Re-telling a story about one of the most beautiful women I met in the village in 2009 that touched my heart and I still think of her to this day…
So, I’m homeschooling. It’s not my first choice as far as educating my children goes (purely because I’m not a formally trained educator)… but it suits our lifestyle best considering all of the recent transitions. If we were still living on the base in Zambia I’d be homeschooling. There’s a very good chance that I will be homeschooling when we move back to Africa on a more permanent basis too. In certain instances good international schools can be found when overseas, but one generally has to be located near a big city. In our line of work, re-locating near a big city is quite the stretch because our focus is on rural communities, i.e., the wild bush where jackals and gazelles roam. I love the village. Sigh and pause for effect.
Yesterday, I grabbed a book from our homeschool curriculum titled, “Stories From Africa.” I thought it suited the occasion. We have been learning about missionaries, which is absolutely hysterical to me because we ARE missionaries and I love how this particular curriculum stereotypes missionaries. However, this one book is really good. It’s a compilation of stories documented and written by actual missionaries in Africa. Bonus.
This story I read to Elly about a girl named Titi instantly reminded me of one of the many encounters I had with people in the villages. Let me tell you about a mother named Rosa and her daughter Cici (I have elaborated on the narrative of this story to help you comprehend what life is like in the village):
Rosa lives a quiet life in the Simwatachella chiefdom. Her home, an ordinary mud structure with thatch roofing. Other mud and stick structures stand positioned around her home: the kitchen, her brother-in-laws home, the chicken coup, and the crop storage. A small fire burns.
Rosa bends down at the waist, as most Zambian women do… never at the knees… as if to stretch her legs. She tends the fire. She breathes life into it. Embers crackle and the flames mature. The fire is ready for water to be boiled and the roller meal to be added. Roller meal is finely ground corn staple to the Zambian diet. The roller meal will be cooked into a hardened but pliable state of existence called nshima. Upon preparation it will be combined with a relish and used as cutlery to scoop it all up.
She carves the cabbage in her lap. She follows with the onions and her eyes sting. Shallow tears crawl down her face. She carefully rations oil into her frying pan and heats it over the fire. She adds the cabbage and onion and moves onto nshima duty. She mixes and mixes and mixes the nshima into the pot, adding a little more here and a little more there. Dinner is ready.
She gently pushes her daughter Cici toward the fire, the light by which they will eat when the sun officially says farewell. She “spoon-feeds” Cici, mindful to wipe the spittle that drops down her chin. Cici communicates her needs with her eyes. She is mute, deaf, and she cannot walk. Meningitis ravaged her existence and robbed her of a spirited childhood. Her wheelchair is a makeshift compilation of a plastic sundeck chair connected to the basic framework of a hospital grade wheelchair. It’s difficult to push, but Rosa’s muscles are strong.
The man. He makes is way to the village bar every night after dinner. He’s off to spend every Kwacha they earn, which is never enough to begin with. Many other husbands follow suit and gather to drink their reality away. The radio blares, powered by a solar panel, it’s songs echo through the village and dance through the darkness. The bright stars twinkle in protest. As the radio dies the men make their way back home. The man is drunk and he is out of his mind.
The man stumbles into the mud structure, tripping over his daughter Cici. He proceeds to lie down next to Rosa, his wife. She refuses to acknowledge him because she knows he goes mad when he is drunk, so she pretends sleep. Aggravated, he shoves her. She continues to fake sleep. He shoves her again. She stirs and asks him what is wrong. He rambles nonsense and his anger brews. He slaps her across the face…
The following morning Rosa’s face is swollen. She hopes the swelling will subside because she plans to take her daughter to the teaching at the big tree. The headman announced several days ago that makuas, white people, would be coming to preach about Jesus and anyone who wanted to hear should make their way to the big tree. So she prepares for their journey happy to spend several nights away from the man that so often beats her and belittles her personhood. She feels small and afraid, but what can she do? Without him she will not survive. Her family lives elsewhere. She has nowhere to go. Maybe the makuas will bring some good news and provide answers to her desperate situation.
