This is random coming into a blog posting after so much time, but I am just going to plop right back in.
Some of you know my family is serving in Zambia for three months this summer at Breath of Heaven children’s village (www.bofheaven.org)
“What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” (Mt 10:27)
Just going to copy an e-mail update I sent out to fam and close friends so don’t sweat the typos:
Wanted to drop an e-mail before I hit they hay tonight while my heart is still raw. Forward on to everyone who should read.
Khloe’s birthday was great and we had a lot of fun going to their favorite little restaurant and just hanging out as a fam. We got her a Zambian soccer ball and she has been having a blast and I think she can dribble better than I can.
Yesterday I saw one of the new little girls struggling to comb out her hair which needed to be re-braided. They call it planting here. I asked her if I could comb it out for her, and she got so excited. This little love is about 8 years old and just barely bigger than Kiara. She is tiny tiny everywhere and has the quietest little voice–even when she is laughing and yelling, it sounds like a whisper. She is meek.
I grab the plastic comb and look at the mat of hair, wondering where to begin. A mama thinks she knows the best way to brush out little girl tangles, but this hair is just so, so different. Like a trillion strands of short curly greasy fuzz. I begin gingerly but it doesn’t take long before I realize that if I don’t start yanking on this head of hair, it will absolutely never be done. Little by little I pick away until her matted mess becomes a perfectly poofed afro. Proud of myself and feeling quite accomplished in front of my house mother friends, I begin to go on to the next thing before I hear a teeny tiny voice say “you plant.” Unshaken, i look at the poof and think okay, I can do this. I will just go across the front of the crown like I do for Kiara’s and make her little fro a cute little headband of hair. But quickly I realize that you can’t plant with your fingers like we do at home, no, this short fuzzy stuff has to be braided with the tips of your fingers, grabbing and holding hair between thumb and forefinger instead of down lower between the second and third fingers. As I fumbled away I noticed the silvery strands and graying ends on this babies hair- like rings on a tree, marking a day not-so-long ago when this sweet baby didn’t have enough to eat. Drained and scrambling for energy, her body had sapped even her hair of creating color-nothing wasted in the fight for survival. And I wonder where she was, this little baby at the end of these fuzzy strands. I wonder who held her when her tummy hurt. Who soothed her when she was starving. Where she went all day. Now she is here. Safe, nourished, loved, and smiling at the muzungu struggling to give her the darling doo she deserves. “You plant. Like this! Take this then this then this then this then this! Just like this! You plant!”
Long story short—the house mother gave her a really, really cute hairdo.
I had the opportunity today to go with the (incredibly awesome) team visiting from Calvary Murrieta to visit John Laing compound and Pastor Claude’s little community school there. This is where Eunice is from (her mother still lives there) and Casey agreed I should go.
NEVER. Will I EVER. Be the same.
I had seen pictures and video of this place before…but….no, not even a THIMBLE FULL of what it is really like.
If there were words to describe, I would, but even of all the Zambia I have seen in these 5-6 weeks….nothing even close than driving into the heart of a compound. Pastor Claud was a (for Zambian standards) well-off man from Eastern province who left everything there with his wife to come live and take care of the orphaned children at John Laing. It is decrepit. Filth so filthy that it is the filth on top of filth’s filth’s filth’s filth. Tiny and crammed and dumpy and boozy and nauseating. We get out of the vehicle and walk down a small pathway and around a corner to a small clearing whose footing has been established with dirt filled mealie-meal sacks and pallets…because the dirt is so dirty you have to have sacks full of dirt on top of dirt to have solid ground. Under an overhang and through a dark entranceway, and suddenly there they are. Like chocolate colored porcelain dolls with big white smiles squished together on jimmy rigged “desks” which look more like Catholic kneeling benches….little brown cherubim whose beauty stuns you….how could such lovely things be hiding in this little dark spot? They are like little hidden treasures! No one must know these are here! They would surely be swooped up instantaneously by the white mama hens I know, surely no one must know the riches that are hidden in this little dark spot! Through another doorway, and here are more! And through another, and here are even more! All sorted into groups of sizes like the piles of diamonds dug out of the caves a la seven dwarves. They are beautiful! What are they doing in these dark, dusty concrete cubes? Back out to the clearing and with a whistle they pour out of the doorway, coming out just as they were seated…still attached to their kneeling benches but with outstretched legs waddling their ways to the backside of the courtyard, building an impromptu set of bleachers. And one by one you begin to see in the light what you can’t in the dark. The beautiful girl who has been caught up in your gaze and your viewfinder suddenly turns her head and you notice the tendons in her neck and her sinewy muscular