For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. -- Hebrews 4:12, KJV
John Wengatz thoroughly believed in the power of the Word of God, and often gave out copies of the Gospel of Matthew -- and the Lord did many things with those small books. One of Wengatz's missionaries encountered a young man named Buta. Buta had just finished his military service as a soldier and was retiring as an officer. He had learned to read and write during his military service, and when a missionary gave him the small, red book (the Gospel of Matthew) he was delighted at a chance to use his reading skills.
Hunger for Truth
Once Buta started reading the book, he couldn't stop. It was like he was starving, and had finally found food. His wives kept finding him off somewhere talking to himself, and it worried them. They thought he might have lost his mind, what with the talking to himself and carrying that book around everywhere! However, they couldn’t get around the fact that he was such a nice, mellow man compared to what they had expected of a retired soldier. What they didn’t know was the Buta had become a Christian.
Sharing His Experience
As the head of his village, he called a meeting to tell everyone what had happened to him, and it was not well received. After being convicted by the Lord of polygamy, he sent all but one of his wives back to their fathers – and allowed them to keep the farms they had worked while married to him. This was completely unheard of in that region. The village was utterly shocked at this behavior. They concluded that he had gone crazy over the white man’s religion. But they began to listen to Buta.
Buta was able to attend some missionary meetings in the area, and invited the missionaries to come to his village. When they finally arrived, they found a bunch of little toddlers playing and singing “Jesus Loves Me.” It seems that the Lord had won over enough people in Buta’s village, to the point that they had to build their own church. Buta was holding church services regularly, and testified that 97 out of his village had been born again, burned their fetishes, and were listed on the church roll.
The story of Buta and his influence does not stop here, though. One of the villagers had grown deathly ill, and his family were using all the traditional methods they knew of to discover the cause of his illness. Nothing was working, though.
While in a stupor, this sick man had a vision of two trains: one headed to certain destruction, and the bright and shiny and destined for a beautiful place. He understood the first train to be the path Buta had warned his people about -- Hell. He cried out to the Lord, and the Lord told him to call for Buta to speak with him.
His family did not want to do this, fearing it would offend the spirits they had been calling upon. However, they finally relented. BBy that time Buta was not available, but other local Christians came to pray and talk with him. He was saved, burned his fetishes, and awoke the next morning completely healed.
This area was later totally devastated by sleeping sickness brought on by the Tse-Tse fly. Before that time, however, the church not only became self-supporting but began supporting neighboring churches, too.
John Wengatz loved to point out that this was not the work of a missionary, but of Jesus Christ dealing with a man’s heart through the Word of God. One small Gospel of Matthew was guided into a man's hands by the Lord, and led an entire village to salvation -- without a single missionary preaching a sermon. He didn't even have an entire Bible, much less a study guide or commentary. All he had was on book of the Bible and a hunger for truth -- and the Lord led him to all the truth he needed. When there was no teacher available, the Lord taught Buta Himself. Never underestimate the power of the Word of God.
Wengatz, J.C., Miracles in Black, Schmul Publishing Company, 1987.
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.