This is my Father’s world; these are my Father’s people. As many of you may know, I had an awesome opportunity to travel to the continent of Africa recently.
This trip started out as a family/friends’ vacation that turned into an amazingly blessed adventure. I had an opportunity to see another part of God’s beautiful world. In my most vivid imagination I would have never thought I’d have a chance to witness the scenes, the people, the animals and the grandeur of an often-ignored continent.
I believe there is purpose behind every step we make, especially when they are intentionally designed by God. Now with that intro, I’m sure you’re wondering why this should be of any interest to you, and I thank you for wondering and ask you to hold on and please keep reading.
Both the climax of our journey and the downside of my adventure were the visits to the villages, where we were able to interact with the locals living in the remote areas in Zambia. This doesn’t take away from the week in Kenya exploring the national parks and seeking the “Big Five” (elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros and cape buffalo), but what touched me and meant the most to me was our time in Zambia.
We were met at the airport by two wonderful people who have given more than 40 years of their lives working to provide a better life for others in the country of Zambia. Lonnie and Fran Turner, U.S. citizens led by the call of God, moved from Kentucky to reside in South Africa and Zambia.
Although a very circuitous route, they chose to live in areas where modern conveniences were not as available as in Kentucky. They “planted” (both literally and figuratively) roots in numerous villages of Zambia and became a part of the culture/fabric of the land. They learned the native languages and became a tangible part of efforts in assisting in building systems to sustain lives.
The focus of their work is education, primary health care, sanitation, clean water, self-sustainability and diminishing hunger. Their level of commitment to achieving their goals is unmatched for two individuals in their 70s. And oh, the stories they had to share during our visit! Let’s just say the stories would touch your heart, as they did mine, and make you wonder what you can do to continue or support their quest to be the hands and feet of God.
For me, I had a hard time wrapping my head around their way of living when I compare it to the way we live in these modern times, i.e., building a bathroom requiring them to dig, by hand, a hole much deeper than U.S. safety regulations would allow; creating cement blocks to build a health care facility/building to both take care of patients and house the healthcare worker, and creating a safe space for the kids to play soccer and basketball.
All of these conveniences we take for granted, yet I was able to witness the effort the community and Partners in Development (Fran and Lonnie) were putting in place to bring these things to reality.
I did not always believe the pictures on television truly portrayed the reality of 2019. I could not believe people were still living in one-room thatched roof houses with literally no conveniences. No one could have convinced me that people were still using cow dung to coat the outside of their houses to prevent leaking. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed people were still creating fires without matches, living without electricity, bathing without running water or still using outdoor “community” toilets.
We saw children who were walking for miles to go to school, and women cooking outside while chickens were running around in the same space. This was a reality that I was not expecting … but it is the reality they live day to day, and not once did I hear anyone complain.
My heart yearned to help, yet I had to realize that the “stuff” and “conveniences”, as we know them are not the answer. Life is simple and blessed despite what I was expecting. I had to realize that God had not forsaken his people, as He was providing the necessities of life. And through it all, they were happy, welcoming, appreciative and showered us with the love of God throughout our entire visit. It made me question myself in: how much more does God provide for me above my necessities and how unappreciative I might find myself at times?
We are blessed to bless others, and I challenge you to never take your blessings lightly. Never pass up an opportunity to help others when your heart is touched. And to that end, I am happy to report how pleased I was when in early July after I asked our community to provide soccer uniforms, balls and equipment to carry to the children in Zambia. Our community responded. We were able to personally deliver the balls, equipment and uniforms you provided. That “stuff” was heartedly received and brought smiles to the faces of children in the village.
God works in mysterious ways! We had no idea of the number of children in the village; however, we carried enough balls for all 28 children in the kindergarten class. In addition to the balls we were able to give uniforms and other equipment to the other children. The smiles of anticipation while inflating the balls and trying on the uniforms were mesmerizing. The privilege of interacting with the children was heartwarming, and I felt so blessed to have had an opportunity to love on them in such a small way.
Thank you, Columbia, Mississippi, for supporting me in this opportunity of a lifetime to share your love a world away. I titled this article, “This is My Father’s World.” Having an opportunity to visit Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and touching the coast of Namibia, allowed me to appreciate the height and depth of the beauty in God’s handiwork. Meeting and talking to the people and seeing their appreciation for the things we so take for granted, humbled me to a place in my spirit to a deeper gratitude and obligation to others. I am thankful for the love of God who blesses us so abundantly. Again, God blesses us to be a blessing to others. I am so grateful to those who gave so generously to the children without seeing and knowing their situations.
I asked you at the beginning of this article to continue to read. I wanted you to share my heartbeat as I visited my African brothers and sisters in, “the Motherland.” Yes, our roots are important, and as we seek to know our earthly fathers, we must seek to understand the splendor of our heavenly Father.
He has made each of us different but so much alike. I think it is important for each of us to embrace our heritage without the bias that drives us apart. My prayer is that we embrace our earthly heritage but recognize our heavenly connection. This connection gives us the ability to love across the pond, the lake, the river, the ocean and seas and see the needs of our brothers and sisters who are also our Father’s children. “Feel my Heartbeat.”
I must not close without letting you know that these are God’s children. I pray this article and pictures enlighten us to our sense of responsibility, or at least to thank our God for what we have, little and much.
Yes, this is a beautiful world, and God gets the credit because this is, “My Father’s World.”
Pictured Above: Corene Russell, in the white hat, hands out soccer uniforms to the children in a Zambian village. The Columbia resident collected the uniforms and soccer balls to take with her to distribute. | Photos submitted