Monday, October 31, 2005

Schlitterbahn, Zambian Style

The afternoon was still and dry with no breeze to cool the stifling heat. I answered a knock on the door and found four little boys ranging from five years to thirteen.

"Please, madam, may we swim in your backyard?"

This was a new thought. The cistern has been used many times for baptisms. We have even brought in a metal stock tank and filled it with water as an additional baptistery. Our young friends saw the opportunity to cool off and have a good time. We agreed to let them swim.

For the next hour we listened to splashing and shrieking as the boys enjoyed the cistern and tank.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Kulenga Outreach

Kulenga is one of the new congregations planted as a result of this summer’s medical mission. During the clinic days at Singwamba, the Kulenga headman came for treatment. He needed hospitalization, so Dr. Hamby provided money and transportation for the headman to be taken to the hospital in Livingstone. Unfortunately, the headman later died, but the village was touched by the kindness shown to him and asked for someone to start a church at Kulenga. Daniel Mweemba, the tireless church leader at Singwamba, took on the challenge, and the Kulenga congregation has been meeting for six weeks now.

We visited this new group last Sunday. Peter Mufwafwa, a teacher at the secondary school, joined us as David’s translator, and Peter’s wife, Mary, also came with us. I asked Vera, one of the secondary pupils, to come along as my translator.

Vera is one of the 38 needy orphans who are able to attend Namwianga Christian Secondary School because a sponsor in the USA pays her tuition. She is the top student in grade 12 and the top math student in the entire school. As if that weren’t enough, her poise and beauty would make her a shoe-in for the Miss Zambia competition. Vera is an outstanding young woman, and I looked forward to getting to know her on this trip.

The jolting, dusty ride into the bush ended at a spot where the congregation was meeting in the shade of a huge tree. Makeshift seating was made of poles laid across v-shaped sticks. A gentle breeze kept the temperature pleasant for the forty or so worshipers.

Since it was a new congregation, we had brought the communion supplies with us. I fixed a cup of watered down wine, tore a chipate (Indian equivalent of a tortilla) into pieces, and communion was ready. Daniel led the meditation at the Lord’s Supper and another young man led the singing.

When David got ready to preach, Vera and I took the 14 children to the shade of another tree for our Bible lesson. As soon as we began, I knew we faced a challenge. Vera, I found out, is from the Lozi tribe, not Tonga, and speaks Nyange as her first language. She only learned Chitonga two years ago. Well, Nyange and Chitonga are similar, so with a little extra time and lots of pointing at the pictures I was using we were able to communicate with the little ones. The children who were school age could understand my English, so they helped the younger ones as well. The hour flew by, and we finished by giving the children a coloring sheet and crayons. This always produces some excitement, especially when I tell them that they can keep the three crayons in the zip lock bag they were given!

After the service and our customary meal of nshima and chicken, we went around one last time to shake hands and say our farewells. When I came to Daniel, I asked him, “How many congregations have you planted since the medical mission?”

He looked apologetic as he answered, “Only five.” This is a man who goes from village to village on his bicycle, who has no telephone, no copy machine, no secretary, no budget, and is paid no salary. Yet he is disappointed that he has only planted five congregations in two months! Praise God for the Daniel Mweembas in the kingdom, and may God raise up many more like him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Old Man

The first time it happened, I couldn’t believe my ears. Yes, we are in our fifties (EARLY fifties!) and we’ve been married almost thirty years. And, yes, David does have that gray--almost white--hair and beard. But we don’t think of ourselves as being OLD. So I was caught by surprise when I answered the door one morning.
“I want to talk to the old man,” the guy at the door insisted.
My first thought was, “There isn’t an old man here.”
“Who?” I asked him.
“The old man. Your husband.”
My husband? The old man? I laughed out loud. “David, you’re not going to believe this,” I called down the hallway. “This guy wants to talk to the old man, and he means you.”
David took it in stride. It’s happened several times since then. The Zambians respect old age, so it’s actually a compliment to be called old. David’s white hair and beard place him in the aged category, I guess. The average life expectancy in Zambia is around 36, so 50-something is approaching elderly.
Let’s not even think about what will happen when someone comes to the door and asks for “the old woman.”

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Got Diesel

A friend sent us an e-mail suggesting that we have T-shirts printed up with "Got Diesel?" as the slogan. Well, we have got diesel! On Friday a shipment came in to Kalomo. We are filled up and hoping that this time the supply will last.

