A tribute to a friend

Robson was one of the first persons from the village who caught my eye as a man to go after. Even as Jesus, when he was preaching to the crowds noticed those few fishermen cleaning their nets, not even listening to him and in a moment knew he wanted to go after that guy – his name was Peter.  So I saw Robson, in his dugout canoe, ultra respectful in his greeting, looking you right in the eye as he is shaking your hand, giving a Lozi bow and a Mutozi Chwani (good afternoon).  We only had two weeks before a team of Americans were coming to camp on the new land for 2 months, and I had to have a place ready for them – “clear this island, build a covered structure this big, and make a pathway to it.”  So the headman helped me decide which men to hire for the task – I knew no one. But right away I said, “I want that man (pointing to Robson)”. And the hunch proved to be divine.

A month later as we were scheming about taking a couple of the villagers with us to a conference in Zimbabwe, again we chose Robson. I think it changed his life. It was probably the first time he had ever been in a church other than the New Apostolic Church – the only church for miles around their village, and a cult from Europe. There we sang Western worship songs, raised hands, clapped, danced, heard prophecy and powerful testimonies of a living faith. Robson and Headman were profoundly touched.

From that point on, Robson was a regular feature at Regina’s English class and my God Story class. Because he was such a hardworker – employed by me 45 hrs a week, while fishing and repairing his home on the side, it was hard to get him in any of our regular home bible studies. But the times we would talk, his growing faith would shine thru.

In May his father died, and I was blessed when he sought me out to cry on my shoulder. It is not customary for these folk to hug or say words of affection publicly, but Robson cast that aside to reach out to a friend. I felt honored. More than that – I felt that God had given me a son, and him a father.

Then in early August he came down sick – a knot in his stomach. When it continued to get worse I took him to the hospital. They kept him overnight, looked him over, gave him some pain meds and released him. I called another Dr I know who checked him again and found some problems – Hep B, possibly cancer. We bought meds, prayed, and saw him begin to regain strength. Regina and I left for America with an easy heart.

A few days later we got the text – Robson is in critical condition in the hospital – PRAY!! We did. Without ceasing! Our Doctor friend looked him over while in a coma and gave us the sad news – he had fresh tattoos on his body – witch doctor medicine inserted into his body – he was reacting to this and it would be a miracle if he lived.

Why did this happen God? How did this one with such a seeming strong conviction against witch doctors bow to the pressure of his mother and relatives? And the deeper, haunting question – God, how did Satan get thru our lines and get to the crucial man in our operations? Were we not praying enough? Don’t we have enough faith and spiritual power to heal – we are constantly feeling our lack in this area, and now it is like a raw burn in our soul – did our spiritual ineptitude allow this person to die?

Since we have been in Zambia (10 months) 5 people from this small village of 200 +/- have died – all but one were 30ish or younger; 3 left a widow and orphans – 9 kids growing up without a dad. It is always sad – the whole village shuts down for 4-6 days with the process and the shock. Relatives come and go, loud wailing, men in hushed discussions, widows huddled for days in a small hut with a blanket over the head, kids looking scared and lost…  We were not able to share in the process this time – 10 time zones away. But we grieved for Robson like none of the others. He was very dear to me. I will miss him. I pain for Best, his wife; and Sharon and Regina, his daughters. God will you bless them.

Then, out of the ashes, comes a word of hope. Nimisha emailed us – they were feeling very discouraged after Robson died, but then in the morning God woke them with a word – “unless a kernel of wheat falls into the soil and dies, it remains alone. But it’s death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.”  At the same time, around the world, God spoke a word of encouragement to me – a sense that thru the death of this man, God would raise up a son – a son like John the Baptist – who would “be great… be filled with the Spirit… would turn the hearts of many… having the spirit and power of Elijah… and it would be fulfilled in its proper time.” And finally there was a promised “blessing on the one who believes that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken.” (Lk 1:13-45)

I began to believe again.

Then Nimisha wrote and told us that even before Robson died a man from the village named David had come and shared with her that because of all these deaths and illnesses in the village, he was beginning to “take God seriously”.

Could this be part of the fulfillment of your word, Jesus?

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