Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Faces of Ndola, Faces of Hope: Part 1

In November, I had the surreal opportunity to visit Zambia with 3 gentlemen from my organization, Access Services. The goal of the trip was to help the leaders of Bible Way Ministries develop an Orphans and Widows Advocacy Program, that would guarantee education, food and clothing to a group of children, and provide occupational training for widows in the city of Ndola. Before reluctantly making the commitment to go, I went back and forth, wrestling with the "what if's" and my fear of the unknown. This was my first time traveling overseas and experiencing a third world country. And let's not start about my irrational dreams of getting detained at the airport for carrying needles, vials of clear liquid that Africans might not recognize. Thank the Lord, I have never been hospitalized for my diabetes...but what was to stop it from happening when I would be 3.72 bazillion miles from home? Plus, I've never gone 2 days without at least talking to my husband on the phone. How could I possibly handle going 5 days until we got to a hotel with wireless internet, never hearing is voice for the whole 9? But then again, when was I going to get another chance to go to AFRICA (cue Toto)??

In the past, Fear has had this habit of creeping up at any slight chance of opportunity and risk. But the thing is, I would let it. I would listen to it and hang on it's every word. Being cautious, reasonable, and financially responsible was my home...and I was becoming an invalid. One of my biggest regrets is not studying abroad in college, when I had the chance. I was tired of letting Fear win. This was my time to do something exciting, a little scary and life-changing. I bit the bullet and told my boss "I'm going"...and I'm so glad I did...

After a 16 hour flight, a missed connecting flight and an overnight in one of the coolest hotels I've ever seen, we finally arrived in Ndola, a city in Zambia. Pastor Barney Mulenga, Head Pastor of Bible Way Ministries and our host, welcomed us in the tiny two-room airport in his finest suit and a big smile. Down the bumpy, copper dirt roads we drove, until we made it to the church. It was Sunday, so church had just let out. It seemed that every child in the village emerged and chased the aged Rav 4 in as it entered the gate, screaming and laughing. Many had never seen a white person before, especially one with fine blonde hair like mine. The kids crowded around the car door, even before I could get out. As they stared, stroked my skin, and ran their fingers through my hair, I asked them how they were and their names, forgetting that they spoke their native language, Bemba. They all responded, "Hi, I'm fine." I looked into their eyes and instantly saw their plight. I life they did not choose. Hardship and uncertainty every day. But their smiles, joy and laughter said otherwise. They knew the meaning of gratitude. They knew what it meant to depend on the Lord for everything.

My responsibilities during the 5 days in Ndola consisted of taking photos of the children, the widows, the landscape and culture in Zambia. We wanted to tell their story back here in the States. I also was to assist our documentary filmmaker, Vince Caperelli, founder of Cotton Field Communications with interviews during our time in the city. I realize now how blessed I was to have this opportunity to see into the lives of these people. To hear their stories and feel so deeply, the hope that they hold on to.

I clicked away with my new camera, a gift from David before I left. They bunched together, showing off their gleaming smiles and struck a pose, throwing peace signs and acting like ninjas. "One...Two...Three!!!" They immediately squealed and swarmed me to see their picture on the tiny LCD screen, once spotless and now smudged with their fingerprints and grease from fried chicken. I learned that Joy is the sound of African children seeing themselves in a photo.

I got into my bed in the muggy hotel room that night, feeling confused and angry. Why did these beautiful, faithful and grateful people continue to suffer day after day? They went without nutritious food, clean clothes, education and at times electricity... in the midst of friends and family in the States preparing for Christmas. Since I was sleeping in what seemed to be a closed off room, I didn't see a need to sleep under my mosquito net. But when I heard the familiar buzz in my ear and the burning sting on my neck, I panicked. Even with all the necessary shots and medication, I wondered if this one bite would result in Malaria, an often deadly but preventable illness that has plagued much of Africa. I immediately let down the sheer net and felt the relief of its security, like the blanket I dragged around too far into my childhood.

...Stay tuned for Part 2...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...