They wore their silence like the oldest honorees of the Dead Poets’ Society.
As we walked by them on the back veranda, they didn’t move. They didn’t make a peep. As we turned to walk to the car. They erupted into applause like they were cackling for a most wonderful performance of the Halleluiah Chorus at Christmas.
I turned to Lota. He smiled at me. He said, “One of the hens just laid an egg!”
We continued our intended walk to see the school where he teaches. We turned around a concrete brick wall into a field where 5 or 6 children played. We followed the path across the middle. As we approached the children, they began to wave frantically. We returned their waves with ours, and smiled. As we passed, each one continued their waving and smiling. “Hello! Hi. How are you? Jambo! Habari?” We returned their cheer. We smiled some more.
As we neared the far side of the field, I again heard the elevated children’s voices. I turned to look. They all looked our way, waving their hands as wildly as when they first saw our approach. They continued their ensemble of voices, all directed our way. Furiously, “Bye! See you later!” etc. We again returned their greetings. I noted to Lota the similarity of their enthusiasm to that of the chickens for the hen who had just laid her egg.
I concluded my presentation of business planning concepts with the 30, 40 or 50 people that Pastor Abel had lined up. I suspected that he wanted to make sure that I had a good sized audience. I wondered, however, whether these attendees actually dreamed like aspiring entrepreneurs. After all, my previous attendance for the Christian Enablers’ series averaged, maybe 10 participants.
I finally stopped talking and looked at Mr. Kavishe. He serves as the lead elder in charge, and the head of the Mwangaza Education Center. The place broke into an appreciative applause. I thought of the chickens. Thought some more of the children. I drew an obvious conclusion about the friendly culture in which Lota lived. I only recently penetrated this great society of friendliness when passing through airport foreign entry protocol.
Nobody that I noticed left the sanctuary, where the presentation took place. The church leaders suggested that those interested in my working with them cluster into small groups according to their similarity of business interests. They all just changed seats. Nobody left. Their keen interest in moving to the next stage became immediately clear. They hungered for greater self-sufficiency. Their appreciation for a ray of hope emerged clearly. Church leaders collected information. We left.
We drove home with a packed car. Nasson, Mesiet and Willbald scrunched into the back seat. Willbald used to serve as Lota’s physics teacher years ago. Nasson felt he couldn’t miss anything, so continued to hang around before heading back to Dar. Lota and Abarani previously told me that Mesiet had endured a particularly hard life, had just graduated from college at the very top of her class, and wanted badly to work with me to, perhaps, help define her future.
We passed a van in the midst of Ilboru’s bustling Friday night busy place. People, motorcycles, cars, buses and partiers competed for space on the dusty passage between local stores and intersection to the highway out of there. We edged our way through. I asked Lota if the van, with a loud speaker, and an energetic barker represented a political party during a campaign. “No, on Friday nights, everybody just likes to party. Friday night is Fun Night.” People celebrate the end of the week, just like the chickens celebrate the laying of an egg.
After supper, Nasson and I sat down together. I decided that I needed to get his story now, so that he could go back to Dar and get rid of some of the anxiousness that’s he’s carried this past week. I listened. Took a long time.
Nasson, the street preacher and associate pastor, doesn’t know how to briefly explain anything. As if I’m not listening, he repeats it all 5 or 6 times as he tells it. Then he comes back and tells it again, another 5 or 6 times.
We wound up our talking about 2AM. After three hours, finally told him to “STOP!” He did, almost. But I pretty much yelled at him to do it. Told him what he needed to do to start his own church. Told him that his street ministry direct marketing represented an unusual strength which most entrepreneurs didn’t possess. Told him that he didn’t need a new building, that he needed to practice guerilla marketing and operations. Told him to make himself a bunch of business cards with spaces for his prospective congregation members to write their names and contact info. Told him to pass them out to the individuals who responded to his messages, get their info, and receive it back. Told him to follow-up when ready and let them know his opening Sunday. Told him to not simply listen to God, but to actually get some smarts about him!
Nasson literally cried. He said he hadn’t thought of those things. He couldn’t figure out how to get his start, but somehow, when the amorphous time was right, it would happen. He needed a building to start – but he didn’t. A School room would do. A new church didn’t need a building, just a congregation of believers, or seekers, or interested inquirers. If they were spiritually inspired, they would come, and come back.
I told him to read “The Purpose Driven Church” by Rick Warren. He’d never heard of it, He would Google it and get it. He cried some more. Told me that God had sent me, or something close to that. I demurred, not really feeling like a picture of the Spirit’s inspiration. But when I sat him down, told him to stop talking and just listen, I lectured him with the spirit of a demon-possessed street preacher. Told him to just get his act together, because he already possessed and knew his strength. He already had identified his market. He had even penetrated it with some effectiveness. He just didn’t know how to get them into his “church” because he only relied upon the indirect approach of waiting for inspired listeners to randomly inquire of his progress.
He had already told me that he’d spoken to 5 million people over the years, 50 thousand of them that had received and appreciated his message. I calculated about 1%. But they would never find him at church as their lead pastor. The other guy maintained that position.
It’s quiet now. It’s Saturday morning. Nasson went home to Dar. We’ve finished breakfast. Mesiet hasn’t been able to resist washing all the floors with her hands and a towel, in the bent-over fashion.
As if the hen knows that Friday’s passed, Miss Chicken wandered into and through the kitchen to the store room. I wanted to shoo her back to where she came from. Lota said, “That’s OK. She just wants some quiet now to lay another egg. This time, in private.”
Today, we recover from the week. We keep trucking, but we also try to retrieve some sanity, besides. A hen needs some quiet also. But I also want to hear Mesiet’s story. That’s next.
As the chickens continue their more relaxed happiness outside, I think I’ll enjoy mine, also. And next week, we’ll do it again and give ourselves renewed reason to celebrate. Just like chickens after one of their own has laid her own egg.