Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Levitical Sacrifices: The Grain (Meal) Offering

In this post, we'll look at the grain, or meal, offering discussed in Leviticus 2, 6:14-23, and 22:21-22. Again, I recommend reading these passages before diving into this post!

How was the offering performed? What was offered?

The Hebrew term for the grain offering, “minha” or “minchah” (Strong’s 4503, meaning literally “gift,” “tribute,” or “offering”),  is actually a general term that is used throughout the Old Testament, sometimes in reference specifically to the grain offering, occasionally serving as a general term for a sacrifice, and often used to describe tribute or a present (for example, Jacob’s present to Esau when he returned to his homeland in Genesis 32:13).

The grain offering was commanded to be offered twice daily along with the burnt offering and drink offering, once in the morning and once at twilight (Exodus 29:39-41). There were several different options when giving a grain offering, seemingly more dependent on personal preference than on wealth, status, or occasion. These options included unbaked flour, unleavened cakes or wafers baked in the oven, in an uncovered pan, or in a covered pan. 

Specific grain offerings were required for the offering at the Feast of the Firstfruits, or the wavesheaf offering (see Leviticus 23:10, Numbers 15:17-21), and at the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:20). 

In every case excepting Pentecost and the “grain offering of jealousy” (Numbers 5:11-26), the ingredients of the offering were the same (flour, oil, frankincense, and salt), and the forbidden ingredients were the same (leaven and honey). Let's look at these required and forbidden ingredients in more detail.
  •  Flour (ground grain): grain, or meal, was the substance of life for much of history. Making bread was a daily task for the women prior to leaving Egypt, but it appears their supplies of flour ran quite low after the Exodus. God provided manna for them daily, but this was not what they were told to offer—they were told to offer grain, from their own dwindling stock and store. At this point, it is possible that grain was more precious to the Israelites than livestock.
  •  Oil (probably olive oil): serves as a sort of preservative in bread, in a way. Oil prevents bread from drying out (think French baguettes after sitting out for a day—no oil). It was not commonly used in bread-making, however, as most bread was made with water as the liquid instead of oil. Oil was an expensive commodity, likely especially in the wilderness years, when the Israelites would not have had a consistent source of olive oil to purchase or harvest.
  • Frankincense: one of the most precious perfumes, known for a rich, sweet scent that was brought out by fire. It was commonly used as an incense, as it was in this case.
  • Honey: a commonly used sweetener that did not do well in heat. If subjected to fire, honey was known to spoil and ferment.
  • Salt: an expensive, but commonly used, preservative. Was used to keep food from spoiling so quickly, as well as to season it.
  • Leaven: used to expand dough prior to baking it through the process of fermentation. The Israelites likely kneaded bits of old dough into the new dough to leaven it. This process was not allowed during the Days of Unleavened Bread starting at the time of the Exodus.

Notably, the one time that leaven was allowed to be incorporated in a grain offering was in the offerings of the firstfruits on Pentecost (which were wave offerings, and were not burnt on the bronze altar – see Leviticus 2:12, 7:13, 23:15-21).

When the offering was given, mixed or drizzled with oil, it first needed to be divided into two parts: the “memorial portion,” which was usually only a small portion (a handful of the offering of flour, for example), was burned on the bronze altar, along with the frankincense and salt. This portion was the “sweet aroma” to God. The remainder of the offering was given to the priests as their portion (Leviticus 2:10; 6:16,18; 7:9-10).

What did the offering mean to the Israelites?

“It is most holy of the offerings to the Lord made by fire,” proclaims Leviticus 2:3. The Israelites would have understood is holiness differently than we do today, however. As discussed in the burnt offering section, the whole nation of Israel was holy to God, as long as they kept His law and maintained their ritual cleanliness. The priests and Levites were set aside as a special subset of God’s holy people, however. They were set aside by God for a specific purpose—the maintenance of His Tabernacle/Temple, sacrifices and offerings, and helping the lay-people to understand and keep the law. This offering focused not only on God, but also on the priest as the mediator, who offered the grain offering and was commanded to keep the majority of it for his own consumption (and that of the other priests). Therefore, in giving the grain offering, the people not only sought to please God, but to give to others.

As was previously mentioned, grain was a staple of life in OT times, but during the wilderness years, the children of Israel likely had very little access to grain. Along with the grain offering is discussed the offering of the firstfruits, which would be offered when they “came into the land” that God was giving them (Leviticus 23:10). But the offering wasn’t postponed until such a time as they had field of their own. It would have been an offering given in faith that God would indeed bring them into this Promised Land and they would indeed grow their own crops and make their own bread again—but for now, they would have to depend on manna from God. Dependence on God seems to be the theme of this offering from the beginning.

When they did come into the Promised Land and begin giving grain offerings of their own fields, the theme of dependence continued. The Promised Land may have had a more favorable climate then than it does today, but even so, a farmer must take his planting and his harvest year by year and day by day. As the apostle James wrote, “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain” (James 5:7). They depended on God to help their crops produce, and then offered to Him the fruit of their labor. They had to do their part in manual labor, and God had to do His part in blessing the land. The fruit of that joint effort had to go to God first, then to the priests (the mediators between the people and God), and then to the farmer and his family.

When was it performed in the Bible?

The first recorded grain offering was the offering given along with a burnt offering on the bronze altar at the dedication of the newly built Tabernacle (Exodus 40:29, Numbers 7). Grain offerings were offered in combination with burnt offerings and peace offerings at the consecration of the priestly ministry (Leviticus 9:4,17),  the dedication and cleansing of the Levites (Numbers 8:8), and the dedication of Samuel as a servant of the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 1:24).

As previously discussed, they were an important part of the festivals, including the Feast of Firstfruits and Pentecost, but also at each of the other Feasts (Leviticus 23:37, Numbers 28:16-29:39), as well as new moons and Sabbaths (Numbers 28:9-14).

Grain offerings were offered in combination with sin offerings and burnt offerings in the ritual cleansing of healed lepers (Leviticus 14:19-21), and in combination with burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings, and drink offerings at the fulfillment of the Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:15).
The “grain offering of jealousy” offered by a husband when he believed his wife to have been unfaithful was a very special case (Numbers 5:11-28). The man who brought this offering to the priest was not allowed to put any oil or frankincense on it because it was “an offering for remembering, for bringing iniquity to remembrance” (Numbers 5:15). Why was a grain offering used? Why was an offering given at all, until after her sin or lack of sin was known? I cannot tell, but there is a purpose for everything God does.

Upon entering the Promised Land, grain offerings became a required part of each burnt offering and peace offering (Numbers 15:1-21).

What lessons can we learn from this offering today? What symbolism does it contain?

The ingredients of the grain offering are deeply symbolic.

