A few years ago I was teaching a course in church history in Bangui, and one of my students came to see me. He wanted to explain why he was studying at the seminary. He said to me in French, “Je fus militaire” (I was a soldier).
I remember this because of the simple past tense, which is literary and sounds funny in spoken French. He had been a rebel soldier and had spent years in the forest of Congo on the opposite side of the Ubangi river from Bangui; as a rebel, he could not return to Bangui until President Ange-Félix Patassé was deposed by François Bozizé, the current President. While in the forest, he said, they had little to eat and nothing to do. They started reading the Bible together and praying, and so the soldiers in this new church elected my student to come to seminary to become an army chaplain and to lead them as a pastor.