Saturday, July 30, 2005

Sounds of Africa

The sounds we hear in Africa are very different from the sounds of Austin, Texas. I’ll share some with you.

• Roosters crowing. Every village, even the booming city of Livingstone, has strutting, crowing, roosters. Many of you mistakenly believe that roosters crow at dawn. I can assure you that many roosters are chronometrically challenged. They crow at all hours of the day and night. One night on the medical mission I heard a loud cock-a-doodle-do just as I climbed into my sleeping bag at 9:30. Hearing roosters crowing at 2:00 a.m. and listening to them for hours on end is known to make one hungry. After all, a wringed neck could produce delicious stew, dumplings, or fried drumsticks.
• Singing. Zambians, especially Tongas, are known for their singing ability. The women who work around the houses here sing as they work, so I hear them all day long. On the medical mission we were met at each village by a group of women and children who were singing to greet us. At one village we arrived well after dark, and the greeters had been waiting for hours. The singing during worship services is incredible. Zambians sing in deep, rich harmony and with enthusiasm. Even the young children sing in harmony, and no one has to teach them how to do it!
• Birds. Other than the cooing of doves, the birdsongs are different here. One sounds just like a cuckoo clock. Another has a song that resembles a squeaky metal hinge. Not surprisingly, the bird is named the “go away bird.” The name also refers to this bird’s tendency to warn other animals of danger.
• Dogs barking. If the roosters don’t keep us awake, the dogs will do their best. They gather in groups to howl mournfully at the moon. Other nights they must be using some sort of chain letter format to pass messages all over the mission in urgent and ceaseless barking. The dogs here appear to be a docile lot during the day, but at night we have heard some vicious fighting underneath our window.
• “Eeee.” That’s “yes” in Chitonga. It’s spoken with various inflections, sometimes rising in the middle or at the end.
• “Oho!” I love the way Zambians show surprise or delight with “oho!”
• Cell phones ringing. Yes, there are cell phones at Namwianga. There are almost no land lines, but cell phones are abundant.
• Laughter. Zambians love to laugh, and you can’t be around them without hearing plenty of laughter.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

That's Life in Africa

The last blog was about a pleasant surprise. This one will fill you in on some of the not-so-pleasant surprises we’ve had.
• The American medical team arrived here on Thursday, July 7. That was also the day that AT&T decided to pull out of Zambia with no advance notice. Many members of the team had purchased AT&T phone cards so that they could call back home and let their families know they had arrived safely. They had to hope that their loved ones read the ZMM blog, because no phone calls went through!
• The very next day on Friday, July 8, we were scheduled to head out for Kanyanga and set up for the first clinic. That day the only gas station in Kalomo shut down its pumps to switch brands. We had to find creative ways to fill up all 14 of our vehicles so we could leave on schedule! The station opened back up the following week.
• The majority of the medical team left Africa on Wednesday, July 20. That was a blessing, because on Friday, July 22, South African Airways went on strike. A few remaining team members had tickets to leave on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. They had to reroute through Europe on other carriers or wait in a Johannesburg hotel for the strike to be settled.
• And finally, it was announced on Sunday that the only refinery in Zambia is shutting down its diesel production facility for repairs and that there will be no diesel available for as long as a month! Keep in mind that most vehicles here run on diesel. We rushed into town to fill up the Land Rover and gas cans. By Monday there was no more diesel available in Kalomo or Livingstone.

These all happened in a little over two weeks. Won’t it be interesting to find out what’s next?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sunday Surprise in the Bush

Since we moved to Zambia a month ago, we have experienced many surprises. One of the best occurred yesterday.

We climbed into the Land Rover at 7:30 Sunday morning. Rodgers Namuswa, a member of Namwianga’s church development team, had invited us to join him on a visit to two fledgling congregations. He explained that these churches were started after last year’s medical mission clinic at Nazzibula. This news thrilled us, since we have been part of the spiritual team on the medical mission for several years. In fact, only a week earlier we had completed the 2005 clinic tour.

