Easter in a Raunchy Bar

By Ruth Johnson

It was Easter Sunday in Africa. The pastor had reserved a beautiful room. But, when we arrived, the only place available was a raunchy bar. He and his wife were horrified that this was where the service would be on Easter morning. As we walked in, it was ominously dark. Gaudy beer signs covered the walls. The dirt floor reeked with the nauseating smell of vomit, old urine, and rotting fecal matter.

Men lurked in the shadows, drinking heavily and talking crudely. Several rough looking youth were playing a game of pool. They looked up and glared at us. Young, scared girls were waiting to make money by letting the men do whatever they wanted to them. It was heartbreaking to see the fear in their eyes.

“What is God going to do?” Barry and I silently wondered.

When the service started, I immediately launched into saying: “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 one that was lowly, just like this run down bar. He also was criticized for spending time with the prostitutes and sinners. Yet, He went to those who knew they were lost, and brought the compassion of His Father to them.”

The prostitutes began to sob. Others were so affected by their weeping, that they also began to cry, including several of the proud, hardened men.

“Because Jesus came for the simple and humble,” I continued, “He is very happy that all of us are here this Easter morning. And to honor Him, we are going to bow down and worship Him.”

At that point, most of the men glared at me, as if to say, “Yeah right, lady.” So, they were shocked when I invited everyone to gather in a circle on the filth-encrusted floor. As they all came, a miracle happened. At the first sound of our worship with the harp, heaven descended. Everyone suddenly fell to their knees. Many wept and bowed low before God, as the visitation of His presence enveloped us. Soon, not one person was standing. What made all this even more miraculous is that only the pastor, his wife, and our team were saved.

As soon as the service ended, I walked over to the young people who were playing pool. “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 my arms wide and, one by one, they came over to me and welcomed me hugging them. I held each one, as if they were my own son. Tears welled up in their eyes. Their hardened faces softened.

“What you were doing and saying,” they told me, “really affected us.”

That made me cry.

Moments later, while we sat in our van, an African on our team explained to me: “Those are among the worst troublemakers in Kampala. It’s shocking that they talked to you like that and were so open to you. This was a miracle. Everything that happened this morning was a miracle. There is no way those boys, or the prostitutes, would go to church. So God came to them.”

Two weeks went by, and we heard a knock on our gate. The pastor over the Easter service had just arrived to tell us: “After you left that Sunday, the prostitutes asked my wife, and I, how they could be born again and we led them to the Lord. Then, from the time you were there, the owner feared to use that building for a bar because he said on Easter, GOD CAME. So, he turned it over to me and told me that now it can only be used as a church. Already we are growing. New people are coming in. The owner even comes to our services with his wife.”