Commitment to service takes root in Zambia
Compiled by April M. Fatula
Last fall, the University launched its seventh overseas program, this time at the Namwianga Mission in Kalomo, Zambia.
Dr. Jeffrey T. Hopper, dean of International Programs, and Dr. Monte Cox, director of the Center for World Missions, presented the new "HIZ" program to the student body in chapel Oct. 2, 2006.
Hopper later said, "Student response to the announcement of this program has been overwhelming, more convincing than for any other new program we have begun."
The program's emphasis is health care missions, and goals include increasing the number of students who choose to serve as long-term medical, nursing or allied health care missionaries; teaching community health to students; and teaching and administering preventative health care to local patients and families.
Twenty-four students were accepted into the program, directed by Dr. Vann Rackley, associate professor of marriage and family therapy, and Janice Bingham, associate professor of nursing.
"HIZ is a microcosm of all that is best about Harding," says Hopper. "The students and those working with them organize their days around intensive learning, helping the sick and the poor, and showing the love of Jesus to others."
We decided to let students tell the story of this life-changing semester in their own words, as excerpted from blog entries and newsletters.
Kristin Cozzens, sophomore nursing major from Bartlett, Tenn.
Aug. 30, 2007
Tomorrow at this time I'm going to be in an airplane headed for Zambia. Sometimes three months sounds like nothing, but other times, it might as well be the whole year. Not only will I miss my family and friends, but also my culture! I can sacrifice comfort and luxury for a measly three months.
In the afternoons, I'll be spending my time in a school, orphanage or clinic, and I'm so excited about each! I'm sure I'll find myself rocking babies more than anything, but since I am a nursing major, it would probably look good to work in the clinic as well.
The past 10 days we've been preparing our hearts and minds for the task ahead. It's also been good to listen to people who have been there so they can give us a heads up on cultural differences. Honestly, I'm a bit nervous. They do many things so differently, and I don't want to offend people. Obviously by my skin color they'll know I'm not from around there, but I'm going to try to "blend in" the best I can.
Please keep all of us in your prayers as we're about to embark on the unknown. It's a little scary, but I'm pretty sure that excitement is overriding that! It's comforting to know that the Lord has already gone before us. He's in control — we're only the messengers.
Sarah Hackney, junior communication disorders major from Jonesboro, Ark.
Sept. 5, 2007
So my group is settled in and things are well with us. God is truly blessing all of us. I can personally feel the growth and stretching taking place in my own life.
My house is nice. I live with seven other girls and the Rackley family. The girls in my room are great. We are on two sets of bunk beds with mosquito nets covering them.
Our chef is awesome. His name is Leonard, and he can kill a snake with his bare hands. His food is amazing. Don't feel sorry for us, because we have definitely had pancakes, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, homemade bread, the whole nine yards.
I told Leonard that I did not want to be fat when I went home, and he told me that it would be good for me to get fat because then I would be more beautiful. In Africa they find beauty in fat women and men. That means that you have plenty to eat and that you are blessed. What a different mindset from America.
This week we have been split up into groups to rotate through each of the four areas where we will be working: the Haven — an orphanage for infants to 2-year-olds — Eric's House — 2- to 20-year-old kids — the school, and the clinic.
Yesterday, I went to Eric's House. I have fallen in love with a little boy who is almost 2 named Moshi. He is precious. He is just learning how to walk, and he loves to hold my hand and walk all over the place. Sometimes he gets really brave and tries to walk on his own. I keep wondering why God blessed me so much and these precious kids at Eric's House and the Haven don't even have parents. It's been a very harsh reality for me to see.
Sept. 20, 2007
Our first week was very long and busy but also memorable. We took a tour of the mission on Monday, and I got to visit the orphanage for the first time. I won't ever forget that day. … Most of the girls left in tears.
The first baby I held was Glory, and she clung to me with all her strength. When we had to put them back in their cribs, 24 2-year-olds were crying, as were we. It was so hard seeing these sweet, innocent kids living in such filth and poverty. The workers there do the best they can, but there are so many children and so few helpers.
