Thursday, February 5, 2009

February 4th, 2009

Don't hold your breath... Might want to grab a drink and order some pizza too. It's a doozy.

Sunday, I woke up a few minutes early and washed a couple pieces of clothing in the bath tub before having breakfast and walking down for church at nine. I had Kellogg’s Frosties, aka Frosted Flakes, for the first time since being here, and I just want everyone to know that cereal will never be the same again. The mild they have here is nothing like milk in the States. It’s “full cream” and is not refrigerated. Basically, it’s like dumping twenty of those restaurant cups of coffee creamer onto perfectly crunchy cereal and witnessing the transformation to mush in about three seconds. Not to be defeated by the Zambian Dairy Gods, I recognized the challenge and proceeded to shovel the bowl into my mouth as fast as possible, racing the eternal clock of cereal sogginess, to see if my last flake would have given into the Parmalat boxed milk or resisted to succumb to such a travesty and held out its crunchiness until the bitter end. Needless to say, I won the culinary Ridge Racer out of dedication, determination, and total disregard for any Dairy Deity and its devoted, damned demons. Indubitably! (“Damned” is used here as a reference to the demons’ hellishness, just a disclaimer for anyone who would totally flip out and probably tell their R.A. In the words of Maity Pete, “Get serious!”)

The guest pastor Sunday was . . . interesting. He began by prefacing his sermon with a pastor’s version of a Surgeon General’s Warning about his level of charisma. Now, you know when a pastor has to warn an already boisterous congregation of his super-cosmic decibel level, one of two things will happen. The first is that he actually has the voice of God and that we should flip off our sandals faster than Moses before the Burning Bush, else we risk being smitten by some unseen force of the Holy Ghost, like Mel Gibson and his hatchet in The Patriot. Or secondly, this guy is going to be utterly ridiculous. My soul is glad that the latter proved to be true. My ears took the beating of his voice like a couple of champs, especially since he kept going until almost 13:45 (yah, it’s like that here) and our group from Mochipapa Church nearly missed lunch entirely.

Later in the afternoon, we had our Sunday vespers and for the second week in a row our beloved, invited guests, the WHIZ staff, failed to show. And for the second week in a row, we just spent the time as planned, going through our order of worship and reflection with the company of each other. For those who may be curious about our weekly vespers, you are more than welcome to join us every Sunday at 16:00 at Mochipapa Pilgrim Church. Just kidding! But seriously, if you would want to do so, and make the two days of travel one way to join us, you are most welcome to. We might even let you have some of Mrs. Bhota’s famous peanut butter cookies, if you’re lucky… Back to vespers; what we do is read one passage of scripture each from the Old Testament, the Book of Psalms, one of the four Gospels, and an epistle. Interspersed between these readings are worship choruses, times of prayer for confession or governments around the globe or whatever has been predetermined for that week, and readings from other sources such as the Common Book of Prayer or one of our own daily devotionals. Each segment of the service is presented by a different member of our team and emceed, or directed, by the real MC himself, yours truly, Michael Clarke. I have never done a single thing of the sort before this semester, but I truly feel that this is something the Lord wants me to do while I am here, maybe just for the reason of never doing anything like it before. Who knows? But I enjoy it very much. I hope the WHIZ staff begins to join us soon. I think they would enjoy the differences in worship styles like we appreciate at our churches.

Monday, I read, slept, ate, and went for a walk with Brandon, Leah, Kara, and Mama Margie. At the point where we decided to turn around and head back home, it began to rain. It was not just any ordinary rain storm either. I am talking about monsoon from the Discovery Channel kind of rain, God’s wrath kind of rain. I didn’t shower that day; the Lord already did that for me. I think Brittany got some pictures of us once we got back so I’ll ask her to try and put one up on the internet. She brought her Macbook Pro. I have a Fujitsu LifeBook Car Booster Seat Edition. Mine is just not the ideal multi-media machine for such advanced things like up-loading photos, you could say.

