Pastor Mafou Etienne was leading his outreach team through the suburban area of Koumassi in Côte d’Ivoire when he saw a man sleeping in a pile of garbage. A few of Pastor Mafou’s team members knew the man or at least knew of him. He had lived at the refuse-littered crossroad for years. The locals called him “a madman.”
The man didn’t seem to know who he was. Mental illness had robbed him of his home, his family, and even his name.
Some of the team members were afraid — what if the man became violent? They urged Pastor Mafou to move on to the next street on their outreach plan.
But Pastor Mafou encouraged the others: “Believe in the protective promise of the Lord Jesus.”
The man watched Pastor Mafou as he approached but remained very calm.
“I told him that God loves him and could deliver him,” Pastor Mafou says. “But what could this mentally ill man understand?”
Unsure if his words were making any impact, Pastor Mafou pressed on from a different angle. He told the story of Jesus’ encounter with a man who was possessed by demons and living in tombs. Jesus cast out the demons and restored the man’s mind. (Mark 5:1-20).
The man at the crossroads just stared at Pastor Mafou in astonishment. Other people began to stop and watch. Pedestrians and motorists lingered in the street, waiting to see what would happen next. As a crowd gathered, the Holy Spirit moved Pastor Mafou to pray. So, he prayed.
After a while, the man heaved a great sigh, “as if he had just come out of another world.” He seemed alert.
Paster Mafou began asking him questions. Did he know his name? Did he know where he came from?
“Extraordinarily, he was in his right mind!” says Pastor Mafou.
The crowd began to “snatch up gospel literature like hotcakes,” the team reports. The locals knew this man. They had passed by him daily. They knew he slept in the garbage, and they feared him.
Prayer is powerful! Around 290 local believers gathered to pray over outreaches taking place in Côte d'Ivoire.
But now, everything was different.
“This young person recovered and returned to his family,” Pastor Mafou says. “When my team and I went looking for him, the people who lived nearby told us that he no longer frequented the garbage places.”
Pastor Mafou and his team have a new understanding of the power of God. It’s changed their ministry, but they don’t take any credit. “We give all the glory to God who uses us,” says Pastor Mafou.
It was like the story Pastor Mafou told. After Jesus delivered the man who had been possessed by demons, Jesus told him, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Mark tells us that the man did just that, “and all the people were amazed.”
An encounter with Jesus becomes a crossroads, powerfully altering a person’s course from death to life. One transformed heart, racing out of a tomb or garbage heap, goes home, restores a family, and witnesses to a community.