  • Flour: The grain, ground finely into an even powder, represents Christ, whose body was bruised and broken for us (Psalm 22:14-15). The fineness of the flour may represent his evenness of character, according to Jukes (The Law of the Offerings by Andrew Jukes). Jesus described Himself as “the bread of life” (John 6:32-35, 48-51), and advised His disciples on the night of the Passover to “take, eat” of the unleavened bread, symbolizing His body (Matthew 26:26).
  • Oil: Oil is a common symbol in the Bible, representing the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 10:38, Matthew 25:1-13, Luke 4:18).
  • Frankincense: Incense in the Bible usually represents the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8). Here, it may be more completely understood in contrast with the other sweet ingredient which was forbidden: honey. As was noted previously, fire (which typically signifies trials in the Bible, compare 1 Peter 4:12), has a very different effect on these two ingredients. For frankincense, fire makes the sweetness even sweeter, whereas for honey, the extreme heat of fire can spoil and ruin its chemical makeup. The contrast between the two displays firstly the attitude of Christ when He went through the fiery trials of His life and of His crucifixion, and secondly the attitude during trials that we should strive to have. Honey could represent a person whose attitude is corrupted and becomes selfish and ungodly during the heat of trials.
  • Salt: Salt is symbolic of faithfulness and God’s enduring covenant promises (Ezekiel 43:24, Mark 9:49, 2 Chronicles 13:5), whereas its foil, leaven, is representative of hypocrisy, malice, and wickedness—on the whole, covenant-breaking (1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Luke 12:1).

The leavened “wave loaves” of the Pentecost grain offering provide clear symbolism: they represent the members of the Church, the firstfruits of God, with our human nature and tendency toward sin, despite having God’s holy Spirit and desiring to obey Him. All of our offerings to God, all of our self-sacrifices, are mixed with sin, since we are human and imperfect. Thankfully, He has made allowance for our imperfections (Romans 7:14-20).

Like the burnt offering, the entire grain offering is completely consumed; however, unlike the burnt offering, not all of it is consumed by burning on the altar. God is given a “memorial portion” first, and then the remainder is given to the priests. We discussed the burnt offering’s focus on God as being representative of the “first and great commandment,” loving God with all our heart, mind, and strength. The shift of focus in the grain offering from God to the human priests may help us understand the underlying lesson of the offering. The self-sacrifice is still complete, but now is not only sacrifice to God, but through God to serve our fellow man. If the burnt offering is the first and great commandment, then the grain offering is the second which is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Levitical Sacrifices: The Burnt Offering

Fair warning: These posts are more of study papers than blogs and will be quite lengthy! I tried to cut down as much as possible, but they say the shorter the paper the better you have to understand the topic, and I'll admit, I don't understand this topic well enough to summarize yet!

In this first post we'll look at the Burnt Offering described in detail in Leviticus 1, 6:8-13, and 22:18-20. I highly recommend reading those passages before you start reading this post. :) If you have a question, an answer, a disagreement, or an agreement, feel free to comment!

How was the offering performed? What was offered?

The burnt offering, in Hebrew “olah” (Strong’s 5930a, meaning “whole burnt offering”) or “kalil” (Strong’s 3632, meaning “entire,” “perfect,” “whole,” or “a holocaust”), is the first and most commonly referenced offering in the Scripture. It appears it was often given jointly with one or more of the other offerings, such as the grain offering (Numbers 7:87), drink offering (Numbers 15:10, 2 Chronicles 29:35 – this offering is not enumerated as one of the main categories of offerings in Leviticus, likely because it was never given independently, but appears to have usually consisted of wine), peace offering (Leviticus 3:5), or sin offering (Numbers 29).

When the burnt offering was given individually, it was a voluntary offering (Leviticus 1:3). The burnt offering was commanded to be given twice daily, once in the morning and once at twilight (Exodus 29:38-39, Numbers 28:3, 2 Chronicles 31:3, Ezra 3:3), and was an important part of Feast day and Sabbath offerings (Leviticus 16:5, 23:37, Numbers 10:10, 28:10, Ezra 3:4-5).

A burnt offering was always a male animal, but God provided several different options for sacrifices with varying values, so that the burnt offering would be affordable for almost anyone (note that even more affordable offering option are given for the sin offering, so that anyone could afford to offer the involuntary sacrifices to atone for their sins)—they could offer a bull, a sheep, a goat, a turtledove, or a pigeon (see Leviticus 14:22,31). The important thing was that the animals were “without blemish” (Leviticus 1:3,10).

The worshiper did much of the work in preparing the burnt offering. The steps involved in the offering of bulls, sheep, and goats were as follows:
  1. The Israelite man brought the animal to the door of the Tabernacle.
  2. He laid his hand on the head of the animal, identifying himself with it.
  3. The Israelite killed the animal.
  4. The priests took the blood of the animal and sprinkled it on the bronze altar (also known as the “altar of burnt offering” – Exodus 38:1).
  5. The Israelite skinned the animal (the skin was then given to the priests as their portion – Leviticus 7:8) and cut it in pieces, which are given in detail:
    1. The head
    2. The fat
    3. The organs
    4. The legs
  6. The Israelite washed the legs and innards of the animal.
  7. The priests placed all the pieces of the animal, except for the skin, on the altar, and burned it completely. The sacrifice was to be kept burning all night on the altar until morning, and only then were the ashes to be removed from the altar and placed beside it (Leviticus 6:9-10).
The steps are different in notable ways when the offering was a bird. The worshiper was much less involved in the gory details of the sacrifice, and actually was only required to bring the bird to the Tabernacle. The priests did the rest of the work. They wrung off the head of the bird, drained its blood on the side of the bronze altar, removed the crop and feathers, split the bird almost into two pieces at the wings, and then, just like the bulls, goats, and sheep, the bird was placed on the altar and burned completely.

What did the offering mean to the Israelites?

Aside from being the first offering discussed in Leviticus, the burnt offering had a rich history going back thousands of years, of which the Israelites would have known, including the offerings of Noah following the Flood and Abraham’s famed Mount Moriah sacrifice. A few of the Leviticus 1-7 sacrifices may have been new to the Israelites, but this was certainly not one of them.

Livestock were an important commodity, both in the wilderness years and upon settling in the Promised Land. The Israelites were shepherds at the time of their settling in Egypt, and brought their flocks and herds with them to Egypt in the days of Joseph (Genesis 46:32). They then took the much-multiplied, generations-later offspring of those original flocks and herds with them out of Egypt in the Exodus (Exodus 12:32,38). Thus, it seems that even in the wilderness years, the children of Israel did not have a livestock shortage. However, making this voluntary sacrifice meant taking  one of your best animals and giving it to God—watching it be killed and then completely burned up.

