Sunday, December 30, 2007

Everyday Heroes - Roy and Kathi Merritt

In the busy-ness of last year, I stopped featuring the "Everyday Heroes" that we work with. Starting with today's blog, I hope to do a better job of describing some of the incredible people who are making a difference for the Lord in Zambia.

Roy Merritt grew up in Zambia as the child of missionaries. He returned to Namwianga after attending Harding College and has been here most of the last thirty-plus years. Roy and his wife Kathi oversee the orphanages at Namwianga. Roy also works with the Northreach program which sends GBCC students and graduates into northern Zambia to plant and nurture congregations. I received Roy's end-of-year e-mail and wanted to share excerpts from it to let you know how God is using these Everyday Heroes in the kingdom.

From Roy Merritt:

Namwianga Mission has been involved in Christian Education for 75 years. In 1966 the mission added a high school. Lamech Nsende was in that first class.

He became a teacher in 1971 and served the government 35 years. All that time he worked with the church wherever the Ministry of Education posted him. Now he has retired to a farm he bought in Mapanza area. The village he lives in does not have a church, so he is working on that.

Lamech is an example of what Namwianga is all about--developing self-supporting church leaders.

As you know, Namwianga Mission now has a teachers' college. Students who come here under Northreach Sponsorship sign a contract that they will work in mission areas of the country for at least three years after they graduate. I do not know the exact number of the new churches started by GBCC graduates since 1999. I lost count at 150. The number is around 200.

We are getting ready to send 33 George Benson Christian College graduates to mission areas of the country. Departure date and time is 3:00 am January 3. Three vehicles will travel a week to deliver them all--longer if rains mess up the roads. After this exercise, GBCC will have 88 graduates at work around the country in places where the church is weak or nonexistent.

Closer to home, the orphan/street kid program continues to grow--whether we have room for new ones or not. We average 75 youngsters in Eric's, Eleanor's, and Kelly's houses. Right now all of them but five have a USA sponsor.

We hope to break ground on yet another baby house January 1.

We deal with AIDS daily. Several babies have come to us with syphilis and HIV. We have lost several this year, two just in the last month. All AIDS-related deaths. That bad news must not overshadow the good news--that 95% of our children are in fine health. Without the Haven, nearly all these noisy survivors would have died a week or two after their birth.

May God bless Roy and Kathi in their quiet but heroic efforts to make a difference.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Kariba Sunset

This is one of the beautiful sunsets we viewed from our lodge on Lake Kariba. This particular evening the sky included every color of the rainbow at some point.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lake Kariba

Last weekend we went with Don and Laura Oldenburg to Lake Kariba on the southern border of Zambia. They were celebrating their 39th anniversary and asked us to go along. We stayed at a gorgeous lodge right on the lake and enjoyed watching spectacular sunsets each evening of our stay there.

On Saturday we visited the dam at Lake Kariba and found out more about the lake, the dam, and its construction. Lake Kariba is the largest man-made lake in the world, which is amazing enough, but its construction is even more remarkable. The dam was built from start to finish in five years (1955 – 1960), even with severe floods and other setbacks. Having at least a little bit of experience in trying to get things done here in Africa, I am thoroughly impressed that a project of this size was completed so quickly.

The new lake displaced over 60,000 people who were relocated to other parts of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Wildlife also had to be moved out of the area. David remembers watching Marlon Perkins on the “Wild Kingdom” TV show as he documented the efforts to get the animals safely onto high ground before the floodgates were opened.

Now the lake provides hydro-electric power to Zambia and Zimbabwe and is a huge tourism resource for both countries.

Christmas 2007

Here is the group that gathered at our house for Christmas dinner. Front row: Lois Sears, Marie Banda, John Phiri, Nathan Banda, and Tamara Banda. Back row: Robby Banda, Sarah Sears, Don and Laura Oldenburg, David, and me. Lois and Sarah are Sheri’s daughters. Tamara, Marie, and Nathan are Robby’s children, and John is Robby’s nephew. We managed a pretty traditional American dinner with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole (made with homemade onion rings by Sheri), rolls, salad, and pumpkin, pecan, and chocolate pies. The cranberry sauce and pumpkin were brought to us by the Ganuses who visited in November. My sister sent us the pecans.

Tweezing the Turkey- A Christmas Tale

We wanted turkey for Christmas dinner this year. Enough of grilled chicken, cornflake chicken, and roasted chicken. It was Christmas and we wanted turkey.

Way back in November, Don Oldenburg made a special request to the manager of the supermarket in Choma to get us some turkeys. Last week the call came that turkeys were in, so Don drove to Choma to claim two rare, prized, and expensive birds for our holiday dinner. Because Namwianga is such a great customer of the store, the manager graciously gave us one turkey free. (Otherwise Don might have had to float a loan to pay for them.)

Don and Laura took one turkey to cook at their house, and I kept one. On Christmas Day I took my turkey out of its plastic bag and made a grim discovery: this was not a Butterball. No smooth, white skin on this bird. No nifty little pop-up timer. No legs banded together neatly with a specially designed leg wire. No neat little packet of giblets tucked under the skin. This bony, blotched hunk had a breastbone that resembled a craggy mountain peak, and I double-checked to make sure that there was indeed some meat under the sagging skin. Even worse, this turkey was not well dressed, and I don’t mean poor fashion sense. There were black pin feathers over much of the skin and gross stuff still hanging from the inner cavities. I cleaned up the stuff as best I could and then tackled the pin feathers.

I grew up on a farm where we raised chickens and turkeys, so I thought I knew what to do. I got a candle and held the flame on the feathers to singe them off. This worked marginally well. I was doing this outside on the back veranda, so the wind kept blowing out the flame. Then the sheer magnitude of the job caused another problem: the flames were starting to cook the skin in places. Plus the candle dripped wax onto the bird, and that didn’t seem too appetizing either.

My next brainstorm came from my extensive life knowledge—not of poultry, but of plucking. I got my eyebrow tweezers and started to work on the turkey. With a little wrist action and determination, this technique was quite successful, I must say, and before long the turkey was sufficiently clean-skinned for the roaster pan.

In spite of its poor initial impression and the paltry portions of actual meat, the turkey turned out to be tender and quite tasty. Or maybe the sheer effort of getting a turkey cooked in Zambia would have made anything taste delicious. I’m not sure. But next year I’m pretty sure we’ll go back to grilled chicken for Christmas dinner.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


My trip to town this morning turned into quite an adventure. It rained during the night and continued all day today. The roads are inches deep in mud--slimy, slippery, sloppy mud. I thought I was being cautious as I traveled in second gear and navigated around the ravines and pot holes. I wasn't quite cautious enough, though, as I hit a particularly slippery patch and spun a complete circle in the middle of the road! The rest of the trip was in first gear.

Lunch Bunch

Now that classes are over, I've had more time to spend with my little guys from the orphanage. I went there this morning just as they were finishing their bath time and helped get them dressed. I planned to take three of them--George, Bernard, and Jason--but Brandon got his shoes on and followed me the door waving goodbye to the caregivers. What could I do? I loaded him up and took him along.


This is the season for plowing and planting in Zambia. When I asked my students what they would be doing during the term break, most of them said that they would be working in the fields to plant the maize.

