Day 14- Last Day at Chilinza
What can I say, my hand is tired from writing, so I’m going to finish up this journal by typing the rest of my notes. I’m a 21st century storyteller after all.
Anyway, today was our last day in Chilinza village and our last full day in Africa altogether. Our flight leaves tomorrow afternoon so we spent today saying goodbye to our students and spending time simply “being” in the village, like we did in Chimpampa last week. We went to the market, where I got more earrings from my main man Alex, a bowl created by the vendor’s brother, whose name is Moses, and a bracelet for Aubrey since he got me one too. After I spent the rest of my kwacha, aka balled out at the market, we headed to Chilinza.
When we arrived, the kids were just finishing up their school day, so we were able to catch most of them before they went home. Rachel gathered them all together and explained that today was our last day with them and that we had come to say bye. They didn’t know we were going to be there as they thought their last day with us was Tuesday, after the performance. I thought so too, but thank goodness we got another day with them because by the end of that light show, things were so chaotic with everyone trying to grab lanterns that it was impossible to find any of the kid’s little faces in the dark to hug and say bye to. So being able to actually say my goodbyes was a relief.
I gathered my 4th grade students who were still around and took group pictures with them, which is their favorite as they love to look at themselves since they don’t have mirrors or cameras of their own. I also had Mwai, my main translator, tell them all how much I loved them and how sad I was to be leaving them. Even as I write this I’m tearing up because I’m missing them all so much already, just one day later as I reflect on this day. I adore these kids. All I want is to stay with them and protect them and continue to show them how valuable and loved they are. So leaving is not easy.
We spent some time reading together- which meant I had a crowd of 20 plus kids gathered around me as I read from one of their school books. The stories in their books were quite grim, so reading them out loud in my animated, silly way was well.... Interesting. All the stories were cautionary tales about what would happen if a child missed school or misbehaved, so yeah, not the most uplifting of reading materials, but they couldn’t understand what I was saying anyway since it was in English. But being able to hangout with them made up for the unfortunate stories I was belting at full volume for the cuties to hear.
After that, we all just walked around the village, hand in hand with whatever child grabbed onto us first. I went with one of my students to her home and met her sister, a 20 year old girl who already has two kids. Then I found myself aggressively claimed by a little girl who was probably no older than 3. She would not let go of my hand to save her life and if another child tried to steal me away, she’d rip their hand off of mine and push them away. It was both adorable and hilariously intense. What was even funnier though, was that people kept bringing random babies to me and shoving them in my face while saying “this one, this one.” No clue why they wanted me to hold or be around those babies so much, I felt like they wanted my azungu blessing or something. Azungu, by the way, means “white person” in Chichewa and it’s what all the kids call us. In fact, they chant the word over and over whenever we arrive too. It essentially is the same thing as calling someone a gringo- a rich, white foreigner, but they mean it in the most enduring way possible so we accept it.
The best part of the day was when the chief took us over to the 2 acres of land that they donated to Mosaic so we could see it and pray over it. We walked around the perimeters of the acreage with all the kids and village members following us and it was a truly special moment. Martionne prayed over the land and if you know Martionne, you know God has gifted him with an incredible ability to pray like no other. When he speaks, it’s as if God is speaking directly to you. It’s always powerful. So hearing Martionne pray in this moving way over a piece of land that’s been gifted to us by a tribe that we’re working to help and change, was core shattering. I couldn’t contain my tears as I thanked Jesus for the blessing He’s giving us and for the work He’s prepping us to do in that place and on that land.
So many amazing things are coming and I could feel that in my bones as the sun shined down on us all while we prayed. It was an emotional, transformative and omnipotent time. I could feel the 4th grade girl whose hand I was holding look up at me as the tears ran down my face and there’s no doubt she was a bit confused, but by the end of my time with her, I could feel we had formed a strong attachment. I believe she was one of my students, but I don’t remember spending much time with her in the classroom, so I’m glad I was able to show her love on our last day. As I was saying bye to her, she told me how much she’d miss me, and I kept putting my hand over my heart to gesture to her how much I loved her.
Saying goodbye was just as hard with all the other kids as it was with that brave girl whose hand I clutched as I prayed for God to move through the land we’d been given. I hugged them all so tightly and kept rubbing their backs or squeezing their arms, both forms of endearment I had started using throughout the two weeks I was with them to motion to them that they were loved, since I couldn’t use words to verbally express how I felt. My goal was to make every child who I laid eyes on feel special. So every time we’d stand with them as Rachel taught them a song or as our translators went over our plans with them before we broke up into the classrooms, I’d make sure to acknowledge, lovingly touch or joke around with every single little one that I noticed looking at me. I’d fist bump them or rub their arms or poke their noses- anything at all to show them I saw them and I loved them and that they were beyond worth my time and attention.
So, that’s why saying bye was so devastating. All those kids that I spent the last two weeks forming bonds with were now standing around me, hugging me one by one to say goodbye. They knew I was sad and I could tell they were too. Some girls teared up and I had to continually look away so they wouldn’t see me cry. I’m breaking down and sobbing as I right this. Perhaps it’s just now hitting me how much I’ll miss them and how much they impacted me. Plus I’m incredibly jet lagged and sleep deprived so my emotions are going haywire.
But in all seriousness, these kids transformed me. It shattered my heart every day to watch them dust off the floor so they could set their papers down and color on it since they have no desks. Watching them frantically grab for the lunches we brought them daily was devastating. And teaching them that they are light and that they can always let their light shine was monumental. So much happened in these past two weeks that shook me at my core. So much changed my perspective. So much crept its way into my heart and affected me. I pray that I can go back next year, but if not, I already know that those tiny faces looking up at me will forever be in my heart. I love them with every fiber of my being and am so grateful God allowed me to be a part of their story, and them mine.