Malick walked right up to me in Senegal and asked to become a Christian. I told him no.
I had met Malick because of his job in low-level government. Several days later he sought me out. Malick explained that he had been born a Muslim but had never actually practiced Islam. A young seeker for truth, he had been exposed to animism, to the Roman Catholic veneer that is thinly-veiled animism in that part of the world, and to several different sects of Islam. Throughout all of his journey, he had never encountered anything that interested him. He had never practiced anything. He had never been an actual adherent of any faith.
And so, he walked up to me that evening and declared, "I've found what I'm looking for. I want to be a follower of this new religion of yours."
But then I asked Malick what new religion that was. He didn't know. I asked him what we were teaching. He didn't know. I asked him what was the difference between us and the Roman Catholics in town—between us and Islam. Malick didn't know.
What Malick knew was this: Americans were in town preaching something, and he wanted in on it.
So, I told Malick about Jesus' parable of counting the cost. I told him the story of the Philippian Jailer. I told him that following Jesus would necessarily mean abandoning Islam, animism, and any other system of belief that is contrary to the gospel in order to follow Jesus alone. I told him that we weren't proclaiming a new religion at all, but that we were simply people reading the Word of God and trying to obey it.
Malick pondered over these things for a while, and then he left.
A couple of days later, I gave Malick a Bible as my last action before leaving the village. He eagerly accepted it, promising to study the scriptures.
I thought about the rich young ruler. I thought about the way that Jesus was comfortable in confronting people who aren't ready to make a real commitment and turning them away. I'm praying for Malick, thankful that I haven't lulled his questions to sleep by indulging him in some knee-jerk, unconsidered, rash action. Next time, he should be ready to say yes or no. Next time, if all goes as I expect, I won't need to hold him back. Next time, maybe we'll kneel together on that little porch and Malick will not only find something new, but will himself be found.