When I went to Zambia for the first time in 2011, I knew at that moment that I would be back in the years to come. This June (2014) I had the opportunity to return to Gripps Farm in Zambia. I have felt a calling for the village since I first laid eyes on it through pictures before my first trip and then again this summer when I stepped foot in the village. It is hard for me to put into words the feelings that I get when I am there and it is even harder to explain the reason behind those feelings, but I have realized that God has put this desire and this love in my heart and it will be my duty from now on to help in whatever way God leads me.
My friend Ellie from graduate school met me in Johannesburg so that our last flight to Zambia was together (she was coming from South Korea). This would be her first time to Africa and to Gripps, and I was so excited to be able to share this experience with such a close friend. I tried really hard to have no expectations for this trip but that was a struggle since I had experienced this place before. It was such a different experience from my first trip, but I fell in love with Gripps all over again.
Our first day there, Cosmas gave us a tour of the village. It was amazing to see the changes! There were so many more houses, and that made it much easier to get lost! I was very impressed with Cosmas and his obvious love for the people of Gripps. He talked to each person we passed and he encouraged the children to go to school if they were at their homes for whatever reason. We were able to see the old school building which is literally falling apart. We also saw the new school building which is much more suitable for the students. There is a second school building that needs to be finished and throughout our time there Cosmas continued to get estimates on the cost to finish the building. We were followed around by some little ones in the village and I loved seeing their faces.
We spent the next few days taking pictures of all the school children. My dad and I took their pictures for sponsors when we went three years ago. It was amazing to see how much the children have grown. The children came by class, and Cosmas and the teachers helped by writing down their information (age, family dynamics, aspirations). We had supplies to hand out to every child thanks to an amazingly generous woman that I have been blessed to meet. She donated ten boxes and a few bags of clothing, school supplies, toys, art activities, and hygiene packs. After the children had their pictures taken, they picked a few items. It was fun to see their excitement. Some of them put their clothing on immediately and were happy to pose for another picture.
We also spent time in the classrooms painting with the students. The generous woman had donated over 300 plaster figurines of safari animals along with paints and paint brushes. We were able to see pure joy on some of the kids’ faces as they painted their animals that they proudly named to their teachers. I loved their accents and it was so much fun to hear them shout, “Lion” or “Giraffe” out loud.
On Sunday, we went to youth group with Cosmas. The youth put on many plays and songs for us while we were there. It was encouraging to see their excitement about their futures. The youth know all of the things they need to make a better life for themselves. They know about the importance of education and about the real struggles they face with HIV, alcoholism, and abusive relationships. It is my prayer that they will put their words, songs, and plays into practice and will continue to see God’s will for their lives.
One of the biggest blessings of the whole trip was spending time with Cosmas, Marijke, Liza, and Sophie. I cannot describe the love I have for their family or the impression they left on me. They are such great parents and they are teaching their girls to love God above all else. They love the people of Gripps and have their best interests at heart at all times.
As I was trying to process everything that happened during the trip, I came across this passage from the book Dirty God by Johnnie Moore. The passage was in response to the questions we ask God about why things are the way they are. Why are the people in Gripps so poverty stricken and what is ever going to happen to change that for them? Why did God pick me to have such a burden for this place and why is Gripps Farm one of the places that makes me feel like I’m at home?
But what of the second typical response to these issues of human suffering? How do we deal with our tendency to accuse God of negligence when the world is in such dire shape?
Actually, I think when we look at the sky and ask God to do something, he says back to us, ‘I am doing something. I’m burdening your heart with this need. I’m allowing your life to collide with this crisis, and I’m giving you this burden for one reason—so that you can be my hands and feet to do something about it.’
I believe with all of my heart that we are often the answer to our own burdens. The causes that make us cry and work and complain and plead and raise money and raise awareness and take red-eyes to other countries and sleep in huts and risk disease and danger are the same causes that God has assigned to us. They have become our responsibility--and it’s our call, our turn, to make the difference that we’re expecting and hoping others will make.
Compassion means action. It’s not enough to just be moved by the fact that people are dying for the absolutely unnecessary reason of lack of food. It’s not enough to cry over the terrifying plight of child prostitution or forced labor. It’s not enough to look at the guy beaten on the side of the road and feel sorry for him.
We have to do something about it. True compassion means that we care enough to effect change. When the Bible says Jesus was ‘moved with compassion,’ the word compassion in biblical Greek implies a movement from the inside out. You are physically pained by that you see, and you almost have to do something to change it.
We are the answers to the problems we’re most concerned about.
I don’t know what my future looks like with Gripps Farm, but I know that God has placed this love on my heart for a reason and I am excited to see what the future holds for Gripps. God is there with them and that is the most important thing. I am so thankful to everyone who supported this mission through prayer and/or financial decisions. I will be forever grateful!