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Todd and Jessica with their friend, Robert Zziwa.

Come on in, Mr. Johnson

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Author note:  We recently ran this post and many of you enjoyed it.

My new colleague, J.D. Hull, went to meet Mr. Johnson and the excellent photos included here show his artistic eye and touch.

In addition to photography, J.D. is an excellent writer.  You can follow his blog at http://www.jdhblog.net/.

JD Hull at Sankofa Cafe in Gulu, Uganda.
JD Hull at Sankofa Cafe in Gulu, Uganda.

A Word from Curt

Providence.

It’s a good word.

A reminder that God is always working. Always present.

No encounter is by accident.

Everything is part of the Plan.

Like in the story below.

 

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Come on in, Mr. Johnson

He’s hunched over the vise in the cramped corner of his shop near Uganda’s Lake Victoria.

Mr. Johnson is making a key.
No machine.
All by hand.
A vise.
A file.
A wall of blank keys.
And skilled hands.
That’s it.

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His business sign advertises: Key Cutter. Locksmith.

But I beg to differ.
He is an artist.
An artisan.
With his hands, experience, and a careful eye, he cuts keys, and it’s a work of art.

 

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We visit as he works.
Time flies as he files.

As always, our conversation shifts to a spiritual one.
Mr. Johnson loves talking about matters of the soul.
The fact that we are age mates leads to a refreshing transparency.

He looks up from his work.
“I’ve rediscovered about knowing Jesus.”

He’s got my attention.
Especially the rediscovered part.

He taps the half-finished key. “I’m learning that the way to salvation is through Jesus. My goal is having Him in my heart so I can have eternal life.”

I smile. Here’s a locksmith that’s found the real key.

The rasping sound of his file echoes in the small shop. I recall the proverb, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

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Up to this point, I’ve not been happy about being at Mr. Johnson’s shop.
We moved into a new house yesterday.
In the space of twenty-four hours I’ve broken a box of glassware, stumbled around in the dark hunting light switches, and expertly locked a padlock that has no key.

The latter is the reason I’m at Mr. Johnson’s.

He finished making my spare keys and we drive to our house to look at the the keyless lock.

In our truck, I hand my iPad to Mr. Johnson He reads aloud the passage I’ve highlighted:

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.

He reads it in the steady musical British-Ugandan English I’ve come to love.

He reads it a second time.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.

He places the tablet in his lap. “I love how John writes. His Gospel and letters are my favorites. He writes in a simple but powerful way that I can understand.”

I agree. “John was Jesus’ best friend—present at all of the key events in Jesus’ earthly life. He even refers to himself as ‘The Disciple Jesus Loved.’ ”

Once again, I think about the unique relationship between the Carpenter and Fisherman.

Reaching our house, Mr. Johnson makes short work of the sturdy padlock. Within five minutes, he’s disassembled the lock pins and we’re on our way back to his shop, lock and pins in hand.

It seems Mr. Johnson has only one thing on his mind: talking about Jesus:
“I’m learning that knowing—having Jesus—in my heart is the only thing that matters.”

He doesn’t mention denominations, rules, or material possessions..

He just wants to talk about Jesus.

I hand the tablet to him. He reads another highlighted passage:

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

As he finishes, he adds an emphatic period.

. . . whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. Period.

As we say back home, “Nuff said.”
Jesus is enough. Period.

He rubs his  close-cropped gray hair.  “I only wish I’d known this truth years ago, like you.”

I grip the steering wheel. “I’m still learning about Jesus myself and today’s conversation has compelled me into wanting to know Him in a fresh way.”

I use his verb. I want to rediscover Him.
I feel compelled in rediscovering all of the reasons why I fell in love with Jesus as a teen.

Back at the shop, a crowd is waiting for Mr. Johnson. He makes short work of my lock. I watch over his shoulder as he puts the lock in his vise, inserts a blank key, and begins reinserting the lock pins one by one, filing to the key to match it.

I’m in the presence of an artist.
An Ugandan who’s discovering—or rediscovering—the only thing that matters.

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I leave happy and sad.

Happy that our conversation has occurred.
“As iron sharpens iron . . . “
Mr. Johnson’s words have filed my heart.
Sharpened the part of me called the soul.

I’m sad that I’d wasted part of this day griping about a lock without a key.
This keyless lock led to a memorable encounter that so touched me that I had to share this story with you.

I believe hundreds—like you – will read Mr. Johnson’s story and the powerful inspired words of Fisherman John and be touched.

That’ll make Mr. Johnson happy.

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Processing this experience, I fantasize about that day when we will all stand before God.

I visualize the gate of heaven.
The gate into the sheepfold.
The door into eternity with God.

A angel/guard stands at the gate and asks, “Why should I let you into God’s heaven?”

A man, standing outside, softly answers, “There’s only one reason. His name is Jesus.”

And that angel/guard/sentinel will smile. “Come on in, Mr. Johnson.”*

Tomorrow’s blog continues with a Louisiana story on “Come on in, Mr. Johnson.”

I printed and read this story to Mr. Johnson.
I printed and read this story to Mr. Johnson.

 

 

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About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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