Even before we knew about the diesel, we had found a way for the college student to get his wife and baby home from Livingstone (see Diesel Blues). Bart Bruington, another missionary, and his family asked if they could borrow our vehicle for a trip to Livingstone on Friday. Bart had found an individual in town that had diesel for sale. So the student rode to Livingstone with them and brought home his wife, mother-in-law, and baby. I love happy endings!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Anonymous No More

We had only been in Zambia a few weeks when I realized something very startling: I cannot be anonymous over here. In America I had lived in major metropolitan areas my entire adult life, so I had become accustomed to being a nameless face when I drove around or shopped. I was one of a multitude, and my actions were scarcely noticed unless I was in familiar company.

Now, however, by virtue of my skin color I am noticed wherever I go. My vehicle has a Namwianga Mission logo on the side, so when I drive I am further identified. I am the White Lady From Namwianga Mission, and it is impossible for me to blend into the crowd. Someone is always watching my every move.

The scripture in Ephesians 5:15 that warns us to “Be very careful, then, how you live” has a whole new meaning now that I am anonymous no more.


We FINALLY have our own internet connection! The company was supposed to come from Lusaka two weeks ago, but they had no diesel for their truck and couldn't come. On Thursday two guys showed up at 8:30 and had the dish and everything installed by noon. We are thrilled to be back online!

That's the good news. The bad news is that the ONLY place suitable for the satellite dish is in front of the house. Yes, the satellite dish is our newest yard art. I did insist that they move it a little to the side of the house. David assures me that he will landscape around it and hide it from view. I whined for a while, but after getting to talk to our daughter Sara online that night, I decided that a satellite dish in the front yard was a small price to pay for the chance to communicate with my children!

Now we promise to post more regularly and get some pictures put on the blog.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Diesel Blues

There is still no diesel for sale to the general public in Zambia. Many stations are also out of gasoline as well. We were running out of cash, so we used one of our jerry cans of diesel yesterday to make a trip to Choma, the nearest town with an ATM. As we were getting ready to go, I told David, "I'm really looking forward to getting a COKE!" We also hoped that one of the stations in Choma might have some diesel for sale. Well, we did get cash at the ATM and made a visit to the bank. But no stations had diesel. AND, because no trucks have been able to get through, the entire town was out of COKE! I settled for an orange Fanta.

On a more serious note, one of the college students came to us today for help. His wife delivered twins on the 12th in Livingstone. One of the twins was stillborn. The husband came back by bus on Monday, and his wife is staying with friends. She wants to come home, but has no way of getting here. We can't help him because there is no diesel.

We'll keep you posted.

Unique Happenings

I spend time each evening washing dishes by hand. After years of being spoiled by an automatic dishwasher, I expected to find this drudgery. Instead, I discovered that washing dishes and looking out my window is a great time for reflecting on my day and on life in general. On Friday night as I washed the dishes I thought about the many unique things that happen here.

For instance, one of my students missed two days of school this week because she was recovering from the bite of a cobra. How many American teachers had that experience this week?

On Tuesday morning as I walked to class I noticed a steer tied to a tree near the boys’ dorm. At midday I saw a cluster of people under the trees near the cafeteria. That afternoon I looked out my classroom window onto that area and saw that the group was busy carving up a beef carcass. One of the college students paid for her tuition with the steer, and the meat will be used in the cafeteria.

Tuesday evening five male students came to our house to get David. They had found an insane man in a classroom and needed David to help them take him to the police station in Kalomo. They managed to coax and push the man into the back of the Land Rover and got him to the police station. The police refused to accept him, saying that he had been brought in from a village two weeks earlier. The villagers had been unable to control him, so they had chained him to a tree until they could manage to bring him into town. The police told David and the guys to take him to the hospital. There was no one at the hospital with the authority to admit the man, so they took him back to the police station. The police agreed to let the man spend the night and take him to the hospital in the morning. David and the guys bought some food to leave with him before they returned to the campus.

Last week as I taught my evening women’s class, a bat came flying into the classroom. He swooped over our heads for ten minutes or so and then flew back out into the night. The ladies hardly seemed to notice, but I’ll admit that I had to work to concentrate on my lesson.

Turning a water faucet or light switch on is always a bit suspenseful, because we never know if we’ll have water or electricity. We had outages of one or the other or both every day this week.

