It was Resurrection Sunday in Africa.
We were excitedly anticipating ministering in Kampala. A beautiful room had been reserved for us to meet in. But it was unexpectedly closed to the pastor that very morning.
Now the only place available was a rundown bar.
The pastor and his wife were horrified that this was where we were going to be for Resurrection Morning, contrary to all their plans for a service in an exceptionally lovely place.
The bar we walked into early that morning was dark.
Young prostitutes were waiting for customers.
Rough looking men were drinking and talking crudely as they lurked in the shadows, while others played a loud game of pool.
Gaudy beer signs covered the walls.
The dirt floor reeked with vomit, putrid urine and foul smelling fecal matter.
The owner was clearly waiting for the night to come so that his bar could be used to make money by using the young, troubled girls.
“What is God going to do?” Barry and I silently wondered as we set up the harp and I prepared to preach.
When the service started, I immediately launched into this story that shocked everyone, especially the prostitutes:
“Jesus was born in a humble stable with the smells and filth of animals all around Him. He could have chosen a fancy place to be born. But He didn’t. He chose a place that was lowly, just like this run down bar. And Jesus was criticized for spending time with the prostitutes and sinners.
Yet He went to those who knew they were lost and brought the kind love of His Father to them.”
One of the young girls began to cry. Moments later all could hear her heartrending sobs. Many were so affected by the sound of her weeping that they also began to cry.
“Because Jesus came for the simple and humble,” I shared, “it’s an honor to come into this bar on Resurrection Sunday morning. He’s very happy all of us are here. And to honor Jesus this Resurrection morning, we are going to bow down and worship Him.”
At that point, many throughout the room glared at me as if to say to me,”Yeah right, lady.”
Then all looked shocked when I invited everyone to gather in a circle on the filth encrusted dirt floor.
Yet when everyone came, a miracle happened. At the first sound of the harp, the visitation from God was immediate.
Heaven descended into that haven of prostitutes and drunkards and all suddenly fell to their knees. Many wept and bowed low before God as His presence enveloped us. Not one person was still standing.
Moments later, the sermon began under a low-pitched roof made of metal sheeting. It was a swelteringly hot day. The temperature rose to a hundred and ten degrees. Pool balls banged. People squirmed restlessly in their chairs.
The second the service ended, I felt the Father gently prodding me to go to the young men playing pool. Amazingly, when I walked up to them they respectfully stopped their game.
“Thank you for trying so hard not to make much noise during our service,” I told them. “I want you to know I appreciate it. May I give you a hug?”
I opened wide my arms and one by one they came over to me and welcomed me hugging them as if they were my own sons. Broad, grateful smiles lit up their faces and tears welled up in their eyes as their tough, hardened countenances softened. Then they surprisingly told me, “What you were doing and saying really affected us.”
Moments later when we left the bar, a young African on our team told us:
“Those are the worst kind of troublemakers here in Kampala. It’s amazing they were so affected by what took place and it’s a shock that they talked to you like that. It was a miracle, Mama Ruth. Everything that happened was a miracle. There is no way those troubled boys and those prostitutes would ever go to church. So this morning God came to them!”
Two weeks went by and then one morning we heard a knock on our gate. The pastor over the Resurrection service had just arrived and quickly told us, his face glowing with excitement:
“I have many breakthroughs to tell you about.
After you left that Sunday morning, two prostitutes asked my wife and me how they could be born again. We led them to the Lord. They cried so many tears. The owner of the bar is actually a Christian and so is his wife. And she had been warning her husband for a long time that they were being cursed financially because they owned that bar. Then when she heard that God came to the bar and there was a church service there, she warned him again about the seriousness of what he was doing. So from the Sunday morning you were there, the husband feared to use that building for a bar. Instead he turned it over to me so that it now can only be used as a church. Already we are growing. New people are coming in. The man and his wife who owned the bar even come to our church because the husband said, ‘I saw God there that morning.'”
After this pastor left our compound, we marveled how Jesus came to the lowly place of a raunchy bar so that those who were living in unspeakable distress and drowning in the worst kinds of crushing despair could have a chance to find His way for them out of their living hell. We also were deeply moved as we reflected that in such a filthy, stench filled place, we had experienced the most meaningful Resurrection morning in our lives.