Returning Home

“Faith today is treated as something that only should make us different, not that actually does or can make us different.  In reality we vainly struggle against the evils of this world, waiting to die and go to heaven.  Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that the essence of faith is entirely a mental and inward thing.”  –Dallas Willard


After the 6 hour journey from Kitwe back to Lusaka, we were able to spend some time shopping at the local markets.  In Zambia, the markets operate on a system of bartering and trading, which I don’t particularly enjoy.  I find it silly to work at trying to lower a price for something since I clearly have more than the salesman does.  I don’t want to be swindled, but I don’t want to cheat them of their wages either.  It’s a difficult balance.

It saddens me that a woman will sell me a piece of fabric in exchange for some hotel soap and lotion.  She didn’t even want the money that I offered her . . . she was delighted to have Orange Ginger lotion to moisturize her skin.  We bartered and exchanged and loaded up our treasures on the bus to head for the airport.

The Lusaka Airport is one of the most inefficient places I’ve ever seen.  There is a security checkpoint at the door (shoes off, pockets empty, belt off, bags x-rayed, no liquids, etc.).  This is followed by a long line to obtain boarding passes and check baggage.  While we all waited to have our boarding passes printed, the airport lost electricity.  The computers were still somehow functional, but nothing else worked.  This meant that baggage couldn’t be weighed (and therefore couldn’t be checked), and boarding passes couldn’t be printed.  After about an hour of standing still in the dark, airport officials began issuing handwritten boarding passes and baggage claim tickets.  This made several in our group nervous, as they were unsure that their bags were being checked through to the correct airports.  This process took about 45 minutes for each passenger.  With 25 people in our group, we weren’t sure if we’d manage to make our flight back to Addis on time.  After receiving the boarding passes, there is a second security checkpoint.  Somehow, we all made it through in time to board the plane.  This particular flight goes in a circular route from Addis to Malawi, to Zambia, and back to Addis, so there were already passengers on the plane when we boarded.  The attendants announced free seating, and the plane was boarded from the front and the rear simultaneously.  This resulted in complete and utter chaos.  Trying to find empty places to stow luggage followed by empty seating was a challenge.  We climbed over each other in the single aisle trying to find enough space for everyone.  Finally, we were airborne, and on our way home.  About 30 hours later, Matt and I were back in Springfield, welcomed with homemade signs at the airport by our pastor and his family.


It always takes me a long time to digest all that happens when I travel.  Overwhelmingly, I felt inadequate to really meet the needs of the people in Zambia.  The need is so great that the only option is to help.  There is no other moral possibility.  I was confronted each day with diseases that I’m not trained to heal.  I lacked medical specialists, supplies, and medications that are readily available in the U.S.  Most of all, my patients are the poorest of the poor, and they have no money for medical care and no government to provide care for them.  Even knowing what care they need, they have no money for transportation, food, or lodging.  What do we do with this information?  As Brook Fraser says, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible.”  I really think that I need some additional training.  I’m still not exactly sure what that means for me . . . maybe a few conferences on tropical medicine, a pediatric HIV course, or a public health degree.  I don’t know yet.  I am certain that I belong in Africa, probably more and more in the years to come.  In the meantime, it is absolutely necessary to spread the word.  What’s crazy is that it does not have to be this way. Ten million children do not have to die every year from preventable causes.  We, the citizens of prosperous nations, have the ability to end this if we are simply faithful enough to do it.  Listen to Bono:

“We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or dies–but will we be that generation?  Will we in the West realize our potential or will we sleep in the comfort of our affluence with apathy and indifference murmuring softly in our ears? . . . . This is Africa’s crisis.  That it’s not on the nightly news, that we do not treat this as an emergency– that’s our crisis. . . . We can’t say our generation didn’t know how to do it.  We can’t say our generation couldn’t afford it.  And we can’t say our generation didn’t have reason to do it.  It’s up to us.”

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