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

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.