On Saturday (April 8) at 1:00 am I was picked up by Moses, the LIFES (= Liberia International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) staff-worker, and his family. Shannon joined us from Guinea Bissau later that evening. I was scheduled to speak at Monrovia Christian Fellowship on Sunday at the second service, but with typical African warmth, my friend Pastor Joshua invited me last minute to speak at the early service also. “Sure,” I replied.
As I entered the sweltering sanctuary I thought agreeing to a homiletic “double-header” was a bad idea. I wasn’t used to the heat. A few weeks earlier I had been shoveling snow off my driveway in Pennsylvania. As I preached on the smiting of Uzzah (my go-to sermon; 2 Samuel 6:1-11) my light blue shirt became distinctly two-toned—because of sweat. Afterwards, a woman came up to Shannon and I, telling us just the day before she was reading the story of Uzzah and was distressed because she couldn’t understand it. The talk felt like God answering her prayer.
On Monday, we spent several hours filling up large barrels of water at LIFES student camp site. There was no running water, so cooking, bathing, flushing were all dependent upon getting those barrels full. We filled them from the well with a bucket on a long rope. It took several hours, but right as my back started to ache (my shirt had already changed color), I realized this was phenomenal preparation for my talks. At the camp I would teach on the Wedding at Cana (John 2) and the Samaritan Woman (John 4), two passages where wells and water feature prominently. I was doing first-hand research, and just like the Samaritan woman, we were doing this at mid-day. (But I still don’t think that means we’re prostitutes; see Prostitutes & Polygamists, page 81.) The students at the camp filled up the barrels for the rest of the week and slept on thin mats on hard concrete classroom floors. We were humbled by the costs these LIFES students were willing to pay to study the Word of God with us. I particularly enjoyed my conversations with two students. Pray for Ibrahim a recent convert and Cyrus who is helping to start a new fellowship on his campus.
The low point for us came when we decided we could no longer handle the heat. We had were teaching long hours every day with a heat index over a hundred degree Fahrenheit, and had been staying with a delightful and wonderfully hospitable Liberian family, who didn’t have air conditioning. We moved to a local hotel so that we could have air conditioning at night. It felt like defeat for us since we wanted to be with Liberians as much as possible. We had been teaching on the incarnation of Jesus (John 1). The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, but Dave and Shannon couldn’t take the heat, so we needed to move over to Jandy’s Tropical Paradise. It was humbling. And it made us even more appreciative of the costs Jesus’ paid to dwell among us and die for us.