web analytics
November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Thanksgiving In Zimbabwe

Seldom do I use the term “life transforming” because very few things in life are. Change is something that requires diligence, effort and even monotonous repetition. It doesn’t come cheaply.
 
But what I did this past Thanksgiving forever changed my perception of the world. As a volunteer with my good friend Glen Megill’s organization, Rock of Africa, a Christian relief effort, I traveled to Zimbabwe, one of the poorest countries on earth to one of its poorest villages.
 
Joining me was my daughter Chana; my friend, the writer and radio host Dennis Prager; Dennis’s son Aaron; Glen Megill; and several Christian volunteers. We staged an outreach program preparing a Thanksgiving feast for 500 villagers. Most important, we gave them seed that can produce shima, the corn-flower mixture that is the staple diet for most of Africa and which, for $25 a year, can literally keep a family alive. The feast consisted of ten slaughtered goats and giant pots of cooked cabbage and shima.
 
It would be difficult to convey the appreciation of the villagers for one good, hot, meaty meal. The people we met were gentle, beautiful – and utterly poor. The village consisted of nothing but mud huts, the chief’s homestead included. These people have next virtually nothing. They live in tiny pen-sized huts; one we visited housed a hospitable but infirm man in his late eighties who lives with and takes care of his twelve-year-old-grandson whose parents died of AIDS.
 
Of the hundreds who came to our feast only a few were young mothers and fathers. We saw scores of young children strapped to their grandmothers’ backs in the African way. So many on this continent have already been lost to AIDS – an entire generation wiped out by a killer disease.
 
Despite these serious challenges, the people smile and exhibit unbelievable warmth. Are they happier than we in the West? I cannot say. I have never believed in the ennobling quality of poverty and I will not glamorize a life with so little. But what is undeniable is that they seemed far more satisfied, more grateful, and more content.
 
We in the West who are fortunate to be able to translate so much of our potential into something professionally and personally fulfilling are frequently plagued by an insatiable material hunger, making it challenging for us to ever find the inner peace these villagers seemed to possess.
 
As we Rock of Africa volunteers cooked and served the food, I noticed that among the villagers there was not a single finicky eater. They ate every part of the goat served them – the stomach, the intestines, the vertebrae. Food was not a luxury. It was survival itself.
 
The men and women sat apart. When the women, my daughter included, served them, they curtsied, as women do by tradition before men. If a woman does not curtsy, the man will not accept the food.
 
Most memorable were the children, who were wondrous in every way. Gorgeous, extremely polite, and exceptionally well behaved. They exhibited none of wildness common among Western kids. Hundreds of them sat in perfect rows on the floor, grateful to have a warm, hot meal. They too sang and danced for us and we danced with them.
 
The most moving part of the day was when we distributed the corn seed for the families. The chief called out the names and as they came forward for the seed they were glowing. Many of them kissed the bags as they collected them.
 
It should be mandatory to take Western kids to Africa for at least one humanitarian mission. It would help wean them from the corrosive materialism that has overtaken us and it would lead them to appreciate their blessings and share more of it with others.
 
All this was made possible because of two angels. The first is Glen Megill, the American businessman who created Rock of Africa and is one of the most righteous men I know.
 
The second is a young woman whose courage and heroism left me incredulous. Her name is Regina Jones. She’s thirty years old and from Detroit. She moved to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, four years ago after a teen life where she owned more than two hundred pairs of shoes.
 
She now lives on her own and runs the organization. She saves orphaned street children from dying of AIDS. She teaches villagers how to become self-sustaining. For our feast she went at midnight to a neighboring village, negotiated the price of the goats, rented a trailer in the morning and picked them up so the villagers could eat meat. I personally watched her lovingly lecture a man with a white beard to help out his wife more with their tiny farm.
 

No, she is not a household name and she will never be as famous as Britney Spears. But to me she was a small reminder that the suffocating selfishness of Western material culture can indeed be transcended.

 

 

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of This World: The Values Network and the author most recently of “The Blessing of Enough.” Donations to Rock of Africa can be made via the organization’s website, www.rockofafrica.org.

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Thanksgiving In Zimbabwe”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz delivers lecture.
IDF Chief Rabbi: Nothing is Holy to Muslims on Temple Mount except Al Aqsa
Latest Indepth Stories
Kessim (religious leaders) mark the opening of a synagogue in the village of Gomenge, Ethopia, one of five built in Gondar with JDC aid, 1988
Courtesy of American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York.

In a world where people question whether they should be engaged, we are a reminder that all Jews are responsible for one another.

Greiff-112814-Levaya

My son is seventeen; he didn’t want to talk about what happened, or give any details of the Rosh Yeshiva’s words of chizuk.

Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri

All involved in the Ferguson debate should learn the laws pertinent to non-Jews: the Noahide Laws.

Charley Levine

Prominent Jewish leaders acknowledged that their predecessors had mistreated the Bergson Group.

Abbas has been adding new layers of rhetoric to his tactical campaign to de-Judaize Jerusalem

The Jew’s crime is his presence.

Hamas’s love for death tried to have as many Palestinian civilians killed as possible

Israel recognizes the fabrication called a Palestinian nation; So what do we want from the Swedes?

Arab attacking Jews in the land date back a century, long before Israel was created or in control.

Creativity without clarity is not sufficient for writing. I am eternally thankful to Hashem for his gift to me.

Golden presents a compelling saga of poor but determined immigrants who fled pogroms and harsh conditions in their homelands for a better life in a land of opportunity.

It seems to us that while the Jewish entitlement to the land of Israel transcends the Holocaust, the Jewish experience during that tragic time is the most solid of foundations for these “national rights.”

Too many self-styled civil rights activists seemed determined to force, by their relentless pressure, an indictment regardless of what an investigation might turn up.

Unfortunately, at present, the rabbinate does not play a positive role in preventing abuse.

More Articles from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meet in the Kremlin, Nov. 20, 2013.

On the one hand, Putin has been a friend to Chabad and to Israel. On the other hand, Putin is a brutal dictator.

The gradual trickle of self-hatred into the Jewish soul is evidencing itself in the American Jewish public.

Rabbi Schochet wrote the Johannesburg Beis Din: It is totally prohibited and unacceptable to hear someone like Boteach.

If you’re feeling down, stop reading right now. You’re only going to be more depressed.

The world and the United State continue to give Rouhani a pass.

American Jews – especially those working on campus – don’t accept that we have a battle on our hands.

But the most painful part of an otherwise illuminating and extraordinary Forum was Iranian President Rouhani’s speech.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/thanksgiving-in-zimbabwe/2009/12/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: