Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Humour in missions (2)

Let me share one more story on this topic before moving on: Where we used to live in Swaziland, in a small town known as Nhlangano (this means “the meeting place” and referred to the time when king George VI of England and the former king Sobhuza II of Swaziland met each other in this town in 1947), we were the only White people in the area. We had a lot of people who knocked on our door asking for money or food (White = American = Dollars = RICH). It was not always easy to distinguish between those who were really in need and those just taking a chance. We therefore found an excellent way to address this problem. After God created the earth, there were some stones left and these were dumped in our backyard (or so we believed!) Whenever someone asked for money or food we would send them into the garden and he had to dig a hole and remove all the stones from the hole which was then put onto a pile to be removed from our garden at a later stage. (I literally removed tons of stones through the years.) We fed scores of people and eventually had a garden relatively free of stones.
We were four missionaries at that time in Swaziland, living fairly far from each other. Every month we came together as families for Bible Study and lunch. One day we were meeting at our house. My wife had asked me to go to a store to buy something she needed for lunch. While I was away, someone knocked at the door. As my wife opened the door, my one colleague had just stopped in his car and my wife, in a hurry to get back to the kitchen, asked him to hear what the man wanted.
A few hours later, as we were having lunch, she suddenly remembered about the man who had been at the door and asked my colleague what had happened. Hy gave a short laugh and told us the story. The man at the door told him that he came from Malawi and that he had lost his passport and now needed money to get a new passport. Little did he know that my colleague had been a missionary in Zambia for many years and that he spoke Chichewa fluently, the same language that is also spoken in Malawi. My colleague switched over to Chichewa and – to his utmost surprise (ha-ha) – found that the man did not understand a single word he said. The man then tried to get himself out of his predicament by explaining that he came from a part of Malawi where they used another language, but the area he indicated was exactly the area where Chichewa is mostly used. He eventually left our house without any money, deeply grieved that his story had not been believed!
Afterwards we wondered what that man had told himself that evening. Here he was in Swaziland, knocking on the door of a White person with Afrikaans as mother tongue, claiming that he had come from Malawi, only to find out that the White man spoke the language of Malawi fluently and thereby catching him out on his lie! What could the odds be for this to happen? Possibly a bit smaller than winning the national lottery! This still remains one of our favourite stories – and a good example why it is always the best to tell the truth.


Thursday, July 12, 2007 - Posted by | Humour, Mission


  1. Good one!

    I also like the idea about having the individuals work by removing stones in order to receive goods or money. This would avoid the person from carrying shame, but rather they “worked” for the money/food/whatever. They earned it. Very creative. I am continually impressed by your stories and experiences. What an eye-opener.

    Comment by Maya | Thursday, July 12, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thanks Maya. I appreciate your comments. Probably we were not as noble as you try to make out: We were desperate to find a way to rid our gardens of stones and in this way we were – pun intended – killing two birds with one stone! Humour aside, this is always a problem in Africa to find ways in which people could be helped while not robbing them of their dignity. To this day it is still a problem for us. Our situation has changed somewhat – the house where we stay now does not really allow us to work in the same way as before. For one thing, we love big dogs and we have two lovely German Shepherds, but we wouldn’t want to risk having someone come in and then getting bitten by our dogs. We do have a policy that we don’t give money, except on very rare occasions when I really feel that the Lord wants me to give money. We regularly give food. But it will probably always be a problem to know exactly the right thing to do.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, July 12, 2007 | Reply

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