The Tanzanian night sky is hard to describe, especially on nights where the moon is new. The bright twinkling lights shimmer in a tapestry as far as the eye can see. It’s beautiful. But it wasn’t the most beautiful thing I saw that night. Where the glimmering tapestry deadened, and gave up to the ground, on the horizon line, to the west sat a small mud brick house. The house belongs to Hadzabe man and his family who had graciously invited us to stay with them while we were in their village.
Tonight was a special night. Usually when we are in the bush, the lack of electricity and the long hot days result in an early bed time. Not tonight. Tonight we were showing the Jesus Film in Swahili to our host and his family. We had invited the village to come and watch, but even half an hour after the designated start time, people had still not arrived. Earlier that evening I had retrieved my movie kit. It is composed of a white cloth that I had turned into a screen using grommets and bungie cord, a small pocket projector, an equally small speaker and as many large spare batteries as I can carry. I tied the cloth to the side of the house, and when we could wait no longer I played the movie.
The Jesus film is not short, and I have watched it a number of times, so I found myself retiring to the camp fire by our tents about 50 yards away. We decided during the movie that it would be good for us to close with a short teaching and a call to follow Jesus if anyone was interested. All that we had to do now was decide who would be the speaker.
One of our goals this trip was to embolden our local contacts with more opportunities to share the gospel. One of the ways we did that was by teaching less ourselves and encouraging them to teach more. It had been going well. So, we decided that Melki, one of our two co-missionaries who is a Hadzabe National, would do the honors.
When the movie finished Melki stepped up to a small crowd (that had grown to around 40 people over the course of the movie) and began to talk. As he spoke for the next fifteen minutes people laughed, and they cried and they cheered. They engaged. That was the most beautiful thing I saw that night. A man who has met Jesus, talking to his own (lost) people about Jesus. It was beautiful because the crowd truly heard Melki—he knows how to communicate with them effectively. It was awesome. I started calling Melki, Pastor Melki after that.
What made Melki’s speech that night so special is that the only significant difference between Melki and the people he was talking to was his relationship with Jesus. Otherwise they were all the same. They all live in the same mud brick houses or grass huts, they all speak the same language, they all know the same culture. They all know the problems that they are facing, the issues that are relevant to their lives. Melki is a bushman, a Hadzabe, just like his audience that night. He is not particularly special. He is just a Hadzabe like them, but he has met the living Jesus.
We often disqualify ourselves from sharing the message of God. The reasons we give are as varied and unique as we are. At the core, though, we all have the same problem, we don’t think or believe that God can or would choose to use us to share his message with others.
In Acts 4:13 we read of two very ordinary men who were considered extraordinary simply because they had been with Jesus. Melki has been with Jesus. Rather than asking if God can or will use us, perhaps we should be asking, “have I been with Jesus?” That’s all it takes. We don’t have to worry about if we know enough or if we are a great speakers. We can trust that being up close to Jesus will change us enough to impact those around us. Don’t disqualify yourself. God uses ordinary people, in ordinary places, every day to do the work of sharing his message.