In the afternoon on Monday, I sat down with TENGUE and listened. Yes, I listened.
For at least two hours I asked questions with pen in hand until I could understand what he was saying, and I wrote it down. I asked about his vision for the future of his children at CUAED. I asked about how he sees the orphanage affecting the village community and the adults around it. I asked what his plans, goals and dreams are for his community. And this man of prayer shared what God has laid upon his heart to do and some things God has showed him about how they will be done. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).
He was born and raised in the bush. (His mother is still alive but his father has long since passed away.) Around the age of 10 he started going out to cut firewood in the bush, so he could take it to the nearby town of Afagnon, sell it, and get money for school fees.
As a young teen he moved to the capital city of Lome, where he suffered the hardship of sleeping on the ground or city sidewalk, worked just to survive, but often had nothing to eat, and still woke up thanking God that he was alive for one more day.
He has watched loved ones, friends and neighbors die of preventable illnesses, crying until he had no more tears.
He has fasted and prayed for days at a time in single minded pursuit of God’s will…. while continuing to go out and cut firewood or hoe the crops for the orphanage.
I listened to this man from a small village in rural Africa who accomplishes so much, by some gift of God… and I was awed to see how he still trusts in God after everything. How he prays when it looks impossible for anything good to happen. How he works until he can work no more even when his own stomach is empty so the children and women in the village can have something to eat.
I know that with all his being, this man cares for and loves the children of CUAED Togo Orphanage. His last words to me upon parting each evening were, “Don’t forget before you go to sleep to PRAY for the children,” as he looked me in the eye. And I knew he would be in the room next door on his knees before and long after I was. Going back to my room that evening may have given me a break from trying to communicate in a different language (African English is challenging when mixed with French and Ewe), leaving me to my own thoughts once more. But in the solitude my heart could not escape from the new reality I was beginning to enter in to that is AFRICA.