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Africa 6 – Victoria Falls: The Beautiful Wound

March 10, 2007

After our visit with Otillia, we had a three day stay in Zimbabwe before our flight home. We’d heard reports that Harare was not the safest place for tourists, nor were there compelling attractions for us to see there, so we set our sights on Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The falls lie on the northwestern border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Zambezi river flows into the falls, where it pours into a gaping chasm about a mile wide, never to fill it.

We arrived in the city of Victoria Falls and were driven to our lodge located on a game reserve and overlooking a watering hole frequented by every imaginable kind of animal. From where we ate breakfast and dinner, we watched elephants, baboons, warthogs, birds of prey, and kudus, to name a few species, come and take their turn at the watering hole. You could be watching for quite some time and it would seem like a heard of buffalo would materialize out of nowhere. You’d think you were looking at the tree line when you realized the trees were moving and were in fact not trees at all.

It just had a wonderful sense of community to it. Everyone would politely take their turn, brought together by the need for water, a common thirst. Common need is always the great leveler, whether animal or human. It reminded me once again of how neediness can be redemptive.

Everywhere we went here, we were warmly welcomed by the locals who were so grateful for tourists. News of political and racial unrest between blacks and whites and reports of violence had crippled an already beleaguered economy. Our friend Machezi who showed us to our room assured us that all was very safe in Zimbabwe, that the reports were greatly exaggerated, and he made us promise that we would come home and tell all our friends how wonderful of a destination Zimbabwe is for a holiday. Nearly everyone we met asked us to bring this report home to our friends.

So I might as well tell you, the reader, that Zimbabwe was indeed a land of beauty and warmth. You should visit it. But keep extra deodorant in your carry-on bag just in case your luggage gets lost. Otherwise, like me, you may be reduced to having to use your wife’s deodorant. I did smell pretty, though. Like lavender.

And if you go, say hi to Machezi for me.

We took a bus to the falls, driving through the curio markets of the city of Victoria Falls. The toll of tumultuous political and societal unrest was apparent among the poverty stricken street vendors who would beg you to buy their wares. In these parts of Africa, the problem of poverty is less because of any kind of laziness and more an issue of the government’s unstable infrastructures that cannot reward the hard work of it’s citizens. The people have little choice but poverty. Once the crown jewel of African economies, Zimbabwe‘s inflation rate hovers around 1000 %.

We arrived at the falls in a short time, and as we walked up to the first viewpoint, our skin was wet with the spray, though we were hundreds of yards away yet. It was summer, and summer in Zimbabwe is hot, so the spray drenched us like grace, answering an unnamed physical thirst that are bodies were unaware of before that moment. Everything here was green and dewy, with exotic flowers and robust foliage.

When we stepped up to the edge of the lookout and took in the mighty Victoria Falls, our breath was literally taken away and tears came freely and unexpectedly for the both of us. It was beautiful, to be sure, but it was also a place of release. Like big bodies of water, the sky over Montana, and the view from a mountain, these mammoth falls put us in our place and made us feel appropriately small. Big spaces tend to sort me out and help me put things into perspective, and our breakneck journey among the poorest of the poor in Africa had left us little time or space for finding perspective. Standing on the edge of this wonder of the world, all we had seen and felt came rushing up to us out of the depths of our experience, offering it’s name and naming something in us, too.

I told Taya that this place summed up all I’d seen and felt over the past week and a half. What is Victoria Falls really but a large gaping wound on the face of the earth, a deep and violent cut in the African landscape, And yet it is made beautiful and is truly a wonder to behold as the water rushes inevitably over it’s edges, to bring life to the valley below and rise in a mist to bless our burning skin with it’s grace. There were rainbows to be seen from almost every vantage point.

God is forever in the business of taking the wounds of this world and making them beautiful. Sometimes we are even blessed to get to play a part. I guess that may be the moral of our story there. I’m blessed to play a part, however small, in God’s redemption plan in this wild and beautiful place. I’m twice blessed to be able to help others do the same as we bring the work of World Vision to our audiences and help them catch a vision for how child-sponsorship makes such a difference. Every time I come home from a trip like this, I’m compelled to do more..

(if you would like to learn more about child sponsorship yourself, go to www.jasongraymusic.com and click on the World Vision logo)

Read next: Africa 7 – The Lost is Found and Manly Deodorant


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