“And, finally, Lord, please bless the missionaries and the colporteurs around the world.”
The man assigned to the morning prayer in worship this week was one of the older elders, a retired pastor whose gray hair and halting steps spoke of many hard years. Clearly, he had thought through his prayer carefully and spoke to God for all of us as if he and God were having a personal conversation in his living room.
When he prayed for “the missionaries and the colporteurs,” my mind wandered, finally resting on one nameless colporteur in a village market on the coast of Africa. I’ll call him Andy.
As he walked through the market, Andy prayed for God to lead him to anyone who was “ready to hear.” Then he stopped to purchase potatoes, onions and a few other basics. At each tiny stand he listened carefully and spoke with love. Many positive moments, but no word from the Spirit.
Then it happened. The eyes of one farmer locked onto his, and Andy felt the Holy Spirit’s gentle blowing in the air.
“Hello,” the farmer said. “My name is Eduardo.”
“Do you know Jesus?” Andy asked the young man sitting behind bright red tomatoes and roasted cashews.
“No. Don’t think I know Jesus,” the man answered. “Maybe he lives up the coast a bit.”
Andy laughed and said, “No, I mean Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our personal Savior.”
“I’ve never heard of Him,” Eduardo responded. “Tell me about Him.”
Andy sat down beside the tomatoes and began to share the gospel story. However, he didn’t get very far before he realized it was time for him to catch the bus to his home.
“Eduardo,” Andy said, while placing his hand on his new friend’s shoulder, “I sell books about Jesus, but today my satchel is empty, and I have nothing to sell.”
“Then how will I learn?” Eduardo asked.
“If I had a Bible,” Andy tapped the dusty black cover of his own Bible, “I would give it to you right now. I would even like to give you my own Bible, but I must have it so I can teach this weekend.”
Eduardo’s growing excitement began to flicker out. For a couple moments, there was a growing pool of silence around the two men.
“Tell you what,” Andy broke the silence. “I will tear one page out of my Bible book and give it to you. There is one page that tells almost the whole story. Here it is.”
Eduardo watched in awe as his new friend opened the black book, found the right page, carefully tore it from the binding and handed it across the tomatoes.
“It’s all I can do today,” the colporteur said. “I will pray over the page with you.”
Nearly 20 years later, in a dusty tomato patch beneath a mango tree, Eduardo opened his Bible and pulled out a tear-stained page.
“Pastor Dick, this is what he gave me that day so long ago. You know, I never saw that bookseller again after he gave me this page. Just one page. But in it I met Jesus.”
A pool of silence grew around us but was then broken by the sounds of singing from a small reed church down the road.
“Those are my people,” Eduardo’s eyes glistened. “And I, a Seventh-day Adventist farmer, am their pastor. I am now a son of God who is eager for the harvest.”