Living despite our falls


I was reading a post by Doctor Ben Carson about Tiger Woods on Facebook this week; it was a motivational post, reminding us that whatever happens in our lives, we can still rise. I couldn’t help but remember my mother saying, “the media couldn’t rest until they destroyed him.” This she had said when Tiger’s life unravelled and he was not winning any golf tournaments. He has worked at getting back on top, and this September, he has achieved a win once more. If the quote I have shared is any indication, you can see that my mother doesn’t like it when the media splatters people’s lives out for the world to consume. She prefers hearing about the highs of their lives, like when Tiger wins tournaments, or when Celine Dion had her babies, though she only glances at these happenings.

This week, the fact that we people are quick to judge and move on has been highlighted for me. There’s a video that has been circulating on the net about the keep Zambia clean campaign, where a man asks a woman carrying a baby and water for sale on her head, to pick up discarded empty sachets. I was initially upset, but I’ve heard and watched things that have added some context to the conversation and that calmed me down. But reading the comments online, you find that even people who once supported this man, are now up in arms and boycotting the Facebook page, not to mention the name calling that falls in the category of things we as Zambians don’t do.

But in these interactions it is clear that people only like you when you do things that fit their mould of acceptable behaviour; I guess we all pick and choose, however, I like to think of myself as a person who decides who to associate with based on a track record, and not on individual moments or a few events in a space of time; but we all do it, form ideas about who people are and refuse to give grace. Sometimes though, we are as harsh as we are because we recognise a part of ourselves in them, and that sparks a defensive response on our part, and in an attempt to feel better about ourselves, try to make “the other” worse than us. It is clear that as we walk through life, we must make choices with the best intentions but not with the aim of pleasing people, otherwise we live our lives dancing to whichever piper plays, like puppets pulled in all directions, forgetting what we stand for.

Live your life, fighting for whatever it is you stand for, applying wisdom, but not swaying whenever people leave you or question your value. Live based on your convictions, hopefully stooped in truth and not just some shadowy candyfloss philosophy. Tiger rose and conquered again despite the media’s assertions that he was a “had been.” So always  remember those who cheer you on when you have nothing for them to gain, and if you should ever fall, pray that there are people around you who can tell you how far you fell but are still willing to stay with you and walk it out. If you should fall, don’t stay down, fight! Fight for the life you want.

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Freedoms


I have found myself thinking about how important it is to preserve individual freedoms. This, probably because of a few things that Ive heard happen recently that challenge the idea that everyone has the right to self determination.

If you live in the western world, you have no doubt heard of the debates that rage about hijabs. If you havent, you can read about it here; in Australia’s case you can read just one of many stories here. There are more stories from Canada and the United states, however Americans tend to believe heavily in the ideal that everyone has the right to choose the course of their lives, at least in theory, and for that reason, a ban on head coverings seems unlikely.

Recently I’ve heard it said that some employers allow Muslims and not the Africans in their employment to have head coverings. In Australia, some people take it further, holding the belief that African employees are bad for business, and a investigative report a few years back showed that people with African names were more likely to be passed up for a job than people with names indicative of another ethnicity. The fact that Job prospects improve if you have an Anglo-Saxon name has caused some people to acquire a more “Western” sounding name in order to land a job and there are parents who even choose to give their children English names, to make their lives better.

Now, in the event that you hear someone in the workplace express views that indicate they feel one ethnic group to be inferior and that opportunities for furthering themselves should be limited, do you report that person or do you ignore it with the aim of protecting the person’s freedom of expression? Where does the balance lie? Are such views a threat to the individual freedoms of the ethinicity in question? And is reporting such veiws a threat to freedom of expression?

In today’s world, you see conformity becoming the new aim. People’s right to pursue a livlihood seems constantly under threat and government policy seems hell bent on making people conform to what some consider the norm. Take for instance the vaccination debate; I am a partial vaccinator, and a lot of people look at me funny when I indicate that I dont get the flu vaccine. I recently had a workmate stare at me blankly when I told her that.

You see, I work in the health sector and the health department recommends that health workers get the flu vaccine yearly. Currently, people are allowed to refuse but I wonder how long for. Previously, in Australia, parents could conscientiously object to children being vaccinated and while they still can, in recent years the government has moved to cut entitled payments for non-vaccinators. I believe that in order to maintain the health and wellbeing of families, the role that parents have always had in deciding what is best for their children must be protected. Rather than heavy handed tactics, and threats, and in this case, withdrawal of money that could put children at a disadvantage, goverment needs to create opportunities for discourse, where concerns on both sides are heard. In a democracy, we convince with ideas and not coerce through legislative power.

