Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Goodbye, Baby

On Sunday mornings and Sunday nights I get my weekly “baby fix.” Kathi Merritt is my supplier. Maybe I’d better explain that a little. Kathi and husband Roy run “Eric’s House,” a home for adolescent boys. Most sane people would consider that enough of a challenge, but not Kathi. When the baby orphanage across the road from Eric’s House filled to overflowing, Kathi brought six of the toddlers over to live with her big guys.

I’ll admit that I thought she had lost her mind. However, after a few visits I saw her wisdom. Those teenage boys love having those little ones around. They carry them, play with them, and hug on them. And the toddlers look with adoring eyes at their adolescent pals. As Kathi says, it softened the atmosphere. A winning combination all around. Shown in the photo are Molly, Sterling, Kingstone, Stanley, Newton, North, and Eunice.

On Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, the bus from Eric’s House pulls up in front of Johnson Auditorium and the gang of large and small bodies pours out and heads for the pews. I try to be ready and waiting to grab one of the little ones for my lap. Ostensibly, I’m helping Kathi out so she doesn’t have so many to worry about during church. But the real reason is that I need some time to love and hug on one of those cute little guys!

For the past couple of months Kathi has usually handed me North or Newton. These handsome boys are half of a set of quadruplets. One of the quads died at birth, the parents kept one of the babies, and North and Newton went to the orphanage at Namwianga until Mom and Dad could handle having all of them.

By Zambian standards North and Newton are extremely active. The other toddlers are usually content to sit quietly, turn the pages of the songbook, and eventually fall asleep in my lap. Not North or Newton. They grab my glasses, my earrings, and my nose every time they get a chance. They want to shred the songbook, not turn the pages. And sleep? Out of the question when there is so much to see and do. I love every minute, but I admit I am tired when the service is over.

But then came the time when North and Newton were to go home. Their mom and dad spent a week at Roy and Kathi’s to make sure that the boys, the parents, and the other quad (a girl) bonded. Rough-and-tumble North and Newton had lessons to learn from their smaller sister. She let them know right away that she was not one to be tampered with.

Last week I held Newton on my lap on the Sunday night before he was to leave with his parents. We started out in the usual way: he pulled my glasses, yanked on my earrings, and tried to mutilate the songbook. I gently put a stop to all that with a big hug. He sat still for just a couple of minutes, and then—miracle of miracles—his eyes got heavy and he fell asleep. I watched his handsome little face as he lay relaxed in my lap and savored every moment. I took his little black hand in my white one and marveled at the beauty of his fingers.

Church ended, but Newton slept on. I gently repositioned him on my shoulder and carried him out to the Merritt’s bus. “What shall I do with him?” I asked Kathi.

“Well, his dad is right behind you. He’ll take him.”

So I handed off my little warm bundle. I gave Newton one last kiss on his head.

“Goodbye, little guy,” I whispered, swallowing the lump in my throat.

My head knows that it’s a good thing for him to be with his sister and parents. My heart (and my lap) will need awhile to agree.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Katakula Marriage Seminar

Last Saturday we conducted a marriage seminar at Katakula. This group has only been meeting for two years now. They built this mud and thatch enclosure themselves. This structure is unique in that it has been painted and decorated. The outside has scriptures and a few pictures painted on it. Inside, the walls are lined with scripture references. Note in the picture that everyone has to duck to enter.

The benches inside are made of brick plastered with clay from termite mounds. There is seating for 80. We had close to 100 in attendance for last week's marriage seminar, so people were sitting on small stools and on the floor all around the speaker's podium.


Zambia is below the equator, so our seasons are the opposite of those in the USA. Right now we are enjoying autumn. The temperatures are cool--even downright cold-- at night and in the morning. The afternoons are warm, but when the sun goes down we grab our sweatshirts and fleece jackets.

Everyone is busy harvesting the maize crop. The rains were good this year, and most people have a bountiful harvest.

David is shown here in our maize field. We went in on shares with two other farmers. Our crop will be used to feed the hungry and provide seed for next year's planting season.

Campfire Bible Study

The Sandy Hill congregation is only a few months old. We have been going there on Sunday afternoons since March to help them get a good start. Recently they asked us to come teach a Bible study on Thursday evenings.

David gathered up several men from Namwianga to go with us and we set off just at dusk. By the time we reached Sandy Hill Farm, the sky was completely dark. The winding road into the workers’ compound seemed even narrower at night. As the rays of the headlights lit up the first few houses, we saw children running to greet us. They waved their arms and shouted in Chitonga, “Church! Go to Church!”

