Friday, October 10, 2008

Reflections on my Zambia Trip

Well, I am home and I couldn't be more excited. I just finished my third trip to Zambia. It has been a whirlwind to say the least and yet before all else, I must start by being thankful to God who answered my prayers in some very unique, amazing ways.

First and foremost, I had almost no jet lag. Really, the first and second day were composed of meetings all day and I was all there, both days. I have never experienced that before. That was a first. All week I felt really great. God also answered my prayer for health. I felt amazing the entire week until... Tuesday. Another first... I got a nasty 24 hours stomach flu. Never had that in Zambia before. I wasn't alone. My host and director and his wife, Tim and Andrea Hilty, both got it too, at the same time, 2:00 am. We experienced commiseration in a whole new way. Enough said. I am feeling better and so thankful that flu is only 24 hours.
At our Action Zambia retreat on Saturday and Sunday, I saw my first real live wild snake, a huge Puff Adder. It was a bit surreal and lot scary. (It wasn't until later that I learned that Puff Adders are very slow but they are the most lethal snake because they have huge fangs and they don't move when you come upon them. Good to know.)

I saw my first campaign for presidency as the previous president died a few months ago and they are having a new election. I saw my first change of phone companies, where the incredibly red Cel Tel was replaced by Zain and its funky black and green and purple logo.

I saw my first engine truck going to the first fire I have ever seen. The only fire station, Central Fire Station, with two fire trucks was going across to put out a fire at another first, a two car fire in the impounded parking lot at the Central Police Station.

I took my first 2:35 am flight out of Lusaka. I didn't know any airline ever did that.

I experienced another first, seeing Action Bible Institute live in action. What has been a dream for so long for our mission, finally got its start, and Tracy Singleton was teaching the first course. A bunch of the pastors were from either my inductive bible study classes and/or at conferences I spoke at. That was a great reunion. I sat in on a class and it was a great time. Another first, I will be teaching Ephesians when I return in January.

I had some hard firsts as well. I saw a young man who had been hit by car and was lying in the street. Considering the health care in Zambia, the very reality that he probably didn't have money to get help, the future looked bleak and it broke my heart.

I think that is where the firsts end, because what really stuck with me wasn't so much the firsts and the new and the different, but rather how nothing had changed since I was gone. The same lady was at the same corner still selling the same tomatoes. The people are still pounding rocks day after day. The bicyclist were still peddling charcoal from the airport to town. The little girls were still holding their little baby brothers and the same heartbreak, difficulty and poverty still has its grip on Zambia. I was just thinking as I sat in my comfortable airline seat looking out in to the dark night that it just isn't right to be able to go from such extremes in such a short time. To be able to go from where poverty and despair reign to a place where prosperity and opportunity abound in a week is just crazy.

Life in Africa just keeps on going and the poorest live without opportunity or hope that things might get better and with that, all my previous feelings of guilt and heartache and pain came roaring back. And, truly, that is O.K... It is good to live with that tension because as Ecclesiastes 7:3 says “Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.” It doesn't really make sense that a heartache is good for the heart, but I think it is because it purifies, and provides perspective and gives a bearing to life, a compass of sorts.
So, my heart is broken again and will continue to be broken. I will continue to wrestle with the tension and I continue to learn how to live from my fellow Zambians. They are gracious, grateful and joyful and persevering and faith-filled. They love heaven. They love people. It is a love/hurt tension and it is good for the soul. Thanks for your prayers as we prepare to head back in a few months, for which I am sure will go by quickly.


Mike Weston said...

Thank you for writing. It puts it all in our problems here in the U.S. pale in comparison to what most of the world faces. I'm looking forward to hearing more from you...

The Hansen Family said...


Chisanga said...

What a wonderful blog entry and glimpse into such important work. As I read your post, I am so grateful for my understanding of God's love and his ability to reach into all circumstances. God bless your continued efforts.

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