To Pioneer

The Matusadona Hills crown the view of Lake Kariba in the hazy distance. As I look out from one of the southernmost points of Zambia, I wonder how many seemingly unconnected events have collided to bring me to this place.

People sometimes ask me what pioneering is about. How do you begin something?

Now there isn’t a simple answer to that question, but for Christian ministry, some of it is simply following the Spirit, a hunch, intuition or whatever you want to call it. Following that hunch then takes a commitment to try it, to follow it and to be open to whatever it may bring.

So, I’m some 600km from my home. Bernard, one of our Impact Team leaders has come with me and we are simply here to meet some villagers. We are based at a camp in Butete Bay, which until recently was a simple fishermen’s camp. Now the area is slowly being developed through the involvement of my friend Rammy Singh amongst other people. 2 or 3 shore side chalets have sprung up, cooled by a pleasant but constant breeze off the lake.

Most of the workers from the camp come from 2 or 3 of the eight prominent settlements around this area. The settlements are very poor. Southern province and the Siavonga area are hardly well developed areas of Africa. As Bernard speaks Tonga, we spoke with some of the workers last night. We explained to them about trying to start a group in the community to teach about Christ and find ways of helping one another. These are the groups we call Life! Groups. They agreed and thought it was a good idea. This afternoon we now have a meeting with a lot more villagers some 10km from here where we will talk to them some more.

Funnily enough, an annual conference of one of the bush churches based in Zimbabwe happens to be in the same village this afternoon. As fortune would have it, Alfred the security guard is good friends with the bishop of the group of churches. We are going to greet them and explain to them later today. Is it fortune? Luck? Or the plan of a good, interested and involved God to move His work forward? You tell me!

Coming from Europe, people I know are more conversant with strategic plans, collections of goals and the like. We have them, but the implementation is more people based and well I guess, “fuzzy!”. Learning to live with following the Spirit, hunches and “fuzziness” is part of the missionaries and pioneers toolkit. Without it we would simply be very conservative and ineffective businessmen. You cannot pioneer with a business plan alone.

The reason is that true lasting change is actually achieved in the hearts of people. That way people personify what you are trying to achieve and are the “plan” rather than simply obeying the plan.

An awareness to be open, to listen, mental agility to connect the dots that you can see and some faith to connect those that you cannot. A commitment to follow through when you are not sure of where you are going and some bravado to convince others, inspiring faith that it is all OK. These are some of the ingredients of a pioneer. This is some of what it takes to begin with nothing and make something happen.

Maybe pioneers are some of the biggest blaggers in history but maybe just maybe sometimes they are right.

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