The Haven looked pretty similar. It holds infants, and I just about went crazy with excitement! I love babies, and about half looked like newborns even though several were a few months old. Many of the babies have syphilis and the potential for HIV/AIDS since most of them were orphaned due to AIDS. It's so strange being here. ... There is such sorrow everywhere you look, yet the people have such joy in spite of it! Death here is a way of life. Of course they mourn, but they seem to cope much better and find peace in their circumstances.
Friday night was my first true "African experience." We all piled into the back of trucks and drove 40 minutes into a village to worship with a tribe. There were potholes everywhere, and I have a pretty nasty bruise on my back, but it was worth it to watch the stars. They're AMAZING here! Obviously, few people have electricity, so they shine so brightly and truly illuminate the earth!
Anyway, the first thing we did was sing. Of course we don't speak Chitonga, so we listened. But I think I got more out of their singing than if I were to have sung in English. I have no idea what they were saying, but their voices harmonized beautifully and filled that tiny room. It was incredible. ... I can't describe it any other way! I had one of those "moments" when I was sitting there listening to their voices blending, and I cried.
What was even more beautiful than their voices was the fact that even though they sang in a different language, lived on a different continent, and were part of a different culture, they were singing to the same God I sing to on Sunday mornings in our air-conditioned auditorium.
Until last night, it had never really soaked in. Even though I'm 8,540 miles away from home, I'm home here, too, with my brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lord was with me in America, and he's still with me in Africa. I know I'm stating the obvious here, but it's never felt more REAL!
Something else amazing that I experienced for the first time on Thursday night was the miracle of birth! That's so cliche, but it truly is a miracle! Thursday evening Brian [Lancaster], Kerri [Coffey], Julia [Amend] and I were picked up by one of the nurses and rushed to the clinic to watch a lady have her first baby.
African women are STRONG! We watched her push for 45 minutes, and she never ONCE yelled out or did anything other than breathe heavily. I couldn't believe it! Of course they don't have drugs there for the pain, but she handled it amazingly well and gave birth to a healthy baby boy — 7.5 pounds! I was the first one to hold him after the nurse. ... I was in shock.
It's so crazy to think that one minute he was inside of her and the next in my arms! I'm so ready now to graduate and work in the maternity ward. I could watch babies being born all day!
I went on an HIV/AIDS outreach, and that was eye-opening. Another student, Clay [Williams], and I drove with a nurse about two hours on ROUGH roads to a village to check the patients' statuses and give out medications. Most of them were young women and middle-aged men. However, a dad came in with his 5-year-old daughter, and that just about broke my heart. It's rare to see the father take this kind of role, so that was touching, but seeing a little girl with such an awful disease was almost too much for me to take.
I tried to stay professional, but some tears escaped. She looked terrified, and when physician assistant Louisa Duke ('02) took her CD4 count, she started to whimper and was soon crying hysterically. Her dad pulled her into his lap and comforted her the best he could.
It's just not fair. Most of the patients we saw got AIDS from having sex with multiple people and being unfaithful to their spouses — she was innocent and pure. It really breaks your heart. You hear about AIDS in Africa, but coming face to face with it makes it real. It's strange meeting and talking with people you KNOW are going to die soon. I mean, we're all going to die someday, but I'd like to think I have several more decades, but not the people I saw. It's still hard to grasp.
Sky Vanderburg, junior premedicine/political science major from Moberly, Mo.
Oct. 31, 2007
Time and time again I have sought to modify my perspective on life so that I could continue to have confidence in it; however, my experiences in Africa have prompted too many unanswerable questions. As a result, I am left with nothing but the faith that God is love and that he has my best interests in mind.
I am spending some of my free time in the orphanages here, and I have become enamored with one orphan in particular. Lola is very quiet, yet she is not shy. I constantly take it as a personal challenge to make her smile, laugh, or recognize me from my past visits because she is often so distant when I hold her.
