Monday, December 10, 2007

Letter from RAE

This is a letter written by one of my former students who is now at the University of Iowa after our trip to Zambia this past is a remarkably eloquent piece that is profoundly personal and compelling, and communicates the need, the love, the hope found on the other side of the world when we strech out our hands and become brothers and sisters in the way I believe God designed it to blessed as you read...

I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of my experiences in Zambia. Nothing I say will ever compare to the reality of what is happening half way across our world. But what I hope and pray is that what I do say will make you think, and stir something within you that will make you want to respond.

So here I am, sitting at Starbucks with a cup of coffee to my right, sitting beside my black cell phone. On my left, my iPod, and in front of me, my bracelet, Velvet Elvis (a book), and my purse.
Just think about that for a moment.
I have about 450 dollars worth of things on this small, wooden table, and my brothers and sisters in Africa are living on one dollar a day. These six things could feed families and clothe them for I don’t even know how long.
I don’t need any of this… but I have it.
They don’t deserve to live in poverty… but they do.
I’m not happy or full in any sort of way right now; not with this cup of coffee, not with my purse or my bracelet… honestly, I feel empty.
They have dirt and dust surrounding them day and night, not electronics and hot drinks that cost 5 dollars…
Yet they’re full.
They’re filled with joy and peace because they have our God on their side. They have faith in Him and only Him, and hope for a better tomorrow.
These people are far from empty.
Though their stomachs are empty, their eyes are filled with hope and joy and their hearts are filled with love and faith.
Never will I forget that hope and joy in their eyes… never.

But even so, there is still so much need in Africa. Their lives have been devastated by poverty and AIDS and their only hope is in God… and in us to respond.

I don’t want their stomachs to be empty; I don’t want them to ache with hunger. I don’t their clothes to be torn and tattered. I don’t want them drinking unclean water that is filled with disease.

I want every inch of these children and their parents to be healthy. I want their hair to be thick. I want their feet to be clean. I want their smiles to be brighter than the sun, brighter than they already are. I want them to know what eating too much feels like. I want them to feel soft, clean cotton on their delicate skin. I want them to go home to a house with clean water and a way to bathe themselves, with a meal awaiting their arrival…

I don’t want to change their lifestyle by any means…
But I do want to change their lives.

And I’ve started. No. WE’VE started to change their lives. Our response to this pandemic is making a difference. The school house we’ve built in Kakolo now teaches almost 650 children, and the maternity ward in the Zamtan clinic is now ready to use free of cost. Wells have been made giving clean water to more people than we can count and a brand new church is going to be built on the very ground we stood on during the service we attended our first week in the village.

Because of the hope that we have given the people in Kakolo Village, surrounding villages have been given that same hope as well. The hope of a better life. And their hope gives us confidence that we ARE able to change the world, that we ARE able to fight this battle against poverty and AIDS.

Because of your support, I was able to experience all of this first hand. I was able to see their big brown eyes and their smiles. I was able to hold their hands and let them know they are loved more than words can express. I was able to gather stories that will be forever ingrained in my mind. I was able to realize that in all reality, we might possibly need them more than they need us. We need them so that we can be humbled, so we can appreciate the life that we are so blessed with, so we can learn that quality of life doesn’t come from material possessions – it comes from within and from what you care most about. They care about family and community, about caring for each other unconditionally. They show absolutely no selfishness. They’re joyous for the beautiful gift of life itself and know that their sole purpose on this earth is to rejoice and serve our Almighty God.

And I was also able to come back with a greater understanding of what life is truly like in Africa. My passion has grown immensely for these struggling people. I want to do everything in my power to pick them up out of this impoverished state and give them the full life they deserve.
(John 10:10…I’ve come that they might have life, and have it to the FULL.)

Chip, our leader and creator of the Zambia Project, said that we should come back to the states with an “unresolvable tension” tugging on our hearts about what is going on halfway across the world. I feel it already. And let me tell you, it’s a great feeling.

My mind will never be settled on what I witnessed in Zambia. Our visit is the highlight of their year. Think about that. A visit from 28 white Americans is the HIGHLIGHT of their YEAR. The tension is stronger than ever when that thought comes to mind.

One thing I do want to leave you with is this picture… The children swarmed our bus when we arrived in the village, jumping and singing and smiling just waiting to be with us. And as we began our drive home everyday, they would chase after the bus for as long as they could, running at full speed just waving and sending us off. It was heartwarming and breathtaking, but it broke my heart at the same time. These children are real, AIDS is real, poverty is real, the suffering is real. But the hope and joy is real too.

My heart is now in Africa.
And I thank you for helping me get it there.