Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An "Impossible" Visit

Earlier this past month as we were keeping warm around the wood stove at home, the phone rang and a familiar voice greeted me.

“Hey, Brother Nathan!  How are you doing?!”

Of course, I immediately recognized his East African accent, but my mind was confused.  How come the connection was so clear, and why was he calling at this time of day?

“Can you guess where I am?” 

“No Bishop.” (I can’t imagine where you would be except in Tanzania.) 

“Well, I am in Huston, Texas!”

“Really?!  How in the world did this happen?!”

I remember his pleasant chuckle, but to be honest, I don’t remember what he said next because my mind was still reeling from the surprise.  I never dreamed that Bishop Kwangu could even come to America, let alone what he was suggesting now.  It was an "impossible" visit.

“My wife and I are attending a conference in Huston and will eventually be visiting old friends in South Bend, Indiana.  Is that anywhere near you?  Is there a way that we could come visit you in your home?”

“Oh yes!  It sure is possible!  It’s only a 7 hour drive from here, so I can drive up and bring you back to our place.”

After we concluded our plans, I hung up the phone and excitedly shared the news with my family that a miracle was about to take place.  Our African bishop and his wife would be coming to stay in our home for two nights and one day!  Only our loving Heavenly Father could have made this possible; because I knew that Bp. Kwangu’s personal circumstances would not normally permit him to travel to America.

A couple weeks later, I did travel up on a Sunday evening and met the bishop and his gracious wife in the home of their friends.  After some warm greetings, we had a pleasant evening catching up on the news over “tea masala”, a hot milk tea made with spices from East Africa.  The next morning I arrived from my motel at 8 a.m. to pick them up as scheduled, only to find that we should eat breakfast first.  Oh, I forgot about operating by “African time”, which means one does not get in a hurry, especially when visiting friends.  We left nearly one and a half hours later, and enjoyed a full day of conversation and planning for the future.

Oh, what fun it was driving through our town and neighborhood, and past the home place where I grew up.  I showed them the place where I first met my wife and the church where we were married.  Before we reached our home, we saw my close friend Jerome along the road, visiting with another neighbor on his farm.  Of course we had to stop and make introductions, along with getting a tour of the Old Order Mennonite farm with its orchards, greenhouses, and farmhouse.  All quite fascinating for our visitors who had never seen an apple tree or an old fashioned wood cook stove.  For them, the stove represented a vast improvement over the tiny charcoal “stoves” that are used by most people in their country.  They were quite observant and asked many pertinent questions about everything they saw.

At last!  We drove down our long driveway to be greeted by my impatient, excited family.  Wow!  How is this possible?  It’s hard to describe the thoughts and feelings of having our dear Tanzanian friends travel half way around the world to stay in our home in rural Kentucky.  We had always associated them with sunny Africa and now they were here in our “(C)old Kentucky Home”.  (Yeah, that’s supposed to be a pun.)  Sure enough, our crazy KY spring weather presented them with snow flurries and freezing temperatures for the whole next day; (and a couple days later it was back up near 60 degrees).

Well, I don’t need to give every detail of the visit, but to say that it involved fine home grown country cooking, home grown music, and wonderful stories.  What a joy it was to take them around the neighborhood to introduce them to my Mother and some of our friends!

That second evening we had a big potluck dinner at our church for the folks of our area to meet the Bishop and his wife.  After the dinner, Bp. Kwangu spoke for about 30 minutes, giving a wonderful word of encouragement for all of those present.  He easily kept everyone’s attention with his fine communication style, great storytelling skills, and sense of humor.  Afterwards, he translated for his wife as she shared her thoughts with us.  It was a great evening together.

Although it was difficult saying our goodbyes the next morning (a couple from our church volunteered to drive them back up to South Bend), our sadness was mixed with hope for the future.  As God provides for us, we shall see them again in Mwanza, Tanzania when our family returns to continue training church leaders in East Africa.  By our natural, man’s way of thinking, it seems to be a daunting task.  Even having all the right circumstances for our return seems to be impossible.  Yet we need to remember the words of Jesus in Mark 10:27, “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”

I like to not only tell stories, but to encourage folks with a good message also.  If you are facing a difficult, “impossible” situation, then remember this story of how the Almighty God did the impossible and brought a Bishop all the way from East Africa to a rural country home in central Kentucky.  Who are we to be worthy of His great love and mercy?  Be encouraged, have faith, and remember that “all things are possible with God”!

May the peace of Christ be with you,

Brother Nathan

Bp. Kwangu and his wife Mary with my Mother

"Mama Anna" with "Mama Askofu"

Visiting with a neighbor at my Mother's place

The morning sun brightened our goodbyes


Julie Dunlap said...

With God all things are possible! What a blessing to share our home with Bishop Kwangu and Mama Askofu! Who would have imagined them trying out our swings? (the swings that hang from a cable 70 feet in the air from a tree limb.) I thank the Lord for bringing our Tanzanian friends here to rural Kentucky.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful gift from the Lord. Thank you God. May you continue to lead us in your work.

fr francis wardega