Friday, December 30, 2005

Christmas 2005

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, chicken, 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 as we serve our Lord.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Cows Gone Bad

At 4:00 this morning I heard cows mooing. The sound kept getting closer and closer. Finally I woke David up and said, “That sounds like the cow is right outside our window!” We quickly got out of bed and headed for the back door. I switched on the porch light as David peered out the kitchen window. I knew we were in trouble when I heard him say, “Good grief!”

We opened the back door to find about 50 cattle milling around in our back yard. They were mooing and munching their way over our flower beds and around the in-ground cistern. We started making noises and waving our arms to shoo them away. They obliged, loudly mooing their objections to leaving this new corral.

David worried that they had eaten up the flowers in his new nursery bed, but it was too dark to check it out just then. At daylight we went out to survey the damage. Apparently we caught the bovine marauders before they had time to chow down on our flowers. They did leave us plenty of muddy hoof prints and cow patties to remind us of their visit. The herd apparently had quite a party in the field across the road from us. The maize plants were about two feet high at bedtime. By daylight there was nothing taller than six inches. The entire field will have to be replanted.

The farm manager was not happy to hear about the cows gone bad. He pays a worker to watch them and prevent such outings. I wonder if the worker’s name is Blue—you know, Little Boy Blue?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve in Zambia

It’s Christmas Eve as I write this. The temperature outside is in the 70’s and we’ve just had a rain shower pass through. The grass is green, the garden is growing, and you couldn’t find a holly berry or sprig of mistletoe anywhere in southern Zambia. Zambians don’t really celebrate Christmas other than to have a meal together, and many are too poor to afford even that.

We enjoyed an American-style Christmas gathering last night at the home of Rod and Sue Calder. They live at Seven Fountains, a farm adjoining Namwianga. Rod runs the farm and Sue takes care of orphans, especially babies. I think they have fifteen infants now, plus five older children that they are raising in addition to their three birth children. Sue is a fantastic cook and prepared a delicious feast of turkey, ham, and lots of side dishes. She had invited the American missionaries and some African families as well, so it was an interesting group. We sang Christmas carols to end the evening, and that helped me get into the holiday spirit, at least a little bit.

Our children, Sara and John, are together for the weekend. John flew to Tulsa where Sara lives, and then the two of them are going to Springfield, Missouri today to spend Christmas with my family there. They called us on our Skype internet program this morning (our time) and we got to talk to both of them at once. It was such a joy to hear their good-natured teasing and bantering back and forth with each other. I didn’t realize how much I miss that! We are very proud of the way they have handled life on their own these last few months.

Tomorrow on Christmas Day we will go for a village outreach as usual. This time we are taking a high school boys’ quartet with us, as well as a teacher and a college student to serve as translators. When we get back from the outreach, we plan to watch some new DVDs that were sent to us by friends in our home congregation at BOCC. We don’t have a television, but we can use our computer. Since the electricity has been very unpredictable lately, we’ve got two computer batteries charged up and ready in case the power goes out. AND a six-pack of Dr. Pepper sent from the US is also waiting in the refrigerator, plus some Christmas blend Starbucks coffee in the cupboard. As if that weren’t enough to look forward to, we’ve been invited to sample the goat meat at Rodgers Namuswa’s house tomorrow evening (see “Goat Ride” for the background on this).

Merry Christmas from Zambia!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Goat Ride

After the baptisms, we loaded up in the Land Rover. The vehicle was full on the trip out to Simwanda, but we managed to add one more passenger for the return trip. It seems someone always needs a ride back to Kalomo or Namwianga. A few minutes down the road we stopped under a shade tree to eat a snack of buns (heavy yeast rolls) and water. Some cattle grazed nearby, their cowbells tinkling as they wandered.

Our next stop was at a small village. Rodgers Namuswa, our Zambian co-worker, is having a big Christmas dinner for his extended family, and his brother had offered to send a goat for the occasion. We had agreed to pick up the goat and bring it back to Namwianga. At the village, Rodgers’s brother offered us places to sit in the shade while he took off on his bicycle to find the goat. In about 30 minutes he returned with the goat strapped behind the seat of the bike. The goat objected to this situation with loud bleating.

Since Sylvester was the youngest of our crew, he willingly climbed up on top of the Land Rover. The goat was hoisted up to the roof where Sylvester tied him down with long strips of black rubber cut from an old inner tube. We climbed back in and took off for home with our newest passenger. The goat made the trip nicely, although he did bleat about every 20 minutes to let us know that he wasn’t happy about his seat.

