Fredy Castroneves and Kamuzu Banda nodded in unison toward Donald Brachus and followed him from their table to a secluded space in the camp, about fifty meters from the dining tent.
Donald stared at his feet for a few moments, shuffling the dirt. “Something happened today in the field, a lot like what happened when I first heard the call to come to Malawi. I remembered one of my arguments against it—what difference could a team from Chicago really make in all this poverty and corruption and sickness? I’m seeing it right in front of me, hearing stories about corrupt politicians and raiders from Lichinga who steal what little they have. How so many of their men die from AIDS.”
Fredy and Banda nodded silently. “Then I heard it as I was plowing the ground with my team and watching the faces of the women and the kids, seeing the hope in their eyes. ‘You can make a difference. You already are.’ It was like God giving me the payoff, the whole deal, the reason I came here made clear.”
“You’re only beginning to understand the power He’s building in you,” Fredy said, smiling.
“Donald,” Banda said softly, “you are doing something here that many people could have come here to do. But you were chosen. Do you understand the difference?”
Donald’s eyes widened as his arms flopped to his sides. “This is messed up, man. It’s why I wanted to talk to you. The next thing I heard God say, it scared the spit outta me—‘I want you to make this your life’s work, feeding my people.’ I’m like, ‘What, me? Who am … what will I ...’”
Banda leaned in to Donald, putting his hand on his left shoulder. “Donald, are you at least willing to accept the possibility that God would choose you to do that?”
“I don’t know, I mean—”
Suddenly, Donald found himself pinned face down, an angry boot in his back and sharp, cold steel pushing on his now-pounding carotid. Fredy and Banda were similarly overcome, laying about three meters to his right. “You and your Christian friends, you don’t know who’s way you are getting in,” Donald heard behind him in a heavy Chewa accent. “If you want to see your family back in Chicago again, you and your Christian people pack up and leave tomorrow.”
Donald grunted from his assailant’s emphatic thrust into his mid back, and he began to feel a warm trickle down his neck.
The attackers vanished as suddenly as they appeared. The three men laid still until they heard complete silence. “Nkemdilim,” Banda said. “They've attacked us this way three times in the last two months as our progress with the farming training has advanced. Word is getting around fast that the agriculture professors from your team have accelerated our progress. The Nkemdilim are threatened because our work is breaking their stronghold on the local leadership, from whom they extort protection to maintain a meager flow of foodstuffs from Mozambique, much of which is then confiscated and sold back to their own people.”
“Man, how did they know we’re from Chicago?”
All Donald could think of was Marti and the kids. Doubts raced through his mind. Was this whole trip about him, wanting to do something big for God? Was Marti right all along? He remembered what he said to her—“isn’t Jesus asking us to be risk takers?”
Still lying on the ground, Donald called out, “Fredy, Banda, are you guys okay?”
“Yeah, we’re good,” Fredy groaned.
“How’d those guys know where we’re from? Is there a mole in this camp? I can’t do this, man. We gotta get out of here. Fredy, we need to get word to Pastor Steve back home pronto. We need to call the State Department. We need someone to come here and protect us—now!”
“We already have someone,” Fredy whispered.
Donald scrambled to his feet, furious. “Cut the religious claptrap Fredy! These guys mean business. They want us dead! Don’t you get that?
“Donald, please,” Banda said. “I know you’re frightened, and that’s—
“This is for keeps, man! If God wants us here, if he wants me to make this my life’s work, then why is he allowing these people to kill me?”
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