And yes, I do understand that parents don’t always get it right but to assume that governments are better able to decide the welfare of children is a misplaced idea. For instance, a few years back, there was something wrong with the flu vaccine and had severe reactions, with one child in particular experiencing life-long disability. Personaly, I would be better able to come to terms with something going wrong if I had made the decision on my own, rather than through coercion, and ultimately, it is the family that has to pick up the pieces of any adverse outcome of any choice they make.

That aside through, we also need to remember that the power that government has, needs to always remain in check and that if we give up to many freedoms, we give rise to tyranny. The idea that humans today, are better than those of old, is something we might need to view with a lot of scepticism. The assumption that the rights we take from ourselves and give to government are going to be used to the benefit of society seems to me, a dream far removed from reality and what we have seen happen time and time again suggests that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The little I have seen of the show.


When you have watched too many western shows and decide it’s time to create something similar but for Zambians, what you get is a misrepresentation of your country and its ideals and can’t even get speech norms right. This I say about the misnomer that is “Zuba.” definitely not authentically Zambian and makes me wonder if it was written with the worlds acceptance in mind or to portray our very valid stories. Now, if we the Zambians can not get our own stories out with ourselves in mind, who then will tell these beautiful stories? Or do we just want to seem like zee world and Disney channel, or whatever it is people watch these days?

I have to admit that I have only seen trailers of the episodes and the Character that is Zuba seems to portray some good traits and I would probably like her. I do however look forward to the day when authentic accents and authentic norms are celebrated as vital parts of our story telling process. How many Zambians can relate to the characters? They seem to lack depth and dimension and seem to exist merely for the dramatic; to act as a superficial pastime, a place to let your mind roam, stagnant, with no value to gain.

I have my whole life planned out


I like to think of myself as a master planner when it comes to my life but if you know me, and know me well, you know that I really am not that great at planning. I used to be one of those people who just went with the flow, but I now find that in order to maintain my sanity, I need to have some set plan; and by that, I mean one of those unchanging fixed step by step guides for my day.

Life however is not like that. My parents, I am sure always had plans for each of their kids, and I am sure me having a child at a really young age was not part of it. Still, when it happened they rose to the challenge and walked out the days ahead.

I hadn’t planned on my daughter being as attached as she is to my mother, and I definitely had my mind set on becoming a vet. I had never intended to fall for any man; that to me, was an unnecessary distraction.

Our plans are not to be seen as set in stone, fixed paths on a road, but more like sign posts on an unknown road. Think about it in this way, someone with a good, kind heart wakes you up and says, I want you to get to a place called Destination, but I want you to get there with only a few clues that I will keep giving you as you make the journey. You don’t know what deviations exist on this journey, but you start off. At different points you may find road closures for whatever reason with signs saying detour. Sometimes the earth quakes and leaves you shaken. Sometimes you get magged on the way to Destination and you are left wondering why this good person has led you to this place.

We plan, sort of as attempt to get to what we think the destination is, and then we realise we have not arrived and have to forge ahead towards another pitstop. There are times we allow winds and tides to take us along and sometimes even take us backward. Sometimes we fall and break and lose hope, but rather than feel like failures, we need to trust the One who set us on the journey and walk it out, with plans that we intend to fulfill; plans we are truly working to achieve, but all that in line with the view that Christ is above all, and ultimately, His will is above it all, and that our plans might be changed by the true master planner.

How my mother saved me from one incident of molestation


so today I read a sad story about a 13-year-old who was molested by a vice principal at a her school and the sad events that followed. I couldn’t help but think of my own daughter who is 14 and whether she would be comfortable enough to talk to me about any such experiences. I sometimes wonder, like many parents if we have done enough to protect her or if ever it is possible to protect her.

I was reminded of my own experience from about 20 years ago. I am a Trust school kid, and at the time was in Grade three. I was one of those students who didn’t do her homework and didn’t finish her work in class but still managed to come 12th out of 24 students on the grade ladder. Eventually I think my teacher and my headmistress tired of my attitude and notified my parents. Mum straightened me out on the homework front, but my speed when carrying out tasks was none-existen … still isn’t great. One afternoon, another student and I didn’t finish taking down notes and we were asked by our teacher to go back and finish them (we could go home and eat lunch and then go back  to school). I went  home and because I lived 30 minutes out-of-town, by the time dad dropped me off at the school my classmate had already left.

