I got three!

Yesterday was Jacob’s third birthday.  In his words, ‘I got three!’

There was very little that was terrible about his twos.  He’s been such a joy and a delight, never ceasing to amuse us with his songs, dances, kicks and general shenanigans. Hearing his language develop has made us laugh so often.

Here are a few photos from the weekend and his Spiderman birthday party.
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There is a lot of overt need here. It’s in our face everyday. I should say that I’m aware there is a tremendous amount of need everywhere – there is brokenness in every culture, every community, every neighbourhood. Here we see it in tattered clothes, dirty water, inabilities to read and write, unemployment, etc etc. Other places it lurks quietly behind the doors of beautiful homes where debt, depression, and loneliness run rampant

Most of the time, I feel like I can see a way forward when I see need. I believe first and foremost in the power of Jesus and his incredible love to transform people’s lives and entire communities. I’m a big believer in education. I believe in job creation, business investment, good training. I believe in the Zambian people. Although there are massive challenges in living and working here, there is so much beauty here as well. Generally, I see hope here.

I regularly visit a family that seems to embody brokenness on every level.  When I go there, I am overwhelmed by the need – physically, emotionally, spiritually. This week, when I went to visit them, it was no different.

The family situation is incredibly complicated and just when I feel like I fully understand who is living in the house and who’s a cousin and who’s a neighbor there is yet another person that walks in that I’ve never seen before who seems to live there as well. But basically it is a child headed household as the father has died and the mother is mentally unstable. The mother is in and out of the home and often leaves for long periods of time without telling anyone. There is a stepdad but he is also unreliable, often drunk when he is around, also regularly leaving without any notice.

A 16 year old girl, I’ll call her Faith, holds the family together. There are four younger siblings/cousins (sometimes more), her own son, a young cousin and her daughter and then a few others that seem to come and go. As I sit with Faith in their home, rats scurrying around in the corner, a piece of material functioning as a door blowing in the wind, I wonder what hope looks like for this family. They are victims of so much brokenness and somehow this young girl manages to keep this family together. Once she cried when I visited, her mum had left again, she was pregnant, the enormity of the challenges of her life got to her. She doesn’t usually show much emotion but you can see she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. This week Faith told me she wants to go back to school, which is wonderful news. Her cousin is able to take care of her baby so in May she’ll be returning to grade 7. I am excited about this, this feels like a ‘win’ but I am also aware that she is years away from finishing, years away from being able to get a job that will provide for her family…

The second oldest in the family is a boy, 14, who has stopped coming to school as he is in grade three. He is so covered in shame; it breaks my heart. The last time I saw him he waited for me outside the school fence, as he was too embarrassed to come in. He keeps making excuses as to why he doesn’t come to school but I know that no large teenage boy wants to sit in a grade three class. He’s worked for his neighbours in the past, older guys that drink a lot and pay him virtually nothing to haul water for their brick making business. I worry about the decisions he is making and the paths he is choosing. There must be so much more for this young boy but I honestly don’t know what the answer is for him.

This family challenges me. I wonder what is best for them. I wonder what hope looks like for them. Their challenges are so big, I’m not going to lie, sometimes I wonder if they have any hope at all.   They need miracles in their lives.

What I wouldn’t do to see Jesus come and transform this situation. As I write this Isaiah 61 immediately springs to mind and I know that it is Jesus that transforms but that he wants to use you and me to be the bringers of this Good News to those in need. If I’m totally honesty though, I’m not entirely sure what Good News is for this family… My biggest prayer for this family is that the mum finds healing/balance and being able to take care of her children, the stepdad commits himself to the family and finds work to support them. This is so outside my control though, I can’t make that happen for these children.

We aren’t big on handouts but I bring food parcels to this family regularly. Usually I just bring the basics, not wanting to create dependency, always thinking about ways that maybe we can work together to help give them a hand up, unsure if dropping food off is the best thing to do… This week as I shopped I thought, stuff it, these are kids. I ‘splashed out’ and bought them loads of fruit and vegetables, several cartons of milk and even got them sausages for supper. This would have been a proper feast for them, perhaps this was the Good News they needed last week. Perhaps it was a gift of hope in an often hopeless looking situation. I don’t know…

Sorry that this blog doesn’t have a nice neat ending, an answer that sums this whole situation up and brings resolution where there is brokenness. I don’t have the answers, instead I continue to be bombarded with questions about how best to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this. Your prayers are always appreciated.