Christianity in Africa is like....#4

Talent Chigenre greets me as the man of God. I ask him what he means by that. We eat goat sadza under thatch in the middle of a mechanic's yard. Just over the broken-bottle-topped fence is the FOCUS office and the bible study room we will soon fill to study Colossians 1. The goat sadza is good. My Coke comes bottled like it is 1965. Talent opens up.

'You are the man of God. You are closer to God than others. You are like Moses who went up the mountain and received revelation. Like Moses, and Elijah.' I think if my congregation members were here they would choke on their sadza. They know me. Talent asks, 'What was your call?'

I think I know what is about to happen.

I tell him an older man I respected once told me to go to bible college and not to continue teaching, and I did. I tell this in a version long enough to measure his reactions. You don'y understand culture in a day, and a little knowledge is dangerous cross-culturally, but I think I know what is about to happen.

Talent looks troubled. Disappointed, even. I say, 'You are not happy with this answer, are you?'

He says nothing. He does not want to disrespect me, but I know I have lost power in his eyes.

I say, 'I have told it to you as deliberately ordinary. Because it was. But God was working in it.'

'I am happy', Talent says, 'It's just that in our country a pastor must have a call. He must have been in the wilderness and God appeared to him. On a mountain and he had a vision. It must be.....'


The goat sadza is makanaka. It is good. My tiny vocabulary now has a meaning and a taste. I take a little Coke for my stomach.

'The religious situation here has become very confusing for us. We have so many churches. We have the prosperity church, the man of God, the apostolic, the Baptist, the Methodist - we are so confused. I go to Spirit Embassy at the National Showgrounds since 2012. But the man of God contradicts himself. We are told we must have more faith. I don't know if there is something wrong with me. Perhaps I don't believe enough. But I have been there year after year and every week I am told I will drive a Bentley before the week is over. But I still do not drive a Bentley. It is very confusing.'

We speak further over our sadza. He seems relieved by some of what we talk about. He is so hungry.

The FOCUS bible study room is on Nelson Mandela Ave. The bible study room has the windows open so you can hear the passing traffic and feel the breeze. A climbing plant has been trained four, five times around the room at head height. I feel like a skink in a terrarium.

We have read that Jesus is supreme in all things from Colossians 1. The firstborn over all creation. Before all things. All things hold together in him. The firstborn from the dead, so that in all things he might have supremacy.

Kate leads the study and asks, 'When you look at Jesus here, how does it help you think about the ministry of someone like Prophet W. Magaya?'

Talent takes off. 'He is the man of God, through whom Jesus works all that power.'

Talent does not sound confused now. He is off and running. He sounds like he is ready to climb the mountain and trust the man of God implicitly. But I know from the time over sadza that he does not trust the man of God. And he is confused.

Talent does not know the bible. He told me over sadza, 'We are not taught the foundations.' He knows he does not know. But when he is asked to share, he must speak. This is a Zimbabwean thing. Leaders point at you, and you deliver. But all he can share is this vocabulary of untruths. This narrative of powerful people who stand between us and God, and on whom we must depend, but cannot fully trust. He is filling the air with certain things of which he is uncertain.

I wish that Talent would meet Tawanda. If he met Tawanda, perhaps he would read the bible more often. Then it is very likely, that by God's grace, he would meet Jesus without a prophet standing in the way. Just Jesus. Only Jesus.

Jesus is the only one who can ever stand between us and God. The prophet should get the hell out of the way. And the Bentley can be scrap in a mechanic's yard for all I care. It is worth less than a plate of sadza.

Pray for Talent now. Pray he keeps coming to the FOCUS bible study. Pray he will be followed up. Talent is very confused. If Christianity in Africa is a lake a mile wide and knee deep, it is still deep enough for Talent to drown in. Babies drown in the shallows.