or The Kellers in Africa
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; like the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes.” Proverbs 21:1
I still can’t believe it all happened. Nor can I understand why I was in the middle of everything that took place. I’m still expecting to wake up and say, “I just had the strangest dream. President George and Laura Bush visited Kabwe and I helped them renovate a clinic.” What is really strange is that it actually happened!
In mid-June all US citizens in Kabwe were invited to a meeting with the US Consular. After discussing the various services offered by the Embassy, the Consular asked if anyone might be able to help with a construction project for an unnamed VIP who was coming in a couple of weeks. Since I was in the middle of building our house and had contacts with various contractors and suppliers, I volunteered.
I was contacted immediately by the project coordinator in Lusaka. She came to Kabwe, and we assessed the condition of the clinic that had been chosen. The idea was to have the clinic renovated to the point that the VIP’s volunteer team could finish it over the course of a few days. While this sounds simple, it actually meant that the roof, ceilings, and floors had to be ripped up and replaced, along with most of the electrical work. Additionally, all the supplies for the volunteer team needed to be in place, and some of those materials had to be ordered from Lusaka. The material quantities had to be carefully considered, as the weekend the volunteer team was to arrive was a four day public holiday for Zambia- no shops would be open. From what I’ve experienced building my own house, this sort of work can take a few months or more. With only two weeks until the team arrived, I knew this was an impossible scenario. However, only when the impossible is engaged, can the miraculous be witnessed. I figured if God was behind this, then I wanted to see Him do it. With that in mind, we jumped right to work.
When I agreed to the project, I had no idea who was coming. I was half expecting it to be a PR event where ribbons are cut, babies kissed, and every move choreographed to create extravagant photos of important people in their formalwear doing good. I figured however, that even if the mystery VIP was someone I didn’t particularly like, I could at least be a witness to him for Christ while helping the Bwacha community get a better clinic.
You can imagine my surprise when I heard that instead of a pandering politician or applause-seeking star we were to receive someone who already had their laurels- the 43rd president of the United States, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush! As I was informed that he was coming, I was given strict orders not tell anyone. If word got out, half of Zambia would camp outside the clinic. Aside from this creating a big security issue, I was told this was not to become a media stunt.
The following two weeks were incredibly busy. I came down with a nasty head cold that wouldn’t let up. It gradually developed into chest congestion, and my voice sounded like a dying mule. While the preliminary work wasn’t entirely seamless, it did come off far better than I expected. By God’s grace we managed to evade many of the usual problems like power outages, water shortages, funerals (labor force takes days off to attend these), theft, sickness, injuries, etc. Incredibly, procuring the supplies and materials didn’t require too many logistical gymnastics either! We were actually ready for the President and his team when the big day came, with almost everything right where it should be.