small things, with great love

Hello family and Gonzaga-in-Zambezi followers,

We have all arrived safely in Livingstone and have turned the page on our Zambezi chapter of this Zambian novel.  After three incredible growth-filled weeks with the Zambezi community, it was difficult to say goodbye to friendships, new and old.  We have worked hard each day to provide health lessons, leadership courses, computer classes, and a school literacy program with our partners.  During our final week in Zambezi, I heard from many Zambians, in the church and throughout the community, about how much they appreciated the opportunity to learn with our Gonzaga students.  As Sandu, a man who biked three hours from his home to attend leadership lessons, said to our students at the completion of their course, “we give special thanks to you: we believe knowledge is the weapon to success in life”.

Parents, you should be very proud of your son or daughter in this program.  They have been a thoughtful group, entering into the struggles this program offers with grace and intentionality.  They have asked each other the difficult questions, danced until it hurts, laughed with deep joy, and supported each other through tears.  The relationships they have formed will be remembered in Zambezi, and they live like a family, a Zam Fam.  I could not ask for any more.

When spending time in Zambezi, I often think of Mother Teresa’s words, “we can do no great things –only small things, with great love.”  While students have wrestled with questions about their impact on the Zambezi community, I take comfort in the “small things done with great love” that Gonzaga has worked alongside with the Zambezi community over the past seven years. As you probably figured out by now, we did not eradicate poverty in the Zambezi district, or feed each hungry family we encountered.  Besides a school library we are building in partnership with the Chilena Basic School and a house the church rents out, Gonzaga has not left “tangible” buildings (great things) in this community.   However, I am proud of the work that was accomplished this year by your Gonzaga student, and you would be hard pressed to find a Zambian who has encountered this group who would not greet you, then offer a kind example of their relationship with Gonzaga.

I have been thinking a lot about the access to information and education that those of us in the U.S. have been privileged to experience.  If we have a question about the world, many of us can reach into our pockets, pull out our smart phones and search for the answer.  If we are feeling really clever (or lazy) we can even ask Siri to search for us: “Siri, what is the capital of Nebraska?”  If we want to develop a new skill or seek new knowledge, we can enroll in a university course, research at a local library, or seek professional development.  However, for many Zambians, particularly those in the Zambezi district, the opportunity to learn is unattainable because of the lack of educational opportunities.  Many intelligent, motivated Zambians are hungry for the opportunity to learn, and have come to look forward to the courses that Gonzaga students provide.  Often, these three-week courses have been the spark to start new businesses (Henrix’s brick company, Chansa’s shop, Julius’ citrus farm, Mary’s tailoring) or community development (Julius’ community school, Mama Love’s NGO).  We empower these inspiring Zambians to take the next step to make their community better, to stand on their own two feet. These small things, done with great love can make a difference. Sure, it’s an imperfect relationship at times, but it is a relationship.  As Aaron Ausland reminds us, “friendship, real and deep, in the foundation of giving that empowers.”

I wanted to conclude by introducing you to a couple of our close friends in Zambezi, relationships that inspire the Gonzaga community.  John Mwewa is the retired headmaster of Chilena Basic School.  If you buy some Zambia Gold honey, you are supporting Chilena’s education and the library they are constructing.  John was instrumental in forming this partnership with Gonzaga University.  John and his wife, Winfrieda, have hosted Gonzaga students in homestays and as a member of the Catholic Church council, John is one of the first people to welcome our students.  While John has participated in the leadership and sustainability course in past years, I was inspired to see this 60-something man enroll for the advanced computer lessons course this year.  John shared with me that he felt a little awkward about being about 35 years older than many students.  However, he said that he was curious about computers and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn.  Our computer teachers (Shaun, Conner & Nate) said he was a fantastic and joyful student, and I loved when he showed up to our “graduation” from the course wearing his academic gown.

You have surely heard about the hardest working Zambian woman I know, Mama Kawatu.  As our cultural guide, cook and Lunda instructor, I would challenge anyone to walk in the shoes of Mama for a day and not be inspired and humbled.  She becomes our “African mama” for the program providing nourishment, love, and wisdom to twenty students and faculty while caring for her own seven children, running a knitting business, and serving on church committees.  Through her work with Gonzaga, Mama Kawatu has assisted her husband in building a home, (with new metal roof coming this week), a knitting room, and provided running water to her home.  She remembers and asks about students from the past seven years of our program, and considers herself a Zag.  Mama Kawatu has provided a tangible example for us all about what it means to be a servant leader.

