This week when I was praying about what to share with you all, and all of the sudden I started praying for my friend, Jackson. Drew and I met our friend Jackson at the grocery store. And yes, they do actually have grocery stores in Africa!
In fact, we started to go the grocery store where we met Jackson because it reminded us of Trader Joe’s, the place we did our shopping three blocks away from our downtown apartment in Denver. It opened when we first moved to Lusaka, and not many of people knew it was open because it was in a large, recently built mall and most of the other shops weren’t open at the time.
So, aside from the fact that not a lot of people shopped there, Drew and I also stood out because we are obviously not from Zambia. Our American accents were a dead give-away every time! All of this to say, Jackson must have noticed our strangeness, so he decided instead of staring at us he would try and talk to us.
Jackson continued to talk to us, and continued to be our friend every time we went to the grocery store. It came to the point where there was no such thing as a fast grocery run, because a quick trip would not leave enough time to catch up with Jackson.
As our relationship continued to form, Jackson wanted to go deeper. He knew Drew was here for seminary and I worked for a nonprofit, and we would often see him on Sundays when we would go grocery shopping after church. He would ask us what we were learning at church and when we would invite him to come. He wanted to have a meal with us, play the drums for Drew when he led worship, and continue moving forward in our relationship.
I don’t know if it was the North Americans in us that aren’t used to interacting so much with strangers, but we kept wondering about what are we supposed to do with our friend from the grocery store. I mean we don’t really know each other; our relationship was founded upon a conversation while picking vegetables. What could really come of this?
One day while we were doing our shopping, we ran into Jackson as usual, but this time he just seemed so low. Ever since he started working at this grocery store, he became interested in vegetables, planting and farming. He loved learning about the foods he was stalking on the shelves, so much so that it became his passion. He had mentioned to us before about his desire to go to school for agriculture, but I didn’t realize how serious he was until the moment we saw him so disappointed, and different from the friendly Jackson we had come to know.
As Jackson began realizing this passion he had for agriculture, he started saving up money to go to a school in a rural town outside of Lusaka. This was a huge step because Jackson had never really left the densely populated, urban areas of Lusaka. He talked to the school about the cost of going there, and he began saving in the hopes of staring in September.
Jackson had been working to save for school fees most of his life to finally graduate from grade 12, but this time was unique in that he was so excited and ready to make a change for his life. Just as he was ready to make the leap, he found out the school had increased their prices, and all of the sudden in this last month he was going to have to come up with thousands of kwacha. On the salary he was making, it seemed like there was just no way he could get enough in time for school to start, but he was so determined.
He went on to tell us that he really needed some time with God and time to be encouraged by His spirit. Although he had a church home in Lusaka, he had been asking to come to our church, so we thought this would be a great week to invite him. So we did.
Jackson came to our church, which I’m sure was very different from the Zambian church he was used to. Our church is an international church and the majority of people are from all over the world from as close as Zimbabwe to as far as Australia. Of course, Jackson began making friends instantly, just like he made friends with us every time we walked into the grocery store. He even began bonding with some of the students in our youth group.
So we said, “Jackson, why don’t you start coming to youth group?” He started being a leader at our youth group and meeting more and more people from our church and our friendship with and admiration for Jackson began to grow.
It started to come down to the final week that Jackson had to raise money for school. We saw him a lot that week at the grocery store and he came over to our house for dinner. The whole time we felt like we just had to do something about all of this. But it felt like there was nothing we could do.
Things were tight for us financially, as I struggled in the beginning to find a job, and we were putting Drew through school, not to mention trying to make it living in a foreign land. So we felt like all we could do was pray for him and invite him to church and encourage him like he asked, but then the Lord gave us an opportunity to help make Jackson’s dream to start school in September a reality. Right as Jackson needed that last little bit to go to school, God gave us an extra little bit to help him out.
We started to realize our friendship is too strange to be just a coincidence. God’s provision for more than we needed financially was directly related for Jackson’s financial need for school. On that last night, Drew and I knew we had to be obedient with this random extra God had given us. I am so thankful for my friend Jackson, who is learning how to farm, and promises to come back and help me make a garden. Isn’t it cool the way God chooses to work through simple things like a relationship in a grocery store?
Join me today in thanking God for those not so coincidental coincidences in our lives. Jackson blessed us through friendship when we were new in a foreign land, and God allowed the blessing of friendship to continue as He provided for Jackson’s financial needs. Let us together ask God to open our eyes to the ways He has uniquely blessed us to bless others.