Sacrifices were common in Old Testament times, and were an important part of many different religious rituals, possibly as a result of Satan’s corruption of the sacrifices given to God by Noah, from whom all the nations were descended. Pagan religions of the day gave burnt sacrifices, including human sacrifices, to gain the attention and favor of their gods. Burnt offerings to the true God seem to represent something more specific—complete devotion to God.

Like the other voluntary offerings, the burnt offering was intended to be pleasing to God (Leviticus 1:9,13,17). However, one word that is used to describe the burnt offering’s purpose is not used to describe any of the other voluntary offerings: “atonement” (Leviticus 1:4), the Hebrew word “kaphar” (Strong’s 3722, meaning “to cover over” or to pacify, appease, or forgive). There is no mention of sin, and also no mention of forgiveness (as is specifically stated in the involuntary offerings, cf Leviticus 4:20), but rather “acceptance” of the burnt offering “on his behalf”—it was sacrificed instead of the offerer.

The Israelite who brought the animal laid his hand on its head to identify himself with it, just as we will see was done with the animals offered as sin offerings, but instead of attaining forgiveness of sins, the intent was to bring himself closer to God in devoted worship. This “atonement” may have also been atonement for the uncleanness, both physical and spiritual, that separated them from God.

The Israelites alone among the nations of the OT were a holy people to God. Physical and spiritual uncleanness was illustrated as making the Israelites physically or spiritually unholy, as unholiness (uncleanness) was understood in OT times. There was clearly no sin involved in a woman undergoing her monthly cycle, for example, but the physical uncleanness was symbolic for the spiritual uncleanness that comes from sin, both active sin and sin of the heart, and their need to be “at one” with God. A whole burnt offering, sacrificing entirely to God a sinless, unblemished animal in the place of oneself, showed God complete devotion and desire to live according to His law despite the internal war with law-breaking (Psalm 119:8-9, Romans 7:21-23).

The specific parts of the animal which were enumerated also would have been symbolic to the Israelites. The parts of the body in those days were associated with different parts of the whole of the person—the head would have been associated with the thoughts, the legs with the actions (the “walk”), the fat with the general strength and vitality, and the innards with the feelings and emotions. This concept is reminiscent of the calls to ultimate devotion to God in Deuteronomy:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

“What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

Looking back to the sacrifice of Abraham their forefather would have supported this concept. In the other voluntary offerings, others were able to eat significant portions of the animal or grain that was offered, and thus not only God benefited from the “sweet aroma” of the offering, but His people were also able to physically benefit from the offering. Not so in the case of the burnt offering, however. 

The Hebrew words for the burnt offering emphasize the wholeness and entirety of the burning of the offering. Nothing was left for the offerer, or even for the priest, aside from the animal’s skin. God is the clear focus in the offering, and the burnt offering was likely given as a result of wanting to show complete and total devotion to Him.

When was it performed in the Bible?

The first recorded animal sacrifice, given by Abel in Genesis 4:4, may have been a burnt offering or a peace offering.

The sacrifices of Noah after the flood do appear to be burnt offerings, though we see that he offered all kinds of clean animals instead of just the five options God later enumerated for the Israelites. Notice God’s response:

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.’ (Genesis 8:20-22)

Abraham’s famed burnt offering of the ram, which took the place of his son, is another telling passage in understanding the meaning of the burnt offering. God’s command to Abraham, which the omniscient reader understands to be God “testing” Abraham, was to “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2-3). We are spared the details of Abraham’s thoughts and emotions, and are only told of his follow-through without hesitation. Again, notice God’s response:

Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:15-18)

Abraham’s obedience in his willingness to sacrifice his only son was clearly a type of the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ—a heart-rending sacrifice both on God’s part and on Jesus’s. Abraham kept nothing back from God, and was even willing to give up the most important thing in his life, the son that he had spent a century waiting for. According to Hebrews, Abraham had complete trust that the One who gave him his son would be able to bring him back to life again (Hebrews 11:17-19). Again, God’s response to Abraham’s sacrifice (in this case, his willingness to follow through was equivalent to if the sacrifice of Isaac had actually taken place, except that human sacrifice, which is abominable to God, did not actually occur) is in the form of a promise. God had made promises and covenants with Abraham in the past, but this one is the climax—God’s blessing on Abraham is no longer dependent on anything that Abraham or his descendants do. It is now unconditional.

In the examples of Noah and Abraham, we see that burnt offerings are deeply entwined with the important covenant promises. When they showed their complete devotion to Him, He in turn showed His devotion to them—His creation and His people.

When Moses requested of Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go out of Egypt, he originally requested that they might go out to offer “sacrifices [i.e., peace offerings] and burnt offerings” to God (Exodus 10:25).

The commanded offering of the firstborn, following the climactic plague of the death of the firstborn in Egypt and the institution of the Passover, was likely a burnt offering, though it may have been a peace offering, or possibly could have been either at the discretion of the owner (Exodus 13:1,11-16, 22:29, 34:19-20).

Other examples of times when burnt offerings were offered include the consecration of the priesthood (Exodus 29:25, Leviticus 8:28), at the ratification of the Old Covenant (Exodus 24:4-6), as part of certain purification rituals, usually along with a sin offering (Leviticus 12:6, 14:20, Numbers 6:11), in conjunction with sin offerings given for the congregation of Israel (Numbers 15:24), in times of trouble when God’s favor was requested (Judges 20:26, 1 Samuel 7:9) the consecration of the Tabernacle (Numbers 7), upon the occasion of bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:17), the consecration of the Temple (1 Kings 8:64, 2 Chronicles 7:1), to stop plagues (2 Samuel 24:25), as part of national rededication (2 Chronicles 29:27), and as part of Holy Day offerings, feast days, Sabbaths, and new moons (Leviticus 16:5, 23:37, Numbers 10:10, 28:10, Ezra 3:4-5, Ezekiel 5:17).

Burnt offerings were also used by the children of Israel in idol-worship (Exodus 32:6, 2 Kings 3:27, 2 Kings 16:15), and by pagans to try to get God on their side (Numbers 23:3).
Saul offered a burnt offering when he was afraid that Israel would be scattered from him, but he missed the point of the offering. He didn’t obey Samuel’s command to wait until he arrived to offer the burnt and peace offerings, and instead did it himself. Samuel’s response on God’s behalf in is very important:

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king. (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

In contrast to the rich blessings God promised to those who offered burnt offerings to Him out of a right heart, God here promises to end Saul’s reign. Instead of offering the burnt offering out of devotion and love for God, Saul offered it out of fear, faithlessness in God, and pride—believing that he could decide for himself what was the right action to take in this situation. He called it bending the rules to keep control. Samuel called it rebellion. (Compare Jeremiah 6:20.)

