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God’s Chess Pieces

The situation that inspired today’s entry actually started on a six hour layover in Nairobi last week. Like an unbeatable chess master, God has laid out His moves with stunning accuracy. Although Ethiopian and Kenya Airlines will often do seat upgrades when available, our expectations were not high. However, I did pray that we could receive it. And praise Jesus, we did! Subsequently, this led us to wait in a lounge area where we would otherwise not have been. That fluke change in our seating positions had a significant effect.

In my first blog entry of this trip, I mentioned Mark and Trina, the missionaries from Kenya. Their organization is SARUNI. The only reason I mention them is that we shared an extended conversation with them in the lounge and received trustworthy information. The ironic part is that, when they left to catch their flight, a woman and her three-year-old daughter sat in their now-vacant seats. It was as if God had assigned the chess pieces to move to that position. The little girl quickly captured our hearts. She had two My Little Ponies that I helped her name, or at least tried. She was full of energy and her smile was captivating. She had been away from her father for several weeks and was eagerly waiting to be reunited. The mother was pleasant and did an exceptional job caring for her active daughter.

Our conversation deepened quickly. She indicated to us that she was now pregnant, and also shared about an unfortunate miscarriage. The situation sounded tragically similar to one I had experienced in my own family. The baby boy she had lost was past 20 weeks of development, so they had already named him Muhammad. We told her that we were sorry for her loss. I’m sure that if she was not currently pregnant, the memory would be even more difficult. She indicated to us that she was a Muslim, and we said we were Christians on our way for missionary work in Malawi. Revealing these personal beliefs to one another did not change the climate of our conversation one bit. Due to tensions around the world between the two faiths, I was not sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised.

After we had mentioned we were going to do missionary work in Malawi, she exclaimed, “That’s where I live!” In fact, we were waiting for the very same flight, and they eventually sat in the two seats in front of us on the plane. Of course, I was happy to talk with her sweet little girl during the flight. But this is where a random chance meeting in an airport became a supernatural encounter. Before the trip, I had mentioned to my wife and a few others that it would be great to find someone in Malawi who had a machine shop so, if necessary, I could make parts for wells, or any other facility. Besides that, I had also mentioned that getting a vehicle made a lot of sense, especially if we’re going to do many repeat trips, because it costs $1700 to rent the cheapest vehicle Avis offers. Come to find out, the woman’s husband, who would be picking her up at the airport, owns several car dealerships, motorcycle dealers, and a machine shop!

When we met him at the airport, he seemed enthusiastic about meeting us. His name was Nazeer, and after talking briefly about my experience in machine shops, he jokingly offered me a job. God can always orchestrate the right interactions. At the time that we met his wife and daughter, we had no idea where it might lead. Then, during our weekend conferences, we learned that Felix had traveled on foot to get to the village from the main road. It took him six hours each way! We had encountered many motorcycles traversing that road much easier than the Billy Goat Toyota had. If Felix had a motorcycle, just imagine how much more efficient he would be with all of the churches he oversees!

With that in mind, we knew just the person who would be able to help. Nazeer had given us his email address and cell phone number, so I contacted him two days ago. He promptly got back with us and we told him about the possible need of a motorcycle. He informed us that he had many on his showroom floor. Moreover, he had engineered a three-wheel utility vehicle that could be configured for on-road, off-road, or even as a one-person ambulance. He had mentioned to me that he was an engineer, so it makes perfect sense for him to tackle such a project.

We looked forward to seeing Nazeer’s facility later that afternoon, but first we planned to visit Duncan’s orphanage and school to caution him about the current status of the wells in the area. Nearly half of them were not operational. That’s a staggering number since people are literally dying from diseased water. I asked Duncan if we could deconstruct the well at the school, so I could have a chance to examine the components. With the help of a knowledgeable gentleman from Duncan’s group, we were able to disassemble the well and find the faulty parts. Earlier, I had mentioned to my wife, “Wouldn’t it be something if we could repair some of these wells for $20?” Well, today we purchased the parts to fix 10 to 12 wells, and it cost a total of $211. Can you imagine that lives are being lost for $20 and a few hours of someone’s time?

When we arrived at the dealership for our 9 AM meeting, Nazeer took us into his office and proceeded to share nearly 3 hours of his day with us. Front and center on his desk was a daily calendar with a verse from the Koran. He began to tell us of his involvement in many different humanitarian projects carried out by his family. Later, his well-dressed and stately father joined us. At one point in his life, he had been selected by the president to be a Supreme Court justice. He shared incredible stories with us about starting the first schools, constructing many mosques, and helping make the surrounding villagers more self-sufficient. They’re doing wonderful things!

I began to ask him about several things we may need beyond the motorcycle. When I mentioned well drilling, he smiled and said he had been looking at one just yesterday from Alibaba. Then he showed me pictures of five wells they had repaired in the last few days. I was astonished. Much of what they are doing in the Muslim community are the same things that Josh and I are prioritizing. Since I’m not shy to ask difficult questions, I inquired, “Nazeer, we are Christians doing missionary work with the outlying villagers. Is this going to be a problem for you to work with us?”

His response revealed his strong commitment to his Muslim faith.

He said,

“No matter what race, faith, or any other variations in humanity, we will embrace any who are helping the cause of the needy.”

Then he gave us countless suggestions, including recommendations for legal counsel, direction on government bureaucracy, and a whole list of potential pitfalls. Combining our conversation with future involvement, we could shave years off of making a substantial impact on this culture! Josh and I both sense that something special will result from this friendship, so we will have dinner with Nazeer and his family next week. This is not chance, my friends. This is the mighty hand of God.

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