All posts in "Justice"
Well Watered Gardens
Our return to Redhill was a much-anticipated reunion. Three years ago marked a very pivotal time in our young, American, newly married lives: deciding to move into a little shack in a South African township to work amongst the Xhosa people. Life changing, really. Probably more for us than them. We had little inklings of what it’d be like, but had no idea it’d shape our lives and decisions from then on in such a large way. Not to mention the real love and bond with the people of Redhill, specifically with our neighbors David and Daisy.
So, you can imagine, the emotions that come into play, when you drive up the road, in anticipation to seeing them again, revisiting the little shack that kept us cold at night and warm in the day. (and no, that was not a mistake)
My heart felt heavy from the start of the day, wondering if they’d still be there, fearing they wouldn’t share in our excitement of returning, but mostly just out-of-my-skin thrilled for the opportunity to see everyone again. Liana, our roommate in this shack three years ago, and I both admitted feeling a little nervous just as we parked.
So we head up to our old stomping grounds, reminiscing and noticing changes in the once burnt grounds of a fire stricken land, now with flourishing gardens and natural landscape. We see David and Daisy. Tears start flowing and Daisy immediately embraces us and reminds me that I am crying the same as the day I left. David came around the corner and got his same old toothless grin on his face. One that looks like he’s trying to hold back his real emotions. “We often talked of you guys, wondering when you’d come back. Took you long enough” he said, in his almost cowboy-like abruptness. Soon came the little kids that once knew us so well, playing in our yard, and sitting on our laps. I saw Artule, a little boy whose photographs graced the pages of magazine stories of Redhill and my gallery in Portland. I had a photo of him hanging on my office wall at home, and would recognize his eyes from a mile away. He was happy to accompany us for the remaining tour of Redhill that day. Hand in hand, we went.
I was reminded of the scripture the Lord gave us while working in Redhill. Isaiah 58, a well quoted chapter of God’s heart for justice, and yet, for us, almost a prophetic inscription of what to expect from the Lord in our sun-scorched land.
“and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in the sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called the Repairer of Broken walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58: 10-12
Queen, a recent widow and newfound friend of mine: at first impression, she is seemingly shy and reserved. Take another look and you’ll find she is spunky and a fighter. She wears the scarf of one who has lost her husband. She is grieving. He was the sole provider of their family; now leaving her the sole provider of her eight grandchildren. She is burdened. Zambian law gives rights to her husband’s family, not including his widow. She is being told that their land is no longer hers, because it belongs to his family. She is alone.
I would like to say we have easy answers and a quick fix for Queen. We don’t. The issues that Queen is up against are complicated, cultural, and multi-dimensional, and if we want to help create an atmosphere of empowerment for Queen, more and more, we are finding that being encouragers and a support is where our role should be. It’s hard. It’s messy.
I am reminded of a song that Dan wrote… (Abridged version)
Take my love to the Nations…
Show them I care…
Show them I’m there
Take my light to the dark places of this world
Show them I care…
Show them I’m there
Watch their faces turn bright when they turn on that light
And they see that I care
and they know that I’m there
Take my healing to the broken hearted orphan child
Show him I’m there
Show her I care
In her darkest night
I will work for her with all my might
Show her I’m there
Show him I care
Cause if you don’t go
How then will they know?
That I still care
That I’m really
You’re my hands and my feet
You’re my message to this world
To show them I’m there
To show them I care
We ask for prayer and wisdom in finding ways to partner with Queen and her family… for provision and long-term solutions to take care of her and her grandchildren.
“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meaning.” When Helping Hurts
I have told many people about this book that I’m reading, When Helping Hurts. It’s a book serving to identify what true poverty looks like, from all aspects, in order to be able to discern the best way to help alleviate it. Poverty is not just lack of material possessions. It’s not just about lacking food or shelter or shoes to walk to school. There’s definitely a lot of that kind of poverty here in Zambia and it’s an easy thing to recognize, that’s for sure. But what this book is distinguishing between is the material poverty and the kind of poverty that goes deeper. It goes into the very fiber of who we are and who we were created to be. It’s poverty that keeps us from being able to have compassion on others, or that keeps us broken inside, or that keeps us distant from our Maker.
Living in Africa, it’s very tempting to want to help in visibly large ways! I want to be able to say, “I fed 1,000 people today!” I want those 1,000 people to have food. It’s not a bad thing to want, I believe. But what happens when tomorrow, those same 1,000 people don’t have food again? Do they come together as a community to figure out creative ways to get food, or do they come to us, the “makuah” for the handout? (makuah is white person). My heart would be the former, and not the latter. They are wonderfully intelligent, hard working, and compassionate people. But if we only see the immediate need of giving the handouts as the answer, we are stunting their ability to be whole people, to have the dignity of working and to be creative beings to solve problems and see it through. I am challenged and encouraged by the concepts in this book, and it’s helping me form relationships with the people in the village that is not on a “giver and receiver” basis. Instead, it gives us the ability to have relationships with mutual encouragement, helping each other reach our full potential as loved human beings, created for great things, restored for His glory!
It’s so easy to think on the life changes we have seen by coming here to Zambia. I often times recall all the things we left behind or the people we miss. That’s not a bad thing. I would like to think it’s actually quite normal and healthy. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I miss my mommy. I’m a momma’s girl for sure. We used to talk on the phone everyday. About everything. I miss that.
Our life has changed dramatically. Too true. We went from a comfortable life in the Pacific Northwest, where we had friends and family, great jobs, and community with our church; we went on dates to our local pub, we ran on the river trail by our house, we volunteered at the local community center, we knew our postman.
These days, we still have community. We have a group of people that all love serving the poor, who serve Jesus first and foremost, and who are passionate about seeing people’s lives improved, both by seeing life in Jesus, but also by tangible things like clean water, orphan care and empowerment. We are a multi-cultural group, which I love. We are friends. We have partnered with some of the most salt-of-the-earth kind of people, who we share life with. We watch movies here, we talk about life and dream together.
Life is much simpler here– simpler than the fast-paced-United-States, sense of the word. We walk a lot. We hang our laundry on a line, we make most of our meals… yes, even I cook. And yet, we are faced with more challenging scenarios and situations than I have ever been faced with before. A woman’s son beats her, a woman’s husband beats her, a woman has just been diagnosed with AIDS, a father must pass down his demon spirits to his son because it’s tradition… the list goes on. Alcoholism, rape, abuse, AIDS, oppression, fear, poverty… How do we handle it? How does one Jesus-loving group tackle these things?
Here’s my hope… Monde. A little girl, once vulnerable, once abandoned, once left without food or care. Now, living in a safe, loving environment. Once unable to walk because of neglect, now walking. Once only knowing tears and crying, now laughs.
For all the things we don’t know, or for all the things we don’t feel equipped to handle, we have been commanded as Christians to care for the poor and the widow, to show justice and mercy, and to be love, as Jesus loved us. So we press on. We ask for wisdom and grace. We ask for support from you, family and friends. And we ask for prayer to continue to seek what’s right and advocate on behalf of those who can’t.