This morning we had our bags packed and were heading out the door to Chirundu, a small border town about two hours from Lusaka. Jerry and I visited Chirundu’s newly planted church for the first time a few months ago, and were struck by the remarkable spiritual hunger of the saints there. They sat on crude benches made from mud, and insisted we continue teaching from morning til evening.
We weren’t invited to the pastor’s home for lunch, and later discovered why. They were destitute – taking only sugar-water for their midday meal.
This same church has started a community school for sixty-something local children who can’t afford the government school. No trained teachers, no textbooks, not even a chalkboard – but a heart for children. Seems to me that’s something like faith, hope, and love.
With grand plans for several days of ministry to children, youth, and adults, some friends and I were heading out the door to visit our Chirundu friends when the phone rang. The pastor’s twenty year old son had just died of cerebral malaria.
We knelt to pray for them – Mrs. Mulenga, Linda, and I. I found myself starting to weep, and asking, “How long, O Lord?” How long must things be as they should not be? How long these assaults, this suffering? Mrs. Mulenga was weeping also. Mrs. Mulenga, who buried her husband a year ago.
She led us in the song, “Twatotela Lesa” – “thank You Lord.” In that moment, it was hard to sing that song. “Thank You Lord” – for what? For another needless death, in this land where life is so fragile? For unspeakable heartache, for this dear pastor’s family struggling to do Kingdom work? We prayed for some time, inviting Jesus’ presence into this sad situation, crying out for His Kingdom to come, for His sustaining mercy, for His name to be magnified. And as we poured out our hearts, His peace came.
Afterwards Jerry and I were reflecting on how much our prayers, and our praying, have changed over the past two years. “We pray differently, don’t we?” “Yeah – we feel so much more acutely.” And that brokenness, we are coming to realize, is the heart of prayer.
“Twatotela” began rising in my heart again. We are thankful – not for the dark circumstances, but for the presence of Jesus, and the unfailing love of God, in the midst of them. There is a “fellowship of sharing in His suffering,” an intimacy with God that is found only in deep brokenness. In this sad place, and for this life-giving and transforming communion with Christ – Twatotela Lesa.