Monday, May 30, 2005

School Supplies

Students at Brentwood Christian School have been generous in supporting Zambian missions. For the past six years we have asked the elementary students to donate their leftover school supplies at the end of the year. We then ship the supplies over on a container and distribute the crayons, paper, markers, glue, scissors, and pencils to the schools at Namwianga Mission.

Zach Strietelmeier was only a second grader when we had our first school supply collection. His mother is a teacher at BCS, so Zach was hanging around after school let out while his mother finished up her work. On his own initiative Zach began sorting all the crayons that had been donated. He carefully separated out the good, unbroken crayons to be sent to Africa. This was no small task, since there were thousands of crayons to sort.

Zach has continued this job every year. Last week he was joined in his efforts by Reagan Smith, another teacher's son who was waiting for his mother to finish cleaning out her classroom. The two of them sorted the crayons, tested all the markers to make sure they were still good, sharpened pencils, and helped pack up the supplies. Since I won't be around next May, I have asked these two eighth graders to take over the entire school supply collection next year, and they have agreed.

Zach and Reagan are two of the many unsung heroes who give of themselves to support the work in Zambia.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

More Facts About Zambia

Economy - Zambia's main industries are construction, foodstuff, chemicals, textiles, horticulture, fertilizer, beverages, and copper mining. The government once owned the copper mines, incurring huge losses. The mines are now privatized, and this may improve the chances for copper mining to become profitable again. The inflation rate was over 20% after drought conditions in 2001-2002, but now is estimated at 8%. The per capita income is $870, and 86% of Zambians live in poverty. (Sources: and

Money - The currency in Zambia is the kwaacha. The exchange rate in October, 2004, was 4800 kwaacha to 1 US dollar.

Language - English is the offical and administrative language. There are eight major Zambian languages spoken, along with about 70 other indigenous languages.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Information About Zambia

Many people ask us questions about Zambia, so I thought I'd provide some information you might find helpful. My source is the Zambia Medical Mission handbook.

History- Zambia was called Northern Rhodesia until 1964. The territory was administered by the Southern Africa Company from 1891 until it was taken over by the British in 1923. The name was changed to Zambia upon independence in 1964.

Political Situation - Zambia is one of the most stable and strife-free countries in Africa. There has never been a war in Zambia, and the 73 tribes live in peace and harmony.

Land and Climate - Zambia is bordered by The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, and Angola. The country covers 290,583 square miles, an area slightly larger than Texas. There are three large rivers, the Zambezi, the Luangwa, and the Kafue, that flow through Zambia. The cool, dry season is from April through August, and the hot, dry season runs from August to October or November. The warm, rainy season is from November to April.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Revisiting Missionaries and Money

Not long ago I wrote about my initial dread at the prospect of raising money for missions. For me, asking for money is one of those things that falls under the category of "I'll do this only for my Lord." The last few weeks have shown me a different perspective on this task, however. David and I have been completely overwhelmed at the outpouring of generosity that our planned work has received. Our congregation at Brentwood Oaks gave several thousand dollars over the goal they had set. Other individuals have amazed us with their desire to help. We received a generous check in the mail from a former co-worker whom we hadn't seen or heard from in years. The note included with the check said, "We want to be part of this adventure." The words of Ephesians 3:20 continue to echo in my mind, reminding me that God is able to do ". . . more than all we ask or imagine."

To Him be the glory.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Progress on the House

Roy Merritt, one of our neighbors at Namwianga Mission sent us this picture of the house. This is a front view showing the the veranda. The morning sun is beaming in on the right. As of Friday workers were installing the tin roof.

We are very grateful to the Brentwood Oaks Church of Christ, our sending congregation in Austin, Tx. Last Sunday the church had a special contribution to raise $30,000 for this house and a vehicle. At the time of this post that goal had been exceeded by $7,000. Praise the Lord!

"Last" Thoughts

If you're a regular reader of our blog, you've noticed that our postings have been less frequent lately. I'm sorry about that, but our life is extremely hectic right now! I wrote earlier about the "first of the lasts" when I said goodbye to my brother. Now we are experiencing some "lasts" almost daily. A recent blog comment was a great reminder that many of our "lasts" can be causes for rejoicing. Yes, we do look forward to the last traffic jam in Austin (but it may well be on the way to the airport on June 20).

I'm finishing up the school year with my second graders at Brentwood Christian School. This week I've given my last test, entered my last grades on the computer, supervised the last class party, and taught my last science unit. I've uttered sighs of relief at all of these. These experiences are not on the same level as saying goodbyes, but each is a reminder that our departure date is fast approaching. And each is a reminder that these lasts will lead to a huge round of new firsts. There will be tests to give in Zambia, grades to record, and parties to host (I hope). Unfortunately, there will also be traffic of one sort or another to deal with.

