Sunday, March 25, 2007

Thoughts from Africa

We took a trip out to Siachetema Mission on Saturday. You’ve heard Jake mention it before, and it’s where our former Bible School professor, Rev. Mwikisa lives.

I felt so at home there. Their lives are just a bit differently from most Zambians in that they live in a simple brick home (as opposed to a tiny grass hut). They have a blocked in latrine and thatched kitchen (as opposed to using the “toilet”in the bush and cooking on an open fire out in the elements). They are good farmers, and since it’s harvest season right now, the food is abundant. I dug up sweet potatoes, ate fresh maize, and chewed on a sugar cane. Then we sat and sang and chatted. It felt so incredibly real. The reason I even attempt to express it through my inadequate words is that that realness is the very thing that I’m always trying to express to others. To you, at home. What is this realness? What does it mean? What does it consist of?

I can’t explain it, really. And it sounds insensitive when I try. It’s the reason I have a hard time carting around a camcorder or snapping pictures all the time. I mean, this is someone’s life. I can’t bear to walk around treating people like a tourist attraction when they carry water on their head and squat cooking at the fire. I know that you disagree with me. But can you imagine if an African man came and filmed you while you were heating up your TV dinner in the microwave and then running the water to take a bath? If they said, in an indistinguishable accent, “So, what’s this you’re cooking? Is it La-Sag-Na?” “Oh Look,” he would then say to his friend, “They’re cooking La-Sag-Na.” (Lasagna….get it?) First of all, you would think they were pretty stupid. Especially if you didn’t have the Discovery Channel that not everyone on the planet was not just like you and that not everyone eats lasagna. You would also wonder why they couldn’t just act like a normal person and put down the camcorder (which you’ve never really seen before, by the way). Then you could have a conversation, and they could taste the lasagna, and you would tell them about your life, and your job, and your kids.

Okay, really? I understand the fascination with different cultures. I myself am fascinated with different cultures…all of them. I just think we miss out when we spend so much time defining our differences instead of reveling in our sameness. If you ever come here to visit, I will encourage you to capture life on camera and take it back home. But you have to see beyond the experience and try to enter into life. You have to not worry about understanding every little thing (I am guilty of this). Just sit and listen to the old ladies talk. You might learn something. Remember, this is someone’s life. Not just some people, but most other people. Most other people on the planet live in a developing country and do not have access to electricity or running water. We’re really the oddity here. It’s just that they don’t have access to video cameras to run around capturing us while we do the strange things that we do.

By the way, I really admire the “white Zambians” who love Jesus and who have lived here practically their whole lives, except for no one walks around handing freebies out to them or congratulating them for their work on the mission field. Whenever I get a martyr complex, or when I miss home too much, I think, “This is their life.” I will always have another home. But this is their life. And obviously, they live here because they feel a connection to that realness that I was describing to you. They love the lack of pretense and serving the people and working the land that they live on. And they’re probably not really sure why we’re snapping pictures all the time either.

My point? Oh Lord, help me to still have one after all of that. It’s really good sometimes when I wake up and realize that the world is bigger than me. Bigger than my problems and my thoughts and opinions (the opinions, by the way, are increasing by the day…have you noticed?) There are a TON of people who don’t live like I do. Most don’t, actually. But I’m tired of feeling sympathy ‘cause they can’t live like me. I want to start understanding their culture so well that I understand what they want, not what I want for them. And I don’t want to understand it so that I can get what they want for them, but so that they can be educated to the point of being able to get what they want for themselves. This is easier said than done. I’m not claiming that the Lord would even use little ol’ me for such a monumental task.. I don’t know if me taking a day to dig sweet potatoes has anything to do with the huge work that it would take to straighten out this whole continent, this whole world. I don’t know what I think half the time. But I know that it’s really freeing to realize that you’re not responsible for saving the world. But, we are responsible for not becoming so entrenched in our own little lives that we forget that there is a world outside of us. There is a world where whole families live on a dollar a day. There is a world where people die of treatable diseases. And sometimes those things happen right in our own “rich” country! Let’s promise ourselves not to become so obsessed with ourselves that we forget that.

Sorry about all that, sometimes it all just gets to be a little too much not to let you know about. Please don’t feel condemned, I’m preaching to myself. Really, I just want you to come and eat a mango under a shade tree and try to learn Tonga so that everyone could smile and laugh when you make a mistake. And we could hang out and talk about all of this poverty stuff more.

Oh Lord,
I know so little. Please teach me Your ways and how to minister to Your people.

P.S. Speaking of thinking about yourself, can someone please figure out a way to overnight me a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder and a Dr. Pepper? That would be great.

(It’s really gross what you start to crave when you can’t get it!)


Dad S. said...

Nice blog Jess...working on the 1/4 lbr. & Dr. Pep...may have 2 wait till u get off the plane in DC 4 that 1 though! Love you guys and so nice to get an update!
Dad S.

Mom S said...

Jessi, great blog! Always nice to see a new one when we check in the morning. We can absolutely do the 1/4 pounder on our way home from the airport!!! sounds good to me, too.
We love you guys and miss you.
Mom S.

Beth said...

I love you and miss hearing all of these insights first hand. Wes loves mangos, and a shade tree sounds nice. Wish we could visit!

Kristin said...

I like the way you try to explain this realness..i get that sometimes too, even it its just about the green grass and flowers around campus or that beautiful sunset out my back window, and how connected I feel. Yet I get frustrated because words don't do justice and I reailize this "feeling" may just be between me and God for that moment.

Thanks for serving our Lord. Also thanks for also keeping us updated here in American. I love reading your blogs. Sometimes it helps me to realign my own life.

Kristin Boden

Heather said...


I'm sure that you'll be much in demand when you get back, but I'd love to see you and catch up on girl talk. I've been thinking about you a lot recently and it'd be great to hear your perspective and laughter on my recent experiences. Am I leaving it too open-ended? Good. :-)

With prayers and love,
Miss Heather (Parrish)

pkppat59 said...

I love reading your blogs! You both are doing such wonderful work! I may not be able to get you the 1/4 pounder and Dr. Pepper, BUT I may be able to persuade Kevin (The Cookie Man)into making you some whoopie pies. Let us know. You never know we might even be in DC when you come home. (my sister lives there) At least we can send you the recipie!! Beth says hi!
Love you, Patty Patsch

J. Criss said...

Wow, what you're doing sounds amazing. I had no idea that you were out in Zambia. Pat Patsch just gave me your link. I'm really touched by your dedication and humanity. I don't really know how to explain it. If there is anyway I can help, let me know! Also, I live in DC now, so let me know when you'll be around. Maybe I can come say hey.
~Jonathan Criss