This morning began at 5:00am in Zambia, just in time to beat the morning sunrise. Drivers came in waves to bring us to our school placements. We traveled through heavy traffic from highways, thankful to have an expert behind the wheel as we watched vans zoom past with no more than 2” to spare and dodged hoards of pedestrians braving the streets. We meandered back through hidden roads between small concrete houses, over bumps and rocks that threatened to halt our van. Sure, there was the familiar scent of burning trash, but we also could not help but notice the unique detailed advertisements on small street-side store walls, the colorfully decorated chitenges worn by Zambian women, and the bright wildflowers that decorated our path. From these back roads, each of us were dropped off to our week-long school placements that had been established by the Christian Alliance for Children in Zambia (CACZ).
We were once again surprised by the disparities. A small church building served as the site of four classrooms, one of which was windowless and remained dark throughout the day. Others aided observed in three 3-hour teaching sessions, experiencing the cost of a limited staff. Some schools were more fortunate with well-developed buildings; one school had a multi-storied building and another provided a comparatively modern resource center with various textbooks, several computers, and a copy machine. These were rare commodities.
Knowing that this week was the culmination of over a year of prayer and preparation, we tried to absorb whatever we could in our unique experiences and helped wherever teachers expressed a need. Some of us gave impromptu lessons on Bible stories, decimals, and even Cinyanja (one of the main local languages) and Bantu migration. Many are working hard in preparation for teaching several of tomorrow’s sessions. Others in the group assisted with speaking needs of diverse learners and medically screened and cared for camp members.
Still, we think that the blessings we received far-exceeded any that we could have given. All the time, we are surrounded by incredibly respectful and good-natured students and adult servants who appreciate education and are passionate for the Lord. Despite the circumstances, these individuals teach us to find hope and thankfulness for the little things—like shoes and pencils—that make education possible for the students here. We are also recognizing the value of our own education at Calvin College, blessed by dedicated instructors, an abundance of resources and endless opportunities.
Being a part of the long-term efforts of CACZ has been a humbling experience. The labors of these schools and churches reminds us of God’s faithfulness as in Habbakuk chapter 2, when the Lord assures that visions inscribed on tablets “hastens toward a goal and will not fail,” or in the labors in Nehemiah chapter 4 as the wall of Jerusalem was faithfully rebuilt despite opposition. We are seeing this kind of hope all around. Through our time here, we are challenged us to see such environments in a different light—focusing not on what is missing, but what the Lord has already provided with assurance of his continued blessings. We would be honored if you would continue to pray in thanks and anticipation for the Lord’s faithful provision and care over these teachers, students, and communities, both now and in the days and years to come.
Written by Paige Stephens, a.k.a. “Zulu”