Yesterday marked two weeks since we departed Canada. 14 days. 14 sleeps in various beds. Two weeks of transitions. As I look back on these past 14 days, one of the patterns that starts to emerge is that of small steps or stages. Every step of this journey has been one small step after another towards our ultimate destination.
Step 1: Hour upon endless hour sitting on airplanes and in airports.
Step 2: Arriving at a beautiful, quiet guesthouse in Lusaka run by Flying Mission Zambia. That step was only supposed to be a few days long. In the end, we stayed a full week because trusted sources were advising us not to travel by road on the days surrounding Zambian’s presidential elections. So, after one week in Lusaka (fully recovered from jetlag!), we moved on.
Step 3: The 5-hour drive to Choma, the market town nearest to Macha. Choma is the location of the Zambian Brethren in Christ Church central offices, including the Nahumba Guesthouse. We’ve now been staying at Nahumba for almost a week, and this will remain our temporary home for the next week, or two, or maybe longer… until details are in place for us to move onto our next temporary home – sharing a house with the Percy family in Macha.
We’ve been delayed in our ability to move into our housing in Macha and start settling in due to some logistics that are still being sorted out. A new borehole (water well) is in the process of being constructed at MICS. Until that’s done, the additional water usage required by our families would put the school in jeopardy of not having enough water to function on a daily basis. Secondly, the house our family will occupy is currently the residence of the MICS Directors, Gil and Ronda Krause. A small apartment is under construction for them on the MICS campus, but there’s still work to be done. All this to say, we are currently living out of suitcases (many, many suitcases!) at Nahumba, about 75 kms from Macha. We’ve made a couple day-trips to Macha – to attend church, have meetings, and get a sense of how we can start helping at MICS before we are actually living there.
If there’s one thing living in Africa continues to teach me, it’s the importance of patience and flexibility. I know, that’s two things, but they need to function together. As a Westerner in this culture, I need to have both patience and flexibility. If I don’t, I’ll break. It’s as simple as that. The key is in my response.
I could choose to be frustrated that we are still living out of suitcases. I could be annoyed that the borehole has taken longer than originally anticipated. I could feel like we are wasting time hanging out in Choma instead of accomplishing tasks in Macha. I could, if I expected things to function the way I have come to expect in Canada. But, then, I would miss so much.
I would miss the opportunity to build relationships with the staff at the guesthouse in Lusaka. I would miss the opportunities to spend time with the Brubakers, who are currently serving at Nahumba. I would miss the joy of seeing our kids, the Percy kids, and the Brubaker kids playing hide and seek with local Zambian children, climbing Frangipani trees, and baking cakes together.
I would miss the opportunity to have meetings with people like Mr. Mhango, Nathan and Simon at Macha Mission Hospital – the guys who are working hard to get the new MICS borehole completed. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to brainstorm solutions with them and enjoy a Coke and a smile together afterwards.
If we weren’t commuting to Macha a few times a week, I’d miss the beauty of the scenery as we drive through the gorgeous Zambian landscape, dotted with simple thatched-roof homes and the smells of wood fires on the wind. I’d miss the steam rising on the hot pavement after a brief rain and the calls of “Mukuwa!” (white man) from the village children as we pass them by. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the interactions as I buy fresh veggies from the ladies who run out to our van as we pull into the tiny market village along the road.
Sometimes, you just have to choose to chuckle at what we perceive as inefficiency. For example, Joel and I went to the “bottle shop” earlier this week to buy a few cases of Coke (a staple item here!). Since we didn’t have cases of empties to return, we expected to pay the initial deposit in addition to the price of the Coke. If only it were that simple. Instead, we were told that we had to drive up the road 10 minutes to the warehouse, purchase cases of empty Cokes and then return to the bottle shop to trade in our newly acquired empties and purchase full cases. I couldn’t find any way to see the beauty in this experience. Sometimes, you just say have to say, “This is Africa!” and laugh as you fit into the system.
And then, sometimes, you have to choose to assume the best of people. Arja’s birthday was a couple days ago, so we decided to go out for coffee to a little lodge outside of town. When we went to counter to inquire, we were told that the man who was supposed to open the coffee shop that day didn’t come in, so we couldn’t buy coffee. I walked away shaking my head thinking, “This would never happen back home at Starbucks!” Later, it occurred to me that perhaps the man who was supposed to open the coffee shop had to take his daughter to the hospital or was on his way to work when he ran into an old friend and took time to visit. One of the major cultural differences between Zambia and Canada is that relationships always trump tasks.
Over and over, I’m continually reminded that this truly is a journey of small steps. Small. Important. Beautiful steps. At times, our entire team feels anxious to just “get there” and to “get living and working” at MICS. And why shouldn’t we? It’s natural for us to desire to settle in, establish some routine, get back to school and work, etc. However, in our anxiousness, we are trying to slow down and take note of the simple beauty and joy that surrounds us each day, in each small stage of the journey.
What beautiful moments are you missing in your haste to achieve your goals? I can tell you this much – this isn’t purely a Zambian phenomenon – it’s a human phenomenon. Take time today to notice the beauty and joy in life’s unexpected steps, especially when those little steps give you an opportunity to interact with (and, hopefully, to bless!) those around you.