Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2005

We spent our first Christmas in Africa in 2005.  We had only one decoration:  A Christmas card sent by my friend Dianna.  No wrapping, no bows, no tree, no family.  And yet that day is one of my favorite memories.  Here's the story:  

Our Christmas was certainly different this year. We were up early, as usual, and were able to talk to both our children on the internet (Skype). They were spending Christmas Eve with my brother’s family in Monett, Missouri. (Zambia is eight hours ahead of CDT.)

At 8:00 we left for our outreach, taking eight Zambians along with us. We arrived at Gowell (pronounced go well) and found Patson Syula just finishing up preparations for the day. The congregation at Gowell has only a handful of members, but they had invited the entire community for an all-day Christmas gathering. Patson, a member of Namwianga’s Church Development Team, had organized the event. He had spent the weekend at Gowell helping them get a thatched roof shelter made and arranging the food for the guests he hoped would come. He had just finished work on the shelter that morning and had added posters and balloons as decorations.

People trickled in all morning as we had singing, preaching, teaching, and communion. My translator, Sylvester, helped me teach the 38 children who came for Bible class. David preached the morning sermon, and others took their turns to teach and preach as well. The meal was to be the last event of the day, and we could see some young men doing the preparations nearby. During a break we went over and helped stir the nshima as it cooked in a huge iron pot over the open fire. The afternoon continued with some special singing groups as well as congregational singing and more preaching. The people kept coming, adding more to the 93 who were present for the morning service. Finally at 4:00 the food was ready. We feasted on nshima and goat meat.

We arrived back home at 6:00. We pulled out the Dr. Pepper and the new DVDs that we had been saving for the occasion. Our congregation at Brentwood Oaks had sent us a wonderful care package of goodies with the Americans who came in early December. It is amazing how good a Dr. Pepper tastes when you haven’t had one for six months! We enjoyed a nice, quiet evening of watching movies and drinking Dr. Pepper.

There are all kinds of ways to celebrate Christmas. We consider ourselves blessed to have shared this one in Africa.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Student Success Story

I have spent the last few days sending out letters to the 100 plus sponsors who fund the education of 150 students at Namwianga Christian Secondary School and George Benson Christian College.  The motto of the US Sponsorship program is Building Leaders, Changing Lives.  The story of Gift is an ideal illustration of how the sponsorship program does just that.  I interviewed Gift last summer during our trip to Zambia.  It was a tough interview for me, because I was so touched by this young man's story that I had to hold back my tears.  I hope that Gift's resilience and faith will encourage all of us to have faith in difficult times.  

Gift is an impressive young man.  Articulate, smart, and confident, it is not surprising that he was chosen to serve as NCSS Headboy , the highest leadership position in the school.  The title of Headboy is respected in Zambia, and for the rest of Gift’s life, it will be something that shows his excellence and leadership.  Americans would compare it to having “Eagle Scout” on a resume. 

When you hear Gift’s story, it makes his achievements even more remarkable.  At age 13, Gift lived in the capital city of Lusaka with his parents and 5-year-old sister.  His father managed a supply company for the government, and they lived in a comfortable, modern house.  Gift attended a private boys’ school. 

All of that changed in an instant when his parents were killed in a car accident.  A week after his parents died, Gift was sent to live with his grandmother in a remote village in the bush.  He had never met his grandmother, nor had he ever been exposed to village life.  He was separated from his sister who stayed in Lusaka, and he was also separated from the only lifestyle he had ever known.  He went from a house with electricity and running water to a thatched hut shared with his grandmother and four other orphans she is raising.  Instead of the private boys’ school, he attended a rural school with other village kids. 

Gift tells his story without emotion, but one can imagine how hard it must have been.  At first he was miserable, refusing to go to school or to cooperate with his grandmother.  Eventually he decided that he had to make the best of his situation.  He worked hard in school and became part of his village family and community.  The transition, he knows, was made easier by three George Benson Christian College graduates who were teaching at his village school.  “They called me over to their house to watch TV,” he recalls, and their friendship and influence helped him adjust.  Gift excelled in school and became a student leader.  His GBCC mentors made sure that he applied for sponsorship at Namwianga Christian Secondary School and gave him good recommendations.  Gift knows that sponsorship changed his life:  “I would be sitting at home in the village if not for my sponsorship.  There was no one who would have paid for my high school fees.” 

Gift is very grateful for the opportunities he was given, and he has high hopes for the future.  He wants to become a doctor.   Gift’s remarkable story is another example of how the sponsorship program is fulfilling its mission of Building Leaders and Changing Lives.  

There are hundreds of other young people like Gift waiting for sponsors so that they can go to school at Namwianga.  If you would like more information about how to sponsor a student, please reply to this blog post with your contact information.  I will answer you personally and will not post your  reply or information.  

