We are in the middle of the rainy season in Zambia, which means (at least this year) that it rains almost everyday. Yesterday was rare, in that we actually could see, peeking through the clouds, blue sky! So being a bit weary of being indoors all the time we decided to go and watch the sun set over the Zambezi River. It seemed like a grand idea.
We arrived at the river and the sky/sunset wasn’t quite as splendid as we had hoped. Nonetheless, we took a few pictures, watched a hippo saunter out of the water and then just as we were about to get in the car and come home a man emerged (not from the river mind you – but from somewhere behind us) brandishing a very large knife (“brandishing” I think is a technical term meaning “to hold something that is capable of inflicting bodily harm– I mean you can’t brandish a dust pan). So he starts waving this knife in front of us and demanding money.
“I want money. Give me money. I cut you!”
And, being a guy, I thought the natural thing any guy would think. “I think I can take him.”
I know you have probably heard some incredible stories about how missionaries in the process of being mugged led their attackers to the Lord. Yeah. Not me.
I was kind of like Peter at the Mount of Transfiguration where it is said of his proposal to put up three tabernacles, “He didn’t know what he was saying.” Neither did I. I think I blurted out something like, “We’re missionaries. We’re people of God.”
I’m not exactly sure what effect I supposed that would have. As though I expected him to respond by saying, “Oh…missionaries eh? So sorry for the bother. I thought you were just a regular lot of people. Had I known you were missionaries, I wouldn’t have bothered waving my giant knife in your face and threatening to stab you. Blessings on you and your ministry!”
Anyway, turns out, the guy got away with a little money and a camera that I was quite fond of. But there, the story just begins!
Our attacker immediately ran off into “the bush” (“bush” being the African term that denotes “thick underbrush filled with crocodiles and snakes which crazy people go into after they rob someone”). A few minutes later, a car drove up and I immediately told the driver, “I wouldn’t get out of your car. We were just robbed!”
To which he replied, “Sure?” (which is that African way of saying, “We’ll I’ll be”). He then said, “Stay here. I will go get the police” (on account of the police here don’t have cars and seem to seldom answer the phone).
As he drove off, I shouted, “We’re missionaries. We’re people of God.” Cause you never know.
About 15 minutes later, the man returned with an inebriated police officer totin’ an AK-47 (totin’ being the technical term for “brandishing” once alcohol is added to the mix).
The officer looked in the direction that we indicated our attacker had fled in, then back at us with this look that said, “You sir, are drunker than I am if you think I’m going into that crocodile and snake infested underbrush where crazy people run after they’ve robbed someone.” And then I think he belched.
I was sure he would shoot himself in the foot before the night was over.
We made our way back to the police station, us driving since – well, you know. We got there and the officer entered a description of the incident in a log book that was titled “the Big Book.” It was, after all, a very big book. He then told us that we had to come back tomorrow to get a copy of the police report. Now this is the good part!
I returned the next day just as directed. In fact I returned twice as it seems reports can only be filled out by one certain person and if that person is not there, well you must come back when they are. We finally got the report filled out and then the officer told me, “You must go home and type this up. Then bring it back and we will sign it. And that will be 22,000 kwatcha (about $6)!” I don’t know if we had to pay for having to type up our own police report, or if the fee was for having to pick up the drunk policeman and bring him to the crime scene. Perhaps it covered both.
So, another day in Zambia. Another many lessons learned. And amidst all the quirks and oddities of life in a Third World Country, one reality seems to rise to the surface. That is that this is a place much in need of a Savior. It is a place where drinking is a national past time, where corruption and desperation are two streams that run side by side, flowing into a sea of hopelessness. And this man that robbed us, and the officer that tried (sort of) to help are both men for whom Jesus died. And I am reminded more vividly than ever, how desperately Zambia needs the hope than can come only from Christ.
And that is why we are here. Not because we are the light. Because He is the Light. And because, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
May the darkness understand it!
(In spite of my lighthearted recalling of this incident, the truth is, we were both terrified during this robbery and very much feel it was the prayers of our friends and family that kept us from bodily harm. Our attacker was truly a disturbed man, and we are very, very aware that this incident might have had a very unpleasant ending. Thanks to all who pray for us! It works. – Jerry and Paula).