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Hands at Work

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On Leaving Zambia - March 2013

I'm in that space between leaving home and getting home again. I left Zambia yesterday in the early afternoon and spent the evening hours in Johannesburg airport in South Africa. Throughout the afternoon, I was in wonder that I was just a two hour flight from the northern copper belt of Zambia.  Ndola airport is a far cry from O. R. Tambo Airport. Ndola is filled with boozy miners and large handed men that operate heavy machinery. It's really a quonset with a small shed attached.  In the shed, there operates a bar that liberally distributes Mosi and Castle beers and even the occasional Fanta in a glass bottle. Sitting in the waiting area, it has the feeling of a boozy reception at a mining convention. Around me the accents of Afrikaans and Chinese, Zambian and South African, blend into a hypnotic white noise. I sit myself by the open window, looking over the pitted tarmac and watch the men pull the carts of luggage, by hand, out to the waiting plane.  Our plane sits just a few hundred metres out on the tarmac yet they send a bus to pick us up - much in the same fashion as larger more international airports. I wait at the bottom of the steps as the Zambian sky opens up once more, and soak up the rain and gulp deep breaths, my last of Zambia for a while. 

Leaving Zambia feels a lot like leaving home. At the farm, I leave a family - like Liz and Weston, Adam, Lynn, Levy and Alicia, Tawonga, Prag, Norris and girls. I say goodbye with the feeling on both sides that it's not forever. Sukai and James are to meet me at the airport and drop off cards that Sukai wants me to deliver for her.
I jump out of Rahni's van, say goodbyes to her and Joshua, and head to the departures building. I wait outside and debate the merits of buying a souvenir at the small craft stand. A hippo beckons me and I go back and forth on the K70,00 ($14) price tag and figure if all else, it's worth it for the insurance against regret. I've eyed these hand carved hippos since my first trip but never wanted to carry it through transit. Now, with said hippo safely tucked in my bag, Sukai arrives and brings me the "mail". Whenever someone from Canada travels to Zambia, we come bearing letters and cards from our Hands at Work family here for our Hands at Work family there. It's the same on the way back. Small slips of paper, envelopes and cards, pictures drawn and photos taken weave their way over the ocean back and forth in the backpacks, carry ons and pockets of those in transit. It's time to go, so Sukai and I say our goodbyes. It's never easy but we are getting better, less tears, more laughter, knowing our friendship withstands time and distance. We always fall back into our friendship right where we left it and we both value our time together, both of us wishing it was longer. 
I head through the security booth, without a hitch, even with a litre of water in my bag. On the other side, I stand in line and wait to check in at a counter that is not identified with my airline, but another. Despite the confusion, it proves to be the right line and I stand and wait. I see James has arrived and then in a moment of conflict, whether to go back out or stand in place, he waves me off with his huge smile and thumbs up…and he and Sukai are off.  I could easily dissolve but I focus on smiling and just internally voicing thanks for their  beautiful lives, their amazing examples of selflessness and servanthood and our friendship. 
Somewhere over the Atlantic, I wake in a darkened plane, lift the window shade just a little and see that outside it's daylight, and it will be for the next eight hours or so until I reach Saskatoon. It's there, somewhere in the middle, that I find myself balanced between home and home. 

Dean with Joyce, the youngest daughter of Reuben, one of the amazing volunteer care workers in Mulenga

Dean with Joyce, the youngest daughter of Reuben, one of the amazing volunteer care workers in Mulenga

Weston and Liz and Dean at dinner...eating nshima was a new experience for Dean....one of many.   

Weston and Liz and Dean at dinner...eating nshima was a new experience for Dean....one of many.

 

Three siblings and their care worker, Dorothea, who ensures that they are safe when alone, fed while their mother is away looking for work, and receive medical attention when they are sick. They look to her for help and she is their supporter and advocate. 

Three siblings and their care worker, Dorothea, who ensures that they are safe when alone, fed while their mother is away looking for work, and receive medical attention when they are sick. They look to her for help and she is their supporter and advocate. 

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Notes from Under the Mosquito Net - February 2013

 

It's Sunday today, our first whole day in Zambia, our 4th full day in the clothes we dressed in on Thursday to leave Canada. We made it to Ndola without a hitch, our bags only made it to Johannesburg. Welcome to international travel. 

This morning, we woke from a full night's sleep and started our week here by attending church in Luyansha with our friends, Levy and Prag. It was a lively church with microphones  and keyboard cranking out the music.  The church was comprised of many men and women, families and single people. It was a lovely opportunity to experience a different culture and their particular style of worship.

After church, we headed back to the farm where we're staying. The Zambian landscape is more lush and overgrown than I've ever experienced. It is warm and humid and a great relief from February in Saskatoon.  As we drive out the farm road to the main paved road, the grass nearly forms a tunnel above the bakkie (pick up) and the greenery reaches out and drags its fingers along the truck as we pass. 