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Namwianga - June, 2013

Mrs. Mukupa's gift of eggs
George and Jason all grown up
David and I have been back in Zambia for three days now:  three amazing, exhausting, and exciting days.  We greet our old friends with hugs, handshakes, and exclamations of joy.  We show off our photos of the grandkids, and our friends laugh and call us “Mudala and Muchambeli” which I think means “old man and old woman” (in a good way).  We marvel at how much the Zambian children have grown and how little our adult friends have changed.  And we feel at home again—our other home.  

    Saturday David’s co-worker Rodgers Namuswa picked him up right after breakfast and took him to a village north of Kalomo to speak at an area-wide men’s leadership meeting.  He was gone all day and came home telling of all the old friends he had met and the wonderful meal of chicken and nshima he enjoyed with them.

George and Jason came over and spent most of Saturday with me.  They are seven years old now and seem so grown up!  We played card games, took walks, read books, and explored the games on my phone-- a little slice of heaven for me.  They still remember Sara, so they dictated e-mail messages to her.  (George and Jason are orphans at Eric’s House and spent a lot of time with us when we lived at Namwianga.) 

   Today (Sunday) we walked the mile or so to the Basic School Church and David preached there.  Once again the singing amazed us, especially the two school choirs that sang at the end.  

 And late this afternoon I had a special visit from Mrs. Mukupa.  During our time at Namwianga, we had several opportunities to help Mrs. Mukupa, an elderly widow who supports several grandchildren.  I wrote an article about her that touched the hearts of some readers in America, and they occasionally sent funds for things like shoes, food, and school fees that we passed on to her. Today she came with two of her granddaughters.  She told me how much she appreciated the things we had done for her, and then she gave me a gift—a precious gift that brought tears to my eyes: s sack of fresh brown eggs from her chickens.  Silver or gold could not have impressed me more.  I’m going to have to think of something very special to do with those eggs!  

    Tomorrow David will be off early with Rodgers Namuswa again to minister at the clinic.  I have meetings set up with groups of sponsored students in the morning and the afternoon, and both David and I will be teaching college classes in the afternoon.  

Men's leadership meeting on Saturday
Singing Group from the high school


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Orphans in Zambia

Linda’s note:  My thanks to Meagan Hawley and her blog for the poem and for inspiring me to write about the plight of orphans.

A few years ago I didn’t know any children who were orphans. Then I moved to Zambia and became sponsorship coordinator.  And that’s when I met orphans.  One afternoon I interviewed each sponsored student individually.  I was dazed as I walked home.  I threw myself on the bed and sobbed.  How else do you respond to story after story of death, desertion, and desperation? 

That particular group of students has moved on, but three of the current sponsored students have similar stories.  Grace’s mother died when Grace was 13, and her father died five years later.  At the funeral, an uncle that Grace had just met was assigned to be her guardian.  Grace tells about how this affects her:  “My uncle provides me with shelter and food, but I can’t ask him for anything else because he is looking after 16 other people.  I have no one to confide in.” 

At age nine, Kenny was sent to live with an aunt in a remote village when his parents died.  His aunt is unable to provide him with any financial support beyond food and shelter.  When Kinny found out he had a sponsorship at Namwianga, he walked 40 miles to enroll in high school.  Without sponsorship, Kinny would never have left the village. 

David is an eighth grader at Namwianga. He lived with an aunt for three years after his parents died.  She was not caring toward him, and life was miserable.  David left that home and lived on the streets of Lusaka for a year.  A relative found out about David and took him to Namwianga’s orphanage.

 “Some relatives just pretend you do not exist, no matter how much you might be struggling,” says David.  “The worst thing of being an orphan is not receiving love from parents. Anyone can love you and care for you, but no one will ever love you like your mother would.” 

A poem of unknown origin circulates in Zambia: 

My heart bleeds when I see an adult pass by.
I look in the face, hoping to see my lost father and mother.
Hoping to hear their comforting voices, hoping for a hug.
But nobody has time for me since my parents died.
I have become a scavenger.
I must roam the streets to look for food.
I have nowhere to sleep.
I cannot go to school.
When my relatives take me in I must be beaten because I am naughty.
I must do all the work because I am lazy they say.
I must be given little food because I eat too much.
If I laugh, I am making noise.
If I cry I am not grateful.
O God, it’s terrible to be an orphan.

Almost half of the sponsored students at Namwianga are considered orphans in the Zambian culture because they have lost at least one parent.  And twenty percent are full orphans because both of their parents are dead.  Many others are de facto orphans because of parental desertion or neglect.  It is easy to feel powerless in the face of such need.   And yet sponsorship is an important way to help orphans.  Students who attend Namwianga have their needs met in a caring environment that helps them grow academically, socially, and spiritually.   For most, it is a life-changing experience. 

If you are interested in changing a life, consider sponsoring an orphan or needy student in school at Namwianga.  High school students need $140 per month, and college students need $150 per month.  Partial sponsorships of $25 per month or one-time gifts are welcome. 

