There it was. A book.
It will come as little surprise to anyone that a book caught my eye. Saying a book captured my attention is like saying that a New York cab shockingly found an opening in traffic. My eyes are trained to find books.
And yet, there it was. A book, perfectly placed on a crowded shelf, like a burning bush in a desert, it's gilded lettering set against the fading maroon cover, "Africa is Waiting.” I opened the yellow pages to find the story of Talmage and Marjorie Butler. I could hardly believe I had stumbled across a biography of early missionaries to Senegal I didn’t know existed!
Before coming to Senegal I had spent hours and hours in the Assemblies of God World Missions archives. I’d read the first letters from Charles Greenaway as he surveyed the land and sought permission for missionaries to come. I’d read field reports with names like Lasley, Herndon, Corbin, and of course, Butler.
Page after page I consumed the life story of the Butlers, missionary heroes who gave up the comforts of their Texas home, the easy graces of ministry in the Caribbean, to plant the church among the unreached of Senegal. And although Senegal is transforming into a modern state, the author’s descriptions of Dakar and life here in the 60s were as current and fresh as if they’d been written today.
My soul swelled as they pioneered the first church in Kedougou. My eyes blurred with tears with joy as they purchased 25,000 square feet in Dakar for $2. My heart sank as the Butlers and their 11-year-old son died in a tragic plane crash, days before returning to Senegal. Their plane came down 50 years ago this month.
I sat there before God asking, “What legacy could a couple who gave their thirties to birth a church among unreached people leave behind?”
Talmage and Majorie Bulter were catalysts. Their words sparked a passion to reach the unreached. Their love lit into flame the souls of lost African men, women and children. They saw the burning bush of God’s calling and with their short lives they pointed others to see it too.
Speaking at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in 1967 Talmage incited a rising generation of students that:
"We must love the world that we face today. We must carry a burden for men that weighs heavy upon our hearts, that causes our hearts to bleed with concern. We need a love strong enough to cause more than just an occasional salty tear to trickle down our cheeks. We need a love that will move us to action; a love that will drive us forth so that we cannot remain still."
A burning bush. A passionate appeal. A little dusty book. In the challenging words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes—
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware.
Our legacies await our actions. Our legacies await our courageous response to Jesus’ divine calling. Will we hear the Holy Spirit’s whispered call to witness among the unreached peoples of Senegal? of Chad? of Washington DC? Will we see the bush ablaze with divine purpose as God calls us to the nations crying out for a Savior?
What will your legacy be?
Will you take off your shoes?
Will you say yes to reach the nations?