We get back to the farm and prepare lunch when news arrives that our bags are in Ndola. We are told to pick them up before 3 pm, at which time the office closes. Weston and Liz, our hosts, drive us to Ndola. Liz and I sit in the back of the bakkie and just enjoy the fresh rains that have opened up. Water seeps in down our backs and it is cool and refreshing. We arrive at the airport, set off the metal detector and look for someone to find us our luggage. We are told that the person we need to speak to has left early and we will need to return the next day. We try speaking with the airport authority but to no avail, our bags are locked in customs and they too, have knocked off early and we can't access the room where our bags are stowed. Sensing the futility of being assertive in our requests, we cut our losses and take Weston and Liz out for coffee in Ndola. It ends up being a great time to just sit with them and hear their stories of how they have come to work with Hands. After coffee, I run into the Pick and Pay and grab some necessities, soap and shampoo, etc. to keep us going until our bags are back in our possession. Dean is taking it all in stride and just rolling with it so really, all in all, it's not so inconvenient when you're travelling with someone who is pretty relaxed about the details.

Last night when we arrived, we found we were the only ones staying in the farmhouse with Liz and Weston. After dinner, we sat and talked through the world map on the wall and I could see that Dean was really taking in the distance he had travelled to come to be where we are. We talked through some of the hopes we have for the trip, and how to communicate what we see and experience here best, to allow those back home to connect to the work that is happening here and the life changes it is bringing to those here on the ground.

These hours have been a great transition to prepare us for what's ahead this week. I know that when I first came to Zambia,  I was so focused on "helping" that I missed the first few days of building into the relationships that now, six years later, have become so integral to my own life and faith. Dean is far more relational than I and I could see that he was already valuing the things he was hearing and learning about those we would be working alongside for the week. It was a great start to what would be a really awakening week in the life of both Dean and I, as we look to what God has in store for Connect and indeed, for each of us.

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From YXE to NDA - February 2013

Why YXE and where in the world is NDA?

Connect Church YXE has those interesting little call letters behind our name for a reason. It's not Roman numerals. It's not some Latin or Greek abbreviation. It's Saskatoon's airport code. It identifies us as being on a journey, they are the letters you'll see if you were to book a ticket or mail a package to Saskatoon. 
One of the things I'm most excited about in regards to Connect, is the opportunity 
to get people involved in the lives of those that are in great need. I love seeing people learn more about themselves and God by serving others. Over the years, I have figured out something about myself and the way God wired me. I love the opportunity to get to know people and their story and to just hang with them while their stories evolve. In the past few years, I have had the privilege of being involved in the stories of a small community in Zambia. It began as simply as finding an organization for a friend to serve with when she finished her teaching degree. It has evolved into the deep and involved relationships between my friends in their community who serve out of the little they have, to give to those who have even less. My friends, who I now call family, in Zambia are care workers. Volunteers that have so little themselves but have started with what they had and cared for the orphaned, the widowed and the sick in their community. Over the past years, I have visited them several times with teams, alone and even with my husband and two sons in tow. Every time I learn so much about humility and service, steadfastness and generosity. I have watched the same women and men caring for their neighbours and community for six years now. They get tired. They get sick. They have worries enough of their own. They don't have excess to give out of. 
They walk miles. They carry and feed children with no families. They check on those who are dying or sick and unable to care for themselves. They visit children and stand up for them in their community to  ensure that they aren't taken advantage of or abused. Many of the care workers have children and families of their own that they struggle to feed and care for. They don't give up. They don't use boredom as an excuse to do something else. They've invested their lives. The returns in the immediate are funerals and hunger, suspicion and abuses. They are witnesses to abuses and neglects, injustices and illness. Yet, they have hope. They know who it is they serve when they walk miles in the heat and dirt, into the darkened room where lies a young man or woman in their last days or into a yard filled with children living alone in a room where the rent has run out and there are no parents to provide it. 
NDA is the airport code for Ndola, Zambia. It is a northern city on the southern border of the DRC in the copperbelt region of Zambia. It is where Dean and I will land on March 2nd. We're going to spend a little over a week walking with these care workers, hearing their stories and investing ourselves into them. We'll be the ones returning with renewed spirits, having seen the beautiful feet of those that bring good news in the communities of northern Zambia.  We'll be working with Hands at Work, one of the global organizations that we are going to be partnering with as Connect Church. We have stated that we, as a church, are going to place a high priority on serving those with the greatest needs. We're going to do this locally and globally. Hands at Work identifies communities with the least amount of capacity to help themselves. Communities that the governments have written off as not worthy of investment, infrastructure or even governing.  Some refer to these communities as not even being on the "Aid Ladder" and therefore not even registering on the scale of those that are able to receieve help. Most government and non government organizations evaluate those that they give aid to with an eye to a return on the investment. Hands at Work identifies communities based on those that don't meet that criteria because we believe that that is where Jesus would walk and serve. Hands mobilizes the local African churches to find volunteers to serve and support their neighbours and communities. Hands also mobilizes the church outside of Africa to support the church within Africa to do that. The church outside of Africa, partnering with churches in Africa, to reach those that are the most vulnerable. It is beautiful in its simplicity and its effectiveness. It doesn't require a lot more than being Jesus to those who need Him. 
Dean and I are going to represent the church outside of Africa. We don't have a project or an agenda other than for our brothers and sisters in Africa to know that they are not alone in their suffering or service. 

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