Thursday, December 22, 2005

My Least Favorite Thing: Evangelize a New Village

Last night, I did one of my least favorite things as a missionary:  evangelize a new village.  Before my elders fall off out of their chairs in shock, let me take the drama out of that statement for you.  Among my favorite tasks as a missionary include things like helping people who are in need of food or medicine, assisting some trusted believers in small business grants, gathering a group of believers in a small group setting and teaching them something new from the Word, preaching at church on Sunday mornings, or organizing a group for mission efforts to another people group…just to name a few.  So why would a missionary say that “evangelizing a new village” is his “least favorite thing to do?”  It’s totally selfish I admit, but I don’t like all the attention.  Now to those of who you who have visited Africa before, you know what it’s like to be STARED AT all the time.  Even in villages where I have worked for years, when the white man enters the village, I become a walking spectacle.  But at least in some of those places, the people know me by my name (not just “hey, white man!”), they already know I speak their language (rather than getting interrupted in my speech a thousand times because every other sentence is catcalled with “did you hear that? The white man speaks our language”…in other words, they miss the next few important words I had to say), and they don’t gawk at my Nike sandals or stare at my funny porcupine haircut (new villagers are NOT given permission to touch these prickly locks…I gotta know you a little bit before I’ll let you do that….yes, people do have this thing about my hair…???).  So it’s a bit dramatic to say I don’t enjoy evangelizing a new village.  Probably just shock value that perhaps made you read on this far (I married into a family who loves this charming communication technique).  I had a great time last night, for lots of reasons, even though for some of the selfish reasons listed above, it was not always pleasant.  I’m amazed all the time that God still permits me to serve as an ambassador of His Grace when I find myself so irritated at times with…people.  (

OK, the real story is that last night, I was part of a delegation of 5 men (representing two different congregations) whom God used to bring the first words of His Hope and His Love to people in darkness.  Three men from the church at Kaiteme (Justin, Senou and Ega for those who know these names) joined me for the 25 minute drive to Ainahoue (those villages are respectively pronounced:  “ky-uh-tim-ay” and “yee-na-way”).  There we picked up Mathias and Janvier.  We drove another couple of kilometers up the road to the village of Missebo (me-say-bo).  We arrived an hour before sundown.  We gathered under the large overhanging tree right next to a local carpenter hard at work.  At first, the crowd seemed smaller than I had anticipated, but we began anyway.  We went around the square and all of us “foreigners” introduced ourselves with a brief testimony about our history with the Lord.  It was amazing to here the stories of these 5 men.  God is good!  We then shared some time in song, even though it was only a few of us who knew the words to these Christian songs (am I’m even doing the “watermelon” thing on some lines that I still don’t understand).  As dark approached, one man left his place on the long wooden bench.  Moments later, he returned with a kerosene lantern and placed it in the center of the square on the hot red dirt.  The soft glow lit up the faces of those seated in the square, but it still remained pitch black dark all around us.  As more and more gathered around those of us sitting on the benches in a square, I could not see their faces; I could only hear their rumblings to know they were getting more and more numerous as the evening went on.  I really began to enjoy myself once the dark night concealed the Yovo among them and all attention was turned to whichever Aja brother was speaking.  I enjoyed it not simply because eyes weren’t all gaping at me, but because I had heard that still small voice of God reminding me, “step back, let them shine.”  This is a word I am hearing a lot lately.  Although still in its infancy as a mighty movement of God, He has already raised up some gifted Aja teachers, evangelists, preachers, and so many faithful silent servants.  Based on nearly 7 years experience, I knew that a lot of those Missebo people were there to simply meet the white guy, to hear the Yovo speak, to wonder what exciting financial project this American was going to announce.  I loved the evening because as each one of my African colleagues spoke, God was speaking through them in a powerful, dynamic way.  While I did speak to this group of more than 40 people for at least 30 minutes (I can get long-winded even in another language!), I was definitely not the main speaker.  I loved watching Mathias dramatically testify to so many of his peers and to the peers of his parents, both who lived their lives sold out to the veneration of voodoo gods and spirits.  He did not have to convince anybody that his transformation was by Christ’s power alone; they all knew the influences of his life and so many watched him grow up to be “a man of many evil acts done in secret; a corrupt man doing only what pleased himself” (his own words).  I loved watching Ega (Lael’s birth father) command the attention of everyone, not just because of his disability (crippled by polio), but because of his command of the Word and its proclamation!  It was a great evening!  Regardless of my shocking revelation at the beginning, it was an exhilarating night to watch God at work in the lives of those men with whom I invest so much of my time and energy.  I love seeing fruit in their lives, fruit that I am confident will last for generations!  The evangelization of Missebo has begun…pray with us that God’s Word will penetrate the arts of many people in that village!!