Barefoot boys and girls continued their shouting as they ran behind the vehicle to the far edge of the compound where the church meets. One of the leaders had built a fire for us to gather around. The children rushed to their places nearest the fire while a few adults brought “mudala” stools and joined them. The church leader assured us that others would come when they had finished eating their suppers. As we waited, the children sang a few songs and then listened with rapt attention as David told them the story of the little boy who shared his loaves and fishes.

The fire roared on as others trickled in to join our gathering. In the dim light of the fire we could only see the faces of those who were nearest the flames. Others were faint outlines against the night sky.

David’s lesson was entitled “Who Is God?” He began by having everyone memorize and recite James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” We all repeated the verse in Chitonga several times during the course of the lesson. Many Zambians cannot read, and even those who do read may not have Bibles, so David tries to emphasize memorization of scriptures. He continued the lesson using the stars as a visual aid as he talked about God’s creative power.

One little boy about eight years old was seated in the dust about three feet away from David and me as the lesson began. Little by little he inched his way over closer to us. By the end of the talk, he was right in front of us, his head resting on David’s leg.

The lesson concluded. The smoke of the fire rose to the night sky as our closing songs and prayers rose to the God we serve. We climbed back into the truck for the trip home, promising the leaders we would return next week.

This kind of campfire teaching is a highlight of our work here. As David said on the way home, “It just doesn’t get much better than this.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Would You Like Fries with That?

Victor and Obrien, our young friends who are attending Kabanga Christian High School, spent a month with us in April during their school break. They asked if they could stay here and work while they studied for the exams that they will take at the end of their ninth grade year in December. During the first two weeks, they took a special preparation course at Namwianga Basic School. The last two weeks they worked in our garden and did odd jobs during the day. Throughout their entire visit, they were diligent in their studies. Every evening after supper they washed up the dishes and then retreated to their room where they studied until bedtime. I often found them already up and studying early in the mornings as well.

It wasn’t all work and no play, however. We took them with us on a trip to Livingstone one Saturday where they got to see the Victoria Falls and eat in a restaurant. They also hung out with some of their Namwianga friends and went with us on weekend outreaches.

Just before the new term began, we provided bus fare for them so that they could go spend a few days with their families. Victor headed north to see his parents, while Obrien visited his grandmother in a village near Kabanga. Victor stopped by on his way back to school and brought gifts of appreciation from his parents. Besides this live chicken, they sent peanuts, a large pumpkin, and another type of wild nuts.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the chicken, although I appreciated the gift very much. Right now chickens sell for $6.50 each, so it was a generous gesture. My good-hearted neighbor, Mrs. Moono, came to the rescue. She inspected the chicken and pronounced it too skinny for eating just yet. She took it home with her for ten days to fatten it up, and then she killed and dressed it for us. (She raises broilers to sell and is shown here with one of her own.)

We shared a pot of chicken and noodles in appreciation.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Everyday Heroes

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular series on the blog. One of the most encouraging things about our work here is encountering people who live ordinary lives with extraordinary faith and commitment. I call them everyday heroes.

Maxson, shown here with his wife, is the night watchman at the Namwianga Guesthouse. We first met him when we lived there last July and August. He would be bundled up against the cold as he sat in the small, detached laundry room outside the back door. David noticed that Maxson was always reading the Bible. He began having occasional talks with Maxson and shared inspirational reading material with him.

As it turns out, Maxson lives more than eight miles away from Namwianga. He rides his bike here after dark every night and leaves just after dawn every morning. He uses his nighttime hours for Bible study to help him in his role as a church leader in one of the newer congregations north of Kalomo.

We’ve been on a couple of outreaches with Maxson and his wife. Watching him teach and preach gives new meaning to the phrase, “On fire for the Lord!” When he leads singing, he leads not just with his hands, but with his entire body. He radiates an enthusiasm for the Lord that is obvious to everyone he meets.

People like Maxson are the everyday heroes who help make Namwianga Mission a beacon of light in southern Zambia.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Snake! Snake!

Linda and I took a walk this evening just before the sun went down. As we walked, I told Linda, "We've been here eleven months and we haven't killed a big snake in our yard yet. I thought we would have killed four or five by now."

Around 7:30 p.m. I had just finished washing the dishes. As I looked out the kitchen window I could see our cat lying on the ground just past the back veranda steps. I called to him a few times, but he seemed preoccupied. When he finally moved to come into the house, I saw the object of his attention. Apparently the cat was stalking and getting ready to attack this cobra. I guess I blew the cat's cover.

