He’s the guy who lives in our compound, opens the gate, and keeps the place tidy. It’s time for an update on our friend, but first, a timeline of events leading up to this weekend:
July- met the guy, said “Thank you” when he opened the gate.
August- Frank started asking about English words, and Nick began teaching him English once in a while, when we all happened to be outside.
September- We started taking kids from our neighborhood to church. We invited Frank, but he declined and said, “Busy. Church radio.” Nick felt like God was prompting him to buy Frank a Bible, so he picked out a nice Luganda one and gave it to him. After that, we saw Frank reading in the afternoons on his little wooden stool outside his apartment. We even saw him outside the gate reading with a friend. It was so exciting to see that he was proud of his new Bible and that he wanted to share with others around him!
October- Another family in our compound had their laptop stolen, and Frank was accused. The local police arrested him and took him to jail. Nick brought him some food and water, correctly assuming that he wouldn’t be having meals there. He prayed with Frank and talked with the police officers about the investigation. Out of curiosity, Nick asked the officers about a bond for him, and was told there was no bond, and that Frank would just have to stay in jail until they determined that he was innocent. The next day, Nick got a call from the police commander asking him to come back to the station. When he got there, he was informed that he could bond Frank out, but no money was required. Instead, he could sign a form that promised Frank’s return to the station upon the end of the investigation. Nick asked what would happen if Frank didn’t show up. “Then we take you,” was the answer.
Now, I know this sounds like a very very stupid thing to do. It does not at all sound like something Nick would sign up for. He didn’t go there with the intention of paying a cash bond, let alone a human one! He called me from the station and asked what I thought about this. And all I could think was, Well, he wouldn’t be the first person in this family to spend some time in an African prison… I told him that I didn’t think it was a logical choice, but that I trusted him to make the right decision. The logical option is not always the one we are supposed to choose.
Nick felt a very strong urge that this was what God wanted him to do, so he signed the paper. He asked the officers to explain to Frank what was happening, and had them translate: “Can I trust you?” Frank’s eyes were surprised, thankful, and sincere as he said “Yes.”
As you can imagine, the next few days involved quite a bit of prayer, and a careful eye on Frank. When the time came for the appointment at the station, Frank was ready and waiting! The two men went to the police station and were told that Frank had been found innocent! Both were cleared of charges.
November- We noticed Frank was getting dressed in his best clothes and going somewhere on Sunday mornings. He also stopped smoking (which we didn’t even notice until someone pointed it out to us).
December- Frank asked us to give him a ride to his church. We agreed. He seemed so proud to show off his mzungu friends, and his great Luganda church!
January- Our time with him seemed more frequent and a little more significant. Even though we still were only able to speak 1-2 word sentences, we all enjoyed our time together. Nick, Frank, and the neighborhood boys played basketball, and sometimes we all just played with Andy and Bethany out in the driveway.
February- On Friday last week, using a friend to translate, Frank told us he was getting baptized on Saturday! “Church. 8. 9. or 10.” Well, that was vague… So the next day, when we noticed Frank had left the compound, we loaded up the kids and headed to Frank’s church (about 8:30) and were told to come back at 10. When we got there at 10, there was a big purple bus waiting to take everyone to the lake! Awesome! After hanging around, waiting for the baptizees to have a little class, and the pastor speaking about something to the rest of us, and watching the kiddos make some new friends, we loaded up again and followed the bus in our car (about 11:00). I guess we forgot how stupid our car is, because, of course, it broke down on the way. Thankfully, the people on the bus noticed and sent someone to come check on us. One of the pastors stayed with us until we could get the car “fixed,” and we were on the road again (about 12:00)!
We finally made it to the lake with the pastor just in time to see the first people making their way into the water. (I’m still not sure if they were waiting for us or if it just took that long for prayer and pre-baptism pep-talks.)
Frank helped walk each of the new Christians through the water to a spot about 50 ft out from the shore. Each one seemed overjoyed by the significance of what they had just done- submitting their lives to the Lord, dying to self and living in Christ! While the baptisms were going on, other church members were singing and clapping to traditional Ugandan worship songs, a few of which we recognized and joined in singing!
Finally, it was Frank’s turn. He slowly walked out to the baptizing place and stood with the two pastors in the waist-high water. His eyes were full of determination as he looked toward our family. He went under, then came back up with a huge smile! We cheered (only for a short moment though, as we realized it is not customary to cheer in that moment here) for our friend! He walked through the water back toward shore, and Nick met him part way with a big hug. “Ande-rew. Jesus!,” he said as he came into the grass! “Frank got baptized because he loves Jesus!,” 3-year-old Andy announced! We each gave him another hug before he knelt to pray with the group. We all sang some more and prayed together asking God to continue to keep them close. What a sight it was- all these soaking wet people kneeling in the grass earnestly seeking God, surrounded and supported by their friends and church family. I am so thankful that we got to be a part of it!
Frank has been a blessing in our lives. This relationship is an odd one, but a beautiful one. We don’t have deep conversations or spend loads of time together. I am not sure what other factors took place in Frank’s life to bring him to this moment. We don’t know anything about his past, or about his friends or family. We really have no idea if the transformation happened because of us, or in spite of us! But we are so blessed to walk along with Frank in his journey with Jesus.
You know what I think is pretty cool about this story? It is not unique to Uganda. You don’t have to be a missionary in a foreign country to form a relationship and help someone know Christ! I am one of those people who isn’t super-excited about striking up random conversations with strangers just for fun. But I want to make more of an effort to foster relationships and open doors to communication about faith, whether it is here in Uganda, or back in Hays, or anywhere else in the world!