Seven years ago I sat in a church off a main highway in Zambia. The Church was constructed out of mud bricks with an iron sheet roof. Quite common in this part of Africa. I had gone there as part of a team. It was a random affair, which involved driving for quite some distance, dropping off some team members and then driving further on, doing the same a number of times. As I remember, it was a hot, dusty day. Half of me wanted to be there, half of me, would of rather been at home.
We had taken a consignment of Bibles to this Church. No more than a case. They had been supplied by us together with some friends. I remember the part in the service where my friend Barry asked those who had been praying for a Bible to raise their hand. After they had raised their hands, he calmly and with a mischevious grin, declared that their prayer had been answered, and presented them with new bibles. It is an image that has stayed with me for years.
On Friday, I attended the first Life! group. A momentous occasion (well actually it was the 2nd group but the rest of the team went to the 1st….) with some 25 people in attendance from the village. It was not that which spoke to me though. It was where. By some fluke 🙂 I was sat in the very same Church in the very same place. I was even looking at some of the very same people I had 7 years beforehand. I was even looking at the very same Bibles, battered, well used and torn a bit, some of them with backs hanging off. It is one of the most intense things I have felt for a long time.
It is not accidental that I was there. I realised that God has been preparing this for a long time. Even 7 years ago when Dignity wasn’t even a figment of anyone’s imagination, he had a plan in mind. Seven years ago I would not have appreciated half as much as I do now, I was maybe ignorant and naive. Now though, I can see what I have learnt and what the Lord has prepared. I can see the way forward. Seven years pass, the same place, and you see a timeless Lord at work. When you see an angle on his work in your life it is truly amazing.
Seeing the start of the groups is perhaps one of the most significant things I have ever been involved in. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not high tempo, it is slow, measured and consistent. After all we are in Africa 🙂 Yesterday, struck a chord. My thoughts are that a time of preparation is coming to an end, I finally understand and see how to help these people. The answer is that Jesus himself helps them to help themselves.
There are 3 weeks to go before I leave. Already I can feel the thoughts of home slipping into my mind. However, this is something I must do, there is so much need. The other day I was speaking to Father Richard, an Anglican Minister out here. He thought that what we were doing was revolutionary. Now I won’t let that stroke my ego, because it isn’t my work. But, he said it was about creating a family in each village, letting that family grow and eventually transform a village. That’s exactly what we are doing. Over the next few weeks the groups will continue to begin and we’ll begin to help village leaders plant cabbages to support themselves.
Seven years is a long time. I wander, I hope and I believe in another seven years time we’ll have seen hundreds if not thousands of ‘village families’ devoted to Christ and transforming their life and community. I don’t mean that glibly, I really, truly mean it.