Saul’s unrighteous burnt offering stands in stark contrast with the right heart with which Solomon offered 1,000 burnt offerings when he was made king. God greatly respected his offerings, and offered to give him anything he desired. His request was proof of his devotion to God and to his people: wisdom, “that I may discern between good and evil—” so that he could make the right decisions and be a godly leader (1 Kings 3:9). God was so pleased with this response that He not only promised to give Solomon what he had requested, but also to give him many blessings that he had not requested. Note that His promise for long life was not unconditional, as God’s covenant with Abraham had been, however:

So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days. (1 Kings 3:14)

Even 1,000 burnt offerings was not enough to prove that Solomon was always going to put God first. As we know, his devotion to God eventually was overshadowed by his love of women, and his desire to please them became greater than his desire to please God.

What lessons can we learn from this offering today? What symbolism does it contain?

The main lesson for the Israelites, of complete devotion to God and desire to obey Him and love Him with all our being, despite our sinful nature, is an extremely important lesson for us today, as well. We must keep nothing back from God—our commitment must be complete, and our self-sacrifice must be entire (2 Corinthians 8:5, Philippians 2:5-8).

We know that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, offering Himself of His own volition as a sweet aroma, well-pleasing to God (Psalm 40:6-8).

Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:2)

In this offering, the facet of His sacrifice that we focus on is His perfection and completeness in devotion to God and to us, as well as the outcome of His perfect sacrifice on our lives. He now lives in baptized members (note the washing of the legs and organs in Leviticus 1:9, symbolizing cleansing through baptism and the Holy Spirit in our lives) of His Church so that we, through Him, may be living sacrifices, also well-pleasing to God (Romans 12:1, Philippians 4:18) to help us overcome our human nature (Romans 7:21-25).

Jesus is also symbolized in the giving of the burnt offering by the priest, as our High Priest and intercessor (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 4:14-16, 7:25, 8:1), who expects from us an offering that is the best we can give, but will give us as much aid as we need in our Christian walk. The many different varieties of animals which could be sacrificed, based on the wealth of the worshiper, are reflective of different facets of the nature of Christ, our spiritual gifts, and God’s expectations of us (Matthew 29:15-30). Note the change in the responsibilities of the poor man offering a turtledove or pigeon—all he had to do was bring his gift to the altar, and the priest took care of the rest. Jesus, our High Priest, will do the same for us if and when we need Him to.

To summarize the burnt offering’s bearing on the lives of modern-day Christians, the so-called “first and great commandment,” as stated by Jesus, quoting from Deuteronomy and simultaneously summarizing the first four of the Ten Commandments, seems fitting:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Levitical Sacrifices: An Introduction

This project started out as an innocent read-through of the sacrifices and offerings described in the first few chapters of Leviticus. As I read through them, even with the help of a commentary, I started to realize just how complex and symbolic the offerings were (and are), and how little I understood about them. More than a month later, I'm still researching and trying to understand! This post and the posts to follow may be somewhat technical, and my interpretations are certainly far from perfect or complete, but I wanted to share the fruits of my study and, hopefully, start some discussion on what these sacrifices mean for us and our relationships with our Creator and our Savior (the ultimate Sacrificial Lamb) today.


The sacrifices and offerings that God formally instituted for the Israelites at Mount Sinai are complex in their individuality and the interconnectedness. The general term translated “offering” or “oblation” throughout the early chapters of Leviticus (and in Numbers and Deuteronomy) is the Hebrew word “qorban” or “qurban” (Strong’s 7133), meaning literally “something which is brought near the altar” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). Each one of the five types of offerings enumerated in Leviticus 1-7 has its own name or names which help to explain its specific purpose in the lives of the Israelites. (These names are, however, sometimes used more generally and sometimes overlap, which can make things confusing!)

When we think of the Levitical sacrifices, we tend to try to skip straight to the symbolism. While the symbolic meanings of the sacrifices is incredibly important, this may mean we miss some of the inherent lessons of the sacrifice in its historical context. As modern-day Christians, it is vital for us to understand why and how Christ offered Himself as the ultimate burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, and trespass offering, and how He can be understood simultaneously as both the offering and the priest. However, the Israelites as a nation didn’t understand the prophetic, symbolic nature of the sacrifices. While they certainly had symbolic meaning in the mind of God from the beginning, it is important to look at them also as the Israelites would have, and understand what they learned and felt as a result of each of the sacrifices.

The first three offerings discussed, the burnt offering, grain offering, and peace offering, are similar in that they are described as “sweet aroma” offerings. These offerings are described as voluntary, or freewill, offerings, the focus of which was not the forgiveness of sin, but the worshiper’s relationship with his Creator. These offerings were frequently offered together in times of celebration, national disaster, and on Feast days. On the other hand, the sin offering and trespass offering (which are difficult to cleanly distinguish and often appear to be used interchangeably) were involuntary. They were required at certain times, including personal or national sin, cleansing of an impurity, and on the Day of Atonement.

For each offering, we will discuss the composition of the offering and how it was performed, the meaning and importance of the offering to the Israelites, examples from the Bible of times when the offering was made, and what lessons we can learn from it today.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or disagreements along the way, please comment! The more deeply I understand these ancient rituals, the more fascinated I am with the mind and the plan of God, and the more I want to talk about it with others.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Foundation Outreach International: The Zambia Project

As promised, I kept a journal during my time in Zambia! I didn't journal every day, and probably the thing I journaled about least were the classes themselves. But I figured the most important thing to share with everyone back home was the culture and the things I learned from the people there. So, here it is!

Thursday, July 24

En Route

I got to the Cincinnati airport at 7:30 yesterday morning, and won't arrive in Lusaka till somewhere around 11 tonight (local time).  My flights so far have taken me from Cincinnati to Detroit, where I met up with Courtney, to Amsterdam, where I am currently. We have a 4 hour layover here, and with the bright morning sunshine outside I don't even feel like it's 2 AM back home! I got a Dutch postcard and a Dutch banana (yep, no different from American bananas… probably because we both get bananas from Costa Rica…), and we took pictures with giant teacups. I'm really hoping to be able to leave the airport and see a little bit of the city on our way back home (when we have a  6 hour layover).

Next, it's off to Harare, Zimbabwe, and finally Lusaka, Zambia, where we will be picked up from the airport by the Bandas. I can't wait to meet them! Oh, and did I mention that Delta international flights are still awesome? I had wine, water, orange juice, and tea, and those were just the drinks. Didn't sleep at all, though. Might have to try and remedy that with a good nap on the next flight!

Yes, that is the man next to me's glasses in the corner of the picture. :)

 4,880 miles from Detroit to Lusaka. What a journey!

