EENIE, MEENIE, MINIE, MO. CATCH A VILLAGE BY HIS TOE…
It was not long before we ran into a “Potential Person of Peace” – Theresa. 38 years old, with six children and a mud shack that has been added onto with various building materials and techniques – cooking something outside by the fire. As we passed by we threw out our greeting, “Mwate bwange”, as we clap our hands a few times and dip slightly. She responded, not too enthusiastically. But it was enough for us to invite ourselves into her compound. She obediently gathered a few stool-like things for us to sit on (the women could sit on the ground of course – but never an old man like me!).
As we asked her about her life we discovered what an amazing woman she is – since 1992 she has been volunteering at a Home Based Care ministry; she has 82 patients she visits in their homes every week – 52 of them are on ARVs (for AIDS). There are only two such volunteers in Maloni Village – a long village with one road going down the center of it and foot paths going off in different directions – about 200 huts in this village. There is only a school for first and third grades – a tumble-down building outside of town – and no clinic (there is one in the neighboring village that serves 350 pregnant HIV patients – the women from Maloni often give birth before they can get to the distant clinic, sometimes with tragic results).
“So why do you continue to volunteer? Do you get paid?” She laughs and shakes her head. “No”, and only after a long pause, “When God puts it into your heart to do, you cannot leave it.” When she started they had no gloves to wear when they cleaned the AIDS patients with open sores, knowing it was a potentially deadly gamble – but she did it. She only had three children then, but she continued even after three more.
Our team found many more potential people of peace – we listed out 8 as we debriefed and heard each story later in the evening. And we found some strongholds – particularly drunkenness. There is a bar called New Life Bar, that several residents told us sells alcohol to kids as young as nine. The young ones in this village are particularly at risk. There is much child prostitution and teen pregnancy here. The young girls go to the bar to dance and entertain the older ones, in order to get some money, and often more than they bargain for.
Each day for the past week we have gone to a different village – Makuni, Malota, Maloni, Mulala, Muke and Matheletuna (would it be good to get a little more creative in the naming of the villages??). God told us to give him seven days of prayer before we start our ministering for Him. This has been a wonderful experience. Some are more like compounds on the outskirts of town; and some are genuine villages with a common heritage and a chief and headman. Some have problems of prostitution and some problems with the hippos and elephants eating their gardens (I am still determined to find a solution for so many of these people who simply do not plant gardens because of the elephants!). Some are too religious in many different Christian teachings, and some are dancing all day with the witch doctor to cast out spirits. Happily, in every place, as we have split up into small groups and wandered around the village talking to people, we have found people who speak English to some degree. And some hungry for a God that is more like Jesus than the religious farce that they see today.
Tomorrow is a day of prayer and fasting. We will hear from God which village we should work in these coming two months. And Regina and I are especially praying that it will be the same village that we continue to work in for years to come. Will you pray with us?
As we walk and see the needs, we are listening to our Guide for strategies and timing. We continue to feel the burden to care for the orphans and vulnerable children that are so plentiful. And I just believe it would not be too difficult to decrease starvation and hunger by fixing the elephant and hippo problem. I am dreaming of schools in every village – schools of educational excellence with many young westerners volunteering as teachers for a year or two – as a platform for ministry into the deeper needs of the village. I am dreaming of a team of five families joining with us for three years to live in community, diversify our ministry, and impact this whole region with the Life of Christ.