Closer Than a Brother

Just several weeks into the new year and I already find myself looking at the rest of the year and asking many questions: “What will keep us focused this year? What will supersede all the challenges and distractions that will come our way? How will I know that we know we are doing the right thing when many people will suggest we should do it differently or, even worse, when that voice comes in tough times and taunts ‘Are you sure?’ ”

In Habakkuk 2 verse 2 we read, “Then the Lord answered me and said, ‘Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.’” Although I absolutely believe this should be taken literally, I also believe we should be able to write the vision on the tablets of our hearts. That is the only place that can answer the voice begging, “Are you sure?” In early January I spent some time with James Tembo from Zambia. James, his wife and a handful of volunteers are working in a slum area called Mulenga where they care for the dying and orphans. Something so amazing happened while I was there that I believe it added a chapter to the tablets of my heart.

It was a hot African summer afternoon as the two of us followed the narrow, red dusted and twisting road to get to the volunteers waiting for us. James had asked me to come and encourage the volunteers. Whenever I enter communities like Mulenga, I nearly always feel a combination of being at home and yet also questioning all the priorities of my life. Something was about to be written on the tablets of my heart...

A young girl of about twelve came running up to us, and as she reached us she did such an un-African thing! She jumped through the air and flung herself into the arms of James while she yelled with joy. My first thoughts as I watched this were, “I did not know James had a daughter of that age.” Surely no other child would have done that... not to a male. I never saw such a thing in all my years working in Africa. James could see I was puzzled and started to explain to me. He and the volunteers spoke about child care and the importance of doing it right. They discussed a certain kind of relationship in their culture called “mwac” (pronounced mm-wack). The closest explanation they could give to me to describe this relationship is “deeper than a brother”. This is how the volunteers in Mulenga would like to see their care of the broken and lost children in their community.

Later that day, after I tried to encourage the volunteers, we gathered together with all the children. As I watched them I remembered the verse in Proverbs, “Someone that sticks closer than a brother”. I tried to hold the tears back but then I thought of that girl who flung herself into James’ arms; I released them and thought “we are a generation that rewrites norms and relationships!” I am on the right road and it is well with my soul!! At Hands we want people to experience the “mwac” relationships. We want God to write on the tablets of our hearts. What could happen if many of us dare to have “mwac” relationships with those who are broken and lost?