This post was written by Tara Kalanquin, who is a member of the CURE U chapter at California Polytechnic State University.
My passion for the mission of CURE was ignited the first week of my freshman year, when I got involved with the university chapter at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (CURE SLO). It soon became like a family: praying together, sharing a common passion, and making high quality, lifelong friends. Other joys have been serving on Cal Poly’s CURE U executive team and meeting leaders of CURE International and other CURE U students from around the country by attending CURE U’s Symposium at its headquarters in Pennsylvania. My favorite CURE adventure was serving at the Beit CURE Hospital in Zambia during the summer of 2015.
There is no one like Jesus. We can search far and wide, up and down and around the world, but we will find no one like Jesus Christ. This truth was evident to me during my time in Zambia. It was extremely impactful meeting children served by CURE: observing life-changing surgeries, being involved with everyday tasks of the hospital, learning from the beautiful Zambian people, and seeing CURE’s mission in action, which is healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom of God. There is nothing like seeing kids’ lives being radically changed for the better. It was clear to me that CURE’s work is the real deal. The Beit CURE Hospital is not a typical hospital. Dr. Sichizya, a neurosurgeon, stated beautifully that the hospital is “a place of love, renewal, and healing; a place where Jesus walks.”
CURE offers hope in Christ Jesus and healing from disability that can change a child’s life and their family’s lives—not only in the present, but for eternity! As I reflected in my journal:
“On this trip in Zambia, I have been in some uncomfortable and uncertain situations: a home visit in Lusaka, observing surgery, speaking with the families of kids at the hospital, and an outreach trip sharing the gospel with people I’d never met before. God may use us in some very beautiful ways when we step out and trust Him in those times. He has all the power and loves us dearly.”
Whether it was blowing bubbles for kids, making friends while riding in the back of a small truck for an hour on a dirt road with seventeen other people, or joyfully singing “There is no one like Jesus” in Tonga, God was steadfast. Christ was with us. He was working long before we arrived and is continuing to work. I am thankful for Staci, Landy, Sydney, Mia, Emily, and Shirah, with whom I got to walk through this experience. We prayed hand in hand, played with the kiddos, laughed, and were stretched as a team. There are many stories that could be told from our three weeks in Zambia. Many people touched my life; there were many incredibly hilarious and exciting memories; and there were many, many testimonies of God’s goodness.
One of the kids that I especially connected with was Esnart: a vibrant, friendly, persevering, and thoughtful young teenage girl. She loves to swing, dance, play toss with a beach ball, and just sit and talk with a friend. I met Esnart my first week at Beit CURE in the children’s ward. She was sitting in her wheelchair when we made eye contact. She had an infectious smile and eyes. She wheeled herself right past me while continuing to smile and, after reaching the end of the ward, she looked at me with eyes that seemed to say, “Come play with me!” I thought it would be fun to push her chair around the hospital grounds, so I walked over and proposed this.
She said, “Yes!” So, we started on our adventure. As we went along, all of a sudden, she turned her chair onto the playground! I threw out my previous agenda and decided to go where Esnart wanted to go. Once she led me to the porch swing, she got out of her chair and crawled onto it! It was there that we got to know each other. Throughout my time at the hospital, Esnart and I continued to spend time together. I soon learned that Esnart had a heartbreaking story, one that I can hardly imagine living with. She was born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida and has had a very rough family life. Yet, she lives life with joy. She is still in my thoughts and prayers. She invaded my heart.
Another memory is when I met Annie on outreach. She gave me green, unripe oranges the first day we met and continued to give me more throughout the week. I discretely tucked these sour fruits away in my tent. One evening, as we sat on the ground watching the Jesus film, she began to peel one for me. I thought, “I wonder when she last washed her hands? This is going to taste so bitter!” I prayerfully ate the generously-given and graciously-peeled orange. We connected!
Annie insisted on carrying my bag to VBS each day. She braided my hair and had a smile a mile wide and the greatest laugh I’ve ever heard. She wrote my name next to hers on the crown she made when we learned that we are children of King Jesus! I don’t know Annie’s story, but, wow, this girl knew how to make friends. I believe there is something that children possess more naturally than most adults: the ability to be who they are and see the best in people and bring those qualities out. Annie reminded me to have the courage to make friends with those who are different than me and give them gifts of time, presence, thoughtfulness, and maybe even oranges.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (NIV)
God says we are His highest ranking representatives. The Lord patiently taught me this in Zambia, and He continues to teach me. I struggled with believing that I didn’t have much to offer. How could God use me? Through my team and people from home, the Lord taught me that it is not me I have to rely on, but it is Him. I believe that I am qualified only because God has qualified me and called me to be His messenger. Whether in a rural village in Africa, in the classroom of a university, in the workplace, at home, or wherever we are, God wants us to be part of His big story.
It was an overwhelming honor to see firsthand the work God is doing through CURE Zambia. It is an incredible demonstration of the Gospel—taking broken bodies and restoring them. God does not disregard those in the margins, the ones society tends to forget. He absolutely treasures them! I had many “this is what I was made for” moments. What would it look like if I lived every day with the same intentionality and dependence on the Father as I did in Zambia? Cal Poly and Zambia may look different, but all people hurt and long for fulfillment and belonging. Whether or not I can relate to a person with a completely different background is no hindrance if I let the Holy Spirit work through me. I pray that I will boldly love God and love others wherever I am.