“Papa Dan,” he calls me. He sits quietly in the living room soaking in the American culture without the need to interject. But then when things have died down he sneaks to my side – “Papa Dan, can I see you for a minute?” I know it is time for our little talk outside in the dark.
Dixon is just starting 12th grade, the middle child of 6. When he was 12 he discovered a picture of his truck driving dad with his arm around a strange woman and child. That was one of the last times he saw his dad. The family was suddenly on the street and desperate. Someone allowed the family to stay in an old house – it had most of the walls, but no roof at all. They stayed there 2 years, shivering under pieces of plastic in the rain. Then God heard their cries and gave the mom a good job in the kitchen of a lodge along the Zambezi. There is housing for all, and a school.
The oldest children, damaged by the trauma, went the way of the world.
Then a few years ago everything becomes new – Jesus reaches out and saves Dixon. Now his life is not his own, and he knows it. There is a purpose to his life; he must apply himself to school, to Bible study and prayer; he is taking seriously his life’s witness in little ways. His mother and siblings have been transformed by his example and prayers.
We met him as one of a number of zealous high school students helping Justin Samba disciple and care for destitute kids in Ngwenya Village – one of the most abject slums of Livingstone which keeps calling out to us like a lone wolf’s cry. Dixon is so focused he does not even see you observing over his shoulder – he is imparting Life into a dejected young soul and nothing is more important.
In November when we decided to focus more on discipling the young associates who are randomly helping us in the village work, Dixon stood out as the faithful one who was not there just for the fun, but with a common heart of ministry to the Least and the Lost, and a desire to grow into a capable vessel.
So Dixon takes me outside to share his heart. “Papa Dan, I want to be the best witness for Christ. But… but… I sometimes feel ashamed that my scores are not better in school. So I have asked a school if I can stay there at night, along with a few other students, to devote ourselves to study (if he were to take the bus to his home 45 minutes distant, he would be looked on to cook, clean, put the siblings to bed). Sometimes I just don’t understand the things the teacher says. I need to study more.”
“What are the subjects you don’t understand?” I ask him.
“Chemistry, Math and Physics.”
“Do you need a tutor?” I prod.
“Yes, maybe. I just need to study more. Sometimes I don’t understand what the teacher explains.”
Then I hit on it – “Do you have books?”
“No, Papa Dan. I have none.”
“Do others have books?” – I am starting to tear up.
“Some do and some don’t.”
Dixon has never asked me anything for himself. He has literally nothing, and yet he is one of the most deserving humans I can think of. He looks so thin lately, so I ask if he is eating properly – “sometimes” – he says, looking ashamed. I ask if the others share their food with him – they mostly go home to nearby, more prosperous homes – “sometimes they take me” he says. “And when they don’t?” “Ah, then I sleep.” Again the look of shame.
It is then he starts crying and I cradle him in my father’s arms. He is trying to tell me thru his tears how fortunate he is that Regina and I have taken him into our care. “I am so blessed”, he says.
And amazingly, he is blessed! Out of all the Western kids who have every gadget one can imagine, all the fine food, cool clothes and “creams” that Nacho Libre would envy – this one without even soap to wash with or dinner to eat, has been called by Almighty God to carry a “weight of glory” that can only come by the path of sharing the suffering of Christ.
I am so very blessed to call him my son.
And there are two other exceptional young men God has allowed us to care for as well – –
1. Elvin is 30, single and single minded after the things of God. He was orphaned when young and fell into the care of missionaries who saw the potential in him. Soon after his conversion at age of 12 he was praying with the faith of a David for the sick and seeing hospital beds emptied. And yet he is humble and noble. I love this brother. We are sponsoring him to go to CPX this year, and pray that God will allow him to come back and serve with us full time in the coming years.
2. Aaron Mulenga I have written about before. We discovered him 2 years ago up in Northern Zambia – a young, single disciple, caring for 8 teen orphans in his home as well as about 100 at a small building – teaching school, playing games, discipling young broken lives. No income, no plan – just a knowledge that something must be done and a willingness to step out in faith. We have supported him and his work before. This year we would like to send him to South Africa to start a paint business that seems possibly could sustain him and his ministry for years to come! In the future we would love to partner with him to start another orphan home cluster in that needy area.
And there are numerous other young people who have been asking me at this crucial time of year when school starts, to support them for another year of school. We don’t give handouts. But to allow a bright student to continue their education – something must be done.
- How do you make an application to be a parent to 10 kids? Well we made such an application and now are trying to fill the position. Some names are coming in. Pray for wisdom. And perhaps there are some Western interns who want to come and serve alongside the mother?
- We are considering hiring a Children’s Home Director – to oversee all the project, including the supporting business, to hire staff, help establish policy and protocol, etc. Pray for guidance.
- Our Training for Trainers (T4T) class on Thur night has been going well – 20 or so coming from several different villages. We are trying to get a cohesive group in each village who will act as Watchmen – praying for their village, counseling, offering assistance to the widows and orphans, purveyors of the Word of God – the Salt of the Earth! Pray for serious disciples to rise up for Jesus!
- A team from CPX South Africa blessed the villages – new converts, new disciples, healings, baptisms!
- Now a team from Oregon USA (14 of them) are filling our house to capacity (22 of us in all)! We are trying a new thing – much more involvement in the training and application. So we trained them Mon on “Connecting”, and then they will go thru 3 or 4 diff villages “connecting” this week. The goal – converts, disciples, small churches, multiplication!
- Give great thanks for our new long termer – Sarah Bultmann! She has made an immediate impact – sharing her enthusiastic vib, mentoring the young girls, and co-leading the village experience for the team – no one seems distracted by her lovely swollen lips – a mango reaction! (she is getting better.)
- And another great hurrah for Ezra – a 60ish retired construction supervisor who is blessing us for at least 6 mo.
- Because of the crowd, Regina and I have moved to a little cottage down the road – Ezra is with us. New expenses, loneliness (ahh – a welcome feeling), need for a bicycle – – or motorcycle – hmm – which would you suggest?
- In the midst of all this my phone quit working and so did my leg! The Doctor told me 10 days bed rest of all things! Please pray for recovery. (And for a phone that actually works!)
- We need an ADMINISTRATOR more than ever, though some have volunteered to do some things that can be done at home in N America.
- We also need a FLAT BED TRUCK more than ever – we are making due renting one and paying a steep price.
- We had a Farming God’s Way seminar in the village – probably 25 villagers attended with great interest. The instructor set the vision of rising out of poverty by diligent and God-blessed farming. They heard some paradigm shifting teaching on farming as a business rather than subsistence; and then they all went out, cleared a piece of our land, and planted a square of maize (corn).
- If you would like to help us with some of our financial projects:
- Sponsor Elvin to a year of CPX – $750 at least
- Sponsor Dixon to get books (will make a small business for him to sustain him and pay back the book payment) – $150+
- Sponsor Aaron to go to SA to be trained in a business – $750+
- Sponsor high school students in the village – about $100 times 3 students.
- Luke Martin rebuilt a sorry looking “covered structure” into a cool “lodge like structure”!
- Jon Blahnik will be heading home before I write my next blog – but what a great young man Jesus sent to us – I cannot say enough about the way he has helped us and many other similar orphan works around us with his love and service for 6 months. Thanks Jon – forever grateful.
Thanks again for the continued support.