As we wait to leave for the airport, I have mixed feelings. I feel sad to be leaving so many wonderful people here. The Presentation Sisters are incredible, amazing women. It has been a joy to have time to experience and get to know them. Nano must be very proud of all they are accomplishing with the Zambian people.
My heart is full of so many experiences while here…so many stories yet untold….so many ventures to unpack. There are abundant treasures given and received. I am grateful for this time and look forward to sharing with others as we bridge cultures now coming back to our own.
Of course, I am also looking forward to going home. Yet, a part of my heart will remain here.
While in Kaoma this week, we traveled to Kalundu, one of the villages Sister Virginia has been working with. A year or so ago, with the help of donors, Sister Virginia purchased a hammer mill for the village. A hammer mill is very important to a village, as everyone needs to grind their maze to make their main food called enshema. If they do not have a hammer mill close by, they walk to town, carrying their maize on their head or their back to be ground. The hammer mill has greatly helped these villagers and their neighboring villages as well. They no longer have to walk two to three miles to grind their maize.
The women of Kalundu have established a small business with the gift given to them. When we arrived, the young man hired to grind the maize was blowing white dust everywhere. He had at least four customers waiting with their pails of maize to be ground. Grace, a single mother, is the coordinator of the group. Grace shared with us her record keeping. The village charges a small fee for grinding the maize. Some of the fee is set aside for the upkeep of the hammer mill, some of it is given to Sister Virginia to assist others and a percentage is shared income to the villagers. This past Christmas, there was enough for the families to each have a small bonus. I am so impressed with the care that Grace and her friends in the village have taken with the gift given to them. They are so grateful and thanked and thanked us for this assistance. Grace had tears in her eyes, and I did too. Sister Virginia has received a donation, which she said would go towards the purchase of an additional hammer mill. She hopes to assist another group of villages a distance from Kaoma. This gift assists the villages to care for their own families now and into the future.
We arrived in Kaoma on Saturday after a 5 1/2 hour drive. Sister Virginia McCall shared history and stories about her various projects as Sister Inez, her associate, drove the orphanage van. On arrival, we settled into our chalet guest homes and then went to the Convent for a wonderful chicken dinner prepared by Clement, the cook. On Sunday, we attended the 2-hour Mass in the Lozi language. The singing was beautiful and even though we did not understand the words, we prayed and celebrated the Eucharist with the people, who welcomed us warmly.
After a great ham dinner, we visited the new Convent being built for the Presentation Sisters here in Kaoma. The current Convent has deep cracks in the foundation and the whole building is sinking. The new Convent has been in construction for three years now and is almost finished. It will be a lovely home; safe, serviceable and much more comfortable for the sisters.
There are currently six sisters here, two Zambian sisters; Sister Clementina and Sister Mbaloya who are nurses and work in the local hospital; two Irish sisters; Sister Angela who works in the parish and Sister Vianney who runs the orphanage and Sister Inez who is from India, works with the sustainability projects alongside our Sister Virginia. These projects include farming, fish ponds, loan fund and a sewing center.
Monday, we visited two villages who have received loans from the Redmond Loan Fund. The people knew we were coming and welcomed Sister Virginia with open arms. They sang a lovely welcoming song for us and then showed us their chickens, their ox cart and told us of all they have been able to do because of the loans. They were so grateful they have been able to send their children to school. These women have paid most of their loans back to the fund. We could tell that the children had been told to stay back as they were peeking through the fence. When we asked if we could take pictures, we also asked if the children could come and join us. The mothers gave the sign and the children came rushing towards us. They were so excited to have their photo taken and exclaimed with laughter when we showed their picture to them. They all decided to escort us to our car, which we had left a half mile away as the road to their village was too narrow to drive. When we arrived at the car, we asked if the children could sing a song … and they sang so lovely for us. We then sang a song back to them. What a wonderful exchange it was, certainly another celebration of sharing life with one another across cultures.
Macrina Wiederkehr writes in her book “Seasons of the Heart”:
“To be a pilgrim means to be on the move slowly,
to notice your luggage becoming lighter,
to be seeking for treasures that do not rust,
to be comfortable with your heart’s questions…”
We traveled by bus from Livingston to Lusaka…it was an all day trip leaving at 9 and arriving at 4. The bus was full, and we stopped at various towns along the way, as people arrived at their destinations and others began their journeys. Every time the bus stopped, there were vendors at our windows selling their wares, bananas, mangoes, oranges, tomatoes, grilled chicken and ears of corn, biscuits and chips. Oh and yes, because Zambia is currently playing in the World Cup soccer games, they are selling Zambia flags, scarves and t-shirts.
We are pilgrims on our journey traveling slowly with the Zambian people across their country. It is beautiful land, rich in flowers and fruit, hills and flat land. And, of course, the people with their warm smiles, beautiful children and engaging ways. It was a wonderful day for gazing and reflecting on our hearts’ questions.
One of my reflections is how easy it is to adapt to new ways of doing things. At each place, we have stayed on our journey; we settle in and find a “new norm”. Pilgrimages are important, I think, as we let go of our “set ways” and find ourselves open to “new ways”, even if it is only for a short time. One learns that letting go opens one to the real “treasures that do not rust”.
When I was in elementary school, I remember learning about Victoria Falls. I dreamt of one day visiting there, but really didn’t ever think it would be possible. Victoria Falls was all I imagined and more. The beauty is truly beyond words. As one walks the path toward the Falls through the bushes and trees, one hears the water roaring over the cliffs. When it comes into view, it is breathtaking. The power of the water is so great! There is mist that comes from the water above and below and one is completely wet. We did have umbrellas and raincoats and still we were covered. For me, it was a sacred experience walking along hearing the roar, feeling the mist, seeing the multiple rainbows….God was very present. I felt drawn to stay the day and “dwell in God’s presence”. The local name for the Falls means ”smoke that thunders.”
I have learned Victoria Falls was traditionally a sacred place. The native people honored the area and did not enter. Therefore, the animals were safe from hunters there. This made my walk along the Falls all the more a privilege and honor.
I was very aware of the many people we had met during our week in Kalomo…many of whom will never have the opportunity to visit Victoria Falls…in their own country, only an hour and half away. I prayed for them as I walked in awe of the experience. God is very present with them and in them as well.