Topless Women and A Bar


October 19, 1998  

It was very serious. Four women, two of them over fifty, stood at the edge
of the river. They had attended meetings at the Kadahoue congregation for
several months and they were finally ready to take the first big step into
the water and into the Kingdom. These were very traditional ladies. They
had seen and participated in many activities dedicated to the gods of their
people. They had only moments before made a public pledge to forever leave
those practices behind. They knew that they were going to leave their old
lives on the river bank. They were confident that they were going to come
out of the water into a new life that God would give them. Acioke, Fyoko,
Sesil and Marie will become leaders in the Lord's church just as they had
been in their village.

But, somehow Sesil's actions made me smile. She and the others, along with
thirty others who had in previous weeks been born again, would part with the
old ways but that did not mean that they would change everything. Many of
their habits would remain the same. Just before stepping into the water,
Sesil took off her bra. She had been the odd one out. The other three were
already topless. So, after the first two were baptized, she conformed. We
Americans were the only ones who smiled. She did what is normal for women
in this part of Benin. But, when she came out of the water, something very
unnatural had happened to her. The Holy Spirit had taken up residence in
her. Praise the Lord!

At Dandjihoue, later in the afternoon, we crowded into a bar (because God's
blessing of rain drove us away from our normal outside meeting place).
Kojovi's face, I'm telling you the truth, seemed illuminated in a corner of
the dark room. I explained that the rain and the abundant crops in the
fields were God's gift to all of the people of Dandjihoue. But, I
explained, God had special gifts for those who believe in Him and were born
again. The people of Dandjihoue said they had never seen crops as good as
the ones that were now in their fields. They were astonished by it. It was
a miracle, they said. I pointed out to them, "I'll bet no one ever thought
they would see Kojovi, Efyo, and Vincent give up 'the things of the gods'
and follow only God." They agreed and laughed. The change in these men's
lives astonished people. It was a miracle. Even a greater miracle than the

When Adolf and I had finished teaching, a small table was brought in and
placed in the middle of the crowded bar. A nice cloth was placed over it.
They were about to eat the sacred meal for the first time. Kojovi, Efyo,
and Vincent remembered the Lord while eating the body and drinking the blood
of God's son. They were participating in the sacrifice.

These first Christians in Dandjihoue knew God was watching. Their neighbors
and family members were watching too. The Apostle Paul's words came to my
mind. Long ago, he wrote that when we partake of the Lord's Supper, "You
will show the Lord's death until He comes again." The Lord's Supper was a
lesson. Its lesson, communicated by symbols, may have even made more of an
impression on the people than the lessons Adolf and I had given.

At the end of the service several people said that they wanted to be born
again next week. Praise the Lord! We walked out of the bar with wine, from
the Lord's Supper, on our breath. It was not the first time that being in
the presence of the Lord might have been a scandal.

It was a great Sunday.

...Richard Chowning