Rodgers wanted David to preach for the Sicikwalula group, and he had asked me to teach a class for the ladies. We stopped to pick up Mrs. Jope who would serve as my translator and two others who would also accompany us and translate.

After two hours of bumping along rugged bush roads, we arrived at Sicikwalulu. A few early arrivers greeted us warmly. Mrs. Jope and I watched as one of the women chased and caught a squawking chicken. “She’s preparing our lunch,” Mrs. Jope explained.

The church meets in an abandoned building that was once used as a government outpost to battle the tsetse fly. Two small rooms had been joined by knocking a large hole in the wall between them. Rough-hewn planks set on stones formed lines of benches in the larger room. Centered in the smaller room was the communion table—a large flat rock set up on smaller rocks—with benches lining the four walls.

Mrs. Jope and I were seated in the larger room with the other women and the children. The men sat around the communion table in the smaller room. People of all ages trickled in until both rooms were crammed with worshipers. Spirited singing echoed off the concrete walls, and I listened again in amazement at the beauty of Tonga voices lifted up to the Lord.

The communion service, led by the local church leader, was solemn. The time came for the collection. The leader reminded us that we all have something to give, and that it doesn’t have to be money. I dropped some Zambian kwacha into the chipped enamel bowl as it passed. A few minutes later I looked up to see the dish piled high with cobs of corn. Later on, the announcement was made that today’s offering totaled 25,000 kwacha (around $6.00) and 10 cobs of corn. Mrs. Jope explained later that the members will save up the corn until they have a bucket full. Then they will sell the bucket of corn and use it to buy wine for the communion.

David preached the morning sermon, explaining that we had come to Zambia with a story to tell—the story of Christ’s love for all. After the preaching, the leader introduced the dignitaries in attendance: two village chiefs and a district councilor. Each of them stood and thanked David and me for leaving our home in America to come to Zambia and work.

The service ended with the traditional shaking of hands. The first person out the door greeted and shook hands with the second person. The second person then stood next to the first as they greeted the third. The process continued, forming a long greeting line that allowed each person to shake hands with everyone else.

Now the ladies gathered outside on the ground for their class. As I looked around, I recognized some familiar faces. I racked my brain trying to think when I might have encountered these ladies before. Perhaps they had been at last week’s clinic? “I know that I’ve met some of you,” I confessed. “Were any of you at Singwamba for the medical mission?” The ladies smiled and replied, “No, we met you last year at Nazzibula clinic.”

I taught the class, and we enjoyed a delicious meal of fresh chicken and nshima prepared by the ladies. We bid them all goodbye and set off for Namwianga again. As we bumped along, Rodgers told me how this congregation came into being. “There were eight ladies who were baptized on the medical mission in July of 2004,” he explained. “In November we came back to this area and found them. We started meeting with them, and one woman’s husband was baptized and is now the leader.

Then I remembered—I had studied with some of these ladies in 2004. In particular I remembered two of them who had come at the end of the last clinic day. The clinics were closing down as the daylight faded. The two women walked up and asked to be baptized. I studied with them to make sure they understood the commitment they were making. They were determined, even though the day was bitterly cold and becoming colder as darkness fell. All the baptismal clothes that we had available were still wet, so the two women had to put on wet garments and then step into the freezing water of our portable baptistry. There were no dry towels for them when they came out of the water, but we managed to find some blankets to wrap them in. Several of us on the spiritual team gathered around them after they dressed again and prepared to leave. We gave them each a Bible and prayed, asking God to bless their new walk with him. We watched as they set off into the bush, never imagining that we would meet them again.

God has many surprises ahead for us. We look forward to more like this one.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

We're Back!

Where to begin? Maybe I’ll just start at the end. We are back at Namwianga Mission picking up the pieces and getting settled after the medical mission. Today we moved out of the house we had been staying in since July 6 and moved back into the guest house. If you’re counting, that’s four moves in the last five months, with one more to go when our house is finished. The nice thing about this vagabond existence is that I’m finding out we really don’t need most of the stuff we’re lagging around.

