One of the cultural markers of the Western world, it seems to me, is the illusion that we are in control. Our political stability and wealth afford us this. Our water is safe, our lights turn on, there's food aplenty, our roads lead us wherever we want to go, Amazon delivers same-day to our door, our clinics are clean and doctors competent, etc.
When you’re working in the rural areas of southern Africa, all such illusions vanish. Water is scarce and sketchy, there is rarely electricity, food is hard to come by, roads are poorly maintained, Amazon is nowhere to be found, and clinics are rudimentary, at best.
This year, the four year drought is devastating Western Province, Zambia. Reports of one meal a day, at best, are widespread, people are going deeper into the bush to dig roots, and it's only going to get worse.
The hunger has been evident in the ever thinner bodies of our students, their whispered concerns, and in their troubled eyes.
And, yet, our students arrive daily and eagerly engage our training. No matter how much we train them, they always ask for more. It seems they hunger for more than food. They devour the Word of God and it's application in all areas of their lives, including, and perhaps especially, in their families.
This year, in Nangweshi, we listened as our students described in detail their tribal family traditions, and it was troubling, to say the least. In one tradition, a husband is free to kill a trouble-making wife at his discretion, provided he’s ready and able to pay her family a sufficient price when they come to claim her body. In another tradition, children are thrown food from the table as they scramble for it like dogs. Women and children are seen and treated as possessions of the husband and father because the husband paid for his wife with the “bride price.” The notion of mutually loving relationships where each family member has equal value is simply not part of their traditions.
Abby had been teaching extensively on God's original plan for the family in Genesis 1-2, the terrible consequences to family life because of our sinful rebellion in Genesis 3, God’s announcement of family restoration when the Messiah comes in the last verses of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6), Jesus’ restoration of God’s original plan in the Gospels where he uses Genesis 1-2 as his benchmark for marriage, and Paul's call for mutuality and equality in marriage and in the church in 1 Corinthians, Galatians and Ephesians. The discussion about tribal traditions had come in response to a small group question during her training.
As the discussion came to a close, one of our students put it like this: “Please don’t misunderstand us. These are our traditions. It's where we’ve come from. And, Jesus has already helped us to begin changing. But, what you’ve taught us about God’s radical plan for the family is now where we're going. We're not there yet, but we have left our traditions behind and are on our way."
We are under no illusions. We are not in control. But, the Lord is, and he is shaping and refining and transforming us, day by day, whether we live in the West or in southern Africa. And it is our privilege to be part of what the Lord is doing, whether here or there. We're so grateful that we, like our friends in Nangweshi, have left our “traditions” behind and are becoming more and more what Jesus wants us to be. We are not there yet, but we’re on our way. And we are hungry for more!
Please continue to pray for us, as we do for you. We've been with the Khwe (pronounced quay) twice this week. Known popularly as the Bushmen or San people, they prefer Khwe, the name of their language, which means, simply, “the people.” Tomorrow, we go for a third time to begin training a handful of English-speaking adults. Were taking this one step at a time. It’s a four hour round trip, so well only have 3-4 hours to train, but it’s a start. We'll tell you more in a future blog.
And, remember, where we go, you go!