I nod, sleepy, trying not to doze as I look out on a pool of black, inquisitive faces patiently waiting, waiting, for things to start as they bake in the hot sun
I hear mamas caring for babies out back.
I feel a drop of sweat meander down my back even though I have a seat of honor in the shaded porch of the school.
I watch the children, trying to focus on each individual child’s face instead of the nameless group. I notice the musical instruments these Zambian kids have fashioned out of bottle caps, wood, string, and cardboard.
It’s hot and I’m nodding, nodding. The faces blur as in slow-mo my eyes close and then I jerk awake, lifting my head again. It’s the story of my life. Striving to pay attention. To not miss the God-moments.
I look at this crowd who yearn to be seen and known as many unique “ones”, each with a name and the desire to dream. They who bob in a curtsy when they take my hand, and say “You are welcome.”
When I first visited Africa years ago I couldn’t understand why they were saying that when I hadn’t said “thank you”. But then I realized they meant, “You are welcome here.”
The speakers drone on in an accent hard to attune my ear to (never mind that most of them are speaking in their 3rd or 4th language!). Every official within miles has walked or biked or hitched a ride on one of two land rovers to add his or her voice at the dedication of this, the first and only high school in the district that we helped build. The first high school in miles and miles.
Hot, nodding, I lift my head once more, trying to see one individual face at a time – the hope in their eyes. The longing. The curiosity.
Chief Moyo, the revered patriarchal visionary is speaking now. He walks over and beckons one of the smallest girls out of the crowd. A girl! It seems a very Jesus-y thing to do. Chief Moyo is a brave man, challenging the repressive and unhealthy traditions of his people. He lifts the little girl up, sets her down, and says “We have built this school for her.”
Yes! My spirit soars and I realize I don’t just want to see each individual child. Like John and I lifted Loveness the other day, I want to lift each one up by giving them education, and water, and dreams. I want to call them by name, look them in the eye and speak into their heart.
I want to say, “You are brave. You are strong. You can make a difference. God will help you.”
Abba Father, lift them up in ways we can’t. Give them dreams. Help them to breathe deep, lean hard, and know that Your love holds. Amen