Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Update - December 26

On Sunday we made a presentation at Brentwood Oaks, our sponsoring congregation. As we talked about the things we are doing, we mentioned repeatedly the many ways that BOCC supports the efforts at Namwianga. We are so blessed to have such a generous and caring church family.

On the 17th we shared our work with the church at Salado, a town about an hour north of Austin. This congregation has a heart for children at Namwianga. Their members now support six babies at The Haven orphanage and seven high school and college students.

The meals, parties, and gatherings continue as we meet with individuals and small groups to talk about our work. On the 27th we are heading for Missouri to spend a few days with my family. David is scheduled to speak at the Mt. Vernon church on Sunday the 31st. Then we'll go to Searcy for another visit with David's parents before coming back to Austin the first weekend in January. We return to Zambia on January 9.


Here's our family photo taken on Christmas Eve. For those of you who don't know us, here's some information on Sara and John. Sara graduated from Harding University in 2004. She now teaches math at a middle school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. John lives in Austin and works for an electrical supply company.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Update - December 16

We enjoyed a quiet two days with David's parents in Searcy and then returned to Austin on Wednesday. We both managed to come down with head colds and have been miserable. I ended up having to back out on a couple of events Thursday so I could stay in and recuperate. The irony is that I spent 18 months in Africa without ever having to miss a day of work, and then came back to the US and got sick! We're both doing better now and hopefully have revived our immunity to American viruses.

Here are a few more things I am appreciating about American life:
Organization and efficiency -- I'm amazed at how quickly I can get things done here.
Medical care -- I've had three medical appointments this week. I would have taken that for granted before, but now I realize what an incredible blessing it is to have so much knowledge, skill, and technology available just a few minutes away. At Namwianga I would have had to fly to Johannesburg, South Africa, to get comparable medical care.
The highways -- I know I've mentioned this before, but I still can't take for granted the smooth, wide roads. And driving at night! In Zambia we try to stay off the roads after dark because of the narrow roads, ubiquitous pedestrians, and straying wild animals. Here we can drive at night, opening up a whole new world of possibilities.

And yet I miss my life at Namwianga.
I miss the sunrises and sunsets--God's artwork on daily display. David and I usually watch the sunrise on our morning walk and then enjoy the sunset from our veranda. Here I've been too preoccupied to notice them.
I miss the simplicity of having fewer choices to make.
I miss our co-workers, both Zambian and American. I wonder how they are doing and long to catch up on the news from the Mission.

I realized yesterday that I have changed from my time in Africa. God has used the many experiences, frustrations, and faith experiences of the past year and a half to do some needed work on my attitudes. I was having some tests done at a lab yesterday and ended up waiting for the better part of two hours because of a scheduling problem and a computer failure. Part of that time I was lying in a darkened room and couldn't even enjoy the novel I'd brought along. The lab tech came in at one point to apologize, and I assured her that I was just fine. I meant what I said. I wasn't impatient, angry, or irritated. In fact, I just enjoyed the quiet and the rest as a good time to pray and meditate. My pre-Africa attitude would have been total frustration as I would have mentally listed all the things I could have and should have been doing during that time. Thank you, Lord, for teaching me the joy of waiting patiently. I still have a long way to go in that area, but I'm very grateful for small steps.

I am constantly reminded of the Zambian saying "Ciindi Coonse Leza Mubotu." All the time, God is good.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Update on Activities - December 9

One week now in the USA and we are still reveling in long, hot showers, delicious food, and smooth roads. We’ve managed to readjust to American culture quite well so far. I won’t even mention how many times I’ve already been to Wal-Mart . . .

The members at our sponsoring congregation, Brentwood Oaks, have been wonderful in welcoming us back and treating us like royalty. We have been hosted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every day this week--and have the extra pounds to show for it. We returned to Brentwood Christian School to do chapel presentations on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Wednesday I spoke for Ladies’ Bible Class and enjoyed their monthly potluck dinner with them. We’ve met with World Bible School teachers, the elders, and the mission committee. Thursday night was the BCS Partnership Dinner, and we were able to enjoy that with our son John and other dear friends.

John has been with us for at least a short time every day and it has been a joy to get caught up with him and once again appreciate his wonderful sense of humor. I reserved one night this week to prepare a home-cooked meal for him including his favorites: fried chicken strips, mashed potatoes and gravy, and chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies.

Now we’re taking a breather from all the hectic activity and visiting Sara in Tulsa. We arrived Friday afternoon and met her at Foster Middle School where she teaches pre-algebra. She introduced us to her principal who made us extremely proud by telling us what a fantastic teacher Sara is. Then we visited her classroom and saw the incredible technology she has at her fingertips—a Smart Board that projects directly from her computer or from a slate she can carry around the room and write on. We tried not to be jealous!

Sunday after church we’re heading for Searcy, Arkansas, to spend a couple of days with David’s parents.

We received one piece of very sad news from Namwianga. Our friend and co-worker, John Kambulu, died on Wednesday morning. He worked with us for years on the medical mission and always impressed us with his great smile, gorgeous singing voice, and kind spirit. John leaves behind a wife and three children. We grieve from afar, wishing we could be there to share this time with John’s family and with our other friends who grieve for him. Please keep the Kambulu family in your prayers.

Monday, December 04, 2006

You Know You're Back in Texas When

One of our favorite moments on the trip back to America occurred in the Dallas airport. We were in the Passport Control area waiting to go through Immigration. The employees were wearing cowboy hats with their official vests-- a welcome sight for us. As we approached the row of booths wondering where we should go next, a white-haired lady in a hat and vest called out, "Now just move on down there 'til they holler atcha!" Ah, it's good to be back in Texas!

Here are some other "new" sights and experiences we've had in the last three days:
Paved roads
Paved roads without potholes
Roads with more than two lanes
Beautiful homes that are not surrounded by concrete walls topped with barbed wire or broken glass
Parking lots--lots and lots of parking lots! (We are accustomed to having the ONLY vehicle parked outside the church building--when there is a church building.)
Hugs, hugs, and more hugs--Zambians do not customarily hug, so we've gotten more hugs in these few days than we had in the previous year and a half.
Padded church pews (ahhhhhh)
Clean public restrooms with toilet paper
Sleeping without a mosquito net (another ahhhhh)
A nice, thick Sunday newspaper

Back in the USA

I apologize for not updating the blog sooner! We have been on three continents in the last week and have been incredibly busy.

Lauren, David, and I left last Monday and drove to Lusaka. We spent the night in Lusaka and caught a flight to London on Tuesday. We stayed with my niece and her husband in London while we saw the sights of London on Wednesday and Thursday. Our whirlwind tour included Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Shakespeare's Globe Theater, the Tower of London, National Gallery, and the British Museum.

On Friday we flew from London to Dallas where Lauren left us to head for Arkansas. David and Karan Bridgwater, dear friends from Zambia Medical Mission, met us at the airport and took us straight to David Bridgwater's dental office. David (Gregersen) went from a cramped airliner seat to the dentist's chair. He had broken off a tooth last summer, and David Bridgwater volunteered to work on it when we came back to the states. David got his tooth pulled and then the Bridgwaters took us out for real American-style hamburgers.

Michele Broadway came from Austin and picked us up. We'll be staying with Michele and her husband Mark during our time in Austin.

We spent Saturday afternoon with our son John. Saturday night we met several couples in Salado for dinner at the Stagecoach Inn. It was a wonderful time of getting caught up on family events and news as we enjoyed our meal together.

Today (Sunday) was a joyful time of reunion with our church family at Brentwood Oaks. We were reminded once again of how blessed we are to have such a loving, caring, and prayerful supporting congregation.

That's the best I can do in my bleary-eyed state of jet lag. More to come!

Saturday, November 25, 2006


The duffle bags are out and the packing has begun for our first furlough. We are leaving Monday morning, November 27, for Lusaka where we'll spend the day doing errands. On Tuesday we will fly to London where we will spend two days with my niece and her husband. Then it's off to Dallas on Friday for an overnight stay with the Bridgwaters. David Bridgwater is a dentist who comes on the medical mission, and he has offered to do our dental work for us. We'll make it to Austin on Saturday to begin five weeks of seeing family and friends in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

So what do missionaries dream about when they plan a furlough? Hugging our kids is number one on the list. Although Sara was here last summer, we haven't seen John for 18 months. Then we tend to focus on which restaurants we'll visit, followed by fantasies of long, hot, guilt-free (almost) showers. We anticipate catching up with friends and family, seeing how the young children in our lives have grown up, and telling lots and lots of stories about our African experiences.

