This was an extremely long day. My waking hours almost filled an entire 24-hour period because I was unable to sleep and extremely restless in my spirit. Something just wasn’t right in our situation. My suspicion had become highly elevated after making a telephone call early in the evening. I was interested in finding out what it would cost to buy Bibles in large quantities because we had been paying in the neighborhood of $10 a piece from the supplier. The Bibles that were purchased for distribution came from primarily one location, so I called the number, not expecting that they would answer on a Sunday, but someone answered. And to my surprise it sounded like Pastor Duncan. Recognizing the voice, I said, “What’s your name?” Quickly, he hung up. Within the next 20 minutes, someone called back two more times. I tried to sniff out the truth with my hound dog questioning, but each time, when the pressure got to be too much, they hung up. On the last attempt, I was quite sure that I heard Duncan’s voice in the background giving instruction.
Now it had become quite clear why God included me as part of this mission. My pursuit of things in life has caused me to be an extremely driven person, but after my total surrender to the Lord, I even put that nature of myself aside, knowing that those unstoppable drives within me were only to be released in the future if it was by His direction. So far on this trip, Josh has definitely taken the good cop position and I’ve completely embraced the bad cop, which has allowed us to navigate our way through several situations. What a wonderful balance God knew would exist between us!
When I brought Josh the additional information I had uncovered, we both shared the sinking feeling that we were being deceived. Our hopes were that Felix was not somehow connected to the scam, but had merely been caught up by a smooth-talking pastor who offered the world to him. We began to formulate a plan, pondering many possible outcomes and some were not very pleasant. We were scheduled to spend the next day with Pastor Duncan and Pastor Felix, so all through the night I was tossing and turning, praying and searching, reaching out to God for insight to our situation. At around 3 AM, it became quite clear to me. “Unleash the warrior that's inside of you and do what I sent you to do.”
Reflecting back, there were probably half a dozen signs that caused me to question Duncan’s character—many of them quite blatant—but I was easily swept into the delusion that this must be part of God’s plan. Duncan had a large facility that was pretty much unused but could be put into operation quickly and he had already established a few different churches, so the complex that he had control over could have become home base for EchoAfrica in a few months. He was also working on developing personal property that included a restaurant and hotel, which I didn’t mention earlier because there seemed to be no correlation, but it should’ve been a red flag of sorts when he showed it to us. It would’ve been a horrible mistake if we had gone down the path of partnering with him. Instead of being deceived for just a few thousand dollars, it quite possibly could’ve been substantially more. He was very bold and tenacious in his attempts to manipulate our trust.
We witnessed a few other areas of his behavior that were red flags. For example, he had a self-righteous, prideful attitude, seeming to view himself superior to the villagers and members of the church. On countless occasions, he told us that he was liked so much by others because he was so trusted, and also that he never took funds and spent them inappropriately. I’ve learned in life that, generally, if someone continues to tout certain areas of their character, it is because they lack it. From what we’ve been able to discover, it appears that there was most likely a considerable profit Duncan was making from the Bibles, and also that he was delivering fewer Bibles than what was paid for. There are many other things that I could mention that would pile onto the already guilty verdict.
I told Josh that God basically said sic ‘em, so that’s what we did, but in a very tactful and Holy Spirit driven way. When Felix and Duncan arrived, I hadn’t yet returned from the gas station, so Josh met them in the parking lot and said that Duncan acted like the cat that just swallowed the canary. He was pretty much speechless, most likely expecting that we would expose him and his scam, but Josh played it cool and just acted as if nothing had happened. I usually ask Duncan an extensive list of questions—I’m sure he felt like he was under constant interrogation—so Josh thought it would be pretty funny if I didn’t ask any questions the whole day. But that’s like asking a lifetime chain smoker to kick the habit on the spot. I did manage to keep them to a bare minimum though.
When I returned from the gas station and greeted the group, Duncan looked at me with full anticipation of the missiles being launched. Thanks to Josh’s advice, I liked the thought of making the guy sweat all day, and I think Josh relished in heaping on the kindness with that broad smile and jolly presence of his. I even went to the extreme of buying a box of cookies to share with Duncan and Felix to masquerade the deep disappointment I was feeling. For whatever reason it was determined that Felix was going to ride with Josh and I, so we departed and retrieved some funds from the bank that were transferred. We then purchased some additional replacement parts for the wells with the intention of being on our way quickly. But that isn’t exactly what happened.
Josh and I were sitting in the car, little Billy Goat Toyota, the car that had conquered the mountain, when suddenly a large truck parked ahead of us decided to back up quite aggressively. I honked my horn and even backed up a few feet, almost touching the vehicle behind us, but it wasn’t enough. The truck smashed right into us. I must admit I dipped into the old self a bit at this point. I jumped out of the vehicle and approached the other driver like King Kong on a mission. I snatched the keys out of his hand and said you’re going to wait here for the police. I quickly stormed away in pursuit of anyone who could help. Josh calmly looked around and located a police officer nearby several minutes before I returned with another officer. He said that he tried to call out to me, but I was in full stride covering a great distance with each step.
