Ed was a Lutheran missionary to the African nation of Cameroon. His area of expertise was agriculture and he went to the mission field to teach people how to farm more effectively. He had hoped that his love and concern for the people he worked with could bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ for them. It was his prayer that as he worked with people in their farming, he would gain their respect. Then, he hoped, they would listen to him when he told them about salvation in Christ Jesus.
Ed was trained in agriculture at the University of Minnesota and his scientific methods of farming were immediately successful in the test plots in Cameroon. He was confident that he could help the farmers there. After all, they could clearly see that he was able to produce three times as much food as they could on the same amount of land. And they, being very poor, needed every bit of food they could grow. ‘Certainly,’ Ed thought, ‘these people will take full advantage of my knowledge and help.’
However, the response of the people surprised and disappointed Ed. He got along very well with them. They were a kind and gentle people. They always listened politely to what he told them. They often visited Ed, and in time, Ed became good friends with most of the area farmers. But when they went home to plant their own crops, they continued to do things the old way. They did not follow up on a single one of Ed’s suggestions, even though Ed’s crops were far more productive than their own. Even though they were struggling to survive, they would not do what Ed said. They would listen attentively, they would ask questions, and they would come around often to keep an eye on Ed’s crops. But they would not do anything Ed said they should do. This went on for two years.
Ed was frustrated. He was doing everything right, but there was no response and no explanation. Finally after much pleading, one of the tribesmen told Ed what the problem was. He said, “Ed, we can see that you crops do much better than ours, but we cannot do what you say. In fact, we are afraid for you. You see, in our religion we have a story of a man who began to grow more crops than everyone, and then he became far wealthier than everyone else, and then he became very mean and greedy. But one day he received his punishment when lightning came down from the sky and killed him.”
Ed replied, “But I am not trying to get richer than you. I am trying to help you.”
The tribesman said, “That might be true, but our witch doctor is calling on the gods to strike you with lightning. We are afraid for you and we are afraid for ourselves. For your own good, you must end your work here.” This caused Ed to pause for a moment as he thought about the many violent electrical storms of the rainy season.
But Ed replied, “I will not end my work and I am not afraid. Jesus is my God, and I know he protects me, and I know that there are no other gods to fear. You do not have to be afraid either.” The tribesman walked away sadly. He was worried about his friend.
Everyone waited. Day after day, week after week, Ed kept on farming and the people kept on watching. Ed was not struck by lightning, and his crops looked better than ever.
One day, the tribesman who had warned Ed about the witch doctor came to him again. He said to Ed, “I have some bad news for you. Now the witch doctor is calling on the gods to send lightning to strike down your little son.” A chill went through Ed’s body as he looked over at his 3-year old son playing nearby.
But Ed replied, “My son was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, and Jesus protects him just as he protects me. I am not afraid of your witch doctor or your stories or your gods. But I still do wish you would let me help you with your crops.”
Again the tribesman went away. Again Ed continued his work. Again he was watched carefully as the days and weeks passed. No lightning struck Ed or his son and his crops were still doing well.
One day a large group of men came walking across the field to Ed. When they arrived, the leader said, “We have now come to learn from you. All these weeks we have been watching and now we know– your God is stronger than all of our gods. We are not afraid anymore. We want to know about your farming and we want to know about Jesus.”
We may not need to fear lightning strikes sent by the gods at the request of witch doctors, but we do have others fears. In an uncertain economy (and the economy is always uncertain), we fear what we might lose if hard times were to come to us. Since 9-11 we fear terrorism in ways we never did before. And we may always fear accidents or disease which can come upon us at anytime no matter how cautious we are or how well we take care of ourselves. But our faith is in a God who loves us and stays with us and who has promised us that no matter what happens we will, in the very end, be all right.
(NOTE: This is a true story. I wrote it down several years ago as I heard it told by the missionary. However, I do not remember where I heard it, and am not certain if Ed was his name or if Cameroon was the location.)
I John 4:18a — There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…
2 Timothy 1:7 — For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Luke 2:9-11 — And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
From The Great Litany, as adapted for the 1930 American Lutheran Hymnal:
Pastor: Lord, have mercy upon us.
Congregation: LORD, HAVE MERCY UPON US…
Be gracious unto us.
SPARE US, GOOD LORD.
From all sin; from all error; from all evil;
From the crafts and assaults of the devil;
From sudden and evil death; from pestilence and famine;
From war and bloodshed; from sedition and rebellion;
From lightning and tempest; from all calamity by fire and water;
And from everlasting death:
GOOD LORD, DELIVER US…
In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity;
In the hour of our death; and in the day of judgment:
HELP US, GOOD LORD.