I have learned a valuable lesson (among many) during this mission to Uganda. I knew it in the back of my mind previously, but I’ve failed to apply it consistently until this trip. I have learned to ask the pastors and the Christians I meet and share ministry with to tell me how they first met Jesus Christ.

Yesterday my team ministered to a very small church plant in the town of Bujiri near the eastern side of Uganda. This was the last stop on our four city tour of Eastern Uganda – Tororo (two villages on opposite sides), Mbale, Busia, and finally Bujiri on the way back to Jinja. This was not a normal church-planting meeting like all the others. Here the leaders of this small church insisted on meeting with me after I preached last Sunday and begged me to come and teach them – “We are so ignorant. We need teaching. We know nothing. Please come and teach us.” How do you say “No” to that? So I added a day of teaching to our normal planned itinerary and spent the day with thirty Ugandan believers, going over the doctrines of salvation and sanctification. It was a sweet time as they soaked up the scriptures the Holy Spirit showed me to give them.

I took the opportunity at one point during a break to ask the pastor how he had met the Lord. This very gaunt and serious man, who obviously has the gift of service and who did not cease serving and shepherding his flock as they gathered to listen and learn the whole time I was there, told me this story.

He was in the hospital lying in his deathbed. He was in the final stages of AIDS, swept up like so many thousands who have died in this terrible plague across Africa. He had finally come to that point in the disease’s progress where there was nothing else they could do for him, and he lay waiting to die. Some Christians came through his ward, pausing and praying at each bed for the many patients with their various illnesses. When they came to him, they shared the love of Christ with him and asked him if he wanted to receive Christ. He said yes. They prayed with him and then moved on. He had made his peace with God, and now there was nothing more but to wait for the end, which for the first time, he was able to see as maybe a beginning instead.

He didn’t die. He improved to his own surprise and to the doctors’. Eventually, weak and fragile, he was improved enough to be released from the hospital. He did what he could to follow Christ, finding a church, beginning to pray and to discover what it means to be a disciple of Christ. One night as he was praying, some months later, he heard the Lord tell him that he was healed. He knew this was impossible with AIDS and didn’t really know what to think about it, but he continued praying and following.

Soon after this, it was time to report to the doctors to have his regular checkup on the progress of the disease. When they tested his blood, they couldn’t believe that there was no sign of AIDS remaining to be found in his body. He understood then what he had heard that night in prayer.

Eventually, as he continued to grow, he surrendered to God’s call as a pastor, and we were meeting in the church he planted in the town of Busia just this last January. On Sunday I preached to a crowd of about 25, many who have received Christ under his ministry since January. [Note for future readers: this article was written on March 29, 2014].

I think asking how a person met Christ might just be a pretty rewarding question. Every time I ask it, I walk away with nuggets of gold that strengthen my faith and motivate me to serve Him all the more earnestly! I discover afresh the footprints of the Savior tracking across my path, and I know again with confidence that if He sends me to a place, He Himself has gone before me.

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