Our missionary friends tell us to be prepared for reverse culture shock. After living in a land of poverty, the extravagance of the American lifestyle can be disconcerting, they say. More than one has told us that the first trip to Walmart is as overwhelming as our first trip to the open air market was here. They also warn us that we will feel out of touch as people refer to current events, movies, TV, and advertisements that we have not been a part of. It will be interesting to see how all of these things play out in the next few weeks.

We plan to continue posting to the blog at least weekly, and we will be accessible by e-mail and by phone through the Brentwood Oaks church office in Austin. We covet your prayers in this new adventure!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Mary Beth's Reflections

Mary Beth McCown, shown above with Ruhtt Mbumwae, agreed to record her reflections on her time with us. She writes:

I will always remember our trip to Zambia. As guests of the Gregersens we spent 15 days meeting the people and going to the places that readers of this blog have visited in print. Since returning three days ago I have awakened with a Tonga gospel song in my mind the last two mornings. Shadowing the Gregersens led to our learning Tonga phrases and the Tonga handshake so we could politely meet and greet dozens of people at the school, in the community schools, in outlying villages as well as the town and marketplace in Lusaka.

I will always remember Jane, the hospitable head mistress of the Chiili community school whose nshema, dried fish, goat offal with gravy we enjoyed eating Zambian style with the fingers of our right hand. While the men were in worship Linda and I and Jane led a Bible class with 30+ children. Telling the story of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego was doubly animated as Jane translated for me as I gestured even more than usual to keep the children’s attention while they awaited translation. These children related to this story because they live with fiery furnances their parents use to fire mud bricks for structures in their community. This trip into the boonies was my favorite adventure.

I will always remember the effects of AIDS on Zambian family infrastructure. I visited
two orphanages, met many orphaned students, heard of several abandoned orphans and several adults who provide food and shelter for orphaned nieces and nephews. Handling the effects of devastation of AIDS is a way of life here.

We thought we had come to Africa to only shadow the Gregersens. We left with our own experiences and impressions of unforgettable people like Peter, Rogers, Ruhtt, Jane, Prince, and those melodic Tongan gospel songs deeply imbedded in our memories. Those 15 days could make a couple of former missionaries homesick for the peculiar calling to cross-cultural ministry!

Enormous Fun

We were blessed to have Roger and Mary Beth McCown with us for two weeks. We worked with them for 20 years in Austin, but our time together in Zambia brought us even closer. We enjoyed sharing our work and our lives with them, and they offered us some valuable advice and insights from their experience as missionaries in Guatemala.

We also shared some just plain fun times. This was their first trip to Africa, and no trip to Africa is complete without seeing the animals. We took a day trip to Chobe Game Park in Botswana. This park is home to the largest herd of elephants in the world, and we saw many of them up close!

The McCowns left for Austin on Monday, leaving us with some wonderful memories of times shared in Africa.


We had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. Shown in the top photo with us are Meagan Hawley, Louisa Duke, and Lauren Hickmon. These three young women have become near and dear to our hearts as we have shared the Zambian experience with them. This was the first time Meagan and Lauren had ever been away from home on Thanksgiving, but for all of us it was a memorable time.

We invited Robby Banda (lower photo--in front of our buffet) to enjoy his first American-style Thanksgiving with us. Robby is a widower who eats many meals at our table. His quick wit and ready laugh always add a special touch to our times together.

Roger and Mary Beth McCown returned to the US on Monday, but they left behind the decorations, along with the ingredients for sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole. Meagan and Louisa made pecan, apple, and pumpkin pies for the occasion. There was no turkey to be found in Livingstone or Lusaka stores, so we substituted Lauren's favorite, cornflake chicken. The chicken was extremely fresh, since our neighbor Mrs. Moono selected it and dressed it for us on Thursday afternoon. We also had dressing, mashed potatoes, salad, and rolls.

We had a bounty of food, something that we no longer take for granted in a land where many go hungry. Our dinner conversation was sprinkled with joyous laughter as we enjoyed each other's company. I told our gathering that we are friends who have become like family in many ways, so we can call ourselves "frimily." This produced a spontaneous chorus of the tune "We are frimily" and even more laughter.

Over dessert we each shared some of the things we are thankful for. Our blessings are many, and we can say with the Zambians: "Leza mubotu ciindi coonse. Ciindi coonse Leza Mubotu." God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


One thing I love about being here at Namwianga is getting to be Mom to so many of the students. I found out that many times the graduating seniors do not have any family to celebrate with them at the graduation ceremony, so I offered to be a stand-in Mom for any of the sponsored students who didn't have family coming. Obert (far left), Gift, and Decent asked me to be there for them, and I gladly accepted. Obert and Gift both lost their parents when they were very young. Obert was raised by his grandparents, and Gift has only an older brother left in his family. Decent has no father, and his mother and grandmother had no way to get from their remote village to the graduation.

I was nervous about doing the right thing, so I asked around to find out just what parents are supposed to do at graduation. I made sure I had cakes ready to give as gifts, and I got there early to get a good seat on the aisle where the graduates would come in. The students entered doing a fun kind of dance step to the gorgeous music of the choir. I joined each of my guys for the walk down the aisle (no dancing for me, thank you!), barely making it to the front with one of them before dashing back to meet the next one. Then when they received their certificates I was there to take a picture, give a big hug, and say, "I'm so proud of you!" Afterward we took more pictures and shared the celebration of this important milestone.

It was a joyous time, and I felt very blessed to be a part of it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Day with Ruhtt Mbumwae

We have been trying to give visitors Roger and Mary Beth McCown as many experiences as possible during their stay with us. With that in mind, Roger, Mary Beth, and I tagged along with Ruhtt Mbumwae on Wednesday as she visited four of the Christian community schools that she oversees.

Our first stop was Simikkakata, the blind community just outside Kalomo. In 1998 Ruhtt and her husband Shepherd found a group of families huddled together by the side of the road. They were blind people who had been gathered from the streets of Livingstone and abandoned with no shelter, food, or assistance to begin a new life on the land provided them. Ruhtt and Shepherd mobilized the George Benson Christian College students to build housing and get a local church congregation started in the new community. More recently a school serving over 400 area children was established in a nearby abandoned building. A new church facility also houses a preschool.

Next we visited Katungu where a brand new classroom block is almost finished. An older structure built by the community is already too small for the needs of a growing school population. As in all of the construction projects Ruhtt manages, the community must provide the labor. The parents of the students mold all the bricks, gather the sand and rocks needed, and assist with the building of the structure under supervision of a contractor. We found a group of women gathered under a tree ready to prepare lunch for all the students. Care International provides food for the school lunch program and mothers take turns coming to cook.

We bumped over rocky roads and narrow paths to Siabalumbi. The new classroom building here was funded by donations from a Christian school in Canada. Now community members at Siabalumbi are constructing additional houses for teachers.

Our last stop was at the community of Mutala. Here the first graders sang for us.

At every school we found students busily working. When we entered their classrooms, the students stood up and greeted us in unison. The teachers were glad to have their students show us the work they were doing. At Katungu, two second grade boys came to the front and proudly read to us. At every school we found parents working on construction projects and preparing lunches. Every classroom had books and teaching resources in use.

These are community schools, which means that the communities rather than the government’s ministry of education initiated the schools. Each began with an active, strong church whose members wanted to reach out to the community. The community members and outside donations provide material and financial support to operate the schools. Each school serves an area that has no other school within 15-20 kilometers of the community. Ruhtt and those who support her are making a difference in the lives of children and families all over this region. We were blessed to spend a day seeing how God is at work in this ministry.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chiili Weekend

We enjoyed our Chiili (Chee-lee) weekend with Roger and Mary Beth McCown. It was great to share with them the rugged roads, the warm welcome, and the gracious people of the community. We feasted on nshima, goat, kapenta, and chicken, all eaten in true Zambian style with our fingers. Our Zambian co-workers shared many stories and traditional tales during our meal times together, making the experience even more fun.

