During my internship with ACTION Zambia in the summer of 2009 I taught a three week course on basic computer skills. Alfred Mulenga was one of my “students”. He is one of 20 pastors enrolled in ACTION Zambia’s ACTION Bible Institute. Alfred is one of the most sincere people I have ever met. His generous smile shows his humble exhuberence for others and his eyes radiate untainted joy. He and his wife have four children and live near his church in the Linda compound, about 20 minutes outside of downtown Lusaka.
Alfred was one of the brightest students. He was so hungry to learn and consume knowledge it was hard for me to hold him back while I was teaching the rest of the class. I got to know Alfred more than the others because we lived on the same property. I had the privilege of dinning at his house with his wife and him. I was a bit nervous heading into the evening as it was my first time eating with Zambians. As I went to his house I realized that he and his family did not live in a hut, or a traditional “house”. They lived in three shelters built for pigs; the beds were in one, the kitchen in another, and the living area in the last. As we were talking, Alfred apologized for his “home”, he said that he was saving up money to buy a house near his church when he was ordained. I was humbled by this man. He was not living in a pig shelter because he was poor, he choose to live in a pig shelter so that he could buy a house closer to his church. Alfred is dignified and proud even though he is fully aware of his status. He is humble even though he has what most Zambians would boast over.
I am proud to consider Alfred a friend. If there was one example I could point to that defines my purpose in life it is Alfred. Another part of my internship was interviewing the ABI pastors. I was excited to talk to Alfred because I knew he would give me honest answers yet I was afraid of what those answers would look like. The last question I asked him was what were some of the challenges he faced as a pastor. Alfred talked about not having a church with real pews and untorn hymnals but as he continued his face changed. As Alfred spoke about feeling like a failiure because as a pastor he could not help the physical needs of his church, I watched the joy stolen from a man I had never seen not smiling. The gleam in his eyes was temporarily replaced by a dark, hollow gaze that will haunt me forever.
This is what poverty does to a human being.
This is why I have dedicated my life to serving those in need.
I believe that Alfred is the type of person who would benefit from ACTION Zambia’s new income generation program. If he started a business that sold a useful product to the local community and used the profits to support the people in his church imagine how his church would grow. Poverty prevents the local church from growing, if we can address these issues I believe the local chuch will grow exponentially.