Sunday, April 27, 2008

After Twelve Years

I don’t know the reason this story kept coming to me last week. But it’s important to share with you, dear readers.

Three decades ago, this happened in Zimbabwe. At the headquarters of one church, three top leaders—the president, secretary and treasurer—often disagreed. The first two were from one tribe and the treasurer was seen as being stubborn because he was not of the same tribe as the president and the secretary. The two were pastors and the treasurer was simply a professional.

The president and the secretary tried to fault the treasurer on professional grounds but the man was just clean. He did his job smartly, making sure all offerings and tithes were used for intended purposes.

But they found a way—and it was a long time plan. They arranged lateral transfers of secretaries and gave the treasurer one of their own tribe.

One day, on a Monday morning, all were present at work. They went to morning devotions and proceeded to their offices. The treasurer called his secretary to arrange work for the week: meetings, visitors and things like that. Suddenly, the secretary jumped from her chair, ran away, shouting "My boss wants to rape me!"

The treasurer, in his chair, was surprised. He froze. Everybody else followed the secretary. The president and the secretary were there, too, asking what had happened. She explained about the attempted rape and the treasurer was suspended, later fired.

They were happy that the man from a different tribe had been fired and they would have a tribe-brother as treasurer. The treasurer was disgraced. His wife was angry. Their two children, 10 and 12, were disappointed. "Why did dad rape his secretary?" They asked themselves without any answer, without noticing the difference between attempted rape and rape. By this time their parents had separated. The mother could not live with a man who wanted to rape a secretary. The separation reminded the children of a bad father.

Years passed. The secretary was rewarded. Remember all this at a mission, a church’s headquarters. All this by men of God.

Twelve years passed and, one summer, a pastor was preaching at a camp meeting in Zimbabwe. The pastor, old and with a faint voice that could hardly be audible on a microphone, read from Mark chapter five, verse 25 to 34. It’s a story about a woman who had a disease of blood for 12 years. One day, desperate for healing and with faith, touched the garment of Jesus who Christians believe is the son of God.

She got healed and Jesus knew some power had gone out of him after a touch of faith. "Who touched me?" Jesus asked. And his disciples wondered at Jesus’ reasoning because there were multitudes touching each other. "But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, daughter, thy faith has made you whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague."

The pastor’s voice emphasised this section and raised his volume, saying, "This woman was sick for 12 years but Jesus healed her. You might have kept a sin for 12 years but if you give Jesus a touch of faith today, he will forgive you."

That woman, the secretary who faked rape stood up, walked down to the pastor and offered herself to God. "I lied that my boss wanted to rape me," she said. "But it was a scheme. Two pastors asked me to do that so the treasurer could be fired. I want God to forgive me." They prayed together. The fired-treasure got the news and for the first time in 12 years he got back his energy. He had lived in shame all along. Who could understand him? A woman’s evidence in sexual issues is regarded as gospel truth. He failed to understand how tribalism could be stronger than Christianity.

His wife and two children got the news as well. The children were grown-ups now at 24 and 22. They reunited and became a family, once again. They invited the secretary and prayed with her. This story has remained a testimony for years and it has been retold hundreds of times.

It came back to me last week and I am still wondering why I remembered this story. But I thought I had some lessons. Are you, too, learning something from this story?

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