One of the purposes for this trip was to instruct the local farmers on how to use drip irrigation. Fred Kalatambala, the farm manager from Namwianga, presented an all-day workshop on Saturday. The 40 men and women who attended learned how to prepare raised garden beds and use the drip irrigation system. They were given a supply of seeds to get started.

On Friday and Saturday nights we had preaching services. After the Saturday night service, singing groups from various congregations were invited to present songs. The Zambians insisted that we Americans sing for them, so we managed “Trust and Obey” and “Anywhere with Jesus” in somewhat shaky four-part harmony. At 10:00 the official meeting ended, but the Zambians continued singing until 1:30 the next morning.

Mary Beth and I taught children’s classes on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Roger preached on Friday evening. We had many opportunities to sit and visit with the Christians at Chiili and to just soak in the beautiful scenery of this remote village. We consider it a great blessing that we were able to share this time with the McCowns.

The Other Linda Gregersen

Soon after we arrived in Chiili this weekend I was able to meet and hold my namesake. You may remember that this baby was born during our September visit and was given the name Linda Gregersen. She is adorable and seems to be healthy and happy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What a Tree!

We stopped at Mubuyu on our way home from Nazibbula yesterday. This is one of three huge baobab trees there. Shown are Rodgers Namuswa, David, Roger and Mary Beth McCown.

McCowns Visit

We are having a wonderful visit with Roger and Mary Beth McCown from Austin. We picked them up in Livingstone on Monday afternoon and have been busy showing them around ever since. On Tuesday they went to classes and chapel with us and got a campus tour. Wednesday we took them to Nazibbula to check out progress on the constuction of a church building. There has been enough rain in that area to make everything lush and green, so it was a beautiful drive.

Thursday Mary Beth went with me to do teacher training at Najinka. We had over 80 ladies from eight congregations who attended this event. Mary Beth loved the way the ladies sang their greeting to us, and they loved her attempts to communicate in Tonga! Thursday night Roger and Mary Beth went with David to the campfire Bible study at Sandy Hill.

On Friday we are taking them with us on another weekend trip to Chiili. The farm manager from Namwianga will be teaching drip irrigation on Saturday. David and Roger will be preaching on Friday and Saturday nights and on Sunday morning. Mary Beth and I will be teaching children's and ladies' classes.

Thankfully, the temperatures cooled off when the McCowns arrived! We are so glad they are not having to suffer through the hot days we had last week.

I have been trying to post some photos on the blog, but have had no luck this week. I will keep trying.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

News and Notes - November 4

A relentless heat wave has made this a very uncomfortable week. The two rains we had in mid-October apparently were only teasers and not the real start of the rainy season. Every day we scan the clouds and look for signs of rain and relief from the heat.

On Monday Roger and Mary Beth McCown from our sponsoring congregation will arrive for a two-week stay. We are anxious to show them our work here and get caught up on all the news from home.

Lauren is in Choma today with her girls and boys basketball teams for their first official games. The boys (all eleventh graders) trounced the college team earlier this week. The Choma team won the national championship last year, so this should be an interesting match.

David is gone on another weekend outreach to the Singwamba area. He and his team of Zambian co-workers are doing a leadership training seminar. He’s planning to keep cool by sleeping outside in his hammock that has a built-in rain fly and mosquito net. As always, I look forward to hearing the stories he will tell when he gets home on Sunday night.

Flamboyant Trees

This flamboyant tree is one of many on our campus in full bloom. In the background is Johnson Auditorium where daily chapel and Sunday worship services are held.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rude Awakening

Our internet bill arrived with a huge shock this week. Coppernet, the provider company, notified us that we have been exceeding our allotted monthly bandwidth and must either cut back on our usage or upgrade to a new plan. The new plan to cover the bandwidth we are currently using would cost a whopping $400 MORE per month above the exorbitant price we’re already paying.

It was a no-brainer to decide we’ll have to cut back on usage for now. Look for fewer and smaller photos on the blog. Those of you who e-mail us, please don’t send pictures or forward messages with graphics and photos any more. The company told us how to monitor usage (something they had not informed us about before), so now when we reach the limit of our monthly bandwidth, we’ll turn off the internet.

I can’t help but think about the early missionaries who had only the postal service for communication with their friends and loved ones. They went weeks and months without hearing news from home. I guess our small inconvenience of cutting back on internet usage seems rather paltry by comparison

Perfect Pumpkin

Look what we found in the garden this week! This perfect pumpkin serves as our only reminder of fall at home, so we have treasured it and enjoyed it. Meanwhile, we are trying to stay cool through the hottest days of the year.

The CD's Are Ready

At long last the CD’s of the Namwianga singing groups are ready for sale in the US! The two CD’s are described below:

Namwianga Sings! features the Christian Movement Choir from Namwianga Christian Secondary School and the Heavenly Echoes Choir from George Benson Christian College. The second CD is by a small group of faculty and students called The Timothy Brothers. I think their sound is best described as a jazzed up barbershop style. Both CD’s contain a mixture of English and African language songs, although most songs are in Chitonga.

All proceeds from the sales of these recordings will be used to provide sponsorships for needy students at Namwianga Mission. Each CD sells for $10 plus $2 each for postage and mailing.

To purchase one or more of the CD’s, contact Ellie Hamby at Zambia Mission, 658 E. N. 21st, Abilene, TX 79601. Checks should be made payable to Zambia Mission. Her e-mail address is ellieha@sbcglobal.net.

Regular readers will remember that we started this process way back in March. New readers might enjoy visiting the archives to read about our trip to Lusaka for recording. The students were a blessing to us on that journey, and their music will be a blessing to all who hear it.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sorry, There's No Room for the Goat

One stop on my way into Kalomo town usually fills up my vehicle with riders. Last week this group hopped in. You can see part of the chicken coop in the middle, wrapped in chitenge fabric. Other baggage included charcoal, empty water containers, buckets, and a plastic washtub. I had to turn down one hopeful passenger--there was no room for the goat.

Dinner on the Veranda

It's so hot that we've been eating our evening meals outside on the veranda. Our group on Wednesday night included (left to right): David, Lauren, Meagan Hawley, Louisa Duke, and Dr. Sid Tate. Meagan and Louisa have been living with us for the past three weeks but will soon be moving to one of the guesthouses for the rest of their stay here at Namwianga. Dr. Tate was at the mission for most of the month of October. He lived and worked at Namwianga for three years from 2002-2005. He returned this year to get an x-ray machine installed and operating at the clinic. That task accomplished, Dr. Tate headed home to Searcy, Arkansas, on Thursday.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

New Wheels

Meagan Hawley shows off her new set of wheels--an authentic African bike complete with a generator that powers the headlight. Meagan's bike will take her to and from her job at Eric's House where she helps Kathi Merritt. In the mornings Meagan takes care of the ten (yes, TEN) toddlers at the orphanage. She goes back in the afternoons and serves as recreation coordinator for the teenage boys who live there. Her lunch and dinner time stories are quite entertaining as she tells about singing with the little ones and playing baseball and football with the guys.

Flowers and Aliens

Water is a scarce commodity in southern Zambia. We try not to waste a drop. When I finish washing and chopping fresh vegetables, I toss the leftover water onto the flowerbed by the back veranda. This routine apparently spread some tomato seeds. A lone tomato plant sprouted and began to flourish among the flowers.

I’ve watched this growth with interest. The tomato plant looks out of place—an alien mixed with the yellow coreopsis blooms. But it is a sturdy volunteer. The vine grew quickly and has even produced a few small fruits.

I feel a kinship with this misplaced tomato plant. I, too, am trying to grow in an alien environment. Like my tomato vine, I look very out of place in my surroundings. I struggle sometimes to fit in and find my place. My brave tomato plant is content to grow and produce fruit. I can have no higher goal.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Independence Day

October 24 is Independence Day in Zambia. Like the United States, Zambia was originally a British colony (Northern Rhodesia). The country earned its independence peacefully in 1964.

In observation of the holiday there were no classes here on campus and most students filled the day by with sporting events.

