Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Reflections on Thanksgiving

I’ll be honest. As Thanksgiving approached, I dreaded the thought of our first holiday away from our children, our friends, and our former house in Austin. We had so many great memories of Thanksgivings in the past.

This year, however, God provided us with opportunities to make wonderful new memories in our new land. We scheduled a retreat for all the Americans associated with Namwianga Mission and met in Lusaka, the capital city. Brian and Sondra Davis drove down from Solwezi where they are beginning a new work. The rest of us (Sheri and Lois Sears, the Bruingtons, Roy and Kathi Merritt) drove up from Kalomo on Thursday. We stayed in three cottages at a missionary guest house run by the Evangelical Church of Zambia, so we had our own cooking facilities and even television! On Thursday we shopped for groceries and on Friday we cooked our almost authentic American Thanksgiving dinner. We ended up with two small turkeys (both delicious), dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (with homemade onion rings), jello salad, green salad, corn casserole, rolls, pecan pie, and lots of other yummy desserts. No nshima for Thanksgiving, thank you!

Besides feasting together we also had times for sharing views on missions and for devotionals, prayer sessions, and lots of singing. On Saturday we all went into the main shopping center in Lusaka and did more shopping, especially for Christmas. We had five little ones under nine in the group, so the Bruingtons took all the kids for go-cart rides and a movie. David and I also managed to see the new Zorro movie that afternoon. Ah, civilization again, if only for a few days!

We ended our retreat with a special Sunday morning service together and then headed back to Namwianga rested, refreshed, and ready to take on the challenges that are waiting for us.

I did miss our children terribly. Sara went to Arkansas to be with David’s parents for the weekend. Our wonderful Brentwood Oaks church family made sure John was taken care of. God provided for our needs, and we made new memories. We are blessed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


The missionaries associated with Namwianga are getting together in Lusaka for a retreat Thursday through Sunday. We’ll be sharing this time with Roy and Kathi Merritt, Sheri Sears and daughter Lois, Bart and Stacy Bruington and their three children, and Brian and Sondra Davis and their two boys. We are staying at a missionary guesthouse with kitchen facilities, so we are attempting an American-style Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. This project is quite a challenge! Brian and Sondra Davis found a turkey farmer and purchased a turkey. The last I heard the turkey was still strutting around in his feathers, but by now he may be closer to the roasting stage. We’re all trying to think of traditional dishes that we can find the ingredients for. So far the menu includes turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, jello salad, green salad, green bean casserole (made with REAL onion rings), cranberry sauce, and pecan pie.

In addition to the feasting, we’ll be having devotional and singing times, study and reflection times, and sessions of prayer. One member of the group is fitting in a doctor’s appointment, and we all will spend time shopping for those items we can only find in Lusaka. The children in our group will enjoy the guesthouse swimming pool. I’m bringing along the dominoes for some serious Mexican Train marathons. It should be a great time of relaxing and recharging ourselves for the tasks we face.

This is always a good time to reflect and give thanks for the bountiful blessings provided by the Father above. Here is my list of a few things I am thankful for:

In a land where people go hungry, we have plenty to eat.

In a land where many people are sick and dying, we are in good health (David is still having headaches from his bout with malaria, but we hope those will end soon)

I miss my children more than I can say, but I am thankful that others are ministering to them and caring for their needs.

In a land where many do not know about Jesus, I give thanks for the heritage of faith passed on to me through my parents.

In a land where education is available only to some, I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to go to school.

In a land far from my home, I give thanks for the many ways that the Brentwood Oaks Church of Christ family and our friends minister to us.

In a land where many have only the clothes on their backs, I give thanks for what I have to wear.

