Thursday, January 31, 2008

Update - January 31

We have had a group of Americans here since last Friday. Richard Prather, Ellie Hamby, Dr. Allen Neese, and Allen and Valerie England have been here before. Our first-timers are the England's daughter Sherry, Art Nine, and Curt Bucholz.

Sherry is an artist and is teaching art lessons at all levels. The students have loved these classes and are begging her for more. Art is a farmer from Oklahoma and has been advising the farm management team when he's not working with them on the muddy road. Curt is a pathologist from Alaska who is here to help Allen Neese with hospital issues.

Richard, Ellie, Allen Neese, and Curt made a quick trip to Lusaka with the Oldenburgs and three mission staff members to take care of some business matters. They left for Lusaka on Monday before we had two days of torrential rains. Their return Wednesday night turned into an adventure as the Oldenburgs' two-wheel drive pickup got stuck on the Namwianga Road. I'll condense a long, muddy story and tell you that the Oldenburgs managed to get their vehicle unstuck and took it back into Kalomo and parked it. Richard collected them in the four-wheel drive Land Cruiser, but even that vehicle couldn't make it through The Bog on way back to Namwianga. David, Allen England, and Art were waiting at The Bog with the farm tractor where they had just rescued an SUV that ended up almost on its side in the mire. The tractor pulled out the Land Cruiser and everyone got safely home eventually.

We're all hoping for sunshine today.

Wet and Wordless

I got out the thesaurus to find words to describe this week. The relentless rains have left us far beyond just wet--we are soaked, drenched, saturated, doused, dampened, and waterlogged!

As of yesterday we can add one more descriptor--marooned! The road from the Mission into town is now impassable except for hardy four-wheel drive vehicles driven by drivers who are either desperate or daredevils. One particularly bad section of the road is now named "The Bog." This miry stretch has claimed a variety of vehicles the past two days and has kept the farm tractor busy pulling cars, trucks, and trailers out of the sticky slop.

One of our American visitors, Art Nine, is a farmer from Gage, Oklahoma. He has been a wonderful asset, working tirelessly on the roads. He and the Namwianga farm crew tried grading some sections on Tuesday. Yesterday they concentrated on The Bog, filling low places with sandbags. Art's work and a few days of dry weather might get us linked up with the outside world again . . . but the forecast is more rain.

I think I'll need a bigger thesaurus.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Zambia in the News

Here are some of the latest news stories in Zambia.

Our missionary friends the Davises, the Boyds, and the Bruingtons all live at Mumena in Northwestern Province. ShopRite, the ONLY major grocery store in the entire province, burned to the ground the other day. The town’s only fire engine was not working, so fire trucks had to be called in from the Kansanshi copper mines. By the time they arrived, there was little that could be done to save the store. The link for the story on this is

We’ve had power outages several times in the last few days. That’s not that unusual for us at Namwianga, but the outages on Saturday night and Monday night affected the ENTIRE COUNTRY of Zambia. Frustration over the blackouts in the capital city of Lusaka led to rioting. See the story at

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Welcome Week

The college campus is buzzing with activity this week as the students return from their holiday break. We have a new program called Welcome Week in place this year to help greet and orient the new students. New students were placed in small groups with experienced student leaders who helped them find their way around the campus, learn procedures, and meet new people. The groups also were assigned campus projects to work together on and help develop relationships.

The Welcome Week student leaders planned a variety of activities. Every evening there was something special for students to do, including devotionals, movie nights, and Bible study. Two afternoons were devoted to sports. Drawings for prizes turned out to be the favorite activity of the week. I had a collection of items that had been donated, including backpacks, boxed pen sets, visors, and folders, plus a box of leftover cassettes from our recording project a couple of years ago. We held drawings for these prizes after chapel each day and after each evening activity. So far the feedback on Welcome Week from new and returning students has been overwhelmingly positive, with everyone agreeing that the 2008 school year is off to a good start!

