Yesterday, I was cleaning out and organizing some of the things that I left here at the Schwertfeger's last year when we went back to Zambia. I found a journal from our first year in Africa. At the beginning of the journal was an entry and a "poem" that I faintly remember writing. I had almost forgotten the transition that came from adjusting to life in a third world country. It seems humorous to me now. There are so many things that I thought were strange. At this point, they seem absolutely normal. The reality of Africa is a good reminder to me today, as I sit in my American living room with everything I could ever need at my fingertips.
Dated September 14, 2006:
"How different I am in such a short time. Nothing like being in charge of an orphanage to help you grow up pretty quickly. My concerns have changed, and I am constantly fighting any urge to have concern for self. Instead, I'm attempting to put those concerns toward Jacob and the kids [in the orphanage]. My dreams these days are haunting; refrigerators with too little food. Fields with too little green. Not enough clothes for the orphans. Not enough milk for the babies. Not enough. Never enough. But I know that there WILL be enough. That the Lord gives us free access to his "storeroom" when we use it for His glory.
(A prayer that I wrote under the journal entry:)
I pray against the spirit of scarcity that has come over me. I say, Jesus, that because you have died...there is always enough. Oh Lord, I give up my rights, my possessions, my heart. Strip me clean, O God. All of You is more than enough for all of Africa. All of this is Yours to do with as You please. I give up my heart, my mind, my personality, my opinions...I have no rights except to trust in You. No choice really. Hide me in the cleft of Your rock. In you. Make me strong and courageous.
(I continued on to write down some of the things I'd been through in a short 3 week period. Please excuse the terrible form and nieve ramblings. It was so real to me two years ago.)
I am a spider killer and an ant destroyer. Stink bugs tremble at the thoughts of my mighty flick.
I am a bush fire fighter and a motorcycle mama.
I fear no buzzing bees or screeching owls.
I have named the rats that scamper across my ceiling.
I make tea on the fire when the power goes out and I bathe in the bucket when the water pressure is low.
I can carry babies on my back and push start the truck.
I am getting stronger everyday.
I can climb into a Land Rover while wearing a floor grazing skirt.
I can shop for 55 children and sell oranges by the bushel at the same time.
I am a shrewd business woman in the market.
I buy tomatoes, onions, and nuts from the same smiling, toothless women every week.
I have learned to use the bathroom in the same room as my new husband even though only a bamboo wall seperates the bathroom from the bedroom.
I have seen women in silent labor and HIV patients with 105 degree fevers.
I have had malnourished children melt into my arms. I have had others scream with fear because of my white face.
I have seen more pussing, oozing rashes than I ever wanted to know about.
I have been the sword bearer (or rock finder) for my husband as he pelted the 5 foot cobra that slithered in front of our feet.
I like nshima, cabbage, and chicken more than hamburgers and apple pie (mainly because I don't really like hamburgers and apple pie).
I have dressed the body of a child who died during the night.
I have delivered that baby to his family and listened to them weep.
I have wept to myself, thinking, "What else can I do?"
And I have decided. I can love the ones who are still hanging on. Strapping them to my back while I work and laying them on my chest while I rest.
I can teach the good women who love them about dehydration, sanitation, and loving attention.
And they will teach me:
How to build a fire and cook on it.
How to polish a dirt floor smooth.
How to work harder and carry more than the men.
How to balance a 5 gallon bucket of water on my head.
How to make empty candy wrappers into a wreath to hang on the door.
How to sing for joy because of having just enough. Food. Water. Shelter. Happiness.
(End journal entry)
Obviously, Jake and I are no longer working at the orphanage. The wonderful Jaime took for a year and now the Zambian supervisors are caring for the kids.
Everyone always wants to know what we do in Africa. It's so easy to give pat answers: "Oh you know, we do administrative work. We minister in the bush. We teach people stuff." After re-reading this journal entry, I'm convinced that I've learned way more from Zambia in the last two years than it will ever learn from me.