So, tomorrow will bring Victoria Falls and exploring Livingstone.  On Friday, we start off for Botswana and our safari.  I’m not sure we will have time to blog, but we will check in before leaving for Lusaka.

My sincere thanks to all parents and families for supporting your children’s dreams and curiosities about the world.  I read an interesting quote today that I believe speaks to the power of our travel experience and the growth each of us are experiencing and will be processing in the weeks and months ahead.

“for if every true love affair can feel like a journey to a foreign country, where you can’t quite speak the language, and you don’t know where you are going, and you’re pulled ever deeper into the inviting darkness, every trip to a foreign country can be a love affair, where you’re left puzzling over who you are and whom you’ve fallen in love with….All good trips are, like love, about being carried out of yourself and deposited into the midst of terror and wonder.” – Pico Iyer

“Dr. Joshua” Armstrong, Gonzaga University

Comprehensive Leadership Program (CLP)

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15 Responses to small things, with great love

  1. Tom Hobson says:

    Many thanks to you Dr Josh for providing this wonderful opportunity for our students! Safe travels everyone!

  2. Lynda McCann says:

    Dr Josh…How do we, how can we ever thank you enough for ALL you have done for our children? This experience is something that so many people dream about and you have made it a reality! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!!! Thank you for preparing them, for keeping us informed every day, for having the website (our window to you all), for keeping them safe, for taking time away from your loved ones, for organizing it all and for just being so amazing!! Thank you for allowing Kaitlyn to discover Africa with you all! THANK YOU!
    Katie…we love you and miss you but are thrilled for you and before you know it, it’ll all be a memory…keep journaling, so you don’t forget anything and keep snapping pictures…I know you are, but i had to say it… I can’t wait to see them all. Crossing my fingers you see tons of elephants! Yesterday a package came from Lululemon…I’m thinking they must be your shorts for the run…hope you were able to run a little so Morgkungfu won’t be pulling you ;) Wendy left for camp Seymour today and YAY YAY YAY she was put in Tawnya and Shannon’s cabin so you can imagine how happy I am and she is ;) Kourt went and did her last check out this morning…she’s done with Stadium and graduation is Saturday…we’ll miss you being there but Gram and Gumpa are coming to the graduation ceremony so she’s very happy…and she’s now officially a BULLDOG too! Okay my beautiful girl and everyone else…enjoy one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World…the largest single sheet of flowing water…WOW! Take it all in …but be safe!! I love you! (((Hugs))) to you all! ~Lynda (Kaitlyns very thankful Mom)

  3. The envious Larry Newman says:

    Thanks Dr. Armstrong for providing my daughter and all the other students the opportunity to witness life as they could never experience here in the states. Experiences like these will help immensely as they go through life with an increased sense of empathy.

    Megan, TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS!!!!! I’m super eager to look at the images and walk through maps with you when you get back. Love, ya.
    Gotta go,
    Dad

  4. Christian Hoag says:

    Dr. Josh, Thank you so much for the post!! It’s so relieving to hear that you all are safe in Livingstone. I cannot wait to hear about the journey that awaits all of you there! Also, thank you for sharing about John Mwewa and Mama Kawatu. Hearing about their attitudes towards life and work, in a seemingly less fortunate place, humbles me greatly, and makes me think twice about my own attitude towards my commitments. Even though I didn’t go to Zambia, I still feel like I learned something about myself, and life in general, simply through reading all of your beautifully written blogs, so thank you everyone!

