Friday, April 11, 2008

Brian's Story

This is Brian’s story.

He pastors a small church just up the road from where we live in the small town of Zimba. Zimba, according to Brian, isn’t known for much, except beer drinking and prostitution. Brian came to this small town just north of Livingstone two years ago called by God to revive a church that had been started almost 15 years prior but that had been torn apart by various factions. Two of the groups that left the church started two separate churches – one called True Vine, the other Future Hope.

Shortly after he arrived, the pastors of these two churches showed up at his home in the middle of the night, demanding to know who he was and what he was doing in town. It seemed they were threatened by his presence; probably afraid he would take members from their churches.

The next night, the police showed up at Brian’s home, and arrested him. They took him to the police station and asked who he was and what he was doing in town. Turns out the pastors of the other two churches had gone to the police and told them (falsely, of course) that Brian was there to stir up trouble and that he had come from Congo for the purpose of destroying their churches. They also accused him of being a Satanist. Amazingly, (or maybe not so amazingly – after all, this is Africa) the police believed the story and had Brian brought in. He was eventually released after proving that he was in fact from Lusaka, and not from Congo, and after he had secured a letter from his district officials.

Brian had come to a small town, where he had no friends or relatives, to revive a church that had no members and who’s former members in a fit of jealousy immediately tried to run him out of town on trumped up allegations. How’s that for a first job right out of Bible college? Had it been me, I probably would have been on the first mini-bus back to Lusaka, shaking the dust off my feet the whole way and praying that a meteor would fall on both Future Hope and True Vine.

Brian stayed.

He stayed and little by little, he built a church. First one person. Then two. Then five. And for a while, just five people. Today he pastors a church of about 40, with a separate branch that meets in a local boarding school and ministers to about 60 students.

His challenges though are still many. Prostitutes show up at his home in the middle of the night under the pretext of wanting prayer. They offer him gifts of cooking oil and beans, and try to seduce him. Brian is a young, handsome, single man, and when he was telling us this, he lowered his head into his hands, and told us it wasn’t always easy to say no, but that he always did. He has since instituted a policy in which people who want prayer are to call him and arrange to meet him at the church and not at his home.

Before Brian came to Zimba at least four pastors had been sent before him to try and revitalize the church. None of them stayed.

Not too long ago someone asked that perhaps we could include in our blog some of the more beautiful aspects of Zambia. And their point was a good one for there is certainly more to Zambia than potholed roads, corrupt officials and knife wielding maniacs. We have seen some spectacular sights since we arrived in Zambia. We have gazed upon the breathtaking and “leaves you speechless’ splendor of Victoria Falls. We have stood at the top of the Royal Gorge as the sun was setting and watched as the last light of the day slipped over the serene African horizon and gave birth to a million-star nighttime sky. We have stood under that same night sky and seen that very distinct (and only viewable from the Southern Hemisphere) constellation known as the Southern Cross. We have watched elephants feasting on acacia trees along the roadside just a few kilometers from our house. But in all of the many wonders of God’s diverse and vast creation that we have seen here, none have inspired me as much as Brian did one afternoon last week when he sat in our living room and told us his story.

All the colors of the spectrum, all the majesty of nature, all the intricate and detailed designs that God has carved into His creation, are no match for that most intricate of designs that He carved into us His children: namely His very own image. We don’t see it too often I don’t think. In fact, we’re far more likely on an average day to run into the images of Hollywood or of Wall St. or MTV. But when we do encounter the image of God in an otherwise ordinary person among us, it is unmistakable. You feel as though you are standing on holy ground, not because you’ve elevated that person to the rank of deity, but because you become acutely aware that God is alive and well and very much present in His people. In the divine image we are reminded that God moves from the pages of the Bible and from the songs and prayers of our Sunday morning services and He travels to the streets of a small town of prostitutes and drunks, and in the life and faithful ministry of a young pastor, he still pitches his tent among us.

And man, what a sight it is to see!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jerry and Paula, I laugh with some level of understanding to your funny stories (I did live in Cambodia for a while, and SA has its moments too), and I am very moved by the poignant ones like this one. "It's all good." Keep up the good work, and as you keep telling The Story, keep telling the stories! Blessings!
Donna in South Africa