I woke up this morning with this question in my mind. Not in some kind of deep, existential angst kind of way. I am way too pragmatic minded for that sort of thinking, and I definitely would need more coffee before I boarded that train of thought. Rather, why am I here in Africa, in Zimbabwe, at Eden Children’s Village? My being here didn’t just happen, it took years to get here and those of you who know my family know the story, I won’t get into that, maybe later if anyone wants to hear it. The easy Sunday School answer is, yes, ‘Jesus,’ but now that I am here, why am I here? I mean, why me, why here, what difference am I making here? I know, right? Urg.
I think perhaps most of us would like answers to those questions. Sometimes I find myself sitting in the house getting sort of anxious about things, worried about tomorrow, wondering what difference am I making and then I go outside, jump on my bike and take off down the trail to the farm. As I dodge rocks and small children on the path all the anxieties melt away. Each smiling kid who puts out their hand for me to high five, I’m going to totally bite it one day high fiving a kid, takes some of my worries away and in no time I’m reminded of why I am here. I’m here to love the people in whatever ways I can. I’m a jack of all trades, not a nurse or doctor, not a preacher, not a counselor, not a business man. I muck about in all kinds of things, plumbing, carpentry, woodworking, welding and metal work, whatever the job requires. How is this for the Kingdom?
What I am good at is working with the men, the builders. I have become good friends with one man in particular, Lameck Guveya, the foreman. We talk together a lot about life and work. Ian told me a few months ago that if it weren’t for me, Lameck would be away in an offshoot strange church that has some very weird doctrinal ideas and would likely have multiple wives by now. And yet, when we left Zimbabwe last year and I told everyone that we’d be back, he believed me and told everyone that I was coming back, even when nobody else believed me. He prayed that we’d come back and continues to fast and pray that we will be allowed to stay. He leads the men at work and in a devotion time every morning.
A couple weeks ago when I was building the stairs at the new orphan house Lameck came into the house and got angry when he saw the boys there, ‘disturbing his jobsite,’ He yelled at them and chased them off. I tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen. I was mad. The next day he came into the house and saw there were no boys around and I told him that I was very angry with him. He was shocked. I told him I wanted to hit him with a hammer the day before I was so mad. I told him about how the boys were helping me, that they were spending time with me and I wanted to hang out with them, that I was teaching them and loving their company, that they are why Eden Children’s Village exists. It isn’t here to give him, or any of us, a job. It is here to take in unwanted and unloved kids and give them love and security in the name of Jesus. I told him that I understand that Shona culture is very patriarchal, that the Baba, the father, rarely if almost never, apologizes, but he had better go find Inguananyasha, I have no idea how to spell his name still, and tell him that he is sorry. Lameck was out the door like a shot and ten minutes later I saw him walking back to the house with about a dozen kids around him, laughing and talking. He came in, all smiles and apologized to me, telling me that he’d found the boy and told him he was sorry and invited him back to the jobsite to help build the stairs.
Lameck later told me that Shona men, 75% he said, will never apologize for anything. They are always right, but he understands that that is not a good way to live. That it is important to tell people you have made a mistake and that you’re sorry, even, or especially, to children.
Last week Lameck told me that one day the whole building crew was over at the orphanage finishing some concrete work and when tea time came he told the men that they would be playing football, soccer, with the kids. The men were to leave their steel-toed gumboots on to slow them down, but be very careful not to step on any children’s toes. He said they played for 20 minutes of their 30 minute break and the kids and the men loved it. Lameck told me that he wanted the men to remember why they are at Eden. They are here for the kids. The kids are the most important people at Eden.
This morning as I think about the immigration conundrum that we are in, thinking about why I am here, I think about my friend Lameck. He’s a great guy with a big heart for the children. He and his wife have 3 children of their own and have taken in 5 Eden kids as well. He buys treats out of his own money for the kids, buys extra food, he takes on extra jobs on weekends, to care for all the kids in his house.
Why am I here? Yes, Jesus. But I’m here for the children at Eden, to make sure they have safe and secure housing, and I’m here for Lameck and for whoever else wants my help. It is not about me.