I still can’t believe it’s over. Three weeks in Zambia flew by, and what an incredible three weeks it was. I learned so much about the culture in Zambia, about the kids at Rafiki, and about myself. I remember driving to and from Lusaka and seeing kids walking by themselves along the highway; women carrying water on their heads and babies on their backs; goats, pigs, chickens, and cows running freely in the ditches; and even stopping at a village with no running water or electricity. But I also remember how much the people of Zambia love the Lord, and I remember how much I loved the simplicity in the way they lived- if they didn’t have something they needed, they made something work or just did without. I think sometimes in America, we think that our way is the best way and that bigger is better, but now having an understanding of how others live and seeing what they value- I think we’re wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country. I’m thankful for the freedoms I have, for those who fought for my freedoms, BUT as a society I think we need to change our mindsets and really think about what we should value most.
One of the first things I noticed about the kids was the pure joy they have for life. They welcomed us with loving arms and smiles from day one, and when they smiled or laughed I couldn’t help but do the same. I truly miss seeing constant smiles, and sharing laughs every second of the day. Another thing I noticed right away is that the kids didn’t care what clothes or shoes they were wearing, or if they were even wearing any shoes at all. I loved it. In America, I feel that we judge others based on whether or not they’re wearing Nike, Adidas, etc. But the reality is that none of that matters. What we wear has no influence on who we are as a person, our heart and the way we treat others. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the kids in Zambia, I truly, truly miss each and every one of them. I don’t want to forget their smiles, their laughs, or the memories we share. I pray that one day we be united again on Earth. I personally believe, that these kids in Zambia, and the kids in all of Rafiki’s Villages across Africa are going to change the world. Not the person who finds a cure for cancer, not the person who discovers life on another planet, or the athlete who shatters World Records- but these African kids, who have very little monetarily, but so much spiritually. Changing the world is a mindset, and these kids are going to inspire every person they come into contact with.
Before we left, I was fairly confident that our presence at the Rafiki Village in Zambia would have an impact on the kids in some way, but even though I was told before I left, that I personally would be impacted and changed by the experience I never imagined I would be impacted or changed so deeply. The kids (as well as our amazing host Katie Wilkins and my team) inspired me to grow deeper in my faith every single day; they inspired me to love a little bit easier and say I love you more to those I care about; they inspired me to trust a little bit easier and not build a wall that was nearly impossible to get through; and they inspired me to never lose my joy in life, regardless of the situation I am in. I felt so changed as a person and as Christian my first week in Zambia, and I, like many of the older kids, began to understand my identity in Christ better. I discovered that my passion in life is not only for sports, but also serving the Lord in whatever way He calls me to serve. This experience truly has changed me for the better, and I am forever thankful.
One of my favorite parts was the One on One Meetings we had on Thursday. The seven boys I talked to inspired me each in a different way, and put a smile on my face. Luka, Emmanuel (Skip), Lackson, Samuel, Jonathan, Ben, and Jacob- all seven of you are incredible young men, who are going to accomplish every goal they set for themselves. Always remember to never give up, and understand that you’ve shown your best cards to all of us, so that’s going to be the expectation every single day, and always do the right thing. I believe in each and every one of you. I shared many special moments with each boy, but particularly Lackson. Lackson was very quiet when I first met him, but always very respectful towards us, and did what was asked of him. He has an enormously large heart and is incredibly intelligent- I truly believe that he will become a surgeon one day. To see how much Lackson grew as a leader from the first day we met him, until the last day we were there, assured me that we had a difference in at least one kid’s life. I’m so proud of Lackson and the effort he gave while we were at Rafiki. He’s going to do big things in life.