Mpepo Update

Joe Mushika and Cosmos returned from Mpepo on Monday night.  They spent a week there teaching, training leaders, and interacting with the community.  Joe reported that the young man who was electrocuted (see earlier blog) is still in the hospital and not doing well.  Our late night rush to the hospital apparently created much good will in the community.  Joe said that when he introduced himself to residents, they would recognize his connection to Namwianga Mission and express their gratitude for our ambulance service for the injured person.  We're glad God was able to bring some good out of that unfortunate accident.  

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Shiwa Ngandu Legacy

Mark Harvey is the grandson of Stewart Gore-Brown, the eccentric gentleman who built Shiwa Ngandu, an English manor in the middle of the African Bush.

Mark owns and runs the Kapishya Hot Springs Lodge and Campground where we spent two nights on our recent trip up north. Mark is a gracious and knowledgeable host and went out of his way to make our stay a memorable experience. Since January is the off-season for tourism, we were the only guests at Kapishya on our second night. Mark and his wife Mel hosted us for dinner in the Lodge’s dining hall and entertained us with stories of their life in Zambia and their experiences in running Kapishya.

Mark and his two brothers and a sister all grew up living in the great house at Shiwa Ngandu. Mark’s mother, the daughter of Stewart Gore-Brown, and her husband Charles ran the estate until their mysterious murder in 1992. It was an unusual childhood in many ways, as Mark tells of constant visitors who came to see Shiwa Ngandu and to visit his grandfather. Kapishya, 18 kilometers down the road from Shiwa, was originally built as a weekend retreat so that the Harvey family could get away from all the activity at the manor.

Mark’s brother Charlie now lives at Shiwa and works in partnership with Mark. The farming and ranching operation at Shiwa provides most of the meat for Kapishya’s lodge. Both Mark and Charlie offer safari guide services in the nearby North Luangwa Game Park.

An entire community thrives in the area around Shiwa and Kapishya. A hospital and a school are just down the road from the main house. Fees paid by visitors to tour the house go directly to fund the school and hospital. Mark and Charlie also make sure that over 70 orphans are fed three meals a day at the school. Many of their employees are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of people who worked for Stewart Gore-Brown. A fascinating legacy continues.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Africa House - called Shiwa Ngandu

The dining room inside Shiwa Ngandu. The table is so large that it had to be built inside the room. Guests at the house still eat their meals here.

Sets of china that were used during the days of Stewart Gore-Brown. The china probably was carried overland from the coast in ox-carts.

A view of the lawn in front of The Africa House. The lake is in the background.

Shiwa Ngandu

Our harrowing night drive in the bush (see the previous story) was well worth the effort. We spent a delightful two nights camping at the Kapishya Hot Springs. We had chosen this place to stay so that we could visit nearby Shiwa Ngandu, a place described by The Magic of Zambia as “perhaps one of the most startling sights in the whole country of Zambia: a rambling English country manor overlooking a shimmering lake in the middle of the African Bush.”

Christina Lamb wrote a fascinating book about the house at Shiwa Ngandu and the eccentric English gentleman who poured his life into building it. David and I had read The Africa House and couldn’t wait to see the actual Shiwa Ngandu.

Stewart Gore-Brown was a young British colonial officer working on demarcating the border between Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo in 1914. His work led him to discover a place called Shiwa Ngandu, or Lake of the Royal Crocodiles. Gore-Brown bought the lake and the nearby land from the local chief and spent the rest of his life building and maintaining an English country manor and estate.

A rich aunt in England supplied much of the funding necessary to bring building material, furniture, household goods, and supplies into the remote area. The house was completed in 1932, and for many years Gore-Brown entertained guests in British grandeur.

After his death in 1967, his daughter and son-in-law struggled to maintain the estate. They also campaigned against poaching the nearby North Luangwa Game Park. It is suspected that their anti-poaching stance led to their mysterious murders in 1992.

The house was empty for a few years and quickly fell into disrepair. Now Charles, Gore-Brown’s grandson, and his wife Jo have restored the house and opened it to the public as an inn and also for guided tours. We spent a fascinating morning exploring the old house and hiking up a hill to view Gore-Brown’s grave and get spectacular view of the lake.

Charles and Jo live in the old house and have a prosperous farm operation raising cattle, sheep, and African game. Nearly 100 years later, they are maintaining Stewart Gore-Brown’s dream of an English estate in the middle of the gorgeous and untamed African bush. I'll post photos in a separate blog.

