Standing in the bathroom of the SCRUBS Medical Mission team house in Lusaka, Zambia this afternoon, I watched water pour out of the faucet. It nearly made me cry.
For the past eight days, five men from Texas have wrangled, cajoled, pleaded and threatened the local cowboys (two well-paid, eight year-olds driving a team of Brahma-looking oxen) to keep ferrying drums of water from a nearby well.
And when it runs out, we wait.
If our hair is dirty and the dishes pile up, we wait.
If we are thirsty, we wait.
If we have diarrhea, we wait.
Just like the 150 Zambian school children, whose feet and legs are powder gray from the rain thirsty ground, do. They are expert at waiting.
How many church services have you endured where a slideshow full of sad African faces forces you to bust out your wallet?
In Chongwe, despite a sketchy water supply, no schoolbooks, a basketball hoop that’s little more than a cut out barrel lid nailed to a pole, I couldn’t find a crying child. Sorry, no sad Zambian kid pictures here, though they absolutely have cause.
An engineer from a neighboring ministry called Tree of Life (seriously, take a minute and check out their orphan work) told me Zambia has the highest AIDS rate per capita in the world. Not surprisingly, it also has the highest orphan rate per capita in the world. (I thank you in advance for fact-checking mercies as I drop quarters into the Internet.)
And evidently there’s a rumor circulating, perhaps perpetuated by the lively and demonic witch doctoring industry, that the cure for AIDS is sex with children. The practice is so widespread, last year a SCRUBS nurse saw a billboard that read, “Don’t have sex with children!” written in Nyanja.
So please spare me any talk about cultural imperialism and Christian crusading in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the slums and the bush, where people live in fear of curses and poisoned children and witchcraft, the gospel of Jesus Christ is incredibly good news.
“Come to me all you who are heavy laden and weary, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said.
And while there are folks of others faiths, it’s primarily Christians in the slums, educating orphaned kids. It’s Christians handing out anti-retro viral drugs to children infected with HIV. And in the case of SCRUBS Medical Mission working this week in Chongwe, it was exhausted, unwashed Christians treating rampant STD’s, caring for pregnant mothers, diagnosing TB, worming kids and splinting broken bones.
And when that was all done we prayed, hard, on our knees in the dirt, for people we may never see again.
For all my questions about efficacy, here’s one thing I know for sure:
Zambia taught me to pray. Specifically a 24-year-old teacher named Charity taught me to pray. She is a powerful, fearless woman of God, who understands with such clarity the rest of God, when she opens her mouth, people listen.
Because Charity already knows, what I am learning fast: When you’ve got nobody to rely on but Jesus – an experience foreign to a lot of Americans – you learn really fast to rely on Jesus.
For all our pride, our posturing, our strutting, the Bible says we are in fact, helpless and naked, blind little waifs in desperate need of salvation.
And in Chongwe this week, the edge got a little more jagged for me. Stripped of my quotidian comforts, my naked helplessness and desperate need for Jesus grew a little more apparent.
And that was before the demons showed up.