With a theologically rich curriculum and a highly qualified line-up of teachers, probably the greatest lesson that was learned during this year’s Muzha wa Yesu Seminar (Slave of Jesus) was from a turtle. We have about 40 men representing 12 churches and about 4 different Zambian tribes here all month for the leadership seminar. Living in a culture much like the culture of the Bible, there are several food taboos present. For the Kaonde tribe, eating a turtle and other reptiles is considered unclean. However, one of the men at the seminar from the Lunda tribe, which has no food taboos, brought with him a turtle to eat. It was a big deal that none of the Kaonde would eat it, but no one minded him eating it. It came time for the Lunda man to cook it, but he had no pot. So one of his Kaonde friends brought him a pot from his village and the Lunda man cooked and ate the turtle. The next morning another Kaonde man approached me who was not part of the seminar or a Christian. This man was from the same village that the pot was taken, and he insisted that I introduce him to the man that cooked the turtle. Not knowing his intent and honestly thinking he was just interested in meeting the man, I introduced them. Quickly I realized as the Kaonde man spoke in a loud and angry voice that he had a serious problem with the Lunda man eating the turtle. The problem was that the turtle was cooked in that Kaonde man’s pot, making it unclean, and prohibiting the Kaonde man to never use the pot again. So the Lunda man and the man that brought him the pot discussed the issue with me. After discerning how to respond, the two men (Christian leaders I might add) went and apologized to the wronged man promising to replace the pot. However, they needed 2 days to get enough money to buy a new pot. The wronged man was not happy with the solution stating that there would be no forgiveness unless the pot was replaced that day. The two men came back to me and asked if they could borrow some money to buy the pot and told me what the wronged man had insisted. The wronged man is not a Christian, but I had been studying with him for a few weeks; and I had also given him a loan for which I had forgiven a good portion of it because I knew it would take him a long time to pay it back. At this point, I saw a teaching opportunity and confronted the man with the story of the unmerciful servant. The conclusion was that he would give the men the 2 days they needed to repay the pot. Thinking this is all solved, the next afternoon the wronged man waited 2 hours for me to finish class so he could speak to me. He said he wanted to talk with me and the men that owed him the pot. He sat down with us and told us that he had been thinking a lot about the issue and decided that his relationship with the men and I was more important than the pot. From there he told the men that they were forgiven, and there was no need to replace the pot. It almost put me in tears.
I reflected with the two Christian leaders helping them see how their Christ-like response had opened the door for this unbeliever to learn a lesson that will certainly give inroads to his knowing Christ. So it’s clear that God works through all things…even a turtle!