Kazangula is a small town (if it can be called that) on the watery border of Zambia and Botswana. A group of 12 of us from GLO had taken the long, hot journey to Southern Province for a 3 day mission trip. And this was our first day of evangelism.
Within a few minutes, our group of four came across two women building a mud house. We were greeted with kind but slightly skeptical smiles and mud-caked hands. Immediately the two older preachers we were with began to ask these ladies bombarding questions like “Do you know God?” “What do you think about church?” And I sat there a bit lost and helpless because I did not speak any of the 5 languages floating around the community.
As they continued the conversation impregnated with long pauses and open Bibles, I saw my friend Emmanuel move towards their house. He looked at the pile of mud they were mixing for the wall, saw that their two yellow water containers were empty, and with less than a word he picked them up and walked away. The preachers continued to talk as I watched him walk into the distance, the yellow containers getting smaller and smaller. He stopped to ask a man something and continued up the hill to a half-finished church building. After about 10 minutes he was coming back down to us, sweat beading on his forehead in the midday sun, water sloshing on his jeans from the containers.
In that moment, I realized that THAT is the kind of missionary I want to be. I want to be a sweating missionary. The people of this country hear lots of words—it is not uncommon for church service to be 5 hours long and school is notoriously lecture-based. So how many times do we come across someone who is not concerned with words but is willing to get down into the mud of life with us? It means being able to really see people and their needs, which, yes, does take a certain level of cultural competency that I am still working on. But maybe I can bumble, sweat, learn and love my way towards that goal.
So when the preachers turned to me and asked if I wanted to say anything. I shook my head. No. Emmanuel without even speaking had said everything I wanted to say.