There was a regular stream of visitors and enquirers that came to us, people seeking more information about biblical truth. But none of them ever stayed long. We prayed for God’s guidance in the situation and were both surprised and gratified with how He answered.
One day Burt, the one man who came to gatherings, brought a fellow to me who had a financial need. This man wanted me to give him $3,000! I told him I was not a bank and could not do it. After fruitlessly putting some more pressure on me he and Burt left and I thought that was the end of it.
However, in a couple of days he was back at my door and wanted to talk again. After the formalities of tea and a bit of chatting, he leaned forward and said, “Burt told me that you get $10,000 a month to give to locals but that you use it all for yourself. Why can’t you give some of that to me?”
“Burt told you that?!!” I sat back amazed. “If that’s true, why am I driving a fifteen year old car, and have an apartment furnished with used things, including a used refrigerator?”
Now it was his turn to be surprised. “Well, all I can say is that’s what Burt told me!” he repeated.
I thought for a moment, “Are you willing to go with me and talk with Burt about this?” I asked.
“Sure,” he replied, probably hoping this would lead to some money. We called Burt and set up an appointment. Another worker and I met with them in a tea house, sitting around a small table.
“Tell Burt what you told me,” I said to my informer.
He repeated the story of my getting money each month to give to locals. I turned to Burt, “Is that true? Is that what you said?” I asked.
“Yes it is. I thought that all you foreigners got lots of money and used it on yourselves.” Burt replied.
“Absolutely not and you know it! Look at the economic level I live on. If I had $10,000 a month and used it on myself, I could live like a king.” I paused. “Have you told other people this type of thing?”
He admitted that he had been talking to all the visitors and enquirers about this, feeding them lies about money and many other things.
I leaned forward and looked Burt in the eyes, “You have, with your own mouth accused yourself. We are putting you under discipline. You are not to come to any more gatherings until you show true repentance. Is that clear?”
I got up to leave. “If you understand, then don’t come.”
As we walked away, Burt stood up and called after us, “But you are supposed to love me!”
It was clear that he did not understand biblical love, which would confront and deal with sin. And he did not realize how unloving he had been to so many, chasing them away from truth.
We found out later that Burt had also threatened seekers, and the authorities themselves later told me that he had worked for them. In addition, it came out that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and a drug addict. He had been very clever in hiding all this from us over the years, but now the Lord had brought it out.
In one way it was understandable that no one ever confronted him. When you are working in a society with hardly any believers, every single person who shows interest is a great encouragement and you don’t want to lose anyone who comes. And when one claims to have become a follower of Jesus, as Burt did, you tend to overlook a lot of negatives, blinded by the desire to see something start.
Burt’s exit was a significant impetus for progress in the little fellowship. When locals sense that an attender is suspicious or dangerous, they will no longer come. This was obviously true with all the seekers who came and went while Burt was attending. Now that he was gone, people felt safer to come to the gatherings began to build.
Picture: typical street scene from the 80s