5 Things I’ve Learned By Going to Zambia – Now That I’m HerePosted: June 20, 2010
Well, we’re officially on the back end of this trip – less than a week left. Now that we’ve been here a while, I thought it would be good to take another look at what I’ve learned through this experience.
5) It’s amazing what you can put up with
I never would have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but Bridget is actually surviving in the midst of frogs, mosquitos, spiders, and snakes. Of course, neither of us would ask for it, but we get on. The mosquitos aren’t bad, but we obviously try to keep an eye on them since we don’t want malaria – scares are bad enough. So we burn coils at night and bat them away during the day.
The frogs aren’t bad, although it was strange at first to have them in the shower. Once we figured out how to plug some of the holes in the hut, we’ve been fine. But… there was this one time that Bridget found one in her shoe. H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S!!! Ask her about it sometime. The spiders are okay, as long as they keep their distance. We actually go to sleep every night with several of them staring down at us from the rafters.
Then there’s the snakes… that’s a category all by itself.
4) Snakes are cold-blooded
Okay… so if you’re going to visit a foreign country, it’s helpful to know some things about the culture, the politics, the history. And the infrastructure. Definitely the infrastructure. For example, if you’re visiting Zambia it’s helpful to know beforehand that all of Zambia is powered by *two* generators, and it is conceivable that power to the entire country will go down for hours at a time.
So this happened one night, and a few of us were outside cooking and eating with a BBQ grill. It happened to be a chilly night, which led to the incident. All of a sudden, the dogs started going crazy barking. We shined a flashlight at the spot they were barking at, and there’s a king cobra… reared up and hissing, ready to strike, about 7 feet away. Apparently it had been drawn by the heat of the grill. I shudder to think what would have happened if the dogs hadn’t been there, or if we hadn’t first shined the light to see what was going on, or…
Fortunately, snakes are a rare occurrence. At least I get to say I saw one.
3) Sometimes you have to say no
One thing that Westerners have to be careful of here is creating dependence. It may seem like such a small thing to pull out your wallet to help in the face of such staggering need, and sometimes that’s the appropriate response, but far less than you’d think. In fact, more often than not, it hurts rather than helps. This has been particularly hard on Bridget, I think, because she’s a tremendous giver. It’s been hard to put the brakes on that. Even I have had to struggle with it. Of course, another aspect is that what is done for one must be done for all, so you can quickly find that by “helping” someone, you’ve peered over the edge of a bottomless pit, and you’re in danger of falling in. I think we’re learning lessons regarding poverty and stewardship that are applicable in more familiar contexts as well.
2) Effective ministry is to the whole person
I’ve written previously about this, and will probably write more, but this is a lesson all itself. It’s completely astounding to me that people seriously argue that it is wrong for Christians to be benevolently engaged with the world around them on certain levels. It’s equally discouraging to know that there are some folks who will devote their lives to good works without ever making a serious effort to tell the beneficiaries about the God and Savior whose love motivates the good works in the first place.
Being here has re-emphasized for me the good that can be accomplished when the ministry of the word and the ministry of good works go hand in hand. I hope that I can take that with me.
1) God is powerfully at work in the world
The stories that I’ve been hearing from and about the people here – the students and the staff – have encouraged me to the depths of my soul. Every day, I’m told of another brother or sister who has trusted God to overcome physical hardship, abuse, feelings of worthlessness and despair, loss of family… it goes on and on. Some of the things I’ve heard would be absolutely heart-breaking – if God wasn’t in it. He really does make all the difference.
He isn’t just at work in the place where I happen to be at any given time. He is working everywhere. He isn’t just working through you. He’s working through everything. Every trial, every difficulty, every joy, every triumph – all situations, good or bad, whether we see it or not, He’s working. Working to save us. Working to put us in position so that we can say just the right word at just the right time, so that someone else can be saved.
“Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” – Habakkuk 1:5