Monday, January 19, 2009

Can you hear me thinking?


It has been so surreal being back. The rawness of Africa is so refreshing. The heartbreak is so humbling. I can't tell you what a different experience it is being back for a second time, knowing my way around, having friends that are both Zambians and Americans makes me feel like I am just returning home after being gone for a little while. It feels like home. I was driving some pastors home, and we were joking about how I needed to stay in Zambia long enough to marry off my daughters (in Africa the groom pays the bride's father a dowry in cows...) I told them I was going to bring that tradition to America... I can see it now, "Yes you can marry my daughter, but it is going to cost you. You see, they are Zambian and we must continue their cultural roots... How much do you love her?:)

I was at church the other day, and this youth choir sang this amazing Nyanga song. It was incredible. Beautiful.

I was driving the other day through the compound and their were huge puddles bordering the sides of the streets, chickens being sold on the in their little cages, charcoal on the other side and people walking everywhere. I just smiled and really felt the joy of being back.

But, that is only half of it. If you could only get inside my head for a moment, to listen in on the conversations going on, the processing, the battle and the thoughts, you might be a bit concerned:) It is crazy being back, because we feel like we never left. And, it was as if, stepping back into the country has given my mind permission to go in to overdrive. I remember last year, saying that I was going to blog every day for the first 30 days so as to have a place to process all that I was seeing and experiencing. And I have such a need for that again. See, it is like we never left and yet I have grown and experienced and processed a lot over the past year and a half, and so the things I am thinking about today are different than before, but no less convicting or uncomfortable or vexing.

I am thinking about this idea of love, where the Bible says that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. What does that mean but to care for others as I care for myself? Where before I just felt guilty, I now feel like I have a better grasp on what it means to love others, to bear burdens and care for others. So, when I buy preventive malaria medicine which we plan to do because we have money, what does that mean for others? It means that I should buy for them as well. I should care for us and I should care for them. But there are a lot of them, so should I buy just for those God has entrusted or given me relationship? How do I practically love my neighbor and when will I be satisfied that I have loved enough? Is there ever enough and is that really just me missing the point altogether?

I came home from my class yesterday to find Edmund, an orphan, waiting for me. I had helped him last year go to school in Kafue and he was back, knowing I was coming back in January. He didn't know when I would be home, but took a chance, going on mini bus, from Kafue, which is about 1 hour and 30 minutes away. He was a young man that was reached by one of our team members from years before. He needed more money to go to school. His parents have died and he lives with his grandparents and four siblings. She is old, sews for a living, and is in poor health. He needs 450,000 kwacha (under a hundred dollars) to go to school for a year, so he can finish his 11th grade. I struggle because I don't know this boy, yet, if his story is true, it is heartbreaking. What if that were my child. I could help him. I will help him. I want to help him. But, the need doesn't end. He came by today, and shared more of his story. I found myself tonight just thinking about him and reflecting on his plight, his desire to have a family, to support a family, and have a job and a life.

Today, a pastor friend stopped by to say hi at around 8:30am. In Zambia, stopping by is cultural and normal. So, whatever you might be doing becomes second and being hospitable becomes first. So, we had some water, we talked, and my daughter Kamryn invites him to stay for breakfast, french toast. We enjoyed a great breakfast with this man, who has thirteen children, 8 biological and 5 adopted, who lives in a very small house and lives, truly, by faith. He has a church that is too small for 100 people, and yet he has over 300 every Sunday. He has a plot of land next door, and a foundation that has begun. But they do not have the money to pay for it, and I could probably get enough people to help him pay for it, but if I do it, I jeopardize our relationship and the relationship with the countless other pastors I work with because money and relationships are tenous at best, but if I don't, some people will not be able to hear the gospel preached or be able to go to his church. I want to help. It would be so easy to help. But, it might not be best to help,

Kamryn went with a friend today to the hospital to visit Lydia Sitali, a daughter of a pastor and a teacher at a community school who had cerebral meningitis, who when a 32 cm of water fluid will kill you, she had over 70 cm of water in her brain. She was paralyzed since December 5, with no ability to get her to a hospital because of a lack of money, the pastor lost his cell phone so he had no way to call us, and we learned of it in December. We (Action Zambia) have since got her to a hospital, but she is blind, can barely process and is progressing slowly.

I saw a man, hobbling on a crutch today, a ways from my house. I saw him hours later, hardly a mile away, going in the same direction as before.

This is Africa. It is what it is. Life trying to survive this life. No pretending. No walls. No superficiality. It is good to be back.

I am thinking about a lot things now, and it is hard and good and real and raw. I teach pastors, but ministry and normal life and poverty and heartache and pain and joy and simplicity and opportunity interweave a whole consuming lot. I am doing well, so don't worry. I think this kind of processing is good for the soul. I have had the opinion all along that all of this is a process of me learning to live more and more for others, allowing my heart to be broken (and to stay broken) by the things that breaks God's heart and to be used in ways that are at best uncomfortable and at worst, maddening.

I hear the wind blowing and that usually means a storm is coming.

3 comments:

Terri in Bellingham said...

Thank you so much for thinking out loud via blogging, Steve. This is so helpful to keep God's passion for the least of these in the fore and not just our own self-absorbed petty worries.

Kristi Knifong said...

I love this kind of post. I feel like I'm seeing it through your heart, eyes and mind. Keep letting us in on how you process all these inequalities. We are processing them with you as you share. You are not alone.

Melissa said...

Steve...your words meant alot to me, as usual. I loved your one-line observations, those ones you see out the window for a silent moment where time stands still (seeing a cripple hobbling around...talking with homeless parents on the streets of NOLA...). I know that it's good because it hurts--which a heart of stone wouldn't do :)

I have been thinking about love alot to lately. More along the lines of: Jesus came so that we might have life, and life to the fullest...this is life: that we may know the One true God, and Jesus Christ Whom He sent...God is love. So knowing God is knowing love, and loving others is helping them to experience the life that God offers them as much as me. Conversely (this is what hurts) judging others, being impatient, slandering, etc--all deprive them of life...by saying they're unworthy to me and unworthy to God because I won't love them. Ouch! Pride gets in the way even more...because I don't know how to love people I think I'm better than. I can only pity. Does that help them to experience God and love in His fullness?

I dreamt about your family last night, at your home in Africa (which was like a large warehouse scary place with lots of tunnels...obviously I was rather off). But it made me think how many incomprehensible difficulties y'all face. And yeah we face trials in America too, and I don't want to be another person praising you for being a SuperChristian because of how you are standing up to so much stuff that "[I] could never handle". But thanks for being humble and faithful :) I loved the video too--just seeing 5 seconds of you speaking and moving your hands like you always do made me smile :D Sending hugs from Alissa G and Angela S too!