Monday, December 28, 2009

Nachowe Communion Tray

The Namachowe congregation has the most unique communion tray I have ever seen! It is a cardboard box covered with potato chip bags. The lid has holes cut out for individual communion cups. The top is edged with a ruffle made of candy wrappers. Practical and decorative--now that's what I call Zam-genuity!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Dinner

David cooked our Christmas chicken outside in a Dutch oven. Delicious! We also had corn, black-eyed peas, and strawberries, all from our garden. And the electricity stayed on all day so we were able to talk to our kids in the US.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Namwianga Christmas Day

I thought I'd post some scenes of our Christmas Day.

Backyard Greenery - Mango and banana trees

David on Christmas Morning

Copper Bushes in front of the house

The garden

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Namwianga Christmas Eve

David and I just came in from a moonlit stroll around the campus. The stars are incredible, and lightning provided a spectacular display far off in the distance. We couldn't be much farther away from a white Christmas--ours would have to be called a green Christmas. The rains have come at just the right times to make the landscape lush and verdant. Flowers are blooming everywhere, and our garden is approaching jungle status.

The campus is eerily quiet with very few people around. The students are long gone, and many of the teachers have gone to their farms to work or are traveling to visit relatives. We have been busy this week entertaining friends and enjoying a change from our usual schedules. We're planning a restful Christmas day with a few friends. If my Christmas wish comes true, we'll have electricity all day so we can contact our family members and cook dinner. If not, we'll be satisfied with the really important things: Peace on earth, good will to men.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Road to Namachowe

Sunday's outreach took us up the newly graded road north of Kalomo. The road work ended just 7 kilometers from our destination at Namachowe. The last part of the journey was on this rugged narrow lane through the hills.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day Lily

This gorgeous day lily was blooming in our garden this morning.

Going Postal

Zambia consistently has double digit inflation, so we have gotten used to steep price increases. But we were not prepared for the recent postage hike. For quite a while we had used the stamp on the right which sold for 1,500 kwacha, or about 35 cents, for mailing letters to places within Zambia. Starting this week we have to add another stamp (left) worth 1,000 kwacha to all our intra-Zambia letters, and now it costs 56 cents to mail a letter. To put that in another perspective, a day laborer in Kalomo makes around 7500 kwacha, or $1.66, per day. Yikes!

Update - 19 December, 2009

We have had electricity most of the time this week, with just a few outages that lasted less than three or four hours each. Kind of took some of the excitement out of cooking. I had grown used to having menus for Plan A if the power stayed on, Plan B if I had to cook outside and Plan C if the food started out on the electric stove and ended up on the propane burner when the power went off.

Last Sunday we went on an outreach with Rodgers Namuswa and six guys from the community. We dropped the guys off in pairs at three different congregations along the Kabanga Road, and then Rodgers went on with us to Kanchele. The main road was in great shape, but the side road to Kanchele had some huge waterholes to cross. We were again very thankful for 4-wheel drive in the Land Cruiser.

Tomorrow we’re doing the same type of outreach, taking local evangelists with us to drop off at congregations along the way, but this time we will be heading north of Kalomo and ending up at a village near the entrance Kafue Game Park, one of the largest game parks in Africa.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Power to the People?

What a power-challenged week this has been! The electricity has been off more than on. Seems that a transformer in Choma was struck by lightning. The new one has to come from far northern Zambia and won't be installed until next Tuesday or Wednesday. Until then, we are "load sharing" with Livingstone and all the communities in between. The past three days we have had power from midnight to 8 a.m. and then a couple of hours in the afternoon. I'm hoping my freezer full of food survives the off/on cycles and that I can get my Christmas music fix before the holidays are over. At least the students have all gone home for the holidays, so the lack of electricity isn't affecting their studies.

Read All About It

I found this chaotic scene in the college library last Monday. Our librarian's usually neat desk area looked like the aftermath of a tornado. The cause of this mess? A cobra! Someone spied the snake slithering into the reserve section behind the desk. The librarian and students pitched in to pull the shelves out and dispose of the unwelcome intruder. All in a day's work for a Zambian librarian.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Calendars for 2010

Once again my friend Mary Ann Melton has created a calendar featuring Zambia's children. The calendars are great gifts for anyone who has a love for Africa. All proceeds will go to the orphanages here at Namwianga. The cost is $20 for the calendar and $1.73 per calendar for mailing. You can order through PayPal online or by e-mailing Mary Ann from her web site. Here is the link to the blog post where you can see the calendar photos and place an order:

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Beautiful Sight

This worn out, falling apart Beginner’s Bible is a beautiful sight to me. I found it in the hands of a Bible teacher at Nazilongo last Sunday when we went there for an outreach. Nazilongo was one of the first congregations to receive a Beginner’s Bible at a training session way back in 2006. The women of Nazilongo immediately began using the book to teach their children in Sunday School classes, and they have worn out their copy. It’s not stained, torn, or water-damaged—it’s just falling apart from good use. I sent a brand new copy to Nazilongo this week, because I want to keep this one. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Happy Current Event

I was in a classroom giving an exam on Thursday when a messenger came to the door. “Someone is here to see you, Madam.” I stepped outside onto the veranda and saw a 12-year-old boy standing there on crutches. But this wasn’t just any 12-year-old; this was Current Hangoma--who was sitting in a wheelchair when I last saw him in January. This was Current who couldn’t walk when he was sent off to school. This was Current who was carried on his Uncle Laiford’s back or in his uncle’s arms for the first ten years of his life before we found him a wheelchair two years ago. And now Current stood there proudly outside my classroom, his uncle beaming by his side. I fought back tears, not quite believing the sight in front of me.

