I am writing this as Kirk and I are on a plane back from a “quick” trip to Zambia. Upon our return, we will only have been gone from San Antonio six days. However, it takes well over 24 hours of flying just to get to or from Zambia. We were blessed with four fulfilling days there though. We were also blessed with four friends who traveled with us: two pastors from a church in Oregon who wanted to see how there church might become involved and some of our best friends, another doctor couple from our home group in San Antonio who’ve now moved to Okinawa.
This was my second trip to Zambia and Kirk’s fifth. We first went there in July 2001 when we were asked by the crisis pregnancy center that we were on the board of to visit a center that they supported inKitwe, Zambia. It was then that we met Pastor and Mrs. Edward and Barbra Mwansa and were touched by their heart to serve the Lord in ministering to the people of Zambia. One-and-a-half years later, Kirk, who was inspired by the orphanage work of the late George Mueller (who took care of as many as 2,100 orphans without ever asking man for money but by faithfully seeking God for provision) and the overwhelming number of AIDS orphans in Zambia, felt that God was leading us to help start an orphanage in Zambia. He wrote an e-mail to Pastor Edward asking him to pray about it. Just six months later, through a series of miraculous events, Kirk was there to witness the opening of For Hearts and Souls Children’s Village (FHASCV) in a rented home in Kitwe in July 2003. On a subsequent trip to Zambia in January 2004, Kirk inquired of the “mothers” who so faithfully take care of the orphans what they thought the orphanage needed and their common response was: a home of their own. FHAS was subsequently able to acquire land and Kirk returned in September 2004 with some other volunteers from the U.S. to help pour the foundation for the new building. This trip was to witness the opening of that new building.
The “opening ceremony” was Sunday afternoon. The worship team from Pastor Edward’s church sang a song at the ceremony that easily expressed the theme for the trip: “Come and See What the Lord Has Done.” The miraculous hand of God is so indescribably evident in the fact that despite obstacles too numerous to quickly summarize, this building was erected in such a short amount of time. The original rented FHASCV was meant to house ten orphans. At the time of the new house opening, eighteen children were being taken care of by FHASCV. The new house will likely accommodate up to thirty children.
Prior to taking this trip, I admit questioning whether it was a wise use of time and resources. It was going to be so short and relatively expensive. I was convicted over and over on the trip though how important it was that I was there, not for anything I could contribute, but for everything that the experience had to teach me. As I struggle to write this, I realize how words are so inadequate to explain what I was able to “come and see.” One of the most inspiring things to see was the orphans themselves. It’s one thing to talk about caring for orphans. It’s another to see them, to hold them, to play with them, to see them smile and laugh and cry, to put faces to names. There were eighteen of them, all with incredible stories. All are orphans of AIDS. Seven are HIV-positive. The youngest is two months. Most are toddlers. We laughed at this sea of little people we saw moving around, all about the same height. The oldest is twelve. They are thankfully surrounded by love. There are eight “mothers” who take care of them full time. Pastor Edward’s church members are heavily involved in volunteering there. They called most of us adults “mommy” or “daddy.” They loved to be held and played with and talked to and read to. I say there were eighteen of them, because as of today there are only seventeen. The littlest one, Peter, died this morning, right before we left. He had HIV. We noticed he looked sickly when we first met him on Saturday. By Sunday, he was in the hospital. By this morning, he had died. He’s the sixth child that has died since the orphanage opened and the second this month alone. He’ll be buried tomorrow in a baby graveyard that is very full and very busy. There were four of us physicians on the trip. We were all struck by, despite all our combined skills and training, because of his disease and because of the scarcity of resources, there was so little we could do for him.
That was the other important thing to see: the magnitude of the need. I cannot adequately communicate the passion and heart of Edward and Barbra for the people of Zambia. Theirs is an incredible ministry, that includes a church, the crisis pregnancy center, and the orphanage, that God in His providence has led them to in order to meet many needs. Barbra has an incredible ability to put their experiences into words. One night, as we were visiting in their very nice house by Zambian standards, she told me that “you know, you sit in this house in Zambia and everything looks fine. But something is terribly wrong in this country. Our people are dying.” She talked about the life expectancy of males in Zambia now being around 33. One in four, to maybe even one in three, Zambians are HIV-positive. There is an extremely high rate of HIV positivity in the teenage population. She said “we’re about to lose an entire generation.” She has an incredible passion to talk to teens about abstinence, the only foolproof method of protection against HIV. She says she talks to them about their hopes and their dreams and how best to protect themselves so they can live out those hopes and dreams. And on days when babies die, she says she wants everyone to be able to witness that experience. I believe it was God-ordained that we did.
We’ve had four days of seeing how much the Lord has accomplished in this ministry and how much more He is calling us to. We’ve got big dreams and visions: more room for more orphans, outreach to orphans who live with extended family, a school for orphans, a home for teenage girls that would save them from a life of prostituting themselves for food on the street and teach them skills to get a job, a farm where possibly teenage boys could live and raise chickens and crops, a medical clinic that would increase the medical resources and standard of care for the community. They’re God-sized dreams. But He’s already shown us what He can do. Meanwhile, FHASCV will keep loving orphans. And since we’ve chosen to minister to AIDS orphans, many more will probably die. But, as Kirk says, they’ll be loved into heaven. And when they get there, they won’t be surprised by the love of Jesus, because they saw it lived out in those who took care of them on earth.
Dr. Kim Milhoan, President, For Hearts and Souls