I went into the class and started taking down notes and a janitor came in to clean the class. At some point he was  standing close to me, and though I can’t remember the conversation, I felt uncomfortable. He reached to touch my face and I pulled away. He kept reaching and I was going to fall off the chair when I blurted out “I’m going to tell my mum”. He left me alone and I stayed clear of him every time I saw him in school. Of course I didn’t tell anyone about it but the reason I have blurted out that I would tell my mum was that I had remembered my mum saying that if anyone touched us in a way we didn’t like (not her exact words) that we should tell her.

I moved to the upper trust school the following year and sometime later, the same Janitor was with another janitor (one who was nice to students) and he tried to join a conversation that the nice janitor was having with me and my sister. I pointed out that I didn’t like him and that I hadn’t forgotten what he had done. He said he didn’t know what I was talking about and I insisted he did and he walked away. His collegue looked puzzled and hezitated before continuing the conversation.

Just that one experience has informed my parenting in an attempt to protect my daughter, but I don’t know if it is effective or not. I started telling her about inappropriate touch from about 2 and a half and tried to make it  clear that if anyone touched her in a way that made her feel bad, she should tell me. Why those words? because most sexual abuse victims will tell you that they felt something was wrong or they felt bad or ashamed and the language needs to make sense to the child. As she’s grown older, my language has also changed and sometimes I simply give her scenarios and ask for her responses. By no means do I think it’s fool-proof, but our options are  limited. We can’t go everywhere with our children but we can give them tools to protect themselves. Even with those tools, their courage may fail, or things might still happen for whatever reason. In such cases, remember to not place blame on the child, and to show them they are loved. And always remember to pray, because where we don’t go, God still goes, and in the end, His ways are higher and His healing hands always able to bind what the enemy destroys.

As for this child, I pray that she  finds peace and that she remembers her worth and beauty and the courage to live life to it’s fullest.

 

26 years of grace


As this day comes to an end, I feel it appropriate to give praise where it is due. God has brought me this far. There are some who might call me crazy for believing in a being I can’t see, but this life has been rough! So, so rough and unrelenting in it’s challenges. When I felt out of place among my peers, with no confidence in myself, it was among God’s people, I found acceptance. It was God who gave me a family that defends, protects, corrects and accepts, even when I have nothing that seems acceptable within me. It is this same God who has seen me through moments of great despair, when all I could see was death. Few would know this, but there were times, plenty of times, when death seemed appealing. When I was so scared of throwing myself in front of a train, that I couldn’t leave the house, it was God who brought healing.

It was Him who gave me the child, who has been a teacher and inspiration. It was God who has kept me standing, brought me joy and brought love into my life when I least expected it. It was him who gifted me with a love for words and poetry, writing and drawing. I am a mother, with endless dreams and possibilities. Everything I have to be proud of, has been given to me. Gift’s, I hope, that can point people toward heaven.

I’m a beautiful work in progress, but oh has He been gracious to me and has never let me down! I am learning to rejoice in His goodness and trust His wounds and to count every blessing. I am filled with a sense of urgency, to make my life count, and if  unchecked, that could make me throw caution to the wind and make a mess of what I believe is a calling. I am not where I want to be, I fall, I’m the “chief of sinners”. I’m flawed, and my greatest prayer lately can be summed up as  “help my unbelief.”

I guess if I died today, I would want people to see God’s stamp at every step in my life. If you learn anything from my flawed life, I hope it’s that God is good and that there is nothing that happens out of His authority, and that if He allows it to happen, it has a purpose! I’m 26, and I’m living again; that is a miracle, that renders me unable to forgo the craziness of believing in a God I can’t see … I have seen Him, in the grace of those who share my belief, in those who shared it before me. I have seen Him in the small details of my life. Not only have I seen Him, I have heard Him and my prayer is that I would see Him and know Him as more valuable than anything else.

Can paedophiles change?


I was reading about the case of the baby who was allegedly abandoned in Thailand by his biological parents, who took his twin sister and brought her back to Perth. I subsequently watched part of an interview broadcast on 60 minutes. If anyone is unaware of the story, quick google search will deliver the story to you. Recently, it has been revealed that the biological father of these children has been convicted of 22 sex offences against children. In the interview, the father claims he no longer has sexual urges towards children and the woman interviewing him makes a statement to the effect that she has interviewed  many paedophiles and they have stated that they will always be paedophiles.

I understand that children should be protected and that we should be concerned with the safety of children, what I am trying to figure out is; is it right to make statements like “once a paedophile, always a paedophile”? If some paedophiles have stated that they will always be that way, does that make the statement true? We are constantly told we have  the power to choose our destiny, so why are we championing the view that people are victims of their biology? Where is the power of choice? In saying to people, this is how you are and you will forever be this way, aren’t we defeating them in the process? Can’t they choose to be different? Can’t they choose who they will be?

