The Corridors of Power

By Zambian standards, Rhapsody’s is a rather plush restaurant in the Arcades shopping mall in Lusaka. Whilst waiting for my car to be serviced I sat there, having a coke or two and using the wireless network of some company who have not been wise enough to secure it. It really is a nice place to relax. As I used my phone to write emails and the like, I became aware that everything going on around me was all about power.

Next to me sat three english people, 1 woman, 2 men. All smartly dressed, I overheard the words, “I’ll be at Gatwick tomorrow”, this pricked my attention and I started to listen in the subtle way that you do when you are eavesdropping. They were obviously from some NGO in Lusaka and they obviously had not been close to anyone in the areas and regions that they were talking about. Experts we would call them. A detached objective viewpoint. And yet, these people wielded expert power as a consultant. Their decision actually affect thousands of people. Yet, I wander if they know those people? I wander if they have a say or a viewpoint. Consultants don’t have a good name in Africa and I can see why.

On the other table was sat a demure looking Zambian lady, with a rather loud American talking to them from a powerpoint presentation on a laptop screen. Whilst I couldn’t hear the conversation I could see the dynamics of what was going on. Basically, the American was saying, “If you’ll only do this then everything will be OK”. No doubt because of funding or status, her Zambian friend was never going to disagree.

It’s all to do with power, and power is a real problem here. The consultants, the salesman, all they are peddling is power, influence whilst taking a payment of power and influence themselves. If you link to an NGO, you have power and as a result they have power as well….. it all stinks……

Michael in Mkushi told me a story of when he was invited to a certain white mans house. He had to wait outside whilst the man finished his breakfast. Michael decided that this was not a man to work with. Again power is the problem….

Then how about another friend who believed that we should do everything through him. With an over-bloated sense of ego he believes he is the gateway of everything. Unfortunately for him, God has other ideas and has simply circumnavigated him.

I struggle with this dynamic here, it really is insidious.

Yet there are people who don’t seek power, who don’t want to own it all. They encourage me greatly. I really believe that these are the people who really know God here. They are the one’s that are humble, the one’s that give power away and let a multitude of people live in the blessing of that. They don’t get political because they don’t need to, harmful politics come from a defence and grasp of power.

I really want to emulate these people. I want to be one of them. In my time here I haven’t mentioned the name of Dignity once to any of the villagers. Why? because for them to change their villages, who I am or work for is not important. It is Jesus who is. I try not to use any title that I may have, I just go by the name Jon, not even pastor!

I find this route tremendously challenging. Why? It’s challenging because somewhere in our life we’ve been taught that to leave a legacy means control and ownership of people. We haven’t been taught to give power away and be anonymous. The legacy we should leave behind is free people who have the freedom to do what your ‘given away’ power has enabled them to do. Maybe there are no thank yous , no accolades, in fact nothing… Maybe just the fact that your Father knows you have done the right thing.

I wander which one is more powerful? A legacy that dies when you die, or something that runs away from you in the hearts and minds of many people?

You decide…

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