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.

News and Notes - August 12

The mission and our house are settling into a quieter time. The secondary students left for their break on August 4th, and the college students left on the 10th. A mission team from Canada had been here since July 20th working with schools in the area. They left yesterday. Ellie Hamby starts her journey back the US today. Now the campus seems eerily quiet!

Thankfully, we still have houseguests to keep life interesting. Michelle Drew, a nurse practioner, is doing a clinic rotation to complete her master's degree in tropical medicine from Tulane. Lauren Hickmon from Searcy, Arkansas, is staying with us and working at The Haven with the babies. These two have been a joy to host! They are flexible, enthusiastic, and can always see the funny side of our unique African experiences.

Obrien and Victor (see related blog articles "Starfish" and "Victor and Obrien" from January) are also here during their break from Kabanga Christian High School. As usual, they are devoting themselves to studying. This week they have been getting some special tutoring in geography and history from a teacher at Namwianga Basic. The next two weeks they will be taking special classes to prepare for the Grade 9 exams in October. We talk about high stakes testing in the US, but in Zambia the stakes are even higher. Only those who pass the Grade 9 exams can continue to go to school. Victor and Obrien are taking the test very seriously and spend every free moment studying.

Last night, though, we tore them away from the books long enough to introduce them to S'mores. We had some Hershey bars and graham crackers left from the medical mission. Lauren and Michelle managed to pick up some marshmallows in Lusaka on Thursday. Obrien and Victor built a fire in the outdoor kitchen for us, and then we taught them the fine art of roasting marshmallows and making S'mores.

David is camping at Nazzibula this weekend with Bart Bruington, Rodgers Namuswa, and Peter Mafwafwa. They are doing a leadership training seminar as part of the medical mission follow-up. The rest of us are going out to Kasibi tomorrow to do a children's program for the camp meeting that is being held there.

Monday, August 07, 2006


This lady carries her new Chitonga Bible proudly. Few people in rural areas of Zambia can afford to buy Bibles, so the books are a highly valued item. Every year Christians in Abilene organize a drive to purchase thousands of Bibles in the Chitonga language. The Bibles are distributed free of charge to church leaders, new Christians, congregations, and other individuals.

It's easy for us to take our Bibles for granted since most of us have a collection to choose from. Watching the Zambians receive their Bibles with such joy humbled me and reminded me that God's word is very precious indeed.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hole in My Heart

Last Saturday we drove to Livingstone to take Sara to the airport. She had been here almost a month, and I had treasured the days. After a year apart, we had lots of catching up to do. I found myself marveling at a daughter who is now a young adult instead of a child. I still surprised myself when I introduced her to others and announced that she is a math teacher in Tulsa. How can that be, I wondered, when it seems that she should still be a student herself. It was a joy to watch her do her job on the medical mission, interact with her friends, and play with the Zambian children.

Our time together passed far too quickly. On Saturday David and I stood with her in the long line waiting for the airport security check, wondering how to say goodbye again, wondering how much she would change in the next few months, wondering how we could bear to see her leave. All too quickly her bags were on the conveyor belt and she turned to us for our last round of hugs. We fought back the lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes. “Love you,” we whispered, and then watched her walk into the departure area. We stood and watched for a few more minutes, just to make sure she had no problems with luggage and tickets, and just to hang on a little longer. Finally, though, her pink sweater disappeared into the swarm of other passengers, and we turned toward the exit.

We waited anxiously on Sunday to hear word from Sara that she had made it home safely. Late in the afternoon a friend sent an e-mail giving us good news on our son in Austin. John’s schedule makes it difficult for us to communicate with him, so we often rely on friends to keep us informed of his activities. Then late Sunday night Sara sent us an e-mail that she was home. We sighed with relief and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s blessings on our children.

I have decided that the best way to describe being a continent away from my children is to say I have a hole in my heart. A mother-shaped hole that aches—a gentle ache sometimes, excruciating at others, but always there is the ache to be with them. Like someone who deals with chronic physical pain, I have learned to live with this hole in my heart. And God is good to send me other people’s children who help me fill up that hole. I can always find someone here who needs my hugs, my advice, my cooking, or my scolding. But the hole still aches.

2006 Medical Mission by the Numbers

Here are the numbers for the six days of clinics on this year's medical mission.

Medical patients: 12,096
Dental: 1,988
Optometry: 2,402
Total patients seen: 16, 486
Total baptisms: 104

Number of hours spent in planning and praying for the mission: countless.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


A post from David this time.

Zamgenuity-- A term describing the creative ways Zambians accomplish their everyday tasks without the resources and tools routinely available to Americans.

As I travel throughout Zambia watching my Zambian friends live life, I marvel at their ability to get things done. This creative genius or “zamgenuity” seems to be driven by the motto “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Here is one example of “Zamgenuity.”

My friend, Daniel Mweemba, is a wiry, 55 year-old from a tiny village two hours north of Namwianga Mission. He is a gifted church planter who supports his family by gardening and operating a “lumber mill.” Sixty-feet tall hardwood trees called “moquas” grow on his land. Moqua wood is used to make furniture, so Daniel cuts the trunks into planks or boards and then sells them to carpenters. Since he lives in the bush where there is no electricity or other power source, he uses his zamgenuity to saw the wood.

In the sandy forest floor he digs a pit six feet deep, eight feet long, and four feet wide. He places two five-foot logs across each end of the pit. On these logs he lays the tree trunk. Then, with a two-handled saw, Daniel and his son, Day, cut the trunk in half. Next it is cut (trimmed) two more times to make the log flat on two sides. On the broadest side of the plank, Daniel takes a piece of charcoal and marks the cutting lines for the boards. Each of the boards is an inch and a half thick. To cut the log into boards, one of the saw handlers stands in the pit while the other stands on top of the log, guiding the saw along the lines. It’s not the easy way to mill logs, but it gets the job done in a place where there is no electricity and where not everyone can afford a chain saw. Zamgenuity at its best!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Home Health Care

Our newest houseguest is Michelle Drew (right) from New Orleans. Michelle is a nurse practitioner who is completing her master's degree in tropical medicine by doing a rotation here at Namwianga. We put her skills to work this afternoon. Misozi, one of the US sponsored students at the high school, usually radiates happiness and joy. Today, however, Misozi had lost her sparkle when she arrived at our door to deliver a letter. She was miserable with a stuffy nose, headache, fever, and watery eyes. Nurse Drew came to the rescue, giving Misozi a quick exam in our living room and sending her back to the dorm with medicines to help her feel better.