Are we making our society safer by making such statements or are we in fact making it harder for people to decide to change and be better? Are we saying, “you are broken and cannot be fixed” and throwing people in the “discard” pile. Doesn’t it seem weird that on one hand we say to paedophiles that they have no choice in the matter, they are who they are, and yet on the other we a so filled with anger when they offend. I think we are so angry because deep down we know that they have a choice and that they are responsible for those choices and it doesn’t come down to mere biological defect.

I personally believe human hearts  and minds can change. They can be renewed and made whole, and while I don’t think I would leave my child in a room with someone who has been convicted of sex offenses, I don’t believe anyone is beyond redemption. There is always hope and every human being should be looked at as an individual, not based on what others have decided about themselves.

The beauty of God’s presence


I feel like heaven’s face is shining on me today. Not just today but every day. I had forgotten what it felt like to read the word, worship and pray. I’ve longed to feel like I did when I got saved, to have my craving for sin vanquished and forgotten. I have many cravings, some sinful, others possibly wholesome. But this past week, I have seen God shift my priorities ever so slightly and yet that small shift has left me feeling like a new person … and all it took was Him showing me, despite my mess and cravings, that I needed to worship Him. In those moments when He is our focus and we strive to have Him be all we think of, He clouds everything we think matters and even the things we seek refuge from. In those moments there is peace and freedom. There is nothing more beautiful than God and the greatest blessing is to be His and experience His great love and presence.

Why support Compassion or Watoto


I wrote a post on why I don’t support Compassion but this one is an argument for why I should. This is by no means a change in my views that long-term Aid cripples rather than lifts up but an addition to it. As I said in the other post, I used to sponsor but due to financial constraints I stopped. It is a commitment that requires a consideration of where you are and whether or not you can continue paying the monthly $48.

1. Compassion and Watoto are honourable in the work they do.

I once had an issue with Compassion over the way information was presented at a conference and got in touch with them. They were open and apologised and explained their policy and how they do things. I was left feeling more confident in the work they do. They let locals tell them what is needed instead of going in and saying “this is the way things should be done.”
The locals run all the programs. They are clear about what it is they are doing with the money and up to date, I have not seen an ad of theirs that uses falsified information.
The same goes for Watoto. And any person who would stay and help people in a war zone, definitely gets respect from me…

2. There are people in Serious need

I used to often look at Aid adverts especially if Africa was mentioned and think “this is not possible, I grew up in Africa and things aren’t that bad.” But isn’t it funny how we are so quick to say that and yet we get so angry when we are grouped together as Africans. I don’t know how many times I have been asked questions that assume I’ve come from poverty because I am African. I think at least two people even assumed I was a refugee. Considering we know that there are variations in culture and circumstances, doesn’t it make more sense that some countries are well better off than others and that what we have seen, is by no means the norm? there are peaceful countries as well as war-torn ones as well as famine and abundance. In the case of countries like Rwanda, Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, etc. there is a need for outside help and Aid, within reason to help them build. Couple the effects of war with HIV, you have children that need caring for. I have never been to any other countries in Africa except my own and Zimbabwe and South Africa. From what I have heard from people who have been to some of these places that have experienced war, the levels of poverty are beyond words. That doesn’t mean however that poverty doesn’t exist in our country…it exists everywhere.

3. Personal responsibility

I am an African and there are very few Africans who sponsor children. Don’t get me wrong! There are a lot and I mean a lot! of Africans who take care of orphaned children within the family as well as outside. But I used to think why should I sponsor children when I have family who need “sponsorship”. I have family with needs and  that those children have family too. But the reality is in war, families are disrupted. Our Pastor who went to Rwanda recently was telling us how in some cases only one family member out of 74 had survived. So many children were left alone, with no one. As an African, it is my responsibility to take care of my own. I came to this conclusion thanks to my Pastors and because of the convictions that God had been placing on my heart prior to that. But hearing what our pastors saw, and their wise counsel, we have to rise up and take responsibility for Africa. I guess it is even possible to say, for those suffering in the world. Starting with our own but growing to fit the whole world in our hearts.

I still hate the adverts with the swollen bellied children and a fly. But in this world, no one is perfect and you can’t have it all. There are only two organisations of this kind that I find this close to perfect. Compassion and Watoto. So if you are going to sponsor a child, definitely do it through them. Also consider the cost and whether you can manage it before you commit but definitely consider it!