I took this picture of the cobra seconds before our neighbor Jeremiah Moono, famed Namwianga snake killer, put an end to it. Jeremiah snuck up behind the snake, gave it one mighty whack on the head with his specially designed snake-killing stick, and then speared it to the ground. The cobra measured over a meter long.

Another Africa adventure that the Zambians handle as an everyday occurrence.

By the way, I have already ordered one of those snake-killing spears.
Jeremiah says they make them in the villages for about 98 cents.

Having fun in Africa,

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mother's Quilts

In honor of Mother's Day, I am sharing a tribute I wrote about my mother, Ruth McClurg.

The quilts tell her story. I finger the bright prints and smooth the muted solids. I trace the stitching on intricate designs or snap a simple nine-patch design over a bed. And when I do, each quilt whispers her story.

I asked my mother many times to tell me her story. Usually she refused to offer more than the briefest of details. “Not much in my life,” she would say, “is worth telling.” So I am left with the quilts—the bits and pieces of my mother’s story.

Like the quilter who stitched them, the quilts are sturdy. The stitching speaks of one who can endure repeated trials without coming apart. Mother’s trials were all too many. She was raised in a crowded household by a preoccupied and distant mother. The reality of the depression was a constant presence on the Iowa farm. Mother loved learning and longed for a good education, but there was no way to get into town for high school, so she was forced to quit school at age 13. She married at 21 and worked with my father on the farm from sunup to sundown. Farm life was a constant struggle against the capricious whims of drought and crop failure. There was never more than just enough money to get by. When she was a young mother, her brother committed suicide and her sister’s only son drowned. When Mother was in her fifties, my father was killed in a tractor accident, leaving her with a farm and a construction business to run by herself in addition to her job as a nurse’s aide. Just a few years later her infant grandson died of a rare illness. Through it all she remained strong and uncomplaining. Only sturdy women like my mother endure the bits and pieces of hardship and pain without bitterness.

The bright hodgepodge of prints in her quilts tells of one who was frugal. Mother used only scraps of fabric for her quilts. Others might plan and purchase colors and prints for a coordinated palette, but Mother was content to use what she had. “Make do or do without” was a proverb she lived by, first of necessity during the long years of the depression and the lean years on the farm, and then from sheer habit. So her quilts are pieced from leftover fabric, from fabric others gave her, from the good pieces saved from discarded garments. One of her most beautiful quilts was stitched on white blocks that were cut from my father’s white dress shirts after he died. In her later years, she promised that when she had sewn up all the scraps she had, she would go out and buy fabric like the modern quilters did. I knew that day would never come—and it didn’t. After her death my sisters and I found boxes of fabric scraps ready to be sewn into quilt tops.

Two of Mother’s quilts were made especially for my children. Sara’s is a beautifully pieced and embroidered “Sunbonnet Sue” pattern put together with strips of pink. John’s quilt pattern is called “Bow Tie” and is pieced with bright blue. Both quilts speak softly to me of Mother’s love for children. No one could name all the little ones who came in and out of her life. When the depression forced her to quit school, she became a hired girl for families in her Iowa community. She would go to their homes and help out when the mothers had their babies. Later she married and had four children of her own. A nephew needed a home, so he was added to our family. Still there was room for more, so she and my father became foster parents. Through the years 14 different foster children called her Mama. After my father died, she became a relief housemother at a children’s home and became “Grandma Clurg” to hundreds of other children who needed warm hugs, loving smiles, and gentle words of wisdom. Each child was precious to her—bits and pieces added to her heart.

I’m not sure how many quilts my mother made in her lifetime. Only a few were truly works of art. The rest were pretty to look at, but made for service. “My quilts aren’t beautiful,” Mother would say, “but they are meant to be used!” Such service is a part of Mother’s story as well, for she loved to help others. She prepared countless meals for family, guests, and church potluck dinners. At any family gathering, we expected to find Mother in the kitchen washing dishes or quietly finding a way to clean, straighten, or make someone else comfortable. Mother had no desire to stop serving as she aged. After she left her position at the children’s home, Mother became a private duty nurse. She finally retired for the last time when she was 70 and began her volunteer work at the community hospital, accumulating hundreds of hours of service. In her younger years she taught Sunday School classes, and in her later years she was a regular helper in Vacation Bible School. When her 80th summer approached, my sister and her husband invited Mother to go with them on a road trip through the northwestern states. Mother was disappointed that the trip caused her to miss helping with Vacation Bible School. Yes, like her quilts, Mother was created to serve.

