Being a woman isn't an easy thing anywhere. Being a woman in Zambia..... well it seems to be about as hard as it gets.
This is "Mama".
Mama has been cooking for one of Wiphan's schools for 12 years. This steaming pot of corn meal is called shema. It's a staple food in Ndola. It's cheap and filling and provides nutrients. Let me tell you something - Mama is one STRONG woman. She offered to let me try stirring the shema. I. could. not. move. the. spoon. It was a little bit embarrassing. She just stirred and flopped that stuff around like it was in a small pot on the top of my stove. I left in awe of Mama.
This is Gertrude and two of her graduated students. Gertrude teaches the hospitality program for Wiphan. She trains these girls in the area of hospitality so that they can secure jobs in lodges and hotels around town. Nearly every single girl or guy (there are a few guys) that comes through her program goes on to secure employment right out of training. Gertrude does an AMAZING job with these women.
This is Elizabeth. Elizabeth works with Wiphan. Her job is to create new families! Elizabeth pairs orphans who have no other place to go with widows who have no means of providing for themselves. These widows care for the orphans and receive support from Wiphan for their basic needs like food and blankets and sometimes even a home if needed.
These are the women who work in Wiphan's jewelry program. They make beads and then jewelry from paper and seeds. The jewelry is then sold in Ndola and also brought back to the U.S. to be sold to raise money for Wiphan.
We had the privilege of visiting with and praying over these women and children. This is one of the families being served by Lifespring's Home Based Care ministry.
They were busy popping popcorn to sell.
These women sit by the side of the road EVERY DAY crushing rock. For hours and hours with their children sitting nearby, they break stones to create gravel for sale. See what I mean when I say being a woman in Zambia is just about the hardest thing you can imagine? I learned that widows in Zambia are basically discarded people. If a woman's husband dies, his family has the right to come and take everything from her. Nothing belongs to her. She is often left with literally nothing. On top of that, they have some superstitions that lead them to believe that her dead husband's spirit can only leave her and rest in peace if she sleeps with (basically is raped by) a man who is considered able to "cleanse" her. Can you even imagine?
The women of Ndola are beautiful and strong. Some of them are clearly hardened by the unbelievable circumstances under which they only manage to survive. But so many of them are full of hope and joy and choose to praise God even under these circumstances. They inspire me and they challenge me in my weakness. Especially Mama. Mama and this lady breaking stones all day long - these are WOMEN. I'd like to think I would be woman enough to gladly stir shema with a 6 foot spoon everyday or break rocks with a tiny hammer everyday if that's where I found myself in this life - but I can't say that I think I'd be woman enough.