Sitting on the porch after lunch, I spent time revisiting the events of the previous two weeks. 35 souls in the Pastors’ Conference with a handful more at the college and Prince that morning, I considered the work of God in the heart of man. While I was not able to save a single soul, it was humbling to recognize once again that salvation is a work that is all of God. Man has absolutely nothing to do with the process for the Bible makes it clear that man cannot even come to God because he is dead in trespasses and sins.
I considered those who had placed their faith in Christ and wondered what kind of fruit they would be producing. If God had set His love and His mark upon them, then the change would be immediate for they were new creations in Christ Jesus. It was also true that those whom the Father calls to be a part of the Bride would become more and more conformed to the image of His Beloved Son.
One thing I knew for sure and that was those who had heard the gospel had no further excuse. They had heard the truth. Paul tells us in Romans 10, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” My trip had certainly not been in vain, and I believe that it had brought glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
However, now that the trip was at an end, I wondered what the future would hold. This was true not just for me, but also for those who would have to remain in Liberia. Biblical exposition and biblical training of leaders is sadly lacking. Another aspect that is missing is a solid foundation of doctrine and principles that are guided not by tradition, but by Scripture. There is a great need for workers who are willing to work alongside as equals throughout places like Liberia and all of West Africa. The goal should be to teach them how to do the work and allow them as nationals to lead their own people. If war ever breaks out again, missionaries will have to leave the country and I fear many national pastors would be unprepared once again to face the trials.
One of those was Paul Zawolo. I had spoken with Pastor Togba about discipleship and he had agreed to spend time with Paul and teach him the Scriptures. Paul was the co-pastor of a little charismatic work and I wondered what differences would be seen in him and the ministry he was working in now that he claimed to have placed his faith in Christ. Before he left the last time, I had spoken with him about the importance of being discipled to which he had agreed. One of the aspects I had covered was the need for baptism. However, his background came to the forefront and he was adamant that he did not need to be baptized again as he had gone through the waters of baptism when he first started going to church. It did not seem to matter how I showed him that baptism is only after salvation, is not for salvation, and is for believers only as a testimony to others.
That last Sunday afternoon while considering all these matters, I saw somebody walking down the road towards the house. It was Paul Zawolo! I knew he was not going to be able to come to service that morning where I was ministering because he told me he would be preaching at his church. Greeting each other with the typical Liberian handshake, we sat down to speak about the morning’s events. Paul wasted no time.
Paul: “Pastor, I was wrong about something we spoke about last week. You were right when you told me from the Bible but I was too proud to listen. My people spoke with me today and I have learned from them.”
Me: “What happened to change your mind?”
Paul: “First, I preached this morning for over forty minutes!”
Me: “Is that a long time for you?”
Paul: “You do not understand. In our church, we sing for a very long time and then we preach, but our talks are only about twenty minutes. No more than that, and then we sing some more. Sometimes we have prayer sessions where we pray over somebody and there are speaking in tongues. So, to preach forty minutes is a very long time.”
He definitely had my interest now as I asked, “What did you say to them?”
Paul: “I preached to them about the law and then grace just as you did to me! I told them they were just like me and would go to hell if their faith was not placed in Christ Jesus alone for salvation. Then I shared how wrong I had been and asked for their forgiveness for not learning and speaking the truth about the Bible!”
By this point, I was wondering if he still had a job as a pastor! I knew if he had spoken the truth that one of two options would take place. First, they would fire him and get somebody that tickled their ears, or second, that God would do the miraculous and work in the hearts of the hearers.
Me: “What happened when you finished?”
Paul: “Pastor, you will not believe it, but I asked them just like you asked me what they would do with Christ. I told them that the only way things would change would be for them to repent of their sins and ask God to have mercy on them! Most of the church members began to pray right in their seats and even some of the church leaders. Our church has never seen anything like that. I know that God was working because I could not have made them do that!”
I was stunned. This national pastor was doing exactly what was needed. He preached to his people and through the Word of God, the hearers responded to their need of a Savior. The work of God continues in many parts of the world when the truth is proclaimed and though only having just placed his faith in Christ, the Lord had blessed once again the proclamation of the gospel. What a great and holy God we serve!
Me: “But what part were you wrong about?”
Paul: “After the service, several of those who had placed their faith in Christ came up to me. They said that they were concerned about a matter. They told me that since they had only just placed their faith in Christ, their baptism did not mean anything. I had to apologize again to them for I realized that what you shared from the Bible was right. We are going to speak with Pastor Togba about being baptized, but this time we will be baptized as true believers.”
I had a small MP3 player with me that also served as a voice recorder. In the few minutes before he left, Paul gave me permission to record his testimony. He stood to leave and embraced me. Paul asked for one more request before he left.
Paul: “Pastor, there are many people where I come from in Liberia. Many of the Loma tribe has never heard the truth. Please pray that I would be willing to go and tell them what I have learned. I need to learn many things before I can go, but I want them to hear the truth before it is too late!”
From the little I had heard and seen from Paul Zawolo, there was a definite evidence of something working in him that was far different than before. He was teaching the truth with no fear of his job or his status. He was willing to go to a remote part of Liberia’s interior and give up what comforts he had in order that the gospel might be furthered.
It was my prayer that Paul and the others who had professed Christ would become a beacon of light in a very dark country. Their work would not be easy, but it would be greatly rewarding. Philippians 1:6 is clear, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Departing for the airport the next day, I was confident that what I had learned left me a changed person. I had a heart for a people whom I had never thought about before. My desire to reach a dark continent had changed my own perspectives and goals. Praying for the Liberians over the last four years has been a humbling experience as I realize over and over the overwhelming task that lies ahead for both the country as a whole, but even more importantly for those few pastors who know and preach the truth.
The trip was not about a vacation in paradise for paradise is over-rated. It was not about all the great scenery for I actually saw little but squalor and destruction from the war. It was definitely not about an unknown minister who struggled in England to reach a few hearers and who was willing to go to a place that he formerly feared. The truth is that the trip was not even about the scam that seemingly took me to Liberia.
The scam had actually turned into blessing – many times over! In retrospect, I was able to marvel over the sovereign work of God in my heart and the heart of those who heard the gospel message. As the place departed from Liberia and we headed back north to England, I knew that I left with no anger or bitterness in my heart towards those who had attempted the scam. I could say with Joseph when he spoke with his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
One day, we will bow before the throne singing and worshipping the Lamb Who was slain from before the foundation of the world. We will sing to Him Who redeemed us and we will be from every tribe, nation, people and language group of the earth. Why? It is simply because He has chosen us for salvation. He has redeemed us, and He then chooses to use us to bring glory and honor to Himself. May we be found faithful in every aspect so that one day we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servants!”