I cried every single day for the last week I was in Zambia. I wasn’t ready to leave, and I knew that saying goodbye to the kids would be the hardest thing I had ever done. I understood how much they loved having us there, and I loved every second I was there- I felt so at home and at peace there. I prayed for strength and peace to get me through the week, and on Monday night something told me to sponsor a kid in Zambia. So I chose Dennis. I fell in love with Dennis from the very beginning. I loved his smile, his laugh, and his determination. He doesn’t care if he’s the smallest kid on the football field, he’s going to get right in there and play. He was in the youngest group so we always had them first for sports each day; seeing him and talking to him right away in the morning always gave me energy and joy throughout the day. He wanted to be in every single picture and see every single picture- even if he had just seen it twice the day before. Dennis felt like a younger brother to me, and managed to find me every time I had some free time. I thank God for bringing him into my life, for every memory we share, and for every second we got to spend together. Dennis is constantly on my mind, and I feel so incredibly blessed to continue to be a part of his life and watch him grow into the person God created him to be. I found my peace in sponsoring Dennis, and I found my strength from our host Katie. Her advice from her experience in Uganda really helped me. I had remained strong and at peace the remainder of the week. I wanted to continue enjoying my time and not thinking about having to leave, but Friday at 5, after we finished our football game with the oldest boys I completely lost it. I couldn’t eat or speak at dinner that night. My heart ached and ached knowing that I would soon be saying my goodbyes and not knowing when or even if I would ever see these kids again on Earth.
I was holding myself together pretty well until it came to Dennis. I still remembering getting down on my knee in the dining hall and hugging him, not wanting to let go. I remember trying to mutter the words “I love you” through my tears, and him asking me why I was crying. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he walked back to his cottage. The kids and their mommas came up to us one table at a time before exiting. I had spent most meals, eating with the little boys so saying goodbye to them was extremely difficult, as was saying goodbye to the youngest girls. Our team was convinced that their Momma (Momma Rosa) had African powers. She could blink twice at one of the girls and they immediately shaped up; and she told us stories of how she chased snakes until she killed them. She brought so much joy to our visit, and she had that toughness to her, but I’ll never forget when it came her time to say goodbye- all the Mommas had thanked us for coming and told us to greet our family and friends back in the States, but Momma Rosa, she couldn’t even look us in the eyes. I was last in line and I still remember seeing a single tear roll down her cheek as she exited the door. This tough, powerful, legendary woman was moved to tears and for the first time in three weeks was a loss of words. I have the utmost respect for Momma Rosa, and like Dennis, she was one of the first people I saw in the morning, and her personality gave me energy and joy throughout the day.
In addition to hugs, we were handed card after card from the kids- some even made friendship bracelets for us. We opened the cards that night after debrief and shared so many laughs and smiles with each other as we read them to one another. It was definitely an emotional night, but a night that I never wanted to end because I knew that the next morning we would have to get in the car and say goodbye to the Rafiki Village.
As soon as we got in the car Saturday morning I was ready to turn back and stay in Zambia. I remember how somber I felt during the ride to the airport, how hard it was to tell Katie goodbye when she dropped us off. It was a such a surreal feeling though. It didn’t seem like we should be getting on the airplane and heading back to the States. Where had our three weeks gone? If I wasn’t sleeping on the airplane, I was thinking about the kids. When we got to Dulles International Airport, it felt good being back on U.S. soil, but it still didn’t seem right. Even today it doesn’t feel right. Reality hasn’t hit me yet, but the absence of the kids definitely has.
On Monday, I thought back to some of the One on One Meetings I had, to the notes I received, and the faces of the kids- and one kid kept coming to mind- Emmanuel (E-Man or Skip). Emmanuel was the first kid we met at the village, and the last kid who I saw Friday night (he escorted me back home). I remember hearing how much he looked up to me in his One on One Meeting, his story, his challenges and failures in life, and his goals in life. As I sat on at my desk on Monday and thought about E-Man, I remember promising that I would never give up on him, so I decided to become one of his sponsors. These kids have had people come and go from the lives since they were born, I didn’t want to be another of those people. I wanted my presence to continue to be felt in their lives, and I wanted them to continue to be a part of my life. I find great joy and comfort in sponsoring Dennis and Emmanuel.
My heart still aches today, and probably will for many days ahead, but I know God has a plan for me here in the States. I pray that He calls me back to Zambia someday, but I entirely trust that HE will lead me where I need to be. And I know that even if our paths on Earth never cross again, that someday we will be united again in God’s Heavenly Kingdom above.
I owe so many people a “thank you” but I know I would forget someone. I especially want to thank Managers On A Mission for selecting me; and I also want to thank the Rafiki Foundation for what they are doing for these kids. Because of you, they have the chance to go up through Christ and change this world. So THANK YOU!
God Bless & Go Lady Vols,
Caleb Currier, Lady Vol Basketball
2017 Team Zambia
To God Be the Glory!
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