October 13, 2012
Chikumbuso is light in a dark place. Darkness doesn’t like to be displaced.
Just before Linda returned to the US, she said to me, “Watch out for jealousy. It’s a terrible thing here.”
People can be jealous anywhere, anytime, this isn’t something endemic to Zambia. But I’ve discovered that in a place where people aren’t sure that justice is always going to be fair to them or to others, jealousy can move beyond a feeling into actions that are meant to exert power over their ‘enemies.’ A Zambian friend told me, “Jealousy here drives a person crazy until they can push the person they hate into the streets and insult them and make fun of them in front of the whole community.”
We are so very fortunate at Chikumbuso to have leaders whose integrity is available to be seen any time by any one. If ever an accusation has arisen of not performing their tasks and responsibilities to the letter, they have been willing investigated by their peers in the group and over and over found to be blameless in all their work. What a rare and beautiful thing!
However, as we have grown, jealousy has grown right alongside the good things that God is doing – educating orphans, giving women a chance to have community when they are HIV positive and work alongside each other with encouragement. Some in the community have celebrated this, but others have thought, “Why should some do well and be happy? They should remain poor and lost just as we all are.” To push everyone to the lowest common denominator is sadly a reason so many communities can’t shake poverty – material and spiritual.
This has eaten away at someone’s heart until they decided to take action this past week.
An arrangement was made by a local community member to divert meal being delivered to grandmothers by our students and then have the local police confiscate it and arrest Maureen. This was done. On returning from the immigration office on Wednesday, I found the entire Chikumbuso community standing outside flabbergasted at what had happened. Police were waiting to take me and Gertrude to the police station.
We had an entirely strange and un-Zambian encounter at the police station. The demand was to fire Maureen or face further consequences – up to arrest of the leadership and government shut down. We refused to comply on such scanty evidence. God miraculously was at work and we left with our meal and dear Maureen. But we all felt we hadn’t heard the last of it.
On Friday morning, the same community member came to Chikumbuso and insulted all the widows and warned, “By tonight, Beauty, Maureen, Mary and Gertrude will be in the cells.”
Shortly after, the police came and arrested our day guard, Mr. Banda.
We prayed like crazy. We called our local board member to come and assist.
This is when things began to change. The head investigator of the station came upon all this happening and took over the case. He went to Chikumbuso and searched Gertrude’s house. Beauty offered to have him come to her house. Mary offered to open her house. Mind you, the police here have to produce a search warrant; our leaders, full of the integrity that Christ has grown in them over the years, offered to be searched though the police had no right to do so.
At the end of the day, the head investigator congratulated us on the good work happening at Chikumbuso, cleared Chikumbuso of all allegations and released our guard. He also gave Gertrude his personal cell number in case she has any issues. He said, “Many people give lip service to their faith, talking, talking, but here Jesus’ work is being done.” Our end was much better than our beginning.
But here is the troubling thing. A community member has been this jealous of the leadership. This jealousy has only been thwarted, and is most likely growing in anger rather than congratulating us on avoiding their plan for a second time. This is where we can use help. We need your prayers.
Many think that when someone says, I’ll pray for you, it’s just an excuse to do nothing. But I personally agree with Ghandi,
When every hope is gone, when helpers fail and comforts flee, I find that help arrives somehow from I know not where. Supplication, worship, prayer are no superstition; they are acts more real than the acts of eating, drinking, sitting or walking. It is no exaggeration to say that they alone are real, all else unreal.
All this comes at a time when our leaders are feeling under tremendous pressure in personal circumstances.
Maureen, HIV positive for over eleven years, raising all her nieces and nephews, taking care of her sick mother for ten years – this and more has taken a toll on her health. She was just out of the hospital with extreme high blood pressure when all this happened. She said, “If I had gone into the cells, I know I would have died.”
Gertrude has lost way too many family members this summer. Her beloved niece, Precious, is experiencing heart trouble. Precious is a Chikumbuso graduate – she is young at 25 to be experiencing such things. The doctor told her the other day, “I can’t tell you when you are going to die, but you could blow up any time.” So much for bedside manner.
Mary’s brother, one of our tailors, Hassan, has been in and out of the hospital with aggressive TB. There has been much strain on her as the breadwinner for her family and the caregiver to her last remaining sibling.
Chikumbuso widows and our tailors constantly face many challenges. They are extraordinary in their ability to bear suffering and sorrow. But the level of challenge they’ve been under the past two months seems beyond even what is ‘normal’ for Zambia. But today, we are all alive, un-jailed and praying.
Please pray – not just for us to be safe and well – but please pray for the community, pray that jealousy can somehow be displaced by love. Please pray specifically for peace with this community member and with our Ng’ombe neighbors. Pray the widows, students and grandmothers can continue to come to us for medicine they can’t get from the clinics as the clinics have empty shelves and food for their families. Pray for our students to continue to focus on their education and to see in themselves the possibilities of their own future leadership in this country.
We all feel very sorry that the good work that God has done and is doing at Chikumbuso has driven someone to such lengths. However, we continue to give back to our community, we continue to remember to do for others. This challenge isn’t going to stop us from surrendering to God and continuing to be available to him so that light continues to shine out in Ng’ombe.
Thank you, all, so very much for your friendship, prayers, sponsorship, and support!
Executive Director, Zambia