Devotions are generally seen as a time for prayer, thanksgiving and focusing your energy on God; however, when placed in a corporate setting, I have discovered the added elements of awkwardness and inappropriate comments. In my field office, a different member of staff leads devotions every day. This basically means that I get to learn a LOT about every one of my co-workers each month. Some choose to get personal and discuss personal struggles while others bring up a controversial passage and lead a heated thirty minute debate. The majority of Zambians belong to the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) or Pentecostal church and my views as a non-denom raised CRC Christian tend to clash with theirs. Therefore, I have learned to choose my battles around the devotion table. Sure they may think I am crazy for drinking alcohol and eating pork, but is that something that will keep me up at night? Not really.
There is a certain co-worker (let’s call him Julius for fun) that always leads the most interesting devotions. And by interesting, I of course mean beyond uncomfortable and outlandish. Thus far he has taught the office the biblical teaching on how to rear children (although he has none of his own), accused the U.S. government of creating HIV/AIDS to control the population of Africa, and informed us that praying to trees will make the rains come. The majority of the time during his devotions I feel like I must be staring in a ZNBC version of “The Office;” this time playing the role of Jim, gently rolling my eyes to the camera and quietly screaming, “are you seeing this?!” Despite my desire to crawl under the table and die during these moments, I have actually started to look forward to Julius’ morning at the devotional table. Without a TV in my flat, it is by far the best entertainment I get all day!
On Wednesdays, IJM takes a break from its exhilarating devotional table and heads over to Northmead Pentecostal for devotions with World Vision, another international non-profit organization serving in Lusaka. World Vision devotions generally fail to keep my attention because I don’t worship well while being yelled at. After 30 minutes of a short Zambian male calling for my repentance, the real fun begins! World Vision takes advantage of this captive audience to give its weekly organizational announcements. This may include introducing a new regional director, encouraging the staff to take a survey, or if we are really lucky, an in-depth talk on fraud and its consequences. One Wednesday members of the IJM and World Vision staff were imparted with the knowledge of the laws of fraud, forgery and how to report these crimes. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…
Despite my seemingly critical attitude about devotions in Zambia, it has been fascinating to see where the Zambian church focuses its energy. There is a greater emphasis on following God’s law instead of grace, a belief that time management is next to godliness, that good deeds will bring about financial prosperity, and a focus on salvation above simply walking in Christ’s footsteps. Whether or not I can worship during organizational devotions is a matter of debate, but it is always an educational experience.