“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”
(Ephesians 1: 7)
Extraordinary artwork and impressive contemporary sculptures fashioned from stone and iron adorn the guesthouse outside of Lusaka, Zambia. Breathtaking watercolors depicting leaping antelopes, massive cape buffaloes, and tear-stained cheetahs framed in their natural habitats cover the billiard room and picturesque clubhouse alongside the tennis courts. Hardly a leaf is allowed to hang out on the manicured lawns, and the view across the lake as it shimmers in the morning light beckons stillness and contemplation.
The owners of this 10,000 acre preserve are transplanted Europeans who have adopted Africa as their homeland. The couple treated us like old friends, welcoming us like favored guests with a scrumptious feast laid out in our honor. Later, when we returned from an exhilarating two-hour safari ride, they openly expressed grief at the sudden loss of a beloved colleague. He had taken his own life by suicide; his youngest daughter discovered her father’s body. We tried to comfort them, offered to pray, but they graciously declined. “I am not good at that sort of thing,” the wife explained. “You do it for us on your own.”
We had made our way to this preserve after spending days with our leadership partners from across the continent of Africa. Crowded together in a sparsely furnished room with bare, unattractive walls, we had spent days talking, sharing God’s Word, encouraging and equipping each other in the various ministries God had assigned. We dialogued about hardships, challenges, routine shortage of funds, dangers associated with ministering in hostile environments, and the lack of sufficient, competent workers available to manage the heavy workload. Stress compounded the daily responsibilities of handling family life while simultaneously coordinating the demands of co-workers and ministry partners.
And yet, the contrast of the wealthy preserve owners and our African partners were as obvious as the colors of the blazing Zambian sunset as it ricocheted its orange-pink clouds across the tranquil lake. Here were two worlds in contrast. The poverty stricken ones were the landowners with their accumulated treasures oblivious to the Creator God shouting to get their attention through the breathtaking landscapes and majestic animals darting across their compound. The men and women sacrificing for the cause of the Gospel, surrendering their agendas to the call of Almighty God, giving up their own material comforts to bring his comfort and aid, regardless of the heavy cost involved, were squarely in the company of the richest people on earth.
Our team hung with two different sets of dedicated people this week. We will continue praying for both.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell