"You're going where for Spring Break?"
Meg Beaird, her husband, her children, and her mother in-law, lulu, went to Lusaka for Spring Break In march, and Meg wrote a few words about their experience!
"You're going where for Spring Break?" This was the response we were frequently getting as we began to share with family and friends what our Spring Break plans were for 2018. “Zambia? Wait why?" That lead us to respond with what would be the beginning story of what is now a very important part of our family.
We participated in the Kershaw‘s Challenge fundraiser back in the fall of 2017, which is where we originally learned about Arise Africa. Before then, our kids had been asking for years when we might be able to do a family mission trip that would involve going somewhere out of our comfort zone and working with children. Ben and I had been on mission trips previously to Ethiopia and Cuba, but our children were eager to experience the same trip as a family. Shortly before Christmas, I had been researching other organizations that might have our spring break time available and allow us to work with children. None were available until I dove in to researching more about Arise Africa. The Arise Africa website was so informative; the children were almost leaping out of my computer as if to say “please come visit, we have so much to show you , and oh, by the way Spring break would be a fantastic time.” Africa? Gosh that’s so far, and it doesn’t have a beach... Very candidly, my selfish dreams of a white beach and the kids jumping in the waves went straight out the window. Africa it is. We had been praying that the Lord would show us and open up a place and time for us to go, and we knew this was it. The kids really did leap out of my laptop! There was an odd sense that despite their circumstances, they had joy. And soon, we would see that joy.
I think it’s fair to say that most mission teams, whether new or seasoned, go in with the mindset of wanting to be able to give of their time, attention, and love for the overall in goal being help and bringing hope. However, over in Zambia, these precious children are the ones giving us Americans the love, the hope, and all the “good feels”! They are walking miles to school every day, running around frequently barefoot. They are enjoying and are grateful for their (sometime only) meal of the day, which is lunch at school. All of this, every day, they are doing with exceedingly amounts of love, peace, and joy. Being on the receiving end of this joy was a humble, daily reminder to reevaluate where our hope was in regards to love peace and joy... Genuine joy that is.
We visited several different schools during our visit. We sat in on classrooms, watched these dedicated teachers guide, love on, be patient with, and teach the children who were eager and hungry to learn. We spent time with the students during recess, got to know their names, heard prayer requests, met their siblings, and learned their favorite Bible verses. A valuable part of our trip was being able to sit down and have meaningful conversations with the teachers and Arise Africa staff members. We were able to hear some of their testimonies, stories of where they’ve been and how they came to work for arise, and how we can be praying for them. The encouraging theme that we were beginning to see, as we developed these relationships , is a very genuine and deep love and affection that is shared with these children. Arise Africa and their staff or intentional about digging deep into the lives of the children in the Lusaka. They are reaching out and caring for spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of these children and/or sometimes their families. Giving hope and joy.
Another aspect of Arise Africa that we were impressed with is their conscious decision to not expose the children through a “poverty tourism “mindset. Although food, candy, and gifts are so fun and are well-meaning, it can be reminder that sometimes helping can be hurtful. It’s been hard for children to not associate visitors with material goods. From our point of view , we understood and were able to experience how our visit was priceless and invaluable without bringing material gifts. A hug, smile, and desire to know their name is yearned for by those we visited. To place this into more perspective, sadly in Lusaka and in so many third world countries, people who have much less are deemed by their society and culture as “ less than, unwanted, or even unlovable.” So when outsiders come to visit and not only desire to know their name, but take the time to sit with them, play and pray with them- this creates a joy and sense of gratitude that makes them feel SO loved and full of JOY. Experiencing this is two fold- Heart wrenching and joy producing.
This is where our family and even YOU come into play. Not everyone has the time, means, and or ability to go to Zambia for week, but you can be involved. You can pray, you can educate yourself more about Arise Africa, their staff, and most importantly their children that need sponsorship. We made the decision to sponsor children after our trip because we knew would be developing relationships with some while we were there. We truly felt connected to and bonded with a handful of kids and are currently in a family discussion ( or battle should I say!) about how to decide which ones we will sponsor! Even if you are never able to visit, the letters and correspondence that is exchanged is so genuine and life giving. To know that someone and or a family half way around the world took the time to write a letter to them- this really is like a physical hug to them. It matters! Joy producing! Life giving because someone cares. Simple biblical love- Matthew 22:39, "Love your neighbor as yourself." These children have hearts bigger than the state of Texas, want to be loved and want to give love. They are being taught who God is, how He plays an important part of their lives, and what it means to have a relationship with Him. They love school, enjoying learning, and are committed to doing what it takes to succeed and make a good life for themselves and their family.
Our family returned with a love for Lusaka and the children we met through Arise Africa. Daily, we talk about “ our kids” that we bonded with and wonder what they’re doing day to day. We exchange emails with several teachers and staff members who inform us they are so grateful for our visit and ask how they can pray for us. Really? They want to pray for us?!
Insert a slice of humble pie once again :) This is one of many selfless acts that we experienced day after day from those we met while in Zambia.
Please pour over the website of Arise Africa. Pray about praying for and supporting the staff and children in Lusaka. Pray about how to pray for and support the administrative staff of Arise Africa. They are life-giving staff members that keep this organization running. They give hope and joy.
The children of Arise Africa have hope. They need us and quite frankly, we need them. It’s our duty as believers to spread the good news of Christ and be HIS hands and feet. If your response is, “ I don’t feel equipped to go visit and or even at the least how to pray.” God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. There is not an age limit nor activity level of energy necessary to visit on a mission team. My sweet mother in-law even went with us! Everyone is needed. Let Him work through you because every very little bit helps.
“You plan to back over there… again?”
Yes! Lord willing, we are already planning for our return and eagerly awaiting our joy filled hugs and smiles.
With a newfound love and joy,
Meg Beaird and Beaird Family