arms…the patches of hair gone missing, replaced by bleeding ulcers. The little boy who smiles so big but covers his face as soon as he notices you looking at him because of the sore that has erupted across his chin. The girl with the pink tank top whose skin isn’t pulled tightly because of the braided weave in her hair. Whose bulging eyes and cough and funguses on her face reveal that she is most likely HIV positive and whose disease is obviously active…and you gulp, knowing that probably $200 in medicine would keep that child from an untimely death…but who is there to get it to her? I see the little boy not much older than Henry holding his paper airplane and I walk over to help him fold it and as I reach out my hand, he lifts his up to mine and before his soft little brown fingers touch mine, I notice that his hand is trembling….not the kind of trembling that you get when you are nervous, but the kind you feel when you haven’t eaten or have had too much caffeine…and I realize this little baby boy is hungry and I make a note in my brain that a lollipop is not going to make this boy feel better and remember the peanut butter protein bar I have stashed in my bag to keep Khloe’s tantrums at bay if I’m ever in a pickle. I decide that somehow I will sneak to this boy and give him the bar and stand guard while he shoves it in his mouth because I have seen how an older boy will, without shame, run up and judo chop a baby to take what he has. Starvation + no rules = unruly, angry boys. So back to the crowd I go and watch the kids’s jaws drop when I tell them Mwauchoma Bwanji (good afternoon) and Zicomo zicomo zicomo as they mob me for hugs…and I look throught he fence and see snotty nosed two year olds peeking through the boards, crying “Mommy! Mommy!” when they see me….and all of a sudden I realize that I missed the “final call” and am being rushed out of the courtyard in a mob of hugs and “mama! mama!”‘s….but where is the baby boy!? Where did he go! I cannot find him! I turn frantically and stimulate my vertigo which has been emboldened by the sea of black and tan hands and smiling faces pulling at my hand and arms for a hug…and I realize, I am not going to see this boy again. I am not going to see him again. And before I know it I am pushed through the gate and immediately handed a hand sanitizing wipe and rolling into the van and the hot tears come. This mommy will not feed that baby boy today. And he will have his lollipop. If no big boy karate chops it from him. And maybe that is all he will eat today. And I. am. done. I have dipped into this pocket of humanity and come out wondering what in the world has happened and I have a backpack with a protein bar in it and a wallet full of money. And I have never been so frustrated with myself.
And as we pull out to the road and breathe the fresh yet putrid air, I see now that God had something to teach me. Dumbfounded, I wondered “HOW CAN THIS BE? how can this exist? Why isn’t anyone fixing this?” And i look down at my dust covered toes and realize that my feet were on that soil. My eyes were chosen to see this. And we are all walking around in the US with EVERYTHING a target trip away. Protein and kwacha abound. And we plan to maybe one day do something about those over there but we don’t. And it grieves him. It is GRIEVOUS. and HEINOUS. That these babies, well within our reach, are shaking with starvation and suffering horribly from what a $3 tube of cream could cure in a week and dying from AIDS because their mothers had to decide between breastfeeding them and giving them HIV or watching them starve. And every day and minute and hour that we put it off or “wait on the Lord to tell us what to do” the babies hair grows in gray and they ache for food and a mommy and a daddy and for love. And I come home and turn on my ipad and as I am typing this can see an ad for cellulite reduction and $199 for an oceanfront room in puerto rico! With many exclusive amenities included.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we should lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 john 3:16-18
LAY DOWN OUR LIVES. If we don’t, how can the love of God really be in us? And we, unlike Pastor Claude, always have the lifeline of home and America and jobs and hope as a backup. Three months combing out little braids while my daughters sing and dance and play and my son grins widely as he toddles across the lawn and I get to enjoy watching them feed their faces (as MUCH as you want today! A snack? Yes! More peanut butter? Yes! Eat, my babies!) is really a vacation. I can think of nothing more fulfilling and wonderful and deep joy giving for my family than this. ANd I realize that I have tasted what John Piper calls the most luscious fruit in the world…that of enjoying God as He gives you more and more and more of himself. And as I look at the two teenage girls here sharing a house with us who have both been to Haiti 8 times and Belize and now Africa and have their sights set on Cambodia and China and anywhere else they can get their feet to, I think YES! THIS is what I want for my daughters. I want them to experience the joys and pains and victories and miseries of missional living. This is true life.
Please be praying for our family as we plow ahead toward what God is so mercifully and graciously beckoning us toward. We are so thrilled to be a part of the kingdom of God and feel so indulgent as we feast on the fruit of His glory right now– it is a delight to be here.
Thank you–friends and family–for supporting God’s vision in our family’s mission. We love you all so much.