If all of this was to fulfill some romantic and glamorized image of what "missionary" life was like, I think I would have re-boarded a plane about three weeks after landing.
Purpose in life looks different on every person. God calls each of us to a place in His grand and glorious scheme and we can choose to do it or not.
I advise the former, by the way.
Living in Chipata, we are exposed to literally the highest of affluence and the lowest of poverty, and often within only minutes of time in between.
The other day I was in our Great East Mall Shopping Center (I try to make it sound grandiose!) and as a man passed me my son said, "That man is likely the richest man in the Eastern Province. He is this area's Paramount Chief." We watch him drive away in some fancy Mercedes, nearly running over the local homeless man that faithfully traipses the streets of Chipata. Seriously it was visual extremes.
While on deputation my husband made a statement on our DVD presentation that most live on $2/day. It was an unfathomable statistic, but I am telling you it is the truth.
Knowing this extreme poverty exists here in rampant numbers, I truly have prayed for wisdom and God's leading. I am not a bleeding heart, but when $20 means the difference between a child getting an education FOR A YEAR or not, I tend to want to do without a few 20's!
Seriously, I could walk outside my front gate and find dozens of children with no shoes, not attending school, needing food, you name it. How can I say yes or no without some divine intervention? To say yes to everyone is ridiculous, but to say no to anyone is heartless.
So, Dan and I have prayed that IF the Lord wants us to get involved in something, that He PLEASE be abundantly clear. Some days I have prayed that whatever the Lord brings to our home, that is what I will accept as His leading.
Well, these children's story came to my kitchen table.
|Family Discussions. What will the future hold. |
There were five kids. Their mom died several years ago, and Dad remarried and had a sixth child. Three weeks ago, on a Sunday, Dad passed away. Being double orphaned is so very common that it is a staggering statistic. Grandparents raising grandchildren from often two and three of their deceased kids. And yes, most of these parents are dying from complications from Hiv/AIDS.
In this culture, the step mother is in no way obligated to care for the husband's children. Truthfully there is no way she physically could. Their blood relatives would be the new caregivers, and she is free to return to her village and remarry. Trouble is in so, so many situations, as in this one, there are no other capable relatives to care for them. These kids were all attending school and doing very well, which is a huge feat for most peasant farmers.
Mateo, age 20, grade 10.
Besnart, age 17, grade 10.
Aliness, age 16, grade 9.
Rachel, age 13, grade 7.
Myliss, age 11, grade 5. (Not Pictured)
Innocent, age 2, child of new wife.
|Mateo, feeling the responsibility for his sisters, clearly shows in his eyes.|
The friday after their Dad's passing, Dan and I went to their village with the Zulus.
|Robert and Doreen Zulu|
We arrived at the farm as the extended family and other villagers were in the hut discussing what could be done. Tradition states nothing happens for 30 days, but with 5 school-aged children who would need to begin school again on Monday, that wasn't an option. We came there with a plan but had to talk with the children. We also had to present the idea to them in their cultural way. Everyone has a say. Everyone repeats what they understood the previous person said, and then adds their thoughts to it. Then the next person restates what the previous people said and adds to it their own statements. It is like an interminable verbal game of Simon!
They still had loans out for the current school term, and no means of paying them back now that their father was gone, and no one was able to run the farm. They also owed 30 bags of Maize as a repayment for other loans. Mateo imagined he had to quit school and Besnart would likely have to stay and help as well. If they couldn't afford the school fees, they would gradually stop paying, and eventually stop attending school altogether. This is the viscious cycle that happens here over and over and over again. Hopeless.
So here was our plan. We presented it carefully to the children first. The Zulus were willing to take the girls into their home. All of them! Together!! This is a huge adjustment for them all to be sure! These are children from the bush who live in a mud hut, no power or running water. They farm ground nuts, maize, sunflowers, chickens and ducks. Bringing them into town, even our little town of Chipata, will be a major adjustment for them!
Mateo, being 20, is old enough and wanting to stay at his current school where he rents a one room house near the campus. It will also keep him in close proximity to the farm, which is theirs by rights of property.
The other piece of the plan is they would have their school fees covered this year, as well as their loans paid. For this year, it was a gift to them. That God has brought their story to our lives was, to us, an opportunity to serve Him by helping these kids.
The following years would be treated as earned scholarship. If they want to continue their education, they must earn it by achieving above passing grades in the previous term. The Zulus are completely in agreement that the children know all the details of their education expenses and how they would be handled. The kids listened quietly as Mr and Mrs Zulu explained our proposal to them.
This is a very stoic culture. They don't smile much. They don't get bubbly, and giddy. To say they were elated is an understatement. Their faces barely registered a change, but their eyes surely did! They went from no hope... to a future! Each one of them said they wanted to continue their education, and they were almost in disbelief that it could truly be possible!
|Besnart breaking up sugarcane while Rachel holds little Innocent, her half brother.|
I told Doreen, "You were almost home free! Your last child is beginning college, and you are now going to begin parenting an 11 year old again!" She just smiled and said, "God gave me these children to love!"
So to say I feel a little like an Auntie to five new nieces and a nephew about summarizes it up well. When we went to settle Mateo into school and give him supplies etc. he shook my hand and said he needed our photograph. He is very tall and broad shouldered, and aside from dark skin is exactly like my own boys. Sweet, sincere, hopeful! I included our family picture in the Chewa Bible we gave him. In a backpack. He never had a backpack before! He never had a Bible before either!!
|Groundnut harvesting! Best peanuts we ever had!|
I feel like the man at the ocean's edge with starfish littering the sands, knowing they all will surely perish on the dry land. As he picks up one and returns it to the water, he knows he has help that one... and reaches down for yet another.
Lord keep me faithful to be your hands and feet to the ONE you put before me TODAY!