Yesterday we got to meet with Macaire – this story is as good as it gets!
When he was 12-years-old, he contracted polio. He was taken to several hospitals but his legs shrivelled up and he was left disabled.
Language can be harsh sometimes. There are different cases in Kirundi. The ‘people’ class begins with ‘umu’, so ‘umuzungu’ is a white person, ‘umugore’ is a woman, ‘umusore’ is a young man, etc. The ‘thing’ class begins with ‘iki’, indeed ‘ikintu’ means a thing. And so Macaire aged 12 stopped being an ‘umuhungu’ (boy) and became an ‘ikimuga’ (cripple). Thankfully there are now efforts to stop using that word – people now use ‘umuntu agendana ubumuga’ which means ‘a person with disability’ – but it illustrates how disabled folk have been generally marginalised, rejected, and dishonoured.
Yet, although Macaire was a victim of polio, he is no life victim!
He always said he didn’t want to resort to begging, and he ended up training as a tailor. What he soon discovered, however, was that running a bar was more lucrative. He’d hire girls to draw in men, and business was thriving. He was so charming that, in spite of his disability, one of those young ladies called Dallia agreed to marry him – even though it could have meant she would bear no children. As it happens, though, they now have six children together, and another six grandchildren so far!
Dallia came to faith first and prayed for Macaire. When he was radically converted, he knew he had to leave his drunken ways behind, close the bar, and lose his main source of income. He started praying for people and many of them got healed. Word got around, and people flocked to his house. This was during the war when there were rebel movements and any unusual gatherings were treated with suspicion. So many people came to his house that he started planning morning and afternoon sessions.
One day, the authorities came and arrested him. He was put in prison with three other pastors. The latter were released when they signed a document saying they’d stop those meetings. But Macaire refused: “I’m doing God’s work. Whilst others are killing, I’m praying with people and being used to heal the sick. I cannot sign!” So they kept him in prison. Then the Governor came and ordered him to stop those meetings. He replied: “Sir, I will sign that paper on condition you agree that when you die and you come before God, you will tell him that you were the one who stopped Macaire’s work!”
At that, the Governor baulked! Instead, he encouraged Macaire to register a new church and helped him in the process. A couple of decades later, Macaire has planted 23 churches!
All those years, he either walked on his hands, or rode a modified tricycle pedalling with his arms. He’s getting older now, and ten years ago announced that he was praying for a car. That was so unlikely, because he lives upcountry and has a very simple life. But his grandchildren and children joined him in that most unlikely of prayer requests.
I sat with Macaire in his house. We had come up to visit and film him, but it was too dark inside. The house has a mud floor and mudbricks. Yet here he’d started a Bible school in it, and he himself was one of the first eighteen students to get degree-level accreditation through Nation-2-Nation Christian University. You’ll find it hard to believe, but our local partner UCCD now runs over 200 such Bible schools around the country, churning out thousands of graduates with internationally-recognised qualifications. Beautiful!
Macaire graduated a few months ago. As he walked (on his hands) to the front before a rapturous crowd to receive his diploma, visiting GLO trustee Lacey was struck by his dignity and grace. She wondered what his story was. And the Lord spoke to her about a need Macaire had in his personal life. When she heard about his persevering, believing prayer for a vehicle, she knew that she was to be the answer in this case.
So here he is now, in his own car, with his grandson Gilbert as his driver – Gilbert, who listened to his grandpa’s declaration a decade previously that the Lord would give him a car to prolong his ministry!
His legs might be shrivelled, but Macaire’s soul continues to soar. “God is good, all the time! All the time, God is good!” And Macaire’s journey with Jesus continues, now on four wheels!