We delivered the goat and wished the Namuswas a happy holiday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Simwanda Bible Class

Sylvester is a student at George Benson Christian College. He is an orphan who lives in a village near Namwianga with five other siblings and cousins ranging in age from 24 to 11. He would not be able to afford college without sponsorship from the US. The sponsored students are expected to be active in outreach activities, and Sylvester volunteered to work with children. He did an excellent job teaching this group at Simwanda.

Down to the River

This is part 2 of an account of our Sunday outreach to Simwanda.

We arrived at Simwanda and found people gathering in the shade of a huge tree. This congregation was started as a result of medical mission follow-up and has only been meeting for six weeks. Their numerical growth is remarkable. The group started with around 20 the first week, and had grown to 77 on the Sunday before we came. The attendance was 112 on the day of our visit.

Sylvester, a college student who is sponsored by Christians in the US, had come along to work with me in the children’s classes. He had prepared part of a lesson and then translated for me as I completed the class. We had 42 little ones in our class.

There were five baptisms after the worship assembly. A water hole was nearby, so the entire congregation walked there, singing the entire way. Most of the group gathered on the far bank, while I found a spot with a few others on a higher bank where we could look down on the scene. By the time I arrived, Rodwell was already waist deep in chocolate brown water waiting to perform the rites. The singing continued as the first person stepped through tall green reeds to join him. The singing stopped just long enough for Rodwell to speak a few words and plunge the man under the muddy waters. The ceremony was repeated for the four ladies who followed. Each baptism brought a chorus of “Amens” from the crowd and a verse of “Great Day When I Was Born Again.”

I watched all this, thinking, “I can’t believe that I am standing here in the African bush watching the Lord’s church grow right in front of me.” Tears welled up in my eyes and I prayed a prayer of gratitude. “Thank you, Lord, for putting me in this place at this exciting time in the kingdom.”

Monday, December 19, 2005

Run Away! Run Away!

On Sunday our outreach took us to the village of Simwanda where we visited a new congregation that has only been meeting for the past six weeks. The day was quite eventful, so I’m going to blog it in installments for the next two or three days.

We set out with nine people in our Land Rover. Peter was to translate and guide us to find the way. Rodwell would do the Lord’s Supper. Sylvester, a sponsored college student, was to help me with the children’s class. Four other women were going along to help with the singing.

I took our camera along, hoping to find some photo opportunities. We had been traveling about an hour when I saw two boys, each using a set of oxen to cultivate a maize field. I asked David to stop and I jumped out with my camera and headed toward the field. Suddenly one of the boys dropped the reins he was holding and bolted away, running as fast as he could away from me. Peter saw what was happening and shot out of the Land Rover and across the field to grab the reins before the oxen could run away. The boy, meanwhile, had run to hide behind a termite mound (a small hill). Peter said a few things to him in Chitonga while I snapped pictures. We headed back to the vehicle and the boy timidly came out and resumed his position behind the oxen.

Back in the Land Rover I quizzed Peter about what had happened. “Oh, he thought we were Satanists who were coming to cast a spell on him,” Peter explained. It seems that many rumors about Satanic acts are flying around this area. Peter assured him that we were Christians and not Satanists, and we assume he wasn’t too traumatized to continue.

On the way home, we stopped at a village to pick up a goat (watch for that blog in a couple of days). The runaway boy was there, seemingly unharmed, and he got a chance to see that we were not Satanic monsters to be feared. We all had a good laugh.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Many things that happen here in rural Zambia remind me of Bible times. For instance, today two men came to the door and asked for David. They had walked from Simalundu, a very remote village at least 40 miles from here. The men had been chosen by the church in Simalundu to visit Mrs. Hamby and convey their sympathy at the death of Dr. Hamby. They arrived to find Mrs. Hamby had already returned to the US, so they went to Mr. Moonga, a teacher here at Namwianga, and asked him to send her the letter they had brought from the church. Mr. Moonga translated the letter into English and then suggested that they bring it to us to e-mail to Mrs. Hamby so that she would get it more quickly. Except for the e-mail part, I can imagine that events like this happened in the days of Jesus when communication and transportation were difficult. Letters were one of the few ways to send and receive messages, and walking long distances to deliver them by hand was a common practice.

Here is the letter:
Simalundu Church of Christ
Box 363
4 December 05

From Simalundu and other village churches in the Simlundu area
To the Hamby family

The church at Simalundu and all the village churches in Simalundu area were greatly shocked and grieved by the death of Ba Hamby. On Sunday before last, all Christians from many different churches, the headmen in those villages, and many other people who are not Christians walked to Simalundu church where they met and worshipped God together in this great sorrow. The congregations and the headmen pray that God will put the Hamby famly into his mighty hands and care for them always, through the name of Jesus Christ.

