Sunday, February 06, 2005

Learning to Read ... and Wait

Pastor David Kofane, known to everyone in the Mission as “Papa Da,” is a sixty-six year old man with a big smile and large, expressive hands. He currently serves as the pastor of Mt. Olive UMC in Elig M’fomo, Cameroon.

I have told his story in brief form here before, but I preached in his church this morning. After service, I gave him a ride back to Yaounde and had a chance to talk about his long, strange journey into ministry.

Twenty years ago, he was a successful mason, building houses. He happened to walk into a local church and gave his heart to Jesus Christ.

One Sunday, the pastor invited the congregation to begin a month-long fast. He told the members to ask God to do one special thing in their life. Kofane had never received a day of education in his life, but he had the desire to read. So he did what the pastor had ordered – he prayed to God that he might learn to read. All he wanted to do was to be able to read the Bible.

He shared the desire with his pastor, and during one prayer meeting, the pastor prayed specifically for this request. A man in the back of the room stood and prophesied that Kofane would certainly learn to read if he began with Psalms 27:12-14.

Kofane left the service and began to study Psalms 27:12-14. With the help of some friends, he studied these three verses over and over for a week. After he had mastered this section, he started reading through Psalm 27, beginning at verse one. A few days later, he turned to Psalm 1 and began working his way through the entire book.

Ever since then, Papa Da has been a reader.

Ten years later, he was ordained into the Mission Evangelique du Christ, a Cameroonian denomination, and began the work of preaching and pastoring. And today, he’s a United Methodist Church pastor, who serves at a church which is located a good hour and a half drive on bad roads away from his home in Yaounde.

On our Sunday afternoon drive, he shared with me his understanding that he had actually been called to be an “apostle.” I asked him what he meant by that.

His reply was that he had a knack for starting new prayer groups and churches. Indeed, he already has three weekday prayer groups going in Elig M’fomo, besides Sunday morning worship. And he pointed out another group which he started which meets a good distance from Elig M’fomo.

I realized then that Papa Da is a true circuit rider, in the early American sense. He’s ready to move on, to blaze some new paths and take the love of Christ to some new places.

After hearing his story and speaking to him about his passions and dreams, I dropped him off at his house in a Yaounde neighborhood. When I got home, I pulled out my Bible and turned to Psalms 27:12-14.

There I read: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

I couldn’t help but smile. Here is a man who waited a long time -- 47 years -- to learn how to read his Bible. Then he waited a good while longer to discover his calling to ministry. He was 57 when he became a pastor! And today, his energy exceeds many of my 30-something pastors!

I think he knew how to "wait." And now we are certainly seeing "the goodness of the Lord."