    Katie, you are so amazing!! I’m so proud of you and so humbled by you for doing what you did in Zambezi! You’re an amazing person and teacher and I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of love and effort and knowledge you gave to all of your students and friends and new family in Zambezi. I’m so happy that you got to share your gracious, unconditional loving attitude with everyone you met on this trip. And I cannot wait to hear about it!! I hope that you experienced you had hoped to experience in your time in Zambezi, and I hope you experience everything you want to experience in Livingstone. Live it up!!! But also be safe about it haha. I’m thinking about you all the time here in Spokane, and looking forward to seeing you again. Have fun Katie, be safe!! I love you.
    Christian

  5. theo house says:

    Thank you Dr Armstrong for all you have done for Zambia and the Gonzaga students. So glad to hear you all had safe journeys. enjoy your safari and sight seeing. Hopefully one day all involved, students, yourself, and all the family members can get together and take time to share this outstanding experience in person. take care one and all.
    Theo , Andre, Chad House.
    Cant wait to hear from you Conner, . Love You, and enjoy taking lots of pics to share with all.

  6. Monte Marti says:

    Thank you Dr. Joshua.

    People flourish when they have an opportunity to serve under the leadership of a servant leader. My assessment via the blog postings is that all have flourished. This has also enabled those they have engaged in the community the opportunity to flourish. The impact of this experience will be measured out over many years and in many different ways. This will include memories that will recreate smiles for all that have embraced this opportunity. You make me smile. GOD BLESS! Monte

  7. carole marti says:

    Thank you Dr Armstrong for such a great post, and thank you also to God and his angels for getting you all safely to where you are now, getting ready to see the falls. What a great opportunity for all of you, one of the wonders of the world. So few people get to experience that privilege in their lifetimes. And thanks to you Dr Armstrong for showing these students what being a true leader is really all about. It is not about getting people to follow you and act like you. Being a leader is about teaching and watching those that have a mission or task to accomplish figure out the things that it takes to succeed; being a good leader entails watching these people go through trial and error trying to figure things out until they usually succeed. and you are there as a leader to guide them but not TELL them what to do. From reading all the blogs as well as what you have put out today, I think the “leadership” part of CLP has definitely taken hold in the students that have been in Zambia for the past several weeks.

    I hope you all are able to post a picture of the falls in your next post. I have only seen “tourist” versions of it! Enjoy this bonding time as a family. the days are winding down……

    Love to shaun and to all of you.

    Carole Marti

  8. Hikaru says:

    Josh, thank YOU. Keeping you all in my thoughts as you enter this new chapter.

    Hugs on hugs on hugs,
    Hikaru

  9. Erin Dorsey says:

    Josh,
    When Delaney described the pre-Zambezi retreat you led at Hayden Lake, I knew that she would be in good hands. That meaningful conversations would occur and personal boundaries would be expanded. After witnessing the Zambia group blessing in the student chapel on campus, I knew the group would be blessed and safe. As Delaney mentioned in her blog, this for her was a life-long dream. I am so very grateful to you for creating this opportunity, for the time away from your own family and as a colleague I know how exhausting the end of Spring term is and how we all welcome summer break. You simply went right back to work. Thank you. I look forward to seeing on campus and hearing your stories. To the Zam Fam have fun playing and being tourists at Victoria Falls and the safari. You’ve earned it!! Of course…a short piece from my favorite Irish poet John O’Donohue called Fluent in honor of the great Zambezi river.

    I would love to live
    like a river flows
    carried by surprise
    of its own unfolding.

    Delaney Nora…we miss you and love you!

  10. Constanza Ponce de Leon says:

    I am SO EXCITED for you guys to experience the energy of Victoria Falls! Such an awesome place!! Run, dance, shout and take it all in. It’s like nothing you’ve experienced before.

    Josh, as Hikaru mentioned in a previous post we are so thankful for the existence and continuance of this program. It had and continues to have a very significant impact on the person I am today. So thank you. Slash please don’t let Teo climb anything too intense while at The Falls. I can just see it..

    Teo, I can’t imagine how excited you must be to continue with this part of the Zambia adventure, yet bummed about leaving life-long friends at Zambezi. Bitter sweet, but I’m sure you’ve been living it all to the fullest while being present with them. I can’t wait to hear about it. Please don’t climb anything too intense while at the falls.

    Lots of hugs to all of you! Save travels :)

    Constanza

  11. Andre House says:

    Josh- what an awesome program and program servant leader! We are so thankful for your guidance and role model leadership you instill upon our young adults! Thank you for ALL that you do and for letting us know you reached Livingston safely.

