Tuesday, October 6, 2009

mealie-meal, nescafe, no water pressure

I am sitting at my desk drinking the last dregs of a cup of Starbucks Coffee that I bought earlier this afternoon. At best it is lukewarm. It brings up images in my mind of Revelation 3:16. To paraphrase, it is neither hot nor cold - just lukewarm and it is close to being spit out. Yechh. Still, it is better than the coffee available at most places in Zambia, the country I will be visiting again in just 9 short days. All you can get there is a cup of moderately hot water and a packet of Nescafe.

The title of today's blog is in reference to life in Zambia, which, once again this year, I will be visiting in a week and a half. Yes, that's right. I am going back to the country and city Judy and I visited last summer (2008). This time, there are 9 of us going as a joint team from Enumclaw Rotary and Calvary Presbyterian Church.

My local Rotary Club has named Village Steps and its commitment to assisting in educating Lusaka's poorest children as its International Project for 2009 and 2010. They have donated a significant amount of money toward Village Steps and to one of the schools Village Steps supports. With the money Rotary has committed, a well for safe water will be dug, we will purchase equipment to help the staff of The Healing Place School provide lunches for the children, and we will begin digging foundation trenches for their first classroom building. Right now, there are approximately 110 children who attend this school which exists because many of the kids in the Kabanana district cannot afford the $90.00 USD it takes to buy a uniform and books for one of the government schools.

Even for an in tact family, that is more than the average household annual income in Zambia. Most of these children are living with friends or extended family because they are orphans. One or more of their parents has died or is sick with HIV/AIDs.

While there, we will also be seeking to elicit the support of the Lusaka Central Rotary Club for this project which will enable us to apply for matching grant money from our Rotary District and from Rotary International. We read about the extreme poverty and need in the world and, at times, it is almost too overwhelming; we feel paralyzed from doing anything about it. Hopefully, 10 days, 9 people and lots of prayer and support from back home can make some difference in the lives of these children. They are only a small percentage of the orphans in Zambia (over 1 million) and in the world (130,000,000). But each one is an individual. Each one has a name. Each one is an object of God's love. Each one has a right to safe water, a nutritious meal each day and an education that will better equip them to live a productive and healthy life.

So I am willing to drink Nescafe (or take my own supply of ground coffee and a French Press) and eat nsima (also called mealie-meal, it is a staple of the Zambian diet. It is a thickened corn meal whose closest equivalent in the states might be grits). And I am also willing to endure sponge baths or weak showers. It seems a small sacrifice to make if I can do something to affect even one child's life.

From last year's experience, I also know that the greatest impact of a trip like this is the effect it has on the people participating. My life was transformed by going to Africa last summer just as it has been by building houses in Mexico or helping rebuild houses and lives after Hurricane Katrina.

Jesus once said that "the Son of Man did not come into the world to be served but to serve." Sometimes I look at my life and think of all the things I feel entitled to like really good coffee, abundant food, and way too many material possessions. Then I go to a developing country and see the stark contrasts of what is normal, and I am reminded once again that of all the things I enjoy in life, the greatest is the opportunity to serve others in Jesus' name. The Son of Man didn't even have a regular place to lay his head. I guess I can endure - and maybe even enjoy - living a little more like the majority of the world's people do.

Our team will be reflecting on Mark Labberton's book "The Dangerous Act of Worship while we are in Zambia. He says (among a whole bunch of thought provoking and convicting things)that a vigorous theology of worship...is never escapist. It's never about forgetting the neighbor, not least the neighbor who is blond and poor and oppressed and hungry. It is about never submitting again to the wrong yoke of slavery, but instead taking on the yoke of Jesus whose burden is light."

This trip is different in that it is not a church sponsored trip. So I can only speak for my own motives and my own convictions today, but I don't want my "yoke of slavery" to be my own personal rights, privileges and possessions. I want it to be the freeing yoke of servanthood to those the world tends to overlook and forget.

Now, I think I will finish that lukewarm cup of Starbucks. It may be one of the last one's I will have for awhile.

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