Our last day in Zambia was full of constrasts — and Lusaka’s traffic jams! We shopped at the mall with the rest of the 1% and looked over an unpaved alley full of vendors. We had our last baked beans for breakfast, lunch on a posh balcony, and had a farewell dinner at The Retreat — a poolside eatery inside a walled suburban tract.
While sitting in traffic we had a lot of time to check out the sites. One of the surprises was to see three large mosques in the downtown area. During lunch, I asked our guest, the district overseer for the BIC in Lusaka, if he felt the impact of Muslims in Lusaka. He immediately became more animated. He told us that big spenders were coming in (reportedly from the Middle East and Indonesia, we heard) to put up big new meeting places. To go with them, they attach free schools and often free clinics. Poor people, mostly Christians at some level, are taking advantage of the free gifts, since they have nothing else. Soon their children are followers of Islam. This is the strategy: convert the children of Zambia, village by village.
We told him that some people in the U.S. doubt the evangelistic value of MCC, which supplies our compassionate mission, complete with schools and health care components. They think the ministry of the word is enough. He was flabbergasted. He could not understand how the spoken and enacted word could ever be separated, and reinforced that the BIC in Zambia consider MCC and the BIC to be one movement. Then he quoted the word to us as a final admonition: “If you have done it to the least of these you have done it to me” (Matthew 25). Works of compassion are the first steps of evangelism; isn’t that why the Lord’s teaching often follows an act of healing or dispossession?
I received his admonition. But as a church planter, I have to admit, my competitive juices also began to flow. Will we actually concede Southern Africa, where we have been supporting successful church planting for over 100 years, to the Muslims? Have we conformed to the world so completely that we would follow liberal irreligiousity or conservative protectionism instead of following Jesus, who is waiting for us to unite his resources in the cause of redemption? We have capable partners already in Zimbabwe and Zambia, I have learned. But they certainly don’t have our resources — or those of the local imam’s apparently!
The other Africa posts:
First thoughts from Zimbabwe
Being poor is tough
Going around doing good
Coming up against the powers
The food chain
The work of the Lord
Showing God’s love in practical ways