Note at the bottom reads: This letter was translated by Dominic Moonga into English from Tonga. The congregation chose Milias Chimanine and Altert Siankompe who are church leaders in Simalundu church to write it before the churches and bring it to Namwianga Mission and give it to Mr. Moonga for Mrs. Hamby.

Catching the Vision

Ruhtt Mbomwae is an incredible asset here at Namwianga Mission. Ruhtt was an Olympic runner in her home country of Peru. Years ago Abilene Christian University recruited her for their track team. During her time at ACU Ruhtt learned English, ran track, and became a Christian. She also met and married Shepherd Mbomwae, a Zambian. Ruhtt and Shepherd came here to Namwianga for Shepherd to teach computer science and business. Since then Ruhtt has been a tireless worker in a variety of ministries. Ruhtt was instrumental in upgrading the college library. She has started women’s ministries in some villages where she gathers the women to crochet or sew as a way to earn extra money, and then she conducts Bible studies. Shepherd and Ruhtt have planted at least thirteen new congregations, including one in a blind community where they have organized college students to serve the needs of the disabled members.

Most recently Ruhtt teamed up with Canadian donors to open six Christian Community Schools in remote villages. These schools serve students who do not live within walking distance of the nearest government school. The community members provide labor to build buildings and pay some expenses, but the majority of the funding comes from the group in Canada. Ruhtt hires teachers, gets the buildings built, gets uniforms made, obtains supplies, and does whatever else needs done to keep the schools in operation. These schools even provide one meal a day for their students, since most of the children who attend are extremely poor.

Ruhtt invited me to do a training session with her teachers on the subject of teaching from a Christian perspective. Doing workshops on this topic is one of my passions, so I readily agreed. She told me to expect 10-12 teachers, but we ended up with 15. They were a joy to work with. Many of these teachers are untrained, and those who have training have no experience. As I talked about ways to teach all subjects from a Christian worldview, I could see by the expressions on their faces that some of them were really “getting it” and becoming excited about the possibilities of teaching in this way. Most enthusiastic of all was Ruhtt. She has now caught the vision of how faith can be integrated into the curriculum, and I expect that the schools under her care will be working to become distinctly Christian in their teaching practices. She’s already planned for another session with the six new teachers she will hire in the next few weeks.

It is exciting to be in this place at this time and see how God is at work!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Cell Phones in Africa

Click on the above title to read an article on cell phone usage in Africa. We were amazed when we came for the medical mission in 2004 and found cell phones in use all over Namwianga. Communication has improved dramatically! The villages, however, still do not have access. We take a satellite phone with us when we go for outreaches so that we will have some way to get help if there is an emergency.

Sunday at Siamonkuli

Today we made our third visit to Siamonkuli, a new congregation that started in September as a result of the medical mission. Our first visit was in October when we met with a handful of people gathered in a schoolroom. In November, we visited again and saw a few more people attending. I had 14 children in Bible class that day. Today we were pleased to find that the numbers have doubled. I had 30 children in class and there was a corresponding increase in the number of adults. Two women requested prayers after the sermon.

Even the trip to Siamonkuli was different today. Since our last visit the rains have been plentiful and the countryside that was dry and brown is now a lush green. The roads were even more jolting than last time due to new potholes formed by erosion from the rains. David had to use four-wheel drive through some of the huge mud puddles. Another bit of excitement occurred when a four-foot long monitor lizard ran across the road in front of us.

We took six of our Zambian friends from Namiwanga with us to serve as translators and to encourage the members at Siamonkuli. We made the circuit of houses picking them up early this morning. As soon as the vehicle was headed down the main road they started singing, and they sang non-stop for the next hour and a half as we traveled. After two hours of the worship service, I was sure they would be too tired to sing on the way home, but I was wrong. They sang all the way back to Namwianga. What a blessing it is to work with people who joyfully live out the scriptural command in Ephesians 5:19 as they “speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. “

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Economics 101

I really wish I had paid more attention in my economics courses at Harding. I managed to memorize the material required on tests, but I didn’t take it in well enough to understand the international monetary system and how that system would someday affect my life! Now we are learning economics the hard way.

Reuters news service reports that the Zambian kwacha has appreciated 37% against the US dollar since the International Monetary Fund awarded the country a debt relief package. The IMF gave Zambia a $3.95 debt relief package and the G8 conference resulted in another write-off plan that will cut Zambia’s foreign debt to $300 million by May. That’s down from $7.1 BILLION in May of this year.

