Recently, I posted this update on Instagram of water pouring into a full tank in Chikwina, Malawi. EMI sent a team to help World Vision troubleshoot this water system in March of this year and if you read my post following the trip, you will understand what a HUGE deal this is for these people! It was incredible to see the progress that was made on the water system after our visit and to know that the people living in the shadow of this tank are now able to draw water from it for the first time since this project began almost 10 years ago!
Seeing this made me think back to our last day in Malawi. In my previous post I mentioned how impressed our team was with Robert, the new National Director for World Vision Malawi. The day before we left the country, we had the opportunity to meet with him for a second time when we spent the day in their headquarters office in Lilongwe discussing our findings with the executive team. When we arrived at the office we immediately went to their morning prayer and devotion meeting that had just begun. After the prayer time, Robert stood up and addressed his employees that were present in a way that I was not expecting.
He started by quoting Luke 16:10-12:
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?”
From there he proceeded to openly address personnel issues that he was noticing within the organization. He did not call out people by name, but I am sure there were several warm seats in the audience. In fact, my seat felt a little warm as well as his words also began to challenge me. He said that on paper everyone is supposed to come into work at 7:30 am every morning, but in reality it is more like 8…8:30…9. They do this so they can knock off work early on Fridays, but in reality they still knock off earlier than they are supposed to (even when they didn’t come in on time all week). He said that he has a hard time trusting people that say they are coming, but in reality they are going, and their yes doesn’t mean yes. In addition to that, he addressed use of organizational resources by saying we should take care of others things as if they were our own, because how else can we expect to be trusted with things of our own. If we can’t be trusted in small things like this; how can we be trusted with greater responsibility?
Now this is only a brief paraphrase of all that Robert challenged his employees (and us) with that morning, but keep in mind that Robert is a native African and he is talking to a room full of native Africans. Most African cultures do not typically put much importance on timeliness like we do in America. They are typically more event focused. They will arrive at the next event after the one they are currently in is over. It is considered rude to rush away from something because you have to be somewhere else at a certain time. Church services may say they start at 9, but in reality they start whenever most everyone shows up. With that in mind, Robert is confronting not only issues of appropriate work ethic, he is also confronting cultural norms.
He continued to say that as a Christian organization and as Christian individuals; our lives and the work we produce should all be distinguished and set apart from the rest of the world. Our behavior and attitude should be reflective of our holy God and our Savior. We should be faithful in every task that God has given us, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem and we should be faithful even down to the menial details of that task.
This got me thinking about the small things that I need to be faithful in and challenged me to be distinguished as a follower of Christ. As a Christian engineer, is my work distinguished from that of any other engineer? After all, when I offer a cup of water in Jesus’ name shouldn’t the result of my work be fitting of bearing His name?
I think of Daniel who was so distinguished that even the pagan king was able to see that something was special about him by the way he ordered his life and how he held honor for authority. Daniel worked for some pretty rotten pagan kings during Babylonian captivity, but he was unwavering in his faith and he loved and served them like he was doing it directly for God…and people noticed. The thing that truly set Daniel apart is that he was faithful in the small things. It also got me thinking of another verse that our surveyor had brought up several times throughout the week where Zechariah was prophesying about rebuilding the temple.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT)
Of course a surveyor would get excited about plumb line references, but the beginning of this verse grabbed my attention and so I began to research the context of the passage. The NIV says, “Who dares despise the day of small things…” The small things/beginnings that Zechariah is referring to is the size of the temple that was being rebuilt. At the time of this prophesy, Zerubbabel had already laid out the foundation of the new temple. Some of the older Jews at the time who had seen the grandeur of Soloman’s temple were indignant that the temple that was being rebuilt was nothing compared to the size of the previous temple. What God is saying through Zechariah here is it is not the size of the task that matters, but that it is done well. The Lord rejoices that Zerubbabel is holding the plumb line because He knows that it is going to be done right, with proper skill and care. The important thing is completing the task that we have been given to the absolute best of our ability, not wishing the task we had been given was greater. Being faithful in the small things.
I don’t know how many people left that particular morning devotion time at the World Vision headquarters with a sense of urgency to live a distinguished life as a follower of Christ, but I do know that Robert’s challenge had a deep impact on me that I won’t soon forget. I also know that God has unquestionably placed the right people at World Vision Malawi to accomplish the task of getting clean water to the people of Chikwina & Mpamba. Bringing water to the barren tank was an enormous and long-awaited success, but there is still more work to do to complete this system. It would have been easy to lose hope and give up on this project, but I believe that God is rejoicing in their continued faithfulness despite the difficulty of the task.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)