Sponsorship payments may be made by check, automatic debit, debit/credit card, or PayPal.  Checks should be made payable to Zambia Mission Fund and mailed to Zambia Mission Fund, Box 3393, Abilene, TX  79604. Automatic debit requests should be sent to the same address.   Paypal or credit/debit card payments may be made on the Zambia Mission website:  Click on Donate and be sure to specify that your donation is for student sponsorship.  If you have questions, please post them as a comment and I will get back to you.  Your comment will not be posted unless you request it to be. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving 2009

Reflections on Thanksgiving 2009:  We had been having major issues with the electricity and did not expect to have power all day.  This was our last Thanksgiving in Zambia and our largest as well.  

It was what some might call a minor miracle--the electricity stayed on all day while we did our cooking and baking! I held my breath every time I put a dish into the oven, hoping that the power would stay on long enough to cook it. I breathed a sigh of relief when everything was hot and ready.

Our Thanksgiving guests began arriving at 6:00 just as the sun was going down. We were about to gather at the table when the seemingly inevitable happened-- the power went off. We ate our feast by candlelight. Just as we finished dessert, the power came back on at 8:50 p.m. David called it another TIA (This Is Africa) experience.

We ended up with 21 for dinner with an interesting mix of ages, stages, and cultures. We had five Peace Corps volunteers from our area, plus American missionaries, Zambians, a Peruvian, and a South African family.  Our youngest guest was baby Lennie who came from the Haven orphanage with Meagan Hawley.  

Once again we give thanks for the blessing of friends and fellowship in a foreign land. God is good all the time, and God is good everywhere.

Shown in the photo: Peace Corps Volunteers Krista, Brittany, and Tim; Missionaries Sheri Sears and Rod Calder.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2008

Part four of a series of re-posts of Thanksgivings in Zambia

Guests in 2008:  Richard Krogsgaard, Kimberly Burns, Deb Rakowski, Meagan Hawley, Kapree Harrell, Robby Banda, Karen Johnson, Sheri Sears, Angela Glenn, Brittany Freitas, Sue Krogsgaard

Our Thanksgiving table was surrounded by a wonderful mix of people. Six Peace Corps volunteers from all over the United States joined us, plus Canadian and American missionaries and a Zambian co-worker. After last year's Christmas turkey adventure, we settled for mesquite marinaded grilled chicken. We managed to have lots of Thanksgiving traditional side dishes, including cranberry sauce, green bean casserole (with homemade onion rings!), fruit salad, and lots of pies.

The electric company cooperated and we even had power all day--a rare blessing that we greatly appreciate. Thursday evening David pulled out the multimedia projector and screen and we watched a movie on DVD.

As always, we love visits from the Peace Corps Volunteers. The stories of their adventures living in the bush leave us laughing and full of admiration for the work they do. And I could not ask for a more appreciative group to cook for!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2007

2007 was the first year we had Peace Corps Volunteers with us for Thanksgiving.  These incredible women made the holiday extra special:  Deb Rakowski, Jalle Gibesa, Angela Glenn, Jennifer Dyson, Heidi Joseph, and Karen Johnson.  

We had a fun and interesting Thanksgiving gathering at our house this year. Five Peace Corps volunteers arrived at Namwianga on Wednesday to spend the holiday with us. They stayed at the large guesthouse but ate most of their meals with us. They came prepared to cook and bake dishes for our feast, and on Thursday morning we had three kitchens in use—the guesthouse where the PC women were staying, the Hamby guesthouse kitchen, and mine. We had a short power outage around 10 a.m. that gave us a bit of panic, but the power came on again after about 30 minutes and the baking continued without any major disasters. 

Don Oldenburg had contacted the manager of the Spar grocery store in Choma weeks ago and asked him if he could get us two turkeys for Thanksgiving. We had high hopes that this manager could pull it off, but alas, it was not to be. When Don and Laura went to pick up the turkeys on Wednesday, the manager informed them that the turkeys had come in, but they were of such poor quality that he wouldn’t sell them to us. David grilled chicken instead.

We had two more Peace Corps workers who came in on Thursday—one made it in time for dinner and another arrived in the evening. Our other guests were Don and Laura Oldenburg, Sheri Sears, and Richard and Sue Krogsgaard. Richard and Sue are Canadians who arrived at Namwianga in August. They missed the Canadian Thanksgiving Day in October, so we thought it was appropriate that they share in our feast.

And feast we did! We managed to have many traditional American Thanksgiving dishes: stuffing, pumpkin pie, apple pie, rolls, mashed potatoes, green beans, and even jellied cranberry sauce that some recent visitors brought with them in their luggage. There were no Macy’s parades or football games to watch, but we did have lots of laughter, sharing, and fellowship.

Sara and John were in Searcy with David’s sister and family. We were able to talk to them via Skype and even saw them through the web cam. Later we talked with David’s parents and watched the last minute dinner preparations going on in the background. When they announced that dinner was ready, David’s dad had all of the family hold hands in a circle and then asked David to lead the prayer for the meal. From 10,000 miles away we shared in the Thanksgiving gathering with our family. God is good, and we are thankful.
David's father died in September of the following year, making our memories of the Thanksgiving Skype session especially sweet.