I returned home eleven weeks ago, and I feel I am finally ready to write my last blog entry about my Zambia adventure. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my experiences and what I learned from them. I realize I have learned as much about myself as I did about Zambia, especially my imperfections. For example, I never realized that respect had become so important to me. Did this happen as I got older? I have always believed that the young should show respect to their elders. This is Biblical. When, however, did I cross the invisible line of being one of the elders?
There have also been moments of overwhelming sadness. It feels like a hole inside my chest that refuses to go away. I noticed it after my first meal off the plane. Mike took my daughter and me to The Outback. The bill came, and it was almost $40.00. All I could think about was how many people that would feed in Zambia. These culture shock moments quickly faded, but times of sadness still come unexpectantly.
I fell in love with Zambia and my sisters. Reflecting on their hard work, and tenacious ability to survive things that would devastate me, causes my heart to embrace the memory and not let go of it. The realization, however, of their private and unexpressed grief makes me long to be with them. I know I could not change their hardships, but I could offer comfort. They could express forbidden tears with someone willing to share their sorrow with tears of her own. It may not be much, but it is what I have to offer. I wonder if God will allow me to return someday to teach grief counseling.
Every memory is like the one above. First, the memory is filled with wonder and gratefulness for the opportunity. Second, it is filled with sadness as I remember the suffering. Third, it is filled with questions and frustrations at the lack of concern and action on our part to ease the suffering. Must we drive beautiful new cars to church to sit Sunday after Sunday in a nice building, with nice stuff, while our brothers and sisters sit on logs with empty bellies? Finally, it is filled with challenge. What does God want me to do? Every memory has to be sorted and filed in such a way that I do not become consumed with something I cannot change. It is exhausting work.
I promised in my last entry to tell you of some ways I was able to make a difference. In the last few weeks of my visit, I knew I could not leave Zambia without doing something, no matter how small. Somehow, I knew it would be my sanity when I returned home. After talking with World Hope staff, I decided to sponsor a child. His name is Junior, and he is nine years old. After his father’s death he, his brothers and his mother lost their home. It is a common practice for the man’s family to take all his property leaving the wife with nothing. There are new laws against this practice, but it is hard to enforce. I was able to meet Junior before I left. I was introduced as his new grandmother. I am honored. It was an amazing experience. I had fun shopping for his school supplies and buying him a soccer ball. Junior will now be able to attend a good school, and his family will have enough to eat. In exchange, I am blessed with the peace that comes from knowing that I get to make a difference for one.
I have been asked many times, if I could do it over, would I do the study abroad program again. There is not an easy answer to this question. I am amazed at the miracle of this experience. How many married women my age get such a gift? I am grateful for my Guistwhite scholarship. I am also grateful to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation who encourages their scholars to have a study abroad experience and provides funding for my education. Most importantly, I was blessed with a supportive husband and church family. With all this in mind, I would not do a three-month trip again without my husband. It was difficult not having Mike there to process and share experiences with.
I hear from my Zambia brothers and sisters every now and then. I love continuing to share in their lives. I really hope to travel to Zambia again armed with the knowledge and tools to help make a difference, this time with Mike by my side. We will see.
Thank you dear friends and family for following my journey with me. Your involvement helped make this the adventure of a lifetime.