Not all of mother’s quilting became bedding. She used some of her scraps to make potholders. Those potholders remind me that much of Mother’s life was spent in the kitchen. She was known in our family and our church for her cooking skills. She seemed to put a delicious meal on the table with no effort at all. Her cream cheese mints, hot rolls, and chocolate chip cookies were her trademarks. My daughter once asked her, “Grandma, why do your chocolate chip cookies taste so much better than anyone else’s?” Mother’s immediate reply was, “Because there’s a little love in every bite!” Even as a widow living alone in a small house, she kept her freezer stocked full of food ready for company. Her death came just 12 days before Christmas in 1998. We were not surprised to find that the Christmas dinner for the family was already there in the freezer: the turkey, the pies, the rolls, the vegetables, and, of course, the chocolate chip cookies, with bits and pieces of love in every bite.

Not all of the stories in Mother’s quilts are hers. Each family member has stories told by the quilts. We love to admire the quilt tops and take turns pointing out, “I had a shirt out of that!” or “That was my Easter dress!” We recall first days of school, dates, bedroom curtains, school trips, and 4-H projects. My niece is a young adult now, but she claims the quilts can transport her back to her childhood. She says, “It's always amazing to me that looking at a tiny scrap of fabric on a quilt can evoke such deep emotions. I can see a quilt piece and remember the exact outfit made from that fabric. Suddenly I feel like I'm 10 years old again, wearing that outfit and heading to church or going to school.” Mother’s quilts tell the bits and pieces of our lives, too.

Mother took the random bits and pieces of her circumstances and stitched them into a life that was loving, sturdy, frugal, and serving. God’s hand placed the final stitches. With timing as loving and kind as Mother’s sewing, He gave Mother’s life a gentle goodnight. Surrounded by family and at peace, she died as she had lived—quietly and lovingly.

There will be no more quilts made by my mother’s loving hands. But we will still discover more of her story and ours. The quilt of Mother’s life lives on, warming our hearts just as her handmade quilts warmed our bodies, and reminding us of the bits and pieces of a life well lived.

Copyright pending

Patience Taxed and Rewarded

On Wednesday we decided to make attempt number SIX to pay the road tax. We were low on cash and needed to use the ATM, and we had some errands to run, so we could justify making the trip to Choma.

It was 10:15 when we arrived at the bank. Our plan was for me to get cash at the ATM while David went inside and paid the tax. David waited in line for 15 minutes to get up to the window under the sign "Road tax payments accepted 10:00 - 12:30 only." The clerk behind the glass window informed him that the one person in the entire bank who could accept road tax payments "stepped out." David asked when she would return and the clerk said, "I don't know."

When he returned to the car with this news, I told him we had probably already spent more trying to pay the tax than the fine for non-payment would cost. We decided we would just continue to stop by when we were in the area, but we would not make any more special trips.

Meanwhile, I had found that the ATM was not working. The security guard said it was being repaired and to try again tomorrow. This bank has the only ATM in town. The next one is another two hours up the road toward Lusaka. It was shaping up to be another patience-inducing day in Zambia.

We ran errands and did some shopping. At 12:15 we drove by the bank on our way out of town. "One more try," David said. As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a line at the ATM—it was working again. I told him I would get cash while he attempted to pay the tax. We both emerged triumphantly 25 minutes later. David had paid the tax and I had cash!

The single damper on our joy is that the bank only had tax forms for one quarter. We have to start this all over again in July.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Kalomo Hospital

On Thursday afternoons Rogers Namuswa and I visit the Kalomo Hospital to share encouragement from the Word and to pray with the patients and their families. Back in the US, I frequently made hospital visits, but this is a very different experience.

The hospital building itself bears little resemblance to the sterile, high-tech facilities in America. The walls are constructed of painted cinderblock. Light bulbs attached to bare wires hang from the ceilings. The floor is bare concrete. The old metal beds have foam mattresses that make church camp beds seem luxurious by comparison. Patients must bring their own bedding. There are no screens on the windows to keep out the flies and mosquitoes. There are no fans or heaters.

One doctor and a few nurses are assigned to hospital. There is also one grey cat that visits each ward.

A courtyard separates the two wings of the hospital and a breezeway serves as a hall between the two wings. There are three large open rooms on each side of the hospital with ten to twelve beds in each room. When there are not enough beds, patients are assigned to foam mattresses on the floor of these wards. Somewhere there is an operating room, but I haven’t wanted to see it.

