Thursday Afternoon in Mazabuka

There is a pattern to our lunches with the Dawoudgee’s. We arrive and the men are still at prayer. Today lunch is at Mohammed’s house, the brother of Ebrahim. He is married to the sister of Ebrahim’s wife, Nashim. Her name is Amina. The father had arranged both of these marriages for his two sons. It almost seems like it was destiny and not chance. Ebrahim, being the more responsible of the two brothers, running the business now that the father has passed away, married to the, excuse the expression, more blond of the two sisters. That is “more blond” in a cute and wonderful way. Mohammed chases the political windmills of life. He chased them while in America and he is constantly being paraded as a UNDP candidate in this or that local election. The black Zambians have a trust of him. While he chases the illusion of politics his wife keeps things together with the children and the house. For us Americans the two families can only be described as irresistible and charming, using the traditional colonial English phrase.

So we arrive to sit in the living room with old Mr. Dawoudgee’s widow, who is taken care of by the two families. The boys used to be around but now they faithfully attend prayer with their fathers. The food is all set out on a table. There is a sink in the dining room where we will serve ourselves and wash our hands. The smells are mouth watering and soon the men arrive. Minimal small talk as we head for the food. We men sit outside at a table while the women will sit inside. Today is going to be a bit more rushed than I would have enjoyed. Mohammed has a broken vehicle he is in the middle of getting back on the road, and needs to get it done in a hurry. Ebrahim has some important business to take care of before he reopens the shop which is always closed while he is at prayer. I have a men’s discipleship class to go to at the same time. Still it is a great time to sit at the table with these men comparing some political notes about America, the world and Zambia. The food is delicious, but time is not with us.

Laura Michelle will accompany Mom to the women’s meeting, while Brooke and Audra will stay with Nashim and Amina. We get to the church and are pleased to see Mrs. Okello. She has been taking care of a sick relative in Kalombo and only now has returned to Mazabuka. Joan will spend some time with her tomorrow and she will come to Shimungalu with us Saturday. I mention Mrs. Okello because she is such an important part of the Mazabuka church. We started the Mazabuka church in a little school at the edge of the poorest compound in Mazabuka. It was a new school built by the Irish. It was already showing the traditional signs of third world life with broken windows, desks and doors. We were the first church to be allowed to use a classroom, something all schools do with usually 3 to 5 churches meeting at each school on Sundays. We had just started services, our big numbers break would come after a street preaching Saturday that brought many new people, including Petronella who was asked to scout out the land by Grace, her mother. So one Sunday morning as we are starting church with mostly young people I see a taxi pull up and a middle age women gets out and walks to the school and comes in as we start service. She raises her hand at the end, but quickly disappears as church ends. Well I think, that is the last we will see of her, and lo and behold once again just as service is starting the taxi shows up and out steps Mrs. Okello. She is married to Dr. Okello and she has a sterling reputation in town. She never misses after this, even making prayer in the mornings, until I convince her to slow down years later as she battles the health issues of Zambia.

It was only as we were preparing to leave Zambia that I heard the whole story of that first Sunday visit. I was asking different people in church to give testimonies about their salvation experiences, partly to prepare the church for our departure but also for the newer members to hear how the older members got there. One Sunday morning I asked Mrs. Okello to give her testimony. I know by doing this my sermon will be shorter because of the nature of Zambian storytelling brought into the testimony service. Mrs. Okello had come to that familiar place for most of us at one time or another when we felt like God let us down in a big way. Her faith had been stolen from her with the door opened to the bitterness’s that come with a loss of faith.  So she stirred herself up after hearing about our church to reach out to God once again. She was aghast to find a small group of people, mostly kids, with the new white pastor in town. Mazabuka had a reputation for being a missionary killer so no telling how long this new one would be around. But, God touched her that morning and she made up her mind to come again in the afternoon despite her flesh telling her there was no future there. She waited for the cab, where there is always a cab. But, no cab showed up. The war inside her raged on, maybe no cab, where this always a cab is a sign from God to not go to church. Finally, she threw down her fleece before God and said that if you want me to go to this church you will need to send a cab right away. How long is right away? Seconds passed and she was ready to go home when the cab appeared taking her to service, and healing her heart and making her a vessel of service of use to God in big ways again. So it was great to see her.

Joan’s meeting went well, mine had a few rough moments. I preached the parable of the pearl of great price using examples of the most expensive car, diamond and house to compare it to the work of the ministry as the most valuable thing in the world. We opened it up for questions. I was prepared for the normal questions about equipment use and such, but I encountered an edge in these questions that was aimed directly at the heart of Pastor Tembo. To be a pastor is to be a servant and it is a common pastoral experience to be bitten by the sheep, but it is a heartbreaking experience that surely damages the soul of the targeted pastor. Pastor Tembo kept it together as sly arrows were shot his way, with me doing my best to shield him from the damage. There was something at work here bigger than my original diagnosis. The young men in the church had allowed their attitudes to be hardened into an attacking spirit towards their pastor. I was caught unawares, but confident that God would protect Pastor Tembo and minister to the young men.

After getting everyone settled to get ready for the last night of revival here in Mazabuka I went over to the basketball court at the Catholic church where Bright’s team would be practicing. I showed up shot around a little as the guys began to show up. Then we divided up for a quick game to 5. I scored a couple as Bright found me open and he scored from the outside to put it away. Just getting older at 55. I think about all of the basketball I played at age 44 to 51 while here in Zambia and realize that the slope is steepening.

I finish up revival with the parable of the wedding feast. I have given all my gifts during the week. A bible for Pastor Tembo, the double dutch ropes, Sunday school material, and atomic fire balls. Tonight we are blessed with shirts, dresses, a clock and my favorite a case of natural cane sugar from Zambia Sugar, energy for life. We drag ourselves home, watch a little football and go to bed.

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About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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