Side note, the woman sitting next to me was en route to Norway to kayak and backpack around the fjords for 10 days. That is getting added to the bucket list for sure.
A very cool restaurant in the Amsterdam airport!

Friday, July 25

The Preparation Day

The drive from the airport was the quickest part of the trip. It only took 20 or so minutes to get from the airport to the Bandas home. Most of the roads were well paved, and the only dirt part was the very last turn we made. They said, "now you know what it is like to be an African!" and were surprised when I said we had driven on dirt roads in the US. We got here at midnight last night, and slept till almost 9 this morning. We slept in one of their guest cottages, in a beautiful little room with 2 twin beds. She gave us fried eggs, rooibos tea, toast, oatmeal, yoghurt, pineapple juice, and baked beans for breakfast--such a spread that I didn't even get to try several of the options.

We met a young man who is living with them, Daniel, and also met one of their sons Rangana, who is 14. We also met a young woman who I assumed was their daughter, and I was very confused why she was not introduced to us by name. Later, I discovered that she was the Bandas maid, who has been helping the family for about a year. Rangana helped us this afternoon with sorting out some of our teaching supplies so that we will have everything we need for the classes. He also told us a bit about Zambian culture and asked us some questions about why American culture is the way it is. (How do you answer those sorts of questions?)

A minister and his assistant from Malawi also arrived today. It took them 2 days to get here by bus from Malawi, the same amount of time as it took us to get here from the United States. That is commitment! They are very friendly and talkative. They really enjoyed making fun of my t-shirt as well. I'm wearing a shirt I got in college with the name of a student group I'm involved in, the Student Dietetic Association. Those words are small though, and the big letters SDA are written across the top. Courtney was wearing a CYC shirt. They laughed and said, "so Courtney, you are in Cogwa, and Erica, you are a Seventh-Day Adventist!" I'm glad I got this shirt worn today instead of a teaching day! Apparently the Seventh Day Adventist church is very big here, so that could have been quite confusing for people who didn't read English well enough to read the words below the letters!

After sorting out our teaching supplies, we had a delicious lunch of cooked spinach, cooked kale, Zambian brown rice, curried meat, and nshima, which is one of their staple foods here. It is made from maize meal cooked into a porridge, and then thickened by adding even more meal and cooking it down until patties can be formed from it. In their kitchen, they have a large bin (that I thought was a trash can and almost threw onion skins into) of maize meal, and Mrs. Banda told me that Zambians who can afford to have 2 or 3 meals a day generally have nshima for 2 of the meals. Those that can only afford to have one meal, dinner, will eat nshima for dinner. They serve it many different ways--with gravies (which are really more of what we would call sauces), meat, vegetables, or really anything at all. It has a plain flavor that can go well with anything, and is very filling. I gather rice is also quite a staple here. The boys would completely cover their plates with it and put much of the other stuff right on top.

After lunch we went to a local shopping center, which they called a mall. There were quite a few shops, a few restaurants (one of which served ice cream cones, another pizza, and another Mexican food), a Shop n Save? grocery store (which Rangana told me was probably one of the only grocery stores in the country whose shelves were fully stocked), and a money exchange center where we got a few Kwachas. The exchange rate is 6.03, so the bottle of wine Courtney and I bought for the Bandas was 52 Kwacha. Rangana told us that the word Kwacha actually means "new day" (or something like that)--a very optimistic thing to call your local currency.

Courtney and Mrs. Banda then went to pick up the Horchaks from the airport, and dropped Rangana and I off near the dirt road to walk the rest of the way home with the groceries. After he showed me around their beautiful garden, where they grow lovely flowers as well as papayas, white onions, and guavas. I asked him if he would show me around the rest of their neighborhood down the street, and he seemed a bit uncomfortable and said that maybe we could wait until tomorrow when Courtney could come with us. He explained that in Zambia, when people see a woman and a man walking together, they assume something must be "going on", and if it is a white woman and a black man walking together, they assume he must have gotten her there by trickery. He had had a conversation in Nyanja with a woman selling tomatoes on the side of the road when we were walking back from the store, explaining to her that we were not dating. Apparently if a man is walking with 2 women, people will assume that something is going on with at least one of them, but at least it is slightly less awkward for him.

I asked if the women and men sit together at church here, and he said yes. Many places in Africa, and perhaps still in rural Zambia (which he said is at least 50% of the country), women are still considered inferior, and they must sometimes sit on the floor while the men sit in chairs, etc. Women in much of Africa, though not so much in Lusaka, where I saw most women wearing jeans, must wear long skirts. Mrs. Banda wore one over her jeans in the presence of the Malawian men, saying that it would be offensive for them if she did not. (Of course, I picked today to wear my bermuda shorts! But she assured me that it wouldn't offend them for me to wear them. I suppose I hope that's true!)

Then Mr. Horchak went with Mrs. Banda to pick up Mr. Banda from one of the properties they own, where I guess one of the tenants called about some trouble with the fence. (Everything is fenced here!) While they were gone, we had tea with Mrs. Horchak. What a fun lady!

For dinner, we had brown rice, a wonderfully seasoned prepared chicken, a prepared cut of beef, steamed vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, green beans, and small squashes), cooked pumpkin cubes, a cabbage and red pepper salad, cabernet, and a tomato sauce that I made. Mrs. Banda told me it was made just like in the States, but I don't know if I've ever made a tomato sauce without canned tomato sauce or paste, so I just made a kind of chunky curry in the frying pan with the olive oil, diced tomatoes, garlic, onions, salt, curry powder, and cayenne pepper that she gave me. She looked at it and kind of took a minute, laughed, and told me to add some water and crush the tomatoes so that it would actually be a sauce.

We had lovely conversation with the Bandas and the Horchaks at dinner, and then retired for the night. Courtney and I are both keeping detailed journals, trying not to forget anything that happens while we are here! Did I mention that she is awesome and adventurous, and we are going to bungee jump together over Victoria Falls??

Saturday, July 26

The Sabbath in Verino

I didn't sleep too well last night, waking up at what would have been 6:30 back home (12:30 here) and staying awake for 5 or 6 hours until I finally got back to sleep for another hour or two. I was starving for some reason, and dogs were fighting outside and a rooster (or at least I think it was a rooster?) was crowing pitifully all night. But once we got up and got the day started, I felt awake and wonderful and didn't get sleepy until halfway through Mr. Horchak's sermon. (;
We had Mrs. Banda's delicious oatmeal (which I discovered she just makes by cooking milk, water, salt, and oats on the stove for 15-20 minutes), toast, rooibos tea, and yoghurt for breakfast after getting ready for church, then left around 11 to get to the campground for noon services. We met lots of people before and after church, and saw lots of adorable kids!
I was absolutely amazed by the children we saw. They were so well behaved during church, and so quiet and self-sufficient after church. The older ones took care if the younger ones, and they amused themselves and each other in a way that American children don’t seem capable of! We even saw a 5 year old boy carrying his baby sister on his back in the sling, which is just a long, wide scarf tied tightly around the baby's behind, over one shoulder an under other of the carrier, and knotted in front. One mother we met showed us how to do it and told us that it is very soothing to the baby to be on the back, not to mention freeing up the mother's hands to do whatever she needs to do and making walking places much easier. It comforts them when they are crying so much so that she said getting them used to not being on the back is similar to another weaning from breastfeeding!

