Thirty years later it still had an impact on me. And now, for the first
time, I felt threatened because of who I was and what I believed. "God," I
found myself praying as I looked around the marketplace, "I'm in trouble
here. Please keep me safe and show me a way to get back. Please reveal
Your-self and Your love to me the way you did to my father."
No bolt of lightning came from the blue. But a new thought did come to mind.
Surely there was a telecommunications office here somewhere; I could wire
Bamako to send another plane. It would be costly, but I could see no other
way of getting out.
"Where's the telecommunications office?" I asked another gendarme. He gave
me instructions, then said, "Telegraph transmits only if station in Bamako
has machine on, message goes through. If not," he shrugged, "no answer ever
comes. You only hope message received."
Now what? The sun was crossing to-ward the horizon. If I didn't have
arrange-ments made by nightfall, what would hap-pen to me? This was truly
the last outpost of the world. More than a few Westerners had disappeared in
the desert without a trace.
Then I remembered that just before I'd started for Timbuktu, a fellow worker
had said, "There's a famous mosque in Tim-buktu. It was built from mud in
the 1500's. Many Islamic pilgrims visit it every year. But there's also a
tiny Christian church, which virtually no one visits. Look it up if you get
I asked the children, "Where is Eglise Evangelique Chretienne?"
The youngsters were willing to help, though they were obviously confused
about what I was looking for. Several times eld-erly men and women scolded
them harshly as we passed, but they persisted. Finally we arrived, not at
the church, but at the open doorway of a tiny mud-brick house.
No one was home, but on the wall oppo-site the door was a poster showing a
cross covered by wounded hands. The French subscript said, "and by His
stripes we are healed."
Within minutes, my army of waifs pointed out a young man approaching us in
the dirt alleyway. Then the children melted back into the labyrinth of the
walled alleys and compounds of Timbuktu. The young man was handsome, with
dark skin and flowing robes. But there was something inexplicably different
about him. His name was Nouh Af Infa Yatara; that much I un-derstood.
Nouh signaled he knew someone who could translate for us. He led me to a
com-pound on the edge of town where an Ameri-can missionary lived. I was
glad to meet the missionary, but from the moment I'd seen Nouh, I'd had the
feeling that we shared something in common.
"How did you come to have faith?" I asked him. The missionary translated as
Nouh answered: "This compound has al-ways had a beautiful garden. One day
when I was a small boy, a friend and I decided to steal some carrots. It was
a dangerous task. We'd been told that Toubabs [white men] eat nomadic
children. Despite our agility and considerable experience, I was caught by
the former missionary here. Mr. Mar-shall didn't eat me; instead, he gave me
the carrots and some cards that had God's promises from the Bible written on
them. He told me if I learned them, he'd give me an ink pen!"
"You learned them?" I asked.
"Oh, yes!" he exclaimed. "Only gov-ernment men and the headmaster of the
school had a Bic pen! But when I showed off my pen at school, the teacher
knew I must have spoken with a Toubab, which is strictly forbidden. He
severely beat me."
When Nouh's parents found out he had portions of such a despised book
defiling their house, they threw him out and forbade anyone to take him in;
nor was he allowed in school.
But something had happened: Noah had come to believe that what the Bible said
was true. Nouh's mother became desperate. Her own standing, as well as her
family's, was in jeopardy.
Finally she decided to kill her son. She obtained poison from a sorcerer and
poi-soned Noah's food at a family feast. Noah ate the food and wasn't
His brother, who unwittingly stole a morsel of meat from the deadly dish,
be-came violently ill and remains partially paralyzed. Seeing God's
intervention, the family and the town's people were afraid to make further
attempts on his life, but con-demned him as an outcast.
After sitting a moment, I asked Nouh the question that only hours earlier I'd
wanted to ask my father: "Why is your faith so important to you that you're
willing to give up everything, perhaps even your life?"
"I know God loves me and I'll live with Him forever," he replied. "I know
it! Now I have peace where I used to be full of fear and uncertainty. Who
wouldn't want to give up everything for this peace and security?"
"It couldn't have been easy for you as a teenager to take a stand that made
you de-spised by the whole community," I said. "Where did your courage come
"Mr. Marshall couldn't take me in with-out putting my life in jeopardy. So
he gave me some books about other Christians who'd suffered for their faith.
My favorite was about five young men who willingly risked their lives to take
God's good news to stone-age Indians in the jungles of South America." His
eyes widened as he contin-ued. "I've lived all my life in the desert. How
frightening the jungle must be! The book said these men let themselves be
speared to death, even though they had guns and could have killed their
The missionary translator said, "I re-member the story. As a matter of fact,
one of those men had your last name."
"Yes," I said quietly, "the pilot was my father."
"Your father?" Nouh cried. "The story is true?"
"Yes," I said, "it's true."
The missionary and Nouh and I talked through the afternoon. When they
accom-panied me back to the airfield that night, we found that the doctors
weren't able to leave Timbuktu after all, and there was room for me on the
As Nouh and I hugged each other, it seemed incredible that God loved us so
much that He'd arranged for us to meet "at the ends of the earth."
Nouh and I had gifts for each other that no one else could give. I gave him
the as-surance that the story that had given him courage was true.
He, in turn, gave me the assurance that God had used Dad's death for good.
Dad, by dying, had helped give Nouh a faith worth dying for. And Nouh, in
return, had helped give Dad's faith back to me.
Author's Update on Nouh: Nouh, along with his lovely wife Fati, have three
sons. They finished more than two years of study in the U.S. and faced many
hurdles when they returned in January 1999 to the fourth-poorest area of the
world. Please pray that they will continue to be faithful and that God will
bless their commitment to spread His light in a dark and dangerous land.
Catching Sex On Tape....Why?
2 minutes ago