That means there is more money in the Zambian economy to be spent, and it also means that the amount of dollars the government is buying has come down. Those factors affect the value of the dollar in relation to the Zambian kwacha. When we arrived in Zambia, the exchange rate was around 4,800 kwacha to one US dollar. The Reuters report said that Wednesday’s rate was 3,500/dollar and predicted to go even lower.

In practical terms, when we got here in June we could get 1 million kwacha for $210. Now it takes $285 to get that same 1 million in kwacha. It’s hard enough on a personal budget, but the mission has taken a hard hit as well, since US dollars support a portion of the work here. Many students are sponsored in school by generous donors in the US, and those students have watched their tuition bills climb as the value of their US support declines.

Export sectors of the economy, especially agriculture, are also feeling the effects. The Reuters report says the president of the national farmer’s union predicts job losses in the agricultural sector. That will “cause higher levels of poverty in a country where 69 percent of the people live way below the World Bank poverty threshold of $1 per day. “

Optimistic economists think that the devaluation is an overreaction and that the rates will improve in coming months. We shall see. In the meantime, we are counting our kwacha carefully.

Friday, December 02, 2005

"Honey, we've got to get screens on the windows"

That's what I said when David shook this critter out of his pants leg. At least the cat gets his entertainment and snack food from big bugs like this!

Welcome Visitors

Our visitors from America arrived Thursday. David and I drove to Livingstone to pick them up at the airport. Five Zambians from Namwianga went with us, and the Central Church in Livingstone sent a delegation of eight to the airport as well. The Hamby’s long-time friends from Zimbabwe, Jay and Shaku Gopal, came all the way from Victoria Falls to be there too. It was a tearful time for all of us as we greeted Ellie on Zambian soil without Kelly by her side. As I told Star Ferguson, seeing Ellie alone finally made Kelly’s death seem real, and not just a terrible dream.

From the airport we drove to the Central Church building for a short memorial service with a crowd that had gathered there. Then we made the two-hour trip back to Namwianga, arriving just after dark.

There another gathering was waiting for Ellie at Johnson Auditorium. The electricity was off, so candles lit up all the windows as we drove up. Ellie got out of the car and was greeted by about 20 of the Zambian women who were weeping and singing as they embraced her.

The auditorium was packed. When we stepped through the doorway, the chorus of 500 voices singing a beautiful Chitonga hymn was indescribably beautiful. My first thought was, “This must be what Kelly heard as he stepped into heaven.” The singing continued while we made our way down the candlelit aisle to seats at the front. There was a short program of songs, prayers, and statements about Kelly. Then the students were asked to sing and everyone was invited to file by Mrs. Hamby and our group to shake hands in the Zambian tradition.

The line seemed to stretch on forever as teachers, friends, church leaders, and students came by to greet and grieve with Ellie and with us. The many young faces in the stream of people reminded me once again that Kelly is leaving an important legacy that will influence the kingdom of God for eternity.

The day was emotionally draining for all of us, especially Ellie, but we all agreed that this was an important step in our healing process. There will be many more hard days to come, but God's gracious comfort and our wonderful memories of Kelly will carry us through. Please keep Ellie in your prayers.

Unwelcome Visitor

We’ve been busy this week preparing for a group of four Americans to arrive. Ellie Hamby is coming, and along with her will be Star Ferguson, Charles Small, and Richard Prather. Wednesday night we decided to get our house ready for company by hanging some wall decorations.

We were in the middle of that job when George Phiri, The Zambian superintendent, stopped by to finalize plans for picking up the group at the airport. As we sat and talked with him, he suddenly stopped in mid-sentence. His eyes widened as he pointed to the floor behind David.

“You have a small snake there,” he said. Sure enough, a black snake about 16 inches long was slithering across the concrete.

David ran outside to find the hoe while I backed off at a safe distance to watch. I wanted to know exactly where the snake went if it was loose in the house! George meanwhile removed his sandal and took aim. He threw once and hit just to the right of the snake. The second blow landed on the left. The third throw was high. The snake was up against the wall by now, coiling and recoiling from each “whop” of a shoe nearby. Finally George’s fourth blow scored a direct hit and the snake coiled for the last time. George retrieved his sandal as David arrived with a shovel. He scooped up the dead snake and took it outside for a hasty burial.

Our guess is that the snake made its entrance by squeezing under the back door. We’ll be figuring out a way to close up that space! George also told us that there are certain bushes that act as snake repellants, so we’re looking to do some snake-proof landscaping. Life in the bush is never dull!