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The Staggering Choir

October 5th, 2018 Posted by News No Comment yet

It is sometimes said that, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Ken one of our newest and youngest Impact Team members witnessed this earlier this year when he managed to break through into the previously impenetrable community of Nshinso.

Ken lives near the town of Serenje in Central Zambia. He likes his football and, as well as watching many of the games at this year’s World Cup, he coaches his village football team. He has not been involved with Dignity for long yet he has already seen much transformation in the communities around him as a result of his efforts.

Nshinso had proved to be a very difficult place for the Central Impact Team to reach. All previous efforts by the team had not born much fruit and there seemed to be so much opposition to everything our teams would try to do.

“They would think anyone involved with Dignity were satanists!” explained Ken, making a remarkable statement. For many reading this, that kind of statement is other worldly, alien or unthinkable. Yet in Zambian villages anything out of the ordinary tends to arouse suspicion. This leads villagers into believing people are satanists and dangerous just because what they do is different. It may seem extraordinary but this is a reality the Dignity teams face time and time again. As a result of the opposition, Nshinso was not an area that the Central Impact Team had planned to visit yet.

In July, Ken found himself travelling to Nshinso with his friend Geoffrey to accompany him to his sister’s funeral. Geoffrey’s sister had been a Jehovah’s Witness but because she had suffered with a drinking problem in her life she had been excommunicated from that group. The Jehovah’s Witnesses in the area wanted nothing to do with the funeral and in the absence of any real church, the funeral was left to the outcasts and misfits of the community to organise.

When Ken and Geoffrey arrived in the village they came across the local ‘Talantata Choir’, ‘Talantata’ being the Bemba word for ‘staggering’. As the name suggests, the Talantata Choir was commonly made up of drunkards and other social outcasts singing away in drunken revelry, avoided by the people around them. Yet these were the people who were organising the funeral.

Ken and his friend Geoffrey sought their permission to speak to the mourners. In a similar way to Jesus, they showed a willingness to step out and identify with the people that no one else would. It would be usual to ignore these people.

The fact that Ken and Geoffrey loved and cared about them left the ‘talantatas’ dumbstruck and amazed. They had never experienced people expressing such interest in their lives before and as a result they were more than happy to allow Ken and Geoffrey to speak to the mourners at the funeral.

Ken saw this as an opportunity to reach the people of Nshinso. A part of the community that had been so hostile to the work of Dignity in the past was now hanging on his every word. He shared from Acts 2, about what the church was meant to be – using this to introduce the work of Dignity. He explained the concept of Life Groups – small community groups that study the Bible together and seek to take action in their community.

The response from the people was amazing; they were really moved by the idea of a church that they could be part of, a church where they could belong. Those who are seen as ‘bad’ people are often shunned by their communities and the religious organisations around them. Life Groups are different; they are a place where they would not be rejected.

Ken had this to say, “Everyone in Nshinso has become interested in the idea of Life Groups and the difference they can make in the village: pastors, drunkards… everyone!” The actions of Ken and Geoffrey with the ‘Talantata choir’ opened doors that could not have been opened in any other way.

From this amazing story, we see the true in the adage that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Maybe, just maybe, Ken and Geoffrey have helped to give the community of Nshinso a brighter future.