All of this shapes my perspective on living as a Christian. We seldom realize it, but everyone experiences some of these "lasts." No large gathering of friends will be quite the same next year. Technology makes our old things and processes obsolete, so we do many things for the last time. On the other hand, our fast-paced society requires us to encounter new "firsts" all the time. New roads open, new procedures are instituted, new friendships form. Change is all around us. An old hymn reminds us that "time is filled with swift transitions" and the only solution is to "build your hopes on things eternal" and "hold to God's unchanging hand." I'm holding on tight these days!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Water from the Well

Posted by: dgregersen53
Water from the Well
Water is precious in Zambia! Drought is a frequent and unwelcomed visitor to Southern Zambia. This well or bore hole serves the large bush community of Simpweze.The boy has come to get water for his family. In addition to the bore hole a church and a Christian school serve the villagers living here. You can see the school buildings in the background. Zambia Medical Mission on its July tour has come many times to this village. We have witnessed Zambians finding "living water" at this very place.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Mothers and Babies

I am always fascinated by the Zambian method of transporting babies. The mother uses her chitenge, a 2-meter length of cloth, to snugly hold her baby on her back. She ties the cloth with a knot in the front. Babies seem quite happy with the arrangement! The group of moms and babies in this picture was waiting in line for treatment during last year's medical mission.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Meal time hand washing

The Zambians do not eat very often with forks and spoons. Nshima is their fork or spoon. They take a handful of nshima, squeeze and shape it with their hand and then use it to dip into the relish (the side dish of chicken stew or some vegetable). Hand washing is thus necessary before and after eating. A bowl and pitcher of water is made available for all to wash with before and after a meal. I took this picture of our friend Simeon Siachobe washing his hands before eating with the headmaster of Kabanga School in Kabanga, Zambia.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Zambian Bush Church Building

Posted by: dgregersen53
Zambian Bush Church Building
Churches planted in the bush will build a structure of bricks and thatch for a meeting place. The Tomongo church near Kalomo built this structure and has already outgrown it. To accommodate the overflowing crowd a tarp is placed on the ground upon which the worshipers sit. This picture was taken in July 2004 during the dry season. I don't know what they do in the rainy season.

Greeting Customs in Zambia

Zambians greet each other with handshakes. As a sign of respect, the left hand is used to support the right hand. Kneeling down before the elderly or social superiors is common. Except for handshaking, bodily contact while greeting a member of the opposite sex is not traditionally acceptable. Adults usually address each other as Ba (which means Mrs., Mr., or Miss) with the last name. However, the Zambians have a hard time pronouncing "Gregersen," so we are often called Ba David and Ba Linda. The Tsonga dialect tends to add a long e to words ending in consonants, so David sometimes becomes "Davidee." The short i also becomes a long e, so Linda is called "Ba Leenda."

Handshaking is widely used as a gesture of thanks and friendship. Women commonly clap hands during conversations, especially to show pleasure.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The First of the Lasts

Yesterday I experienced the first of many lasts. My brother is leading a medical mission team to El Salvador in June, and this was my last time to see him before we leave for Zambia. He and his wife live in Missouri, but drove to Tulsa and met us for a final meal and our goodbyes. Our conversations centered upon our medical mission trips. This will be his first, so we were glad to give him advice about the dos and don'ts. We took lots of pictures and joked around in our usual lighthearted way. But then the time came for the final hugs and goodbyes. Swirling through my head was the thought, "When will I see you again?" I reminded myself that we never really know when we will meet again. Then we climbed into the car, waved one more time, and turned to face the road ahead. The first of many lasts left a gentle ache, and we traveled on.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

FAQ: What will you eat in Zambia?

Many have asked what we will eat in Zambia. This link gives information on typical foods in Zambia and the recipe for making nshima. We'll make some and see if David's office staff at Brentwood Oaks likes it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Hope in His Promise

As I write this entry it is only 48 days until we leave home for Zambia. Linda and I know the hardest thing we will ever do is leave John and Sara. They are not children anymore, but they are our adult kids. We have the concerns all parents have for their children at this stage in life. Leaving parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts and life long friends is not something we are looking forward to either. But when you say "yes" to something, it often means saying "no" to many other things. When believers make the commitment to leave home and family for Him, Christ makes a promise. I referred a 16-year-old Zambian to this promise last summer. He was struggling with making a decision to follow Christ. He knew saying "yes" to the Lord would come at a high cost. He said his father would beat him and send him packing. I showed him what Jesus promised. It was this: "I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life" (Luke 18:29). I promised the young man who lives near Namwianga Mission that if his father rejected him I would be a father to him as well as would the other Christian men at the mission. Later that day he was baptized, said "yes" to Jesus. I'll keep you posted on that situation. Meanwhile, Linda and I will be looking to Jesus to fulfill this promise to us as we take our place in Zambia. We are going to take Him up on His promise to add to the family. Won't it be interesting to see how He does it? We will introduce you in the months to come to new brothers, sisters, parents, and children in Christ.

By the way, John and Sara are giving us up for a while. They have been mature about our decision to move to Zambia and have shown a Christ-like attitude. They have not once said, "Don't go." Many of you will be for them what we will long to be while away. We thank Christ for you in advance and marvel at the blessing that is the family of God.

Because the tomb is empty!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Of Missionaries and Money

Through the years I occasionally thought about missionaries and decided that I would never, ever want to be one. The major drawback in my mind was having to raise all the money. How degrading, I thought, to have to ask people to give you money! And then I went to Africa. . . and learned to love the people in Africa. . .and saw their great needs. . .and realized I could do something to spread the gospel in Africa. . .and felt God's call to go to Africa. . . and found I could, indeed ask for money for missions.

Through the years I also discovered the joy of giving money to missionaries. And I realized that the work of spreading the gospel requires two kinds of people: those who go and those who send.

Now David and I are going, and we are humbled by the great generosity of those who are sending. Our congregation at Brentwood Oaks has committed to provide monthly support and our work fund. The East Sunshine church in Springfield, Missouri, the Mt. Vernon, Missouri, church, the Westover Hills church here in Austin, and the Northside church in San Antonio have helped with our vehicle and house fund. Other generous individuals have also contributed--many without being asked. We are thankful for those who send.