"Is this the way to Amulo?" Sounds like a really annoying song that was out (again) a few years ago. Actually, it was what I found myself saying quite a lot in a car whilst bouncing on roads, that had more potholes than road, just outside Kitwe in the Copperbelt mining region in central Zambia.
My wife, Allison, and I had just left a conference hosted by Hands at Work, an amazing organisation - actually, more of a family - who support projects all across sub-Saharan Africa that are actively reaching and serving widows, orphans and vulnerable children. Now the conference was over and we were off to Amulo for a community stay: the chance to stay with a local household and spend 24 hours with a family.
When we finally found Amulo, we found a community of around 3,000 people: no school, lots of child-headed households, widows, orphans, young men who were drunk at three in the afternoon and, at first sight, what appeared to be a hope-forsaken place.
As we walked the streets with Pastor Boyd and another church leader (Webby), our impression began to change. Here were men who loved God and who loved people, who made friends with drunks and those who were sick and dying. We discovered home-based care workers (volunteers) who had nothing themselves, but gave everything. We played with kids who had no shoes, but had the life of Christ in their eyes.
After we had walked the community, we had a meal with the pastor and his wife and were captivated by their beautiful two-year-old daughter whose name meant "peace". We’d been taught how to "bucket bath" and so were apprehensive, but ready. What we were not prepared for was sitting down together after dinner and the pastor saying, "Do you know we have relatives who won’t visit us because of where we live, but you have come from the UK and are willing to stay in our home. This is a privilege for us!" There were tears in his eyes!
We were speechless: we were the ones who felt honoured. The privilege was ours to spend 24 hours in the home of this family. It is something that will live with us for a very long time. The grace we encountered, the spirit of service and sacrifice was both humbling and inspiring.
Now, as we as a church embark on a journey with this community, we pray that we will meet Christ more and more as we look into the eyes of the child, the widow, the vulnerable and the amazing people who are responding to the call of God and bringing hope and help to places like Amulo.
We pray that more and more churches find an "Amulo" and begin a journey of transformation and hope.