A Walk Through the Wilderness

I lost my sole on the trail to Dunki

By Anonymous

As the trail descended past a cliff laden with a troop of barking baboons, I looked down and saw the sole to my new Reebok running shoes fall to the dry, rock-strewn path. Just one day earlier, a young African boy named Mamadou saw my ailing sneakers and led me to the slopes below the village of Dunki, where he pierced a rubber tree with my knife and repaired my sole.

The Lord had already been making repairs on my own soul for years. My career as a petroleum chemist with a major oil company led me to a crucial crossroads—do I serve God wholeheartedly or continue serving money? Do I resist His call or surrender completely to Him?

I chose the latter, and peace and joy flooded my soul. His Spirit three times said to me “Therefore go” while I was reading the Bible (Matt. 28:19–20). The surrendering of my will to His led to the loss of my sole on that blistering African day in March 2008 on the trail to Dunki.

Struggle and Glory

Dunki villagersSince moving with my wife and children to Africa as C&MA missionaries, it has been my call to preach the good news where Christ is not yet known. One day in January 2008, I received an e-mail from Phil, a wiry, athletic 42-year-old who enjoys the outdoors, a good challenge and sharing Christ wherever he goes. “Would you be willing to help trek through some unmapped areas for a week carrying Scripture portions?” he asked. Phil had already walked nearly 50 miles distributing Scripture village to village with a colleague named Moses. Phil wanted someone to join him and another young man, Ernie, for the final 80 miles of the trek so Moses could go home. In reading the e-mail and praying, I knew I was supposed to be on this journey. Although I was busy, I was able to arrange things so I could go along.

Moses drove Phil, Ernie and me 75 miles (a 12-hour trip) into this unreached area of these West African mountains, and we began walking away from the “road.”

“Guys,” I declared, “it’s as though I was created for such a time as this. Praise the Lord!”

In the movie Braveheart, William Wallace says, “Every man dies, but not every man really lives.” Well, I was “really living” at that moment. I tend to see life’s struggles as golden opportunities to increase the glory of triumph. The challenge was in shouldering the burden of God’s books over 80 miles of mountains through 100-degree African heat; the glory of triumph—given to God—was in being able to distribute more than 200 Scripture portions and health books to people who were untouched by the gospel.

A Call to Follow

On the second day, we arrived in a village after dark and were welcomed by a half-dozen elders. They killed a chicken in our honor and presented us with a large bowl of rice and sauce. The elders read Genesis until midnight, and then one eager man who bought the freshly printed New Testament in his tribal language read and asked questions until 2 a.m.

On day five of our trek, a young man named Sekou was sewing in his village when a boy ran up and said, “There are white people here, and they have brought the words of God in our language!”

Sekou left his work and stood at the edge of the crowd, watching his father, the chief, interact with Phil. The chief asked about Ernie, who looked sick, and I responded, “He is from America, where they don’t know heat like this. The sun has made him nauseated and weak.”

Later, after Sekou had spent three days on the trail with us carrying Ernie’s pack of Scriptures, he said, “After I saw the sick white man, I heard a voice in my head tell me to carry his pack. Then, 15 minutes later, you said, ‘Come, follow us. Will you carry his pack?’ I did not even take 3 minutes to run home and get a change of clothes or any money. I knew I had to just follow you.”

Pretty is as Pretty Does

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” (Rom. 10:15). I wish I had taken a picture of my colleague’s feet after we had spent seven days carrying 45-pound packs loaded with Scripture, water and Dr. Scholl’s extra-thick moleskin 80 miles through the African bush. Those feet were far from beautiful.

Moses had driven 17 hours to resupply us with Scripture and hiked the last two days as a replacement for Ernie, who fell victim to heat exhaustion and was bedridden for nearly two days in Dunki. Moses, 24, had left a teaching career in Michigan for this chance to bring the gospel of Christ to those still in darkness. Both his big toes were swollen, and four blisters bubbled up to the size of Nalgene bottle lids.

“I grew up working on a dairy farm with six brothers,” he said. “I thought I had been tired before, but I was at the end of myself. I was beyond fatigue coming up that last mountain. But praise God, the village of Sago got their Scripture portions!”

Hunting for the Word

Along the route we were praying that God would put us in touch with people who have had dreams or visions of Christ, a phenomenon that is happening in this religion group. “I think God wants to put us in contact with only one person who is to have a dream,” I told my companions.

On the last full day of hiking, Phil and Moses walked into the final village of Sago, where five years earlier, missionaries had come to live for three months at the villagers’ request. The chief of the whole area was expecting missionaries because he had a dream in which God showed him that Phil, Moses and one other was coming (I had stayed behind with Ernie). Because of this dream, the villagers had started rebuilding the homes that previous missionaries had lived in.

On day seven we were to meet a fellow worker at a prearranged location so she could take us home in her four-wheel drive vehicle. Just five minutes before our departure, a 60-year old man approached us. “A friend told me that you carried God’s Word in our language to a neighboring village,” he said. “I have never known these books in my lifetime. I walked six hours to find you here at the road. Please, where are these books? I would like to buy some.” When another man came to buy a book but lacked the right amount of money, the old man bought it for him. That is true hunger and thirst.

These are but a few of the highlights we experienced in the bush of Africa while trekking with Scriptures to villagers who have never known about Christ. Many had never seen white people. Most had never ventured outside their county. I found true peace and overflowing joy as I had the privilege of sharing Jesus Christ with people hungering in their darkness. The many miles of treading on blistering hot rock over African mountains was a glory worth struggling for. Yes, it’s true; I lost my sole on the trail to Dunki—and I praise God for that.

—JD, an Alliance International worker

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