[Domestic violence, among other tragedies, is common in the village… women are not afraid to verbalize the situation in which they silently suffer, but there is little that is done to help the family unit outside of the Good News of the Gospel. The Gospel, with its absolute transforming power of the new creation extracts domestic violence from the home and for that we are grateful. Praise the Lord!]
The rooster crows, never late and always early. The sun peeks over the horizon. I can barely move as my camping mat always deflates. My tailbone kisses the ground throughout the night. My bones are stiff, even at age 22. The earthen floor never does a body any favors. My husband is always up before me in the village, outside somewhere drinking coffee and reading his Bible. I stand up and try to make myself semi-presentable for the day; I don’t have a mirror though. This year I decided to be completely natural… no make up, no eyebrow plucking… just plain Jane focused on dying to the first-world princess reputation I once employed.
I stumble out of my tent. Camping always disorientates me during the night and it shows the next morning. I make my way toward the oatmeal infused with campfire. I sprinkle on the sugar and generously pour on the long life box milk. I grab my plastic cup and pour in some Rooibos (red bush) tea.
Seated on the camping stool I eat my breakfast, unsure of what the day holds. Will I have an opportunity to preach? Ugh, I dunno, I’m not experienced at preaching in front of big groups I remind myself. I warm my toes by the fire anxious for the day to warm up. Later I will feel as though I’m melting; but now I am freezing.
As a group of 15 people we make our way to the big tree to greet those busy arriving. We are excited for the three-day conference. We hear people are walking from miles away to hear this message we carry. We begin to greet everyone in what little Tonga we know.
Introductions follow and we gather under the cool shade of the tree to listen…
I don’t remember when Rosa and Cici caught my attention. I know they lived nearby our meeting place and I don’t actually think they stayed the night as others did. I remember they came every day of the conference. I believe Rosa brought Cici up for prayer in faith God would do an absolute miracle and bring her precious daughter physical wholeness. I remember laying hands on Cici and declaring the goodness of God over her body anxious to witness a miracle myself.
Rosa had such a sweet spirit. I remember her beauty combined with timidity so well. She took such gentle care of her daughter and loved her with every fiber of her being. Cici was not a burden to Rosa. Cici, up until the point Jesus became Rosa’s savior, was Rosa’s reason for living. Rosa purposed herself to be the best mother she could be to Cici in spite of pressing circumstances at home.
Rosa stayed near me for the duration of the conference; we had a certain closeness that can only be explained in the Father’s love. We didn’t speak each other’s language, but His love knit our hearts together. I often think about Rosa. What is she doing today? Is she well? Is she alive? How is Cici?
I remember seeing improvement in Cici by the time we left. She was able to move parts of her body she couldn’t move before we prayed for her. She was more alert and her eyes were brighter when we left. I left believing the Lord was doing a progressive miracle and I still believe that to this day. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if we returned today and witnessed her standing and performing ordinary tasks, talking to people, and enjoying the many sounds of the bush.
My favorite part of this story is Rosa’s husband. If I recall correctly, one of our translators and dear friend spoke to him and reproved him for abusing his wife. He told him to rise up and be a man of God and take responsibility for what the Lord had given him. I have to believe, to this day, that Rosa and her husband have a marriage free from the domestic violence that can so heavily permeate rural communities.
Tonight I pray for Rosa and I thank God for her. I thank God that he connected us and made a place for her in my life. I thank God that He continues to care for every detail of her life and that He desires to perpetually reveal Himself to her has the most loving Father in existence. Father God I ask that you would bless Rosa and her family. I ask that you would speak tenderly to their hearts and that as your sheep they would know and hear your voice. I pray for your protection over them from all sickness and disease. May they grow and prosper in every good work. In Jesus’ name, so is it!
Here’s some photos I thought were cute to share (they are seriously ancient by four and some years):