Often times, I wish I understood people better. It can be tough for me to make new friends because I don’t like small talk, so it makes me happy when people have that gift. Tafadzwa Chirume is a man in touch with the human scene. To show that, I could point to his outstanding fashion sense, taste in music or thriving marketing business, but I believe that story can be much more convincing than a list.
Last weekend, in the middle of what should have been a twelve-hour bus ride home from outreach in Luanshya, our team stopped in Zambia’s capital city of Lusaka to renew an expired work visa for one of Poetice’s staff. To our surprise and dismay, the immigration office informed us that their qualified bureaucrat wouldn’t be arriving for another six hours. Not wanting our friend and fearless leader to get deported, we found ourselves with little choice but to do what any other group of multiethnic young people would do in an exotic city – we hit the nearest shopping mall! As I made my way back to our bus, tummy almost (but never quite) full of pizza, I noticed a familiar flashy outfit leaning into the driver’s window of a sleek sports car that I hadn’t seen before. Tafadzwa had been chatting with the owners of this vehicle as if they were family or old friends, but my fellow interns were quick to let me know that he had simply strolled over to these strangers and struck up a lively discussion about Zambia’s business and economy. So I’ll reiterate. This twenty-eight-year-old Zimbabwean knows how to present himself and make friends in both his personal and professional spheres.
While Chirume is talented, established and engaging, he doesn’t quite fit the mold (read: Christian bubble) that most of us around here have naturally developed. We’re an extraordinarily diverse group, and no two of our stories are all that similar apart from our life-altering encounters with Jesus and his mission, but Tafadzwa has a background that’s particularly distinct. He recognizes this, self narrating, “I’m so, so different from the other people here. I’m the guy who doesn’t know the verses, but when it comes to anything else, I know.” Without his presence on our team, we wouldn’t be the body we can now claim to be; we wouldn’t be nearly as strong or as able to take matters lightly.
In his earlier years, Tafadzwa gathered from his interactions with the Christian Church that it was an exclusive club, united by hatred for people who followed other religions or who didn’t behave themselves. His objections to those with this approach still exist. “I don’t believe in hate, I believe in love. If you’re a Christian, I believe you’re supposed to love someone, even if they’re a drunk or if they don’t go to church and stuff. That’s why I changed.” In other words, he gave away his Bible and went his own way. This change wasn’t a rejection of God – Tafadzwa continued to pray – but he was done with Jesus and Jesus people. During that season of his life, he did well in school and started a business with his brother that continues to do well today in spite of a Zimbabwean economy that lacks much potential. He also spent a lot of time and energy entertaining his affinity for women, logging plenty of hours at his local disco nightclub and even getting married for a while. Chirume remembers his now four-year-old daughter’s birth as one of the happiest times of his life.
If the story we’re telling here resembled most others’ around these parts, then this would be the part where Tafadzwa went to church, met the real Jesus and then got plugged into stuff with EMIZ and Poetice. But it’s not, so hang with me! In the middle of things, a close family friend told him about a ‘leadership course’ happening just over the border in Zambia. He laughs when speaking about this: “I knew better. I searched on the Internet and quickly found that I was right; that it was a missionary course.” Because of the source of recommendation, Tafadzwa was culturally obligated to do what he could to pursue the program. He initially tried pushing the opportunity off on his younger brother, and they played hot potato for a while, but he eventually registered to come here for the summer. During our first week on base, each of us interns shared our stories with the rest of the group, and I can remember him saying towards the end of his presentation, “The way I live and the way I want to live, will that be possible if I continue in this? If God has something planned, there’s no more running away.” At the bottom of my notes for that session, I have written, “He’s here for a reason.”
And we’ve all seen that he absolutely is. Tafadzwa brings life and joy to this community, but he also challenges us to stand by who we are in Christ. It’s not uncommon for him to ask me why I believe something about the Bible or why I act in a certain way. One of our higher-ups, Musa Mwanza, founder and director of Elijah Mission, recognizes something valuable in Chirume and has taken special interest in developing a mentor relationship with him. Musa’s heartfelt compliments and encouragements for the future have reassured Tafadzwa that God can use anyone, despite who they are or what they’ve done. He looks forward to discovering how he can use his gifts in marketing and finance within a missional context.
So, I promise I didn’t do this twice in a row on purpose, but today happens to be Tafadzwa’s birthday! I made a cute little schedule of those whom I’d like to feature for the rest of my time here, and sort of plopped his name into a slot for this week without a thought of when he was born. We celebrated last night – it was actually honoring three birthdays, all this week. I’m starting to love partying with Zambians; it’s such an outpouring of genuine joy. Following the eating and dancing, though, Tafadzwa read us three Bible verses on community and brotherhood, then proceeded to thank us for taking him in and showing the love of a true family. I praise the Lord for showing my brother that not all Jesus people are about hate; that he’s found this kind of love in God’s arms. We’ve had several opportunities to share that love with the outside community this week. We’re getting back into the swing of weekly ministries, and what excites me about this is that we’ll be focusing on the same handful of people all summer. For instance, on Thursdays, I get to go visit an elderly lady named Lucy who lives with her grandchildren, Caroline and Prince. Spending time with them today, even for the second time, was so special as we traded songs, stories and prayers for each other. In a missions context that characteristically aspires to reach thousands at once, we’re here pouring deeply into wonderful people like Tafadzwa and Lucy, and we’re soaking up every moment. This kind of relational investment doesn’t just happen in Zambia. Thank God for your closest friends today, and don’t be afraid to show real love to someone who could use it.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William McCauley • 2015 International Immersion Intern