Monday, September 30, 2013

Days 9 and 10 - A Rose Among Thorns

After a long day of travel and my first game drive experience with wild creatures on the loose, I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.   Kevin and Dan were going to enjoy a second game drive early the next morning, and they had a 4:30am wake up call.  All the girls decided to sleep in and fore go the experience.  Even though my tent was next to a rowdy group of campers who were thoroughly enjoying the night life of the lodge, I didn’t allow their partying to interfere with my sleep.  I awoke the next morning feeling quite refreshed.  I must have slept really soundly because Janice commented on the ‘sleep lines’ still etched on my cheek as we waited for breakfast to arrive.  Poor Savannah had gotten no rest.  Gabriella’s teething and interrupted sleep patterns were the perfect recipe for a sleepless night, so I took Analiese back to my tent after breakfast, and she and I played ‘salon.’  I curled her hair while she talked to me about how sad she was feeling because the puku was killed by the leopard the night before.  “I know that mama must be so sad because her puku got chewed.  I wish that puku had ran faster and got away,” she said.  She was genuinely distraught, and I really couldn’t offer her any comfort.  I continued to curl her hair and thought about what a sensitive and intuitive little three year old she was. 
While we waited for Kevin and Dan to return, I had a chance to get some studying done in preparation for my bible lesson with the ladies from Chinjala Baptist Church the next day.  The day proceeded at a wonderful, leisurely pace.  We enjoyed lunch at the lodge right next door to where we’d spent the night, and I had another interesting cultural experience involving an outdoor toilet and shower☺. I also made the discovery that hippos ‘sing.’  Down by the edge of the lodge property, the staff had set out Adirondack style chairs and hammock chairs that overlooked the river.  On that particular day a herd of hippos were playing in the water, and they seemed to be singing to each other.  Their rhythmic sound was so unique and peculiar, and it is difficult to describe.  However, I thought this hippo choir music would be a great background vocal on the cd I was producing.   I walked slowly and quietly over toward the herd.  I was probably 100 yards from them on an elevated range.  As soon as I readied my camera and had the audio set to record, those fabulous creatures stopped singing.  I couldn’t believe it!  I waited in position, hoping that they would take up the chorus again, but they didn’t make a sound.  It was as if they knew I wanted to record them, and they had chosen to be obstinate on purpose.  Big boogers!  I was so disappointed. 

SATURDAY - The Story Bracelet, part 2

I was really looking forward to seeing the ladies from Chinjala again.  I had challenged them the week before to share the story of God’s love with people in their villages using the story bracelet that they had crafted, and I was looking forward to hearing their testimonies.  We picked up the bible study attendees in Kevin’s truck.   The Jalowiecs were joining us that Saturday, so there was plenty of room for everyone.  Once we made the turn off the led into the remote area of the bush and Kevin had driven only a short distance, we noticed a road block up ahead of us.  A large tree limb had fallen and was blocking the path.  Kevin got out of the truck and tried to remove the limb, but it was too cumbersome.  Some of the ladies got out of the truck and pulled the branch off the road while we drove past.  Once we were clear of the limb, they let it go and it whipped back into its place blocking the road.  I laughed and commented to Kevin that he just gave new meaning to ‘preparing the way’ for the word of the God.  There is just no limit to the lengths that man will go so people can hear the truth of God’s love for them. 