After services and some fellowship, we had a nice late lunch together. I've noticed that the people here are so much more thankful for their food than we are in the States. In every prayer that I've heard an African give over a meal so far, they always thank God for the food in comparison to how little so many have, and they ask God to give food to those in need. Mr. Chirwa was telling us during the meal, as we were eating our nshima, chicken, cabbage salad, and boiled potatoes, that in much of Africa, if there is not enough maize, then it is considered a famine, because that is such a staple that almost nothing is considered a meal without it. (By the way, I ate with my hands, like Tine showed me. Many of them will take bigger handfuls, mash it up together in their fists, and then eat it, but I just used my fingers the way she did. I suppose she is mire Americanized after living there for several years, but when I did things the way she did, I felt like I was at least getting closer to doing the African way.
We headed home at close to 5, and relaxed until sunset, doing a bit of discussion on how the classes would go. Then, Mr. Horchak and Mr. Banda took Courtney and I to another mall to change a bit more money, shop a bit more, and get the ingredients to make a few small pizzas for a late dinner. We ate slices of pizza with red wine in the kitchen, as Mrs. Banda was in her room resting. Then we watched a bit of BBC news with Mr. Banda and Mr. Horchak and headed to bed.
I'm pretty nervous about the classes this week, to be honest! I know people expect a lot, and I just don't have any experience with teaching adults or with teaching English, let alone to people who don't already speak it. I am excited, of course! Just really nervous, too. We head to the campground tomorrow morning, and we'll start with the mixer games after lunch (most likely).

Sunday, July 27

The First Day of Teaching

Sermonette: Mr. Horchak
Ephesians 5:1-2 

Today was our first day of classes. We got ready and packed up in the morning, then waited for several hours for the Bandas and the truck that was carrying all our supplies to be ready. After a breakfast of oatmeal and toast and fruit, we finally set out. We got everything set up at the campground and finally started teaching around 11 with mixer games and easy sentence stem introductions. After lunch, we taught the vocab from the first hymn with some games afterwards to review the words.


Monday, July 28

Class Day 2

Sermonette: Mr. Salawila
Jeremiah 17:9



Tuesday, July 29

Class Day 3

Special music. Mr. Salawila and Mr. Chirwa ("Do the Work")
Sermonette: Mr. Banda
Why do we have English classes?
Matthew 24:4, 11 "Many" means lots of people--even in the Church! If you don't understand the English language, how will you know if there is a doctrinal change? How will you know if you are being misled? If you depend on one minister (Mr. Banda), it would be very easy for you to be deceived! Take the opportunity to learn for yourself.
Made the oatmeal porridge this morning! Also dropped half a pan of rolls into the dust. What a sad start to the day! I felt terrible. They cut off the tops of the some and the bottoms of others and gave them to the kids.
Speaking of which, I have fallen in love with the kids. I spent last night and tonight between class and dinner just playing with them… football, ring around the rosy, spinning, tickling… who needs language in common when you're kids and you're adorable?

Most nights we have watched movies; the Life series and others have been much enjoyed. Our projector stopped working halfway through our morning class today, though, so we had to skip the movie tonight. Instead, we talked around the fire, and they asked us lots of questions about America, especially about houses and flats, farming in America, families in America, and hair. It was a great conversation! We talked about how common polygamy is in Zambia, and that most people outside the church get married by 14 or 16 because that is the age when they finish school and cannot work on their parents' farms any longer. Then all that they can do is get married and have children to help them work on their own farm. Most people have more than 5 children for that reason. Some women will have 15 children! Others will marry lots of wives to have more children. But they said the divorce rate here is still quite high. Most people are farmers, and the most common crops are maize and cotton.
In regards to the discussion on hair, I thought it was interesting that they said weaves were so popular here in Zambia. It seems like most people are not rich, and they don't wear makeup or bathe often or have very many nice clothes, so I was surprised they would really care so much about hair. There are no mirrors in the bath houses at camp, and I have no idea what I've been walking around looking like (which is kinda nice), but I guess I thought that meant that the women wouldn't care about their appearances. But I suppose that's kind of a universal thing after all.

Wednesday, July 30

Class Day 4

Special music: The group from Nalubanda

Sermonette: Mr. Chirwa
Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep, the church. But He didn't say what kind of food to feed them with.
We are being fed in order to stay the course of righteousness.
Our hearts are deceitful. In order for us to get away from our deceitful hearts and stay the course of righteousness, we must be a sponge learning God's word! Let us drink in as much as the Church, our mother, feeds us, because it is fed to us by inspiration of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:10
1 John 1:9

The food has been so abundant here, it is like a thanksgiving feast every meal!

Thursday, July 31

Last Day of Classes

Sermonette: Mr. Momba
2 Timothy 1:6
He didn't give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of courage.
We can only learn and surge ahead if we first of all drive away shyness and fear. Fear is coupled with the way you think and feel. If you are afraid, you feel timid and unable to do something, but with that kind of feeling and thinking, we stop trying! Self-confidence is the key. It is the spirit that God gave to us.
Early this morning, Brenda came to my tent to wake me up so we could go for a jog as the sun rose. We went up the dirt path toward the road, passing charred fields caked in mist (which I learned is done here to promote new green grass growth for the cattle). She said she likes to jog often, but I noticed as we went along that she still wore her same flip flop sandals! I asked her what size she wore, and she said 6, but when she put her foot up to mine it looked like the same size as mine or bigger (I wear 8.5). Maybe she meant that was what size sandals she has and she doesn’t realize how poorly they fit? But I told her I would leave my tennis shoes with Mrs. Banda to bring her next Sabbath after we've gone. Her husband has been unemployed for 2 years, and they get a small assistance from the government--very small--and some help from the Bandas with money. It's very very tight, since they have 5 children to feed and no income to do it with. Shoes are a completely unnecessary luxury compared to food.
In class today, we reviewed everything we had learned and went over questions about any other words from the hymns we covered. We ended with speeches where they each wrote either on their own or with the help of sentence stems a story about themselves--how they had come into the church, their life story, or just a short description of themselves. After they gave their speech, we let them pick a book from the suitcase to take home for themselves and their family. Here are just a few of the speeches:

We gave the kids books today after the adults had taken what they wanted. They were so excited! It was such a special thing to see. :)

Friday, August 1

Back to Lusaka

We got up and packed our things, had a quick breakfast, and got ready to leave the campground. The goodbyes were so sad to say! I helped Brenda write a letter to Charlene and Jennifer, and then the bus came for the Mapoko members (the Nalubanda members left last night.) Karen gave us a big, beautiful pumpkin from her garden, and we gave her all the leftover food for her family (since Karen and Conard's and Darius and Rachel's families live in the house on the church property).

