What Africa Taught Me

Ashley Larea Africa Mission Trip 2019 family legacy

wow.

I’m not really sure where to start. Words don’t really describe this kind of experience no matter how hard you try. If you’ve been on a mission trip to Africa or somewhere else help vulnerable children you know what the other side of the world looks like and how drastically different our lives are from it. My brain couldn’t grasp that people live in the conditions I saw. And I don’t speak in any type of hierarchy or being better than anyone. It actually showed me just how equal we really are. We are all the same. We all came from the same place. How could we let our own kind live like this? How is this happening?

Camp Life in Africa

During Camp Life, each American had 10 kids and two translators/partners for one week. I was put with girls ages 6-10 (the youngest in the camp) which I’m so grateful for because I have always loved young children. I know how bad that sounds but I don’t mean it in a weird way, haha. I babysat for nearly 10 years all different ages and there’s just something about the really young ones that show such a true sense of what humans are in our core. Before we learned what we can’t unlearn. True and raw emotions. Quick to anger, resolve, forget. Quick to trust and give chances. To have faith in someone before they give you a reason to. Quick to accept what’s in front of them for what it is. And quicker to enjoy even the smallest things and run with it. They live with their heart first and don’t lead with logic or questioning, trust issues, shame, expectations, guilt, or whatever it may be. They are just them, unapologetically. It never fails to inspire me.

In Africa, it took that purity to a different level because they didn’t know much excess. Their “toys” were their hands and voices. They dug things up, builded things out of nothing, and games were all speaking games. It was remarkable to see their creativity and contentment in what we would find disappointment in. It really taught me something that I’ve tried to ingrain in my brain since I’ve left.

What makes you happy is what you allow to make you happy.

What a concept.

I’m always reaching for more, wanting more, needing just one more thing, I need this to make this easier, blah blah blah. These kids don’t even entertain thinking beyond what they already have. They don’t ask for more. Moreover, even with nothing these kids share whatever they have to their name. My first day while we were eating lunch one of my girls, Beauty, ate 1 of her 4 pieces of bread then wrapped the rest up with her drink (a huge deal for them). She made a bag out of her sweatshirt to carry what she would bring home and share with her sister and cousin. This 7 year old child eats once a day, maybe, and she gets the jackpot of food and doesn’t even think of herself for a second! She wasn’t the only one who would wrap up her food to take home everyday for their family. Their normal was so hard for me to comprehend.

They were so curious about my life and where the heck I came from. Why was my skin light? Are there more of me? Are we the only white people on the planet? Does God love me more? One of my girls, Anna, asked me if there are other colored people where I come from. I didn’t really know what to say. Not because I didn’t know the answer, but because she thought her coloring wasn’t unique and mine somehow was. You can imagine with them being so young, things had to be very simple when being explained. So races, religions, countries, etc. was just not an option to introduce. I told her where I come from, we have ALL colors and we all are beautiful and equal. Her face lit up when I told her we even have blue people (her favorite color). They call white people “Muzungus” (mes-oon-goos), and would scream and yell for muzungus because they thought we were Holy. And I’m being serious and not trying to make a joke. They thought we had super powers. Women came up to me just to pray over them because they thought God would listen to me more than them. The girls would cry and ask if I could give them some of my skin. Or a piece of my hair because they had never seen long hair before. We took group pictures and I took out a brush to just get my hair all back in order after playing football and they looked at that brush like I brought down Jesus’s personal bible. What the heck was that? They watched me run it through my hair quickly and they all jumped on me screaming asking me what that was and if they can try.

You don’t really think about the little stuff like that. Most of them don’t know their birthday or even how old they are. They just kind of guess. We were not allowed to throw away trash because they would fight over it. A ziplock bag from a muzungu? It was like gold. They constantly shocked me with their unshakeable joy with having so little and still beyond excited. Who am I to ever complain about anything?

What They Taught Me

We were there to teach them but it was them who did all the teaching. The excess, the complications, variables, guilt, and shame that we know in our everyday decisions and lives are foreign concepts to them – they just feel and act. I get hurt losing a friendship, leave a job, not exceed expectations, not have enough to show for myself, and 10000’s more I could name to feel sorry for myself. These beautiful girls know more pain than I knew existed and still greeted me with overflowing love, empathy, joy, understanding, and acceptance. They didn’t know me, or my story, but never second guessed if I was worthy of love because of it. Of the many things they taught me, that is the one thing I want to bring into my everyday life at home. Encourage simpler relationships and emotions. Don’t add more than needed. Just listen to people.. There is no rush. No finish line. At the end of the day, we are all the same.

Always In My Heart

This indescribable experience was through Family Legacy and went to Camp Life, which is what this week is called. They have 7 weeks of the summer where they invite Americans over to mentor the kids for a week. About 100 Americans come every week to take care of 10 kids each. You also get to keep your kids in the future, so if I go next year I will have my same group of girls! They remember you and truthfully, something in you changes when someone on the other side of the world is praying for you.

Family Legacy builds schools in these kids communities to have a chance for better life and give the gift of education. They are not the only organization helping educate children in Africa, but they are the only organization that owns the schools, when others work with the local community schools. Family Legacy owns and operates 24 private, Christian academies in 17 communities throughout Lusaka, Zambia and at the Tree of Life Children’s Village. I choose to sponsor one of my girls (in the pink jacket above) because she touched my heart and impacted me so much during the week. A sponsorship means I will pay $48/month for her to go to school and receive a quality education and be fed, daily. Her name is Joyce and only 6 years old. My baby!!!! I can send her letters any time I want and she can send them back! I’m thrilled to set aside this money in my monthly budget to let her go to school. I know if I’m having a bad day or disappointed in myself or whatever it may be, helping this girl go to school is something that will always make me happy and proud.

If you would like to sponsor a child or have any questions regarding Africa or Camp Life, please email me! Click here for my ambassador page. 3 of my beautiful girls still need a sponsor 🙂 You are changing lives.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my trip to Africa!

Ndiwowa bwino! (you are beautiful in nyanja)

Comments

  1. I loved reading about your experience in Zambia. I’m sure you made a huge difference for the girls; showing them unconditional love, JOY & hope! Thank you for sharing.

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