Looking back on it now, it was actually quite comical. We had to go to the police station, which was a fantastic reminder of why you should be obedient in a foreign country. We discovered that, even with two officers on the scene, they collect zero information. All police reports are filled out by hand, using a ruler and a pen to segregate the information into a grid work of their own format. It was an excruciating process that gobbled up precious time, so I finally gathered my items and said we’re leaving. I didn’t know at that point if we were going to be arrested, restrained, or who knows what else, but I was still in King Kong mode, not thinking clearly. Luckily, we were able to make it past the men with machine guns and eventually to the safety of Billy Goat. We were glad that the vehicle was still drivable and the headlights weren't smashed out. Josh didn’t have any trouble reminding me that I probably could’ve been a bit calmer. You would think the strong smell of urine and other odors in the police station would’ve been enough to convince me to be on my best behavior, but thank God for small miracles, within a few hours I was able to return to the peaceful presence of the Lord in my spirit.
It’s hard for us to determine how much English Felix really understands, so Josh came up with the idea of referring to Duncan as Doughnut instead, as a clever and a bit humorous cover. So, on our way to the well sites, we were able to talk quite a bit about Doughnut. His demeanor in the morning was an obvious and considerable departure from what we had experienced in the past. We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was guilty.
When we arrived at Duncan Doughnut’s complex to fix the first well that needed repairing, he had the audacity to ask us to pay the man that was helping us. It just didn’t make any sense to us. If someone came over to your house to help you put a new roof on, and they bought all the materials for the project, would you ask them to pay you before starting the work? That did not set well with me at all. However, we have conditioned these people to expect handouts. It’s not their fault, but the world should approach the problem from a different angle. You must create opportunities for the communities to become self-sufficient. Even if you do give handouts, some type of shared effort is very important. It also leads to positive feelings of self-worth. More on that later.
We were able to work on seven more wells, which brings our total to 14. The fact that we could fix that many wells in such a short period of time is quite surprising. With a few more specialized tools, efficiency could increase even more, and a Polaris Razor or other such vehicle would greatly assist in the execution. While fixing the last three wells, we got rained on, and we headed for the final well in a torrential downpour, with several inches of water coursing its way down the eroded roads. The possibility of getting stranded somewhere was always on our minds. Even during the process of repairing all these wells for the community, Duncan did not assist. He even tried to stay in the car once it started raining, although I must admit that I lingered in the vehicle on the last well a bit longer than Josh. But he eagerly waved me out so I wouldn’t miss out on all the fun. I knew he wouldn’t have any problem harassing me about staying in the vehicle, so I figured the wiser choice was to just get it over with quickly.
On our return trip, we had an interesting encounter with a police officer toting a machine gun. He came up to my window, leaned his head right inside, and asked us what we were doing. We told him we that we were missionaries and that part of our trip involved repairing wells. He asked us if we had any Bibles with us. Josh had brought along a personal Bible that he had—for whatever reason—placed in the glove box. Obviously, this was the reason. With his machine gun clanking up against the side of the car, the police officer reached in and gladly retrieved the Bible, a wide smile spreading across his face. He was very thankful to receive the living Word, and we were thankful that we could oblige.
So, hallelujah! There are now 14 functioning wells here, representing one for each day we were in this country. We are so encouraged that God allowed us to be involved in an opportunity that could potentially save lives. And even more importantly than that, Josh was able to deliver messages that could potentially save eternal lives. Even though we had some low points, they were easily overcome.
The fact that we successfully spent the day with Duncan without mentioning the things that we knew was quite remarkable, especially for me. Now it was time to put Phase 2 of our plan into play. We had identified a young man at our hotel named Tony, who was the assistant manager of the complex. We had talked to him on a few different occasions and were quite impressed with this young man. In fact, I think Josh had a man-crush on him. He was very committed in his Christian faith and had a well-established relationship with the Lord. You may ask how we could possibly know that? By his fruit and actions; and our next interactions with him confirmed this even more.
We had told Felix and Duncan that we wanted to have a discussion with Felix alone. We had already mentioned this to Duncan earlier, but with the misguided intention of asking Felix if our involvement on parallel paths with Duncan would be okay with him, since Felix was the one who originally reached out for our assistance. We had wanted to squelch any concern that Felix might have had regarding the issue; however, after uncovering the true nature of Duncan’s character, that conversation would be impossible.
For this new conversation, Tony had agreed to help on our behalf as an interpreter. So Felix, Josh, Tony, and I shared dinner together. We were able to watch Tony in action for over two hours. He was masterful in his abilities, and the true nature of his heart and commitment to serving God became obvious. He was able to convey thoughts back and forth in a very personal and connected way. It became obvious by our interaction that it was not by chance, but divine direction that we were placed at this hotel. Josh and I both had the overwhelming sense that Tony may be involved with us in the future on a much greater level than we originally thought possible.
Through our questioning process, it became clear that Felix had been shortchanged on the number of Bibles. He was humble and respectful in all of his responses. Even when asked if he had misappropriated any funds, he told us that he had used about 10,000 Kwacha for the care of his family. He humbly admitted it and said he was very sorry. We informed him that we would be more than happy to provide funds for his family when needed. His actions were very commendable considering the situation. Keep in mind that 10,000 Kwacha is equivalent to $13.86. What we had hoped for was true. As an innocent village servant to the King, he had been taken advantage of, without benefiting personally in any way. Unfortunately, Duncan’s scoundrel behavior had swept up Felix in its path. Apparently, Duncan had even instructed Felix to only buy the Bibles from his group. We’re still not sure of the exact connection between Duncan and the Bible distributor; however, we know one exists.
Our intention at this point is to stop all communication with Duncan Doughnut, to accept Felix’s honest and sincere responses, and to move forward with further involvement with him. As for Tony, God didn’t put him in our path without a purpose, so Josh and I are like two giddy schoolgirls waiting to play with our new friend.