Thursday, September 7, 2006

Snoring and Selfisness in Africa

I walked into the dark, fire smelling home wanting only to drop my belongings. A man I knew only as Pastor was my host and I greeted him upon arrival. Seated across from him on the couch was another African man. His complexion, size, age, fleeting gray hair, late 80s golden glasses, and suspenders made him a perfect double for Terence Mann, James Earl Jones’ character from Field of Dreams. Though the resemblance struck me, I greeted him with due respect. His reply was different, “A blessing to meet you Matthew, my name is Frederick.”

For the next 25 or so minutes we shared chai, laughs, and stories from years of ministry. I then learned that I would be sharing a room with Frederick that night and found myself looking forward to another conversation with him. After a few more questions, I politely excused myself to go discuss the following day’s events with my team. When I returned, Pastor was still awake and showed me to my room. To my disappointment, Frederick was sound asleep and obviously unavailable for further conversation. I quietly readied myself for bed and laid down without disturbing Frederick. I had nearly drifted off to sleep when I was startled by an amazingly loud snort. Sitting up, I concluded that either a giant pig was terrorizing this part of Kenya or Frederick was having a heart attack. Looking over at Frederick, I realized that he was sleeping peacefully and heart must have been working fine. As the horrific sound persisted, it slowly began to dawn on me that Frederick was snoring, and it was not going to stop...and I was not going to sleep. As moments became minutes and minutes became hours, my frustrations and weariness grew. Each of my efforts to suppress the sound (which ranged from burying my head in a pillow to removing my shirt, tying it around my head, and twisting the ends to fit in my ears) were abject failures. Nearly four hours after my struggle for slumber began, I finally found it by making enough noise to awaken Frederick. My manufactured coughing spell was enough to quiet him long enough for me to fall asleep.

At the desolate hour of 5:30 (only 2 hours after I had fallen asleep), Frederick woke me with loud morning greetings. Startled by my new found consciousness and angered by the same, I bristled at his words. I suppressed angry thoughts and resentment and mustered a half-hearted reply. Fully dressed in his business attire, Frederick was about to leave. I was expecting a simple goodbye, but instead he asked to pray for me. When first proposed with this I was appalled by his nerve of asking for more of my time, after occupying it for so long the previous night. Again, I mustered a half hearted reply. What followed was one of the most heart-felt, genuine, and articulate prayers for blessing I had ever received. Despite my wooden heart and angry spirit, Frederick refreshed, blessed, and restored me through his prayer.

When I first woke up, I saw him as selfish and rude. His prayer alerted me to his true Godliness and humility. I was judging this man’s heart for something he had done literal unconsciousness. As he got up to leave, I was again struggling for a proper response. My thanks and goodbye probably seemed less genuine the my previous utterances that morning, but it was the most sincere. My struggle for words this time was due to a pierced heart instead of a hardened one. Selfishness is easily imposed on another when you suffer from the same. Frederick, wherever you are, God bless you.