Growing up, I suppose that I assumed that street names and house numbers were everywhere. When I got to Africa, I found that was not always the case. Nairobi streets are all named and each house or office has a number. There are maps of the city. When we lived in Ouagadougou a few main streets had names, but I never saw numbers on buildings and I made my own map.
In the mid 1980s while living in Burkina Faso, I was looking for a man named Ada Louka Isaac. He was a high school math teacher who had shown an interest in the translation of the Bible into his language – Kassem. I knew that he lived in a suburb of the city of Bobo-Dioulasso. I traveled to Bobo-Dioulasso by train and caught a taxi at the train station. I gave the taxi driver the name of the suburb.
I knew that the suburb was new, had few homes and that most lots were vacant. So I thought I would have little problem finding Isaac’s home. Boy, was I wrong. People had planted millet on the vacant lots. It had grown to a height of 15-18 feet turning the rutted dirt roads of the suburb into little canyons from the bottom of which I could see nothing. The taxi driver quickly realized that I did not know my way and began complaining that the price we had settled on would not be enough. (The taxi did not have a meter.) As I was assuring him that I would pay him a fair amount, there was a loud crunch and the sound of things breaking from under the vehicle. With a look of concern the taxi driver stopped, got out and looked under his taxi.
We were in one of the narrow millet canyons. I could only see ahead and behind. Not only was I not going to find Ada, I would have to walk out of the suburb. I got out of the taxi. Through the millet stalks I saw something. When I walked toward it, I found a few young men making tea. After the obligatory greetings, I asked if they new Isaac Ada (using the short form of his name). One of the young men asked: “Do you mean Ada Louka Isaac, the math teacher? He lives way over on the other side! You will never find him! But I can show you the way.”
He grabbed his moped and we walked back to the taxi. The transmission of the taxi had hit a protruding laterite rock. Laterite is so soft that the sounds we had heard were the rock breaking, not the transmission! In a few minutes I was at Isaac’s place.
How many years ago did God put that laterite rock in that spot? How did he arrange for it to not be leveled by the grader that made the road? Why did those young men decided to make tea where I could see them? Coincidence? I don’t, think so. I found Isaac because of the rock that God put. If I am effective, it is because of all the ways God intervenes to make things happen.