22 December 2008

10 Things I Took For Granted

With only 9 days to New Year, I look back at this year which has flown by and last year as well, and all I see is nothing but God’s grace and love to me.

God’s grace, in that I deserve death, and yet for all that I’ve done wrong and for all the blunders and mistakes I have made in my life, for they are many, God has shown me twice as much mercy. For every mistake, two blessings, and that’s really the definition of grace.

God’s love, in that I am so privileged. I spent over two years away from home, in South Africa, and in those times I learnt many things which I want to compile under the head, “Things I learnt away from home.” Those things have shown me just how privileged I am.

In SA, God has withdrawn a significant portion of his common grace. Proper churches are few and far between. In the town where I stayed, There was no Baptist Church, such a huge contrast from Lusaka and Zambia as a whole where, if you throw a stone, You’ll either hit a Baptist minister or break a Baptist church window!

Not in Nelspruit, SA, the hub of Mpumalanga Province. The only Baptist church there has within its four walls, a single race and a single language, namely Afrikaans, the language of the white South African.

The church I attended was very small, in comparison, of course, to my home church. It was also dead, in comparison to my home church.

One service each Sunday, a midweek prayer meeting in the morning, attended only by retirees who are the only people free at 10hrs in the morning and a men’s meeting once every two fortnights. There was a cell meeting attended by a few church members but I did not once register it as a church midweek programme because in a church where 90% are white, no white person from church ever attended our cell. The average age group of the church, was, I’d guess, around 60. Pastor Steve, himself, is over 70 years old, with the physique of a man 20 years his junior. The church had no youth ministry and no evangelism outreach. I am reliably informed that things have only gotten worse now and it breaks my heart.

Now with a background like KBC where church life is as busy and active as a beehive, this was zero. I felt like one second I was running at full speed down a long, downhill highway and suddenly, the next, I was lying in a bed. Adrenaline pumping and panting for breath and yet, still lying in bed. What a feeling it was! For those of you who don’t exercise, driving a car at 200km/hr, and then suddenly driving at 10km/hr, a total anti-climax.

10 Things I took for granted:

  1. The sound preaching of God’s word. My dad is pastor of the church of which I am a member so taking for granted the sound peraching of God's word, was worse. We pastor's children are surrounded by alot of high expectations from those around us and on that final day, God will require from us more than he will from any other something something's child because we sit under the minister's nose each day of our dependent life. Anyway, when excellent preaching becomes a norm, you take it for granted. I found, in the town where I was, a brother some members of our church will remember, Mickey Chikwabe. Mickey was literally starving, spiritually. It was only when he discovered that you could download great sermons from the net, that he was revived. I remember when I returned home for a short while, I heard my dad preach and it was music to my ears! I drank in every word and could not stop smiling and thanking God.
  2. Hymns & Zambian congregational singing. At the church I attended in SA, we sang 50% contemporary hymns and 50% good old hymns. Its not that the contemporary hymns and choruses where meaningless, they were excellent and I wish we could start singing some in our churches but I just missed the good old hymns we sang 100% back home, the hymns I grew up singing. I also missed the thunderous singing. I came back home and I could feel the passion of the congregation as we sang and couldn’t help but wish we could sing like that forever and ever and ever. Heaven will be a blast!
  3. Youth Fellowship. There existed no youth fellowship when I got to our church in SA, but we started one. Apparently there were attempts to restart it several times in the past but to no avail. In a church having 90% white folks only 0% white youths, attended our youth meetings. I am reliably informed that the ministry is not doing well and has closed its meetings for the festive season.
  4. Open doors. In SA our church was in a, I’d say, middle class area, the majority of the families in the neighbourhood, were white. We formed an evangelism team that went out after the church service for one hour. Out of a church of 90% white folks, 0% attended the outreach on Sunday, and we really needed some white folks! After a while a blessing, in form of one white, 14 year old girl, joined us. She added colour to our all black group. We had been praying for white folks to join our crew and had been inviting them Sunday after Sunday, not one person apart from that girl joined us. She had an older sister and two parents who attended our church but she is the only one who answered our call. It was important to us that we have colour in our team if we were going to evangelise in the area around the church because most of the whites were uncomfortable with black people standing outside there gate. It was tough because none of the whites let us in and most of the blacks were poor at English. In our whole team, none of the blacks were indigenous South Africans. We had 5 Zambians, 3 men, 2 female and 2 Ghanaians, both male. The white residents didn’t want us and we could not communicate effectively to the blacks who worked for the whites. Those people who would let you talk to them were as rare as diamond, and I’m serious. When you found someone who was willing to listen you cancelled all your plans and feasted on such an opportunity. If you were supposed to marry your fiancee that same day, you rang her up and said, "Honey, halt! Postpone the wedding! I have found someone willing to listen to the gospel! We can marry some other time." I only entered one house in over a year of evangelistic efforts! You can imagine how crazy I was about evangelism when I got back home, every evening I’d head out there and evangelise. When I began school here, I’d head out to Lusaka Trades as often as my parents would let me. I had finally found open doors. (It’s a shame that many people will read this and get convicted of there lack of diligence in the work of evangelism and yet do nothing about it. I know this because, we all know how privileged we are in Zambia were open doors scream at you and yet we do not maximize on them.)
  5. Sanity. You don’t need an imagination in SA. All the women in the streets will show you everything you want to see. With tight clothing, open bosoms, and skirts which look like they were made for people half their age, the dressing in SA is blinding. Nudity is the norm, in the work place, at the mall, in restaurants and at church. I played lots of soccer in SA, Monday and Thursday evenings. But whenever I checked the soccer pitch on weekends and holidays, none of the chaps were there. I soon discovered that every weekend and holiday was set aside for sin. Partying, drinking, orgies, my goodness, God have mercy on that Nation! Pregnant girls all over the place. You cannot live in SA for a year with out getting in contact with a pregnant girl or one who has a child, you just can’t. Either at the work place or school, even church, you are bound to find yourself relating to a girl having a child out of wedlock. I recall my first evening in SA. I was at the dinner table having supper with my new family. I was so appalled with what I heard on the news, “Man rapes his seven month child.” I look around me expecting to see someone faint at such horrid news but no, someone even reached for another helping! Before I knew it, I was the one asking for seconds at such news, because you hear those headlines each and every day! Zambia is heading that way, unfortunately. Mickey loves to say that Zambian ladies are more beautiful than SA ladies, what he actually means is that the decency of Zambian girls make them more appealing and attractive than SA ladies.
  6. Opportunity to serve and use my gifts. I thank God for my church more than ever. A place where I can sing and play guitar and write in newsletters and organise camps and concerts and youth meetings. I took all these things for granted. It was difficult in SA because, I was new there and I was not even sure whether or not I was a member, as there is no welcoming of new members, at least not publicly. Anyway, the opportunity to use and be used in a vibrant church is awesome! I now savour every second and work more diligently.
  7. Home. On a more personal level, I have gotten to know myself a lot better over the past two to three years. I am now sure who I am, what I like doing, where I like to be and with whom. The search for myself and for identity has come to an end. It is through this discovery of me that I found out that I hate new places and I am not too enthusiastic about new people. So being away from home for extended periods of time is not my cup of tea. When talks with my parents were concluded and it was a done deal, I wasn’t going back to SA, I was ecstatic! After being home for about half a year now, the prospect of going to visit my SA home excites me because, I do have a home in SA now. But I just love home and the people at home can see it, I am having a blast!

I thought I’d make it to 10 but I can’t remember other things I took for granted or perharps I've run out of steam so, I’ll end here.