Among the faces of Zambia are the Presentation women who took Nano’s desire to be of service anywhere in the world to heart. They claimed her vision as their own and left family and the familiar to embark on a faith journey. The Presentation women here have come from Ireland, India and the United States. They have been joined by Presentation women, native to Zambia, as well as women and men here who call themselves Friends of Nano and indeed, they are! Through this blending of cultures and faith they claim there is an ease of service even in the midst of deprivation. Heart speaks to heart and the rest falls into a more balanced perspective as they have chosen to cast their lot with the people here. It is obvious that they heard a clarion call and responded generously. In their daily fidelity, each one is being transformed into becoming more than a light bearer. Through their ongoing surrender and the grace of God, they become the very light of Christ. I am humbled to have been among them
I am back to my reflective mode. More than once when people return home after visiting a developing country, I hear them say, “The people are so happy, yet they have so little. In fact, they are happier than we are and we have so much”. I am often discomforted by this assessment in that just maybe we can be excused for our way of life. That people can find joy in life in the midst of their circumstances speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit and certainly, the people I have met are my guides here. Their resiliency causes me to examine the foundation of my joy as I live in a land of plenty.
At the same time, I think people in developing countries carry a disproportionate burden. They experience a range of emotions as we all do, and I must not try to absolve myself by selectively seeing only a limited expression of emotions. As faith filled people, I, perhaps we, am called to find ways to ease their hardship in a manner that is mutually respectful and mutually beneficial. Definitely, a multifaceted response is needed.
I look forward to having you partner with me in responding to the people in Zambia as we have a strong tradition of responding already established in places like Haiti and through many other individuals who have served in missionary areas.
Last week, we went to Livingston and put on the hat of a tourist for a few days. We went to see Victoria Falls, one of the major wonders of the world. Given that this is the rainy season, the falls were in full force. All I can say is the display was majestic. The spray is so intense that from a distance it looks like smoke rising. The name given the falls by the people is Smoke That Thunders. I think that says it all.
We also crossed the border into Botswana to take a safari through the Chobe Game Reserve. Fortunately, for us, the animals were not shy this day. We saw impalas, crocodile, water buffalo and hippos. We saw elephants, puku and sable antelope, giraffes, baboons, waterfowl, birds and other wildlife. It was like a dream to see them in their natural habitat. We were the visitors. It was an exciting day. I am grateful for all the conservation efforts underway to preserve this national treasure for the world to see.
Today, I have lots of questions. I have been reflecting on how we arrive at a new location, meet and serve with the local people and then comes the leave taking. In the parting is the realization that we may not meet again in this lifetime and this experience is bittersweet.
The questions that bubble up within me are: Is this experience only a moment in time? Is there something about my encounter with the Zambian people that will transcend time and space? What will be the enduring effect of this pilgrimage? Obviously these are questions to be lived into, questions that are meant to lead and not be answered once and for all. How might the relationships formed be nurtured into partnerships capable of enhancing what is already established?
Soon we will journey to another mission. Two of the sisters in Kaoma work at the local hospital which I understand has been recently built. I am eager to see what the conditions are there.
I remain grateful for your prayers and support. That we are well and any challenges along the way we have been able to overcome is a testament to the effectiveness of your prayer!
I have been reflecting on how life as usual can foster a healthy rhythm for us. It can also create a dullness of spirit when my spiritual life becomes too routine. Unknowingly, I may re-create God to fit my limited experience of life. I can create an image of God that does not challenge my assumptions of life. Sometimes I even cling to some reality I know in order to have a sense of control.
C.S. Lewis spoke powerfully to me here. He wrote a book called The Screwtape Letters. In the book, Screwtape is the uncle devil of Wormwood. Wormwood is his apprentice. Screwtape advises Wormwood to “impress upon the clients (human beings) the necessity of the familiar”. There are many ways we are asked to let go of the familiar. Coming to Zambia was one way for me. In a real way, I have experienced becoming unmoored from what is familiar to me.
My structured life can insulate me from God and others too much. Without the familiar structure, there is a directness with God that I sense now which can also be daunting. God is close, yet not warm and fuzzy. When I let go of the image, I simply abide with God. It would be like telling a fish in the water to go find the sea. The fish is in the sea. So, it is when I let go of my notion of God and let God be God.