I guess it's only natural that the Zambians would expect us to join in on this activity. We gave it a valiant try during our first year and went in on shares with two other families on a large maize field. The rains were good and the crop was plentiful--but we still didn't make any money. Last year we had a great excuse not to plant because we were in the US on furlough in December. This year I hoped that my chickens and David's huge garden would be enough farming. We also thought we could get away with not planting since we'll be in the US on furlough in April during the harvest.

It was not to be. Our good (and outspoken) friend Mrs. Jope decided that we were going to have a groundnut (peanut) field behind our house. She stopped by on Monday and announced that she had hired a team of oxen to come the next day to plow our field (at our expense, of course) and that she was providing the seeds for us.

The next morning the yoke of oxen arrived along with their handlers and plowed the field. The young girl in the photo is leading the team, one of the guys is prodding the oxen along, and Obrien on the far right is guiding the plow.

So now we are reluctant peanut farmers. Obrien assures us that he will handle the harvesting for us in April while we're in the US. Let's hope it's a good harvest, because I'm thinking it will take a lot of peanuts to cover the $25 it cost us for the plowing. Adventures in farming--Zambian style.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chicken Update for Courtney and Kelsey

In October HIZ students Courtney and Kelsey became the caregivers for the three orphan chicks that Cruella abandoned. They named them Harold, Larry, and Autumn and gave them lots of TLC. The photo shows them with Harold just before they left to go home. The chicks came back to us, and we gradually integrated them back into the coop with the others. For the first week, we kept them in their small pen at night and let them out in the yard during the day. These chicks were used to human company, and we had a challenge keeping them out of the house. They would just wander in the back door and make themselves at home.

After a week the chicks went into the big pen. At first the three of them huddled together away from the others, but gradually Autumn ventured away on her own part of the time. Larry also began spending more time with the other chickens. Harold semed to have the hardest time socializing and tended to stay with Larry or be on his own. Harold would always let me get close to him, and would even come over to the side of the pen and let me pet his head.

Sadly, a couple of weeks ago Autumn got sick and died suddenly, as did two other chickens in the pen. We quickly gave the rest of the flock some antibiotics to stop the spread of the disease.

Then last week Harold developed an eye problem. He has a severe infection in one eye and has probably lost his sight in that eye. He seems to be healthy otherwise, but we have him isolated in the small pen on the back porch so we can watch him carefully.

That leaves Larry as the only one still in the big pen. As you can from the photo above, Larry has grown quickly and seems to be doing great. And we think a name change is in order, because it sure looks like Larry is a Laura. We'll keep you posted.

So Courtney and Kelsey, I'm so sorry about losing Autumn and Harold's eye infection, but we're doing what we can. Thanks for being such good chicken farmers during your time here!

A letter for the HIZ Students

Dear HIZ Students,

Some of you told me that you would read my blog every day. You've been very disappointed, I'm sure! We were incredibly busy in November, and then for the past two weeks we've had all kinds of power outages and internet woes. Here's my attempt to catch you up on the Mission happenings.

As you can see by the photos above, the rains have turned everything lush and green. We have flowers everywhere in our yard, and the grass needs cut about twice a week. We've had torrential downpours and wild thunderstorms as well as gentle showers. Until this past week, a good rain also meant a power outage. We have gotten very skilled at locating candles and flashlights in the dark when the electricity goes off! The road to town is hard to describe--there are new holes, ridges, ditches, and puddles everywhere as a result of the rainwater runoff. A trip to town is even more of a rock and roll experience than when you were here.

The year one and year two college students went home at the end of November after their finals. The third year students stayed on until Monday when they finished the last of their exams. The business students were the last to leave on Thursday. The campus is deserted and much too quiet.

Today Mr. Phiri's secretary handed me a stack of letters and post office notices for five packages. I'll mail the letters to Dr. Rackley or Miss Bingham to distribute to you. Joshua, Katie Pagett, Kelsey, Matthew, and Courtney need to tell me what to do with your packages--assuming the post office will allow me to pick them up. We'll have visitors in January, so I could send them back to the US then, but you would need to provide addresses and postage.

Mildred, Ian, Harold, and Leonard are all still working around the Mission and doing fine. They have kept busy with visitors in the Mann House. We had a group of Peace Corps volunteers here for Thanksgiving and another group here last week for a boys' leadership camp. Mildred's daughter graduated from ninth grade in November and was the top girl in her class. Mildred is very proud of her.

We had a college faculty meeting on Wednesday morning. One of our topics was the Harding program. I wish you could have heard all the good things that were said about you. Everyone this side agrees that you were a blessing to Namwianga! Mr. Siaziyu pointed out how well you interacted with people of all ages as you encountered them. You have left some wonderful memories with the Zambians here.

Linda and David

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Update - 13 December

Now we are hearing about the ice storm in the midwest and about how many people are without power. We, on the other hand, have had power almost without interruption since last Saturday. One major difference in the circumstances is the temperature--we don't have to worry about freezing to death when our power is out!

We have also had drier weather this week. The last big rain was on Saturday. By comparison, in the previous week we had major thunderstorms every day.

The Africonnect internet system is still down (since last Friday). The company sent a new router which David installed, but the system still isn't working, and the company still won't send anyone out to work on it.

We have had a Peace Corps group on campus this week: Camp BLUE (Boys Learning, Understanding, and Experiencing). The Peace Corps volunteers in our area chose boys from their villages to attend this four-day leadership camp. We hosted the entire group of campers and volunteers on Tuesday night for dinner and a movie.

The last group of college students went home today. Now we'll have three weeks of very little activity on campus.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


On Thursday afternoon we finally got electricity again after three days of no power. I have decided that the whirring of an electric fan is definitely one of my favorite kinds of music.

As I mentioned in the last update, our frozen food thawed and had to be eaten. For lunch on Thursday I cooked four pounds of ground beef on the propane burner while David grilled a pork loin and a chicken. A Zambian worker made a huge pot of nshima, and we had lunch in our outdoor kitchen with eight other friends and workers.

We finally got the new AfriConnect internet system up and running on November 30. It lasted one week and went down again yesterday. Our faithful Coppernet system is painfully slow and won't allow me to post photos on the blog, but at least it is dependable and keeps us in touch with the world.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Update - December 5

I'm sitting at an internet cafe in Choma, the nearest town to Namwianga that still has electricity. On Monday we had a storm and the power went out. It was still out yesterday when we had another horrific storm. The lightning struck and killed over 30 goats on the Mission farm. The storm also knocked down several poles that held electric wires. We have been without power now since Monday night, and the electric company says it may be Friday before we have power again. And it's still raining!

My neighbors sell broilers and had butchered 40 chickens yesterday. Now they have nowhere to keep them frozen. All of us are dealing with thawed food in our freezers, so tonight we are planning to cook everything we can (over propane burners or charcoal fires) and have quite a feast.

Water is also a problem for those without storage tanks because the pumps are electric. We have a rainwater collection system and are sharing with anyone who needs water. We've had a steady line of people gathering water from our tanks all day.

