It’s been a crazy 10 days. I have witnessed (and experienced) injustice in a real tangible way. I was often at a loss for words when I explained to people in the US that I would be fighting injustice in Africa through music. This week and half has totally given me a new perspective on what it is I am doing here.
Let me briefly summarize the incidents that I am talking about here:
1) My co-leader of the Music Academy plays flute for a local 5-star hotel. Swankiest (is that word?) place in Livingstone. Draws big paying crowds from all over the world. He has worked there for twelve years. He was told 10 days ago, on Friday, that the management had decided all the musicians were either going to take a 40% pay cut or be cut from their position. Because… they can’t afford them?!?
2) The next day, Saturday, the former location of the Music Academy had a break-in. It was the last day of the contract with the security company. Guess who was the prime suspect? The night guard. He was found inside… charging his phone. There was nothing taken, because we had moved all of our equipment and instruments to the new location. But really? The guard who was supposed to protect …
3) Our missionary partners and friends here in Livingstone have been plagued with vehicle problems for about as long as they have been in the country (3 years). They had just spent an exorbitant amount of money on getting engine parts repaired, requiring towing halfway across the country, vehicle rentals, as well as airplane flights to the city where the work was being done. On Sunday, just before a trip to the capital city to take care of dental needs, they found that the engine needed work again. So their trip included a new vehicle purchase… after they already spend so much on repairs.
4) On Tuesday, our Livingstone ministry team was traveling to join the other half of our organization in the town of Choma, about 2 hours away, for a wedding reception celebration for two of our American co-workers. We hired two buses and drivers to get us there. On the way, the bus I was in was pulled over by the police, an hour from our destination. The reason was that the driver had forged his license plate because he wasn’t technically licensed to drive this style of vehicle. We spent the next two hours at the police station waiting for them to sort out the situation. Meanwhile the celebration was delayed waiting for us.
5) On the return home trip, the same bus broke down 25 minutes outside of the town we had just left. The drivers argued with our people about the payment for their services, even though the service was not completed. They had to pay their boss the fees received, but we had already used those fees to pay the police fines earlier. Everything took so long, we could no longer travel because it was getting dark (you don’t want to take public transportation at night time in Africa). So we had to travel back and spend the night, including making an unplanned (and unbudgeted) dinner.
6) Back to our missionary friends: after purchasing a new vehicle on Friday and sending the rest of the family home, the father was waiting until the next morning to finalize the purchase paper work. Saturday morning, his bag was stolen out of his new car which included his wallet, passport, phone, and the bill of sale for this new vehicle. Because it was a weekend, the proper people at the police station couldn’t begin an investigation. Until Monday.
Now most of these “personal” injustices are really just inconveniences. Expensive, yes. Frustrating? Definitely. But we’ll pick up and carry on. We may have to fight the feelings of entitlement that we “earned” a day off after the frustrations. Or we deserve extra screen time to “escape”. Or we are justified in our grumpy, snarky attitudes towards our children. Not that THAT EVER happens…
The true injustice is behind the scene. It’s the systems that cause people to lose their jobs because of greed. It’s the poverty mentality that urges a guard to see what he can get away with. It’s the desperate need to earn an income that makes a driver cut corners to take a job. It’s a culture that shrugs it’s shoulders at crimes against the “wealthy muzungu (white man).”
Though the music academy, we seek to empower our students not just with a skill but with a relationship with Jesus Christ that shows them that they can have honor, integrity, respect, and courage. They experience His love through us. They grow up knowing the Jesus loves them because of the music academy and the other programs they participate in here. Then when they grow up and move into the business world, or use their skills in a trade, they won’t treat their customers or their employees this way. They will be the start of a shift in the culture that treats others with dignity, that goes out of their way to help, that shares with the needy around them.
But during these moments of injustice, did I stop to address the greatest injustices? Because it didn’t fit in my 9-to-5 planned program, was it to inconvenient to tell the driver that Jesus loves him? Was it too much to go and visit the night guard while he was in a holding cell as the police sorted out the details? How much does it take to forgive the police for not being there when we felt we needed them?
The greatest injustice is that these people don’t know that Jesus loves them. That He gave His life so that they wouldn’t have to be separated from Him forever. This is what it means to Seek Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly. I know my purpose and my role, my calling to fulfill that standard.
Now… How about you?