I still do not know why God asked me to go to Kazungula, a border point between Zambia and Botswana, and share the love and message of Christ with truck drivers there. I know only that he did and I went in obedience. The result was an awesome display of God’s faithfulness, goodness, grace, and desire to seek after those who are lost. What our small team (me, Chris, Martha, Mary, Enala, and Howard) saw in Kazungula on December 9 and 10, 2011 is not like anything we have ever seen before, or may ever see again.
We talked to about 90 truck drivers in our two days in Kazungula. When we arrived the first day, 62 trucks were lined up to cross the border (one at a time on the single working ferry) and most wait 5-6 days for their turn.
At first glance, there appears to be nothing there that is familiar except the sun above and the earth underfoot. And the sun is so hot, sweat runs down your back just standing still. The earth is so dusty, you are covered with grime and dirt within the first few minutes. Exhaust fumes from the starting up and slight movement of the trucks in line fill the air. Empty water bottles, wrappers, and cans litter the ground. Children anywhere from 5 to 17, boys and girls, walk up and down the line of trucks by themselves selling eggs, fish, CDs and DVDs. Flies swarm. There are no bathrooms and there is no water. Women and girls go truck to truck offering themselves for money. The truck beds are loaded with copper, hydroxide, tobacco, and other things. Men gather on the side of the road cooking nshima and chicken that they have bought in the market. Many have been drinking beer since the early morning because it is the only way to face 5 days in line in this place. Truck drivers are one of the primary carriers of HIV and AIDS. Sixty-five percent of the population of Zambia has HIV or AIDS.
When you see Kazungula, you may be tempted to believe God has left it, or perhaps was never there. Each truck driver faces unbelievable loneliness and boredom. They are away from their wives and families, sometimes for up to a year at a time. Each confronts overpowering temptation. Most of them doubt God could ever want them. Most of them believe they have fallen too short and too often. Most of them question if God is even present in their world. They seem to have concluded that they, either by choices made or circumstances, are beyond God’s reach and unable to be saved.
But, you see, no place and no man (or woman) is beyond God’s reach, not even in Kazungula. No one has made too many bad choices or finds themselves in circumstances that cannot be redeemed by God. I, and the members of the team (all from Zambia), had been praying for weeks that God would go before us and prepare the hearts of the truck drivers we would meet for the love we had for them. When we arrived at the border, we prayed again, together, and broke off into teams of two. Our mission was simple: approach the drivers, introduce ourselves, and ask them about themselves – where they were going, where they had come from, what were their struggles – and then tell them we were there to let them know that there are people in the world who care about them and a good God who loves them.
It did not take long to know that God had indeed gone before us. In just minutes, we found not the eyes of dangerous, untouchables, but the eyes of Jesus. The first day, 28 truck drivers committed their lives to Christ. We gave each of them New Testaments and bright-colored bracelets that said “God loves me,” “Saved,” “I love Jesus,” “Forgiven,” “John 3:16”, or the one they all wanted most: “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do). Word of our presence spread quickly; we stood out, after all. And, if you looked around Kazungula on December 9, you saw many men wearing their bracelets, prompting further conversation no doubt. Suddenly, it was like light had entered Kazungula. We listened to their stories: how painful it is to wait for days to cross the border; how the heat makes sleep nearly impossible; how much they long to be home with their families; how they cannot attend church because they are always moving from one place to another; how they have failed God in so many ways; how they feel incapable of resisting sexual temptation. One man, who was a Christian already, told me he was so relieved to see us because it reminded him of God’s presence.
Our second day in Kazungula was similar. Twelve more drivers gave their lives to Christ and dozens of seeds were planted, which we trust God will germinate and grow in his own time. On our way back to Livingstone, which is where we stayed, both days, we could not find words to explain what we had experienced. So, all we could do was to sing loudly with clapping hands and smiling faces: “Come and see, oh! Come and see! Come and see, oh! Come and see! Come and see what the Lord has done! Come and see what the Lord has done!” None of us on our team could have done what we did in our own power. Only God could have and did accomplish the reconciliation of 40 individual souls to himself through Christ. And with each one, all of heaven celebrated. (Luke 15:7)
There is, of course, still no bridge that connects Zambia and Botswana at Kazungula, but because God used us to demonstrate the sufficiency of his grace, his far-reaching and overflowing love, and his overwhelming presence, there is infrastructure there that is stronger and longer lasting than any bridge that could ever be built.
For the truck drivers in Kazungula, I pray:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.