Sunday, May 10, 2009

Running for Maggie

Below is a piece I recently wrote for a feature section highlighting our 6th annual 5K Run/3K Walk for Zambia this coming Saturday May 16 at 8 am at Wheaton Academy...this year our school student body is working toward providing bikes in partnership with World Bicycle Relief for students who need them to continue their education! And we are once again partnering with Bright Hope Intl to host this event. I would love to have you join us if you are interested, and I am also gathering sponsors to help raise funds for our project and would invite you to sponsor me if you'd like! You can find out more info and register for the event at this website:

And you can donate online or find the address to donate offline at the website I have created below:

For the last seven years, the student community at Wheaton Academy, a private Christian high school in West Chicago, has developed an unusual passion and compassion for the needs of a group of people on the other side of the world in the sub-Saharan African nation of Zambia. The student body has raised over $650,000 to help provide the resources to build new medical clinics to reduce the transmission of the HIV virus from mothers to their unborn children, the first school to ever exist in a village community, new wells that provide clean water, long term food security supplies and training to battle famine conditions, bikes for students to be able to attend high schools that were too far to walk to, microloans to help entrepreneurs start their own small businesses, and a child ministry center for area churches to together offer hope and healing to the hundreds of orphans and vulnerable children in the community.

Close to 100 students and faculty members have had the chance to go and visit the Kakolo Village community in north central Zambia and see first hand what life is like in a place very different from the suburban world we live in every day. Poverty is overwhelming at times, as many families live on less than $1 per day, and the HIV infection rate has caused one in every five people to live with a disease that affects or infects every person’s life in their community. You are frankly overwhelmed by what you see at first…but then you begin to get to hear the stories and know the people of Africa and there is hope and joy and life in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation. I am heading to Zambia for the fifth time this summer with another group of students and many of my friends and acquaintances ask me to explain why I care so much about people who live thousands and thousands of miles away from my own home and world.

My answer is honest and somewhat complicated. Seven years ago I don’t think I could have picked out Zambia on a world map. I had some notion that I should be concerned about the needs of the poor, but my own existence didn’t cause me to have to deal with the question very often. But then I met some children in this little village in Africa who literally changed my life in almost every way imaginable. You see, millions of people starving and affected by disease is a pandemic, but the loss of one life that you know and shouldn’t occur becomes a tragedy. One girl’s story in Zambia helped me to understand what is really happening in our world and why I am responsible to help end the suffering of others around the globe. I first met Maggie when she was eight years old. On our first visit to Zambia, the local community wanted to thank us for our gift of resources to build this new school they had been praying God would provide for them for years. They sang and danced and even gave us gifts as expressions of gratitude for what we had done. Their final gift to me as the group leader was a bit surprising: a live chicken, one of the most valuable things they possessed in their village. I bowed in thanks holding this cackling chicken and then wondered to myself, “What do I do with this animal?” One of our hosts suggested we take it back to our guesthouse and ask the cook to prepare it for our dinner, but we had plenty of food and I wasn’t sure I could convince my group of students to eat the gift we had received.

After talking with some of the Zambian staff serving that community, we decided we would give it to one family in the local community. I remember hearing Maggie’s story for the first time as we headed over to her home to give her this gift. Maggie was a 7-year old girl who lived in a small one-room hut with her great-grandmother. The hut had a leaky thatch roof and was smaller than my office at my school. Maggie’s great grandmother was her only living relative. Her parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents had all died from the diseases ravaging her village. She was an AIDS orphan with little food and so many fears and questions about her future. As I gave the still-squawking chicken to these two new friends, I knew that this little girl is the reason why I have fallen in love with Africa and believe so deeply in caring for the needs of the least in our world. The next time I went back to Kakolo Village Maggie and her great-grandmother proudly showed me their new three-room home and she showed me the work she had completed at the new school she was now attending. Her future was clearly still clearly uncertain, but there was hope and there was new life because of the resources given by some students on the other side of the world.

I have discovered joy and meaning and community in ways I never could have imagined as I have followed God’s plan for us to serve and care for the poor in Jesus’ name. I have gotten to know beautiful and gifted people like Maggie and hundreds of others in Zambia who have inspired me and changed me as I have watched them live and grow in the midst of great challenge in their lives. Bright Hope International is caring for and changing the lives of children like Maggie in the places where hunger and need is the greatest in our world today. The Run for Hungry Children on Saturday May 16 is a our chance to touch the lives of kids who are praying that someone will care and someone will help them. I’ll be running that day with a smile on my face thinking of Maggie in Zambia…I hope you’ll join us…a hungry child in Africa, Asia and Latin America will forever thank you!

Chip Huber is the Dean of Spiritual Life at Wheaton Academy and the coordinator of the school’s global initiatives to care for children and families in need in Kenya and Zambia.

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