Guest Author: Tyler Horton
I recently read a biography of Roland Bingham who founded the Sudan Interior Mission and he tells the story of this “little Englishman”. Thomas Titcombe was short on training but “had an indomitable spirit and a love for souls” and Bingham knew that this is “a preparation that no college can furnish.” This plus the lack of workers on the field meant that he was accepted and sent out in 1908. After a few weeks of getting aligned to the place and the work, the senior missionary on the field (Dr. Stirrett) took him and deposited him alone with the Yagba tribe. He stayed with them to learn their language and to bring the gospel. Years later there was a severe drought. The village was a mix of three faiths and each had a turn to pray for rain. First, those who had not become either Muslim or Christian tried. For a week they beat drums, blew horns, screamed and shouted robbing all others in the village of sleep. At the end of the week they sacrificed a calf. Its blood was put on their idol and the rest they drank before the animal was eaten raw. When Thomas asked where the rain was his friend replied, “White man, if you had not been here we would have sacrificed a girl. Our god always demands a human sacrifice. Then there would have been rain!” The Muslims tried next. They fasted completely from food and water during the daytime and screamed day and night for a week, crying out for rain. They sacrificed a lamb and it was also to no avail. After church on Sunday, the African pastor came to speak with Thomas Titcombe and said it was their time to pray. The pastor said that the others had been praying to those who could not help them but Jesus had lived, died and come out of the grave. He said that Scripture said Elijah was a man like them but he prayed and the heaven gave rain. Titcombe turned to the congregation and said “tomorrow night we are going to pray for rain. Let no one come if they do not believe God hears and answers prayer.” The next day was so hot that the missionaries were warned to not go out into the sun. Thomas said that there “was not even a cloud the size of a man’s hand to hang one’s faith on. When I got to the church the Muslims were gathered on one side and the pagans on the other. There was an air of expectancy everywhere as though the prince of the power of the air knew that his authority was about to be challenged and his kingdom in that part of the earth assaulted.” When entered the church, he admitted he was surprised to see the African Christians wearing their big umbrella hats. They reproached him for his wonder, “White man, haven’t we come to pray for rain, and didn’t you tell us that only those who believed God answers prayer were to come?” “Their prayer was simple, direct and went straight to the throne: ‘Lord, we need rain.’ Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes went by….Then five minutes later there was a tapping on the corrugated iron roof of the church that thrilled us all, and in a moment the sound of abundance of rain. My didn’t it rain! The Lord just opened the windows of heaven so that the pagans and the Muslims fled in terror to their homes. The former cried: ‘We shouted for a week, and sacrificed a cow and got no rain’; the latter said: ‘We fasted for a week, and sacrificed a lamb, and we got no rain. But the Christians were only praying for a few minutes and God sent a deluge on the earth and has given us all the rain we needed. There is only one God and that is the God of the believers.” A number of the villagers repented and trusted in Christ as a result of this contest that was very much like Elijah and the prophets of Baal in I Kings 18. One question that lingers in my mind is: when are we to make a stand like this? Elijah had been told directly by God to set this up (v. 36) but I have not. These African Christians do not appear to have been told to do this either. They simply stepped forward in faith knowing that God could bring the rain when the others could not. We must remember too that God is sovereign and need not bow to our wishes and prayers just because we run around dropping gauntlets in His name. But of a few things we can be absolutely certain. God will, in His time, always vindicate His name. “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11, ESV). And when God calls us to stand, He commits Himself to sustain. We can be as certain of His support as we are of His call. So if you know you are to pray for rain…put on your umbrella hat.