We continue our march through our new ebook, Trampled Grass. Chapter 32 (below) is one of my favorite stories from the book. Be sure to read the updated postscript.
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Bricks can be used to build walls to keep others out or paths to bring them together.
Brick by Brick
I wonder where he’s at.
I hope he’s still alive.
I first met Batuk the Dinka at a lonely border checkpoint in South Sudan just north of the Tri-Corner of where South Sudan, Uganda, and DR Congo converge.
The Tri-Corner, where South Sudan, Uganda & Dem.
Rep. Congo meet, is the heart of Kakwa territory.
The Bazi checkpoint is deep in SS’s Kakwa territory and it surprised us to see a Dinka there. He was easily identified as Dinka, the tallest people in the world. They are viewed by other tribes as arrogant and aggressive.
Batuk didn’t make a good first impression. He was dressed in a running suit and approached our vehicle with a swagger that implied, “I’m in charge.”
He was the Immigration Officer for this stretch of pot-holed road that can only charitably be called a highway.
Batuk began an interrogation of where we five “Mzungu” men were going and why.
As we informed him of our mission work, he scoffed. “Jesus is a white man’s God.”
He continued his monologue ending with, “If Jesus appeared right here, I wouldn’t bow down to him.”
We were glad to leave his checkpoint and head north, but knew he’d be waiting on our return trip.
Four days later, there he was, still dressed in his running-suit uniform. However, we’d written down his name and so addressing him personallywas the first brick to fall in the wall between us.
Several months later, DeDe, our son Clint, and I returned though Bazi. As we bounced north, we were ready for the checkpoint and Big Batuk.
First of all, I addressed him by name and alluded to our previous visit. A quizzical smile appeared on his face.
I handed him the photo shown below. “You said Jesus was a white man’s God.”
We shouldn’t try to put Jesus in our little box.
This painting, one of my favorites, is from the Catholic Guesthouse in Goma, DR Congo.
He glanced up from the photo. “That’s just how some artist drew him as African.”
I shrugged. “Every culture makes Jesus look like their own.”
I put my white hand on his dark arm. “Besides, the real Jesus was probably closer to your skin tone than mine.”
Then I handed him our bribe.
A loaf of DeDe’s famous banana bread. “We brought this for you.”
It works like the Proverbial Charm: a bribe of bread, cookies, or bottle of water.
I even sometimes give a copy of one of my books. Anything but money.
He ushered us through the checkpoint, wishing good luck for our journey.
Three days later on our return, he greeted us effusively.
It must’ve been the banana bread.
He stood toe-to-toe with me. “I have one thing I want from you.”
I stiffened; ready for the infamous “African Ask” we face nearly daily.
“I want two books.”
He had my attention.
“I want a book called 70 Great Christians and I want a Bible.”
I’d never heard of the book but promised I’d find it if possible and deliver it in January.
He walked us to our Land Cruiser. “God bless you on your way home.”
Bazi check point sketch. You can “go there” with Lat/Long on Google Map and pray for Batuk and Bazi
We waved and headed south. Over the next ten miles of potholes we talked of the change we’d seen in him.
It wasn’t the banana bread. I firmly believe it was the kneading work of the Holy Spirit.
Back home in Uganda, I ordered 70 Great Christians from Amazon. Our son Terry brought it over.
It’s a fine book covering historic Jesus-followers from “The’PostlePaul” to Corrie Ten Boom.
I planned on presenting the book and Bible to Batuk as we passed through Bazi at the end of 2013.
But we weren’t able to go.
War broke out.
Crossing the border into South Sudan sadly became out of the question.
As I think and pray about people in the war-torn country of South Sudan, I often think of Batuk.
How is he? Is he still at his border post deep among the Kakwa, whom we love deeply?
I pray for him.
Will you join me in praying for Batuk?
Lord willing, we are journeying through his checkpoint soon. I’ve got his care package ready. This man needs to know there is one white face that keeps a promise and was not put off by his initial demeanor and attitude.
As you pray, pray for Batuk’s safety.
Pray that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, will come to rule in his heart.
What is happening in our country of South Sudan is heart-breaking. But in spite of the chaos, God is working. Two of our team’s couples recently saw 75 people baptized yesterday in a remote part of South Sudan.
God is working.
I also believe the work God started in Batuk’s heart is ongoing.
Even though we’re currently shut out of Bazi and South Sudan, we will continue to work. Even though you are a continent and an ocean away, you can be part of what God is doing. Pray! Pray for Batuk.
People are unreached for a reason.
Often, they’re in difficult places with difficult conditions.
Many times the people are just difficult.
They try to drive us away.
Lord, help us see them as you do.
Last month, we journeyed through Bazi. There are more checkpoints and hoops to jump through and fees to pay.
Batuk wasn’t in his usual checkpoint. A soldier said, “He’s been transferred to the border in Central Equatoria.”
I related a short version of the story above. I gave a Dinka Bible and 70 Great Christians to the soldier.
“Will you see that he gets it?”
“I will call him today.”
For some reason, I’m completely at peace that the two books have made it to Batuk. I’m sure the soldier kept them and read them for himself before passing it on.
Getting God’s word out. It’s what we do. There is no more important task.
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“Brick by Brick” is about how God still cracks tough nuts. What’s your story about how He impossibly changed a life (yours or someone else’s?)