My cell phone ran out of battery, as did the computer. We decided to make the trip to Choma to get our e-mails, charge up the computer and cell phone, and do banking. Henry Melton left us an inverter, so we were able to get the computer partially charged on the one-hour drive. Unfortunately, our laptop will not connect at the internet cafe, and for some reason we cannot get to our website to check e-mails. So, for those of you who wonder what has happened to us, we are experiencing life in Africa. Hopefully we'll be back in touch by the weekend.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Lots of Love

Peace Corps Volunteers Angela, Jalle, and Karen went with me to visit The Haven on Friday after Thanksgiving. As soon as we walked onto the veranda we had little arms reaching up to us wanting to be held. Angela just sat down and gathered a lapful of toddlers who enjoyed her care and attention for the next hour or so. Bernard is one of my special little guys and is shown with me in the middle photo. Jason and Brandon (lower photo) posed while waiting eagerly for bath time. Jason (left) is a big eater and has figured out that bath time is followed by lunch time, so he is usually at the front of the line for batheing so he can be first to the lunch table!

Thanksgiving Photo

Here is a belated photo of our Thanksgiving gathering--I couldn't get the blog to post photos until now. We had seven Peace Corps volunteers from Southern and Lusaka Provinces, Don and Laura Oldenburg, Sheri Sears, and Richard and Sue Krogsgaard. It was a delightful group.

Connected At Last!

I have been trying to blog for several days now, but the weather, the power company, and the internet providers would not cooperate. The Harding AfriConnect system at our house has been down since November 5, but we were managing by using our old Coppernet account or by going to one of the other houses that still had AfriConnect service. That worked--if the electricity was on. We have had power outages for parts of most days and all of some days. It's been interesting. The entire AfriConnect system went down early this week. I tried repeatedly to post from our Coppernet account, but couldn't get it to work--probably due to cloud cover.

The good news is that the AfriConnect engineers FINALLY came out and got the system working again. Now we hold our breath and hope that this time we can keep it going for more than two weeks (our current record is 13 days) without going down.

One other tidbit of internet news: The server for the AfriConnect system is in a small brick room adjacent to one of the offices. David has to make repeated trips down there to adjust the system, turn on the air conditioner, and try to keep everything working. He's usually the only one in there--but last week he opened the door and found a two-foot long green snake stretched out on the window sill. He very carefully opened the window and let the visitor slither out.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

We had a fun and interesting Thanksgiving gathering at our house this year. Five Peace Corps volunteers arrived at Namwianga on Wednesday to spend the holiday with us. They stayed at the large guesthouse but ate most of their meals with us. They came prepared to cook and bake dishes for our feast, and on Thursday morning we had three kitchens in use—the guesthouse where the PC women were staying, the Hamby guesthouse kitchen, and mine. We had a short power outage around 10 a.m. that gave us a bit of panic, but the power came on again after about 30 minutes and the baking continued without any major disasters.

Don Oldenburg had contacted the manager of the Spar grocery store in Choma weeks ago and asked him if he could get us two turkeys for Thanksgiving. We had high hopes that this manager could pull it off, but alas, it was not to be. When Don and Laura went to pick up the turkeys on Wednesday, the manager informed them that the turkeys had come in, but they were of such poor quality that he wouldn’t sell them to us. David grilled chicken instead.

We had two more Peace Corps workers who came in on Thursday—one made it in time for dinner and another arrived in the evening. Our other guests were Don and Laura Oldenburg, Sheri Sears, and Richard and Sue Krogsgaard. Richard and Sue are Canadians who arrived at Namwianga in August. They missed the Canadian Thanksgiving Day in October, so we thought it was appropriate that they share in our feast.

And feast we did! We managed to have many traditional American Thanksgiving dishes: stuffing, pumpkin pie, apple pie, rolls, mashed potatoes, green beans, and even jellied cranberry sauce that some recent visitors brought with them in their luggage. There were no Macy’s parades or football games to watch, but we did have lots of laughter, sharing, and fellowship.

Sara and John were in Searcy with David’s sister and family. We were able to talk to them via Skype and even saw them through the web cam. Later we talked with David’s parents and watched the last minute dinner preparations going on in the background. When they announced that dinner was ready, David’s dad had all of the family hold hands in a circle and then asked David to lead the prayer for the meal. From 10,000 miles away we shared in the Thanksgiving gathering with our family. God is good, and we are thankful.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Just Another Day

Saturday was one of those days. I knew it would be busy, because the secondary school had a PTA meeting in the morning and graduation scheduled for the afternoon. The unplanned events were just extras.

I was ready to leave for the PTA meeting at 9:30 when I decided to take a loaf of bread out of the freezer for lunch. I opened the freezer and picked up the loaf -- and it wasn't frozen! My freezer had stopped working—the victim of one too many power surges, I suppose. David and I quickly emptied it out and surveyed the damage. Most of the things in the bottom were still frozen, so we took those over to the Hamby guesthouse freezer. One chicken, some sausages, and some steaks that were in the top rack had thawed. I put the chicken on the stove to cook, gave the sausages to my neighbor, and put the steaks in the refrigerator to cook Saturday night.

Finally at 11:00 I headed for the PTA meeting. The lively discussions were still going strong at 12:45 when the sky grew dark with ominous clouds. A storm was on the way. I also had a chicken cooking on the stove and hadn't told David to turn off the burner, so I left the meeting and went home. A huge storm hit about 10 minutes later with torrential rains, violent winds, and pea-size hail. David and I watched limbs break off and fall from our back yard trees and wondered if we were going to lose another fence as we did last year. The power went out as it usually does in a storm.

We had just finished eating lunch when Justin, the security guard, called to say the roof had blown off his house. David suggested someone for him to call.

The storm abated, and I began to plan to return for the 2:00 graduation ceremony. There were four sponsored students who had no family coming, and I was to be their “Mom" for the day. At 1:45 we got a call that the shipping container of donated food relief was in Kalomo and we needed to send an escort to show the truck driver how to get to Namwianga. We also had to arrange for workers to unload the contents of the container so the driver could get back on the road.

Thomas Siafwiyo was supposed to be in charge of the container, so we tried to call him and found out that he was at his farm and out of cell phone range. (We found out later that he was trying to get back to Namwianga, but the storm flooded the usually dry creek bed and he was stranded until late afternoon.) We drove up to the school and found Andrew, the maintenance supervisor, just as he left the graduation luncheon. Although he knew nothing about this container coming and was planning to go to graduation, he agreed to help us out. He drove off to recruit workers for the unloading while David went into Kalomo and to find the truck and escort it to Namwianga.

I went on to graduation. There was still no power, so the packed auditorium had no lights and no sound system. I could barely see the front of the auditorium and couldn’t hear much of anything. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell when my students were awarded their diplomas, so I ended up standing near the front with my camera ready to catch the moment.

Graduation ended at 5:00, and the container was unloaded by 5:15. The power was still off at our house, but we found out that Don and Laura Oldenburg had electricity at their house near the clinic. I volunteered to cook the thawed steaks at their house, and we invited Louisa and Ashley to join us for dinner. We enjoyed our time together and managed to have a very pleasant ending to a chaotic and eventful day. By the time we got home at 9:30, the power was back on at our house.

David and I have a saying about days like this. When spoken with just the right drawl and a smile, it pretty well sums things up: “Just another day in paradise.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

HIZ Final Photo

On Saturday the Harding In Zambia group hosted a lunch for all the workers and missionaries who have helped them this semester. The Harding students served the meal, presented us with gifts, and blessed us with their incredible singing. Then we set up the multimedia projector on our veranda, and the students showed us the powerpoint program that the group will present in chapel when they return to Harding. We were touched by their thoughtfulness.

