This last weekend I had the opportunity to write public speaker to my ‘missionary card’. You’d think that I would have already fulfilled this quota early on since I’m a lover of words and my own voice. However, this has not been the case until this last weekend.
Wes has already checked this box off by having done a couple of TV show interviews on dental basics for the Hope channel here. (Tune in grandma!) He’s even gone out on a few outreaches to pull teeth in the bush! However, I had not…yet…
The opportunity arose when my teaching assistant, Mavis, asked me one afternoon if I was a good public speaker. Side note: she is an Adventist. Immediately my ears perked up but with caution because I was weary that a sermon would be asked of me and I couldn’t fathom the idea. As much as I love talking, talking about Christ is difficult for me because I feel unqualified and I’m still trying to figure it all out in my head as it is. Fortunately, she did not request a sermon from me but to simply talk about empathy and do an activity with the congregation. This I could do.
So, Sabbath afternoon, we went first to Brentwood Church, our ‘home’ church here at around 10:45. We brought along with us Iris, a volunteer who just landed the day before, who will be volunteering around the different clinics for a month. With a one hour song service and a one and a half hour sermon under our belts, we went to grab a quick bite before the afternoon service I was partaking in over at Woodlands Central Church.
Not having done this sort of thing before, I wanted to make sure we arrive right at 14:00 so that I could be ready. I should have known though, TIA, (this is Africa) and the program didn’t really start until about 15 hours…
Not phased in the least, we sat and waited for the program to begin. Here’s the difficult part, there is no bulletin to see where you are in the program, or to gauge how long you’re going to be sitting there. So, we just sat and wondered when my part was up. But the nice thing was, the program was all put on and done by the special needs department. There was a lovely signing choir, a sermon given in sign language, a presentation and song by an albino musician, and a kid’s choir that sang and signed (plus another three sermons).
An hour later and I still hadn’t been called up to do my part but I figured it couldn’t be much longer. Finally, our wonderful school counselor, Jenn, was called up and gave a beautiful presentation about the importance of empathy and how we can show it to each other and towards the specials needs community. Then I was up. I was going to do an activity that I’ve been doing with my first graders which I’ve dubbed the Kindness Circle. In first grade, we sit in a circle and share one nice thing about the person to the right or left of us. Mavis had asked that I do this but with the deaf choir for the program. I was a bit nervous, not having really worked with the deaf before but I was really excited to try it out.
I introduced the exercise to the audience and then sat back and watched the magic happened. From one end, they began signing to each other (with one gentleman translating what was being signed) and you could just sense the appreciation grow at each turn. Simple compliments dug deep and acceptance and admiration began to flood the small group. We’d not practiced or done the activity together before, so it was raw kindness and not at all rehearsed. I was lucky to have had one of my little first graders present who I asked to join the activity and to see the curve of kindness reach her and receive a compliment from a complete stranger, it showed that kindness knows no boundaries. As he signed to her, she smiled meekly and thanked the gentleman with a hand gesture of thanks she’d picked up from the rest of the group, all the while beaming.
I felt so fortunate to have been a part of the program that praised special needs and lifted them up in a community and country that provides very little for them. Special needs isn’t really considered anything here other than a burden to your families. No special programs are provided, no education past a certain point can be obtained for a special needs person and there just isn’t the knowledge and love for special needs here in Zambia. But at Woodlands Central Church there is a fabulous place for them to come and worship. And come and worship they do!
If you’d like to know more about Albinism or Special Needs here in Africa you can visit the African Albino Foundation.