Tuesday, yesterday (Halfway there!), was the most eventful of my last several days. Leah and I worked with Henry, Rhoda, and Peggy in Reach4Life, which is their more spiritually focused of the two youth-abstinence and AIDS prevention programs that World Hope offers. In the morning, we went over how leaders are trained and the basic logistics of R4L, but in the afternoon we visited Choma High and saw the classes that were participating after school. The muzungus, or white people, aka us, were welcomed to each class like rock stars. It was weird. Henry, the director of R4L in Zambia, said each of our names and asked a couple of us to give a few words each time, and we found out that the more energetically “cool” we waved, the louder they greeted us when we said our names. The salute was wildly popular. It was unnerving, truthfully, to know that most of our visits, and interactions with most youth in general, were just short bits of entertainment for those we have met. I would venture to say that over three quarters of the time we are someone’s special guest; our purpose is to play the role of celebrity muzungu rather than going beyond being gawked at and actually talking genuinely about anything of depth or substance. It angers me. I’m taking a break to relax before I come back and finish this entry. I need to cool off.

Alright. Today. Wednesday. I woke up at 8:16am, needing to be down at the World Hope compound by 8:30 for morning devotionals with the staff. I do not know how I got dressed and ready down to the church without killing myself. My vision was still rather cloudy half-way into the worship time! That was after mall-walking the ten minute road in less than five. I was so out of it. After devos, I sat down on our porch at the picnic table with a cup of coffee and started writing this. So far, so good today, I guess. Later, we have a meeting called to discuss our time here so far. I am very ready to voice some of my concerns about our effectiveness, especially in tandem with out World Hope friends. I will let you know more of my opinions once the meeting is over and I have listened to the others, and especially our leaders, for their rebuttal and reasoning.

Okay, so the meeting went alright; it could have been better or worse. Our team met with World Hope’s Country Director Elvin Chilundika and the Central Office of Johannesburg’s Director of Community and Orphan Trusts for all of Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, and Zambia. I will not venture to spell her name. These two individuals are the big deals for World Hope in Africa. For those of you familiar with IWU, imagine individuals like Todd Voss and Bud Bence, or even Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. Again, I think that last one was over the line, but you get the point. We went over broad topics like weather or not WHIZ is meeting all of our needs, expectations from before arriving, things we have learned, problems we face, and the like. They seemed most interested in things concerning comfort and daily life. I, along with many others, feel surprising at ease here in Choma. In fact, I am disappointing comfortable. I do not feel stretched in most capacities. World Hope provides for ever aspect of life. I am frustrated. I live in another bubble. I left IWU to be uncomfortable, not replace the cushion for another just like it. I did share this view, albeit in a much more professional vocabulary and an appreciative tone; but I also wanted certain understanding of the situation. My other main issue that I brought to light during the meeting was the lack of “study abroad”; rather we have a “social service abroad”. I have accepted this fact, but I also replaced the vacancy left in its absence with a concern for significance in our partnership with World Hope. Because of our schedule and rotation of work groups between the three main vocations of the organization, I do not feel that our extended time, relative to the typical ten day missions teams’ short stay, is not being utilized most effectively for the most benefit. As soon as we become comfortable with one program, we are moved shortly after to the next for orientation and a quick look of that program. It comes down to the question of either going a mile wide but only an inch deep or going an inch wide and a mile deep. Being an individual who seeks optimization and true, deep understanding and knowledge, I prefer staying in one area the whole time and truly being effective for WHIZ. I had a taste of the shallow but widespread idea in Jim Vermilya’s Philosophy 180 class and absolutely hated it. In the end, I left with nearly as little understanding as when I first sat in his class. This experience is no different. I am equally deeply unsettled about this.


  1. Michael are you sure you did not buy 'sour' milk or 'Mabisi' as it is locally called?

  2. Michael - Heady stuff...I applaud your recognition of our life in a bubble and the lack of stretch you are experiencing. Keep searching for your way to make an impact, but the truth is you are having an impact here by sharing your thoughts. Thanks!

  3. Hey Michael! I'm enjoying reading your blog. Hoping you'll get a chance to pop in and update us on the latest in your "neck of the woods." j/k :) Aunt Joy