It was the hottest day we’ve had this year. The outdoor thermometer registered 112 degrees at 2:00. The humidity was very low, thankfully, so it didn’t seem that extreme. Our house stayed relatively comfortable with the windows open and ceiling fans whirring.

David grilled chicken and we ate our dinner on the back veranda with the sound of the crickets as our background music.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Goodbye to Baby Sarah

Baby Sarah touched all of us who knew her. There was something irresistible about her dainty features and her searching eyes. Maybe it was a fascination that one so tiny and frail could even exist in such a harsh land. Maybe it was knowing that her young mother had died and she had no family who wanted to keep her. Maybe it was just a feeling that this baby was extra special.

Whatever the reason, many of us here at Namwianga and many blog readers fell in love with this five-pound sweetheart. We joined Lauren on the "Sarah roller coaster" and lived the highs and lows of her struggle to survive.

Thursday Sarah took a sudden turn for the worse, and Thursday evening her struggle finally ended. Here at our house, Lauren held Sarah and loved her as Meagan, Louisa, and I surrounded the two of them and watched Sarah take her final breaths. Friday morning a handful of the "aunties" who care for the Haven babies joined all of us and Kathi Merritt to bury sweet Sarah.

There is an ache in our hearts. We grieve for Lauren who loved and nurtured and fought for Sarah so valiantly. We grieve for Sarah. In some ways she was a symbol for our hopes for this land--surely one who fought so hard against the odds could make it. And so we grieve for a land where babies like Sarah die every day.

Lauren has written a beautiful account of Sarah's life and death. Click on the title to link to her blog entry.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Around the Bend

David had a close call on Sunday as he came back from an outreach. Here's his story.

I left on Friday with three Zambian evangelists, Rogers, Daniel, and Pastor, for a weekend outreach. Chief Nyawa invited us to come preach at a fish camp on the Sichifulo River 90 miles into the bush northwest of Kalomo. This river flows west and empties into the great Zambezi River. October is the driest, hottest month so the water flow on this river drops dramatically, leaving large pools of water throughout the river bed. People flock here by the hundreds to fish. During the day they swim out to stands they have built in the middle of the river pools and spear barbol (similar to American catfish). Around 5:00 pm they head back to their campsites where they clean the fish and either smoke them over campfires or hang them to dry in the hot sun. There is no salt for perserving, and the odor is ....whew! After a few days they bundle up their dried or smoked fish and take them to their village or to the market.

We preached at this fish camp Saturday and Sunday and had a captive audience of 250. What a wonderful experience! On Sunday morning we held two worship services. At 8:00 we preached at the village of Gooda (Goo-dah). This is a new congregation that was started just a few months ago by some Christians who recently moved into the area. Eight people were baptized after that service. Then we headed 30 minutes down the road to the fish camp where the group of 250 had gathered in the shade. Just before noon we loaded up and headed back toward Namwianga.

The bush is beginning to turn green even though there has been no rain since April. On the trip home I experienced how dangerous this greening of the trees in the bush is. We traveled slowly along sandy "roads," never getting above third gear. These single lane "roads" in long sections have trees and bushes growing right up to the edge of the road. On a straight section this is okay. But on curves you don't ever know if a car, truck, cyclist, cow, goat, or person on foot is around the blind side of the curve.

Around 3:30 we were traveling at about 20 miles an hour on a rare, smooth, straight section of the road that winds through a cornfield. A curved section was coming up with thick, tall, bush bordering each side of the curve. About 20 yards before I reached the curve, a Toyota Land Cruiser truck came roaring down the road around the curve and straight at us. I quickly swerved to the right and into the corn field, avoiding a deadly head-on collision. I managed to stop the truck just before hitting the trees and bushes bordering the curve. Miraculously, no one was hurt and the truck was not damaged. With the truck in 4-wheel drive, I was able get us out of the field and back on the road. I had some words with the Zambian driving the Land Cruiser: "Sir, but by the grace of God go we. Please drive slower." We were very thankful to God that we were at a place in the road where we could avoid a head-on collision. Five seconds made the difference this time. I appreciated once again the prayers rising up for us.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Laughter and Rain

Two major events occurred in the past two days. On Monday, baby Sarah laughed for the first time. Just weeks ago she was fighting for her life and was so thin and frail that I could hardly bear to see her. Now she has bounced back and is getting more lively every day. Her first laugh is a cause for celebration. You can read more about it by clicking on the title which will link you to Lauren's blog site.

Then yesterday afternoon we had the first rain of the season. The air had held the smell and promise of rain for a couple of days, but we were still surprised when the first drops hit the ground. After six months of dryness it's hard to even remember what rain is like. The familiar routines soon kicked in, however. We unplugged the appliances when the thunder and lightning started. The electricity went off half an hour after the storm began, so David grilled the chicken I had planned to bake. We sat on the veranda with Lauren, Meagan, and Louisa sharing stories of rain before enjoying a candlelight dinner. The lights came back on around 8:00.

Today the air is crisp and clean again. The sandy paths are smoothed and void of their usual animal footprints. A few puddles can be found, but most of yesterday's rain soaked into the parched earth. Now we wait for the invasion of the flying ants that follows the first rains. Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Children's Ministry Expands

Ivy and Gertrude came by asking to borrow materials for teaching Sunday School. A few months ago, I began loaning out flip charts and crafts to the college student who teaches the children at the Namwianga congregation. These students saw her resources and asked if they could also borrow supplies for their ministry in another village.

Our wonderful friends at Brentwood Oaks have made a supply of flip charts, and the medical mission children's ministry leaves all the leftover craft projects with me to use during the year. It's a blessing to be able to share with these eager teachers!

I'm planning to make up some more flip charts when we go back for our first furlough. If any of you blog readers would like to make some, just let me know. I can promise that they will be put to good use!

New Faces at Namwianga

We had these three ladies with us this week. Janice Bingham, left, is a nursing instructor at Harding University. She has experience working in African mission hospitals and was here for a week to do some fact-finding work for Harding. Meagan Hawley and Louisa Duke have plans to stay for at least a year or two. Meagan was a middle school English teacher in the US and is now working with the boys at Eric's House. Louisa recently finished her training as a physician's assistant and plans to work at Namwianga's health clinic.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Update on Baby Sarah

Those of you who are, as Lauren puts it, "riding the Sarah roller coaster" will be glad to hear that this has been a high week for her. The antibiotic seems to have knocked out her infection. She's been eating well, looking bright-eyed, and even had the energy to be fussy one morning. Best of all, she SMILED yesterday--for the first time in weeks! Lauren and her Haven co-worker, Rejoice, both broke down and cried with joy and relief.

Sarah is shown here in a new preemie size outfit that Lauren's mother sent over for her. Look at those tiny feet!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Going High Tech

What you see behind me on the screen in this picture is a powerpoint slide! We taught for the first eight months here with chalk as our only visual aid. In May I added a roll of brown butcher paper and markers to our supplies. Allen Neese, one of the doctors on the medical mission, saw our need and gave us a multi-media projector. What a blessing this has been! We don't have to spend precious class time writing on the board. My classes have been learning how to do research papers, so I was able to project sample papers for them to look at. David has incorporated pictures of the temple and other biblical sites into his lessons.

The logistics are still a bit daunting. The first task was getting the electricity working in all three of the classrooms we use. Now that we have outlets, all we have to do is lug the screen, projector, laptop, and converter from our house to the classroom and set them all up for each class. The work is worth it when we see how much more effective our lessons are with some visuals added. We still pack our chalk, though, because when the electricity goes out . . .

I was writing this blog and had just started the last sentence when the electricity DID go out. I have a two-hour class planned for this morning, and I've got wonderful powerpoint slides prepared. Guess I'll get my chalk and start on Plan B.

Friday, October 06, 2006

News and Notes-October 6

This afternoon three student groups left for weekend outreaches. There is always a flurry of activity to get diesel in the vehicles, load the supplies and luggage, and then get everyone onto the buses. We'll look forward to hearing their stories when they arrive back on Sunday afternoon.

Incumbent Levy Mwanawasa has been officially declared the winner of last week's presidential election. There are still reports of rioting and unrest in Lusaka, but everything is calm out here in the bush.

