"This life therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal, but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed." --Martin Luther

Friday, March 19, 2010


What am I talking about? It is known as the cow incident.

In August before we left Zambia we were having a lot of problems with cows. They roam freely and can eat pretty much whatever they want from about July until after the rains come. When the only thing green is your garden…well, you can imagine that it is pretty tempting. They had already eaten a 100 or so cabbages along with some other produce. I was rather upset and annoyed. Wood fences will work for only so long (just ask Daniel, who had been at the school). Wood fences are just a temporary solution to a long term problem. I have lived with cattle all my life, I have a pretty good idea how they think. We’d chase the cows out and run them down the road and they would just work their way back through the bush back to the garden.

Well one day (it was on my b-day) I took the shot gun out to scare them off. I had bird shot in the gun and I shot over the cows from 30 yards. Did it work? No. Well, about a week and a half later the local villager who owned the cows came to the school when I was in town and said that I had shot one of his cows and it had died (or it had to be put down- not sure, the story seemed to change throughout the day). He said the cow had 2 broken back legs. I found that interesting considering that the cow had been walking around for a week and a half. Later at the BIG meeting they presented me with the evidence….. 4 BBs- yes, I said 4 BBs they found in the cow’s hide. I started to laugh. These 4 BBs from a bird shot round broke both back legs on the cow (two in each leg they told me). Now, I never saw the cow and as far as I know nobody else from the school did either. But I was guilty and the cow had to be paid for. I said fine I’d pay for the cow, which was done. But then there was the matter of restitution for more, I guess it was for pain and suffering. I don’t know. All I know is the cow was paid for three times over by the time it was all said and done. Tembo made out very well that day. He is the local villager that everyone has problems with. His cows eat everyone’s gardens, but he doesn’t care, his cows are being fed. He is also the wealthiest man around, because he has more cows than everyone else. In the midst of the discussion at the BIG meeting I offered to buy all his cows as a resolution to prevent further problems. It must not have been a good idea because everyone got very excited. To me it seemed logical, buying cows is something I have done for many years and I was successful doing it.

Why do I tell you this VERY unflattering story about myself? It was a mistake on my part. As was African culture and custom, I apologized and it was taken care of.

I tell it because there are rumors and lies being told about it and that it is the reason why we had to leave. I have been told by friends that people have come to them and say they heard I have an uncontrollable temper. Considering I was the one there at the time of the shooting, I would have thought someone would have talked to me about the incident and gotten my side of the story. But what seems to have happened is that the exaggerations and lies from some were believed by others because it was a means to an end. And that end-us leaving. It is what certain people wanted and it (I) played right into their hands.

What was interesting is the fact that many of the locals were upset that I was leaving and that this incident was being used as the reason. You see in the African culture, once the meeting has taken place and an agreement was made and payment was given, it is never to be mentioned again. It was done in their eyes as though it had never happened and it was not to be mentioned again or used against someone (me). They saw using it as rude and unchristian. Rueben (one of the village elders) told me, “it is not a big deal; we have at least one of these incidents every year”.
He also wrote in letter to our pastor,
“on the incident of you shooting Mr. Tembo’s cow. Anyway, that sometimes happens even to us the indigenous, where you found cattle or maybe goats stray in someone’s gardens or field destroying crops, sometimes the owners of the garden or field becomes emotional and decides to harm the animals in one way or the others as you did it, but such cases are always resolved amicably by the village leaders and there is nothing sinister to what happened between you and Mr. Tembo. Such things happen in our community. It is a big surprise that this incident has made you to leave our community.”
(I would only add that shooting over them wasn’t done out of emotion, especially not uncontrolled rage. I had planned to shoot over the cows to scare them. It usually works to get them to run away and not come back for quite awhile).

What I found so sad was that the culture permits the cows roaming because it is tradition. They know this tradition hurts the people but it is tradition. And you do not mess with tradition. I guess that philosophy transcends cultures. Maybe I shouldn’t have cared. But I know that the villagers, and yes the students, needed the food to eat. I cared more about feeding them than feeding the cows.

It is clear that many people do not know me very well because if I intended to shoot that cow, I would have dropped it where it stood and would have had the tenderloins on the brai (grill) the same day. The incident does not really bother me, it’s the lies and the fact that people that know better (still) don’t bother to check out the whole story. I can honestly look back on it and laugh. The whole story is just really funny. Is it embarrassing? Yes. Did I have a big metal lapse? Absolutely. Is it something that is going to haunt me? Absolutely NOT. I have moved on and continue to. And the people that want to tell the lies or believe them- well I guess they will have to answer for that. I have now said what I needed to say, so I am done. But if there is ever someone that wants to ask me about it (or anything else for that matter), I have always had an open door policy and I intend to keep it that way. Ask away. We have never shyed from sharing our experiences and what we learned.

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