By Mosie Bowen —
Lucas N’dile wanted to get married so badly that not even a military coup in Guinea Bissau could stop him.
He was at the courthouse when shooting erupted. People scurried, including the government official who was just about to sign his marriage license in 2005.
Lucas — whose reception was scheduled the next day and was planning to migrate with his family in a week — figured he couldn’t put off the wedding.
So he ran after the bureaucrat, caught him and hauled him back to the desk. All the while, gunshots rang out.
“The man who was signing my document dropped the pen and ran away. I ran after him. I said, ‘Please I need my wife. I want to marry,”” says Lucas. “He said, ‘People are dying and people are shooting people at the gate, and we are inside the court.’ I said, ‘We are all going to die one day. But I need my marriage today.’”
The bureaucrat couldn’t believe it. But he returned and signed the document.
Throughout life, Lucas’ chutzpah has served him well as a Christian and especially now as a pastor in Dakar, Senegal.
“He’s tenacious and he’ll keep pressing through,” says Pastor Ralph Bowen, who started the church Lucas now leads.
Lucas was born in the Balanta tribe in Bissau, a people group steeped in pagan worship, libations to ancestors, blood sacrifices, palm wine and cashew wine for getting drunk.
In 1995, he dreamed God spoke to him: “If you don’t give your life to Christ, you’re going to die.”
Faced with that blunt prophecy, he stood up that morning to go to the house of his uncle, who was a Christian. He felt dizzy as if from a hangover.
Still, he managed to make it to his uncle’s house. That day he went to church and began to attend regularly.
There’s a lot of migration around the West African nations, and when Lucas found himself in the slender, river-clinging nation of The Gambia, he began to attend the church of Pastor Ralph’s church (who was then in The Gambia).
The preaching convicted him.
Lucas was running a convenience store, much like a 7-Eleven. Cigarettes and alcohol represented a significant part of his earnings. But as he listened to sermons, he realized that these vices were dragging people down and incongruent with his identity in Christ.
Friends and neighbors warned him his business would sink.
But Lucas eventually resolved himself to obey God rather than fear.
He cleared his shop of vices — and sales soared!
“He laughs at poverty. He really believes the Lord,” Ralph says. “He’s not all caught up with getting everything here in this life. He doesn’t take on this woe-is-me attitude. He doesn’t think somebody owes him something. He is real good at working. He’s not one to complain or feel envy.”
Through the years, Lucas has worked as a handyman and a painter to make ends meet. Without a car, he worked to buy a motorcycle to get to and from work. He and his wife, Mary, have three kids: Moses, Samuel and Elijah.
When Pastor Ralph moved to start a church in the Cite Fadji neighborhood of Dakar, Lucas emigrated there to be part of the work. In 2012, Pastor Ralph returned from 20 years of missionary work in Africa to the United States. Lucas was ordained the new pastor.
The work has flourished, despite threats from local Muslim leaders and other difficulties. They continue to preach and baptize new converts in the Atlantic Ocean.
“He’s very gifted at warming up to people. He’s real gregarious. He’s always positive,” Ralph says. “That aspect of his personality is he’s very magnetic with the people. He has real good personal skills.”
Recently, a disciple was raised up and ordained to start a new church in the Keur Massah neighborhood of the French-speaking nation, bringing to two the number of churches there from the mission, Prescott-based Christian Fellowship Ministries.
Pressing through hardship has become a theme in his life.
Not only did he have to press through his wedding on the day of the coup when he dragged back the unwilling bureaucrat that signed his papers.
On the next day, Saturday, at his wedding reception, his new in-laws presented all kinds of obstacles to him getting married. This is a custom to test the seriousness of a fiancé (but it also discourages people away from marriage altogether and encourages fornication, which is easier).
With great effort and saving, Lucas had purchased a huge bag of rice for the celebration. His new in-laws cut open the sack and scattered it on the ground. It was not good, they said.
Lucas had purchased a hog to slaughter on the day of his wedding to feed the guests. The animal was stolen the night before.
Lucas very nearly cried, but he persisted in his determination to marry, and finally the family relented.
“They try to put all kinds of obstacles in his way to see if he’s serious. The family loses the productivity of the young lady from the home. They’re suffering economically if they lose for a girl,” Ralph explains. “They make a big fuss. They get really hostile.”
But it served to prepare him for the opposition he would face as pastor, following the Lord with all his heart.