I’m going to do my best to recap this past weekend for you all, but whatever I write won’t do my experience justice. Trust me on that.
On Friday around noon Starr and I were all packed and ready for our trip to Nbwalya. Our ride arrived several hours late (obviously) so we were more than anxious to hit the road. Our transportation was a Toyota Land Cruiser, very similar to ones you see in movies crossing the African bush. When I looked at the vehicle I said to Joyce, our host, “It’s full. Where are we supposed to sit?” She just smiled and said, “They’ll make room.” Before we knew it we were heading down the road, all 12 of us piled into this vehicle that I’m sure was not intended for that many people. Starr and I were crammed in the very back with 4 guys. We were only on the Great North Road for about 10 minutes before we turned off onto this dirt road. Little did I know that I wouldn’t see pavement again until our return on Sunday.
Before I agreed to this trip Joyce told me that it would be about a 2-3 hour ride and somehow I forgot to convert to Zam-time because it actually took us almost 5 hours. The entire ride was on dirt roads, which were more like a glorified path than a road. We climbed several mountains and passed through what in the rainy season will be creeks and rivers but now are just deep gulleys that miraculously we were able to cross. It was a 4-wheeling experience for the record books. There were moments where all I could do was laugh. It was that or cry so I went for what seemed to be the better option at the time.
Once we got closer to our destination everyone in the vehicle kept telling us, “This is the real Africa.” I soon learned what they meant by that. The closest town to this village is the same one that I go to weekly to access internet. For me it’s only a 30-minute drive. For them it’s 5 hours. Sadly enough few vehicles travel that road and in the rainy season they can’t because of the gulley’s turned creeks and rivers. That means these people walk 4 days through the bush to get to town, the hospital, or basically any civilization all the while having to avoid lions and elephants and every other creature you can imagine. Real Africa, indeed!
We didn’t see any lions or elephants on our journey into the village of Nbwalya. We saw a lot of impala, but they’re basically a small deer so it’s not that exciting. We finally arrived at our destination where we first stopped to greet the chief of the village. After that Starr and I pitched our tent and ate some much needed food, nshima of course! Nshima is the staple food of Zambia. It’s like a cornmeal-based food that they mix with water and cook until it gets really thick. You eat it with your hands and roll it up into a ball, then use it to scoop up other food on your plate. It’s actually pretty good and it definitely fills you up!
We attempted to get some sleep that night only to fail miserably due to the celebration in the village. There were drums playing all night and drunk people wandering around making lots of noise so it was a little bit frustrating. I think I might have gotten 3-4 hours of sleep. Anyways, the next morning Starr and I went out with some people on the back of their truck to go see some animals. After a bumpy 2-hour ride we only saw a couple zebra and a ton of baboons. It was a little bit disappointing but we made the best of it.
Once we got back we attended the Malaila Ceremony which was why we came. It’s a yearly celebration honoring the chief. There was dancing and singing and speeches… everything you would expect at something like that. It was very very hot and very very windy so dust was flying everywhere. Surprisingly, the ceremony wasn’t too long and afterwards we headed back to pack up our things to leave. The original plan was to leave right after the ceremony and get home early Saturday night. After packing up our belongings and our tent we were told that we couldn’t leave today because our driver was sick and needed to rest. Normally this wouldn’t have been a big deal except Starr and I only brought enough water to last until Saturday. Remember, we are 5 hours from civilization in a village that has no shops, no market, no nothing! I got very very worried. We were already so tired and so thirsty and were trying to conserve our water as it is. I have never felt so thirsty in my whole life. Our water of course was warm from the heat so it didn’t quench our thirst. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I just broke down and cried. I felt so stranded and the situation seemed so hopeless. They tried to find us a ride in other vehicles going back to town but no one could take us. We would have to stay another night.
Thanks be to God though for His faithful provision. There is a young German missionary couple that lives in this village and they use filters for their water. They were able to fill up some of our empty bottles with their filtered water. So we made the best of it, setup our tent again and prepared for another night. Around 9:30 the next morning we headed out in our Land Cruiser again for the journey back. We finally arrived back at our house sometime mid-afternoon on Sunday. We were able to take nice long showers and clean ourselves from all the dust and dirt that had made it’s way into every crevice of our bodies. What a relief!
I wish I could go into more detail about the village of Nbwalya and the needs of the people there. Maybe I’ll write more later about that. I thought where I was that people were suffering, and they are, but it’s much different. The conditions they face there create a lot of problems and it is so heartbreaking to see. Despite their circumstance, the people were beautiful. The children really touched my heart. I had fun filming them and seeing their reactions when I played it back to them. I was able to share some food with a few of them and see their faces light up at the sight of my crackers. The Lord showed me a lot through that and He’s really been speaking to me about “the least of these.” I know that when I give them food or water or love that I’m giving it to Jesus, too. Ironically enough in my quiet time with the Lord this morning that was the next chapter for me to read in my journey through Matthew. Go check it out: Matthew 25:31-46.
Remember to love those around you today, because in doing so, you love Jesus.