We managed to gather all of them together for a final and official photo. We will treasure this parting shot of a talented, caring, and unique group who blessed us richly during their time at Namwianga.

Graduates' Tea

These lovely ladies are sponsored students who are graduating from Namwianga Christian Secondary School this month. I had a tea for them on Saturday and enjoyed hearing them tell about happenings in their lives and plans for the future. Most of them will be attending Mapepe Bible College in Lusaka next year. Mapepe has a nine-month program designed to equip recent high school and college graduates for leadership and service in the church. I know these young women will be blessed by their time there and will in turn be a blessing to others.


We had hoped that the annual invasion of the flying ants would occur while the Harding students were still here. Just a few days before they left, we had two huge thunderstorms. Right on schedule, the ants invaded the following night. The swarms of winged critters clouded the air with their buzzing wings. They followed every light source and crawled through every crack to get into our house. We did as we have done in years past--gave up, turned out the lights, and went to bed. I tried to sneak in a little bit of reading by taking a flashlight and a book under the covers, but a couple of the stubborn ants kept bugging me until I surrendered and went to sleep.

The next morning there were the dead bodies of the ants an inch deep on both front and back verandas. This year we had a good use for them and dumped pails full of the creatures into the chicken pen. The fowls had a feeding frenzy! It was an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord for an hour or two.

We threw more ant carcasses over the fence a couple of times later in the day. By mid-afternoon the chickens had had enough. They turned up their beaks and walked away from the final buffet.

What's Cooking

Jonathan Strickland, one of the Harding students, made a Cobb Lorena stove in our back yard kitchen. The stove is made of clay mud mixed with elephant grass. You can see in the photo below how the mixing part is done.

The firebox and "pipes" inside the stove are made of banana tree trunks. A very small fire will cook a pot or two of food efficiently and effectively without having to use a large quantity of firewood or charcoal.

Jonathan taught two of the Zambian college students how to make and use the stove. They have already used it to cook a meal or two, and they plan to make another Cobb Lorena stove near the guys' dorm for other students to cook on.

This project was just one of the many ways that the Harding students got involved with Namwianga's residents and made a difference.

Monday, November 12, 2007

News and Notes - November 12

I apologize for not posting more blog entries later. We were extremely busy last week and have also had continued problems with our internet service. The AfriConnect system installed for Harding stopped working at our house a week ago, although thankfully it continued to work at the houses where Harding students were staying. We reconnected to our old Coppernet system, but for some reason we cannot post any photos. I tried several times but finally decided to give up on pictures and at least get something on the blog.

The Harding In Zambia students left this morning. We have been dreading this event, all of us feeling surprised by the depth of the attachments we have made. The Harding students and the George Benson college students have shared their lives in big and small ways for 10 weeks. We missionaries have known the blessing of the Harding students' cheerful spirits, their great attitudes, and their fantastic devotional times with us. Saying goodbye was difficult for all of us. We know that they are taking many wonderful memories with them and that they have left us with many wonderful memories of their time here. The campus will be too quiet for the next few days and weeks as we adjust to life without them.

I finally finished grading the 85 term papers. It is a relief to have time at last to do the things I enjoy and not just mark papers! I brought my special toddler friend Bernard home from the orphanage to spend an afternoon playing. I also had the other missionaries over for dinner so we could get caught up on the news in each others' lives. I'm slowly getting caught up on all the other projects that had to be deserted for the term papers.

Former Namwianga missionaries Sam and Nancy Shewmaker are here visiting for a few days. Sam grew up here and has been involved in African missions in one way or another for most of his life. A few weeks ago he and Nancy moved to Rwanda and are beginning a new work there. They have blessed us by sharing stories of their mission experiences and have given us valuable insights that will help us in our ministry at Namwianga.

There will be more news to come when I can post some photos!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

More Fowl Play

It wasn't enough just to teach the chickens how to jump. Now David has them doing other tricks as well. He takes his laser pointer out to the chicken pen. When he points it on the ground in front of them, the chickens think it's something to eat and try to peck it. Then he points the light on their feathers and they contort themselves trying to get it off. The grand finale is when he targets their feet and gets them dancing. Stay tuned . . .

Kalomo High School Church

We took the Harding In Zambia students to visit the Kalomo High School church this morning. As always, we enjoyed our time with this congregation composed of over 150 high school students. Vann Rackley taught the Bible class, David preached, and Harding student Matt Leroy did the Lord's supper. Shown above is the Kalomo singing group presenting a story in song after the worship service. The Harding students also sang and delighted their Zambian audience.

Bicycle Evangelists

Some of the bicycle evangelists are pictured at their training seminar that was held in September. Ten of the evangelists recently spent a week at Mbabala evangelizing and planting a church there. David and members of the Church Development Program team joined them for the first Sunday that the new church met. Dyson and Military, two of the bicycle evangelists, decided to stay an extra week to provide some additional training and encouragement for the new group. David saw Dyson a few days ago and found out that they also planted ANOTHER new congregation during their extended stay.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Story You Need to Read

Please click on the title above to read a gripping article about suffering and hope in Zambia. We see the Rodericks and Kenneths every day in our acquaintances and students here at Namwianga. I hope we are making a difference for some.

Today was the deadline for applying for sponsorship for the 2008 school year. The stack of applications is six inches high. Many of the applicants come from families like Roderick's. They long for an education and the luxury of three meals a day and a bunk in the dormitory.

I am torn between the joy of helping the thirty or so who will be selected and the agony of saying no to the others.

Suffering and hope in Zambia.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

HIZ Outreach

One of the many joys of having the Harding students on campus is that they have joined us on many outreaches. The group shown above braved a rugged two-hour ride with David and Rodgers to see a congregation install its first elders. Jonathan delivered the message that day with Rodgers as his translator.


Friday was graduation day for the college. The graduates finished their coursework in 2006 but had to wait for the results to be finalized before receiving their diplomas. Since we hadn't seen them since last year, it was exciting to see them again and to hear of their activities. Most of the sponsored students were able to get jobs even without diplomas and are already teaching. Several are in mission areas of Western and Luapula Province where they are planting churches and encouraging new congregations.

The college choir sang for the occasion. Some of the Harding students have joined this group, and it is a joy to see and hear them mixed in with their Zambian peers.

The guest speaker was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zambia. He raved about the beautiful singing and even requested an additional song after the official program had ended. As he made his final remarks, he said, "I don't want to leave. I'd like to just sit here and listen to more of this beautiful singing from the choir."

We made sure he received a CD to take with him so that he can continue to remember the George Benson Christian College choir.

85 Reasons I Haven't Been Blogging

The 85 reasons I haven't been blogging are the 85 research papers my students turned in for me to grade. I have been marking papers every spare minute for three weeks now. I am drowning in a sea of red ink (and self-pity). I am nearing the end at last and hope to resume normal life soon.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fowl Play

Since we don't have a TV, we have come up with our own creative forms of entertainment. Many of these involve--no surprise here--the chickens.

For instance, we have discovered that the chickens will jump for bits of food. We simply poke a piece of stale bread through the wire mesh and watch the fun begin. One of the good jumpers will go high and grab the food, then hit the ground and run while the other less athletic birds chase after him and try to steal the treat.

