by Pastor Bob Myers
I think about young Maxwell Tembo often. He was my first Zimbabwean friend.
Maxwell volunteered to be my devoted friend like it was both an assignment and a prized job. He was one of those ebullient people, energized by joy, radiating kindness. Maxwell shared his significant relational stock with me without hesitation, trusting me not only to be his friend, to be a friend to his friends, and even to be an “uncle” to his many nephews who literally cheered my visits to their home.
My introduction to Maxwell began when I was a nineteen-year-old summer missionary who had just set foot in Zimbabwe for the first time. I had won the assignment lottery by being assigned to the Jackson’s ministry in Rusape, Zimbabwe. Bud and Mandy Jackson knew no other “home” other than the boundaries of this country. They infected me with their love for this people, this place, as I was assigned to live with them and quickly became knit into their family. Bud’s ability to put words to his love for the people, the culture, and the flora and fauna of Zimbabwe forged a permanent passion in my heart for this place.
Ever the generous connector, Bud Jackson opened doors for me to teach the Bible in the government schools. Maxwell was my key student leader who opened the door to minister to other high school students. I taught a Bible elective class in a high school where ninety-six students out of seven hundred signed up for my lessons. Nearly one in seven students dropped the other electives that competed in that time slot for time studying the Bible with me. After several weeks, I had the privilege of baptizing several of these young people.
My time in Zimbabwe began four years after their independence in 1984. The prosperity, hope, and readiness to embrace a new future knit this nation’s future to my heart. Arguably, this was the most impactful three months of my life.
I gave Maxwell most of the belongings I had come to Zimbabwe with. For the next eight years we kept in touch often with this addition to our letters: I sent him a camera, he mailed me the undeveloped film, I had the pictures developed here, and sent them back to him. I offended him when I failed to keep some of the pictures for myself. He asked, “Don’t you want to keep some of the pictures of us?”
Maxwell died at a young age with complications from malaria. Out of carelessness on my part, I lost touch with his wife, Gladys, and young daughters, named Lucy and Daisy, something I regret to this day.
I imagine Maxwell’s children and grandchildren are somewhere in Zimbabwe. I pray that I could somehow meet them on this side of eternity. But I know I will meet them on the enduring side of eternity.
I sometimes see Maxwell’s face and his children in the faces of Zimbabweans I meet today.
The meaning of life is love. It gets played out by listening to God’s prompting and direction. When we do that, we glorify the Source of Love and Life.
What are the specific people and places you are called to touch with Christ’s love?