Monday, January 14, 2008

On to Kapishya

It was 5:30 on Sunday afternoon before we were able to get on the road from Mpepo. We had met with the church leaders, eaten at the Chief’s palace, and said our goodbyes to Joseph and Cosmas who were staying behind to work with the congregation for a few days. Now we wondered whether we should even leave. We had broken our “no driving at night” rule the night before to take the young man to the hospital in Mpika, and we didn’t want to do that again.

But Joseph assured us that the road to the Kapishya Hot Springs Campground was good, estimating that we could be there in 20 minutes. I multiplied that by three just to be safe and figured surely we could make it before dark. If not, we reasoned, we could always turn around and come back.

Twenty minutes down the road we came to the turnoff for Kapishya—a turnoff onto a one-lane dirt road. A turnoff with a sign and said Kapishya was 30 miles down this dirt road. I was getting a little nervous as the shadows lengthened and the air grew cooler. We headed down the road, with David promising, “If the road gets worse, we’ll turn around and go back.” The road continued to be relatively smooth for about 10 miles or so, and we were making pretty good time traveling through a totally deserted wooded area with absolutely no signs of human life other than an occasional hut every three miles or so.

By 6:30 it was getting dark fast, and we both realized we had come far enough that turning back was not a good option. About that time the road narrowed to a trail and we began to see that the recent rains had left their mark. David shifted into four-wheel drive and we slowed to a crawl. At two or three places the road had washed out completely. David had to get out and look it over carefully to decide if we could make it, but our invincible Toyota managed to get us through.

At 7:00 the sky was black and we were still miles from Kapishya. I was making lists of our options in my head. We had never been able to contact the campground by e-mail or phone, so we were just hoping that the place was even open. When we saw how absolutely deserted the area was, I had a panicky thought that maybe the place was closed for the season. We also faced the possibility that any minute we might come to a washed-out place in the road that would be too much even for our four-wheel drive pickup to maneuver. We decided that in either of those events we would just crawl in the back of the truck for the night and sort it all out in the morning. At any rate, I would have blog material and we could chalk up another adventure.

After two hours of seeing nothing but trees and road, the sight of a burning lightbulb seemed just as welcome as an oasis in the desert. We spotted the sign for Kapishya Hot Springs Lodge and drove through the gate to find a parking lot filled with safari vehicles around a gorgeous thatched roof building illumined by electric lights. I don’t know when I have felt more relieved. I stifled the urge to hug the night watchman in sheer gratitude that I was alive and out of the dark wilderness where we had spent two nail-biting hours!

We made arrangements in the lodge for our campsite and headed back into the inky night to set up camp. We were, as you might guess, the ONLY people in the campground, but we had flush toilets and hot showers, and after having been resigned to the idea of parking our vehicle by the roadside in the bush, this seemed pretty luxurious. For the second night in a row we set up our tent on the back of the truck by the light of a flashlight—shaving minutes off our previous time--and crawled into our sleeping bags. Lulled by the sound of rushing river water, croaking frogs, and squeaking fruit bats, we slept soundly.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

More Adventures at Mpeepo

Sunday morning we were awake at daybreak and discovered that the windows in our camper tent offer no privacy. I tentatively sat up in my sleeping bag and looked out on four pairs of eyes. Our host family’s children were sitting in front of their house (about six feet from our truck) and watching us intently.

We had agreed to go meet the Chief of the area at 7:00 that morning. As we headed toward his home (called a palace), we were escorted by his guard and told what to do. As soon as the Chief emerged from his house, we performed the traditional greeting by getting on our knees and clapping. The Chief and his wife then offered us seats and greeted us warmly. The Chief expressed his appreciation for the late-night hospital run. Apparently if we had not been available, the Chief would have been the one to arrange transportation, and it would have been Sunday morning at the earliest before any action could have been taken. Moses, the local church leader who accompanied us, invited the Chief to attend the church’s worship service that morning, and the Chief agreed.

