Zambia Mission: Reflections on our Pilgrimage

Relationships to Partnerships

I have been reflecting on how we arrive at a new location, meet and serve with the local people and then take leave. In the parting is the realization that we may not meet again in this lifetime and this experience is bittersweet.

The questions that bubble up within me are: Is this experience only a moment in time? Is there something about my encounter with the Zambian people that will transcend time and space? What will be the enduring effect of this pilgrimage? Obviously these are questions to be lived into, questions that are meant to lead and not to be answered once and for all. How might the relationships formed be nurtured into partnerships capable of enhancing what is already established?

Soon we will journey to another mission. Two of the sisters in Kaoma work at the local hospital, which I understand has been recently built. I am eager to see what the conditions are there.

Exploring and Appreciating

We went to Livingstone and put on the hat of a tourist for a few days. We went to see Victoria Falls, one of the major wonders of the world. Given that this is the rainy season, the falls were in full force. All I can say is the display was majestic. The spray is so intense that from a distance it looks like smoke rising. The name given to the falls by the people is Smoke That Thunders. I think that says it all.

We also crossed the border into Botswana to take a safari through the Chobe Game Reserve. Fortunately for us, the animals were not shy this day. We saw impalas, crocodile, water buffalo and hippos. We saw elephants, puku and sable antelope.  We saw giraffes, baboons, waterfowl, birds and so much more. It was like a dream to see them in their natural habitat. We were the visitors. It was an exciting day. I am grateful for all the conservation efforts underway to preserve this national treasure for the world to see.

A Disproportionate Burden

More than once when people return home after visiting a developing country I hear them say, “The people are so happy, yet they have so little. In fact, they are happier than we are and we have so much.” I am often discomforted by this assessment in that just maybe we can be excused for our way of life. That people can find joy in life in the midst of their circumstances speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit and certainly the people I have met are my guides here. Their resiliency causes me to examine the foundation of my joy as I live in a land of plenty.

At the same time, I think people in developing countries carry a disproportionate burden. They experience a range of emotions as we all do and I must not try to absolve myself by selectively seeing only a limited expression of emotions. As faith-filled people, we are called to find ways to ease their hardship in a manner that is mutually respectful and mutually beneficial. Definitely a multifaceted response is needed.

I look forward to having you partner with me in responding to the people in Zambia as we have a strong tradition of responding already established in places like Haiti and through many other individuals who have served in missionary areas.

I remain grateful for your prayers and support. That we are well and any challenges along the way we have been able to overcome is a testament to the effectiveness of your prayer!

By Sr. Mary Thomas

Missions Services at Avera McKennan Hospital

, , , , , , ,