Precious and Me

What a blessed time we had.  We started the meeting with singing, and I was feeling better about my pronunciation of Chichewa.  Prayerfully the words coming from my lips had something to do with Christianity and weren’t offensive to the woman sitting next to me.  It was so nice to have visitors in attendance, and I reminded the ladies about the challenge I had issued to them at our last meeting.  I asked if anyone wanted to share their experience, and several women raised their hands.  I was elated!  One of the women was a sixteen year old named Precious.  She stood in front of the group and recited the message of the story bracelet, describing what each bead represented.  Then she testified of how some of her peers at school had made fun of her when she tried to witness to them, but several of her friends received her words.  What a joy to my heart to hear of her boldness for Christ.  Another lady named Pamela also had a story to share.  She had gone back to her village and was ‘preaching’ about the love of God using the bracelet as a teaching tool.  As Justina translated her story, I could tell that she had really made God’s message of love her own.  She testified that several people that she talked to in the village made a profession of faith after she spent time witnessing to them.  Praise the Lord!  I encouraged her to invite them to come to bible study with her so they could hear more about God’s truth.  I was so glad that she would be a positive influence in the lives of those in her village.  God was being honored.  We had a wonderful teaching session.  I felt like I was firing off God’s truth with a fire hydrant, yet these dear women were trying to drink it all in.  I could only pray that they didn’t feel like they were drowning.  Praise the Lord for Jan Jalowiec.  She encouraged me to continue teaching and assured me that she and Dan would follow up and answer any questions that might arise during future meetings.  We ended the teaching session with another recording of the women singing my new favorite Zambian hymn, Nzapidati.  (You can listen to the audio).  I laughed during the recording when one of the ladies’ cell phones rang during the singing.  I was shocked!  What were the odds that anyone out in this remote area would even have cell coverage.  Apparently the problem of cell phone interruptions during church knows no boundaries.  I was sad to say goodbye but felt confident that the Lord would allow our paths to cross again.

Marco and Kevin
The Interview

Almost a full week had passed since I first observed the literacy class at Big Tree Baptist Church.  I had lain awake every night envisioning the faces of those adults who were learning to read and write for the first time.  I thought about Mable, Doreen, and so many other faithful servants who had fully committed their time, talent and treasure to showing others the love of Christ in such practical ways.  I knew the Lord had brought me to Chipata to witness his power and presence first hand.  I was to play a part in the lives of these dear people, but I wasn’t certain what that would look like.  My entrepreneurial/business woman instincts were converging with my spiritual surrender, and I purposed to slow myself down and ask ‘measured’ questions about the possibility of making a real impact in the culture by implementing a few key objectives from the Global Sisterhood Initiative that involved education and job training.  Kevin was very patient with me. All week long during those road trips between his house in town and the bush villages I would ask questions, so he arranged for me to meet and interview a man who had started a school for orphans right in the heart of the Chipata.

In 2005, a businessman from Italy named Marco Sardella was moved with compassion when he saw the plight of school age children in Chipata who were hopeless and destitute.   Most of these were single or double orphans, the poorest of Chipata’s poor who were wondering the streets with no opportunity for an education. With the support of several families in the town, a community school was started for 420 of these children.  I was completely intrigued and inspired by Marco’s story.  For the next hour he provided details and insight into the process of implementing an educational program in Chipata.   That interview was invaluable.  I felt like I’d been given the ticket to a gold mine because Marco knew everything about the ‘ways and means’ of following through on a project of the scale I was proposing.  He invited Kevin and me to tour the school complex, so we made the short drive to the property.  The Mission Academy is located in the heart of town in an area called a compound.  The setting reminded me of an urban ghetto.  Yet, once we drove onto the property, it was as if we’d arrived at a lush oasis in the middle of a dry, dusty desert.   What an incredible refuge this was for kids looking for a beacon of hope. It was Saturday, so school wasn’t in session. Marco’s secretary, Katherine Jere, greeted us when we arrived and opened all the buildings so we could go inside.  We got to see the original school building, which was a house that Marco purchased and had the bedrooms converted into classrooms.  I could only smile as I thought about devoted teachers trying to give lessons to a classroom filled with more than 100 primary age children seated on the floor.  Then Marco showed us the newest structure that had been built.  It was a beautiful, modern building with large classrooms and rows of desks, all made possible through Marco’s fundraising efforts and the generosity of many of his Italian friends and colleagues.  It was an incredible sight to behold.   I recorded my interview with my Marco, so I would be able to refer back to all the details he had shared with me.  I had a restless night and didn’t get much sleep at all.  My mind was racing as I thought about the possibilities of carrying out a vision similar to what Marco had done.  The need was plain.  A possible solution had been dropped into my lap.  The question before me as I lay awake was this:  Are you going to do anything about it?
photo courtesy of Dan Jalowiec (academy students in front of new school building)

next time - Until We Meet Again...