From the Archives: A Nugget for the Journey

Hot and cramped. That is what public transportation is here in Zambia. And the bus from town to where I live is even more hot and even more cramped than normal. So today I plopped into the bus next to a girl about the age of 20. Because of the whole hot and cramped thing, I don’t usually strike up conversations with the people I am sweating beside but today I did. 
Her name was Naminga and she had the sweetest Bemba accent that accentuated her darling smile. We got to asking the normal get-to-know-you questions. Where abouts do you stay? Do you have any brothers or sisters? And particularly for me, What are you doing here?  And yes, how long are you here for. I always get this one and I am not a fan because I justdon’tknowandmaybeitisokaythatIdon’tknowalrightugh. 
This time I shrugged and responded with my familiar joke “Find me a husband and I will stay here a long time!” Even though I am in no way on the market for a hubby, I have gotten some laughs out of it in the past.  
She did smile but then she looked at me more seriously. 
“A man here might marry you because he thinks you are kind, because he thinks you are rich, or because you are white.” She ticked off the points on her fingers as she spoke. “And what happens then? What happens when you aren’t kind or when there is no money or when…” she paused “you are in the sun too much and get a really deep tan.” We both laughed.
“That is why we have to wait for God to send us the right one. If not, both people will be disappointed. God will give us the desires of our hearts and that includes the right man to marry.”
As the rickety bus josteled us, I was struck by the deep counter cultural wisdom this young woman had. Especially here in Zambia, women are overly pressured to find a husband, get married and have kids. You are not considered an adult until you are married. (Even if you have a job, live on your own, and provide for yourself!) But Naminga’s deep self-awareness and faith in God’s provision eschewed the desperation that this culture implants in single women and replaced it with contentment. Something all of us could use a bit more of. 
A little nugget for the journey.

From the Archives: A Sweating Missionary

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.