In a land where many are needy, I am thankful to be able to share what I have.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Going Batty

This lovely guy was flying around the room during chapel one day. We watched him grab onto the brick wall and climb straight up using his thumbs. After chapel he decided to hang out near the cafeteria. His body is about the size of a pigeon, and his wingspan is about two feet. Notice his claws hanging on to the bricks. Isn't God's creation amazing?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Reflections on Our Week

To say we’ve had a tough week would be an understatement. In addition to the shock and grief of Kelly Hamby’s death, David has been sick. He started running a high fever on Wednesday night. He also had achy joints, headache, and a dry cough. Thursday he felt better, but the fever shot back up that night. All the Zambians said, “It’s malaria!” So Friday he went to the clinic and had a blood test. It showed no signs of malaria, so he just came home and went to bed. That afternoon we had a Skype (internet telephony) conversation with Dr. Richard Prather, the interim director of the mission, and I mentioned that David was sick. Less than fifteen minutes later we had a call from Dr. Sid Tate of Searcy, Arkansas. Dr. Tate worked here for three years before returning to the states last February. Dr. Prather had called him and told him about David. Dr. Tate listened to the symptoms and suggested that David start on doxycycline for malaria. He noted that the malaria test is not that reliable unless you are running fever when you have your blood drawn. David started on the medication, and within a few hours started to feel better. He’s now back to good health. We have both been taking a malaria preventative, but obviously it’s not 100% effective. The irony is that I’m the one who gets bitten by mosquitoes all the time!

There were some happier experiences this week as well. On Friday and again on Saturday I took a small group of George Benson Christian College students with me to do Children’s Bible School outreaches. We traveled with Ruhtt Mbomwae to Kitundu on Friday and Simikakata on Saturday. The college students did a great job of teaching, and the children were receptive and delighted to participate. I found the experience of going to the villages and teaching to be very healing for me. I looked out on that sea of children’s faces and thought about Kelly Hamby. He and Ellie are the ones who taught me how to teach the Bible to large groups of children when we worked with them for two years in Hillcrest’s Bible Hour. The curriculum that we use for the children’s program is based on the format that they taught me years ago. I thought, “This is part of Kelly’s legacy in Zambia, and it will live on.”

Today (Sunday) we took a different group of students with us as we traveled north to Siamakuli, a brand-new congregation that started as a result of the medical mission. One student translated for me in the children’s class while others led singing and presided at the communion service. There were two men who wanted to be baptized, so after the worship time was over, David loaded them and others from the congregation into the Land Rover for a three-mile drive to the nearest water hole. Later David reported what happened on the trip. There were six little boys already swimming in the water hole. When they heard the vehicle coming, they jumped out of the water and ran away as fast as they could. Some had been skinnydipping, so they just grabbed their clothes and took off to hide behind a giant anthill until the baptisms were over. David and the Zambians had a great laugh at this!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kelly's Funeral

Kelly’s Funeral

We have moved through this week in a daze of unbelief, our minds not quite able to comprehend the loss of our mentor, friend, brother, and leader. We have wept with our Zambian friends, and we have wondered how we will move on without Kelly’s patient and competent leadership. In our grief we have found comfort in sharing our memories of his life, and we have rejoiced in the confidence that he is now in a much better place.

On Sunday evening the church that meets on campus hosted a time of sharing in honor of Kelly. Several groups presented songs, and individuals were invited to share memories of Kelly and tell of his impact on their lives. On Monday evening we heard a group of people singing as they walked down the road. We joined them as they went to the Hamby’s veranda for a two-hour session of song, prayer, and short speeches. This gathering ended at seven. Then at nine o’clock the traditional all-night vigil began. A huge fire was built in the back yard of the Hamby’s house, and a group of around 200 spent the night singing, praying, sharing testimonials, and encouraging each other. Leonard Sichimwa, the Hamby’s long-time employee and friend, came by our house the next morning to tell us about the vigil. He was at peace, he said. The vigil, in his words, had “smoothed” him.

Ellie had asked that we use our Skype (internet telephony) system to share the funeral service with the Zambians. We agreed and invited the entire mission to gather at our house to hear and participate in Kelly’s memorial via the Internet. Ray Ferguson had his laptop in the sound room at the Hillcrest church in Abilene, and we had ours set up in our hallway. We connected external speakers to our laptop to amplify the sound, and our wide hallway with its concrete walls and floor provided good acoustics. We opened up all our windows and doors so that those who could not fit inside the house could hear from the veranda and yard. Our other preparation for the service was to pray fervently that the electricity would not go off and that we could maintain a good Internet connection during the time of the funeral.

The Zambians began coming an hour and a half before the funeral was set to begin. The house and the veranda filled quickly. Others who came gathered just outside windows or sat on tarps we had spread out on the yard. I sighed with relief when the sound of K.B. Massingill’s voice boomed clearly through the speakers as the service began in Abilene. The Zambians listened intently to the loving testimonies of Kelly’s life. There were “amens” all around when one speaker stated that even though Kelly’s body was in America, his heart would always be in Zambia.

