Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Zambia - Part III

After our 12-day stay at bush camp, we were paired off for our homestays with a local Zambian family. Jeff and I were assigned to the Benson Phiri family in town, where we spent three days & nights with pastor Benson, his wife, Agnes, and their children.

Jeff and I had no idea what to expect when Kevin Rodgers dropped us off at the Phiri’s home Friday morning. As we pulled up to the small brick home, several kids appeared, seemingly excited about their guests for the weekend. Kevin introduced us to pastor Benson who showed us inside and to our bedroom.

The Phiri’s were kind enough to give up their bedroom for us while they slept in their living room. As we entered the house, the air felt 20 degrees warmer than outside. Pastor Benson had built their home but has not had the funds to install windows so the window openings were bricked up to keep the house secure. In doing so, however, there was little ventilation so the heat was nearly unbearable to us.

Jeff and I went into our small bedroom and looked at each other. We instantly read each other’s minds. “How are we going to make it this weekend?” It was hot. The room was small. Our “shower” was nothing more than a small stall with a wash basin and a drain. The only toilet was outside, which was another stall with a hole in the ground. This was sure to be an experience.

We unpacked our things, decided we had to make the most of it and have faith that we could endure whatever discomforts may come. We sat down with Pastor Benson and visited for a bit and were served hot tea with bread and butter before we went into town.

All weekend we rarely spent anytime with the Phiri family as a whole. In traditional African culture, women are still considered second-rate people. Agnes stayed in the small kitchen with the girls much of the time; I even caught a glimpse of her lying on the concrete floor taking a nap as the breeze coming through the house flapped the sheets hanging in the doorway.

She prepared our meals and the girls often served us in the living room but never joined us for a meal or tea time. African women are strong; some of the strongest in the world and can endure some of the harshest circumstances imaginable. Coupled with this resilient strength, though, is oppression unknown to most.
I have more to share from the weekend stay at the Phiri’s, such as the traditional African wedding celebration we attended. That will be a post all its own. Until then…

Jeff with neighboring kids at our homestay

Me with neighboring kids at the homestay

The Phiri's home

The Phiri's church in the village

Jeff and I with some of the kids after church

Living room in the Phiri's home

Jeff and I with the Phiri family

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Zambia - Part II

So maybe blogging isn’t one of my strengths but I’m determined to do better. Picking up where I left off…

After our time in Lusaka, we headed for bush camp in Petauke, a good six or seven hours drive from the city. For any who know me, you are well aware that I’m not a camper and have never actually been camping, which may be strange to some considering I’ve lived in Arkansas since birth. Surprisingly enough, my time at bush camp were the best days of 40/40.

We stayed in tents where at night, we could hear bats chirping and bush babies peeping among the trees overhead. Bathing was a bit of a chore as we first walked to the well to hand-pump our shower water, then carry the bucket to the showers where we lowered another bucket to pour the water in, then raised the shower bucket with a pulley. My first experience with the bucket shower was a memorable one as I didn’t properly tie the rope for the pulley (this is when previous camping experience would have been helpful) and my bucket, full of water, came crashing down on my head, then bounced off my shoulder (go ahead, I give my blessing to laugh).

Our DFA’s were similar to those in Lusaka but the topic of marriage and child birth is when I learned how traditional beliefs hold African people in a bondage of fear. We visited with several families in the villages, asking about special rituals or steps taken when a couple wants to marry and when a child is born. One family shared, in graphic detail, about the husband and wife’s relationship after a baby is born. Without going into much detail, they told us about traditional medicines that are taken and rituals performed on the baby before the couple may come together again. If these acts are not taken seriously and followed through with, they believe the newborn baby will die immediately by its body being separated within at the waist.

As they shared these beliefs, I questioned them on the validity of their rituals and asked if they had ever seen a baby die is such a gruesome way due to its parents not following the customs. While they could not say they had witnessed it themselves, they simply repeated “it has happened.”

As we left the village, God reminded me of the bondage of animistic and ritual beliefs that have a stronghold on many people in Africa, especially those in rural villages.

In my next post, I’ll share about mine and Jeff’s homestay with the Phiri family. Until then…

My tent at bush camp

Visiting in the village

Jeff and I visiting with kids in the village

Pumping water for my shower

Guy's shower

Shower stall with bucket shower

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Zambia - Part I

For anyone reading this blog, my apologies for being slack in updating.

I’ve been back in Joburg for a week now, getting adjusted and settling in to life here in the big city. Driving a stick shift on the left side of the road is a bit tricky….okay, a lot tricky but I’m gaining confidence every day. This week, my goal is to make it to the Greenstone Mall which isn’t far from my apartment but there’s lots of traffic between here and there.

Allow me to catch up to speed on my month in Zambia. I left South Africa Oct. 22 for Lusaka, Zambia, to participate in 40/40, an on-field training to better acclimate us to African culture and help us be effective ministers in our assignments. One of the best parts of 40/40 was reuniting with our FPO group from Virginia. It was wonderful reconnecting with everyone and catching up on the past three weeks since we left ILC and our lives in the US.

During our 12-day stay in Lusaka, we were housed at the Baptist Seminary and visited surrounding townships, or compounds as they are known there, for our Daily Field Assignments. Each day, we were given a different topic to visit with the locals about, including healthcare, life cycles and spiritual beliefs.

One day, Evan and I, along with our Zambian partner Mangani, went to visit Moses, an older man suffering from tuberculosis. Moses lives in the Bauleni compound in a small, mud and brick house with a tin roof. His house, barely bigger than a bedroom, contained only a single-size mattress, a small table, a couple of chairs and a few random knick-knacks. Upon entering the house, thoughts of TB being an airborne disease ran through my head but then I saw Moses and his frail, weak body, sitting on the side of his bed, waiting for our arrival.

The Holy Spirit quickly reminded me not to fear such things but only to love this sick and seemingly helpless man. Moses told us he was on medication to treat the TB but he was very weak. He shared with us how he had lived a reckless life, abusing alcohol and other drugs, and how he deeply regretted the poor choices he made in the past.

Evan began sharing about the love of Christ and the redeeming power of God’s grace on our lives, despite the sin in our past and present. He told Moses that our Lord would rescue him from sin and change his life. Moses seemed to understand the good news and believed he could be saved in the name of Jesus. We prayed with Moses and he received Christ as his Lord and Savior.

I have much to share about Zambia so I’ll write more in additional posts. Until then…

Evan & Moses

Jeff, Evan & I at lunch in Lusaka

The lady in this picture told us she's HIV-Positive