Thursday, February 21, 2013

Getting Sick in Lusaka

Last week, I was quite sick, and for someone who does not often get sick, this was a very annoying thing. After all, part of my ministry here is holistic health; God wants us to be healthy, and whole, and full of life, right? Not just laying in bed, coughing and burning up with a fever? On Sunday, when the fever was at its worst, I couldn’t go to church, I had to cancel lunch with a friend, and we had to un-invite my very kind language partner and her husband, who we were planning on having over for dinner. I know this is par for the course anywhere in the world. We all get sick sometimes. But, getting sick here in Zambia has been very eye opening.

When we canceled on Mrs. Pamaso, explaining that I was sick, she immediately offered to come over and bring me any food or medicine I might need. When I said that I was just going to rest, she said she would check on me the next day. Sure enough, she checked the next day, and by the third day, she and her husband came to pray for me and offer help. On the fourth day, she came and brought me to the clinic, to be sure I knew exactly where to go for the right medicine. She happens to be a nurse, and I feel so confident knowing that she is caring for me.

Many, many people are sick right now. It is the rainy season, and germs are spreading like crazy. During rainy season, there are a lot more insects to transmit disease, and malaria, meningitis, and diarrheal diseases are all too common. I am blessed to have access to good medical care, but I worry about our gardener’s baby, who has diarrhea, and my other neighbor, who is pregnant, but also ill. At the same time, I watch people step up and take care of one another. They pick lemons from the abundant lemon trees, and squeeze the juice into tea, mixed with honey and ginger. They prepare food for one another’s children, and they loan a neighbor money to go and buy medicine.

For me, it is annoying and irritating to get sick. But for many people here, it is terrifying. One of our neighbors, Rachel, whose little nephew is a good friend of Johnny’s, got sick with the same illness I had. However, she also had latent malaria and asthma. Rachel became ill on Friday, and she died on Monday. She was 29 years old. When I went to the funeral home (the house of the bereaved), I sat with her sister-in-law and held her hand while she cried. I was no longer sick; I had taken antibiotics, and felt almost completely better. On the other hand, Rachel was gone.

When they took Rachel to the hospital, they also brought another one of our neighbors, a two year old girl named Grace. She, too, had the illness that is going around, the one that I had, the one that Rachel had. Grace’s parents sent her off, along with Rachel, hoping and praying that Grace would be okay. And she is. She is back home, having recovered. She is running around and playing again.

When Rachel died, her family was never left alone for a single minute. When I went and sat with them, and there were 8 other people there. At night, both my language partners slept in the home with Rachel's sister-in-law; the men sat with Rachel’s brother. When people are grieving, they are always supported and loved.

I did home visits again this past Tuesday. One of the visits was to an elderly woman who cannot walk and can barely communicate. She was just sitting in the dirt, smelling of her own urine, and when we came to her home, she had to crawl in like a baby. Seeing an elderly woman, skin and bones, crawling in the dirt was overwhelming. The church ladies come to clean her and care for her, but it is very hard to keep her in decent shape. At the same time, the women are willing to wash her, to feed her, to care for her, simply as a way to show the love of Christ.

Love is abundant here; faithfulness is all over the place; grace and kindness are overflowing. But so is pain, so is loss, so is injustice. It is wrong, simply wrong, that people here cannot get the care they need, the medicine they need, the resources they need, in order to survive. Please, please pray for all who are sick here in Zambia, and for all people who live in privilege, that our hearts might be moved to fight for justice, to fight for equality, so no one needs to die from a preventable, treatable illness, so that elders can have the care and support they need, so that children don’t perish because of a mosquito bite.

Thank you for praying with me, and for being a part of the healing of the world.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Post by Frankie and Johnny

Who are your friends in the first picture?
Johnny: Robson, Nathan, and David

What were you doing in this picture?
Johnny: Daddy was reading The Stinky Giant to us.

What do you like to do with your friends?
Johnny: We play games. We play Handy Manny and the Cars matching game. We play futball and pick mulberries. We sometimes play games outside on the porch.
Frankie: I like to play futball with my friends. That is all that I can think of.

What do you like best about being with your friends?
Johnny: Playing games.
Frankie: Playing futball with my friends here and playing games with my friends at school.

