For with God nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:37
Every mission trip to Africa leaves me with an awareness, that God is with me. Today’s story is an example of God’s grace and faithfulness.
I met a little girl, Melalla, six years ago on my first trip to Africa. Of the fifty or so children that attended our kid’s club, she stood out with charisma, energy, and charm. At the time of our first meeting, I guess her age to be seven or eight-years-old. It’s always difficult to judge the age of an African child as many are small for their age compared to American children.
When I returned home from my first mission trip, I offered friends the opportunity to choose one picture of an African child, and I asked them to commit to pray for the child in the photo. My friend, Anna, chose Melalla’s snapshot, and a year later, when I returned to Africa, Anna sent a gift of school supplies. When we returned to Melalla’s village with the package, we discovered her family had moved. Our missionary friends kept the gift in case she returned for a visit. Melalla eventually received the school supplies, but my friends have not been able to stay in contact with her because African families often move in search of work.
I know Anna is still praying for Melalla, and I’ll never forget her, but I thought it unlikely I’d ever see her again.
Normally, when traveling in Africa, I’m riding in the bush taxi with the mission team, but on this particular day, last week, I rode in an air-conditioned Toyota with Sabrina, the missionary who opened her compound for us that first year so we could have a controlled area to teach the children. (A compound is a home and other buildings surrounded by a wall). On the journey, I asked her about Melalla, and she said she’d not seen her in a long while. I lifted a prayer for this lost relationship, and accepted that I’ll probably never see this engaging girl again. Then God did something amazing. We were delayed in a traffic snarl at a small village on the highway due to the Tabaski holiday. The markets are always chaotic, but it was especially so because everyone was preparing for the festival. Consider the shopping craze of the last weekend before Christmas. An African traffic jam is impossible to describe, but picture vans piled high with produce, donkey carts, cars, motorcycles, and every horn is blaring, then throw in a herd of sheep wandering through it, and children selling peanuts or sweets standing at car windows. As we waited in the jumble, Sabrina gasped, “It’s Melalla.” She rolled down her window and called to her. Melalla, beamed her brilliant smile and approached us.
Melalla and Sabrina spoke for a moment in Zarma, and when I asked her if she remembered me, she shook her head. This didn’t surprise me because it’s been six years since the kid’s club, and she met many Americans as she lived close to the missionaries. My heart lifted to see her smile. It’s not important she remember me, but I hope and pray she remembers the words she heard about Jesus. There’s no doubt in my mind that God’s hand is upon her. My sister snapped a picture, which I cannot share because she might persecuted for associating with Christians. We waived and said, “Calantonton-see you later,” with big smiles on our faces.
To stumble upon little Melalla, among the mass of holiday shoppers in the traffic snarl is a miracle. Even if I’d tried to find her, the task is impossible as I had no idea of the village to visit. Keep in mind, there are about 1.2 million people in the city of Niamey. God arranged for me to meet her again.
Even though Melalla has not professed a faith in Christ, I know she heard the gospel many times. Maybe, God wanted to remind Melalla of the words she heard when living next door to the missionaries. Maybe, God wanted to encourage me to keep sowing seeds. Maybe, someday, I will see Melalla again, in heaven, and we will worship God together, in the language that is understood by all, the language of love.
God is faithful to answer our prayers. I will continue to pray for Melalla, and I will ask you to do so too. Many friends think my time in Africa is a waste of time and money. Sometimes, Satan tells me the same lie. But time after time, God reminds me that He is with me. Jesus sacrificed his life that I might have life, and I am blessed to be able to share His love and plan for salvation with others. I can do nothing without Him, and He’s made it clear to me that He can do anything.