Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Mechanic for a Rusty Minibus

A Mechanic for a Rusty Minibus
a new parable by Tricia

There once was a grand city that sprawled as far as the eye could see when the air was clear. It was absolutely full of people.  And because of all the people it was also full of small shops, big shops, small houses, big houses, airtime shacks, petrol stations, all on bumpy roads. And most of all it was full of minibuses to take the people from the houses to the shops and back again. And all the buses had clever or strange or controversial names and pictures on the back which made the drivers feel special and powerful, one of a kind.

A young man looked around at the grand city and thought, "I will make something of myself. I will be as grand as this city. I will be a minibus driver and control my own destiny." He worked hard at a job repairing cracked mirrors and finally saved enough money to buy his own rusty minibus. He thought, "Surely if I can repair mirrors I can repair anything. I'll keep this rusty old minibus going all day long until the day I die." He had a printer make a big sticker for the back window of his bus. It said in all caps "SUCCESS." That was the name of this bus that he loved so much and the decal covered half the back window. He bought a pink fuzzy cover for his dashboard and little stuffed animals to hang off the back end. He recruited a Rastafarian conductor to work with him and he chose a nice long road for his daily route.

All day long the minibus driver drove up and down the bumpy road. He felt very powerful and only scared the daylights out of people once in awhile. He was never as drunk as the driver of the "Don't Kubeba" bus and he always played church music on the radio for the old ladies. He only overcharged men wearing full suits and he didn't dodge the police stops like the "Don't Be Jealous" or Spiderman buses. Only three or four times had he run out of petrol and made the passengers pay full fare anyway, though they had to catch a second bus.

At the end of each day, the man had money in his pocket and a smile on his face because he had met his life goal all on his own and was totally in control of his own destiny. Sure, every day he had some repairs to make along the way. Pieces of his minibus would drop off and he would have to stop and re-attach them with wires and such. Smoke would pour from under the hood and he would have to kick all his passengers off while he found a temporary solution. But this didn't bother the minibus driver too much. "That's life," he thought, "I can handle whatever comes my way. And I'm even helping people. I get them places. I'm so great."

One day the man and his conductor pulled off the side of the road as his bus was smoking and his back fender dragged along the ground. The man went about doing what he did best, fixing his own problems.

Another minibus driver pulled up alongside him and said, "Hey friend, it looks like you have a serious problem."
"It's not so serious. And what business is it of yours anyway?" the frustrated man retorted.
"Well, after I drop off these passengers, I could tow you to the Mechanic in town if you'd like."
"Mechanic? Oh yeah, I've heard of him. Some guy who can supposedly fix rusty minibuses. I don't think so. That guy doesn't even exist. You Mechanic-lovers are just too stupid and weak to fix your own bus so you made some kind of weird imaginary friend. If you want your minibus fixed, you've got to do it yourself. That's what I always say."
"Actually, I've been to the Mechanic," said the other driver trying to be helpful, "In fact, he tunes up my bus every morning for free. You don't have to be so patronizing about it."
"Right. As if I would believe anything you say. I'm not a fool. There's no way a Mechanic could fix my bus every morning and he certainly wouldn't do it for free. How arrogant and judgmental to propose that I need any help. You are obviously a liar or insane. Either way, take off. I've got things under control."
"If you say so, Sunshine," said the other driver and left the man to fix up his own bus for the umpteenth time.

It wasn't long before the man and his conductor found themselves on the side of the road again, taping up a cracked windshield that had been knocked by a rock. Another minibus pulled up alongside them and the conductor hopped out. "Looks like you need a new windscreen, buddy."
"I'm taking care of it as you can see," replied the sweaty driver of the SUCCESS.
"You should probably go see the Mechanic. He helps makes these minibuses, you know. He can replace that windscreen for free if you ask him."
"What? Do you think I'm some kind of pathetic charity case? I can take care of these things myself. Besides, there's no way this Mechanic guy is even real. What a load of bologna. He didn't help make my SUCCESS and there's no way he hands out free windscreens. It seems like you're all taking crazy pills if you ask me. You guys are just jealous because of my pretty little SUCCESS. Why don't you stop judging and hassling me and take your Mechanic talk somewhere else?"

So without a word (other than a few choice ones running through his mind) the conductor who had stopped hopped back on his bus and went on his way wondering why on earth people could be so stubborn that they wouldn't even consider trying to talk to the Mechanic.

