In the heat of the Zimbabwean sun, with the dusty dirt of the dry season and the tension of political uncertainty and fragile life, I was more than a little nervous. As we approached the homestead where Tulani and Angela live, with their four children, I was getting worried – would I know what to say? Would I connect?
This precious family greeted us, warmly, graciously, and we sat on upturned buckets under the shade of a tree in the centre of their homestead. Tulani struck me as a very practical man. He lives by the work of his hands and knows how to use them. I was filled with respect for how he works to provide for his family. I was struck by the powerful relationship he has with his wife, Angela. Here, so far from the comfort of my western life, I see in their trust, their inter-reliance, his admiration of her, something of my own relationship with my own wonderful wife, Hannah. Not least when Angela asked if I am a family man…
I’m delighted to say that my wonderful little daughter, Martha Grace, was born just a few weeks ago and after a complicated start to life, is doing brilliantly. I wonder, if she’d been born in rural Zimbabwe, whether she would have made it through those first few days at all…how blessed we are.
Perhaps it is only when Angela asked this question that I really begin to understand.
Perhaps it was only then that I really recognised the precarious nature of their existence.
Perhaps it was only then I saw the vast gulf in opportunity that stands between my daughter and their five children.
Perhaps it was only then that I saw just how important this work is, just why it matters so much. It is a matter of life and death, but more than that, it is a matter of hope and despair, it is a matter of a family’s potential.
Angela shared with us some of the difficulties Tulani faces when he is not able to provide what his children need. As my own ‘dad instinct’ kicks in, the impulse to provide and protect, I have been reminded of the pain that hung in the air of our conversation in that moment, and thought often of another dad, a long way away, in a very different context, seeking to do his very best for his family. Can he keep finding the strength?
Four of their children, Brian, Bruce, By-Grace and tiny By-Faith were all around us, playing, snoozing, feeding, part of the conversation. In the fragility, this family shows such strength, and as talked of chickens, and of All We Can, they show hope too. In a world where so much seems beyond their control, here is something they can focus on, something the whole family can be a part of, the possibility of a different kind of future.
This generation bursts with potential, with hope, with a desire for life to be different. It is for them Tulani lives and works.
It is for them we must hold our hope, amongst political uncertainty, poverty and pain.
It is for them I return to work with a renewed energy.
It is for them I pray every day.
What if every person’s potential could be fulfilled?
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