One side of the hospital is for children and for pregnant mothers waiting to deliver. The children’s ward is the most heartbreaking to visit. Last week three children were especially hard to see. Two brothers ages two and four were suffering from drinking a weed killer used on cotton plants. The youngest was unconscious, breathing laboriously. The older brother just lay on the bed, watching our movements through tired eyes. The third child was a girl about eight years old. There was a large open wound about four inches long on her right forearm. A nurse explained that the girl lives in a mud and thatch hut with no solid door. She sleeps on a mat on the floor. One cool night a cobra seeking warmth slithered next to her warm body. When she stirred, the snake bit her arm. The venom caused necrosis, the death of the skin and tissue around the bite. I prayed that the boys would survive and that the girl’s arm could be saved. I cried out to the Lord for what I often hear the Zambians ask of Him, “Leza (God), be the final medicine.”

Our purpose for these visits is to be Christ’s voice of comfort to suffering and dying people who live in a harsh land. We encourage them to be strong in faith even though their bodies are weak. And we always cry out to God, “Leza, be the final medicine.”

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

News and Notes - May 10

It's autumn in southern Zambia. The rains ended in early April, and we will not have any significant precipitaion again until late October or early November. The roadsides have already turned brown, and we are having to water our garden until we get our new drip irrigation system up and going. The temperatures are cooling off as well. The mornings and evenings are crisp and just cool enough for a sweater or jacket. Daytime temps are in the high 70's. Just about perfect, if you ask me. The Zambians predict a very cold winter because we had such a wet rainy season.

We made another attempt to pay the road tax on Monday. Robby, the Mission's finance officer, had banking business in Choma. He thought the Road Department accepted tax payments and agreed to go by there and take care of it. He did go by the Road Department but found that the office in Choma is not set up to accept road tax payments. The saga continues.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Speaking of Marriage

On May 1 David and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary. That sounds like such a long time, but it seems like only yesterday we were standing at the front of the Downtown Church in Searcy, Arkansas, reciting the vows that we wrote ourselves. It was the era of do-it-your-way weddings, daisies, and long hair. We left for our honeymoon in a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle.

In the thirty years since that day, we have been through much more than we could have imagined on that spring evening in 1976. We stood together by the bedside of our infant son as he died. We weathered the storms of financial difficulties when we couldn’t sell our house during the 80’s oil bust. We held each other in the night and prayed fervently through the years our children were teenagers. We faced the challenges that are inevitable in 27 years of full-time ministry. We survived the stress of getting graduate degrees. And now we are off on this adventure with the Lord in Africa.

Through it all we have been sustained by a deep love for each other, our ability to laugh at ourselves, and, most important of all, our shared love and commitment to our Lord. Over and over His faithfulness has carried us through our difficult days and provided just what we need.

There were the high points as well. The births and the adoption of our children will forever be etched in our memories as times of inexpressible joy. Dear friends sustained us through our hard times with loving acts of kindness. Our parents and siblings have been wonderful blessings to us. Our careers in teaching and ministry have allowed us to see God actively at work in the lives of others. The tough times we experienced mellowed us and made us much more fit for God’s service.

All in all, our thirty years have been richly blessed. We look forward to many more.

Marriage Seminar

Here is a picture of us conducting a Marriage Enrichment Seminar on Saturday. Note the angle of the chalkboard in the background. It's a pretty typical Zambian sight.

This seminar at Siabalumbi was our second; we did our first one at Boma three weeks ago. Ruhtt Mbomwae recruited us for these. She and her husband Shepherd work with several local congregations, and they plan an annual marriage seminar at each one. The seminars are scheduled on Saturdays in April and May. She told us that David was to speak on the role of a Christian husband, I was to speak on the characteristics of a Christian wife, and the two of us were to speak on communication.

We effectively put off our preparation for the first seminar until the last possible minute. There seemed to be a good reason for this: what in the world did we know about marriage in the Zambian culture? Most of the American advice we had been given about marriage seemed irrelevant. For instance, we were always told that we should make time for each other by having a weekly night out. Hmm. Where would a Zambian couple go for a night out? No car, no restaurants, no movie theaters. Most Zambians don’t even own a flashlight for a moonlit stroll! What could I possibly say that would help a Zambian woman in her role as a Christian wife?

