Wednesday, March 12, 2008

You Just Never Know

You never really know what you might come across in Zambia.

The other day, we went into a used clothing store in downtown Livingstone and they were blaring this music by Dolly Parton and some other country/western/probably-dead-by-now/Waylon Jennings-ish guy singing a duet that went, “If I were a carpenter and you were a lady, would you have my baby?” And then Dolly would sing, “If I were a lady and you were a carpenter, I would have your ba-a-by.”

The Zambian guy next to me thumbing through the racks of used clothes was singing right along as if it were an old favorite of his. “If I were a lady and you were a carpenter…”

Then he pulled a ladies Speedo off the rack and grinning like a two year old on Christmas morning waved it at his wife at the end of the isle . “Honey, look!” She scowled at him and I made a beeline for Paula.

Like I said, you never really know what you’ll come across in Zambia. Sometimes you see a guy riding a bicycle down the street with a live goat tied between the seat and handle bars (and it can be hard to tell who is peddling, the guy or the goat). Or, you might see a guy standing at a bus stop waving a live chicken (or a dead fish) at passing cars in hopes of catching someone on the way home for dinner. Sort of an African style drive-thru. In the newspaper you find stories about people who turn themselves (according to the article) into hyenas or crocodiles or snakes. And just outside Lusaka there is a tiny, 4ft. or so by 4ft or so mud brick shack along the main highway with a familiar sign on it. It reads, “Walmart.” We haven’t stopped to check it out yet.

Every once in a while, though, you come across something that really surprises you.

Our days these last few weeks have focused mostly on that essential (and yet not very newslettery/ bloggable) aspect of ministry – relationship building. We’ve been spending a few days a week just meeting with pastors over a Coke and letting them share their hearts, describe their burdens and challenges, and discovering their visions. And the other day Paula and I met with a local pastor by the name of Smart Kobela. He has a church in a local shanty compound that is doing some incredible and surprising things.

The church is involved in skills training so as to help people become self sufficient. They also run a school that goes up to grade 7 and provides free education to orphans in the area. The school has enlisted the assistance of tourists (yes – tourists!), through an organization called Africa Impact, as part time workers. Not only are they educating the students, but they are also feeding them. The church provides one meal during school hours and sends some food home with each student so their care-givers can fix them something in the evening. The pastor’s office had been taken over by a bunch of ladies learning how to sew and when we arrived we found the pastor threading an “automatic knitting machine” that had been donated to the church by an organization in the UK.

In a place where there seems to be an overabundance of problems and a shortage of answers, I am reminded that not only can God do anything, but that He often does.! I am reminded that we serve a big God who still takes the five loaves and two fish and turns it into an all you can eat buffet. He still turns the waters of lack and want into the wine of joy and abundance. He still is the One in whom there is life, and His life is the light of men. And, apparently, He’s been at work in Zambia long before we ever came.

I suppose that perhaps I had this notion that I was bringing Jesus to Zambia with me in my carry-on luggage. But Pastor Kobela and his church have reminded me that God is already here and that we would be wise to simply “hitch our trailer” to what He’s already doin’ (as Waylin-what’s-his name might say).

You know, maybe Dolly Parton (is she still alive?) could do a duet with Michael W. Smith. It could go, “If you were a carpenter and I was sin-ner, would you come to my house for din-ner.”

That would be a really nice song.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jerry and Paula,
Lawrence, Kansas is going to the final four...yeah Jayhawks!
Dailen and Sherry Downing say hi!
Your article is so funny! Your sense of humor is what must of attracted Paula to you in the first place.
By the way, that song is a Johnny Cash and June Carter song. However, I do think that your new verse at the bottom is a winner!
Saw your mom and dad at Don Jone's funeral. Heard the great news of your pregnancy. We will keep all three of you in our prayers.