By Rev. Rich & Maya Rudowske
Two years ago, my village home was robbed by Mothofela (not his real name).
I awoke just past midnight and, going out to the kitchen for a drink of water, found the front door ajar. The latch didn’t work very well in it, but it had never just come open. I looked around and noticed that Maya’s laptop wasn’t in its usual place.
Our teacher volunteer, Jayne, happened to be staying with us that night, so I checked with her to see if she had it for internet (we all shared one USB modem for internet back then). She didn’t have it, so I thought I’d better have a look around the perimeter of our yard.
About 3/4 of the way around I found a shoe stuck in the fence near the top. Outside the fence, I found the other shoe a few feet away. We had been robbed.
I called Kang police. They showed up fairly promptly and after showing them what I had found, they went to work.
At 2am, using a flashlight no brighter than a candle, they traced the tracks to the other side of the village, even over a busy paved road! They brought me in to identify my stolen property, which turned out to be more than I realized. That was when I met Mothofela.
He was an orphan, a victim of the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has wreaked havoc in rural villages of this nation. He was close to the end of Form 3 (the equivalent of 10th grade). He lived alone in a small room near his relatives. He had quite a bit of other stolen property, mostly from his relatives, from whom he was estranged. Police booked him and we filed charges.
The next day, Mothofela’s grandmother and aunt appeared at our house, along with Mothofela. They explained that they had decided not to file charges against him and were asking me whether I would consider dropping my charges too. They explained that if he were convicted, he would lose funding to continue schooling, and being an orphan, would have very few options after completing his jail time. He would likely become one of the many idle young men in the village with no hope or future.
I told Mothofela that he needed to understand my dilemma. If I didn’t press charges, I would not be a good neighbor to the people who lived around me, for if he was known to be a thief and I did not do my civic duty, I would not be protecting them against him if he robbed them in the future.
After some discussion, I told them I would need to pray about it.
The next day, I met with Mothofela and his relatives and went to the police station. I dropped the charges. The police, who had worked so diligently to find him, were disappointed.
The police chief explained to Mothofela that I was doing him a great favor by dropping the charges and that he should make the most of his second chance. Afterward, I spoke with him privately and explained that I wanted him to know that I had not forgiven him because I was a good man. Quite the opposite, that I am a great sinner who has been forgiven everything by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I was just passing on to him that which I have freely been given in Christ Jesus.
I gave him a Bible with some verses to read over. He came to the Lutheran church a couple of times. And that was the last I heard from Mothofela.
Last week, a tall fit young man walked into my office at the Shekgalagari Bible Translation Project. I didn’t immediately recognize him, but after a moment it was clear that this tall young man was my Mothofela.
He had come to Kang to see the president, who was visiting the village. He now lives in Gaborone after earning a chance to attend one of the top senior secondary schools in the nation. He runs on the school track team and is in the pool of athletes trying to qualify to represent Botswana in the 2016 Olympics for 200 and 400m.
But the thing he was most excited to tell me was that he is involved in a local church there where he serves as an interpreter and gets to share with others the message of forgiveness that Christ has won for us and freely gives to us.
I was stunned. I have seen so many things here start and stop or not really succeed, that it was hard to believe how the Lord was working in this young man’s life. But He is.
That message of forgiveness changed the trajectory of this young man’s life. And I am so thankful.
I tell you this not because I feel that I have done anything great, but that the Lord who has changed the trajectory of my life through Christ has done the same for Mothofela, and I just got the privilege of being an instrument that the Lord used to do His will.
Thank you to all of us who pray for us and support us, because you made it possible for us to be here, so this is now your story too. We never know how our faith and actions will be used by God to touch other people and change the trajectory of their lives.
St. Luke Lutheran Church supports the missionary work of Pastor Rudowske and his family. To contribute to the St. Luke quarterly mission offering, click here. For more on the Rudowske’s and their ministry in Botswana, please visit www.rudowskes.com.