Homeward bound

After traveling 14 days in Zambia with ne’er a glitch, we arrived at London Heathrow, only to turn into a Three Stooges scene of never-ending queues through immigration, convoluted directions from terminal 5 to terminal 3 to catch the H7 Hoppa to the Travelodge, and a hotel kitchen closing in 10 minutes “but we have pizza.”

It is raining in London this morning, seasonal for this location, but also reflective of how we feel about leaving behind our new-found Zambian brothers and sisters. Many students are wearing flip flops, having given their shoes to their little football player pals. Some talk of creative ways of using their chitenges. All are looking forward to familiar food, but feeling proud of eating n’shima almost daily.

Mwendi bwino (safe journey)

A student reflects on his Zambian experiences

On Tuesday evening, as we wrapped up our clinical experience in Zambia, we were reminded of God’s purpose for us nurses through a devotion by WLC student Ryan Schroeder, based on Scripture from 1 Corinthians 13:

“If I speak in tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong…I am nothing…Love is patient, love is kind… When I was a child, I talked like a child…. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me…”

One thing I noticed while reading this was that if I were to substitute “my name” for the word “love” in this passage, the whole thing would read a lie. “Ryan is patient. He does not boast…” If I were to continue, the passage would be a list of falsehoods. While I don’t intend to be presumptuous, I think it is safe to say that this is true of all of us.

Despite our best intentions to provide care out here, we ourselves have formed the greatest barrier. Poverty is terrible. Language barriers are hard to overcome. But the personal struggle to truly love might be the most insurmountable goal of all.

We came to Zambia full of excitement and the will to serve, but often we have taken more than we could ever hope to repay. Each of us had personal moments that have left us awestruck by how much Zambians can give (and how rich they truly are). Dan with Abel. John with KK. And all of us with Mrs. Nyrenda.

But for all our ineptitude to repay the love we’ve been shown, Christ is able. If we go back to the text and insert the name “Jesus” for “love,” nothing could read truer.

“If I have faith that can move mountains, but have not Jesus, I am nothing… Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.”

If we nurse through our own nature, we can never give love. But if we deny ourselves for Christ, our ineptitude makes way for his glory. Through baptism Christ has changed the very nature off humanity, giving us the means to love.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wickedness, then I will forgive their sins and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.

The Zambians realize this and know that healing is only through Christ. We, too, can be that loving, but only through Christ.

Farewell to our Zambian brothers and sisters

We have one more day of clinical on the field. It has been two weeks of life-transforming experiences. From AIDS to hydrocephalus to malnutrition to babies born in the back of the car, the scenarios will be indelibly retained in our memories.

Students observed orthopaedic and endoscopic ventricular surgery; assisted with dressing changes of decubiti, burns, skin grafts, and club foot repairs; mourned the loss of an AIDS patient whom we cared for a day earlier; supervised a blood transfusion initiated by Irish med students (who looked to our students for direction); ate nshima with the hospital staff; watched the rice blow off their plates due to the winter winds; drank Coca-Cola regularly since it just hits the spot after a meal of nshima, relish, and beans (or chicken or eggs, or “beef”).

Some have almost overcome their fear of spiders. Most still fret over the giant fruit bats. No snake sightings have been reported.

Overheard recently:

  • This has been a zamtastic experience.
  • The kids think her name is Carrot.
  • We have a pretty good nurse choir, don’t we?!
  • Did you see those kids hanging all over Brandon and John?
  • Micah calls me Lion.
  • “A roof without Harvey tiles is like a school without teachers – there will be illiteracy.”
  • Banana spit: 25000k
  • Did you know a diesel truck can run without a battery?
  • When you said it got cold, I didn’t think it would be THIS cold!
  • TIA (This is Africa)
  • Your nursing students are always welcome here.
  • I miss my family.
  • This has been good practice for when we have to share an apartment in fall.
  • The water is off.
  • The brown-out should start any minute now.
  • I have slept so well.
  • I haven’t slept all that well.
  • There was a bug on my food, and I just flicked it off and kept eating.
  • Mrs. Nyrenda has been so good to us.
  • Bupe means “gift.”
  • The “I” is pronounced “e” and the “e” is pronounced “a.”
  • I haven’t lost any weight.
  • My family won’ t believe that I ate all this strange food!
  • It will seem strange driving on the other side of the road again.
  • It has been amazing to see how the Zambian nurses make do with what they have.
  • The first thing I am going to eat is pizza, a Big Mac, and ice cream.
  • There is confusion.

Before you know it your loved ones will be returning from Africa, filled with stories, laden with curios, and wondering how they ever thought the way they used to think.

Each evening they have sung songs of thanksgiving, stirring our hearts to recommit to a God-pleasing life of serving others.

Daily devotion

Each evening, the students have taken turns leading the daily devotion. Dan Mulrain wrote the following and shared it with us as we awaited our dinner next to the Zambezi River Saturday.

Genesis 4:2b-7 “Now Abel kept flocks…The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering…If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?”

Many of us are familiar with this section of Scripture. It is rich with lessons not only about stewardship but also about priorities.

On Monday while we were visiting the Mwembezhi clinic, I had the blessing to talk with Abel Mozambuka. We talked for about an hour and discussed many things, including this year’s cotton prices and an explanation of ice-fishing. The most revealing part of the conversation was his priorities. Abel was at the clinic seeking help for his mentally ill daughter, while facing cotton prices of 1500 kwacha/kilo of cotton (less than 50 cents) and trying to send his kids to school. Yet he took time to talk with me and teach me about Zambia and Martin Luther Church and continued to shake my hand and explain how great it was to be talking with someone of the same faith from a world away.

While on a trip like this, I think it is important to re-prioritize. As Prof. Carey says, the point of the trip (and this devotion) is not to make us feel guilty. The intention is not to look at how little Zambian farmers have and how much middle-class Americans have.

Abel’s gift was not necessarily better than Cain’s because he gave a good looking lamb. Abel had his priorities straight; he loved God first, which put everything into perspective for him. Cain’s heart was not in the right place. Cain lacked love, causing him to lose perspective.

Fortunately for us the story does not end here. Another son of Adam came and showed us love – a love that is so incredible that the only way to attempt to show thanks is to imitate that love. The apostle Paul urges us in 1 Corinthians 4 to imitate him as he imitates Christ. In John 15:13 Christ explained that “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” When we imitate this love, everything falls into place, and like Abel we can give our first fruits, our purest fruits.

Lord, teach us to love as you love so that we are able to prioritize, putting love for you first so that everything falls into place. Then, like Abel, our gifts may be pleasing in your sight.