The medical mission was an incredible experience. I haven’t processed it all myself just yet, so I’ll probably put more thoughts about specific incidents into later blog entries. For now, I’ll just summarize what David and I did. We had spent many days counting pills and making other preparations for the big team to arrive. On July 7th I started making shuttle runs into the town of Kalomo (4 miles away) to pick up the Zambian nurses who had come by bus. By the end of the afternoon I had made four trips into town to the bus stop. In the evening the huge group of Americans arrived. They had flown into Livingstone and then were brought by mission vehicles to Namwianga. The team now numbered over 220. The next day at noon we headed out into the bush for four nights of camping and three days of clinics.

Our first stop was at Kanyanga. The trip lasted six hours over some of the worst roads imaginable. Our maximum cruising speed was around 15 mph! We arrived after dark. The advance team had already set up our tents, so we were all getting settled in when one of our American team members, Johnny Robinson, collapsed in seizures. Our team of doctors and nurses went into action immediately and were able to get him stabilized for transport to Livingstone. David drove our Land Rover and Kelly Hamby took another vehicle for the trip. Johnny, his wife, a couple who are close friends, Dr. Jeff McKenzie, nurse Michelle Drew, and Zambian nurse Likando Likando set out for Livingstone at 10:30 that night. They made the same trip that had taken us six hours in just three! David said they went fast enough to just hit the top of the washboard roads. They made it to Livingstone in the wee hours of the morning and got Johnny settled into a clinic. He was flown in a special medical evacuation plane to Johannesburg, South Africa later that morning. As I write this on July 21, Johnny is still in Johannesburg awaiting surgery for a brain tumor. He and Cindy have been very pleased with the doctors and the care he has received.

Beginning the mission with such a tragic event was sobering. However, many good things happened that night. Johnny was cared for by Dr. McKenzie, an ER doctor who teaches emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University, and by Michelle Drew, a trauma room nurse from Baltimore. We had a pharmacy truck filled with more medicines than most hospitals in a developing nation. Nurse Likando is from Livingstone and was able to get Johnny into a clinic and under the care of a capable doctor there. But perhaps Johnny’s best help was the constant prayer support that went up on his behalf. As soon as we received word of Johnny’s collapse, the team members gathered in small and large groups to pray. The prayers continued all night long. Dr. McKenzie was quite honest in saying that Johnny’s initial prognosis was not good and that God’s hand pulled him through.

We began the clinic as scheduled the next day on Saturday, July 9. This was the first time the clinic had been held at Kanyanga, so we didn’t know what size of crowd to expect. There were throngs of people the entire day. In fact, at 3:00 in the afternoon many of the people were told to come back on the next day because we could not see everyone who was in line that day. The next day was also quite busy, but the staff did manage to see every patient who came for treatment.

David and I worked in the spiritual counseling area. David went out and preached to the crowds as they waited in line. I taught classes for young women. Both of us conducted individual studies with people who came to the spiritual counseling area for prayer and Bible study. This was my first year to do the young women’s class. My translator would go out into the crowds and collect a group of young, unmarried women and bring them to me. Then I taught a study on sexual purity using the Biblical stories of Joseph and David. The girls were always receptive and interested, and I learned a lot about the struggles they face in their culture. I’ll write more about that on another blog. I did about three or four of these classes each day. The rest of the time I was studying with women who came to our area.

This year David and I were determined to keep better track of how many people we studied with and how many of them were baptized. I managed to keep a pretty accurate tally for about a day and a half. Then I just gave up! We were swamped with people who wanted to study and pray. I would start out studying with one or two women, and then two or three more would come join them. Sometimes there would be a large group to start with, and then we would divide them up based on their needs. Keeping up with numbers just became impossible, although one of the Zambians did keep track of the baptisms that occurred. After seven days of clinics, we had 202 people who committed themselves to Christ in baptism. Again, more than all we can ask or imagine.

