For those who are avid readers of this blog, or for anyone who heard one of our presentations when we were back in the US, you might remember me talking about a character named Sweet Banana. If you don't, you can get a refresher on who he is in this article: Click Here.
We have had several opportunities to see him, and a few times have been able to carry on some minor conversations. Every time I see him I invite him to church with us. The first couple times he came up with excuses, but always promised to come sometime. The last few times I have asked he showed much more willingness. One Sunday morning I showed up at DJ's house, and his whole family was getting ready to come - everyone except Stara. The night before DJ's neighbors had held a party - and by party I mean an all night drinking binge with blasting loud music. I was there at 8:30 am and they were still going strong. I had to walk through their yard to get to DJ's house, and they all wanted me to come party with them. I politely declined and told them all they were welcome to come to church with me, to which they also politely declined.
I finally made it to DJ's house after turning down a couple offers of beer. There I waited for everyone to finish up getting ready. Just before they all finished I decided to head back to the car. Stara, however, wouldn't let me leave the house without an escort. He made sure to follow me back through the party and then stayed with me at the car until one of the other family members joined us. I guess he was just looking out for me.
A few Sundays have passed since that day. It always seems that something is in the way. Just two Sundays ago we found he was all ready to go to church with us, only church had been cancelled because everyone was in Johannesburg visiting another church that day.
This week I was really hoping it would work out. All throughout the week DJ mentioned to him that he should come to church this week. On Saturday we took the team to eat an authentic South African meal at DJ's house. After the team started eating, DJ and I went to find Stara. He'd had a good week selling fruit and he was spending the weekend drinking up the profits. DJ knew where his favorite bar was, so we started there. I pulled up and DJ went inside to see if he was there. While waiting several guys came up to me to talk. One of them wanted 2 Rand for music. There was music blasting in the background so I told him to just enjoy that. He said it was a jukebox and would be ending soon. So I told him if he wanted music he should sing. The other guys thought that was funny, but he didn't seem to think so.
About that time DJ walked up and said Stara had left not long before. DJ's grandmother's house wasn't far away so we went there to see if he was around. He hadn't stopped there, so we proceeded to do our own little pub crawl through the Straighteen neighborhood of Thabong. We stopped at a couple more places and couldn't locate him. Finally we gave up and headed back to DJ's house. When we arrived there he mentioned to me "you didn't look afraid at all when you were talking to those guys at the bar". I responded "no, should I have been" to which DJ replies "mmmmm...maybe a little bit." I guess I have a lot to learn.
Sometime that afternoon, after we had left, Stara showed up back at the house. DJ told him that we were planning on him for church the next day and he said ok. He wanted to go to a friend's house, but DJ told him he couldn't get drunk and needed to sleep at home that night. He said he would be back. I learned all this when I phoned DJ at 8:00pm. Stara still hadn't gotten back from the friend's house. He didn't arrive home until past 4:00am, and of course he was completely sloshed. DJ tried to wake him up the next morning but couldn't even get him responsive.
God still has Stara on our hearts. He has shown positive signs in his life, but then there are still the discouragements. I am preaching this coming Sunday, and I hope that he will be sober enough to join us. Please continue to lift Stara up in prayer.