The Chief and his wife

The Sunday service was held in the local school building about a mile from our host campground. The regular attendance at the congregation runs around 16 or so, but since the word was out about our visit, several local community leaders and visitors came and swelled the attendance to near 40. After the singing and David’s sermon, Moses provided detailed introductions of every visitor. Then we headed down to the river (another mile walk) for seven baptisms.

David met with the men of the congregation that afternoon, finally arriving back at our vehicle around 3:30. The Chief had requested that we come back to visit him, so off we went again to his palace. This time, since we were already good friends, we got to skip the kneeling and clapping. The Chief informed us that he wanted to serve us dinner and that we would walk around his farm while it was being prepared.

We spent a delightful hour with the Chief as we walked through his fields of maize and soybeans and saw the artesian well that provides clean water for most of the village. I have still not figured out the intricacies of the role of chiefs in Zambia, but each area has a chief who in involved in settling disputes. Chief Mpeepo told us that he holds court every Friday and judges matters like marriage problems, land disputes, and conflicts between his subjects. The punishment he assigns usually involves some sort of manual labor in the farm fields or construction of buildings for the Chief.

Dinner—our first meal since tea and buns at breakfast--was finally served at 5:00. The Chief insisted that David sit in his chair for the meal, but the Chief himself did not eat with us. We enjoyed the traditional Zambian meal of chicken, nshima, and cabbage served by the Chief’s delightful wife.

We had taken some photos of the Chief that morning, and he requested that we take some more, which we were happy to do. The Chief invited us to come back, even offering to give us land if we would move into his chiefdom!

We finally said our goodbyes and headed back to our campsite to get on the road before dark.

To be continued

The congregation at Mpeepo

Home Sweet Home

Our tent fits over the back of the pickup with the tailgate down. We can set it up in less than 15 minutes--even at 1 a.m. in pitch blackness, as we discovered last weekend in Mpeepo.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Another Adventure

We set off early Friday morning to visit a struggling congregation at Mpeepo in northern Zambia. Two Zambian co-workers, Joseph and Cosmos, traveled with us, planning to stay a few extra days to do some leadership training with the church members.

We spent Friday night at a lodge on the way and arrived at Mpeepo Saturday afternoon. A local church member offered his yard for our camping spot, so we set up a tent for Joseph and Cosmos and then set up our "tent" for the night on the back of our Toyota. At about 7:30 that evening we were sitting outside with several of the men from the local congregation when we heard an explosion and saw a bright flash across the highway from where we were sitting. "Something hit the electric tower," our friend Moses said. David and some other men got their flashlights and headed out to investigate. (Even though we were 100 yards from the electric tower, there was no electricity in our host's house.)

It turns out that a 20-year-old young man high on the local variety of marijuana had decided to climb up the metal electric tower to steal a length of barb wire. He was about 10 feet up when he grabbed the wire and was electrocuted. The jolt tore open his left leg from the thigh to the calf, and the fall from the tower gave him a possible head injury. David warned the villagers not to move the victim, but eventually the man sat up and the villagers carried him to the nearby health clinic.

As it turns out, our vehicle was the only one in this community of 3,000 people. David volunteered to take the young man to the hospital as soon as the clinic officer had him stabilized. Since we would have to use the back of our pick-up, we hurriedly took down all our camping gear and stored it in Joseph's tent. At 9:00 the word came that he was ready to go. We wound our way over one-lane paths to the clinic--a large building in total darkness except for a candle burning in one office. The young man was carried out on a mattress and placed in the back of our pickup, along with his father who would be needed to care for him in the hospital. In the cab with us were Joseph and Douglas, a community member who knew the way and had the necessary paperwork to deliver to the hospital. At 9:30 we set off in the inky blackness of night on the road to Mpika.

We were breaking our rule about never driving at night in Zambia. Thankfully, the traffic was extremely light with none of the usual large trucks or wild animals on the road that make night driving a nail-biting, heart-pounding experience. Of course, that's easy for me to say since I slept most of the way, as did Joseph and Douglas. We pulled into Mpika at 11:00 and found the hospital. The patient and his father were unloaded, and we headed back for Mpeepo. I think David said we met a total of three cars on the hour and a half drive back to our campsite. We pulled in at 1 a.m. and then had to set up the camper tent again before collapsing into our sleeping bags.

To be continued . . .