Certain chickens definitely have more spring in their steps than others. The rooster Justafella has the advantage of superior height, but Petronella, Citronella, and one of the younger hens can just about match him. My favorite, though, is one of the young roosters who can't seem to get enough of jumping. He starts flying at the fence as soon as he sees me heading toward the coop. He leaps high and hard time after time.

I think I picked an appropriate name for him: Larry Bird.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Foster Hen

The drama in the chicken coop continues! One of the hens (now dubbed Cruella for soon-to-be-obvious reasons) seems to be suffering from a severe lack of motherly instincts. She has been sitting on her nest for weeks now. Her eggs began hatching last week, but she pushed the chicks out of the nest and refused to come down with them. In the chicken-eat-chick world, the other chickens attacked the babies and killed four of them before I figured out what was happening and began my rescue operation. I started checking the pen every few hours and managed to save three of the balls of fluff before they had too many injuries. I have them safely ensconced in a cardboard box in my pantry where they are doing just fine under my foster care.

Then on Wednesday Cruella came down off her perch with two new baby chicks and started acting like a mother hen should. I thought she had finally come to her senses and might manage to avoid becoming our dinner in the near future. The following day Citronella, one of our original hens, hatched out just one tiny chick. Citronella and Cruella strutted around the yard with their chicks and all was well in the chicken world—at least until dusk. I went out to check on them and found Cruella back up on her high nest with her babies running around frantically below her. I figured I might as well add them to the box in the pantry and started to go in the pen. Just then Citronella came swooping over from her corner and engulfed the two lost chicks under her wings with her own baby. She stared at me with her beady-eyes and dared me to take another step. I watched her for a few minutes as she got settled for the night and left her alone.

Cruella came down for a few hours the next day and took over her chicks, but by mid-afternoon she was back on her nest and hasn’t been down since. Citronella and the three little ones seem perfectly happy without her. I asked my neighbor Mrs. Moono what she thought about Cruella. "Some chickens are not good mothers," she told me. "You should eat that one!"

Maybe we will. Citronella, however, is now in the running for Mother of the Year.

Another Sponsored Student Success Story

I was delighted to see Japhet Nawa visiting the campus this week. Japhet was sponsored through high school here at Namwianga and in 2005 was the first person in his family to graduate from high school. Last year he earned a diploma in business and computer studies at George Benson. Japhet proudly told me that he now works the front desk computer at the highly rated Tongabezi Lodge in Livingstone. I'm very proud of Japhet and thankful for the sponsors who made it possible for him to achieve this.

Update - October 14, 2007

It's been a quiet and busy week here. The Harding students were gone on a nine-day camping trip to northern Zambia, so the campus seemed empty without them. They arrived this (Sunday) afternoon with stories to tell, and we look forward to hearing about their adventures with windblown tents, rainstorms, and much more.

The first stop for many of them after getting off the bus was to grab their laptops and go online. They were able to do it because we finally have the new internet system up and working again. The new server had to be shipped from the US, cleared through customs, flown to Livingstone for checking, and finally brought out here to be installed on Thursday.

Courtney Elder, one of the Harding students, has been staying with us since Wednesday. Courtney's father died suddenly in September, and Courtney flew home to be with her family for a couple of weeks. The plan was for her to fly into Lusaka on Monday and meet up with the Harding group on Monday or Tuesday to finish out the trip with them. However, South African Airways made a series of blunders, and by the time Courtney got into Lusaka on Tuesday, the Harding group was too far north for her to join them. I know this was a terrible blow for her, but she has been an absolute trooper about everything, and we feel blessed that we have gotten to know her this week. The Oldenburgs took her to Livingstone yesterday, so at least she got to see Victoria Falls and do some curio shopping.

October is the hottest month of the year here, and the first part of this week was miserable as we endured baking, energy-sapping heat. On Thursday the first big rain of the season washed over us and left the air fresher and cooler.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

On a Mission Update--Agness

On Tuesday I blogged about my mission in Lusaka to get the chemotherapy drugs for Agness. I managed to find a person who could contact her parents in their remote village. It took a few days, but on Friday, Agness's mother came to get her medicine. She says Agness is doing fine.

Formula for Happy Babies

The Kiwanis Club of Abilene donated money to purchase formula for babies at The Haven. Shown here are some of the precious little ones who will benefit from their generosity.

If you are part of a group that needs a service project, consider contributing to the Milk Fund at Namwianga. In addition to feeding the babies who live at The Haven, the Milk Fund also provides formula for orphan babies in the villages who are being cared for by aunts, grandmothers, sisters, or cousins.

Sponsored Student Success Story

Nippah Moonga was a sponsored student during his time at George Benson Christian College. He was active in outreaches and often went with David to teach at the Sandy Hill Farm's campfire Bible studies. When Nippah finished his teacher preparation course in 2006, we encouraged him to attend Mapepe Bible College for additional training.

Nippah came by the other day to show us his diploma from Mapepe and the award he received for being first in his class there. He's now been hired to be on the staff of Mapepe and assist them with their outreach and training efforts. We are very proud of Nippah and thankful for the sponsors who enabled him to go to school.

Bicycle Evangelism

Back in mid-September, the Church Development Program at Namwianga hosted a seminar for all the bicycle evangelists--the men who have been given bicycles to use as they plant churches and encourage existing congregations. For three days these 18 men participated in classes covering textual studies, leadership, evangelism, and practical application of Bible knowledge. They were challenged to continue their good work and to do even more to spread the gospel in Southern Province.

They took the challenge seriously. This week, without any prompting from the Church Development Program, the bicycle evangelists met again. They targeted an area where there are no strong congregations and committed to spend the week of October 16-22 there. They will camp in various places to preach, teach, and plant churches. They also agreed to contribute their own money to pay for part of the expenses for this effort.

We are humbled and amazed by their zeal and enthusiasm. To God be the glory.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On a Mission

We took a much-needed weekend off and headed for Lusaka on Friday afternoon. We booked a room at a missionary guesthouse and planned to just relax and do nothing related to our jobs for a couple of days.

Except for one little thing. Agness, a 12-year-old girl who lives far out in the bush, was diagnosed with cancer last July. Her parents took her to Lusaka to a cancer specialist, and she began taking chemotherapy drugs. Her father came to me in early September and asked for help to get her prescription refilled before she ran out of meds on September 30.

I enlisted help from Louisa Duke, our wonderful physician’s assistant and missionary. Louisa took the prescription to Lusaka two weeks ago and tried to get it filled at the Link pharmacy in the really nice shopping plaza. They had one of the two drugs the girl needs, so Louisa asked them to order the other one and she went ahead and paid for it.

I planned to do just one official errand Saturday and pick up that girl’s prescription at Link. At 9:30 I walked in and told them what I was there for. There were some hesitant glances and consultation among the staff. They weren’t sure if the medicine was in and would need to talk to the manager. I agreed to come back in a few minutes.

At 10:00 I returned to the store. The pharmacist appeared uncomfortable as he broke the news to me: the medication was out of stock and unavailable from their source in South Africa.

I stared at them in disbelief. “What am I supposed to do?” I asked. “This little girl is out of her chemo drugs on Monday. What am I going to tell her?”

The pharmacist and his assistant looked helpless. Finally, one said, “You will need to go to the University Teaching Hospital. Talk to the doctor who issued the prescription and see if he has the drug or if he can give her something else."