One day she stared into my eyes, and I stared back, trying to know exactly what she was feeling, when a powerful thought crossed my mind. I immediately was reminded of Matthew 25 when Jesus teaches that he exists in the suffering and abandoned people of this world. In Lola's deep eyes I saw Christ — I saw the true reason for this summer in West Africa, this fall in Zambia, and a lifetime of service.
My responsibilities and experiences at the rural health clinic here are the testing grounds for my thoughts, for Zambia, like Togo, is a place of great need. Here the problem of HIV/AIDS is staggering — 20 percent of Zambians have contracted the virus, many of them young children and parents.
Factors such as poverty and peer pressure have primed all of Southern Africa for a full assault by HIV/AIDS. I see the casualties of this war every day — orphaned children, scared mothers, infected adolescents — everyone here is infected or affected. Such a devastating state of affairs has caught my attention to say the least. Although this problem has become a concern that has filled my thoughts and prayers, I have matured, for I feel confident in accomplishing something small but concrete, even in the face of a discouragingly massive problem.
It is a humbling event when you feel you have come to new insights through intense struggles only to find that they were in the Word all along. For me, this was upon reading Romans 12: 1-2, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and prove what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Only now do I truly believe that all I desire for this world is within reach, for I have been transformed by the renewing of my mind.
By its beautiful people and through its purifying ruggedness, Africa has claimed a piece of my heart while returning to God the whole.
The hardest goodbye
Krista Russell, junior early childhood education major from Lindale, Texas
Nov. 11, 2007
What a hard day. I was unaware this morning when I woke up that I would spend my last day in Zambia attending the funeral for one of the babies we have fallen in love with at Haven II. She was almost 2 years old, and her little body just couldn't make it. Everything in man's power was done to make her live, but sometimes man's measures are futile. She died yesterday weighing 5 pounds.
The funeral was held in her village. Her mother had died in childbirth, but her father is still living. We arrived after 2 1⁄2 hours on a dusty trail to women wailing and crying. What a sorrowful sound! I hurt just thinking about it. The crazy thing is, Tiana lived in the orphanage her whole life, and these people didn't even really know her. But the loss of life is mourned, not just the loss of a relationship.
Sadness and relief intermingled. It is so unfair that things like this happen, and I cannot begin to understand it. But Tiana is in a much better place. She no longer has to live with the cruelties and injustices of this fallen world.
Last Africa update!
Julia Amend, junior nursing major from Aurora, Colo.
Dec. 8, 2007
Our two-week tour after leaving Namwianga was an incredible experience. After saying goodbye to the Marianne School [in Kapsabet, Kenya], we made the last drive of our trip back to Nairobi. The next day we got our first taste of culture shock — several hours to shop at a real western mall! It was surprising to see how clean everything was and how easy it was to get the things we wanted. Along with the mall, we had our last experience in an African market where we bartered for souvenirs. I have learned a lot in Africa, but I'm afraid I have not learned the secret of good bartering. In some ways it's fun, but I still prefer stores with price tags!
Though checking baggage and getting through customs was a hassle, we managed to get to Little Rock without any major incidents. Now we've been getting readjusted to life in the U.S.: shopping at Wal-Mart, driving cars, drinking from water fountains, and taking showers with actual pressure. More than anything, it has been wonderful to see my friends again. It has been a blessing to spend a whole week here at Harding, which has given me time to answer the inevitable question, "How was Africa?"
So will I go back someday? Am I now convinced that Africa is where God is calling me as a missionary? I had hoped this trip might answer some of those questions for me, but the truth is I still don't know. I love the people I met in Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania, and my heart is drawn to the African continent, but it is also drawn to other people and places. This trip has been an incredibly valuable experience.
I have learned so much about the love of God, the perseverance of people, and how easy it is to take for granted what we have. But I suppose more than anything, I've learned about how much I have left to learn! The world is so vast, and there are so many opportunities to love the people in it.