My fall happened in a split second. In my last blog I commented on how spectacular the third night of our Kisumu Gospel Festival was. I couldn’t possibly describe all the glorious details of the testimonies of healings, salvation and freedom. There is one other small detail that I didn’t mention. At the end of the night I was engaged in a conversation with the Mayor of Kisumu, when Megen Thurber, head of our Media department, waved to let me know some people wanted to take our picture.
Earlier I had noticed that there was one area where the stage was weak. We had tried to keep the line of people wanting to testify away from this spot and I had avoided it as I preached. I didn’t realize that the Mayor and I were now standing on this very soft spot. We were looking into the camera when one of the bishops stepped into the same weak spot. Well, in one instant we all disappeared below the stage as it gave way (see video—I laugh now, but it was painful).
Almost six feet below were boards and steel pipes, all part of the stage structure, and my foot got caught as I found myself with a mother and child across my legs, the Mayor resting on my right shoulder, and other bodies on top of me. I rolled my ankle pretty good, and when they lifted me out of the hole I was a bit shaken. The people, of course, were looking at this in wonderment as the service was winding down.
Well, it’s not the end of the world that the Mayor of Kisumu and I are both limping a bit. If that’s all there was to it I wouldn’t even bother telling the story except, of course, that you may find it peculiar to see me vanish and my shocked expression afterwards.
What resulted was predictable: Christians started to say that the devil had done it. You know this strange idea in Charismatic religion that when we are anointed by God and seeing signs, wonders and miracles, then the devil has power to get back at us. Of course, this is a ridiculous idea, but it is not one unique to Africa. I hear it in America, Canada and Europe all the time. If the sound system is shrieking it’s the devil, if someone backs their car into a telephone pole it’s the devil, etc. etc. I get tired of even repeating these weird notions.
Here is how I started my sermon the next night: “You all saw the mayor of the city and myself disappear under the stage last night. I’ve heard the statements that the devil made this happen. But I can assure you he didn’t. The devil doesn’t have the power to make a stage collapse. If he worked on it for 1000 years he couldn’t do it. That kind of power is completely out of his reach. No, the devil didn’t do it. What did it was poor construction.” Well, the people erupted in applause and laughter. It’s amazing how merely stating the obvious brings such joy. The spell cast by the idea that the devil somehow mystically could orchestrate the collapse of our platform had been dispelled, and the people were free just to enjoy and laugh. The contractor who had built the stage was nowhere to be seen. I think he was afraid of the Mayor. We still love him, so he need not to worry about us.
That night leaving the Gospel Festival grounds, there was a real traffic jam. Bicycles, cars and, most of all, thousands of people tried to exit at the same time. I turned to my friend Bishop Jefferson who was riding with me in our car, “let’s talk to some people.” Coincidently, the moment I rolled down my window I saw a smiling man with his family. “I’m so happy,” he said. I asked him what happened. He said, “My daughter has been a deaf mute and last night Jesus healed her.” I called the girl over and, sure enough, she could hear everything and articulate words so well. He said, “We came back tonight just to praise God for what happened.” Here was a family and the daughter had never made her way to the platform to testify; one of many who I would never have heard of unless the traffic jam had slowed us down. You’ve heard the phrase, “only eternity will reveal all that happened.” I don’t know how many other families are just like this one—people to whom God’s love has been revealed, but we may never know about it until eternity. Thanks for your partnership! Let me hear your thoughts.