Again I stared in disbelief. With as much calm as I could muster, I told them, “I cannot even read the doctor’s name on this prescription. I am not a medical person. I don’t know a thing about the University Teaching Hospital, and it is Saturday, so the doctor probably is not available anyway.”

The two workers looked at each other. After some hesitation, they agreed to call the hospital and try to find the doctor. I told them I would be back in a few minutes.

Thirty minutes later I was at the counter again. I could tell they were not going to give me good news. “We found the doctor. The hospital is out of this medicine, and they use us as their supplier. They don’t have any other drug that they can substitute. We can try to get the prescription from the UK, but we don’t know how long it will take to get here and it will be very expensive.”

At this point, all the frustrations of living in Zambia came crashing down on me at once. I was also flooded with my own memory from many years ago of having a terminally ill child. Now this sick little girl had only the slimmest chance of surviving a deadly disease in a harsh land, and that one chance might be weeks away—or too late. I had an almost uncontrollable urge to jump across the counter and strangle the pharmacist. “This little girl needs this medicine, and she needs it now,” I hissed through clenched teeth. “Can you please call around to some other pharmacies and see if someone else might have it?”

Their eyes widened a bit as they realized I was not going to just go away. There was a slight hesitation, and then the pharmacist gulped and nodded. “We will try.”

A few minutes of walking around the shopping center calmed me down, and I walked back in with an optimistic smile. This time there was no hesitation as the pharmacist told me, “I am trying, madam. Unfortunately the phone service is down and we cannot make any calls. But I will keep trying. Please come back in a few minutes.”

This time I almost laughed at the absurdity of the situation: Lusaka, a city of hundreds of thousands of people, and the phone network is down. I assured them I would be back.

At 11:30 I was in the store again, this time to hear that another pharmacy did have the drug in stock. That was the good news. The bad news was that the other pharmacy was closing in an hour, so I had to get there quickly.

I found David and we headed for Freedom Way, the part of town that sane people who value their belongings tend to avoid. It’s known as a haven for pickpockets and thieves, and on this Saturday, Freedom Way was teeming with people and vehicles. We inched our way down the street dodging taxis, buses, and pedestrians until we found the store—but no parking. We ended up finding a place to park around the corner. Since we couldn’t keep an eye on the vehicle and leaving it unattended was not safe, we decided one of us would have to stay in the car. I opted for getting the prescription and David agreed to do guard duty.

I stuffed an envelope with the prescription money in my pocket and headed down the sidewalk with a “Don’t mess with me” look on my face. The store was crowded with lines of people, but as soon as I explained my mission, the pharmacist stopped what he was doing, got the box of pills, and had me out the door in less than 10 minutes. He had only a month’s supply but agreed to order more.

Mission accomplished. Almost. The father of the little girl has not yet come to get the drugs. Pray for Agness and that somehow we can get her the medicine she needs.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Update - September 27, 2007

We are barely squeaking by on our internet bandwidth for the month, so I’ve been staying off the internet as much as possible. We’ve also been incredibly busy. I laugh when I remember that before we moved here, we thought our life would slow down! It hasn’t happened yet.

Henry and Mary Ann Melton were here until Monday. Henry did several small group sessions with students and Mary Ann kept busy teaching women’s classes. We took them to Choma on Saturday and then visited the Kalomo High School church on Sunday. I think they made some great memories here and will want to return some day.

We tell all our guests what David Broom told me on the medical mission years ago: Africa is like poison ivy on the brain, and the only way to scratch it is to go back.

Tomorrow we are heading off to Lusaka for the weekend. The American Embassy is hosting a braii (cookout) for ex-patriots on Saturday night. The invitation says we’ll get to meet the Ambassador and new members of the Embassy community, discuss ongoing security concerns, and get information about voting in the 2008 elections. It should be an interesting experience!

News from the Coop

One of our first chicks (born Easter weekend) grew up to be a beautiful rooster. Last week Justafella (his dad) decided the coop wasn’t big enough for two roosters and forced Junior out. Poor Junior wandered around the yard desperately trying to crow, but the adolescent-style crack in his cock-a-doodle-do was pretty pitiful. Our friend Martin Mwiimbili claimed him over the weekend and took Junior to Livingstone where he is now the ONLY rooster in the henhouse. Martin reports that Junior is quite happy.

Just after Junior left us, one of our younger hens hatched out five new baby chicks. These new additions bring the henhouse total to 28.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Visitors' Views

Henry and Mary Ann Melton both have blogs and have been writing about their experiences here. Click on the links to read their views of life at Namwianga.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

So Far, So Good

Last night Henry Melton managed to hook up one of our laptops to the landline at Hamby House and utilize it as the router for wireless service on the internet. Now the Harding students have at least some access to the internet--slow, to be sure, and only a few at a time can be online, but at least it is there.

The good news gets even better: we have had water and electricity all day!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It Started Out as a Good Day

At 5:37 this morning it looked like we were going to have a good day in Africa. At 10:00 the electricity went off. That meant no internet, no cooking, no powerpoint presentations in class. The AfriConnect engineer came all the way from Livingstone to work on the new internet system--only to find the power off, so he couldn't do what he needed to do. No power also meant that the electric pumps for the water system couldn't work, so there was no water coming in. We had filled our tanks the night before, so we were okay and were able to share with students who needed water. The power came back on this evening just as we finished cooking dinner on the propane burner and the charcoal grill--and just in time to keep us from having to light candles. Just another day in Africa!

A Good Day

Definition of a good day in Africa: the water is flowing, the internet is working, and the electricity is on. As I write this at 5:37 on Wednesday morning, it's starting out to be a good day at the Gregersen house. We were without well water for several days, but the problem was finally solved yesterday and the water filled the lines last night. In the meantime we have been using drinking water we had stored in containers for emergencies. We have had lake water available through a separate system of taps, and we have used that for batheing and have boiled it to use for washing dishes.

The full internet system is still not on, but we reconnected to our old system and are using that for now. We opened it up to the Harding students for a few days, but that used up so much bandwidth that we had to shut it off again. The engineer for the new system (AfriConnect) was supposed to be here yesterday, but when David called, the engineer gave him a "Maybe today or tomorrow" kind of answer. The Harding students tried using the internet cafe in Kalomo on Saturday, but it was extremely slow and limited. We are now attempting to hook up a landline account at the Hamby House as a last resort.

Henry and Mary Ann Melton, our guests from Austin, have been great sports about all of this. They keep reassuring us that they have years of camping experience and can take a few inconveniences. Still, I imagine that their first real shower at our house will be welcome.

Write Stuff

Henry Melton from Austin, Texas, has been teaching writing to my English students. He has also held small group sessions to talk about writing for publication. These informal gatherings are held on our veranda in the evenings.

Henry's latest science fiction book Emperor Dad is available at

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Meltons

Once again we are blessed to have visitors from the US. Henry and Mary Ann Melton are long-time friends from Brentwood Oaks in Austin. They have already spent three weeks in Africa and are now spending a week with us at Namwianga. Veteran campers and travelers, Henry and Mary Ann have been adapting nicely to the inconveniences of our current situation (more on that later).

