Zambia has a very relaxed, easy going culture compared to back home. This was showcased in the small mistakes I would make while painting one of Willow’s 40 sponsored churches. The local workers weren’t upset by any mistake made and were simply thankful for our presence and help.
By being able to disconnect from my phone for ten days, I was able to focus mentally on the local community and not experience any spiritual warfare through technology. The national language of Zambia is English and classes as early as middle school are taught in only English. Unfortunately, many children in Zambia are unable to receive education as their family can’t afford it. We were still able to communicate with the locals even with some of the limited understanding they had for English, with the help of their friend translating for them or the use of hand gestures. Trying to learn the local language from little kids was fun on both ends of the spectrum too!
During my trip, there was one specific thing that constantly struck my mind as being beautiful: it didn’t matter where you were in the country, there was always a great sense of community. On one of our days, we went on a house visit to see how the daily Zambian life is like. In this community, there was a large presence of children ranging all ages-around 80 kids in all. Even though they were all together, there wasn’t a distinguishable amount of cliques.
God taught me something very valuable on this trip: it is equally important that you listen to others’ stories as much as you tell your own story. There are two stories that I will remember for years to come.
First, I got to hear the story of one of our chaperones, Kabwe. Kabwe lived in South Africa following the first years after apartheid.* The effects of apartheid are still strongly felt on a daily basis. There are officials and civilians murdered daily for their differences. Additionally, there was massive segregation still going on between neighborhoods. But the children don’t seem to see differences; they seem to congregate as one.
The other story is that of a blind pastor who has been leading his congregation and a leadership program for over 20 years. He was attending the University of Lusaka as a biochemist student when by a complete mistake, a friend of his spilled dangerous acids into his eyes during a chemistry experiment. It was here that he lost 98% of his vision and he questioned if his life was worth living. It was at this time where another friend of his told him that God doesn’t care who you are or what you can and can’t do. God will still find a way to use you. It was here that he realized he had a calling to be a pastor.
All in all, Zambia has my heart and the hearts of the students that I had the opportunity to lead. Until I can go again, I’ll admire the pictures and memories taken and made for years to come.
*apartheid: (in South Africa) a policy or statement of segregation or discrimination on the grounds of race.