At Mrs. Hamby’s request, the Zambians sang a Chitonga song that was broadcast to the mourners gathered in the Hillcrest auditorium. Over 450 voices sang in tribute to the man who had meant so much to them. Ten thousand miles away other hearts heard their message of love and support. George Phiri, Zambian superintendent at Namwianga, led the closing prayer.

We feel so blessed that we were able to share in Kelly’s memorial service. The Zambians were thankful, too. As Robby Banda told me, “It meant so much to know that the things we said and felt about Dr. Hamby were the same things that the Americans said and felt.” On two continents both Zambians and Americans shared in celebrating and remembering a life well lived.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


We received word at 9 p.m.our time on Saturday that Dr. Kelly Hamby, the stateside mission superintendent for Namwianga, had suffered a heart attack. We gathered Zambian leaders and friends in our living room to pray. Later that night Ray Ferguson and Cleddy Varner from Abilene notified us that Kelly had taken a turn for the worse and was on artificial life support until his children could arrive. We continued our prayer vigil late into the night.

Early this morning the Zambians began arriving again at our house as we waited for news. Just after 7:15 Ray Ferguson called to let us know that Kelly had passed away. All of us at Namwianga are in shock and deep grief. Kelly had been the leader of this mission in one capacity or another for 25 years. His influence is beyond description.

David and I feel a deep personal loss. We first met Kelly in 1977 when David was in one of Kelly’s classes at ACU. David would come home and tell me what an excellent teacher Dr. Hamby was, and that he wanted me to meet him. Then Kelly invited David to help him with a teacher training workshop. In a few months we were attending the Hillcrest church and became involved with Children’s Bible Hour under the leadership of Kelly and Ellie. For the next two years we spent time together in ministry learning from Kelly and being shaped by him. David considered Kelly to be his first mentor.

We moved to Grand Prairie in full-time ministry in 1979. The following summer Kelly and Ellie made their first summer trip to Zambia. While they were in Africa our infant son became very ill, and we spent our summer in and out of Parkland Children’s Hospital in Dallas. Kelly and Ellie arrived home from Africa on the Saturday our son died. They found out at church on Sunday about his death and immediately traveled from Abilene to Grand Prairie to be with us at the funeral. We will never forget how much that meant to us. It means even more now that we have had first-hand experience with jet lag.

Through the years we heard about their work in Zambia and saw the Hambys in Abilene occasionally. It was at their urging that we first participated in the 1999 Zambia Medical Mission. We brought our children on what we thought would be a once in a lifetime trip to Africa. But Zambia and Namwianga Mission captured our hearts, and we kept coming back. Then in 2002 Kelly told us that our skills could be used in full-time work here. He and Ellie had long talks with us that following year and helped us make the decision to follow God’s call to Zambia.

This summer we were privileged to spend most of June, July, and August with Kelly and Ellie in the work here. We admired again and again the patience, the leadership, and the servant attitude that characterized Kelly’s ministry to the Zambians. All of us here at Namwianga are wondering how we will go on without him. Yet we know that Kelly’s example of following Christ will be our model for the days ahead.

We covet your prayers for the Hamby family, for us, and for the work at Namwianga.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Prayer Request

We just received word this evening that Kelly Hamby, the stateside superintendent of Namwianga Mission, had a heart attack this morning in Abilene. He had a stent placed in his heart late this morning and is now in CCU for a few hours before going to his room. Please join us in praying for a speedy and complete recovery.

Friday, November 11, 2005


The rains came and brought the insects with them. We spent the day in Livingstone on Monday. When we arrived home that night at 7:00, the back veranda resembled a scene from a B-grade horror movie. There were swarms of flying termites as thick as clouds around our back window. David went bravely through them swinging his arms to get the windows closed. Many of the critters managed to get in the house before we could stop them and were crawling all over on the floor. The cat considers all insects to be dinner with wings and was having a field day pouncing and eating. We killed as many as we could but were fighting a losing battle. We figured out that they were attracted by light, so we gave up and went to bed.