We Africans are a lazy bunch


I once posted the heading of this piece on Facebook. I was praised by some but on a larger scale was bombarded by anger and disappointment. No doubt people were thinking “yes, tell them!” and others probably thought I was looking down my nose at Africans because I am in the Western World. This is not even in the least a licence for any non-African to say, “Africans are lazy”. Believe me when I say I love Africa; There is no place more beautiful, no group of people more lovely, no culture more rich and definitely no group of people more hard-working.

Okay, so why would I say we are a lazy bunch if I believe we are hard-working? I don’t believe in stereotypes and this is by no means a labelling of a whole group of people. The simplest answer would be the analogy that if Africa were a person, God would not come back today and say “well done my good and faithful servant!” That is the simplest answer I can give based on the fact that Africa is the richest continent there is. We have every resource, starting from people right down to minerals, land and food. I will give an example of a small country in Southern Africa, called Zambia. Compare Zambia and Australia, you find that the soil in Zambia is way better; throw seed on the ground, it grows. The rain comes every single year without fail. Australia on the other hand is mostly desert. The soil is not as rich and the rain not as reliable and yet they manage to produce food and even export it.

We have been blessed with so much and yes, our challenges are huge! The thing is, these challenges are meant to grow us, not make us shrink back and stop trying. We have been ravaged by HIV and AIDS, leaving many orphaned, yet we are not leading the effort to find a cure. Malaria is stunting the growth of  our economies and yet there is little effort on our part to get rid of it. We are at the mercy of pharmaceutical companies that have no need to care about Africa. We allow people from other parts of the world to dictate how we run our countries. When the west came with baby formula saying it was better for babies, we let them in and even though we still breast feed our children, they came back years later to teach us how to breast feed. We allow ourselves to be shown as incompetent because at the end of it we will get some money.

Instead of working hard to develop our countries, our politicians are lazy and power-hungry only concerned with lining their pockets, forgetting that the Africa they are building will be the Africa their grandkids occupy. Our mines are owned by foreigners and we all sit back and watch as what is ours is taken from us, tax-free. How can a continent so rich be so dependent on the western world for Aid??? Why is there no justice in our own countries when the one victimising us is a foreigner? Why have we made ourselves so vulnerable? How long will we cry colonialism and how long will we blame the world for our failures?

Belgium and France might have divided the Rwandans but it was a African leader who was too lazy to do his job that he decided it made sense to make a difference as small as tribe be what people focused on, and it was the people, marching with weapons who chose to kill, regardless of who shot the Presidents plane down or who supplied the weapons. It wasn’t Britain that bought designer suits using Zambian Tax payers money while education standards were falling. It wasn’t Britain dividing and conquering us, as people took to the streets with weapons because their political party had internal fractions. It wasn’t colonial masters that took farms by force in Zim and after the white farmers left, it wasn’t them that failed to manage the farms. Yes sanctions were imposed but there was still a whole continent willing to trade with Zim. In the same vein, it wasn’t the Colonial “masters” that mismanaged ZCCM to a point that we couldn’t run our mines. The examples are endless.

We keep pointing to what the Colonial “masters” did but our choices today are ours and we have to take responsibility for them. Our street kid problem can not be blamed on the “powers that are trying to divide and conquer Africa” but us! We have failed to take care of our children. And as long as we blame “them”, aren’t we then saying, we are still under “them”?

I know there are a lot of people who spend sleepless nights studying for exams. There are people tilling the land and people working endless hours trying to provide for their families, but in a sense like the servant in the bible, we have buried the gifts given to us and refused to multiply them. And it seems that even that which we have, is being taken from us.

When God gave  the bags of money to the servants, he gave them each according to their ability. We have been given so much! Have we really realised how able we are to change the lives of our people? We can bless the world! Why would God choose us, to give all this wealth to? Considering to whom much is given, much is required, have we really lived up to the requirements of our gifts?

The issue isn’t how hard we work as individuals but that we as a continent, are waiting for the world to solve our problems. I was asked what I was doing to change my country and continent because all I do is talk. I don’t claim to know it all. I know I am part of the problem and I hope and pray that we will rise up and fight this fight to see ourselves as worthy of more. That we will be able to say “I am responsible for my country and continent!” if anyone has interfered with the goings on of my house, it is because I have let them!

Yes, maybe lazy isn’t the best term but I have racked my mind to find a better term and cannot. We need to stop looking at greener pastures and complaining about what we don’t have and start working with what we have because it is so much more than we realise.  Being in Perth for 6 years has made me realise just how blessed we are as Africans. To whom much is given, much is required and considering how much we have been given, we will be held accountable for a lot!