We Will Always Be Together. [Of Diegane and Jesus.]

As promised: Dayton‘s rendition of of how Diegane encountered Jesus.

November 2009—

 
 
 

Dayton and Diegane.

I checked my sweaty watch as I waited outside the B.U., or the university library. My contact was late. (Little did I know then how regular a phenomenon that would be.) Pulling my drawstring backpack off my shoulder, I glanced around. Not much to see—preoccupied students passing in and out of the library; others sitting, taking a moment’s pause on the edges of the concrete flower beds. One student was sitting a few feet away from me, hands on his knees. He was sporting a pair of sunglasses—I noticed they had earbuds attached to them.

 

Talk to him.

It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was clear.

Oh God, I thought, I just want to meet my contact. Who knows if I’ll even be able to understand this guy—let alone he understand my thickly-accented French! Nothing will come out of this, and it’ll just be awkward.”

Talk to him.

I realized (no surprise) the Holy Spirit was not going to be reasoned out of this one—I could either obey or disobey. Glancing sideways, I took a deep breath.

Hello! (I pointed at his glasses.) “That, it is interesting!

He smiled. “Yes, it’s an mp3 player.”

“Oh, okay, excellent! Sorry—my name’s Dayton. You?”

Diégane.”

Well, it took me about the next 5 minutes to figure out how to say and spell that one. Diégane. Pronounced Jih—GAHN. We chatted for a couple minutes more, and then we exchanged phone numbers as he left for class. I continued on with my day. Late that night, I got a text message from Diégane wishing me a good night.

“Okay Lord,” I thought. “I guess that’s what you wanted.”

Thankfully, He had a bigger picture in mind.  

 

January 2010

Okay, time to ask him.

Diégane was sitting next to me in my apartment’s living room. We’d just finished watching a short film called, “La Busqueda”, a modern-retelling of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. I’d been hanging out with him pretty regularly since our initial meeting at the library, but this was the first time for us to talk about spiritual things. So far it was good, but we were still mostly speaking in generalities. I plucked up my courage.

“Do you know God, Diégane?”

His answer shocked me with its simplicity and honesty.

“No, I do not know God.”

Well, if there was any doubt in my mind as to the need for ambassadors for Christ, it was gone after that. Proceeding from his answer, I explained to Diégane how, on our own, none of us knows God, how the wrong things that each of us has done divide us from God who is perfect and cannot tolerate wrong things. We talked about how no amount of effort on our part could change that—like trying to purify water by spooning the tea out of it, our own efforts can never remove ALL the wrong things from our lives. Then I shared with Diégane how Jesus Christ is the only answer for us, our only way to know God. I explained how He gives us his perfect life if we make a choice to trust solely in His perfect living, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection to rescue us from our wrong-filled life.

Needless to say, that was a lot for a man who did not know God to take in. Diégane listened carefully to everything I said but didn’t say a whole lot in response. I could tell his mind was churning through it all. Later after he left, he sent me a text message saying our discussion of the film “was very interesting; truly I was happy”, and in true Senegalese fashion, he added, “We will always be together.” 

 

February 2010

“I’ll make a deal with you, Diégane.”

I could hardly believe myself. This was about to be very audacious. Our team had just been discussing earlier that day about putting yourself in situations where either God will move or you will look very stupid. This was going to be one of them.

Diégane was asking me to give him back a bracelet he had loaned to me. Many Africans have ideas that different blessed trinkets or small objects can protect them from evil spirits or misfortune, and Diégane believed his bracelet would protect him from some nightmares he’d been having—nightmares about dying. Thinking this could be a God-given opportunity, I somewhat impulsively set up a challenge for him.

“I’ll keep your bracelet for three days, and I will pray to Jesus to take away your nightmares. At the end of three days, you can tell me what happened, and if you want your bracelet back, you can have it.”

Though probably more from wanting to be agreeable than from willingness to give up his bracelet, Diégane consented to the plan. That night, my team and I prayed. After the first day, Diégane sent me a message saying he’d had no nightmares. (Coincidentally, he asked for prayers for him to have good grades, good health, and lots of money.) When I tried to give him back his bracelet a few days later, he told me I could hold on to it! (What a good deal!)

 

— April 2010 —

God, I’m not well-prepared. Please help me find a place in the Bible that would be good for Diégane and me to study together, a place where Diégane can hear the gospel clearly in a way he can understand.

That was my silent prayer as I mounted the steps to my apartment, Diégane following close behind. The last time we’d met, I had asked Diégane if he’d be interested in studying the Bible together, and his answer had been an emphatic yes—he’d never done that before. Now we were together again, but in the bustle of daily life and meetings with other students I had not planned or prepared to guide him through any passage or study.

As I opened the front door, I wondered to myself, “I want Diégane to read about someone who was transformed by Jesus—who in the Bible was changed from meeting Jesus?” The answer was almost instantaneous.

The Samaritan women at the well.

It was so good an answer I couldn’t help but smile. Yes, she had definitely been changed by her encounter with Jesus—she’d left her heavy waterpot at the well and had run all the way back to her village to tell all the people who had looked down on her about him. The Holy Spirit was helping me remember these things about Jesus so that He could be glorified. (Thank you, Lord!)

Sitting sidebyside on my foam mattress bed, Diégane and I read the Samaritans woman’s story in John 4. In his studious fashion, Diégane would read and then ponder for a few minutes before posing his carefully thought out questions. He was struck by the way the woman’s view of Jesus changed through the narrative—how first, he was just a Jewish man to her; then, a prophet; and then, the Messiah. I knew he was figuring out just what he thought about this Jesus, and his next question confirmed my suspicions:

“Can we study the Bible again this next Tuesday?”

 

— May 2010

Little Goldfish-like crackers flew up into the air and back down into waiting jaws. Ben, Diégane, and I were munching on the crackers and catching up again in our living room. (A can of Jif extra-crunchy—thank you Mom!—sat within easy reach as well.) Diégane had had a particularly tiring week of school, but had come over to discuss the four-spiritual laws booklet Ben had given him a few days ago. By now, spiritual conversation was practically an expectation with Diégane.

“So, what do you think of the green booklet Ben gave you, Diégane?”

“Well, I did not finish it yet—I only read the first few pages.”

So between bites, we started reading and discussing the booklet from where Diégane had left off.  Knowing Diégane’s reflective and analytic nature, Ben and I waited while he formulated his thoughts and questions on each page of the booklet

Seeing the spiritual canyon because of our sin between us and God and the futility of each person’s attempts to reach God on his own power, Diégane demanded, “What then can we do to attain to God? What can we do to make ourselves acceptable to God?” So we read about how it’s not any of our work, not any of our efforts, but rather to make a choice to trust in Jesus, in his sacrifice for us. We read together the booklet’s sample prayer of putting trust in Jesus, and Diégane indicated that he had already prayed such a prayer. To confirm that we were understanding each other, I asked, “so do you believe Jesus is the replacement for your sins?”

And right then and there, Diégane made a profession of faith— simple and informal, but striking and beautiful.

“Of course I do!”

The rest of the conversation my insides were going wild with joy. We prayed together, thanking God for Diégane’s new trust in Jesus and asking for grace to grow in understanding of this new relationship.

I am amazed as I think back on how God worked through this story:

“Nothing will come out of this, and it’ll just be awkward.”

“No, I don’t know God.”

“We will always be together.”

Praise Jesus that, because of what He’s done this past six months, now the first two of those statements are total lies and the last statement couldn’t be more true.

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