Baby Sarah has had a rough week. Lauren and Kathi Merritt took her back to Livingstone today to see the doctor there. Her white blood cell count is very high, indicating an infection of some kind. She is getting heavy doses of antibiotics for the next three days. Her weight continues to drop--she is now below five pounds.

It's summertime here, and the daytime temperatures are soaring. The mornings and nights are cool and pleasant, however. Several times we thought we smelled rain in the air, and a few droplets fell last Sunday. The rainy season usually begins in late October or early November.

Since this is the beginning of the month, the bicycle outreach evangelists are bringing their monthly reports to David. It is exciting to read about the congregations that have been visited and the plans for the coming weeks.

Arch of Beauty

The jacaranda trees in bloom form a gorgeous purple archway over the road to the Merritt's. This is definitely on my top ten list of the most beautiful sights in Zambia!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Election Update

Times of Zambia
The election results are now showing a slight edge to incumbent President Levy Mwanawasa rather than his opponent. The uncertainty is fueling riots in Lusaka as voters anxiously await the final announcement by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. President Mwanawasa is advising Zambians to avoid violence and seek solutions through the court system. So far we have no word of hanging chads and butterfly ballots . . .

Livingstone Trip, Continued

We continued Lauren's birthday celebration with high tea at The Royal Livingstone Hotel, another delightful and relaxing experience, and then returned to Chanter's for dinner.

As we were eating, Lauren got a call from The Haven that baby Sarah had stopped breathing earlier in the day and was having a rough time. Harriet, the housemother's daughter, was taking care of her and was going to stay up all night with her. We ended our day by praying together for Sarah and for Lauren. As Kathi Merritt has warned us, taking care of babies like Sarah is a roller coaster of highs and lows. The next morning Harriet called to say that Sarah was doing better. We heaved a sigh of relief.

Saturday morning we investigated two new medical facilities in Livingstone. Our primary purpose was to find a source of oxygen for babies like Sarah when they are having trouble breathing. So far the hospital at Maacha, three hours away, was the closest source we could find.

The first facility is an emergency/ambulance service that caters to tourists and ex-patriots. Ihanda, the wife of the manager, was extremely helpful in explaining what they have available and said they do have oxygen. She also referred us to a new clinic in town. We visited there as well and were very impressed with the equipment and services offered. We now feel that we have two new resources to tap when we have emergencies at Namwianga. Livingstone is only an hour an a half away as compared to the three-hour trip to Maacha.

We ended our time in Livingstone by picking up Dr. Sid Tate at the airport. He is returning to Namwianga to finish getting the X-ray machine in operation at the clinic. A technician is flying in from Kenya on Monday to do the final set-up and adjustments.

When we arrived back at Namwianga, Lauren found that Sarah has bounced back once again and is doing better. Her weight is now below five pounds, though, so she doesn't have much to fight with. It's a day to day struggle for her. We'll keep you posted.

Chanter's Lodge

After our adventure at the Zambezi Gorge, we checked in at a delightful place called Chanter's Lodge. You can click on the title above to see more photos and information. Richard, the owner, was a great host. He has his own blog for the lodge and has posted our blog address as well as photos of baby Sarah and Lauren.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Zambezi Swing

Lauren's 25th birthday was Friday, so we had a good excuse to go for an adrenaline-pumping, heart-pounding adventure swinging over the Zambezi Gorge. We got up early and went by The Haven to check on baby Sarah before heading to Livingstone. We made a quick stop in town for Lauren's annual Birthday Doughnut (she only eats doughnuts on her birthday) and then went on the Batoka Gorge.

Abseiling, or rappelling as we call it in the US, was the first challenge. We were harnessed into our gear, fastened to a line, and slowly lowered over the edge of the abyss--gorge, that is. This one was fun and not too scary, so we were ready for more.

We had a 20-minute or so hike back up to the top where we did the Fox Run. For this high wire activity, we were put into a harness and hooked to a zip line over the gorge. A quick running start and a giant leap sends you flying Superman-style into the air. I loved this, as you can tell from the picture on the left! It was exhilarating to look down and see the Zambezi flowing in the distance as you fly straight at the rocky crag on the opposite side of the gorge. We each got to do this twice.

The final test of stupidity or bravery, however you choose to look at it, was the Gorge Swing. Lauren and I decided to do this one in tandem, so our harnesses were clipped together. Then we were led up to the edge of the platform. We were going over backwards, so we backed up until our heels hung over the edge. Our guide didn't give us time to think too long about what we were doing as he fired off the instructions: bend your knees, tuck your head down, and LEAN BACK! Then there were about three seconds of pure free fall (and intense screaming) until the rope extended all the way and we began to swing back and forth across the gorge. At that point our screams turned into raucous laughter--probably from the joy of still being alive and still having the use of our limbs. All I could think about at that point was how many times I have lectured my students about the dangers of peer pressure by saying, "If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?" Well, we did it and lived to tell about it!

David jumped by himself (see photo) and Lauren had enough guts for a second solo jump as well. We all agreed that we'd had an awesome experience that will give us stories to tell for many months! You can read more about the gorge swing at www.thezambeziswing.com.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


Watching the elections in Zambia as an observer has been fascinating. Almost half of our students were absent from class on Wednesday afternoon because they had to travel to their homes to vote in their home districts. There were no classes on Thursday because it was election day.

It looks like the opposition party has swept into power. As the results trickle in, Michael Sata appears to be winning. Sata is a man the news media labels a "firebrand." His other nickname is "King Cobra." We were concerned about news reports in which he praises Mugabe of Zimbabwe for getting rid of Western influence. However, we were in Livingstone over the weekend and heard from a man who knew Sata when Sata was mayor of Lusaka. He says Sata is hard-working and did a good job in his other government roles. We will hope and pray for the best.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tiny Visitor

Here is baby Sarah stretched out on the mosquito net for a little nap. Lauren brought Sarah home to spend the night on Wednesday because Sarah was not doing well. She had a fever, cough, and labored breathing. It was painful to watch her struggle, and we were all worried about her. Lauren was up with her off and on all night trying to keep her fever down and make sure that Sarah got enough fluids. At 5:00 this morning her fever broke, and she has perked up today. She's back at The Haven now in her own bed. Sarah's life has been marked with close calls like this one. Please keep her in your prayers.

Lauren's blog has some great pictures that show Sarah's tiny hands and feet. You can click on the title above and visit her site.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


allAfrica.com: Zambia: Upcoming Elections
Thursday is election day in Zambia. There are political rallies everywhere. Candidates have given out campaign chitenges (women's skirts), and posters plaster the fences and the outside walls of public buildings.

Some of the campaign activities have been rowdy. The American Embassy sent a warning to all Americans living in Zambia to stay out of certain parts of the capital city of Lusaka. Traffic has been stopped at major intersections by unruly mobs, and parts of the main city market have been burned.

There will be no school on Election Day, and most businesses will be closed. We are watching all this with great interest.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sarah's Story Continued

The trip to Livingstone exhausted both Lauren and Sarah, so both needed a nap on the way home in the bus. Sweet Sarah is one of the most beautiful babies I've ever seen, and she is definitely the smallest I've ever handled. Her features are delicate, her eyes wide, her expressions sweet. Her tiny hands are the size of quarters.

Sarah has struggled to survive since her birth four months ago. There have been times when Lauren and the other workers at The Haven thought she wouldn't live to see another day. Miraculously, she hangs on and is showing some improvement.

Sarah has some things going for her. First of all, she's a fighter. She seems to have the will to live. She balls up her tiny fists in pain but hangs in there. Second, Sarah has people praying for her. The Haven's housemother Cecelia has spent hours on her knees pleading for God to spare this baby. Lauren's blog readers and some of you who read this blog are praying for her. Third, as of today, Sarah has some new medicine to help her fight off infections. But one of Sarah's most important assets is Lauren. It was love at first sight for these two, and Lauren has tenaciously adored and cared for this baby from day one. For a time, Sarah refused to eat unless Lauren gave her the bottle. Lauren cuddles, kisses, and coos with Sarah every chance she gets. It was Lauren who began the search for doctors or programs that might help Sarah, and that search paid off in today's visit to the doctor and the new medicine she's getting. It's obvious that Lauren and Sarah have a special bond, and it is a joy to watch them together. It takes courage to love someone like Sarah when she may not live to return that love. It takes courage to risk a broken heart.

