Phil 2:5 “Let the same disposition be in you which was in Christ Jesus. Although from the beginning He had the nature of God He did not reckon His equality with God a treasure to be tightly grasped. Nay, He stripped Himself of His glory, and took on Him the nature of a bondservant by becoming a man like other men. And being recognized as truly human, He humbled Himself and even stooped to die; yes, to die on a cross. It is in consequence of this that God has also so highly exalted Him…”
Incarnation – a story line like nothing on Earth can rival. No Greek myth, no sci-fi novel, no romantic movie could think up something so far-fetched, and yet so sublime. The God of the Universe, out of a desire born of love to save these lowly beings He created, takes off His Majestic, All Powerful, All Knowing Form, enters the Time-and-Space-bound material world thru the miraculous impregnating of a devout teenage girl, gestates for 9 months, and is born as a baby. God – a fetus! God – a two celled, multiplying embryo!
In the strategic planning of the Godhead, this God/man was not sent as a high and mighty picture of godhood to stun the world, but rather, the Lowest Common Denominator. Even a slave or an addict or the most disadvantaged human could relate to Him and aspire to emulate. He kept no privilege other than His unstained connection with His Father. No standing above humanity and calling them higher – He crawled below and carried them on his back. In the end He took the very worst shame and filth of humanity within Himself, losing the one Comfort and Strength He retained – intimacy with God.
Two notes are added to this story:
“It is in consequence of this that God has also so highly exalted Him…” This is the Deep Magic of Narnia – the consequence of Incarnational sacrifice is victory!
And… “Let the same disposition be in you…” – No explanation needed. Only action.
Father Damien, a priest, volunteered in 1873 to serve the lepers of Molokai – an isolated island dedicated to the rotting lepers of Hawaii. He refused to treat them at a distance, as all others did. Instead he became one of them – dressing their wounds, embracing them, building houses and church and clinic and orphanage with them. Soon after he arrived on the island he began to address the people of Molokai as “we lepers”, though he was not diseased. “I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.” And after 16 years of serving them, he also contracted the disease and died with them at age 49, and is buried under a tree among his many thousand “children”.
On our base in the midst of the villages we eat our dinner on “the island”, laughing and telling stories of the day with all the staff. The night descends and we linger for the company and the beauty of a star-lit night on the mighty Zambezi. I slip away to visit the toilet and see if all is well on the dark grounds. That’s when I hear the low murmur of Ken and “the boys”. I sneak closer. They are all three laying on a straw mat, with only the glow of a simmering fire and a weak flashlight to mark them. They are reading something, all huddled closely. As I wait in the shadows I can see their old black pot sitting on the glowing epicenter of the splayed logs – the African cook stove. It is 8 o’clock and dinner is not yet ready. I can hear them quietly discussing in their language – then a spasm of laughter grips them all and someone stirs the pot.
Ken Machisa is an educated, business-minded Zambian who joined us six months ago. Many Zambians see village life as beneath them – they have evolved to a higher trajectory. But Ken has embraced the profile of Incarnation. His passion is to be a father to Joseph and Mukela – two teen orphans who had no safe place to go when we invited them to stay at the House of Moses. They are too old to move into the main house, so Ken and the boys designed and helped build a small hut on our grounds. Ken prays with them, teaches them, eats and sleeps with them. He hasn’t taken them out of the village environment – he’s entered their world!
In 1999 our family moved to Haiti for five months in an attempt to adopt a child (that’s another story). We lived at an orphanage in our own house, but ate with the kids and staff. It’s hard to describe what was so very hard. As a family we’ve always loved camping and “roughing it.” But this was something else. Here in Zambia some interns experience our “Zambezi Easy Diet.” I had that, times ten! I looked like a concentration camp survivor when it was over! We would hardly allow ourselves to go into the village and get a refrigerated drink or enjoy an air conditioned store for guilt of enjoying something the others could not. We judged missionaries who lived on nice, safe compounds on the beautiful Caribbean coast then hypocritically worked with the poor – as I saw it.
But then, after coming home and assessing I began to wonder if we could survive like that long term. Was it really admirable to be so sick? Is there a balance to living with the people you are reaching, yet allowing yourself some security or comfort or relaxation? I still struggle with this. Most of my “heroes of faith” are people who were glad to suffer many things to love the Least and the Lost. I tend to want to be the Martyr, and yet, truth be told, I’ve got my little comforts that I squirrel away for private times. Paul says, there are times when he would abound – along with the many times he was abased. And as for my other “heroes” – well probably the stories we hear and remember are when they were abased, without even mention that they also ate hamburgers on weekends, sitting on their (albeit, lumpy) couch in their living room!
Jesse Nukols is a cute young college student from Colorado who is serving with us for four months. When she applied she wrote that her area of passion is working with handicapped kids. I thought, “Yeah, sure. Just wait till she gets around Monde (our four- year old handicapped child) for a few days – perennial poopy pants, no meaningful communication, no games or stories that will reach her, no physical development… We’ll see how long this passion lasts.” After a day or two of being in the Home, Jesse asked if she could stay there. “You mean, nights?! Like, you wanna sleep there?!” “Sure – if it’s ok?”
The other day I asked how her experience has been so far. “It has wildly exceeded my expectations. I love it!” She is dead tired at the end of a week of living and working with them, and a bed in town sounds real good. But when it’s time to return to the village, she’s excited to be back. Incarnational Love has filled a vessel. And the transformation that is resulting can only be explained as the “consequence” of Incarnation – the Deep Magic is working! Monde is now walking and is on the verge of looking into your eyes and connecting! Oliver is learning letters and sounding words! Hildah (the house mom) is being discipled in the Word. God has come!
Perhaps the miracle of Incarnation is not so much in the suffering, as in the willingness to suffer out of love for the lost. Perhaps the Magic is found in the attitude of letting go our grasp on our rights and needs – subjecting them to a greater goal of loving and serving and saving the lost. I think those who really live in the essence of Incarnation hardly think of what they are going without, because of the love that compels them. Incarnation, in a word, is Love.
Phil 3:8 Nay, I even reckon all things as pure loss because of the priceless privilege of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. And for His sake I have suffered the loss of everything, and reckon it all as mere refuse, in order that I may win Christ and be found in union with Him…10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…”
Our dream has been to live “Incarnationally” – to live among the villages we serve. We are coming closer to that reality. To this date we have been living in town, then camping in the village base up to 5 days a week in makeshift fashion. We are starting our first step to long term residence – a common kitchen and gathering room. Please pray that we can complete this building and start the next phase of building small chalets for staff housing. We hope to be complete by Christmas. Therefore:
- Money needed
- Teams to build
- Staff to manage.
STILL VERY MUCH NEEDING ADMINISTRATIVE HELP.
Aaron Mulenga has joined us for 6 months – Welcome Aaron! We are excited.
Engage Program is starting in 1 week – a 3 month course to train and employ local Zambians in reaching the villages of their own country. We have 9 signed up so far. Pray for Power in the training, and even more Power as they minister in the villages.
All Nations CPX outreach team will be arriving soon – we desperately need :
- A Team Leader – to be out in the villages with the teams, guiding them and providing long term continuity.
Pray for Thad and Mary May – our Long Term staff who are trying to get their finances in order so they can return to Zambia. And most of our Zambian staff need financial sponsors as well.
Praise God, our Educate Africa Initiative is going well. We sent about 25 upper grade students to school, the parents are working on a community garden to support the project long term, and we are teaching 30 plus kids the Story of God every week for 9 months!