field who was concerned for his position and rice bowl in the organization. I said nothing at that point. We could see that adversity was in the gates. I thought, Okay, nicey-nice, be patient, faithful and wait.
I did not rebuke him.
A few minutes later, I informed the others that I was cancelling my overdue leave to Nairobi and would help out. The couple questioned my reasons for this and asked if they had anything to do with my decision. To that I responded, "Nooooooo".
And so their 'urgent' grind organ turned. The jist of their prevailing attitude was that all of the orphans could just wait their turn, if that were possible. While receiving our hospitality, they collected their data over six long days of gobbling up most of the resources and our goodwill. Their ambitions came to a sudden end when I announced that the gas generator was missing a part. This meant that the 'Christian' couple was going to have to use someone else to enter the reams of carefully handwritten data into their special laptop computer with their now famous mathematical software in a town that had electricity. This was true. Like a big dummy, I had lost a part of the carburetor linkage in the dust while doing some maintenance. It was like it had disappeared! I now confess that I was remiss in mentioning that there might have been a second, donated and brand new, blue 'diesel' generator with an electric start somewhere or other. But this proved out the often overlooked important fact, that a person can be counted a hero by those around him if he can learn to bridle his tongue in due season. The wistful response from the woman was only two words: "You're lucky! " I would add, "And your little dog, too". But that wouldn't be accurate. She wasn't smiling and she meant it. It made me wonder, What was the source of this utter contempt? And then there was the faint sound of quiet rejoicing in the background ... it was the sound of the tired girls.
The driver and I began the trek back to where we had found them in Bukavu. It was the hot and dry season and the dust was really flying. We were in high spirits, bouncing along our Toyota HiLux pickup with big mud dogs and fat Codan self-tuning HF antenna whipping the air on the front bumper. I remember looking at them in the back seat of the king cab and seeing that they both had donned matching pink bandanas -- bandit style -- over their faces. The woman mentioned that she was on the NGO account and insisted on staying in the absolute, best resort in town and she suggested I stay there with them. I quietly declined and, instead, stayed at my favorite, regular, friendly Christian guest house for $17 per night which included food! God bless them! I have to admit that their cavalier attitude of spending really galled me inside because my father had told me of this organization. We had faithfully supported this NGO for many years. That was how I came to sign a contract with them when looking to serve the Lord as a helper. A helper is a high calling, not to be confused with a grunt, but maybe a grunt for Jesus. There is a world of difference, Mister. :)
Later that evening, I had to return to the resort to tell them the hour they could expect their morning pickup ride to the airport. As I approached their door, I could hear the wife's shrill voice screaming at her husband with a ferocity and at such a volume as I had never heard before or since from anyone, anywhere. The husband answered the door and looked pretty sheepish. I guess he could see something on my face. I'm guessing wincing pain. At that moment, I actually felt bad for him, but then it passed. The next day, they were delivered to the airport on time and our paths separated. We forgot all about those two, as our days filled back up in the camps and at the compound. Forgive and forget, onward and over. I did find that new genny and she ran sweet. Pure diesel.
It never occurred to me to pray for them.
Not long after that, our team received the word over the radio. While in Africa, the husband had flown into an area where there was a dispute. The small plane carrying him went down and he was killed. Details were sketchy. You learn to take internal rumors and hype with a grain of salt. Was this an act of mercy and the Lord was gathering His own? Was the man a martyr serving the poor? Who am I to judge? The man was dead.
The following year, after the mission had closed due to warfare, I was back in the States when the phone rang. It was the widow! She told me what she was doing and she said how she admired the way I took care of those girls. I gave her my condolences. I thanked her for the call. That was all.
I am only aware of two other instances where an offensive person, a professing 'Christian', was taken away in short order. In one instance, it was the seemingly innocent spouse of the offender who died. The other, a handsome and healthy man in his prime of years died suddenly within six months of the offense. These deaths were brought to my attention by others who had taken notice of such things. I'm a little blind when it comes to connecting the dots between people. Both of these offenders had worked their way deep inside good Christian organizations. The lesson here is not that we should forgive and forget only, but rather forgive, PRAY and forget! God is not a respecter of persons and He will not be mocked! I'll work out my salvation with fear and trembling. As my grandmother used to say, "Keep two feet in one shoe".
I will pray for my enemies and be very careful of myself, lest I sin against the love of the Lord and offend someone, especially a fellow partaker in the worldwide body of Christ. Preserve me, Lord, and put in me a repentant heart, quick to repent and quick to forgive. Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy and grace. Help me to abide in You. Be kind and love one another.
Amen. Praise Jesus! God Bless UBM!