Fifteen years ago I took my first trip to Africa. At the time I was engaged to an MK (a.k.a Missionary Kid for those who don't speak church slang). My husband's parents served as missionaries in Macha, Zambia; my father-in-law as a doctor in the village hospital. Matt and I got engaged while his parents were abroad - I had never met them in person.
So we decided before actually tying the knot, it would be a good idea for me to meet them in person...
In a third world country...
With toilets that flush by dumping a bucket of water into the bowl...
It turned out to be not as awesome an idea as we first thought, but that's an entirely different story.
This trip introduced me not only to my future in-laws but to an entirely new world - a wild place full of open faces, dusty colors, and compassionate, resilient, people-focused individuals. A place that felt like the complete antithesis of America.
And I liked it.
We've had the privilege of traveling back to Zambia on two other occasions, most recently about two years ago with our kids (at the time ages 8 and 6). They thrived in the environment, completely unburdened by the societal restraints we impose on kids in the States in the name of safety or good manners.
During our last visit, I got to know Corie Thuma (pronounced too-ma, not thumba like most people say it.) She and her husband Eric (my husband's childhood friend and also an MK) serve with an organization called Push the Rock.
Along with their three teeny kids, they work in rural Africa providing local children with a safe place to gather. They also offer sports programs to help kids build character and learn about leadership. And they also play a mean Dutch Blitz. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you are clearly not from Pennsylvania. But no worries, I still love you.
Anyway, Corie - who is wildly fun and kind, and thoughtful, and a million other flattering superlatives - and I kept in touch via Facebook since then. Recently she contacted me about a new plan she has...and this girl has plans, big plans I say.
Corie wants to begin a learning program for students who do not know much English. Though there are schools in this rural part of Zambia, they do cost money, and not all children have the means to attend. Corie write more about it in a recent blog post that I'm linking to here. Take a moment to check it out for the details.
I've been sharing my knowledge about reading and teaching with her in order to help her establish a strong program for the kids. I've also reached out to some of my kids' teachers for help and advice and whatever else...and they've been incredibly generous with both their time and resources.
So why am I sharing all of this with you?
Traveling abroad gives you a shockingly-honest perspective on the haves and have-nots. I'm not talking about how my neighbor has a nicer car then me or how my friend can afford a vacation I can't. I'm talking about how children may not have clean drinking water or the opportunity to attend school or living parents to care for them.
My friends, if you are reading this blog on a computer or phone right now, you are among the "haves."
I feel like I have the opportunity to help out somewhere on this big earth of ours and help in a way that could be meaningful. I can't live in Zambia (there is that toilet-flushing thing), and I can't visit there to physically help this program get off the ground. But I can share. I can inform others. I can reach out. I want to let you know this amazing thing is happening an entire ocean away, and you could support it in some way.
Look, I know you're pooped at this time of year. School is mercilessly dragging on. Your kids are tired, you are tired. Some of you may count success at the end of the day as not physically tossing one of your students out the window. I've been there. I know.
But I am asking you to do something right now that teachers are famous for: making a difference and meeting a need as you are able.
I don't want you leaving your career to move to Zambia and teach, but could you share about this learning program with your students? Could you forward this post on to a colleague? Would you be willing to read Corie's blog and check out her Amazon Wish List? Would you be able to share this need on your Facebook page?
I'm a firm believer that even the smallest of actions can ignite the biggest of changes, when we respond to the needs around us as we are able. I want to be the spark that ignites change. Let's get fired up together.
A traditional mud-hut dwelling with thatched roof. These are actually cooking huts...think of it as an outdoor kitchen.
This is the Push the Rock Lending Library
My friend Bina Essie (Bina means "mother of" and is followed by the name of a woman's first-born child; my name would be Bina Simeon).
This is Push the Rock Community Center - a pavilion for gathering and the place where Corie hopes to have the Learning Center.
An outhouse...I'm obsessed with the toilet situation...
Elephant along the Zambezi River
They really do this...
Sun setting over the river