One of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned about trusting God, comes from a smelly fish market in West Africa.
Half a mile before we even got close we knew what was coming. The stench of sun baked fish, some fresh from the ocean, others days old, rotting in the scorching heat of the African sun. The smell permeates every breath you take as you draw near.
In prayer our team felt today was the day to tackle the fish market. No pun intended. We all took a deep breath and began our march into a crowded, smelly market filled with a desire to bring the sweet aroma of Christ to a people whose lives were absent not only from physical perfume but spiritual sweetness.
Excited and a little nervous we set up our little PA system and with a translator began to share how we had come all the way from the United States to share some important news with them. We sang some songs, began sharing brief testimonies, and when we were just about to present our pantomime that culturally and chronologically presents gospel truths in the language of the people a man begins shouting, “STOP!”
As the leader I must do something. So I go up to the man and ask why he is not allowing us to engage in cultural exchange? He then demands I come to the “official fish market office of authority.” Well in all my years of working in Africa, one thing I know- there is no “official fish market office of authority!” Now their might be a little building for maintenance or for fish market vendors to pay their small contribution to lay their fish out for all the county to see, but definitely no “official fish market office of authority!”
I graciously followed the man, bringing along my African contacts ( who verified – there is no fish market authority!) to a small maintenance building. We entered the small room where a man set and began telling me that we could not do our pantomime for the fish market vendors or locals today. Of course I ask why? He then proceeded to tell me that the high counsel of the fish market have to meet and approve all activity in the market. Since we were not approved, we could not perform.
Immediately I began to pray and sent one of my local African contacts back to our team to have them begin praying too. I knew we had only come to this market in response to prayer. A crowd had already gathered and people were waiting for us to share with them. I also knew that this was the enemy. Satan hates when we take bold risks for the gospel. He hates when we listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Even more than that, he hates when light penetrates darkness. We were penetrating darkness.
Three different men came into the room each saying they were the authorities. For over an hour we sat, we prayed, we argued our case. Then, as if a strange deafness fell on the room. One of the men looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Write down what you want to do and in 5 minutes you will not be disappointed!” I looked up at the pastor that was with me and his eyes grew big. We both knew what was happening. God was intervening. Prayer was being answered. Darkness was being pushed back.
I grabbed my bag and pulled out a stick it note. It was all I had but it was gonna have to work! I wrote down our desire to perform the pantomime in the market. I handed it to the man that had spoken to me. He immediately left the room and in 5 minutes returned and said, “You are approved and you will have the full protection of the “official fish market authority!” Like a holy wind had blown through the room, I knew our authority had not come from the fish market, but the One who owns the ocean and all the fish they would sell that day.
God used all that waiting to enable students to connect even deeper with the vendors, engage locals, play with orphans and yes, share the gospel!
Trusting God is so hard when opposition and circumstances feel bleak and impossible. But let me encourage you as one who has walked in the stench of darkness, our God is well able to make a way, where there seems to be none. Trust Him, and you will not be disappointed!