5 comments:

Greg Bailey said...

Hey Randy,

Praise God! I am so excited to hear about our brothers sharing in this village! I thank God for what He has done in their lives!

If I remember right,Missebo is know as a very pagan village. I could be getting it confused with another village, but it seems to fit the description of the village that I am talking about. Could you confirm that for me?

God bless you as He blesses others through you! Greet these evangelists for me.
----Greg

Randy & Kelly Vaughn said...

Greg,
I would suspect we're talking about the same one....I'll ask Mathias is your description would match his. It's in that same area around where you were working, so I'm sure it is. I'm confident that whether it was through intercessory prayer or actual seeds of the truth sown at some time years ago, that this is why this village is desiring to hear God's Word NOW. In my speaking to them, I said, "I know God has been doing things for many many years in your life to get you ready to hear His Word...His work did not just start tonight...but tonight perhaps is the beginning of the harvest." I believe that to be true...that's why we can never truly measure our "success" here by just what we see at the moment (i.e., counting congregations or baptisms). Oh by the way, I took a digital picture of the new Kaiteme church building...but had to do delete it off the camera to make room for some of these (forgot my memory chip). I'll take it again real soon so you can see yet another fruit of your labor (not the construction, but rather than perseverance and maturing of hearts with whom you worked). Merry Christmas to the Bailey family!!
-RV

Brooks Inc. said...

Randy-

I love reading your words...and hearing about all the Lord is doing! I also love looking at all the family pictures. I love that you guy shad a class party. WE miss you all and praise the Lord for all that He is doing through you!

yovo68 said...

"... people in darkness"??!! How do you know the people in Missebo are living in "darkness?" Did you bother to find out?

Sounds to me like yet another yovo marching into an African village telling people how to live. A lot of good that has done Africans in the last centuries!

Randy & Kelly Vaughn said...

YOVO68: "Sounds to me like yet another yovo marching into an African village telling people how to live."

RV: Always interesting to hook up with another Yovo who has walked the dusty roads of West Africa. Your comment took me to your blog where I got to read about your experience. We no doubt look at life through different lenses. I'm not sure if my post reflected it or not, but I hardly "marched in" to the village of Missebo. We were invited...pleading voices eager to hear some good news of hope and life. My other African colleagues, many whom I have known for over 6 years, would be the first to disagree with you, even before I would. While I don't pretend to have the heart of an African, nor have I endured years of oppression, persecution, abandonment, poverty and disillusionment (with voodoo) that my friends have, I trust them when they tell me they want better for their lives and for the lives of their kids. They have watched their forefathers (and many of them have had lots of experience with voodoo, with all its promises of life, healing + the assurances of sorcery and witchcraft) and found that it is not the best road for them. They desire a different path.

I never go uninvited into a village, and never even go alone. Accompanying me are a number of men who are eager to testify to God's power to change things. This change we talk about comes through believing in Jesus. The Word of God tells us all that Jesus is that road to new life.

I wanted to welcome further reflections from you. Of course we disagree, but the cool thing about blogging is to inspire conversations of matters of importance.

-RV, yovo in Benin