Ok, here it is for those who could not wait for Wednesday, April 21! LOL
With the inability to adjust to the heat, and adding more mosquitoes to the local death toll, I finally got up around 5:30am and prepared for the day. Walking across a floor that I considered to be far from clean, I headed to the shower, it reminded me of something you might find in a bad movie where you are wondering whether you might share the facility with more bugs, scorpions, or even a snake crawling up the drain! The cold water (all that was available) drove most thoughts out of my brain, but I can assure you I kept my glasses on in order to keep an eye on the drainpipe.
After getting dressed and reading some Scripture, I asked the Lord to give me strength for the day and for wisdom to figure out what was going on with the “three pastors” I had met the night previous. I failed to mention that the night before, the “three pastors” had left an older man at the house and told me that he was there for my protection and would also help me if I needed help. His name was Moses and they told me that he was a deacon at a church belonging to one of the “three pastors”. Walking into the house kitchen the next morning, this man was sitting at the table. I tried to get some information out of him, but he did not appear very talkative at that moment.
Walking outside to greet the humid, tropical morning, my “guard” followed a few steps behind me. As I watched the mist rise from the ground like smoke, I noticed my “guard” was watching me. As I proceeded down the path towards the Atlantic Ocean, the mist and sound of the crashing waves added to my enjoyment of seeing my very first banana and coconut trees. Those few moments felt like I was in a paradise, if only somebody could turn the heat down a little bit.
Going back into the house around 7:30am, I felt I was prepared for the “three pastors” to arrive at 9:00am. The son of the president of the Baptist college who now owned the property had provided me with a cell phone. This had allowed me to call my wife in England and let her know to pray. While assuring her I was fine, I was wondering how true this might be in a country that had just come out of a brutal civil war. This was particularly the case considering how the “three pastors” had behaved the night before. Before the men arrived, I called the ABWE missionary, Steve Trexler, and shared what had happened the night before. He told me not to go anywhere with the men, but that he and Pastor Togba would be there as quickly as possible. Now along with the presence of my “guard”, I was REALLY getting worried.
9:00am – The “three pastors” arrived at the same time as Bro. Trexler and Pastor Togba. We sat around a large table and the discussions began. The “three pastors” assured me that they were glad to have me visit their country and apologized for the misunderstanding the night before. They told me they were embarrassed because they were not able to provide what had been promised to me, and I began to wonder how I was just going to pay for my stay in the guesthouse.
I continued by asking the men to introduce themselves again now that I was awake. One of the pastors introduced himself as Pastor S__________ and another red flag went off. I had seen a small picture of this particular pastor and the two definitely were not the same person. A few more comments between us and I stated I wanted to get on with the meeting, but wanted to make sure I had the names correct. Going down the line, I called them each by the name they had given me until I got to the “pastor” sitting to my right.
I asked, “And you are, Pastor S______? Is that correct?” This man hung his head and over in the corner of the room, my “guard” started shaking his graying head and then put his face in his huge hands. At that moment, it dawned me that something bigger was going on. Proceeding with the questioning, I clarified that the pastor in question was not Pastor S______, and wanted to know where he was. The men told me they only wrote back and forth with him and that Pastor S______ had not been in Liberia for a few years! Talk about the plot thickening!
Silence reigned and all you could hear across the veranda was the crashing of the ocean waves. All three of the “pastors” refused to meet my eyes for several minutes until one of them, whom I would view as the ringleader finally looked up and spoke.
“Pastor, we have been very bad. We have lied to you and that is not right. We are not who we claimed to be. You have caught us and we are so ashamed.”
The ringleader continued by pulling out copies of my emails sent and began to share the reason for my being in Liberia. The first emails were just as I remembered them, but then more issues began to arise. What they were telling me and even reading off of the emails they had printed did not sound even close to what I had sent in those emails. The ringleader informed all present that I had promised to bring $7,000 (seven thousand US dollars) in cash to pay for Bibles, for the pastor’s conference and even to pay for the rental of the stadium where the crusade was to take place.
The “pastor” impersonating Pastor S_______ then produced a poster they had printed which were ready to post all over the city of Liberia. He then said, “We expect 10,000+ in attendance at the faith healing crusade!” Sure enough, there was my picture alongside a picture of one of the three pastors. In big, bold letters, “FAITH HEALING CRUSADE! – Bring your sick so the pastor from England can lay hands on you for a miracle!”
If I would have had false teeth, I would have dropped them. Looking at the ABWE missionary and Pastor Togba who really knew nothing about me, I could tell they were probably wondering what they might have gotten themselves into. I excused myself from the table and asked these two godly men if they would join me for a quick walk towards the beach. They did and I shared with them the truth of what had occurred and produced my own emails which I had printed off before leaving England. They were shocked.
We went back in and took our places at the table. Mincing no words, I called the “three pastors” to account for their lies and told them I could prove that I had not written the emails they had in their possession. Asking for the copies they held, I pulled mine out of my binder and let all present see the differences. Mine had no spelling mistakes whereas their copies did. Their copies were obviously a cut and paste job written with the intent of pulling off a huge scam. To cap it off, I almost laughed when I looked at the last page of emails and pointed out to the men that after having my name for almost 40 years that I should know how to spell it correctly! The bottom line was that the man, Pastor S_____, had duped both myself and these simple, poor Liberian pastors.
I was quite upset and was wishing for more than once a week flights out of Liberia. On a different continent than my family and surrounded by nothing familiar, I was out of words in regards to explaining the situation. Silence reigned again, but then a thought flashed into my mind. I was here to share the truth of God’s Word, I would begin at the kitchen table.
The “three pastors” shared their “testimony” at my request when I finally spoke again, and it was obvious that all three of them were on their way to a Christ-less eternity. All three spoke of how they were working towards the goal of heaven. I shared the truth of Scripture and began with the law. They had broken God’s law and the penalty was death. I concluded by telling them that while they had lied, their rejection of Jesus Christ was what would condemn them to hell. Standing I told them I would have nothing to do with their lies and they were free to go.
Pastor Togba graciously extended an invitation to stay in his home on the other side of Monrovia and I accepted with a glad heart. The “three pastors” had asked if we would reconsider at least conducting the pastor’s conference. With Pastor Togba’s approval, I agreed to meet with them at his house in two days and he provided directions to his home.
As I walked back to my bedroom, I wondered what the next days and weeks would hold for it certainly did not match with what I had planned. Bro. Trexler and Pastor Togba were waiting for me outside while I packed my bags. There was a knock on my door and my “guard” Moses and his “pastor” (the one who had pretended to be Pastor S_____) were standing with heads bowed. Moses had tears streaming down his weathered face.
“We have brought shame upon ourselves, our church, and our country,” they began. “We have come to seek your forgiveness and ask you to pray that God will forgive us.” As I watched these two men humble themselves, I thought of what the Lord had done in forgiving me. The least I could do was to extend forgiveness to these two Liberians and pray that they would one day find rejoicing by placing their faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Picking up my bags, I headed for the door and said good-bye to the two men as I reminded them that I would see them again in two days with my answer in regards to the Pastor’s Conference. The older man, Moses (my guard) was still weeping as he thanked me for forgiving them and it was at that moment that the Lord broke something down in me and dropping my bags, I walked over to him and putting my arms around him, I assured him that he was forgiven and that it was now in the past. Picking my bags back up, I walked out of the mission house knowing and believing that God was sovereign in all things and there was a reason why He wanted me in Liberia. Maybe I had just started to see a taste of something special.
(…to be continued…) – I will post the next installment on Wednesday, April 21!