On Saturday, Henry and Mary Ann went with me to Siasompela for an area-wide meeting. Mary Ann and I had been invited to speak to the women. As the church leader told me, "We are asking four old women from each congregation to come. You will teach them, and then they will go home and teach the young women in their churches." So that's what we did. We took turns speaking for most of the day. We brought along four of the Harding young women, and they joined in by singing for the ladies. Henry listened in on the men's sessions during the day. We all enjoyed eating the nshima and chicken lunch that our hosts provided.

Sunday we headed for Kasibi to the congregation where Leonard Sichimwa is an elder. Mary Ann and I taught the children's class there. Most of the Harding students came along on this outreach and sang for the congregation after the morning service. Leonard is doing all the cooking for the Harding students, and we were touched when he stood up at the end and called them all his "sons and daughters."

Henry Melton is a science fiction writer and volunteered to teach while he is here. He is presenting lessons on writing to my English classes and is also leading small group sessions on writing for publication. Mary Ann will be going out to villages and teaching ladies' classes Wednesday through Friday. Yesterday she spent her morning with the toddlers at Eric's House. Like me, she has fallen in love with these little guys.

As always, we enjoy sharing our world with our visitors.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Update - September 12

I haven't posted anything lately because the new internet service that was installed last month has been down since Saturday. The engineer for the installation company came out on Monday and said there are some major problems to be repaired. He was supposed to come again on Tuesday but didn't make it. Maybe today . . .

The HIZ (Harding In Zambia) students are a joy to have here on our campus. We took most of them out on Friday night to a village Bible study at Mutala. After the lesson, the HIZ group sang several songs and did a wonderful job. David took a smaller group with him on Sunday for an outreach. They got the full initiation on bad roads, but also got to enjoy village chicken and nshima. Another small group went with the Oldenburgs back to Mutala for Sunday morning services.

The bicycle evangelists are attending a leadership training seminar here at the mission this week. Look for more news on that later.

The GBCC students began arriving this week to begin the third term, so we are back in the classroom.

Henry and Mary Ann Melton, friends from Brentwood Oaks in Austin, will arrive on Friday to spend a week with us at Namwianga. We're taking them to an area-wide meeting at Siasompela on Saturday where Mary Ann and I will teach women's classes.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

News and Notes - September 6, 2007

We have been incredibly busy the last two weeks. Today is the first day I have had a chance to really catch my breath.

Last week we spent three days in Lusaka getting the new Land Cruiser for the Church Development Program. As usual, there were complications and nothing happened exactly as it was supposed to, but we did get the vehicle.

On Saturday and Sunday we were busy with last minute preparations for the arrival of a group of Harding University students. Harding has opened its first African study abroad program right here at Namwianga. On Sunday 24 students arrived, ready for adventure (we hope). So far they have been a delightful group and we have enjoyed meeting and talking with them. Janice Bingham and Vann Rackley are here as their instructors, and Vann's wife Connie and their two children are also here.

They had a realistic introduction to life in Africa their first two days. They had trouble getting through customs and had to hire a clearing agent. Seven of their bags didn't make it to Livingstone. On Monday the internet was down and there were two lengthy power outages. Since there was no electricity, there was no water pumped into the shower house. Then on Monday evening the girls who are staying at the Hamby House were locked out because there was no key for the padlocked metal grill gate. We did eventually locate a key without too much trouble, and so far everyone seems to take the inconveniences in stride.

The daily schedule for the students starts with their first class at 6:30 in the morning. They finish their classes at 12:30 and then spend the afternoon in rotations at Eric's House, The Haven, Namwianga Rural Health Centre, or working with pupils at Namwianga Basic School.

One other blog-worthy event happened on Tuesday. David was driving our Toyota Raider to the Namwianga Clinic when a herd of cattle crossed the road in front of him. He waited for them to get by and then started to drive past. Just then two steers got into a fight. One of them pushed the other backwards toward the road and shoved his rump right into the left side of our vehicle. Their little scuffle snapped off the side mirror and left a nice dent in the fender. Just another day at Namwianga!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

On the Road

We were in Lusaka Wednesday through Friday to pick up this new Toyota Land Cruiser. It will be used by the Church Development Team for evangelistic outreach efforts.

This new set of wheels was badly needed. Thomas Siafwiyo, the head of the CDT, says that in the past he would notify the mechanics at the motor pool when he set off in the CDT's old, worn out Land Rover. He made sure they knew when to expect him back so that if he didn't arrive they would know he had had a breakdown and come looking for him.

This new vehicle will hold up to 13 people and can go anywhere in Zambia to spread the good news.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

News and Notes - August 25

Whew! It’s been quite a week. Ellie Hamby left to go back to the US on Tuesday. She left behind a wonderfully organized plan for the Harding University group that is due to arrive in early September. Unfortunately, there was no way for her to get it all done before she left, so I inherited the to-do list. It’s been a whirlwind of activity to get keys, locks, paint, outlets, and other details taken care of.

Robby Banda also left on Tuesday to spend the fall semester at ACU. Robby, a single dad, has three children and one nephew that he is responsible for. His two daughters are staying with Sheri Sears, and we are now substitute parents for Nathan, age 11, and John, age 18. It’s been a challenge—a fun one—to get back into parenting mode, and Nathan and John are easy to deal with. I just have to remember to keep tabs on them, feed them, and make sure they’re busy doing the right things. I think I can handle it!

Harding University is having a new internet system installed, and that took place this week. We had two engineers here working Tuesday and Wednesday to get the new system up and running. In fact, when the GLOW campers (see previous post) arrived for dinner Wednesday night, we still had some of the internet equipment on the veranda and the engineers working inside. Everything worked out fine, and the engineers even got to enjoy dinner when their work was done.

The good news is that now we have a much faster system with increased bandwidth. The bad news is that it won’t let me get to Blogger to post any more. I’m sure we’ll get that worked out next week, but in the meantime I am e-mailing everything to Sara for her to post from that side of the world.

Another good news/bad news event is that two of the Eric’s House toddlers we love are going home to live with family members. Cynthia and Adrian both spent a couple of nights with us while Sara was here, and we will miss them even though we are happy that they will now have a permanent home.

Visit from the Peace Corp

On Wednesday we had a delightful evening with a group of Peace Corps volunteers who were holding a leadership camp at Namwianga. GLOW Camp stands for Girls Leading Our World, and the purpose of the event is to encourage young women to develop their leadership skills. Each Peace Corps volunteer in Southern Province was invited to bring one outstanding girl from his/her village for three days of classes, group sessions, team building, and fun.

We were part of the fun element as we hosted the group of 11 volunteers (10 women and one brave guy) and 14 girls for dinner and a movie on our veranda. The Peace Corps workers were thrilled to enjoy American niceties like salad with Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, canned peas, and chocolate cake. In our conversations with them, we learned why this was such a treat.

Their regular routine in the villages is pretty rugged. They live in thatched huts, carry water in jerry cans from a well, and walk or ride bicycles for transport. Some live hours from the nearest town of any size at all. One woman told of having to have a new house built because her first site had so many snakes. Another described carrying water in a 20-liter can on her head from the well.

As you can imagine, the volunteers found their housing at Namwianga luxurious by comparison. The girls stayed in the school dorm, while the Peace Corps workers stayed in the guesthouses where they had hot water, flush toilets, and real beds.