Shopping with Sarah

Tiny Sarah is one of the babies from the Haven. She's four months old and weighs only 5.2 pounds! She is tiny, frail, and absolutely gorgeous. Today Lauren and I drove to Livingstone with Kathi Merritt and Cecilia Siafwiyo (The Haven's housemother) to take Sarah and another baby to the doctor. Afterward we made a stop at the brand new, modern Spar supermarket. Tiny Sarah fit quite nicely in the basket and seemed to enjoy all the attention she got from the other customers. You'll notice that the box of cornflakes is bigger than she is!

Study Hall

My college English students have a term paper due on October 4. I allow them to use my personal books as long as they do their research on our veranda. This has been a typical scene at our house lately.

Sign of the Times

Lauren had a craftsman in Livingstone carve this sign for us. We have it hung above the computer desk in our hallway.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mukaziwa Outreach Group

Here are photos of our Mukaziwa outreach group from GBCC. In the lower photo, Lauren is teaching the children's class with Kelvin and Shadreck. These two young men are extremely talented with children. It is a joy to watch their animation and excitement. Shadreck is also the director of the college choir.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mukaziwa Outreach

Last Sunday Lauren and I went on an outreach with the Heavenly Echoes choir from the college. (David and Rodgers were doing medical mission follow up somewhere else.) I had arranged for the group to take the Coaster bus which has seating for 24 people in addition to the driver. I explained to the person who was in charge that Lauren and I were going as well as two Zambian evangelists who had just planted the congregation, and that he should recruit up to 20 others who would go along. In typical Zambian fashion, we managed to cram a few more than the 24 seats were made for, but no one seemed to mind doubling up.

Our destination was Mukaziwa, a commercial farm a few kilometers away from Sandy Hill. A church had been started there in the 90's, but it died out until just last week when one of the Zambian bicycle evangelists planted a new congregation there. Our outreach group was there to encourage the new group on its second meeting date.

Lauren and I got two of the college guys to help us translate for the children's class, and we did the children's class before the regular service began. The college students conducted the entire morning worship assembly. Then the special singing began. The Heavenly Echoes were first with five of their songs. Next came "Fishers of Men," a group of six college guys who are also in the Heavenly Echoes. Finally, the Mukaziwa women shared their own gift of song.

The church leaders insisted that we stay for chibwantu, "the brew you chew" made from maize and "certain roots of the forest." The Zambians love this drink that looks like milk with clumps of cornmeal. I've tried it many times but still haven't developed a real taste for it. Lauren and I had our water bottles anyway, and no one seemed to mind.

It was 2:30 before we arrived home--tired, dusty, and starving, but renewed in spirit by the fellowship we shared with the college students and our fellow Christians at Mukaziwa.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Emmanuel is one of the church leaders at Chiili and was the organizer of the sessions during our outreach last weekend. When we arrived on Friday afternoon, Emmanuel told David that a baby boy had been born to one of Emmanuel's relatives on the day that David was at Chiili in June. The baby, Emmanuel reported, was given the name David Gregersen!

At 3:00 on Saturday morning there was a loud knocking on the door of the men's dorm room. It was Emmanuel waking them up to report on his wife. She had just delivered a baby girl, he said, and already they had named it Linda Gregersen.

We didn't get to meet either of these two little ones, but I'm sure we will when we visit Chiili again. I can hardly wait!

Life in Chiili

Shown here is Jane, the headmistress of Chiili Middle Basic School. Jane was the driving force in getting a new congregation planted in the Chiili community. The school where the church meets was started in 1996, and Jane has been its only headmistress. When the school opened, she lived 17 kilometers away. She walked to school most days, although when she could afford fuel she rode her motorbike. On days when she walked, she left before sunrise and returned after the sun had set. Five years ago a house was built for her next to the school so she no longer has to commute.

On our outreach last weekend, Jane scheduled a meeting with us to discuss the challenges that the Chiili community faces. In her student body of 430 children in grades 1-8, there are 90 children who have lost at least one parent. Sixty of these are double orphans--both of their parents have died. Many of these are being raised by elderly grandparents who can barely manage to provide basic necessities. After grade 8, students from Chiili who want to continue learning must attend boarding school in Zimba or Kalomo. This is an expense that few from this poor community can afford.

There is no health facility within 20 kilometers of Chiili. Women who are in labor sometimes deliver on the way to Nyawa, the nearest clinic. Sick children must be carried the entire distance. The Chiili community desperately wants the medical mission to use their school as a site for a two-day clinic, but the roads are so rugged that the vehicles could never make it.

In spite of these challenges, Jane is accomplishing good things. She has a positive attitude and works tirelessly to get resources for her school and community. In a land of constant challenges, Jane is doing what she can. God asks no more from any of us.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Meet Cliff Meninga, or Cowboy George, as we nicknamed him on our outreach last weekend. Cliff is a young single man who teaches in the remote village of Chiili. Lauren, Dena, and I taught children's classes there on Saturday and Sunday, and Cliff served as our translator. The children obviously adore him--everywhere he goes, one of them comes up to take his hand or sit on his lap.

There are just six teachers at Chiili, and Cliff is the only single teacher. He leads a lonely life, living far away from his family and girlfriend. His "apartment" consists of one room sandwiched between the dorm rooms for boys and girls. He has no electricity or running water and cooks all his meals over an open fire next to the dorm. I asked him how he spends his evenings. His reply was, "I read and study my Bible, and I pray."

Our weekend outreach was a welcome time for Cliff to enjoy some fun and fellowship. As you can see in the photo above, we introduced him to s'mores. Dena Moore had read on our blog about making s'mores for Obrien and Victor, so she thoughtfully stuck the needed ingredients in her luggage. Cliff had never roasted a marshmallow--or even eaten one--and he seemed to enjoy the experience.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Springtime on the Savanna

Our drives into the bush allow plenty of time to enjoy the scenery--we seldom get out of first gear on the rough roads. Lately we've been fascinated by the spring flowers that are sprouting up everywhere. Their fresh beauty is even more remarkable because there has not been a drop of rain since mid-April. We can't stop wondering how the dry, parched earth can suddenly burst into bloom.

Cooking Nshima

Our meals this weekend were prepared and served by Hilda, shown here with Dena Moore. Hilda cooked outside in her outdoor kitchen and then brought the food inside to serve us in her living room.

Dena and Lauren wanted to learn how to cook nshima, so Hilda let them help her on Sunday. They discovered that cooking a big pot of nshima over an open fire is not easy!

In addition to taking care of her husband and four children, Hilda is now going back to school to complete grade eight. Her husband is one of her teachers, she told us. Jane, the headmistress of the school, showed me Hilda's most recent report card and bragged on Hilda's academic progress.

Chiili Group

Here is the group that worked this weekend at Chiili. Back row: Rodgers Namuswa from Namwianga; Jane, the headmistress for the school at Chiili; Lauren; Dena Moore from Russellville, Arkansas; David. Front row: Cliff Meninga, teacher at Chiili and our translator for children's classes; Daniel Mweemba, church planter; and Pastor (Pastor is his first name and I don't know his last name), church leader from a village near Nyawa.

All of us except Jane stayed in the school's dormitory. Since the village serves a large area, even the young students board at the school during the week and go home for the weekends. There are two large rooms (about 15 ft. x 15), one for boys and one for girls. Cliff, who teaches at the school, lives in a small room between the larger rooms. There was no electricity or running water, but we did have metal beds with mattresses.

The Road to Chiili

We thought you might like to see the kind of roads we drove on to get to Chiili (pronounced Chee-lee) this weekend.

Remote is an appropriate word to describe Chiili. The village consists of a handful of tiny shops and a school that goes up to grade 8. It is only 5 kilometers from the southern edge of Kafue Game Park, one of the largest in Africa. Nyawa, the nearest town of any size, is 20 kilometers away. There are no motorized vehicles in Chiili, so the villagers must walk, ride a bike, or rely on the trucks that come in twice a week. One truck arrives on Sunday and leaves again on Monday; another comes in on Wednesday and leaves on Thursday.

