We’ve always wanted to get out to see the mission hospital in Zambia which has been and still is such a huge part of my husband’s (and in-laws) life. We were so privileged to go out and really see life in Zambia first hand. We have so many stories and great memories, so sorry in advance if when we’re talking in the future and I bring up “this one time when I was in Zambia” and tell you a story.
One of the biggest privileges of the trip was to spend so much time with the missionaries. The mission station we visited had originally been started in the early 1900s in a different location because they thought that malaria was literally “bad air” so they put their hospital on the top of a hill. Can you imagine being pregnant and hiking up a huge hill just to deliver your baby? That’s why so many pregnant went up months early and camped in tents outside the doctor’s house so they wouldn’t have to climb the hill to have the baby. They ended up moving the hospital to the valley and it is thriving with a nursing school, women’s/men’s/children’s/surgical/maternity wards, and training the locals to do the job is the biggest job there. When the last full time missionaries leave the compound next year, there will only be visiting medical staff from the west. But that is the ultimate job of a missionary, isn’t it? To train so that when their time is up, there won’t be a vacuum left. Truthfully, I think many missionaries have left a vacuum in their wake which has the Zambians asking for more missionaries to come out. And sadly, no more missionaries are coming, but the good part is that the locals are picking up the mantel and taking responsibility for the churches and the hospitals where the missionaries first were.
A non-medical missionary said was that sometimes “money is more useful” than goods because you can’t exactly cash in a whole stash of colored pencils for a new roof over your head. While it gives us more of a sense of doing something for the missionaries to give them things, money helps them build buildings or pay for electricity or gas in the car in ways that donated goods never will. So next time you’re considering how to help your missionary friends, consider a monetary donation.
In the picture captions you’ll see me refer to the hydro project a lot. My father-in-law was instrumental in getting that project funded so the area could have electricity and eventually connect up with the main national grid. In the mean time, the area has gone from no electricity to 24-hour power and from walking to riding bikes to dirt bikes. Some even have running water, although that is rare still. Something that surprised me was how much Zambians stare–openly with not even a hint of trying to hide it. But they are respectful when addressing you and love to try out their English. “How are you?” is the favorite phrase. I really threw off people when I said “Hi” instead of “hello” so I’d say “Hi” and people would say “fine” thinking I was saying how are you. The kids loved waving when they saw a “chindelly” (white person) or a car drive past for that matter.
As is the case in some third world countries, the power in the big cities is patchy and economical progress is dependent on investors like China who have a huge mining presence in Zambia, much to some Zambian’s dismay.
I was amazed in rural Zambia how many women of childbearing age were either pregnant or carrying a baby on their back. A missionary midwife mentioned that one of her frustrations was that some of the single girls say they were “given pregnancy” as if they had nothing to do with how it happened. I did get the privilege to witness a birth in the hospital. It’s tradition not for Zambian women not to make any noise when they deliver. Because when you make noise, it means the child is not your husband’s and even the girls who aren’t married don’t make noise. It’s truly jaw-dropping. Let me tell you–without the noise of pain, they make giving birth look easy.
All the women (especially in the bush) have their knees covered. It’s more important than covering their chests. So yes it was hot and humid, but it’s important not to offend so you cover the knees. In the cities, more women are wearing skirts or dresses slightly above the knee, but not to embarrassingly small proportions western women wear.
Thanks so much to all of you who prayed for us–our safety, our health, and our sanity (on those long plane rides.) Let’s get together soon and talk more in detail about what’s going in your life and mine and what we’re learning on this crazy adventure called life.