    Conner- Enjoy this next adventure and take lots of pictures!! BTW- is that an ankle wrap on your right ankle? I hope you’re OK…….Love you, Mom.

  12. Brady says:

    Have such a great time at the Falls!! And the Safari of course. So much natural beauty to experience and feel so alive — you are in for a real treat.

    Garrett — I am wondering about the Siri line from this post…hope they’re not giving you a hard time. Midwesterners sticking together, I got you.

    Teo — Climb everything intense at Victoria Falls!!!!

    Josh — As always, you rock.

    Have fun ZamFam! We all are missing you tons.

  13. Nicole Bene (chindele of summer 2010) says:

    HELLO CHINDELES! Tonight I’m going to a Zumba for Zambia fundraiser to raise funds for a women’s health clinic in Lusaka. So even though many of you don’t know me and I am not right there in the convent living room with you, I will be shaking my bum all the way over here in Seattle for our Zambia friends. Can you believe how fast that flew by and yet how you feel like you’ve been there forever? Trippy, huh? Thank you all for sharing your thoughts on the blog. You brought me right back to the spectrum of emotion that Zambia thrusts upon us. Megan, you are so right when you say your answer for “How was Zambia?” will be long. I found it frustrating at times to muster up adjectives that did it justice. My trick was finding a few good stories that I could tell when asked that question. So be sure to guard yourself with some of your favorite stories before getting off the plane.

    Josh, thanks for another great round of blogs. Can’t wait to cross paths with you again and start where we left off.

    Meggo, you are wonderful. I can barely wait to just grab you and chat for hours about your adventures. Enjoy London and be sure to suggest a couple Zambezi names to Will and Kate because that baby is due any day and they are going to need your help! I bet Princess Kate would look great with a chitenge wrapped around her back. (Josh, don’t you agree?) I’m off to Camp Goodtimes in a week so I promise to start a mega water balloon fight in your honor. MISS YOU!

    Ok well I am going to grab a chitenge and head out to Zumba now. Love you all!!

    Kisu Mwane,
    Nicole

  14. Dave Houglum says:

    Josh,
    So great to read your blog! I’m very happy to hear that you have arrived in Livingstone! Melissa often reads the blogs to me out loud, just like we did in Zambezi. It really brings them to life! Your students have inspired us through their writing and reminded us of many important lessons that we learned and the beautiful, loving people that we met in Zambia. Give a shout out to Fr. Dom from Melissa and me in Livingstone! Tell him to “call me, maybe”…and that I hope he is continuing to “YOLO!”I hope that you are all able to continue to do small things in great love, slow down, live in the present, and love those you lead, both now and when you return to the US. Thank you for blessing us with your amazing stories of anguish, love, challenge, beauty, fun, the unexpected, and hope! With the days that you have remaining, I hope you are all able to continue to build your community and truly enjoy each other, and continue to process all of the beautiful and heartbreaking moments that you have encountered. And I hope you see a leopard. GO ZAGS IN ZAMBIA!

    Chindele Mwane,
    Dave Houglum

    Mateo – I hope you are able to once again do the “Dave Dance” in the rushing waters of the mighty Victoria Falls!

    Much love to you all!

  15. Teresa Baldwin says:

    Josh and all the team,

    So many thanks to you, Josh, for all of your passion and excitement for this journey and all of the adventures along the way. I have felt great peace knowing that Lucy is traveling with such a great team, with a great leader.

    I am so excited for you to move onto the sights and sounds ahead of you. As someone who has never traveled further than a state or two away, I am in awe of all that you will see, most for the first time. Open your eyes and heart even wider and take it all in.

    Lucy, the new COG is almost built now. I am imagining you back on campus, regaling all of your friends with your tales of Africa. I have missed you so, and cannot wait to hold you and hug you again! Collin arrives home from Brazil the day after you and we are going to plan a super duper deluxe Skipper/Baldwin/Pridmore BBQ party to celebrate all of you.

    On a more serious note, your room looks about as messy as when you left. Maybe more. I didnt touch a thing. Jill’s baby shower is the 22nd, and we can celebrate her baby together.

    Traveling mercies, friends
    Teresa
    Momma Baldwin

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