Today, one of our boys was diagnosed with chicken pox. He was given some drugs by the school nurse and told to spend the next two weeks at home. School is off limits as a quarantine measure to protect the other children. His name is Martin.
I could sense that Martin was sad and disappointed. Unlike the average American school child, Martin was not thrilled by the thought of a two-week break from school. You see things are a little different here in Zambia.
At the Lifesong school, our children have two meals a day, access to showers, medical assistance and most importantly, love. The extent to which each child has or does not have these things at home varies but one thing is the same, they really like being at school. Martin is no exception.
I offered to walk him home. He likes to read so he picked two books from the headmaster’s bookshelf and we left for the mile-and-a-half walk to his house. It was a pleasant stroll; Martin taught me some Bemba and I asked him some questions.
Several of the questions I asked revolved around the subject of food. Martin is fourteen-years-old and this is an important topic. I asked if he eats supper and he said that sometimes yes and sometimes no. He replied in the same manner when I asked about his food over the weekends. Sometimes his mother has money to buy food and sometimes not. Sometimes they eat and sometimes they go without.
We continued to Martin’s house where his mother Barbara invited me inside. The living area consisted of three wicker chairs, a few shelves, a small buffet cupboard and a concrete floor. The entire house appeared to consist of three rooms: two bedrooms and the living room in which we sat.
Barbara was pleasant and warm. Between her broken English and my broken Bemba we managed a little small talk. During our conversation I could not help but think of a sad fact about Barbara's life: she is HIV positive. Martin's father has already died of AIDS. Barbara is the first person I have met that I know has this dreadful disease. Meeting her left me a little less whole and a little more broken.
After a few minutes, I said goodbye to Barbara. Martin walked me back to a point where I could find my way home. On the way, he showed me two shacks where they show movies. On a post outside was a cardboard poster displaying pictures of the movies available. Gory faces and half-naked bodies seemed to comprise the majority of the pictures.
As we walked away, I reminded Martin about the Bible study we did last week. It was about sin and holiness. I asked, “Are those movies sin or holy?” He replied “Sin.” I asked he if he ever went to see them and he replied in the affirmative. He said it costs 100 Kwacha. Per today’s exchange rate that is approximately 2 pennies. A cheap price for movies that erode ones desire for holiness and increase ones appetite for sin.
We continued walking and I asked, “Do you want to be sin or holy?” He replied “Holy.” I told him that he gets to choose which one he wants to be. We neared the corner where he left me and as I walked away I told him to “Remember.” I never want him to forget that he wants holiness and not sin.
I write this story as much for you my reader as myself. You see, a strange thing has happened. Stark poverty is less than two miles from my doorstep. Relationships that are starting to make up my life are with people whose social and income status is diametrically worse than my own. I am on the brink of not being the same David that moved to Africa almost two months ago. Martin, his mother and others like them are unknowingly changing my perspective and life seems a bit topsy-turvy.
It appears that I have moved to the edge. God has moved me to the edge: the edge of comfort, civilization and prosperity. It seems somewhat dangerous, rather unnerving. The paths from my front door lead to hurting and broken situations. Wealth and privilege are far less common than they used to be back home. Thankfully, God knows what he is doing. I must trust this truth because right now, he has me living on the edge of broken.