Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
February 11, 2001
Our oldest son Matt spent the first three weeks of January in the fascinating
country of Zambia, in Africa. Zambia was formerly Northern Rhodesia. Matt was invited
to Zambia by his seminary classmate, Alfred Kalembo, a native of Zambia, and like Matt
a student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.
Matt reports many surprises there. The first was discovering that his friend Alfred was quite a VIP in his homeland. Upon arriving at the airport in Lusaka, they were treated like important diplomats and were quickly escorted through customs. Then they were greeted by about 40 people with a choir of women singing songs of greeting in their native Tonga tongue.
Matt was stunned and impressed as Alfred’s friends warmly welcomed them while Christian music was being played over the airport sound system. Everyone wanted to shake their hands.
Later, after arriving at the guesthouse of the national headquarters of the Pilgrim Wesleyan Church, Matt learned that his good friend Alfred was not merely a leader of this church. He was "the" National Superintendent of this denomination, having served as its head for six years before leaving in 1998 to study in America at Asbury. So Matt shared the gracious enthusiasm with which Alfred’s friends greeted him as he returned home for a brief visit.
On his first Sunday Matt was privileged to preach in Lusaka at Munali Pilgrim Wesleyan Church. I will let him describe the surprise he experienced there: "The praise and worship service with the people stirred my soul. The church had no beautiful organ or grand piano but they did have a keyboard, an electric guitar, and a bass guitar. But often the singers sang a cappella and harmonized like trained professionals. Since I am able to make little more than ‘a joyful noise’ when I sing, I was astounded at how beautifully all the people could sing," Matt said.
After worship Matt was surprised again when the people not only greeted the pastor, but also one another. "Once they had shook hands with you they formed a line going out the door so that the last person out shook hands with everyone else who attended the service that day," he said.
And unlike Americans, Matt noted, no one seemed concerned about the length of the worship service. "The people seemed truly hungry to worship together and were not in a hurry to leave."
The next day Matt and Alfred journeyed, over bad roads with many potholes, to the remote village where Alfred had grown up.
"The look on Alfred’s mother’s face made me forget the bumpy roads. She was so excited to see her son and her joy was contagious as the whole village came out to celebrate the arrival of their favorite son."
While eating the watermelon they were served, Matt noticed a skinned goat laying in the shade of a tree so he assumed they would have barbecued goat for their meal. But again he was surprised when there was no goat meat served. Instead they enjoyed what is a special dish, a delicacy served only on special occasions, goat intestines. "It was a very special, and tasty, meal, which we all enjoyed," Matt observed.
Matt learned that for the villagers there is usually only one meal a day, the evening meal. "In the morning the people get up and go about their chores without breakfast. Then lunch is whatever berries or roots they can find. After a full day’s work the family sits down for a meal."
Matt had many other observations about his life-changing journey, and concluded his report with this comment:
"Zambia is the most impoverished country I have ever been in, and I have visited over 50 countries in my lifetime. But the Zambian people are trying to rise above their circumstances and trust God for a better life. The Christians believe that God wants them to share the gospel of Christ not only with the people in the eight countries that surround them, but with the rest of the world as well. What a wonderful spirit these people have!"
And what a thrill to me, his dad, and his mom, for our son to be blessed with such a journey, laden with marvelous surprises! We have never met Alfred Kalembo but we can’t wait to meet him and give him a good old Alabama bear hug!