Then something new happened. The rusty old minibus SUCCESS stopped running and our driver couldn't seem to get it running again. He spent the day on the side of the road, sweating and covered in dust, but no amount of tape, wire, water, grease, or elbow grease for that matter, made any difference. He was tired and thirsty, and very angry. The trusty Rastafarian conductor decided to smoke some dagga and then hitched a ride on another bus to go look for a strong drink. "Good to know he was a true friend," thought the driver. He sat on the ground for a rest and watched other drivers he knew just speed on by.

Finally a driver pulled up alongside. Our driver recognized him as the nosey, judgmental driver who had first told him about the Mechanic months ago. "Oh, great," he thought, "now this jerk is back."
"So, I don't want to interfere but I just thought I'd offer to tow you to the Mechanic, just in case you've decided to try it."
After shooting his most menacing scowl toward the man, our driver said, "Fine, tow me to your stupid Mechanic. But I'm only going because I want to see for myself that you are all a bunch of lying, lazy, hypocrites who can't take care of themselves. I'll put an end to your dangerous agenda once and for all. Now I'll have the proof that what I've always said is true. There's no Mechanic who will do the things you guys say he does. And certainly not for free. There's nothing more important than doing my own thing, and the only person who will fix my problems is ME."

So the friendly driver towed our driver and his suffering SUCCESS through town and our driver sent very clear don't talk to me messages the entire way so it was a quiet ride. They came to the Mechanic and dropped the rusty minibus in a gravel lot right out front of a big tall wall fence with a green gate. At the gate stood a guard.

"How much is this going to cost me?" asked our driver, nervously looking over at the other driver before stepping out of the passenger seat.
"Well, it depends on how you look at it. It's not going to cost you anything. But it also might cost you everything."
"Oh great. See what I mean? You tricked me. What does that even mean? You're all a bunch of weirdos who are just trying to get other people to see things your way. You're worse than the drivers'  union. Everyone said this was a free service, but instead he's probably a con-man who is going to take me for everything I've got."
"Look, just see the Mechanic and hear what he says. You're not committed to anything. You're just going to talk to the Mechanic for goodness' sake!"

With contempt and suspicion in his heart, our self-sufficient and independent driver of the SUCCESS popped the door open and slid out of the minibus whose rear window shown with the decal "Only God Knows." He walked over to the guard with a look of scorn on his face. The guard, however, put out his hand to greet the man and gave him a warm smile. (The driver of "Only God Knows" went on his merry way without any further word from our driver.)

"I'm glad you came," the guard said. "I've been waiting for you."
"Okay, whatever. I'm here to see the Mechanic."
"That's me," said the guard.
"Huh? Why are you standing out here?"
"I like to welcome everyone as they come, I can do my work right here, and besides, unless you know me, you aren't getting through this gate."
"Well, what's through the gate?"
"The Maker," said the gatekeeper. "But it's not time for you to meet with him."
"Well isn't this all so interesting and mysterious. Blah blah blah. I'm just here to see if you'll get my bus running again. And someone told me you would do it for free. At NO cost, mwamvera?"
"Done. But only if you ask me by name and only if you say please," the guard said with a smile and eyes full of intelligence and humor, and most of all a seemingly infinite patience.

This caught the driver by surprise because he expected this guard to be an utter simpleton and a liar to boot. He caught himself wondering if perhaps he even liked the man a bit. This so-called Mechanic. Then he wondered if he even liked anyone really. He hadn't even liked his conductor all that much.

The driver finally replied, "Sounds fine. What's your name then? Out with it."
"My name is Jesus and I am the son of the Maker. When you ask for your minibus to be fixed in my name, I'll take care of it. I was there when that bus was made and I have a purpose for it. That minibus is going to break down plenty, but if you call on me, I'll be there for you and help you keep it running until the time comes to return it to the Maker."
"But what if I want you to fix my SUCCESS this time, and then I never want to come back?"
"That's your choice. I won't make you come back here," replied the gatekeeper. "I keep this gate alone and those who know me will come through when it's time to return their buses to the Maker. Drivers who don't know me go through that gate across the street," he said as he pointed to a wide open gap in a crumbling wall fence. The driver could see nothing through beyond but a dusty football pitch.
"Doesn't look so bad," said our driver with a haughty voice.
"Well, I've been there, and trust me, it sucks," replied the guard.
"Well, this all sounds like a bunch of crap to me. Are you some kind of drug dealer or something? But, whatever, I'll give it a go. I'll try your magic words out. Jesus, I ask in your name that you or the Maker or whoever, would please fix my bus."
"Okay, sounds good. The SUCCESS is ready for you. Remember my name and don't be afraid to use it if you need help. I can hear you whenever you call. I would highly suggest you think all this over because it's in your best interest to get to know me better. But like I said, you aren't obligated to come back."
"But you didn't even do anything," said the driver with an irritated tone of voice.
"Sure I did. Go start 'er up," the gatekeeper said, "But one more thing. I have an owner's manual for that bus if you want to take it with you. At NO charge of course."
"Maybe next time, man. I know everything I need to know about my beautiful SUCCESS."

And the driver went and started 'er up and he heard his rusty old SUCCESS hum like never before, and without so much as a 'thank you' he drove out of the lot and back toward his route.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Children's Ministry Training and Camp with West Hills Community Church and the Champs!

This June we had the privilege and joy of hosting a short-term team from West Hills Community Church (Morgan Hill, CA). This was the biggest team we have personally hosted in the last five years, and the only one with an abundance of teenagers and where we’ve faced massive and unpredictable power cuts of 8-12 hours a day. 

This was also the first team that was “ours.”  Usually we at Ciyanjano host teams for other ACTION Zambia Ministry areas like the HIV program (CROSS) or our pastors’ college (APC). But this team was coming to train the Champs and 15 additional trainees from churches around Lusaka in the Kidzana program for child evangelism and discipleship. And after the training our Champs would stick around and hold a two-day, overnight camp with 60+ children from a local church to practice what they learned. So we were more heavily invested in this team and our responsibilities from long before the team arrived were much greater as well. 

It’s really been more than two years in the praying and planning. And wow. God is good. We had a three-day conference/training where the WHCC team built fast and close relationships with our Champs and the other trainees and then spent a single day with the Champs afterwards to prepare all their lessons and games and illustrations for camp. The training was amazing and we got wonderful feedback from the participants. The Kidzana program is something Zambian churches and Bible Clubs can really put to use.

The next morning a bus-full of singing children from Chisomo Baptist pulled into the campground and the Champs got to lead an amazing camp for the kids. Chisomo brought 20 kids from their church plus another 40 kids from the community that come for games and teaching at their Saturday Bible club. The camp was also a special blessing to our own kids here at Ciyanjano.

The WHCC team took time to debrief with the Champs after each of their lessons, giving feedback and encouragement. At the same time the teens from WHCC would keep the kids busy doing games or playing at the playground. 

The only real downside to the whole week was the lack of electricity much of the time and that it was extra cold. These two things along with a stomach bug going around meant that by Sunday afternoon when the kids went home the Champs were exhausted. But while I was getting the generator to fill up our water tanks, I could hear those unstoppable Champs singing and worshiping while waiting for me to come and dismiss them. We are so proud of them! God truly hand-picked this crew of youth and has created beautiful friendships between them.

All the Champs came back at the end of the week to see the WHCC team off. There was much rejoicing and tears and we were all full of joy and gladness at what God had done with the team and the Champs! Thank you West Hills!!! And thank you to our friends and family praying for this time together. 

This morning I received a letter from the pastor of Chisomo Baptist thanking ACTION Zambia, Ciyanjano and WHCC, “May the Lord richly bless you and the brethren from West Hills Community Church for pouring your financial resources, time and your all into these children.” We also received feedback this morning from one of our Champs who said that she was very excited to train the other three children’s teachers at her church to use the Kidzana program and that the materials are absolutely wonderful. She said, “The training we received on going over memory verses and using object lessons to build the kids’ understanding was so valuable and I can’t wait to teach it to the other teachers.”

We look forward to seeing the results of this training as we move forward with our Champs program and we also pray for good spiritual fruit in the lives of the kids who came to camp. What a great start to “short-term team season” and we are thanking God for his hand on every step and every person involved.

Uncle Kelly lays out the camp rules for the Kidzana Training

Auntie Christina teaching about using object lessons

Making friends!
Auntie Kenzie stepping in to help the guys group get untangled from a game

Blowing off some extra energy playing netball

Chicken and Rice is nice!

Dinner bbq with the trainees and Champs

Uncle Kelly and Auntie Tricia in the Ciyanjano spirit

Aunties Natasha and Sydney!

Auntie Sarah teaching on the Kidzana materials
Training in small groups
Lessons and the Word
Graduation (Uncle Rodgers is pumped for his certificate!)

Planning for Chisomo camp (the Champs really worked hard and late to prep)

The kids arrive!
Auntie Theresa with kids she knows from Chisomo

Auntie Rylie serving up the grub

Crazy giant parachute madness!

Teaching in small groups

Uncles Juma and Richard sharing a moment after teaching

Uncle Abraham leads uncle Rodgers in as a blind man to teach about Jesus healing the man born blind (John 9)

Kids in teaching time

Uncle Abraham and Auntie Theresa teaching in a breakout group

Auntie Kim watching the Champs teach

This little one loved the story of the lost sheep!