Thursday, October 18, 2007

I don't know how many of you watched "Star Trek: the Next Generation," but on that show there was an very sophisticated artificial lifeform, an android name Commander Data. He had a super fast, mega-capacity brain that could take in truckloads of information and process it and analyze it with lightening quick speed and then apply it effortlessly to any given situation that the Starship Enterprise crew found themselves in.
I haven't been able to do that with my trip to Zimbabwe. I'm having to take very small chunks, because it seems that no matter how small it is, I'm able to wring out an infinite amount of valuable information.
The culture was very different over there. The political climate, the assumptions of society, the economic situation, social norms...all very different. But that's not what surprised me most. What surprised me was how much is the same.
An example: I met a man named Edmore. I and the team got quite a bit of time with him during our 4 night stay near Wedza, because he was an employee at Imire Game Park ( and usually served our breakfast and dinner. I really got to know Edmore, and had a few very cool personal and spiritual conversations.
Let me back up by telling you about the Apostolics in Zimbabwe. As we were driving through the capital city of Harare, we would see groups of people in clean white robes either walking along the road, or gathered out in small huddles off the road under a tree or on an outcropping of rocks. When we asked the preachers who they were, they called them "Apostolics". It was explained to us that it is a group that claims Christ, but has the distinction of being polygamists. They are also distinctive, it was explained, because they believe in "prophetic words from God". And, by the way, they wear the white robes because of the description of the saved in the Book of Revelation that says they will all be wearing white robes. So, they figure, hey...let's go ahead and get started! And they meet out in fields under trees, never in church buildings (I'm not sure why...but I like it).
One of my last visits with Edmore included me asking him if he had any kind of church home. He told me he was a part of an Apostolic congregation. I asked him if his group lifted up Christ as the means and point of everything, and if Christlikeness was taught as the goal of humanity and the gift of God, and that the life we have in Christ will last forever. He surprised me by saying yes. I told him what many of my Church of Christ brethren in Zim told me about them, and asked if it was true. He said that the prophetic stuff is true, and that anyone can claim "a word from God" on any point of doctrine or practice, and the result has been many divisions of groups, prophets taking those who agreed with him "to another tree in the field". He said that some of those divisions practice polygamy as a result of this (he used an example of a prophet saying "God gave me a vision that that man should marry those 3 women"). He said there are many sects within the Apostolic church, and gave me the names of a couple, one of which stood against polygamy and another which practiced it. He said that his group was neither, and would better be described as a Christ-centered group.
I told Edmore that the Apostolics sound very much like the Church of Christ in America. That over the years, mere men would claim a "word from God" and then move the group that agreed with him "to another tree" to worship on Sundays. The only difference is that Apostolics claim their particular "word from God" came by the Holy Spirit in a vision, and Church of Christ folks claim that their particular "word from God" came by the Holy Spirit through the Bible. I told him that the church I run around with in Amarillo, TX would better be described as a Christ-centered group, too.
We then shared in humble laughter that most of the divisions of Apostolics in Zimbabwe, and most of the divisions of the Church of Christ in America, would all describe themselves as Christ-centered (just like each of us where doing right there!). Wow. We are all so the same.
Edmore finished our conversation by saying, "I have been thinking about trying to meet with a Church of Christ."
"Why are you considering that?" I asked.
 "You know how you and your team have been preaching Christ? How he needs to take up actual residence in the heat? How he should really be touching our real heart?"
"Yes." I replied.
"Being with your team has touched my heart," Edmore replied.
I told Edmore that that is the only reason I would want him to leave his current group of Christ-followers to meet the groups of Christ-followers that we were running around with. If it would truly help him and his family become more and more like Christ in his life and in his heart.
The next morning, I got up early before we left, and drove Edmore to his humble house where I got to meet his wife and his daughter (he also shares the burden of taking care of his brother's two children due to their parent's death to AIDS). I gave his sweet daughter a little toy that my daughter sent with me to give to some special girl, along with a used jacket and some fruit bars. Her reaction almost brought me to tears.
You see, when you are grateful to someone for something in Zimbabwe, you gently pat your two hands together towards the person you are thanking, almost like applause, only way smaller gestures and gentle enough to make no noise. When you are VERY grateful to someone, you go to your knees and lower your head, and you do the same thing.
So you can see why I about lost it when a used stained jacket, a couple of granola bars, and a McDonalds Happy Meal toy filled this little girl with gratitude enough to go to her knees (you can see it in the attached photo, along with a picture of Edmore and his family).
May God bless this family and help them. May God bless my family and help us. Whether it is by the church group, by the family group, or by the individual man...we are all so the same.

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