When we got home, we asked the maid to do some laundry and then went to the mall with Rangana and Silvestor (from Verino who already knows English--not the same Silvestor from the English classes). We spent awhile at the very American-seeming mall, containing a FoodCo (Walmart's African branch) and several American chain stores and restaurants alongside African and Zambian ones. I got a zebra patterned salt and pepper shaker set (though, here, it would just be salt and salt, I've noticed!) and a set of giraffe salad tongs at an African-made store, but we were quickly bored--it was too much like a mall back home. So, we walked to another mall where Silvestor thought a market would be going on outside. The market just happens on Saturdays and Sundays, though, so we went instead to look at a health food store that I was interested in, and then to buy groceries for Friday night dinner. I wish we could have gone to the Agricultural Show instead--I am told it is an annual thing and just about everyone from Lusaka goes. It is opened every year by the president of Zambia--this is the 88th year and the first year ever for that tradition to be broken, since the president is sick (or vacationing, or busy, as his media claims). Anyway, sad to miss the show, but I guess the guys weren't interested in going.

On the way home, we dropped off Silvestor (he lives in a "flat" right behind the first mall we went to--got a nice place in a nice location, I understand, while he had a job working IT for the government, but now that he is out of a job it's becoming very difficult to pay the rent). We then stopped at a produce stand on the side of the road to get a paw-paw (papaya) and some roasted maize on the cob as a snack. When we got home, our clothes were on the line and the maid had left for the day. We started making dinner of chips (French fries--did I mention that they fry literally everything here?), braii steak and chicken (barbecued), cabbage salad, boiled pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, and beetroot, rice, tomato gravy (sauce), and nshima, (which no one had room to eat). We congratulated Daniel on having passed his exams (he just received the scores this week) and did the dishes for Mrs. Banda and were in bed by 8.

Saturday, August 2

Sabbath in Nalubanda

We're on our way to the church in Nalubanda. We left at 7:15 and it's now 11:00, but we've only gotten about an hour closer to our destination. First, we took a side trip to the Bandas' farm to get something fixed in the car. The fuel was leaking, so one if their employees there fixed that and sent us on our way. We drove a little further (through downtown Lusaka, past the city markets, past the homes of the president and vice president, and then past the embassies) and the car's brakes were sounding bad, so we stopped at a little garage on the side of the road, beside a Hallal restaurant and a store, and Mr. Banda had the car worked on again there while Courtney, Mrs. Banda, and I stood/sat/got whistled and honked at by bus drivers on the side of the very dusty road. Then we drove a bit further and stopped at a filling station. We were supposed to meet Mr. Momba in Mumbwe at 9:30 and be at church by 11 for services at noon… but, as Mr. Banda says, "This is Africa."

After finally meeting Mr. Momba with his bus (van) driver in the town of Mumbwe, we parked the car (after some time--restroom stops, apple-getting, washing, and eating, and trying to find one another) and piled into the "bus." A few turns later, we hit the dusty dirt road, and even with the broken rear window completely duct taped over and all the windows closed, we were still coughing because of the dust. Courtney and I used the scarves Mrs. Banda lent us to cover our noses and mouths as well as our hair to keep it clean, and we trucked out the 35 or so kilometers on the dirt road to the village, arriving at about 2:15 (or 14:15 as they say here) in the village.

The landscape of Africa is like the dry grasslands of the states. Some different trees, but same idea. I've seen several baobabs and lots of palm trees along with the deciduous and a few of those Lion King trees that I always associated with Africa before coming here. (I still haven't figured out what they are called!) the buildings are all brick and/or mud or some kind of thick plaster-like material that I have yet to figure out. The roofs are made of thatch, a thick, long grassy plant that they place atop a wooden frame on the mud village houses, or tin (bigger buildings or ones in the city), which apparently makes for a deafening noise in the rainy season. In the village of Nalubanda, and along the sides of the roads along the way, we saw many of the traditional circular mud hut (bricks caked with mud outside and inside) with thatched roofs. These houses take 2-3 months to build, and most families have several small ones for various family members and/or various tasks.
It seems Zambia's technology, especially in the rural areas, has advanced very differently than the developed world. They mostly skipped the whole home phone phase, jumping right into smartphones. The village doesn't have power lines directed to it, but instead people run TVs, radios, boom boxes, cell phone chargers, and other things off of solar power. What an odd life it seems to me as an American: cooking nshima on coals while watching the BBC. (Just to clarify, normally, the kitchen is a separate, open-air mud hut building, and I didn't actually see anyone who had a TV in their kitchen. It's just the idea of the possibility.) Washing clothes in a bucket while talking on a cell phone. Riding a motorbike to get more thatch for the roof of your house.

In the town of Nalubanda, we learned that there are only 62 adults. How many people total? I wanted to know. I had to check Mr. Mooya's answer with Mrs. Momba to make sure he had understood my question correctly. He had. Including babies and children? About 200.

Our members who live in this little town include the Mooyas and the Mombas. Mr. and Mrs. Mooya grow cotton and keep chickens and goats. They had about 20 big bags of cotton next to the house to be sold. They don't keep any of the cotton for themselves, but sell all of it in town for about 300 kwacha per bag (about $50). Mr. and Mrs. Apron Momba grow some maize and have cattle and chickens. Their son (Venus) and daughter in law also grow maize and keep cattle and chickens. Altogether, the family has some 59 cattle, a few cows for milking and most for slaughter. They keep the cattle on their property during the rainy season when the grass here is good, but during the hot and cold dry seasons (April-October I believe), they herd them down along the roadside some 15 kilometers to the Kifue River for better feeding.

After a wonderful sermon by Mr. Jerry Shachonga, Venus took us for a tour of the village (including his home, his parents' home, the Mooyas' home, and the village head man's house. and we ate a delicious late lunch provided by Mrs. Grace Momba of lechwe (a type of antelope), rice, potatoes, pumpkin, cabbage salad, and nshima.

The drive home in the dark was much less eventful, and we arrived back at the Bandas' home around 9:30 pm with Austin Momba, who goes to college in Lusaka, in tow. A long but wonderful day!

