Living in Zambia, Africa, experience in long, drawn out lessons and life also comes in short, overwhelming expeirences as well. It like the rain. Sometimes it rains, slowly and gently over time, watering the plants and keeping everything green. Other times it just dumps and everything from water gutters to grass to streets overfloweth with water. Over time here I have had my heart compressed and leveled by poverty and disease and despair. Like a slow moving machine, my heart has experienced a transformation in six months that I had never expected. But then there are times like this morning where culture, and poverty and hardship and deadlines hit you so fast that you look back and wonder, what just happened there...
So, this morning, I was going to pick up a new team member Brent and take him to work. I remembered I needed a receipt from a Zambian pastor for a reimbursement. So I called him last night to let him know that I wanted to come by and pick it up. As I was getting ready to leave, Pastor Sakala and his son Wisdom showed up. I had forgotten that I was going to give his son a ride to the hospital. So, picture all of this happening and needing to be downtown in 40 minutes. So, Pastor Sakala and his son got in the car as I rushed out of the house. We picked up Brent and drove on to Pastor Alfred's house. When I got there (I am not doing justice to this story, the bumpy crazy roads, the poverty I am driving by that is just now normal and the banging back door that is held together by rope because it is broken) I saw little Obey (yes, his real name) and picked him up and carried him back to the living room. The pastor told me to sit down (you should see this house, the furniture wouldn't even sell at Goodwill). He came in, I asked how he was, I got the receipt and I was off like an efficient American that I am! When I got outside, Pastor Alfred introduced himself to Brent, the new missionary. Pastor Sakala was talking with Setelia, Pastor Alfred's wife and I was in the car, waiting to go. The little boy Obey started crying. So, I reached in my glove compartment, got out of my car and got some candy that I keep in there to give away. And then the most amazing thing happened. He took his two candies (this boy is five) and walked over to my open door and threw them in with a fierceness I can't even describe. I was stunned. Setelia told me earlier that he asked when I was going to stop by again. So, I gave some candy to other kids standing around. I was just so stunned I didn't know what to do. I got back in the car, closed the door, and sat there. As I sat there, I overheard Pastor Sakala telling Setelia about how he is surviving by the grace of God, and God is providing and they are trusting in Him. His words are honest but the emotion from his voice is thick. Finally all these peripheral conversations end, and as I back up and drive away, bumping and tossing all the way back the main street, I am pushing the rewind button, wondering what just happened.
One thing I realized was that where Americans are experts at efficiency, Zambians are experts at relationships. I should have planned better to pick up something like a receipt and honored their culture by building margin in my schedule to build relationship. Sounds a bit more biblical to me, anyway. Moreover, the little boy. Could it be that that was a great, painful illustration from a boy who can't control his feelings, which helps me understand maybe what an adult feels when he is treated efficienctly in a relationship based culture. I don't know for sure. I did call back later and apologize. I asked forgiveness for my being American sometimes. He laughed and he quickly and easily forgave me.
When I got to the Hospital with Pastor Sakala, I gave him the 20,000 kwacha that he thought the appt was going to cost him. I then gave him 50,000 more saying, "This is from the Lord." And this man, probably 10 years my senior collapsed into me with a giant hug. This is so unlike a Zambian man. After the hug he said, "I have nothing." As tears began to well up in his eyes, he said again, "I have nothing. Thank you so much." This godly, faithful pastor who wakes up many mornings at 3:00am to bake pastries to sell to his market stands to make money to feed his family of six kids is literally out of money. What do you do with that?