What do you like best about your friends?
Johnny: They are so nice and they learn the games quickly.
Frankie: They are so kind.

What do you like best about living in Zambia?
Johnny: That there are so many yo-yos (a candy) and all of the good friends.
Frankie: That we play futball a ton. That you can just pick mulberries any time and have so many friends. That there is a fulball pitch (soccer field) right here and so it is easy to play. I also like our school. I love our yard because it is so pretty and I really like that we have a garden and our gardener, Mr. Phiri.

What do you like best about your school?
Johnny: That there is break and at break you can play.
Frankie: That there are houses in our school with house points and I like my friends in my school.

What is the most interesting thing about living in Zambia?
Johnny: That they play futball more. There are more flies. Also we saw monkeys and I think that is all.
Frankie: How it is harder for people here than in America, some things, like it is harder to get jobs, and harder to get food sometimes. It is interesting when I sing and dance at church in the children's choir, and I saw the children preach, too.

What did you do for Valentine's Day?
Johnny: We wore red or pink to school, but I wore red. We had a party. I made Valentines for my friend Russel, and Frankie, and Mom and Dad, and Grandma. I will give it to her when we come back to Michigan. Grandma will not believe it! Even in America, was it Valentine's Day yesterday? (Yes) When I come back I am going to say Happy Valentine's Day and kiss her, then I will give her the Valentine.

What are you doing in the photos below?
Frankie: Doing my play at school. My lines were, "Turnips: Turn up for school on time. Turn up for after school activities." It was about four vegetables. I was in turnips, and the other ones were peas and squash and lettuce.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Our Garden

Joel and I have always wanted a garden; in fact, when we lived in Michigan, we spent a couple weeks attempting to plant vegetables. We planted lettuce and tomatoes and beans, and waited with expectation. However, it turned out that we had planted in a bad location, with very little sunlight, and almost nothing grew. The few little leaves of lettuce that did peek out of the dirt were quickly consumed by rabbits, and we were able to harvest a total of two small cherry tomatoes. The beans never appeared at all. When it comes to gardening, we just don't have it in us. In fact, even our house plants quickly died, and we pretty much gave up on having anything alive and green in our home.

But we now have a home with a large garden; when we moved in, the corn was towering above our heads, cucumbers peeked from underneath spiky leaves, purple eggplants hung from heavy branches, kale sprang from the dirt, papaya and mango trees promised that fruit was on its way. The yard itself is full of flowers, the colors vibrant shades of orange, pink, purple, red, and blue. I have never in my life had a yard this beautiful.

Fortunately, Elias Phiri is in charge of keeping the yard and garden beautiful; for that reason, I think that we will continue to enjoy the fruits and vegetables and flowers in the years to come. We have hired Mr. Phiri to come to our home twice a week as our gardener. He is a young man with two little children, a 6 month old baby and a two year old boy. He has done an amazing job so far and we are delighted with his work, and with his kindness. 

Mr. Phiri speaks very little English, and so we speak primarily in Chichewa. I enjoy the challenge very much, and he is patient with my terrible grammar and very limited vocabulary. Last week, when we ate together, we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, along with apples, green beans, and chips. Today, we ate nshima and relish, a totally Zambian meal. It is such a blessing to share parts of our lives with one another.

The reality is that we employ Mr. Phiri, but that we feed one another. With the money that we pay him, he can buy food for his family and have a more reliable source of sustenance. With the skills that he offers us, we get to eat fresh vegetables and fruit, and enjoy the beauty of vibrant flowers. I think that God made us that way, with the gifts we need to feed each other. I can't grow anything, in fact, I kill anything green, but Mr. Phiri is an amazing gardener. Mr. Phiri will probably never lead workshops on holistic ministry, but that is something I can do. And I will never, ever, build a website, but that is something Joel can do. It is so wonderful that God gives us different gifts, and such a blessing when we feed each other!

I hope to look at the world with these eyes; I hope we all can. When we see that we are meant to feed one another, that we all have different gifts, beautiful things to offer, perhaps then we can learn to love ourselves, and love one another, even more fully. What is it that you have to offer? How do you feed others? Who is feeding you? I hope you are feeling fed and blessed today; as for me, I am looking forward to eating eggplant for dinner!