The girls and the Peace Corps workers had a good time watching the movie “Rudy” after dinner, a fitting tie-in with their day’s discussion of short- and long-term goals. It was a joy to host this group, and we hope they will be back again.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Bridget Mayer visited us recently when she came to see two of her nieces here at Namwianga Christian Secondary School. Bridget, originally from a village near Livingstone, now lives in the US where she and her husband have a business selling African imports. In the photo she is displaying Kuba cloth, a beautiful textile woven from palm leaves and decorated with stitching, beads,and shells. The Mayers' company purchases the Kuba cloth from craftsmen in the Congo.

African wedding baskets are their other specialty. These are made in the Western Province of Zambia. Most of the weavers are refugees from Angola who brought their skill with them when they fled their war-torn homeland. There are now 1200 women in this remote area who support themselves by making baskets. Bridget described the journey that is required to find these workers. The final leg is a six-hour river ride in a dugout canoe!

Bridget still has many ties to southern Zambia. In addition to supporting her nieces and nephews, Bridget sponsors young people from her village who show academic promise. She reports that she currently has 13 who depend on her for their school fees.

The Toka website has a complete description of the African crafts the Mayers have in their line. The African wedding baskets are also sold at Pottery Barn.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Important Things

The Important Things

I will admit that there are days when I get really frustrated with life here. Those are the days when I long for organization, efficiency, and punctuality, the days when I dream of being able to accomplish tasks quickly and simply. I wistfully remember the procedures, schedules, and checklists that ruled my former life in America.

And then I go out into the bush and God helps me see what really matters.

Last weekend we were invited to speak at a leadership training seminar in Mabuyu. While David and the men met inside the church building, the women and I gathered in a grass enclosure in a cornfield behind the building. The women sat on mats made of mealie meal sacks sewn together. In true Zambian fashion, they sat with their legs straight out in front of them, their backs erect. At first I was determined to join them in this, and I lasted through the first hour before excruciating pain convinced me to accept the offer of a chair.

Laura Oldenburg was also a speaker on Friday, and the two of us took turns addressing the ladies on topics related to leadership. I used the story of Nehemiah for my lessons, discussing ways that Nehemiah modeled the characteristics of a good leader. The ladies were quite interested in the story, and most seemed to be hearing it for the first time.

I love teaching Zambian women because they are not shy about expressing their reactions to the lesson. When I described how the enemies of Nehemiah opposed him, there were murmurs of shock and disbelief. Later one of the older women spoke up, “This is the same thing we face here! Nehemiah had enemies who tried to stop his work, and we have enemies who are trying to stop the work of our churches!” There were vigorous nods all around. They listened intently as we discussed ways to deal with challenges and difficulties.

On Saturday I returned to continue the program and taught all morning. The leader told me that they would eat lunch at 12:30, so I stopped then and we made our way to the cooking area where goat meat and nshima were being prepared over open fires. We stood there awhile as the women visited in Tonga. A few minutes later, my translator came to me. “The nshima is not ready. The women are saying that they do not want to stand around here. We want to hear more of your lessons. Come teach us. We will eat later.” And that’s exactly what we did. We sat down again in the grass enclosure and studied more of the Word of God. It was 2:00 before we finally ate.

Times like these remind me that there are many things that are more important than organization, efficiency, and schedules. Zambian women who would rather study the Bible than visit or eat know what is really important.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Toddlers at Eric's House

Meagan Hawley's parents, Sally and Dave, have been visiting at Namwianga, along with their friends Gary and Kathi Lawrence. They brought new outfits for all the toddlers at Eric's House. Monday afternoon all the kids put on their new clothes and posed (sort of) for this photo.

Bernard and Brandon

Bernard (top) and Brandon are two of the Eric's House gang that we have grown fond of.

A Lap Full of Love

Since Sara went home I haven't had as much contact with the toddlers at Eric's House. This afternoon I grabbed my camera and headed up there to see how the kids are doing.

I arrived as the little ones were getting dressed after bath time. I stepped into the changing room and immediately had little arms reaching up to me. I plopped down on the floor and filled my lap with Brandon, Bernard, Carol, Adrian, and Glory. A few minutes later Itone, one of my co-teachers at the college, dropped by. As he came in and saw me, he exclaimed, "Ah, you are rich!"

Yes, with a lap full of precious little ones, I am rich.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bicycle Evangelists

(David wrote this blog entry)
It’s the first of the month as I write this. I know what to expect this week. Men on bicycles will ride up to our house. They’ll come up on veranda bearing papers. Those papers will tell of churches planted, people baptized, and brethren restored. The papers will also list brothers and sisters in need of Bibles, songbooks, wheelchairs, crutches, food, and clothing. Those hand-written reports chronicle the work of dedicated bicycle evangelists working on the edges of the Kingdom in some of the most remote places in Zambia. It is the power of the gospel that takes them there. Their reports testify to the gospel’s enduring power to save and change lives.

Before these ten men had bicycles, they were walking distances of 10 to 20 kilometers (6 to 12 miles) from their homes to evangelize and plant churches in Southern Province. None of these men asked for bicycles. When we heard about their zeal and love for spreading the Good News, we decided to see what more they could do when equipped with bicycles. Church Development Team members Thomas Siafwiyo, Rogers Namuswa, Patson Siyula, and I invited them to come to Namwianga. We commended them for their work, and then each was presented with a new bicycle and commissioned to go even farther into the bush with the Good News. These evangelists are asked to proclaim the word, plant churches, baptize, teach, encourage, and give a written report each month.

We are on the lookout for more men who have established reputations for evangelizing and planting churches. More are out there waiting to be discovered. Whether walking or pedaling, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news" (Romans 10:15).

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Hostel Environment?

Here's how our guest room usually looks.

And here is how the guest room looked when eight guys were staying in it during the medical mission.

Now that everyone has gone home, we are having to adjust to a calm and quiet house--at least until the next round of company arrives. The welcome mat is always out.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Numbers for Medical Mission

Here are the numbers for the 2007 medical mission.
Medical 10,325
Dental 1,957
Optometry 3,295
Total number of people treated in ZMM clinics 15,577
Baptisms 143

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Our first trip to Zambia was in 1999. We met Roy and Kathi Merritt then, and we heard about one of the new babies they had just taken in. Moses was a tiny, sick weakling who almost died during the time we were at Namwianga. A few months later we learned that Moses had been adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Hunter Siangandu. The Siangandus were undaunted by Moses' many health problems and were anxious to add him to their already large family of five birth children. Hunter traveled on his bike to Namwianga. Kathi gave him some last minute instructions about how to care for Moses' special needs, and then Hunter tied Moses into a chitenge on his back and cycled the 10 miles or so back to the village of Simpweze.

I visited Simpweze in 2001 and was delighted to find that Moses was thriving in the Siangandu family. This year I saw Moses again when he accompanied his parents to the annual Namwianga Lectureship. Now eight years old, Moses is happy, healthy, and enjoying primary school.

The Siangandus later adopted more children, including another boy named Moses. They also took in some orphaned nieces and nephews. The total count of children they have raised is somewhere around 15. Hunter teaches Bible at Simpweze Basic School and is one of the bicycle evangelists in his area. Humble workers like the Siangandus are making a difference in the lives of many--including little Moses.

Monday, August 06, 2007

More Photos from South Luangwa

The photo above shows just how close the lioness came to the vehicles during our game drive in South Luangwa. Our guide assured us that as long as we were in our vehicle we would not be considered prey.

This zebra colt seemed to pose for the camera.