Since the school only goes up to eighth grade, the students in the area must go to Zimba (70 kilometers) or Kalomo (120 kilometers) for boarding school in grades nine and up.

Roads like the one shown here are nearly impassable during the rainy season. We were told that the trucks do continue to come during the rainy season, but they often require an entire day just to get to Nyawa.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Campfire Bible Study Photo

David is shown here teaching the campfire Bible study at Sandy Hill Farm on Thursday night. Rodgers, shown in the lower right corner, served as translator.

Bush Tales

Here is a brief description of trips we’ve taken this week and one we’re headed out for:

Last Sunday we went to Mumbuyu to participate in the ordination of elders and deacons at that congregation. The trip was three hours one way over some really awful roads. Lauren and I joked about wearing hard hats or football helmets as protection against the jolting and bumping we were enduring in the back seat. That was BEFORE we hit a really bad pothole and my head slammed against the side window. I saw stars for several minutes and had a headache for an hour or so. The worship service was worth the trip, however, and we were glad to be there for it.

On Wednesday I did another teacher training class for 47 women from four congregations who gathered at the Mulala church. I asked Rodgers how far the ladies might have walked to come to these sessions. His estimate was that those who came the farthest had walked five miles. That’s especially impressive since most of them were carrying babies on their backs.

Thursday night David did a campfire Bible study at Sandy Hill. The highlight of that trip was sighting a civet cat on the road to the farm.

On Friday we are headed for Chiili to camp for the weekend and encourage the new congregation that was planted there in June. Our group will include Lauren, three of our Zambian co-workers, and Dena Moore, a visitor from Russellville, Arkansas. Dena will only be here for a couple of weeks, so we thought this would be a good way to introduce her to the real Zambian bush. It’s a grueling five-hour trip to Chiili, so she may get more of an experience than she wants! Keep us in your prayers.

Everyday Hero

Bernard Mweenda came by yesterday to get an outreach bike. Now that he has wheels, he will be visiting the Kalomo Prison and holding Bible studies with the inmates there. Bernard and others like him are spreading the gospel all over this area.

Monday, September 04, 2006

More Teacher Training

Last Thursday Rodgers and I went out again to do teacher training. This time 77 women from six different congregations filled the church building at Kauwe. Again the response was enthusiastic as we challenged them to teach children the Word of God.

On Sunday afternoon we visited a leader of one of the participating churches. He and his wife proudly told us that their daughter-in-law had taught the Sunday School class that morning.

Of Snow Cones and Missionary's Kids

Lauren and I were preparing ice the other day using our usual zamgenuity. We never have enough ice cube trays, so we freeze ice in cardboard milk containers and then crush it (or pulverize it) using a meat tenderizer. Lauren commented that the result looked like snow cone ice. Later that day I found a recipe in Southern Living for snow cone syrup—one of the few recipes that we actually had the correct ingredients to make. I even had some cone-shaped cups left from a previous medical mission. All we needed were two little boys. . .

Noah and Bryson Davis came a day or two later with parents Brian and Sondra Davis. These Missionary’s Kids from Northwestern Zambia have won our hearts with their good manners and delightful personalities. We were glad to be able to introduce them to their very first snow cones!

On a more serious note, I have the greatest respect for the missionaries who raise their children in the mission field, especially in a developing nation. There are parenting challenges that we never even thought about in the US. Education is a big hurdle, as most missionaries must either home school or send their kids off to boarding school. Medical care is another huge issue. A major medical crisis would require air evacuation to Johannesburg, South Africa, and that would take at least 24 hours. Brian and Sondra and other missionaries here take these challenges in stride with great commitment to the work and faith in God’s promise to provide for the needs of their children. They are a blessing.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Missionary Kids

MKs presented a puppet show for the Vacation Bible School at Calder's Farm on Saturday. Note the "zam-genuity" in the puppet stage--it's a broomstick threaded through a casing on the edge of my tablecloth. Sterling Merritt is on the left and Joshua Calder is holding up the right end.

The lower photo shows the MKs posing on Sunday after their presentation of the Parable of the Lost Sheep. This time the veranda served as the puppet stage. Daniel Calder and Melina Mbomwae are in the foreground.

Missionary Retreat - August 25-27

Shown here are some of the missionaries who gathered last weekend for a retreat at Namwianga. Front row: Brian and Sondra Davis from Solwezi, Kathi and Roy Merritt from Namwianga, Michelle Drew, visiting from Nashville. Back row next to us are Sheri Sears from Namwianga, Lauren Hickmon, living with us, Rita and Don Boyd from Solwezi, and Rod Calder who with his wife, Sue, runs an orphanage on land adjoining Namwianga. In front of Rita Boyd is Ruhtt Mbomwae from Namwianga. Not pictured are Bart and Staci Bruington.

This weekend’s Missionary Retreat at Namwianga provided times of fellowship, inspiration, and sharing for those of us on the mission field in Zambia. Here are some of the highlights.

The total attendance was 34, although we never quite managed to have everyone here at the same time. We had 10 family units represented, including 18 children who ranged in age from 2 – 18 years.

We gathered at our house for our meeting times and most of the meals. David presented messages on the theme of “Defining Moments.” We had wonderful sessions of singing and sharing. Perhaps my favorite was when we all shared what we have learned about God during our time in Zambia. Most of us agreed that serving in Zambia has led us to realize that we are totally insufficient on our own strength. We have learned to rely on God fully and trust him completely.

The MKs (Missionary Kids) enjoyed being together. Our veranda became their hangout where they created works of art on long sheets of butcher paper, played marathon card games, and even presented puppet shows for the adults to enjoy. On Saturday morning we loaded up the Missionary Kids and traveled to Rod and Sue Calder’s farm where we did a Vacation Bible School program for the children of the farm workers. The MKs read flip charts, acted out stories, did puppets, handed out crafts, and had a great time together.

We were blessed to have food leftover from the medical mission to serve at some of our meal times. Brentwood Oaks, our sponsoring congregation, had also sent some special treats this summer. Many in our group were thrilled to enjoy tortilla chips, saltine crackers, chocolate chip cookies, Crystal Lite, and other American delights that aren’t available here in Zambia. (You know you've been on the mission field a while when saltine crackers are a thrill!) Lauren proved to be a great help in the kitchen. She and I have decided we could do well with a catering business someday.

In addition to our official gatherings, we also had times to just talk, relax, gaze at the stars, and enjoy each other’s company. Fellowshipping with those who share the same goals and dreams for the Lord’s work in Zambia is indeed a great blessing.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sunday School Teacher Training

“Come and help us teach the children.” Through my interpreter, the lady with the kind eyes and wrinkled face begged for help teaching Sunday School. We were at R R Chileshe on the last day of the medical mission. I promised her that I would try to come in August and teach her and others like her how to teach children’s classes.

Rodgers Namuswa set out on his motor bike last week to organize just such a meeting. He arranged for the women of four congregations in the area to come together at R R Chileshe. Yesterday he and I (and our usual contingent of riders heading that direction) bumped and jostled through the bush to what Rodgers calls Ahla Ahla (R R -- Zambians have trouble with the letter “r” as it is not in the Chitonga alphabet, and they usually pronounce it like an “l”). He had scheduled the meeting for 10:00. We arrived at 10:45 just as ladies were beginning to reach the place on foot. First we tried the school building, but it was locked. “We will go to the church building,” the ladies decided, so we headed off in another direction. On the way we met a teacher who offered to unlock the school. We turned around and trekked back. He unlocked the school room—a totally empty classroom. The furniture was locked up next door. Some of the ladies hurried in with brooms and began to sweep the floor (lots of bat droppings to get rid of) while others began carrying desks from the storeroom. In 20 minutes or so we were ready to begin.

The next three hours were some of the best I’ve spent in Zambia. Thirty-two ladies from four different congregations sat with rapt attention as I taught them the basics of teaching children. The generous members at our sponsoring congregation, Brentwood Oaks, had sent over boxes of The Beginner’s Bible, a simple English text illustrated with bright, uncluttered drawings. Using Rodgers as my interpreter, I showed the ladies how to use The Beginner’s Bibles to teach, how to help children memorize scripture, how to involve children in the lessons, and how to apply Bible truths to daily life. We played games, acted out stories, and just had a great time! Many of the ladies, especially the older ones, nodded enthusiastically as they heard my instructions. There were many smiles and much laughter as we tried various activities.

