Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Dawn

After another eleven hour flight, a two hour layover, and a final two hours in South African Airways plane, I have finally arrived in Kazembe. On my last flight, I sat next to the manager of the Rhodes Scholarship Program in Zambia. I was unaware that Zambia produces two Rhodes scholars each year. This man was very interesting, clearly well educated, and wealthy, especially for a Zambian. His children have gone to law school and architecture school abroad. A good college education cannot be found in this country, so it makes sense that his son would travel to China for a better one.

I also had a neat moment when I met a fellow ACU student in the bathroom at the airport in Johannesburg. She was a junior named Tori, and she was also heading to Zambia, but to a different part and on a different flight. She recognized me because I was wearing a t-shirt from Welcome Week. We didn’t get to talk very long, but it was still interesting that the chances of happening to be in the same bathroom at the same airport at the same time as another ACU student going to the same country can’t be very high.

My travel stories are nothing compared to those of my fellow volunteers, who have all had some rough times. Two of our number have had some pretty serious visa issues that can be better explained by Meg at damascusroad.blogspot.com but have since been resolved. I received a 30-day business visa that I am technically not allowed to have legally, but because my passport expired in December, my new one doesn’t have the information from last year so nobody knows how recently I received my last visa. We also didn’t know this until today. Shh, don’t tell. Meg and David took five flights to get here and accidentally ended up in Zimbabwe instead of Zambia (the two countries are next door to each other and they both start with Z, so that’s understandable…) and a miscommunication delayed our reunion with the final member of our group.

But finally, at long, long last, we’ve safely arrived in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. This city is amazing, although my exposure this time around has been limited to the taxi ride from the airport. Instead we’ve spent our afternoon fighting jet lag by catching up with each other, eating impala steaks, and feeding wandering cats at a poolside bar in our hostel. Hot showers are also available, and they are incredible. This place is much nicer than the one we stayed at last year. The staff are friendly and helpful and this has been a much needed break in our travels. (By the way, those of you who are familiar with my tendency to despise meat will be pleased to know that I actually ate a piece of impala steak, which my omnivore associates swear is delicious. Unfortunately for you, I will not be abandoning vegetarianism any time soon. But at least I can say I’ve eaten impala.)

Tomorrow begins the final leg of our journey – the dreaded 18-hour-bus ride. Actually, if you go in with a good attitude, it’s really not that bad, although that good attitude becomes a little harder to maintain when the driver is blasting Zambian music at 3 in the morning, the bus is lurching to and fro on unpaved Zambian roads, and you suspect your pinky toe may have frozen off due to the fact that it’s winter here. It’s a weird shift to travel from a hot, humid summer in Houston to a chilly Zambian winter. The days are beautiful, however.

My flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg was not very pleasant. Although I can usually sleep easily on planes, for some unknown reason I barely got any rest on this flight. By the time the flight attendants turned on the lights and started serving breakfast at 5:30 in the morning, I was feeling pretty exhausted, frustrated, and downright beat physically after traveling for 30 something hours on a thirty minute nap in Frankfurt. I was managing to feel pretty sorry for myself.

Then someone opened a window, and I caught my first glimpse of an African sunrise. Of course, the view from a plane is not nearly as brilliant as the view from a termite mound in the Zambian bush, but the vibrant medley of orange and pinks from the window was breathtaking. I pulled out my Bible and opened the Psalms. The first passage I read was Psalm 19.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is hear from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.”

I will probably cite this passage again after I get my first taste of the Zambian night sky, which, in my opinion, is even more incredible than the sunrise. But at the moment, these were exactly the words I needed to hear to remind me why I was making this crazy trip, why any physical distress amounts to nothing in the great scheme of creation, why this world is so beautiful. Because it is His. And so am I. So it the nation of Zambia, and so are our kids. On the cold Zambian nights, He will keep us warm.  Sometimes we don’t need to hear speeches, or words, or sounds. Our God has given us a Champion. Two, actually – one in the sky and one in our hearts. A sun, and a Son. And one shines even brighter than the other.

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