The Cost of Forgiveness

The Cost of Forgiveness

Prologue: Mongeri is a larger town just 10 rough miles to our south which we must pass through every time we go anywhere, yet somehow it had remained completely neglected in terms of evangelism.  On Friday, November 4, 2016 that changed when the evangelism team made their first excursion there.  That first day, the town seemed quite unsettled and the team was unable to get any real traction with conversations.  They later saw the town witchdoctor sporting his devil suit and dancing through town; that might have something to do with the distractive undercurrent.  Even back in our own village of Baomahun, I felt the spiritual tension as I was praying for the evangelism efforts; my prayers felt like slogging through mud.  At that time there was a hotly contested political campaign underway and the typically secretive witchcraft had become raw and bold, completely out in the open, as side pitted itself against side.  It was into this charged, devilish atmosphere that the team ventured several times, directly challenging the principalities and powers behind the witchcraft.  The next Friday they returned to Mongeri and this time hit the jack-pot: Chief James Flee, the town chief for 44 years, whose conversion story has become one of my favorite accounts of God dealing directly with a lost soul.  We take up our story two weeks after the above incident with the witch doctor. 

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Date of original journal entry: Friday November 18, 2016

I Kings 8:44,45 “If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord … : Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.” 

Chief James Flee pictured with his wife and granddaughter. This was taken after their first conversation and the chief was deep in thought.

“Now I understand the cost of forgiveness,” the old Muslim town chief quietly told Stephen through Moses, Stephen’s faithful interpreter.  One week prior to this, the week after their strained first day evangelizing in Mongeri, the chief and Stephen had had a very productive conversation, utilizing The Advocate wordless evangelism book which shows Jesus Christ as our mediator before God.  The following is roughly how their conversation had gone that day, Friday November 11.

Drawing on his cultural knowledge, Stephen asked Chief Flee a leading question, “What is the procedure if a man is seeking your forgiveness as chief?”   “He would have to pay the fine for the offense and then it could be forgiven.”  “But what if he doesn’t have the money?” Stephen retorted.  “He would have to find a way; he must make payment.”  “Can he beg you?  Will you just forget it and allow him to go without payment?” Stephen further queried, already knowing the answer.  “No!  Of course not!” came the quick, stern reply.  Ah, this was just what Stephen wanted him to say!  Chief Flee, a Muslim from his birth, has believed his whole life that all one needs to do is pray and beg Allah to forget his sins; there need be no payment only begging by prayer.  Stephen looked him directly in the eye while gently, even lovingly asking, “You mean to tell me that you, a mortal man, would refuse to do for a fellow man, a fellow Mende brother, what you fully expect the eternal, righteous, and holy God to do for you, a sinner?”  With that Chief James Flee fell silent and it was clear that the question stung his heart.  But Stephen could also tell he was thinking.  This was a good point at which to leave him with his thoughts and they parted on friendly terms.

The following Friday, November 18, Stephen, Moses, and Lauretta, commanding officer at our police post and faithful church member, paid Chief Flee another visit.

“I can see you care,” the old man said in Mende.  “There’s nothing in this for you; you are only here to be a help to me.”  The chief then explained to Stephen through Moses that he could understand now because he could see Jesus as similar to himself as chief.  He gave them this analogy.  

Chief Flee is now also Brother Flee. This photo was taken after his testimony of understanding and salvation.

“A stranger cannot come before me; he would have no voice.  That person would need a mediator, someone who knows me as chief, and be that man’s voice before me.”  I got all teary when Stephen told me this.  This dear old soul realized that he had no voice before the God of Heaven, that he was a stranger to God.  He had come to this understanding on his own and offered this testimony without prompting or questioning.  This was his own thought after a week of considering the conversation and the pictures from the evangelism book.

Chief Flee then told the team that he had heard the gospel before but no one ever took time to explain it to him from the Bible.  He said that The Advocate booklet helped him in several ways to see God in His holiness and righteousness as Judge of all the earth.  He then saw himself as condemned before this God!  And indeed, that is the just the point at which Stephen and Moses had left him the week before — condemned, guilty, and with no voice before God.

“Now I understand the cost of forgiveness.”  Oh how that takes my breath away.

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Post Script: Over the years of laboring in Sierra Leone we have learned the necessity of giving people time to consider things and not rushing them to a “decision.”  These concepts are so new to them and they just need time to mull it over and come to true understanding.

The week prior to penning this journal entry, I was feeling overwhelmed by all that’s wrong in Sierra Leone, the palpable spiritual oppression, all the evils which so deeply crush my soul.  But oh!  The sweet refreshment of this story, and that the pictures had played a very crucial part in Chief Flee’s understanding.  Such encouragement from the Lord!

A prayer I often pray, and indeed did pray the day Chief Flee gave this testimony of understanding, is taken from Isaiah 53:11, 12 “ … my righteous servant shall justify many for he shall bear their iniquities  … and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Of course this is talking about Jesus Christ, but in Him I can bear the iniquities of others to the God of Heaven before whom transgressors outside of Christ have no voice.  I can plead their cause for them, I can be their intercessor until they are no longer a stranger to God.  Unbeknownst to me, as I was praying this, Chief Flee was telling the team that he could now see that he, a stranger, had no voice before God.  Be a voice for those outside of Christ.

Be sure to watch your inbox for The Cost of Forgiveness Part 2 — Coming Soon!  

Stephen snapped a photo of the local witchdoctor with Michael Sillah standing behind. Indeed — Jesus Saves!

  

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3 Comments

  1. Cassandra on April 17, 2024 at 7:22 pm

    Thank you.
    I am looking forward to part two.

  2. Laura Malm on April 17, 2024 at 11:43 pm

    Wow. Praise the Lord! This is such an encouragement!

  3. Jamie Parfitt on April 18, 2024 at 1:24 am

    Yes, it is very powerful. And comforting.

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