Sara worked in the pharmacy, as she had done last year. The alternative name for the pharmacy is Pills on Wheels, because we use one of our big yellow buses instead of a building! The prescription is turned in at the front of the bus and then passed down the aisle as workers put the prescribed medicines into a “blue bowl.” At the back of the bus, a Zambian nurse takes the medicines out of the blue bowl and hands them to the patients along with appropriate instructions. It seems to be a great system!

Hopefully you followed more of the mission’s activities on the ZMM2005 site. I’ll try to add more in the next few days and weeks.

After the mission we spent three days in Livingstone doing some sightseeing and relaxing. Then yesterday we had another heart-wrenching goodbye as Sara left to go back to Tulsa. We reassure ourselves that with e-mail and cell phones we will keep in touch, but just knowing that it will be a year before we see her is . . . well. . . very hard!

Work is progressing on our house at Namwianga. There are floors, walls, electricity,windows, and a little bit of plumbing. Ceilings are going in right now. We don’t really know when it will be finished, so we’re just being patient and looking forward to getting settled in some day!

Thanks for the many blog comments and e-mails we have received. Even though we can’t get to a computer often, we do enjoy getting all those messages. We’ve even gotten some snail mail. Today is my birthday, and remarkably I got three cards today. One had been mailed on July 30, one on July 5, and one on July 11!

Most of all, thank you for your prayers. We feel the hand of God at work in our activities and in our hearts.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Update on Our Activities

We apologize for not getting more entries onto the blog. One of our many adjustments to life in Africa has been technology withdrawal! We have to keep our laptop locked up in the closet of the Hamby’s house for security. Then to do anything online, we have to go to the Merritt’s orphanage about a mile away. We have to find a time when they are home, and we have to find a time when we’re not scheduled to be doing something else. It’s become quite a challenge!

Our daughter Sara, along with Mark and Michele Broadway from Brentwood Oaks, arrived last Thursday. We made the two-hour drive to Livingstone to pick them up. We managed to fit all their luggage (six large duffels plus carry-ons) in the back of the Land Rover and still had plenty of seating room in the front. We are thrilled to have them here with us. It was great to get caught up on all the news from home.

David and I moved out of the guest house and moved with Sara, the Broadways, and another family into a recently vacated house on campus. Although we are delighted with the companionship, the logistics of life have become more complicated. We’re at the far edge of the main campus and some distance away from the “command central” for the medical mission where we gather for our meals and various activities. We’re getting lots of exercise walking back and forth.

The campus at Namwianga was busy with the Zambian National Lectureship over the weekend. The lectureship draws people from all over Zambia for four days of lectures and classes. David was asked to give the opening prayer for Friday night’s program and also gave one of the keynote speeches on Monday.

We Americans celebrated the 4th of July with a wiener roast down by the river. We had to have the buns specially made because they are unavailable in Zambia! After hot dogs and s’mores we sang around the campfire. One of the missionaries even brought a few bottle rockets for some fireworks.

There are now over 30 Americans here preparing for the medical mission. Sara and I have spent the last few days in the pharmacy counting pills into dose packs. Today (Wednesday) David and I repaired seats on the big yellow bus and packed the baptismal garments that were sent over earlier. Other team members are busy organizing the tents, sleeping bags, and food for the mission. The rest of the team is due to arrive from the U.S. on Thursday, and that will bring our number to 134. On Friday we will head out to begin the medical mission. There will be 90 Zambians with us to serve as translators and co-workers. It’s quite daunting to consider the logistics of feeding and transporting 224 people into the bush without electricity, running water, or convenience stores!

This may be the last entry we can post before the medical mission. For the next few days or weeks, you can follow the medical mission at

Saturday, July 02, 2005

General News

We are having a hard time getting time and access on the internet. You can get some general updates on the work of the Zambia Medical Mission at We'll try for more on this blog as soon as we can.