That’s what Collins, our driver in Zambia, kept telling us when taking our pictures.

Not Canadian smiles but Zambian smiles.

What’s the difference? According to Collins, Zambian smiles are fuller, broader, a lot of teeth or, as one of my favourite quotes from a book, “ones that reach the eyes.”

A Conduit of Hope

In our 9 days in Zambia, Jane and I saw many Zambian smiles. People have asked me about our trip to Zambia and when I have to sum it up (no time for stories just now), the word that comes to mind is hope—a reason to smile.

Yes, the floors are bare concrete, there are often up to 60—70 students in one classroom, there are little to no resources, but at all of the 10 schools we visited, I sensed tremendous hope.

Edudeo, along with its partner organization in Zambia, Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), is a conduit of hope to hundreds of students, teachers, their families and communities. The mission of Edudeo is: The gospel + education = transformation. The gospel is flourishing and education is developing. The 10 Biblical Throughlines of Teaching for Transformation guides Christian education in these schools. Schools have access to clean water because wells (or boreholes) are drilled. These schools are incredibly resourceful with the resources they do have.

There were many reasons for the smiles we saw:

  • Smiles from our other driver, Jonathan, even as he loaded our 13 large suitcases and strapped them to the roof of the Landcruiser for the fourth or fifth time and as he told us about his family and his love for Jesus.
  • Smiles from Boniface, the headmaster of Hoya school, as he showed us the new school garden used for educating students on growing vegetables and providing food for the community kitchen or to sell and earn funds for the operational expenses of the school.
  • Smiles from the art teacher as she displayed some of the amazing artwork done by her students and offering them to us for sale. Smiles from us as we gladly purchased quality products from students before seeing what the market and tourist shops had to offer.
  • Smiles from senior students as they shared their hopes and dreams after graduation: police officer, nurse, doctor, fashion editor.
  • Smiles from primary students as they followed us around while visiting their classrooms, interested to get to know the “muzungus.”

Serving, Singing, and Renovations

  • Smiles from the man behind me who helped me understand what was going on in a four-hour church service (which didn’t actually seem like four hours).
  • Smiles from Dorothy as she prepared and served our food each day.
  • Smiles from the various student groups as they read with enthusiasm and sang in beautiful harmony.
  • Smiles from Elijah, headmaster of Chasefu school, built in 1953 and renovating their secondary school. Yes, that’s true! God has a sense of humour.
  • Smiles from the builders erecting scaffolding as they prepared a new block of classrooms.

From Chickens to Elephants

  • Smiles from Florence and Florrie, headmasters of Mwase school, as they presented us with a gift of two live chickens.
  • Smiles from villagers who welcomed and honoured us with traditional dances and drumming and even invited us to participate.
  • Smiles from students, parents and friends as we watched a soccer game between teachers from two schools, on the field just outside our guesthouse.
  • Smiles from safari guides as they brought us to see zebras, giraffes, antelope, warthogs, hippopotami, lions, hyenas, elephants, and more.
  • And many Zambian smiles from our group as we experienced the hope and hospitality of Zambia and became friends with those who were strangers just days before.

I look forward to sharing many more stories of our time in Zambia in the days and weeks ahead. This incredibly memorable experience leaves me with so much hope and gratitude in a God who brings people into community and causes them to flourish. There is good news—He is our Rescuer.