After nearly 24 hours of flights and even longer periods of layovers,the 2015 Harding in Zambia (HIZ) crew – with myself in tow – landed inLivingstone, Zambia on Thursday, August 27. With a quick stop atVictoria Falls interrupting an arduous traveling regiment, we finallyarrived at the Namwianga Mission several hours later. What had seemedan eternity of preparations – a semester of awkward classroomconversations and tentative encounters in the HIZ orientation course,an infamous two week boot camp cleverly disguised as a college coursecalled “HUT,” and the first summer vacation you actually wanted toend – it was all paying off in a single, spectacular series ofrealizations. As the plains and fields of a dull wheat color typicalto sub-Sahara Africa swell outside your bus window, and the Africansun blazes unforgivingly on thin, unaccustomed skin, you know you’reworlds away. And as the tan huts, covered in thatching that matchesthe grass and clustered into homely villages seem to breeze by, youunderstand at last what it means to be incredibly lost, but exactlywhere you need to be. People stream from the neighborhoods, withunfamiliar faces and curious but friendly smiles, and you feel trulyforeign for the first time. The bus bounces on a lackluster suspensionsystem, and dust spews from the tires as you cruise down the long dirtroad to Namwianga; you realize fully that everything leading to whatlay at the end of that path was a small price to pay. Then realityescapes you, and your grasp of the situation fades.
Since then, the group hasn’t looked back, and we now have a solid weekin Zambia under our belts. We’ve officially settled in, and thoughthere are sure to be bumps and bruises to come, we’ve established arough schedule. Our days begin at 6:30 a.m. sharp with Ba Siyaziyu,our incomparably enthusiastic and energetic teacher of the local language, Chitonga. Then begins our humanities class with variousinstructors. After breakfast, chapel takes place. When the collegestudents arrive on Namwianga’s campus next week, myself and the otherguys in the group will be leading chapel at least once a week. Then,we all split up into various classes. The HIZ program offers a lotof classes considering the available staff and the lack of an onlineprogram, but the variety is limited almost exclusively to nursing andmissions classes. In a typical schedule, classes end around noon or 1 p.m.,leaving the rest of the afternoon open for the various opportunitiesat Namwianga Mission.
Since it’s inception in 1921, the Namwianga Mission has continued toexpand it’s services to the people in and around Kalomo, Zambia. Whatbegan as a college for religious education has budded over the past 90years into a multi-faceted mission. We have the opportunity to applyourselves and learn about the ins and outs of the mission. Namwianganow has three schools: a basic school for elementary-age kids tomiddle-school age; a primary school for high school-age students; anda college that trains secondary teachers in non-secular education. Inthe coming weeks, as the range of students flock to Namwianga’scampus, we’ll have the opportunity to tutor some of the students.Each week, a rotating group of students visits the mission’s clinic.There, locals come to fill their prescriptions, quiz the multiplenurses with signs and symptoms, or attest to toothaches to thedentist. Our role as students differs, depending on luck andlevel of aversion to medical situations. For myself, a lowly Biblemajor, I just like to watch. The majority of the other students arestudying a medical major, and find lots of ways to apply their skillsand knowledge in a clinic that serves many people in many differentways.
The real joy (for me) emanates from the Havens and Eric’s house. Theseministries are both geared toward children and teenagers who, forwhatever reason, are unable to return to their families at the moment.The Havens operate as an impermanent orphanage for infants andtoddlers. If the children’s parents die or are unable to care for thechild properly, the Havens will take them in with the intention ofreintroducing the child to an extended family member or the biologicalparents when they are more able to care for the child. Eric’s houseserves a similar purpose, but for older ages. If they choose toparticipate, each HIZ student is “assigned” (I’d prefer terminologymore along the lines of blessed) one or two kids from the Havens. Ourrole over the next several months is to show as much love as possibleto these kids, as well as relieve their caretakers for a little whileeach day. Most of us spend the majority of our free time in theafternoons here, playing on the playground with the toddlers,entertaining the babies, or just being cuddle buddies for the heavysleepers. At Eric’s house, we’ll have the opportunity to hang out withkids and teenagers closer if not equal to our age, and developrelationships that can leave a lasting impact on both parties. Overthe next several months, I expect and earnestly hope that the Havensand Eric’s house will provide a hub for our service activities and themassive learning curve we have yet to attain. In only a week the kidsat the Havens have already taught me more than I could even atempt toteach them.
The day typically ends as the day starts: early. I like to think thatI’ve overcome the qualms of jet lag, but the comfort of REM sleeprefuses to be forsaken past 11 p.m. or so. In the morning, we rise withwhat still seems a new sun for a new day in a new world.