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Radical Obedience

A letter from Nancy Collins, serving in Zambia

November 2017

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Dear Family and Friends,

As many of you know, I have been in the USA on interpretation assignment since mid-June. I have been based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, living with my 24-year-old son, Charles. For the past two years, Charles has been renting a small house for himself and his two large dogs.

For the past year, Charles studied in an intensive nursing program Monday-Thursday and worked 2 12-hour shifts Saturday and Sunday in transport at a local hospital. Labor Day weekend, my siblings from Iowa, along with their spouses, came to Tulsa for a fun-filled “pre-graduation party” weekend for Charles. Charles finished the nursing program September 20 (he ended with a 3.4 GPA), and the nurse pinning ceremony took place Sept 21. YAY!! Congratulations to Charles.

When I have not been traveling, I have enjoyed taking Charles’ dogs—Zuri the mom dog and Howie the pup dog—for walks three or four times a day! There is a large park directly across from Charles’ house, and one block north there is a bike path, both of which are lovely for walking. There are times, however, when my enjoyment of the walks is marred by misbehavior on Howie’s part. I generally have Zuri on a leash, and Howie walks with her. Except, that is, when he decides to chase a garbage truck or the postal vehicle or a passing bicyclist, racing out into the street and tearing after them as fast as he can. When I call him using my most authoritative voice, I see him break stride for a second, but then he continues on, an annoyance to passersby, a danger to himself and a frustration to me. He just can’t bring himself to obey and come back.

Howie’s misbehavior, his disobedience, has led me to reflect on other forms of obedience and disobedience. I learned in August that the pastor of the small congregation I worship with in Lusaka has been transferred to another congregation in the Copper Belt of Zambia multiple hours from Lusaka. You may know that pastors throughout southern Africa are generally assigned or sent to congregations by the leadership of the national church. There is generally not a call process. In obedience to the church leadership, the pastor and his family are making preparations for the move. I very much like and respect the pastor, and I am struggling with the idea that he will no longer be the pastor of my congregation when I return to Zambia in December. My willful heart rebels at the idea of losing him.

Another example—Children in traditional homes in Zambia are taught to respectfully kneel when they are addressing their parents or when their parents are addressing them. As long as a young person remains under his/her parents’ roof, the young person must continue to respect and accept the parents’ wishes and direction. That is pretty radical obedience, isn’t it?!

For Americans, I think “obedience” is a very unpopular term or concept. We are brought up to think in terms of independence and human rights and freedom. We are bombarded from childhood with the message that freedom means self-assertion, insisting on your rights, throwing off constraints, and creating yourself. We are free to race headlong after trucks and free to make harmful decisions and free to insist on our own way.

The Bible teaches us a lot about obedience. In some reading I did recently, I learned that the general concept of obedience both in the Old and New Testament relates to hearing or harkening to a higher authority. One of the Greek terms for obedience conveys the idea of positioning oneself under someone by submitting to their authority and command. Another Greek word for obey in the New Testament means “to trust.” God loves us to be obedient to his word.

In browsing on the internet, I also came across this surprising thought from an article by Bob Sorge titled “The Secret of Radical Obedience”: “Some people put their best energies into creative thinking. However, God has a way of negating the plans of men: ‘The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever’ (Psalm 33:10-11, NKJV). Instead of focusing on being creative, focus on being obedient. Give your best energies to waiting on God in his presence, listening for his voice, and then moving out in action only when he has spoken. There’s no sense in coming up with your own ideas when it’s only God’s counsel that will stand!”

My final weekend of speaking was Nov 4-5. I have very much enjoyed connecting with those of you I have managed to visit during the approximately 3.5 months of speaking. It was a gift to be able to share with you how God is working in East Central Africa. And I have enjoyed so much the time with those of you who opened your homes to me and who shared with me the history and sights of your communities. Thank you all for your generous and gracious hospitality.

And thank you to all of you who are supporting my ministry. Your generosity makes it possible for me to respond to God’s call on my life. I am very grateful for your financial and prayer support.

I leave Tulsa to return to Zambia on December 4. By then I pray Charles will be settled in a new house with one of his good friends, and that he will be well on his way to completing the NCLEX nursing exam and to beginning work in his chosen career.

In Christ,


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