I called him “avocado boy” until I learned his real name. After our first day of English classes in his mountain village, he came up to me with a shy smile to offer me an avocado, the African equivalent to the teacher’s apple. I dug into my backpack to give him a bright blue jump rope in exchange. His smile widened and his brown eyes twinkled. We were friends now.
A few hours later, I was sitting on a rock journaling and reading my Bible when a saw something bright and blue bobbing toward me through the forest. In a couple minutes, my new little friend emerged from the woods, the blue jump rope tied around his head and his arms full of fresh avocados.
He dropped them beside me – “These are for you,” he said and then took a seat beside me. We chatted a little bit and then he leaned over and ran his fingers through the pages of my Bible.
“You are reading?”
“Yes, would you like to read with me?”
He nodded eagerly and I put the Bible in his lap. It had been opened to John 3 and in my heart I said a little “thank you” to God for so perfectly orchestrating this moment.
“Right here,” I said, pointing my finger at verse 16. And in his hesitant English, he began to read –
“For God…so loved…the world…that he ga-gave his…only Son, that whoever be-be-believes in him should not…should p-p-perish….but have eternal life.”
“Good job.” I smiled encouragingly at him, “That is the most important thing you can read. The ‘Son’ it’s talking about is Jesus.”
“Jesus.” He nodded vigorously. He knew the name. I wondered what it meant to Him.
After a little while, he looked up into my eyes and this time I saw a new expression on his face. It was solemn and full of pain.
I had to lean close to catch his words which had fallen to a whisper. “My brother has died. My brother has died and my parents are gone to bury him.”
For a long moment I did not know what to say. All I could do was look into his face and pray for him. I put my arm around him and we sat together for a long time. I just wanted him to know that he was loved and cared for and his tears did not go unheard.
We spent a lot of time together the next two days. Oftentimes, just when I would begin to pray for him, he would show up around the corner, always bearing a gift – avocados, mangos, or cocoa fruit. He was always on his own, but the local missionaries had chosen him to be their messenger/errand boy. They paid him to do little jobs for them and I was glad to see that he was being noticed and befriended.
But leaving that village was one of the hardest moments of the trip so far. How is so much love for one child created in a single day? As we pulled off the mountain road and my little friend became a speck in the distance, my eyes filled with tears. Why does love have to hurt? And then, God gave me the thought that perhaps in a small He was giving me a glimpse of His heart – so full of love for the world that He would sacrifice the thing nearest and dearest to Him.
Because God so loved that little boy on the mountain, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ. He brought missionaries and a growing group of Christians to the remote mountain village. He allowed our lives to cross for two days and planned the moment on a forest rock, reading John 3:16 beside a pile of friendship avocados.
I wasn’t sent here to save anyone. I’m here to point to Jesus, my Savior and the true Savior of every person who comes full of need and simple faith.
One of the greatest challenges of my month in the African villages has been learning to commit the people I’ve grown to love to the God who loves them more. It hurts to leave them and feel incompetent to remedy their problems. But God has been in control all along. Every corner of the world is in His hands, including a little grieving boy who offers friendship with an avocado and a sweet smile.
God, You see this child of Yours. Be glorified in his life.