DON’T FORGET TO FORWARD IT
Riding my Honda 250 Scrambler through the Tanzanian bushland one afternoon in 2008, I happened upon a hut where one white-haired, aged gentleman was resting in the shade on the east side of the house. He sat on a small, three-legged stool carved from one block of wood. I stopped to greeted him. “Shikamoo, mzee wangu!” (“Respectful greetings, my elder!”).
There was delight in his weary countenance that a young white person would address him with such honor. I came over to his side of the hut and squatted next to him (as is customary). However, he quickly gave me his stool (which is not customary) while he fetched an empty bucket for himself. After greeting each other non-stop for nearly five minutes with: “How’s your family, your cattle, your home, the weather, the water, work, health,” and so on, I swung the conversation to the things of the Lord. The “Mzee,” gave a great testimony of his conversion experience as a young man. I was grateful, but a little skeptical, not because he didn’t understand the gospel, faith, repentance, salvation, or Christ. He certainly seemed to—yet many times, false churches use the same vocabulary with a different dictionary. But he truly seemed to understand—from whom could he have learned it? I knew there were no gospel preaching churches within 100 miles of this remote bushland. I also estimated that in the mid-1950’s when he would have been a young man, access to the true gospel would have been even more scarce, and transportation to get anywhere else to hear it would have been almost impossible. Most people are born, grow up, get married, maybe marry a second and third wife, grow old, and die never hearing anything other than a toothless Christian gospel that has no power to save: one which could make you a better person, or a miserable one, but not the one by which the power of God would make you free.
So, I asked him: “Mzee, kwa namna gani uliweza kusikia habari ya Injili ya Yesu zamani?” (“Sir, by what means were you able to hear the news of the Gospel of Jesus so long ago?”).
He answered that an evangelist from a church started by “young white missionaries like yourself” had taught the gospel to young men who came to his area to preach. I asked from which church. He answered, “Jiiefuefu, I think.”
When it finally dawned on me that “Jiiefuefu” is the phonetic pronunciation of “GFF” the Gospel Furthering Fellowship, only the Swahili version, I was able to put together what happened. Missionaries from GFF who lived in the struggling village of Bonga, some 40 miles south, had trained young men in the faith once delivered to the saints, now faithfully delivered it to the regions beyond them. When this elder, who had lived a hard and rugged life was just a young man, he must have heard the gospel message from one of them and trusted the Lord. He never forgot it. He never forsook it. But he did not forward it.
It was a sober day as I finally moved on to finish my trek back home. I praised the Lord for the gospel’s past accomplishments. But I was also pressed for its present advancement. I pray that we will not only pray for it but prepare for it. John Wesley, the English cleric, theologian, and evangelist of the mid-1700s once said: “Untold millions are still untold.” I wish the claim could be different today. It’s not, but it can be a different claim tomorrow if we don’t forget it…don’t forsake it…but don’t forget to forward it.
Only one Life,
GFF General Director