KENIEBA, Mali (BP)–Chuck Luke can tell you God is at work in a Malinke village in Mali because he has lived there the past two years.
Luke spent his first four months in the village of nearly 500 learning the Malinke language and then he lived with the people just as they lived: sleeping in a mud hut and working in the fields.
“It was a wonderful life-changing experience for me,” said Luke, a native of Lake Park, Ga. “It was the hardest time of my life but also the most rewarding.”
Luke served among the Malinke through the International Mission Board’s Journeyman program, which allows recent college graduates to serve two years overseas.
“It came with many challenges, struggles, heartaches and hurts,” Luke said. “Yet, I would never say I would take it back or say I would never do it all over again, because I knew God wanted me to be there and I knew he had me there for a purpose.
“He [God] just really showed me that, ‘I use who I want to use, just be committed to me and be willing.’ He’s not bound by formulas, programs, a time schedule or ideas that humans come up with. He can totally do something supernatural and as fast as he wants to do it with whomever he wants to do it through.”
Only a tiny handful of Christians are known among Mali’s 538,500 Malinke people. They have no Scripture in their language, no “Jesus” film, no gospel radio broadcasts.
During Luke’s two years, the first five people in the village came to know the Lord. “It was amazing to see the Holy Spirit take over and work in their lives,” he reflected.
One night, Luke got sick with a fever and chills and was completely bedridden. He was three hours away from the nearest missionary.
His village family of new Christians came to his hut and persuaded him to stay in their courtyard. His village mother, Bayissa, said to him, “Chuck, when we were sick, you prayed for us in the name of Jesus, and you cared for us. Now we want to pray for you.”
“I hadn’t even taught them about prayer,” Luke said. “It was just amazing to see that they had observed that in my Christian life and then to see the Holy Spirit work in them and to prompt them to do that.”
Each person prayed a prayer for Luke. “[They were] just the sweetest prayers you had ever heard, talking to God and saying they were thankful that I was their friend and that I had come to tell them about Jesus and that they wanted him to heal me,” Luke said.
The next morning, all his symptoms were gone and he had a normal day of cooking and working. He knew that God had healed him.
“If [God] didn’t do that for me, I know that he did it for them because they saw an answer to prayer and they saw the power of prayer through that,” Luke said.
God taught Luke about the power of prayer again when he went on a two-week vacation.
“As I boarded the plane for France, I thought of them,” he recalled. “I prayed and asked God to encourage them in my absence and bring peace to their hearts until I returned. At the time, I had no idea how God would answer that prayer.”
When Luke returned to the village, he noticed Bayissa had a translucent plastic cross around her neck that had replaced the fetishes she used to wear.
He soon learned that a stranger had passed through the village while he was gone and had met Bayissa on the roadside where she was cooking. The man asked for some water and noticed the cross around her neck. He asked, “Are you a Christian?” She told him she was and learned that he too was a Christian. The man stayed in the village three days and the two studied the Bible and prayed together.
“God reminded me of his care and love for his children through this traveler,” Luke said. “[God] assured me that he is able to take care of his children — even those children in the remote bush of West Africa.
“He confirmed once again the power of prayer and his faithfulness. God is bigger than me and my abilities. I am so thankful that he is.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CHUCK LUKE.
— Read Chuck Luke’s testimony about his last day in the village: http://www.imb.org/ime/experience/volunteers/goodbye.htm.
— Search for prayer items on the Malinke of Mali: http://www.imb.org/CompassionNet/peoplegrps.asp.
— Learn more about the Journeyman program: http://www.thetask.org/journeyman/jman.htm.
— Information about the Malinke: http://www.ad2000.org/peoples/jpl2806.htm.
— Search for missionary needs in West Africa: http://www.imb.org/FPNeeds/needssearch.htm.