Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Paula and I are now 5 weeks into our study of the Nyanja language and it is going very well. Though I’m not quite what you would call fluent yet (basically, I can talk like your average Zambian 2 year old), I do feel I am on the verge of a “breakthrough” (by which I mean a breakdown). Anyway, in the short span of a few weeks we have learned more greetings than any one language should legally have, not to mention a host of short phrases of questionable use such as, Sindili Mtengo I am not a tree, and, Khasu ili mu nkokwe – The hoe is in the granary. But, nonetheless, armed with my new skills, I decided to try them out on a Zambian friend recently.

Me: Muli Bwanji (How are you?)

My Friend: Bwino Bwanj. (This totally threw me for a loop, as according to our text book, the proper response should be – ndili bwino, kaya inu? - which means “I am fine, and how are you?” His answer was roughly “Fine. You.” As you can imagine I was totally not ready for this and a bit angry at my friend for not talking the way he’s ‘sposed to).

Me: Uhhhmm….Uhhhmm…Uhhh…..Khasu ili mu nkokwe?! (see above).

So, we are wading our way through this language that has nine classes of nouns, each class with its own prefixes, infixes, suffixes and various other types of ixes that change according to the tense of the verb (and at times just out of spite for no apparent reason at all). If you want to say the word “there” you better know exactly where “there” is because the word for “there” is different depending on whether or not “there” is close to the speaker or close to the hearer or close to both speaker and hearer. Plus you find that there is no verb for “to have” and so in order to say “I have a headache” you say “I am feeling my head.”

We are feeling our heads a lot lately (and a whole bunch o’ grace!).

So, our prayer request for this week, is that we would be “feeling our heads” a little less, picking up Nyanja a bit more, and always and in every way speaking fluently the language of faith!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

It was like a bad dream or surreal movie.

We didn’t want to watch it, but were mesmerized. And even though I had seen it all before, I could hardly believe my eyes. A wave of memories and emotions came rushing at me and I remembered again: Zambia breaks your heart.

In the middle of a worship service, we had been called out to transport a critically ill man from a local clinic to Lusaka’s main hospital (ambulances are pretty scarce). I can’t begin to describe the suffering and despair of the people we saw there, nor the pathetic state of that clinic environment. But every time we turned our head, another person was being carried in, and looking worse than the last. Not carried in on stretchers or wheelchairs, mind you. A grown woman carried on the back of another woman. Several women carrying in a young man that looked like a skeleton. Another group of women carried in a teenage girl, completely rigid and gasping for breath, her loud gasps haunting the entire room. Dozens of other people in need of attention sat on a few benches or on the floor—some feverish, some moaning, some dazed. In the midst of this chaos was one nurse, and one doctor – admitting patients at this the only major hospital in a city of 1.5 million people.

There is no dignity in this kind of suffering, and precious little hope. Dear Jesus, this is not the existence you intended for your children, this is not the way it should be. And there it is again. . . that ever-present, try-to-forget sense of feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of suffering, despair, injustice. And these dazed faces all around me – how many are on the brink of just giving up, in a land where trying to survive is just so hard?

We prayed for Godfrey, and helped his family get him admitted into the wards. We were supposed to meet some other missionaries for lunch at a nice Indian restaurant. We couldn’t do it. Going from that place, to a nice restaurant where people can afford to buy a good meal . . . . was too big a leap. We came home and had leftovers. And prayed once again, Merciful Father, who sees every sparrow fall, give us Your heart – and show us what we can do to bring more of Your hope to the people of Zambia.