June 16, 2012

Post-Kenya Notebook: Elliot

Tall, dark, handsome and an epic preacher? He could've been on television with a voice like that. He introduced himself as Elliot.

He was dressed different from the other Kenyans; by western standards, better. His clothes fit his body, were of higher quality and he matched and looked cohesive. Most of the other pastors didn't.

I first saw him standing along the left margin during one of the crusades. He was next to our Kenyan pastor friends. But I immediately didn't recognize him. A head taller than the rest and good-looking, I would shift my eyes every so often to look at him, as if studying to understand, analyzing to draw conclusions (I am finding out that I am nearly always wrong).

There were always Kenyan pastors popping up and stopping by. He was probably just another one.

After the main sermon--and yes, differentiating is necessary since there were, sometimes, many--Elliot, who I had yet to meet, approached the stage after being introduced as the revival meeting preacher. The church in Naro Moru conducted night revival meetings even after the long crusades. Those dire-hard Kenyans never stop! I even heard of them going far beyond midnight, into the wee hours of the morning. I couldn't understand. I would of fallen over dead.

He stepped up onto the shabby wood pieces, or what were supposed to be stairs. They flexed toward the ground under the weight of each of his steps. He was handed the microphone. Then he preached.

His preaching was different. I noticed right away. He shouted as if perfectly mimicking those crazy charismatic televangelists, those who seem to get way to excited about every single thing they say, as if normal conversational tone was for wimpy pastors. But his style wasn't obnoxious. Elliot struck a delicate balance. From where did he get this? This wasn't typical Kenyan rhetoric. His craft was fine-tuned and polished.

Though he made me upset at his bypassing of the children who wanted to know more about Jesus (see my previous post), since he was focused on the adults responding, the following night we talked. I preached that evening at the crusade. After stepping down off the stage, he stopped me, encouraged and thanked me. I was surprised. I judged him to be more arrogant.

His deportment was open, thoughtful and present; very refreshing. He was good at talking, on stage and off. I asked a simple question and this propelled us into the unraveling of a sliver of his story.

Elliot attended college in the U.S., some Bible college in Georgia. This made a ton of sense. I understood where his preaching style, social q's and mannerisms and fashion sense came from.

Listening intently, I ate up his words, his story. He told me how his pastor, while attending school in the U.S., didn't let him preach, though he was fully capable. Elliot worked lousy jobs. This meant lousy pay. He told me how he felt humiliated when he, along with his wife and two young daughters, lost their house and became homeless because of his low-paying jobs. God gives and takes away was the lesson Elliot claimed God had taught him.

I was floored by his honesty and simplicity.

In a foreign country, with his family, pursuing education which would help him in his future ministry, and he loses his job (which was crap anyway)?

He continued to tell me that all this was only after a long silence on the part of God. He longed for the divine voice. Alas, nothing. Perfect reticence. Like Abraham, Elliot was in a strange new world (imagine moving from Kenya to the U.S.). Jobless. Homeless. On the receiving end of nothing from God. Humiliated.

Here was a man I just met, a man I "understood" (in my ill-percieved mind) as full of himself. This wasn't true. He was honest. He was vulnerable. And He was openly breaking in front of me.

By God's graces, eventually, Elliot and his family saved up enough money to buy a nice home back in Kenya, the land of his birth, the place of his mission.

Was it difficult moving back to Kenya? Why did you want an education in the U.S.? What is ministry like in your city? What is your philosophy of ministry? How do you live your life? I had more questions for him. Questions I'll probably never get to ask.

"Every person has a lesson for you to learn, but it's your job to discover what that is." - Bob Horn