The ladies ranged in age from very young to very old, from those who were fluent in English to those who were illiterate even in Chitonga. I told the women who cannot read English that they will need to find a helper—a child, grandchild, friend, or teacher who can read to them and for them. At the end of the session, I reminded all the ladies that the Bible records many examples of one person who made a difference in a nation. I challenged them to change the future of the church in Zambia by teaching children.

As we closed, I explained that each congregation was receiving a copy of The Beginner’s Bible and a Chitonga Bible to be used in teaching children’s classes. The books are to be passed around the congregation to the various ladies who will be teaching. In a very hushed and formal ceremony, a representative from each congregation came forward and received the two books, along with a set of instructions for teaching.

Next, each congregation designated one of its older members to make closing remarks. Over and over, they thanked me for coming. One woman took the two books lovingly in her hands as she looked at me and said, “You have given us a container. This is a container that has food for life. We will teach it to our children.”

Next Thursday I’m off for Kauwe where Rodgers is organizing another group of ladies to come for another training session. Please pray for these wonderful women who will teach the Word to the next generation of church leaders.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

News and Notes- August 24

I missed my usual mid-week posting because we were in Lusaka. It still amazes me how a task that would require only a few hours in the US becomes a two-day saga here in Zambia! While we were out bumping over the bush roads to an outreach point on Sunday, a warning light came on in our vehicle indicating that it needed a new fuel filter. Since it's still under warranty, we had to take it to Lusaka to the only Toyota dealership in the country. We also needed to take care of some other business, so we decided to drive to Lusaka on Tuesday, take care of our errands while we could drive around in our own vehicle, spend the night, and then take the vehicle in early on Wednesday morning to be repaired.

Lauren and Michelle are always ready for an adventure, so they came along, of course. We managed to get our official business taken care of on Tuesday, did some shopping, and even had time to go see a movie Tuesday night! It had been nine months since David and I had been in a theater, so this was a real treat for us.

We spent the night at the Baptist Mission Guesthouse and enjoyed a wonderful shower with lots of hot water and water pressure--rare commodities in our lives. David had the car at the dealership early on Wednesday morning and was first in line for repairs. While the car was in the shop, we took a taxi to the National Museum and enjoyed seeing the displays there. We also finished up a little shopping and spent some time just relaxing--another rare opporunity on a trip to Lusaka! Usually we have to be in a frenzy to get everything done in time to head home before dark. By 2:00 the car was finished. We did a quick run through at the grocery store and headed for Namwianga at 3:00. All in all, the trip was a nice break from our usual routine.

Now we are busy getting ready to host the missionary retreat here at Namwianga this weekend. Three missionary families from other parts of Zambia will join those of us at Namwianga Friday - Sunday. We are looking forward to a time of rich fellowship and inspiration as we share together.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


We saw this grain storage building at Nyawa on Wednesday. The bags of maize stacked outside the building are from this year's crop. Inside are 10,000 bags from 2005 that are infested with weevils. The government has yet to come and destroy the old crop so that the new grain can be stored inside.


It's springtime in Zambia and look what's blooming in our backyard! We brought seeds from Texas and are now enjoying these beautiful reminders of home.


Death is ever-present in our community. Seldom does a week go by without word of the death of someone associated with Namwianga or a family member of one of the workers. Still, we never get used to these losses. This week was especially hard.

A young boy who lived in a compound on mission property died on Wednesday. He was seen at our clinic last week and then transferred to Kalomo Hospital where he died a few days later.

Thursday one of the babies at The Haven died--an eight-month-old with pneumonia. Michelle Drew, an American nurse practitioner who is doing a rotation at the clinic, worked tirelessly to try to save him. She and Kathi Merritt were taking him to Macha, the nearest fully equipped hospital, when he died in Michele's arms.

The Zambians accept that life is fragile and uncertain. The songs they sing reflect this understanding and their longing for God's comfort. We join them in singing "This world is not my home" and "Farther along we'll know all about it" and "Some glad morning when this life is o'er." It occurs to me that we hadn't sung those songs very much in recent years in the US. In fact, we didn't spend much time contemplating heaven and the uncertainty of life when we were busy with our comfortable, affluent lifestyle. The losses of this week serve to remind us that we are, indeed, just passing through on a journey to a much better destination.

A final observation: We were coming back from Choma on Friday when we met the funeral procession for the young boy. It was quite a contrast to our experiences with funeral processions in the US. The lead vehicle was a small yellow pickup with a camper shell. The rest of the vehicles included a sedan or two, a couple of motorbikes, and three large trucks with people hanging off all sides as they traveled through the roiling dust.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Wedding That Wasn't

Daniel Mweemba’s son, Day, has been regular visitor in the past few months. We knew he had chosen a bride, so we were delighted when we heard the news that he had gotten married. We were even more pleased when we were invited to attend the wedding feast. Wednesday was the scheduled day, so our entire household loaded up and took off for the big event. Michelle, Lauren, and I all dressed up in our African outfits. Obrien and Victor (Day’s brother) came along. Before we got off Namwianga property we had picked up three extras who wanted to ride along for various reasons, so there were nine of us bumping over the bush roads.

Two dusty, jolting hours brought us to the bride’s village where we found her working outside--alone. “The program has changed,” she told us, laughing and smiling. She directed us to the place where Day and others were busy making bricks to build a church building for their congregation. Day assured us he had tried to call us but had been unable to get through. The wedding feast will take place on August 30 if he can raise the money to afford it. We all made a quick visit to Day and Victor’s home where his mother insisted on sending us home with a live chicken and some pumpkins.

By this time it was nearly 2:00, so we stopped in a small village and bought snacks and sodas for our riders. Michelle and Lauren discovered a “zam-genius” checkerboard that used bottle caps for checkers and had fun playing for a few minutes. We retraced the potholed trails and roads, laughing and enjoying a beautiful day and a fairly typical Zambian experience.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Nazzibula Leadership Training

Pictured in the top photo are the 47 church leaders from 30 congregations who gathered at Nazzibula last weekend for leadership training. The men in the bottom photo were presenters for the seminar. They taught lessons on The Servant Leadership of Jesus, The Leadership of Nehemiah, The Character of Elders and Deacons, God’s Provision for the Church, and other topics related to church leadership.

Nazzibula is two hours north of Namwianga. The village is on the edge of the Kafue Game Park, one of the largest such preserves in southern Africa. Zambia Medical Mission conducted clinics at this village in 2003 and 2004, and several congregations were planted as a result of that effort.

This was a weekend meeting, so the Namwianga team arrived at Nazzibula on Friday afternoon and camped until Sunday. Many seminars like this are planned in the next few months to develop and encourage leaders in the rural congregations.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Another Perspective

We are now a two-blog household. Lauren is creating her own unique account of her adventures here. Click on the above title if you'd like to check it out.

Goat Tuesday

Way back last August, my wonderful Zambian friend, Mrs. Jope, had promised to give us a goat when we got moved into our new house. The months slipped by until she reminded us again that she wanted us to have one of her goats. We set this Tuesday as the day and began joking with Lauren and Michelle about "Goat Tuesday."

Harold Sichimwa and I took off early Tuesday morning to go get the goat. We picked up Mrs. Jope at her house and headed over rugged pasture roads to her farm a few miles from Namwianga. She graciously introduced me to her mother and showed me around the farm compound while Harold tied up and loaded our "dinner" (still on the hoof and bleating) in the back of the truck.

Harold, Victor, and Obrien prepared and roasted the goat all day in the back yard. Dinner was delicious and Goat Tuesday was pronounced a success.

Trip to Nyawa

Chief Nyawa, shown on the left in the bottom photo, is in charge of the area around Singwamba. He is shown here greeting Ellie Hamby (second from right) and Star Ferguson (far right). The Chief has asked Namwianga to plant seven new congregations in his district. David is shown in the top photo with Daniel Mweemba, Rodgers Namuswa, and Peter Mafwafwa. These men met at Daniel's home near Singwamba last week to plan the strategy for starting what we now call The Seven Churches of Nyawa. Please pray for this effort.