Monday, May 14, 2007

Palaces, Tents, and Chief Musokotwane

Last week, Jake and I had the opportunity to do a favor for some friends of ours. We babysat their kids for a day and night so that they could get some much needed “Mommy and Daddy time” in a nearby lodge. The school system in Zambia runs on a year-round schedule, so the kids have off the month of April, the month of August, and the month of December. Well, their three very active kids had been hanging out at home for the whole month of April, and as April drew to an end, mom and dad decided they needed to (understandably) get away for awhile. These friends are a couple in their 30’s from Kentucky who pastor a church in town. They are missionaries too, but their life is a little different from ours. They live in a very beautiful house in town, and their schedule is much like you would expect from a pastoring couple at home (if you know what that looks like.) It was nice to spend some time in their home and with their children. The kids are 6, 8, and 10. Two girls and a boy. Adorable, smart and hilarious. We had a blast playing hide and seek when it got dark and going for a ride to the big baobab tree in the safari truck. I had a really good time cooking in her wonderfully large and well organized kitchen and bathing in their large porcelain tub that has a seemingly never ending flow of hot water. As Jake and I fell asleep that night, I thought, “I could do this. I could take care of 3 kids and live in a house like this. Hmmmm…”

Fast forward a couple of days. Jake and I also got the opportunity to visit a mission on the other side of town called Overland Missions (look it up online, they have a great website). They are a mission organization committed to training up pastors and discipling people in seldom reached places. Just now they have brought in a whole load of American, Canadian, and South African young adults for a school called “AMT: Advanced Mission Training.” The school runs for 3 months and its participants take a slew of classes. A lot of them are Bible training and leadership courses with a few doses of cultural anthropology. But some of them are entitled: Diesel Mechanics and Repair, 4x4 Driving, Bush Living, GPRS systems, and Welding. Scary and fascinating all at the same time. The mission is set right on the Victoria Falls gorge and the view is something a fancy lodge would pay millions for. The land, however, was given to the director by a friendly chief (refer to sidenote) who believed in what they were trying to accomplish in Zambia. The mission is based quite far out in the bush, with no electricity. They sleep in tents, have a generator for the darkest hours, and pump water for washing from the gorge. Drinking water gets hauled in from the nearest borehole well. It’s a well-run and refreshing organization, and Jake and I had a blast hanging out with tons of folks our age who have the same heart for throwing all the plans away and just going for Jesus. That brings me to the irony I wanted to illustrate. That night, as I was falling asleep next to Jake in a tiny two man tent, wrapped in a load of blankets and trying to find a place on the ground that was not quite as hard as where I was, I thought, “I could do this. I could live in the bush and cook on the fire and fall asleep in the fresh air every night. I could definitely do this.”

So, the question remains, which one? Should we build ourselves a nice house with shiny appliances and pictures on the walls? Or should we find a sweet tent that keeps out the bugs and the rain and make our home there? The problem is, I’m an adventurer about 6 ½ days out of every week. And that last part is when I just want a hot bath and a real mattress. If anyone finds a tent with a Jacuzzi attached…let me know…I’d be very interested.

*Sidenote: Okay. For anyone that’s interested, I wasn’t kidding about the chief giving away this million dollar plot of land to the directors of Overland Missions. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for chiefs to give away land or anything else to people that they like. And it’s their prerogative to do it if they want to. In the rural areas of Zambia, all of the land technically belongs to the government. But, according to custom, it belongs to the village chief of whatever village has claimed that land. Each small village has a headman who reports to the chief, who is in charge of all the villages in his district. The chief lives in a proper house made of blocks that they call “the Palace.” This is the case for most rural chiefdoms in Zambia. For example: The land next to our farm is entitled “Musokotwane.” Each village in the area has a headman, but “Chief Musokotwane” is in charge of the whole district of villages. He decides who gets what land. He decides what projects are important to his people, and he petitions the government and the aid organizations of their behalf. In our case, Chief Musokotwane is a regular patient at our clinic. He gets to come in when the clinic is usually closed and gets special treatment from everyone. If he would fall ill enough to have to stay overnight, he would get a private room. I’m not kidding. He’s a big deal. He wears a gold chain, a watch, and a tipped hat. The only thing that gives him away are the faded rainbow flip-flops on his feet and the holes in his trousers. He has the power to give us whatever he owns. At this moment, that includes allowing us access into his private lumber supply to select wood for the new orphanage furniture. Isn’t that wild? I was on my best behavior in front of the chief, pronounced the correct Tonga words very carefully, and made sure to bow a little bit and clap when thanking him for visiting. So, it’s a very big compliment to Overland Missions that their chief gave them his best piece of land for their projects. And it’s a big compliment to us that our chief comes to our clinic and invites us to his home. Who knows what can happen when a chief likes you!*


Mom said...

Oh Jessi!!! I can just picture you and your "good buddy", the chief, hanging out together!!! LOL! Sounds like his clothes are right in style with ours here in the states. As I sit here looking at my students, they all have holes in their jeans and are a little tattered!!!
So anxious to see you guys!! WOW--it is getting close !!!! &: )
Love you

Beth said...

i love reading this. i don't believe the stories you tell, but that's ok. soon i will see you, and you can tell me in person that you were telling the truth. UNREAL!

i love you!


No Heroes Here said...

Sounds like you are both busy and blessed. Heather Parrish just visited me at Penn State on her way to Hope Camp for the summer! Her sister graduated today, and since we don't imagine we'll see each other for at least 12 months, it was wonderful to catch up. I'm leaving in 2 weeks for the Philippines for the summer to work with a development org. called Food for the Hungry. And Heather is off to France to work at an orphanage and a church this fall. Anyways, hope all is well with you! Heather thought you might not have too much time left in Africa, and I was just curious about what might be coming next. Take care!

Mom said...

Jessi and Jake--We are all so excited for your return..we know that you must have so many different emotions right now--excited to come home but sad to leave the new friends and babies that you have grown to love. Just know that while you are home you will be loved on more than you can imagine. If it gets too "overwhelming", please let us know (You know your Dad, Jacob--LOL--actually I am taking an extra day off just to stare at you and Jessi so I can believe you are really here!) God bless you during your last few days in Africa and have a safe flight. Jessi, there will be donuts waiting when you get here--we can stop at Starbucks on the way home from the airport, too!!!
Love you both