We invited a friend to dinner Friday night. As we visited over our after dinner tea, we heard a group of people walking past the window. It was Richwell, one of our college students, and his eighth grade Bible class. Four of the young men in the class had decided to be baptized in our backyard cistern. We grabbed flashlights and towels and joined the group to witness this happy event. If you’re keeping track, we’ve now had nine baptisms.

I guess as long as these unique happenings continue, I’ll have plenty to reflect on as I wash the dishes. Think of me when you load your dishwasher next time!

Monday, October 10, 2005

News and Notes - October 10

Still no diesel!!!! The secretary of energy for the country of Zambia was fired last week, we hear. The story on the street is that he planned a trip to Paris in the middle of this fuel crisis. That must have been the last straw, and now he’s out. The government has finally given permission for the fuel companies to import diesel from other countries. Estimates are that diesel will be flowing by the 15th. We shall see! In the meantime, we are staying home. There were no outreaches this weekend except to places that the students could get to on foot or by bicycle.

We have now had five baptisms in our backyard cistern. Two of them were students that David has been studying with. One of the young men was over six feet tall, and the cistern was barely big enough! We built the cistern to catch water for use in the garden, but it has turned out to be very useful as a baptistery.

Long-time residents tell us that October is the worst month to be in this part of Zambia. The temperatures are hot and everything is dry and dusty. It hasn’t rained here since April, and the rains won’t start until late October. The amazing thing is that many of the trees and plants are turning bright green! Somehow they are drawing on deep reserves of moisture. People tell us that by the time the rains come, the countryside will already be green. There’s got to be a sermon in that somewhere!

The jacarandas are another beautiful sight. These very tall trees are covered with bright purple blossoms. The road to Roy Merritt’s house (where we go to send e-mails) is lined with these trees. They form a purple archway, and as the blossoms drop, the dusty road begins to look like it is strewn with jewels.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Eating Customs

Our visits to the villages have taught us the basics of Zambian eating customs. Here are some observations based on our experiences—we don’t claim to be experts yet!

Traditionally men and women do not eat together. Women cook the meal and serve it to the men. Then the women eat in another place. We have seen exceptions to this tradition when large groups are eating together or when I’ve been the only woman in the group of diners.

Dishes of food are placed on a mat or table. A pitcher of water and a bowl are provided for hand washing. The host pours water from the pitcher over the hands of each guest. If there is no specified host, one person pours water from the pitcher over another’s hands into the bowl. Then the pitcher and bowl are passed to the next person.

In our experience, all foods are finger foods. Food is eaten only with one hand—the other is kept clean for passing dishes or serving. Nshima is usually picked up first. Nshima, the staple of the Zambian diet, is made by boiling white cornmeal and water until the mixture very thick. It is eaten by scooping up a handful out of the communal dish and kneading it with fingers into a ball. The nshima then serves as a form of eating utensil as well as food: it can scoop up some foods and can soak up any liquids.

Any food that is not nshima is called “relish.” Common relishes are chicken, goat, beef, cabbage, greens, and kapenta fish (dried minnows similar to anchovies). Usually there is some sort of “soup,” the liquid that the meat was cooked in. Often this soup is a tomato onion mixture, although we have also had delicious soup of chicken broth flavored with curry.

The free-range chicken is usually very flavorful but tough. The common cooking method is to boil the pieces in water for a time to tenderize them and then to fry the chicken in sunflower oil for flavor. The cabbage is fried, usually with added onions. Kapenta fish are a favorite of the Zambians, but most Americans have to acquire a taste. The smell of cooking kapenta is enough to spoil the average person’s appetite, especially if the cooking is done inside. We found that we can eat kapenta (and like it) if it has been cooked outside (so we didn’t smell it) and if it has been cooked with tomato and curry. I think the taste is similar to sardines.

Zambians are a warm and gracious people. Although we are quite comfortable eating nshima with our hands, our hosts sometimes provide us with spoons. Another concession for western guests is to prepare rice instead of or in addition to the nshima, but rice is too expensive for most Zambians to eat on a regular basis.

After the meal, a pitcher of fresh water and a bowl are passed around for hand washing. Sometimes hot tea with milk and sugar is served to conclude the mealtime.

Still No Diesel

Life without diesel seems to be our fate. We are down to our last reserves, and there is no word of hope from the refinery that there will be any diesel available soon. We were supposed to get our internet hookup this week, but the company e-mailed us that they are unable to go anywhere because they have no diesel for their vehicles. Now there is no gasoline available either. I guess we'll be staying close to home for a while!