In a dusty eastern Zambian village, we were recently treated to the beautiful sound of a young man reading God’s Word in his regional language, Cinyanji.
The young man, Edson Tembo, recited Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” He was rejoicing because our local ministry partner, the Kachere Development Program, had blessed his village with the gift of clean, abundant water. But he also had another gift worth rejoicing over — the printed and bound book from which he read that uplifting verse. Water for the soul.
As I type this blog post, I’m surrounded by Bibles. I have Bibles, my wife has Bibles, even my young children all have Bibles (heavily paraphrased, of course). When I need to quickly look up a verse, I can do so instantaneously on my phone or desktop computer. We take it for granted that God’s Word is always available to us for study, worship and encouragement. But in rural Zambia, Christians have no such expectation.
Edson was born and raised in the church. He knows the Gospel, and his heart overflows with gratitude for Christ’s mercy. I felt a connection with Edson that transcended our cultural and economic differences as he told me, “God is a giver of life and God is the giver of everything we need. This is why I always have to thank him.” And yet, until recently, Edson never owned a Bible. The simple farmer leads a hand-to-mouth existence, weathering droughts and spending what little money he can scrape together on the most basic necessities. For Edson and his neighbors, buying a Bible is just not an option.
What a joy, then, that we could reward Edson’s efforts as a volunteer health and sanitation committee member by giving him his very own Bible in his local language. While Edson and his fellow committee members do their best to maintain a sanitary water station and promote public health, they will also serve a spiritual purpose — leading prayers, sharing God’s Word and exhorting their neighbors to quench their thirst at the River of Life, where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, American nor Zambian. His wellsprings are without end!