David was ahead of me in preparation. He left on the Friday night before the first seminar to speak at a nearby congregation. I had to stay home, I told him, because I hadn’t prepared my lesson for the next day. The house was quiet. I closed all the curtains and locked the security doors so no one would know that I was home. I sat down in front of the computer with my Bible in hand and faced the facts. I was going to have to strip away all my American cultural views of marriage and go straight from the word of God. Once again, as I have done on a daily basis in Zambia, I prayed for wisdom.

Not surprisingly, the lesson developed easily. There is plenty in the Word about how a husband and wife are to treat each other. Love, honor, respect, and kindness know no cultural boundaries. I found I had plenty to say—straight from the Bible.

Both seminars we have done were well received by our Zambian audiences. The questions that participants asked, for the most part, revolved around issues that couples in all cultures face. And, not surprisingly, God’s word offers the needed guidance.

This experience humbled me and drove me to my knees in repentance. How often have I let my American cultural expectations and worldly wisdom guide my behavior and even my teaching? Living in a different culture is revealing to me the realities of Christian faith—without all the trappings of materialism and secularism that dominate American life.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

More on Patience

I found this definition of patience by John Piper and felt it was worth sharing. We have it posted in our kitchen: Patience is being forced by circumstances to go to an unplanned place of obedience, going at an unplanned pace.

We face the "unplanned pace" part of patience almost every day. Kelly Hamby and I used to joke that in Zambia, events move at the speed of cold molasses. Those of you who know me well can understand that I have had to make some adjustments to live this way. God has blessed me by helping me walk at this unplanned pace, and I am grateful. I am also blessed by the example of the Zambian people who live very patiently in a sometimes harsh land.

Here is the latest installment in the continuing saga of our attempts to pay the road tax. We found out that the road tax can be paid at the bank in Choma. Our friend Andrew was headed to Choma on Thursday, so we sent money with him so that he could go to the bank and pay the tax for us. He arrived at 1:30 and found that they only accept road tax payments in the morning. The lessons on patience continue--at an unplanned pace.

Friday, May 05, 2006

DDT--Weapon of Mass Survival

Click on the title above to read an opinion piece about a change in policy on the use of DDT to combat malaria in subSaharan Africa . We see the terrible effects of malaria regularly here. Our Zambian friends are often miserably ill for days. One man who worked for us lost a three-year-old son to malaria. We missionaries have a healthy fear of contracting the disease and take preventives with serious possible side effects to avoid it. Let's hope that the new steps proposed by USAID will ease the death and difficulty malaria brings to this part of the world.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Learning Patience

David and I often marvel at the patience we are learning day by day. One either learns patience here or lives in constant frustration. We’ve opted for learning.

Our latest tutorial on patience involves paying the road tax for our vehicle. The tax payment provided by the Toyota dealership expired May 1. Proof of tax payment is a sticker on the windshield. David was told that he could pay the tax and get the renewal sticker at any local post office. So on the afternoon of Thursday, April 27, we made a trip into Kalomo to take care of the payment. The Kalomo postal worker politely informed David that the post office was short-staffed and no longer accepted road tax payments. The nearest post office that would accept payments is in Choma, he said. Now David had just returned from Choma that morning, so this news was not welcome. Choma is 30 miles away, and since we pay $5.65 per gallon for diesel, we try not to go too often.

But what choice did we have? The tax had to be paid. On Friday, April 28, David made another trip to Choma. There the weary postal worker informed him that his office had been out of stickers for two weeks. Go to Livingstone, he said, to the Road Traffic Department. David explained that there was no way he could make the 120-mile trip to Livingstone before May 1. The clerk advised him to prepare a letter deatailing the efforts that had already been made to pay the tax and take the letter to the police for an official stamp.

Monday morning, May 1, we headed out for a two-day trip to celebrate our anniversary.
We stopped by the Kalomo Police Station and got our prepared letter stamped, promising that we would go to the Livingstone office the next day. We actually drove through Livingstone that morning, but May 1 is Labor Day here and an official holiday, so the Road Traffic Department wasn’t open. We headed on toward our destination of Sesheke on the Namibian border.

Tuesday, May 2, we finished our shopping on the Namibian side and headed back early so we would have time to visit the Road Traffic Department and get the tax sticker. We pulled into the parking lot right at 4:00, congratulating ourselves on making such good time. David went in to make the payment. At 4:04 he was back at the vehicle. It seems that the Road Traffic Department computers shut down at 4:00 each day. We were two minutes too late to get our sticker.

I guess the road tax will get paid eventually. Until then we’ll carry our police-stamped letter, hope for the best, and be thankful for all the patience we’re learning.