It was maybe our tenth crusade. We were becoming fairly disenchanted with these endeavours – set up camp with loudspeakers and mic, sing and dance (not us, but others) and then share then gospel as best we could, with perhaps a few responders, maybe, if it was a good day.
This time was little different. The crowd was 90% those from the church and most others hung back around the edges. Personally, I have little patience for such affairs. While in church I can give a great sermon I am never quite sure what to bring to main street village, Uganda.
So this particular day the three of us were groaning our way toward yet another few hours spent trying to entice people to come to Jesus. And then, the day was saved by a most unlikely character. HIs name was Wilson.
He was the town drunk. We were told that he had once been a pastor and also (currently I believe although hardly seems possible) a high school teacher. He greeted us with exuberant handshakes and waves and shouts of how much he loves Jesus.
I’ve said a few times in Africa that I would rather meet with an honest drunk than a dishonest church-goer; they just seem more real to me. At first we tried to skirt around Wilson, dodging his exuberant attentions. Yet, it didn’t take me too long to get up out of my seat and go to him.
He greeted me warmly (as all happy drunks would do) and I tried to begin a conversation with him. The thing was, that he talked so much that I couldn’t get a word in edgewise and couldn’t catch his attention to inquire of him. Pastor came over to shoo him away but I asserted that I wanted to talk to him.
We were standing in the field with many onlookers round about and because he wouldn’t shut up I decided to try speaking in tongues to him. There we stood, less than a foot from each other (he was a very affectionate, touchy-feely drunk) and as I began to speak in tongues he got real quiet and just stared into my eyes as I focussed solely on him.
Every so often he would squint his eyes as though checking this out further, puzzled, questioning, yet quiet for the first time since I’d met him. Every so often he would clasp his hands tougher and lift them to heaven in prayer or thanks, I’m not completely sure. What I do know is that he recognized the holiness of the moment and remained respectful.
After some time of this I shook his hand and went back to my seat. A little while later, he came to where Nelson and I were sitting. Our chairs were low and so he lowered himself to the ground in front of us and began asking for money for alcohol. We refused of course, but we did begin asking him some questions.
In fairly short order he began speaking some sense and opening up. We found out that his wife had died some six years earlier and we also found out that he thought that God had abandoned him. All of this interspersed with him asking for alcohol and my trying to focus his mind by speaking in tongues to him. Finally I said to him, “Wilson, your heart is broken.” To which he replied with a wild wave of his hands and face toward the sky, “It doesn’t matter!”
It’s the best crusade I’ve attended yet. I would much rather focus on one person than shout at a hundred who don’t care to hear (or who hear the same thing every week in church). Our conversation with him did not remain lucid for very long of course. As he was on his knees imploring Nelson to give him money for alcohol I would speak in tongues, he would look over at me with a scowl as if to say, “Stop doing that already!” and then with an imploring face toward Nelson would ask for money for alcohol, and back and forth, and so on.
We had a really good time that day. I’m sure that the villagers had no clue what we were doing or why. I had even refused to get up and introduce myself or pray for anyone at the crusade because when asked we were right in the middle of ministering to Wilson as he opened up to us. Wilson is the kind of person that everybody avoids or shoos away. I am sure that he had not had anyone really pay him any mind or focus on him for years.
We prayed for him, he continued to ask for money, we got hugs from him when it was time to go, and in the midst he made comment that God had sent us to them. I must say that I have a fond spot in my heart for Wilson and will continue to keep him in my prayers, touching his wounds with the spirit of our Lord.