The Message of the Cross – Part 1

We were running late, and I was mad.However, the object of my frustration was none other than myself. We had a couple of errands to run before we left for the village, and I had, yet again, grossly underestimated the amount of time it takes to get even little tasks done in Africa. So, I found myself wanting to swear as I tied pieces of lumber to the top of our truck.

It was an important night, and I was making everyone wait. The trip to the village was a solid hour of roads and rocky path. A cloud of red dust followed our vehicle as I raced the sun, hoping to make it to the village before dark. We still had to set up our equipment.

With 30 minutes of sunlight left, we entered the village, and I entered relief. Howbeit, it was a relief that would not be long-lived. As we turned the corner to enter the public area where we would be showing the film, we met a wall of people. They were spectators, watching a soccer game. The area was packed, and the open area had become a soccer arena. We had nowhere to go.

It had only been a couple of weeks since we attempted to show the Jesus Film the first time. This village happens to have a small group of believers we are discipling, and they had requested we show the film. So we agreed and were flabbergasted at the response. After setting up the equipment and making an announcement, we watched as hundreds of people left their huts and walked over to see the film. A crowd, no a mob, gathered around the tiny television.

Unfortunately, that night did not end as well as it began. Our small army of spectators sat eagerly watching the movie, only to be left in complete disappointment when our equipment malfunctioned. With only 30 minutes remaining, the DVD player simply decided it would no longer play. Ironically enough, it halted the movie right as Judas was betraying Christ in the garden. These people had just sat and watched the miracles and ministry of Christ for an hour and a half, but for what? They would not see his trial. They would not see his accusation. They would not see his crucifixion. They would not see his death and burial. And they would not see his resurrection.

As we packed up our equipment to head home, the people seemed as disappointed as we were. Amidst promises of returning to show the movie again, we said our goodbyes. My hopes were completely deflated. So many people came to see the gospel, and they did not. I felt we missed our chance because of faulty equipment. Would anyone come back to watch a movie they almost finished?

Over the next two weeks, we planned a way to get back, and tonight was that night. We came prepared this time. I had two DVD players and two DVDs. I was not going to let the same mistake happen again. I had sent word to the villagers that we would be coming, but, as we turned that last corner, the realization hit me that my message was never delivered. It appeared our plans were foiled again.

As my newfound relief was replaced with disappointment, the crowd of people noticed our vehicle and made a path for us to drive past. We slipped through the crowd and I parked our vehicle at the home of a believing family. It was a little one-room dwelling next to the impromptu soccer field.

I got out of the car to greet the man and his family, and was met by a score of little children gathering around screaming, “Play the film! Play the film!” in the local language. Our friend walked up to me to say hello and informed the children that I was not there to show the movie that night. It was then that I explained our intentions. He had, in fact, not received the message. Instead of making other arrangements, the man looked at me and smiled. “Have you got the equipment?” he asked. I assured him I did. He immediately grabbed my hand and off we went to the soccer field. On the far edge was an announcer with a small generator running a sound system with a microphone. My friend pulled the announcer away from his microphone and began a conversation with him. Soon, the announcer was shaking his head in agreement. When he returned to the microphone, he made a “special announcement” to all the spectators about the bonus movie showing that was now included in their ticket price. Instructions were given for everyone to go home and grab a chair after the game for a movie on the field.

The movie was on!

Same as before, I sat our equipment up and prepared for the showing. Then, I waited. People started gathering, but not like the last time. The crowd trickled in at first. I settled on the fact that we would not have as many people this time.

But I was wrong.

The crowd may have started slower, but it continued to grow. As a matter of fact, it did not stop growing. By 30 minutes into the movie (a part most everyone had already seen before), the crowd was almost double our attendance the first time. It appeared as though everyone in the village was sitting around that television. I had never seen anything like it.

For the next two hours, I watched faces. People laughed when Jesus corrected the Pharisees and they were shocked when he raised a little girl from the dead. They were scared of the demoniac, and they were amazed at what Jesus could do with five loaves and two fish.

Hundreds sat with rapt attention at the greatest story ever told.

When the movie cut off (after it played completely to the end), the people sat there for a while to make sure it was really over. They did not want to miss anything.

God’s ways are higher than man’s ways. He has to keep reminding me of that simple lesson. What I kept turning into a disaster, God had planned for his glory. God will get his message out there. The message of the cross will be proclaimed, and nothing will thwart God’s mighty hand.

Not even me.

I was given a gift that night. I watched the expression of people introduced to the story of Christ for the first time. And when they saw the cross…

Well, I will tell you about that in the next post.

 

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