The next morning we found a half-inch layer of separated bodies and wings on the veranda floor. Later that day a friend explained that after the first rains the termites engage in these mating flights. They swarm, they mate, and then they die.

Obrien, a young man who works for us, scooped up the bodies and fried them in a coffee can over an open fire. He was eating them like popcorn. David believes in trying things at least once, so he ate a handful, too, and announced that they tasted a lot like smoke-flavored Bacon Bits. He didn’t go back for seconds, however.

The Zambians compare this delicacy to manna, because on the morning after the rain the insects are all over on the ground and porches. This “manna” disappeared after the first day, though, and for that we are grateful!

Evening Surprise

David and I were sitting on the veranda the other night so that some of our friends could have a private conversation inside. We were enjoying the cool night air that came after the rains. We heard beautiful singing coming our way. In a few minutes, Oscar, a young graduate, came into view followed by a group of secondary students.

“Did you come to sing to us?” we asked hopefully.

“No,” Oscar replied, “we came to baptize.”

They sang as they walked around the house to our backyard tank. We watched as Oscar baptized a ninth grade girl. There were hugs and smiles all around, a closing prayer, and then more singing as they went on their way rejoicing.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Rain! At last! We had scanned the skies daily looking for signs that the seven months of the dry season might finally end. Friday we heard rolling thunder at 2 a.m. and ran to the window to see if the rain was coming. A few flashes of lightning, a sprinkle, and that was all. Then, on Saturday afternoon, the first drops fell, sounding like bullets as they hit our corrugated metal roof. We waited to make sure that this was the real thing and not just another tease. The drops fell harder and harder as the unmistakable smell of rain filled the air. The downpour continued and the noise grew louder with it. We sat out on the veranda to watch the dust become mud and rivulets begin to run through the yard. Two hours later the skies cleared. The air is crisper and cleaner, the heat is lessened, and our spirits are refreshed. We have experienced our first African rain.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Life Without Walmart

In Austin we lived a mile away from a Walmart Superstore. We were quite used to hopping in the car and driving to Walmart for everything from rotisserie chicken to gasoline.

As you can imagine, shopping in rural Zambia is a bit more challenging. A trip to Kalomo for weekly grocery shopping goes something like this. We start out in the Land Rover. Before we get off the mission property, we begin picking up passengers along the road. By the time we've gone a mile, the Land Rover is full. The four-mile trip into Kalomo is on a road that was last maintained during the Reagan presidency, so we bump and jolt along in the dust. We drop our riders off and make our first stop at the post office to pick up our mail. Then it's on to Standard Sales, the Kalomo equivalent of Sam's. That's where we buy our cooking oil, sugar, soap, and boxes of milk in bulk. The checkout process involves one clerk writing out each item and its price in a sales book complete with carbon paper. Then I take the slip to the other end of the counter and pay. The clerk there stamps the sales slip and I take it back down the counter to the first clerk and pick up my goods. Next stop is Choma Milling Company to buy mealie meal in a 50-pound bag. Sometimes there is another stop to find whatever Standard Sales was out of. Then we head to ChiChi hardware for things like nails, twine, and, yes, greeting cards! The produce stand is next, and there I select fresh vegetables, fruit, and eggs when they're available. There are two produce stands across the street from each other, so I usually visit both to get the best selection and price. Last stop is the filling station for the rest of the groceries we need. This store goes by various names, but we tend to call it the BP because it once was a BP station. It's the closest thing Kalomo has to a super market, and it is the size of a very small convenience store in the US. They carry frozen meats, some fresh produce, a few canned goods, and other basic groceries. The prices are outrageous, as one expects in a convenience store, but there is no other place to get most of the items, so I gulp and pay. I can also have them charge to my account. The account book is a school type notebook with Big Chief tablet paper in it. Our name is at the top of a page near the back of the book. The clerk will add up what I've bought and write the total amount of the purchase in the book. Every few weeks I make sure the account is paid up.

Groceries bought, we head for home. We pick up riders along the way and again end up with a full vehicle for the trip back to Namwianga. Sometimes we have their purchases loaded on top of the Land Rover to make room inside for the passengers. We drop off the riders at various spots and then unload our things at home. The process has taken at least two hours and involved stopping at four or five different stores, plus all the stops along the way to pick up and let off passengers. It's not much like Walmart, but it's a whole lot more interesting!