Since coming home from Zambia, I have tried and failed on numerous occasions to use my limited vocabulary to talk about our experiences. I feel frustrated that no matter who, or what I talk about, words do not explain quite how incredible this place and it’s people are. I’m finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably never be able to explain it in a way that does the people justice. As much as it is true, that I have a limited vocabulary, I believe it is also true that it wouldn’t matter if I were an incredibly talented wordsmith. These spectacular people really do have to be seen to be believed.
The images that we see on our TV screens, every time ‘Children In Need’ or ‘Comic Relief’ come around, depict a level of suffering and hardship that just seems so unlikely. Like it couldn’t possibly be real. But as much as I try to rationalize these things and pretend it is not that bad – it is. To come face to face with the most beautiful little girl you’ve ever seen and know that, statistically, she has more chance of being raped than she has of getting an education, cuts through your soul in a way you can’t possibly prepare yourself for. Let me tell you that seeing it first hand only makes it harder to believe.
However, if I’m honest, the thing I felt most unprepared for was the faith of this small community (Maposa). How on earth could these same people who suffer such hardships and tragedies greet the morning sun with such joy? I went expecting to see people defined by grief, controlled by fear and despair. Please understand, I’m not saying they don’t suffer these emotions, but they are not defined by them. In Maposa we were not greeted with hearts of sadness. We were greeted with open arms and the widest smiles you’ve ever seen, with singing and dancing, with children who don’t care if you can do anything for them, but just want to spend time with you because they can.
These people have given me no choice but to reconsider what it really means to have much or to have little.
To see a small child willingly share the only hot meal she would receive for two days with another child who had nothing to eat tells you everything you need to know about the spirits of the people we met. I felt ashamed to stand and watch knowing that in less than a week I’d fly home to a place where too often sharing is considered an inconvenience or a hassle.
In Zambia they understand that God is not about religion. They don’t know the Jesus that is taught in religious churches in this country. They see the Jesus who cared enough about his friends to give his life to save them on the cross. They see the Jesus who cares more about the motives of the heart than the outward appearance of the hypocrite in his Sunday best. They see the Jesus of faithfulness, peace, love, kindness and humility, and because of this, they are defined by joy and peace in an area of the world where rightfully there should be none.
I went to Zambia in ignorance thinking that I could actually do something for these people. Instead I found that Maposa taught me more in 2 weeks than any of our countries most expensive learning institutions ever could.