If any day is to be grounded in being a mouthpiece, then of course it must start with your local bus evangelist.
Today I woke up in Lusaka! Having arrived yesterday*, I landed, went over to CRS’ offices to get prepared for next week’s conference. Then off to the Oblates for dinner, and the Cheshire home for sleeping.
* Let’s skip the math and just be good with some 37+ hour day with 2 hours sleep while being 6 hours ahead of my normal time zone. Besides, I was singing “Good morning, Afff-rica” in my head to this tune for hours, denoting my mental state.
At 5:55 am, I am scared awake by the knocking at my window “Katey, can you help me in”, asks Imelda, the hostess of the Cheshire home. She was here to cook breakfast. Less than an hour later, Deacon Like picked me up and I was on the 8 am bus to Mongu.
The entrance into the bus station was … intimating. People swarm around your car, especially when you are a tourist. Also, the boarding time was 7:20 for an 8am bus. Now, I am normally the crazed person running through Penn Station NYC so that I don’t have to wait an hour for the next train. But no, in Zambia, people get on the bus, and wait.
At 7:45, a man got on the microphone and introduced himself as our bus evangelist. For nearly twenty minutes, he prayed for our safety, our sins, our repentance, and for acceptance of God’s mercy. I have never experienced anything like that before!
Upon arriving in Mongu, after the 7.5 hour bus ride, I visited quite a few sites. One was the office of the treasury for the local diocese headed by Fr. Michael. While I was grateful for all these meetings, I was a little confused as to what I was supposed to ask. Playing the role of an interviewer, I learned about funding shortages, how changes in the Obama administration were connected to less monetary benefit for Mongu, and etc. Just like in improv, we listen and then build the scene forward. What a great lesson for life in general- just listen and respond honestly!
Fr. Michael was also a bit perplexed as to why he was meeting with me. Yet, he too was able to just effortless move through our unplanned conversation, by offering me the theme of the day. “Be a mouthpiece. When you go home, tell our story. Be hope”. And Fr. Michael’s story was funding is limited, but programs are abundant. Zambians care about their people and need financial support to do so.
Later, I met with an Oblate, Fr. Singini. Over dinner, we had a wonderful conversation, first playing the “do you know this person” game both with colleagues then with friends at the Catholic Theological Union. From that, I learned one of Father’s personal struggles. Upon finishing his education, he really wanted to stay in Chicago. He had been offered some wonderful opportunities and loved the area. But he was torn. He wondered if this would prevent others from going to the States to be educated. Would it be seen as people leave and do not come back? Furthermore, Father felt that his education could serve others in Zambia.
And it has. Father continued to share about some of his current works in the region, as he is the local representative for Justice and Peace. We chatted about local laws that benefit foreigners, how a country so rich in natural resources could have such poverty among its people, and more. Father then said, “We must educate people to empower them to ask questions- the right questions”.
If I am to be a mouthpiece, then I want to stand behind those words. Let us empower our communities to ask questions, be heard, and find justice. Let us find solidarity with one another and with the least among us. Then the great day will come, when we won’t need a mouthpiece; our collective voice will be loud enough.