The red earth molded around my feet and stained my skin and nails for what seemed like forever. This land does not want to let go of you. The skies were vast, even more expansive than the ones in the Midwest if that’s possible. With these mammoth skies came unequivocal sunrises and sunsets that left one speechless and teary-eyed. The children of the school and orphanage knew the time of day simply by the position of the sun and excused themselves for dinner at the same time every day just by seeing the clouds turn into rose colored wisps and the bright blue of the African sky fade into soft orange folds.

I am often baffled by the unending amount of green in New England, the deep blue of the ocean, and the bright turquoise color that Lake Michigan emanates. However, it was not the color of the earth, the beauty of the sky, nor the vegetation that took my notice in Zambia. It was the unmistakable vibrancy of the people. Women walked along streets wrapped in colorful chitenges, dyed fabric that is used to make clothing, that doubles in  carrying children or other objects on their backs. Both men and women balanced massive baskets of grains, bananas, oranges, sugar cane, and the day’s laundry precariously on their heads. Their eyes were brighter than any others I have seen. Older men and women had wrinkles surrounding their mouths and eyes from years of smiles. The children ran and laughed unapologetically. The joy of this place was infectious.

The Americans stayed with host families in Ndola, a large city near the school where we volunteered. I should correct that though, the Americans became part of our host families over the two and a half weeks we were there. Each day we returned to water heating for baths,  food being cooked, the house cleaned, our beds made, and laundry being washed. As much as we tried to help them in their chores, they insisted that we were their guests and that we should rest. These men, women, and children cared for us, protected us, and imparted a whole bunch of wisdom upon us. They always seemed to have an applicable bible verse ready off the top of their head and shared incredible wisdom about any situation. We sat and cried together as we talked about our deepest pains in this life and joyfully cried as we shared how we had healed thus far. The women showed us the proper way an African should dance, (lots of hip and butt movement) how to scale a fish, and the correct way to carry a child on your back.

The Mission itself is incredible. The orphanage houses 25 children between first and seventh grade and gives them a primary education until they graduate and move onto secondary school at which point they leave Hope House. The orphanage and school are on the same grounds; every day of the week about 350 children flock to the school for classes. Many of the teachers of Hope School grew up in the surrounding village, went to university and came back to teach. They are paid nearly nothing but are some of the most passionate educators I have ever encountered.

We North Parkers hosted a three-day medical clinic for the entirety of the school and orphanage. When this mission trip began several years ago, about 75% of the children tested positive for malaria. This past May, that number had decreased to 11%! The nursing students checked kids for ring worm, malaria, and a number of other things. We treated almost everything.

At the very end of the trip, our group traveled to a national park to see African wildlife and then hiked around Victoria Falls.

I could probably write a four part novel series on this trip but I won’t. There are stories to go along with every photo – want to know them? Feel free to ask. Otherwise, here’s a huge massive compilation of a fraction of the photos I took. I am missing that red earth.

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Kathleen Thiessen

Incredible pictures!! Clearly an amazing life changing experience for you. Your pictures capture so much emotion. I feel like I was there with you. Thank you and God Bless one and all!!

Thank you for taking me on such an amazing trip; you captured so much in smiles, eyes, hugs, water falls, native animals and everyday living of people and places I will never be able to visit but thru you I feel I am able to know a little about the life of people who are half a world away from me. Hope someday I can see more of your pictures and hear about your journey. Love, MorMor.

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