An Evening Under the Stars

We had been warned that today there’d be a long journey. We were to lead a two-day Bible School which would be attended by Christadelphians, and other people from the village and also from further afield.

We set off early in the morning. Three Europeans and three native Africans in a car which was not fit for the roads we were travelling on—they were some of the roughest I have ever experienced. After two hours’ travelling the sun was high and burning hot. Sweat dripped from us, our shirts stuck to our backs. Tension was rising, tempers frayed. The day which we had expected to spend talking and helping was slipping away.

At last we had to stop for a break to stretch our legs and enjoy some shade, but we were soon on our way again.

Arrival

After another two and a half hours we finally arrived. What greeted us first was the joyful sound of singing: “Abwerenso! Abwarenso! Jesu’ Abwarenso!” (“He is coming! He is coming! Jesus is coming soon!”) And what a sight it was! The meeting room had been extended by means of a makeshift structure of tree branches used as posts supporting a thatch of grass, and over a hundred people were sitting on mats or dried mud seats, enjoying the gentle breeze in the shade. Many had already been there for hours, and as we arrived more came pushing in and gathering around the edges of the throng.

The weariness of the journey fell away, and with renewed vigour we set about the day’s teaching.

The day passed quickly. Darkness approached and we had to stop, as there was no electric or gas light. And we were exhausted.

Nightfall

A brother walked over: “You want to stay with us tonight?” We readily agreed. We’d be happy to sleep in the car.

“No need, come to my house.” He led us on a short, dusty walk to a brick bungalow with a corrugated metal roof—it had not fared well in the previous year’s rains, wide cracks ran up the walls where flooding had undermined the foundations, but it was a welcoming home. 

We reclined on a couple of wooden benches and were given bottles of cola (Europeans avoid drinking the local water because their stomachs are too delicate). We enjoyed the cool of the evening, the stillness after the day’s business, the smell of the cooking pot over the open fire.

Twilight in Africa does not last long and night fell quickly. The moon rose in breathtaking beauty. At moments like this, well loved Bible passages come to mind:

Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also (Genesis 1:16).

One by one the stars appeared, and soon the Milky Way described a huge speckled band across the dome of heaven, criss-crossed by shooting stars. We sat and gazed in awe. Although it was night it was still so light that we could see the colour of the surrounding foliage.

We thought of the Psalmist gazing in awe into the night sky, and finding his own life put into perspective by the majesty of God’s creation:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honour. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet (Psalm 8:3–6).

Who is the ‘son of man’? It’s a term that can be applied to the whole human race, but in Hebrews 2:9 we see that primarily it’s a prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ who is crowned with glory and honour because he gained the victory over sin and death.

This was the night sky Abraham saw, when the God of heaven gave him those magnificent promises which form the basis of the Gospel:

Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:5–6).

Who are Abraham’s descendants? Everyone who shares his faith in God (Galatians 3:9). This beautiful spectacle was a picture of us!

As we each laid down our weary heads that night there was no thought about how taxing the day had been. There was only gratitude to our heavenly Father, that we had been privileged to serve Him in some small way. Sweet repose indeed!                                             

David Nightingale