Sunday, August 3

Victoria Falls

A 1 hour flight to the beautiful (and tiny) Livingstone airport was followed by a 40 minute wait for Bervin and Zere Momba to pick us up. They drove us to our guest house, which hadn't been cleaned yet from the previous visitor, and then to their home. They live in a very nice Western-style duplex with a big kitchen. There are no other Church members for them to meet with in Livingstone--the closest churches are each 5 hours' drive away (or 7 or 8 hours bus ride)--so they hold services every Sabbath in their living room using CDs of sermons that Mr. Banda sends them. I was supposed to bring 2 CDs from him to them on this trip, but completely forgot and left them back in Lusaka! Funny thing is, their next-door neighbor is a Pentacostal pastor, and hold church services for hours every Sunday and Thursday night in his home. We had the opportunity to hear them for a few hours yelling in "tongues", screaming repeatedly at the Devil, etc. it was quite terrifying to say the least. Thankfully during that time we also had a really cute new baby to distract us. Zere just had a beautiful baby girl 3 weeks ago, and her mother is staying with her for the time being to help out.

We waited for a while to have "second breakfast" of corn flakes, fried eggs, beans, turkey sausage, and toast with them around noon, and then Bervin took us out. He showed us around 2 beautiful hotels with gorgeous views of the river, and then took us to the falls, where we excitedly began our hike. We made sure to cover every square inch of the trail around the falls, taking in every gorgeous view (and getting very, very wet!). I think I was expecting something reminiscent of Niagra Falls, which I think is an incredible sight. But this was like nothing I ever imagined! It was huge, and incredibly powerful, and did I mention huge?


After hiking all around the falls, we hiked down a trail called the "Boiling Pot" to see this nifty little doo-hickey. We watched someone bungee jump off the bridge and looked at each other with wide eyes. I was suddenly glad that Mr. Horchak had forbidden the bungee, especially when we met a man who said he helped run it and was trying to get us to come with him and do it... this guy was definitely either a bit cuckoo or had had too much to drink.

Finally, we went across the bridge over the Zambezi that connects Zambia and Zimbabwe. The bridge itself is "no-man's land" because neither country owns it, so we had to get cleared to leave Zambia at one border crossing, then head off across the bridge and continue a ways before we crossed into Zimbabwe. We were expecting Bervin to come pick us up soon (it was just about 18 hours, when the park was closing), so we didn't get our passports stamped in Zimbabwe, but felt content with having crossed past the "Welcome to Zimbabwe" sign!

Bervin picked us up when we got back to the park entrance. On the way home, we stopped by the side of the road, where 3 elephants were peacefully grazing! We then went back with him to have a delicious dinner with the family. Courtney wasn't feeling well (I was kicking myself for not making us get raincoats), so we left early to get to our guest house for a good night's sleep.

Monday, August 4

Victoria Falls Part 2

We started with a breakfast of eggs and toast (and lots of tea, since we were both feeling under the weather) from the guest house, then walked to the Livingstone museum (which was a really neat place, but wasn't the "cultural center" where we thought we were going). When we finished at the museum, we decided to catch a taxi and get the driver to take us to wherever the "real" cultural center was, that Mrs. Banda had been telling us we had to go to. He took us to a group of 3 large buildings, built to look like mud huts. Since no one else was in the parking lot, we asked if it was open. We had heard this was a great place to get souvenirs, so we asked the taxi driver to find out specifically if the shopping was open. He got out of the car and came back quickly with a woman, telling us that yes, they were open, and yes, we could get out. So, for some reason, we decided to get out and pay him and let him leave. Then the lady took us inside. The building was an empty stage surrounded by empty seats. "In the afternoon, there will be traditional dancers here," she told us, and explained that no one was here now but we should come back in the afternoon to see the dancers. They also had a restaurant outside that would be open later out by the outdoor stages. We looked at each other in consternation, and went outside to find that the taxi was long gone. So, we called Bervin.

We really wanted to go on a safari or some kind of animal tour before we had to leave at 17 hours, but nothing was running at the right time for us to go. Finally, we ended up at the helicopter place that Rangana and Mrs. Banda had told us about, and Courtney, out of the goodness of her heart, paid for Bervin and I so that all 3 of us could go on a half hour tour above and through the falls, and around the park that surrounded it. It was an incredible flight! We not only flew through all the chasms of the falls, sometimes practically skimming the water, but also saw a crocodile, several hippos, a few giraffes, some zebras, a herd of buffalo, a herd of elephants, and some impalas.

On the way back to Bervin's home, we stopped by a market, so that Courtney and I could do the last thing on our to-do list for Livingstone: get souvenirs. I bartered for a painting, a pair of giraffe earrings, a copper bracelet, and a set of coasters. Among Courtney's finds was a super awesome home-made radio!

When we got back to Bervin's we had a late lunch and then headed off to the airport. Another sad goodbye, and we were off back to Lusaka and to our "mama."

Tuesday, August 4

Out of Africa

Our last day! The saddest part of it to me was when Rangana asked why we weren't excited to go home. The Zambians all made it sound like it was such a sacrifice for us to be there in Zambia, like we were really missing all the creature comforts of home. I will say, I did miss brushing my teeth with tap water and not having to buy a bottle every time I was thirsty. But honestly? Not being able to use the internet or my cell phone was such an appreciated break to me. And I was learning patience: things just take more time, and you have to be okay with waiting. You appreciate things working so much more when they don't usually work and so you don't expect them to. You can't expect car repairs to be quick or queues to be short. You don't get upset when someone cuts you off in traffic. You take the time to ask others how they are and really listen to the answer. You always pray for those who are more in need than you are, especially the hungry. You appreciate what you have, because so many people don't. You want to improve your quality of life because you know it can be done, but you are at peace exactly where you are.

We visited Mrs. Banda's hospital in Lusaka, where I got contact information from the people in charge of the HIV/AIDS department and the oncology department, where I could volunteer in a couple of years. She then took us to a few markets and shops so she could buy some cookies for Tine's book launching and we could buy her some clothes and groceries with the kwacha we had left over. That evening, the power went out, and Rangana, Daniel, Courtney, and I played a makeshift version or cricket with a flashlight before dinner.

Our flight wasn't until midnight, so we dallied for a few hours after dinner, then all 6 of us piled into the Bandas car for the ride to the airport. The systems were down at the airport, so we waited with our bags and passports for several hours while they did everything manually. The flight was delayed about 2 hours, and we all felt like cheering by the time we all were on the plane and the gate was closed. An appropriate end to our stay in Zambia, perhaps? But I wouldn't have been upset if they had said instead, "sorry, no flights are leaving here. Just go ahead back home," and I'd have gone back to "my" bed at the Bandas and gone right to sleep and woken up to oatmeal and rooibos tea and the warmest, kindest people in the world.