Friday, August 10, 2007

Pumzika

(This was the original version of this story, which I had saved as a draft, and could not find this morning! It contains the picture of me on the porch of the cabin.)

"Oh, God!" I prayed, "Please, God! I know that the anger and resentment I am feeling towards my leaders and towards my church is not right. This is killing me, Lord! Please give me victory in this situation." We were now in Kenya, trying to adjust to the drastic move we had made from being pastor of a quiet country church to now being missionaries in a city of 2 million people on the extreme eastern side of the continent of Africa.

I had been pastoring "the best church in the movement" (that was a phrase used by Brother Brady Hux, one of the older members of the Cedar Hill, Tennessee Church of God and after 7 years of being the pastor there I had come to agree with Brother Hux. After all, they had a beautiful sanctuary located on the banks of the Cherokee Lake in East Tennessee in the heart of bass-fishing, deer-hunting, coffee-drinking people who were mostly like us. The church owned a 5 bed-roomed 2 story brick parsonage with central heat and air which we called home. The church owned a 15 passenger van. All bills were paid and no monthly payments had to be met except the electricity, water, and insurance which were easily paid out of the surplus funds. All of the pastors expenses to state and general meetings were paid. Since this was an urban area and members had farms and gardens the people kept the pastor's two freezers full of beef, pork, and garden vegetables. I had begun to say from the pulpit that I planned to stay in that church until time for me to retire. I would tell the people frequently from the podium how much I loved them and thanked them for loving me and my family and allowing us to be their pastor. They talked like us, they dressed like us, they looked like us! I spoke and read and understood the language used in East Tennessee as much as the members of the church did. But here in Africa it was "difficult" to say the least.

When God had shown us un-mistakably through dreams, through His Word and confirmed it all through circumstances by both colleagues and leaders above us that now was the time for me to fulfill the desire God had placed in me at the age of 16 years to minister among the Bantu tribes of Africa, we said, "Yes! Here we are God!"

Now, only three months into our assignment I was angry and upset and ready to go home. I had carefully arranged my shipment of some essential furniture and personal items to be sent by air-freight and had been told by the company it would arrive withing three weeks of our landing in Nairobi - but someone had a better idea and set out to "help expedite" our shipping plans after I had left the US -- which had resulted in our shipment being delayed and we were still sleeping on a sponge on the floor of our apartment, living and cooking out of my back-pack carried with us on our initial trip. Further, I had called the General Director and after approval from my boss on the phone, had just written a check for $25,000 to pay for our new Peugeot station wagon, only to receive an overseas phone call the next day from the accounting department, saying that my funds would not support that check. I had been hit with the hard cold fact that I had written a check based on a verbal agreement. My leaders had dis-appointed me.

Before sleeping on that fateful night I had apologized to Frances for getting us into this "mess" and promised her that next morning I was going to call the leaders at Headquarters and tell them to stop my shipment - and that we were not going to remain on the field. I felt betrayed. I felt I had been lied to. I was filling up with hurt and anger and bitterness. I knew that these feelings were not righteous ones, therefore my prayer, "This is killing me, Lord! Give me victory!"

Let me say that I do not believe that everything I dream comes from God. In fact I urge caution when people tell dreams they have had and try to apply it as though it were from God. I've seen too many of what my Dad used to call "Pork and Bean Dreams". However, sometime in the wee hours of the next morning after I had decided I would just go home, I dreamed that I was on a platform in an African Church and was being welcomed to Africa. I can still see the lovely child of about 9 years with her beautiful hair tied into "dog-tails" and her beautiful stand-out white pinafore dress, looking into my face with a captivating gleeming white smile, while reaching up to place a lei of flowers over my neck, kissing me on the cheek and saying, "PUMZIKA!" I had never (to my knowledge) heard that sound before. I only knew that when she said, "Pumzika!", I felt the sweet relief of blessed assurance that all was well.

When I awoke I shook Frances awake and said to her with tears streaming down, "I don't understand this. I don't know what it all means. But - we are not going home. I know that all is well!

Next morning, while the former overseer was taking me around the city to see the location of churches and to help orient me to the places I would need to know about I asked him, "Jack, in all the 23 languages of Kenya, and all the additional dialects that make up the 40 languages spoken in this country, have you ever heard something that sounds remotely like, Pumzika?" I shall never forget his answer. He looked across at me and said, "Yes, Fred. That's a Kiswahili word in the simple imperative form and it means simply, YOU REST!

So now -- if you come to see me and I talk to you about "Pumzika Acres" you will know that this means "Restful Place". It's something God did for me that I never want to forget nor to allow my friends and family to forget.

3 comments:

Lowell Brannen said...

Fred,
I didn't know about your shipment delay that resulted in your decision to return to the U.S. I'm glad you shared this. It's awesome.

Travelin' On said...

I sure am thankful for the blog these days. Beautiful Fred. I knew this story but it is good that you put it "out here."
The blog is a very nice way to preserve these kinds of stories. (er uh, well, at least until whatever technology comes along that makes this 'archaic', right?
I'm sure you have many more to tell so don't be scarce. :) I love you and I'm thankful you are my brother.

Fred Alton said...

Yes, Sis, soon the tech world will replace these slow computers that we have to go to the office to access. It's astounding to consider what's happening in this world. I've just bought the book by Thomas L. Friedman called "The World is Flat" which is chock full of revelations on this subject of technology.