So far living in Zambia has been a series of ups and downs. Zambia is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, but witnessing that beauty is marred by the bars on the doors and windows. You can travel across town for less than $1, if you don’t mind squeezing four to a bench seat. The food here is delicious, but you must always be cautious to avoid getting sick. Just like in any city, Lusaka is filled with both beauty and the things which contrast or mar that beauty.
It has been a similar experience to interact with the programs put on by Special Hope Network and the individuals participating in them. The teachers are performing high-quality instruction, but often lacking in teaching materials or formal training. The children are extremely sweet and beautiful, however many suffer from illness or physical disability. The children’s mothers are overjoyed to have someone tell them their child is valuable and saddened to learn they may never grow up to drive or get married. There is beauty to be found here and there is pain, but I am thankful for the opportunity to live and work in Zambia.
When my wife and I first arrived in Lusaka for a one-week trip to decide if this was the place God had called us to next in our life we were overwhelmed by both the beauty of the country and the stark uneasiness that being in a foreign culture can cause. It took us a few days, but after seeing the teachers and mother-child pairs in the Community Care Centers as well as the high-quality programs offered at the Resource Center we felt that the Lord was calling us to come and participate in what He has been doing here in Zambia.
The thing that first stuck out to me upon arriving at SHN was the quality of the teaching. The teachers are truly excellent and most of them would fit in well in any US classroom that I have experienced. The strategies and curriculum challenge each child uniquely based on an individualized education program that is designed to help the child reach communication, motor, academic, and other key developmental milestones. The programs are well-designed, the teachers are well-trained, and the children are well taken care of.
Despite the quality of the programs, the teachers and staff put in a great deal of effort to continue to grow and improve all aspects of the organization. With new centers being opened, new staff being hired, and new children arriving almost every day, the air of busyness and the desire and need to grow is apparent. I am thankful that Sarah and I have the opportunity to be a part of the growth happening at Special Hope. There is a community among all of the staff (Zambian and American alike) that can only come from sacrificing in order to serve a purpose greater than yourself. I feel humbled to have been so openly welcomed into it.
It is clear to me that God has called my wife and me to be here in Zambia. He orchestrated our first interaction with Eric Nelson (President of SHN), instilled a desire in our hearts to go, provided us with the means to be here, and gave us a sense of peace that can only come through the Holy Spirit. We are new here and have a lot that we need to learn, but there is not a place on this earth that I would rather be than where God has called me to.
Over the short time in which we have been here, I have already experienced extreme amounts of joy and pleasure from my participation at SHN as well as feelings of being overwhelmed and incapable of functioning, adjusting, or providing value during our time here. I know that in the midst of these ups and downs, God will be with me. Jesus tells us in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” I am happy to be here and thankful to be serving God by serving children with intellectual disabilities in Zambia.
I worked as a Special Education teacher in the United States prior to coming here and I believe that Special Hope Network is doing something unique. The vast majority of children served by SHN would otherwise be unable to receive any form of education or appropriate therapy. It amazes me to see the joy that a parent feels from learning that there are ways of supporting their child that they would have never learned or understood apart from their participation at SHN.
I am deeply passionate about those in our world that are marginalized, forgotten, or left out and I believe that children with disabilities suffer from marginalization in a way that few others experience. This is especially the case in southern Africa because of the culture surrounding disability.
I believe in a God of the fatherless and the oppressed. A God of widows and orphans. A God that would leave His entire flock to seek out the one sheep that was lost. I believe in a God that would humble Himself even to death on a cross so that the people He created could come to know Him and return to a right relationship with their Father. This includes you. This includes me. This includes people with intellectual disabilities. This is why I believe in the work being done at Special Hope Network, and why my wife and I decided to quit our jobs, sell our possessions, and move to Zambia. I think that it is worth it. Thank you for your support.
Proverbs 31: 8-9
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.”