Laiford and I started searching for a school for Current way back in 2006. Last December we finally found a school, and I located a sponsor for him in the US. Now after a year at the special boarding school for children with disabilities, Current no longer needs the wheelchair and is able to get around on crutches. Laiford showed me that Current can even stand alone without the crutches for a few minutes.

Current’s report card reflects great progress in his verbal ability as well. He had a vocabulary of only a few words when he went off to school in January. Now he’s ready with a quick “Fine!” when you ask, “How are you?” He and Laiford can communicate with each other in Tonga, and Current’s English is also expanding. His big smile and Laiford’s obvious pride are pure joy to watch.

When I wrote about Current in January, I said I hoped for a happy ending. In a way, this is a happier ending than either Laiford or I had dared hope for. And yet, once again, this not just an ending; it is another beginning, the beginning of a life of new freedom for both Current and his uncle. A happy ending and a new beginning—I’m very grateful to be part of this story.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Peace Corps Volunteers

Kapree, Christa, and Brittany are three of the Peace Corps Volunteers who joined us for Thanksgiving dinner and stayed on through the weekend. We love hearing their stories of life in the villages, and they love my cooking. It is great fun to have them visit us.

Farewell Tea

Sheri Sears and I hosted a farewell tea for the graduating college ladies on Monday. We enjoyed hearing about their plans for the holidays and for next year. Several are part of the Westreach effort and will be heading to schools in remote areas of Western Province where they will work with newly planted congregations. At least three of the 26 ladies are planning weddings in the near future. Several who are married and have children are looking forward to being home again after three years of being apart from their families.

As always, the end of the school year is a bittersweet time for teachers. We are happy for these fine young women, but we will miss them.

Dedication of New Women's Dorm

Last week we held a dedication ceremony to officially open the new college women's dorm. The dorm was funded by Ross and Leota Davis of Austin, Texas, in memory of Joann Merriman Davis and Leon Clendenen. During the ceremony David shared the history of the Davis and Clendenen families and their desire to honor their loved ones by providing the dorm. The Zambian Board President Goliath Sikute and Mission Superintendent George Phiri expressed their appreciation to the donors. Shown above are the residents of the dorm in front of the decorated entrance. This blessing was given at the close of the dedication: May this building always be a place where students prepare to serve the Lord as teachers and Christians. May the conversations that take place in these rooms build up the women who live here and glorify the Lord. May the friendships that are formed here become bonds that will last through eternity. And may the memory of JoAnn Davis and Leon Clendenen live on in the service that spreads forth from this place.

Oklahoma Christian Alumni

At our Thanksgiving meal David had five fellow Oklahoma Christian University alumni. Kellsey Kelly works with high school girls at Namwianga Secondary, Betsy Watson is a nurse who takes care of the Haven babies, Meagan Hawley coordinates orphan care, Brittany Freitas is a Peace Corps volunteer, Jana Miller is a tutor for elementary children.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

It was what some might call a minor miracle--the electricity stayed on all day while we did our cooking and baking! I held my breath every time I put a dish into the oven, hoping that the power would stay on long enough to cook it. I breathed a sigh of relief when everything was hot and ready.

Our Thanksgiving guests began arriving at 6:00 just as the sun was going down. We were about to gather at the table when the seemingly inevitable happened-- the power went off. We ate our feast by candlelight. Just as we finished dessert, the power came back on at 8:50 p.m. David called it another TIA (This Is Africa) experience.

We ended up with 21 for dinner with an interesting mix of ages, stages, and cultures. We had five Peace Corps volunteers from our area plus American missionaries, Zambians, a Peruvian, and a South African family.

Once again we give thanks for the blessing of friends and fellowship in a foreign land. God is good all the time, and God is good everywhere.

Shown in top photo: Peace Corps Volunteers Krista, Britni, and Tim; Missionaries Sheri Sears and Rod Calder.
Below: David with Shepherd, Manuel, and Ruhttt Mbumwae, Jana Miller. Ruhtt is holding Haven baby Lennie--our youngest guest.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve, 2009

The pumpkin pie (made from those huge pumpkins we grew in our garden) is cooling and the pecan pie is about ready to come out of the oven. The can of cranberry sauce is ready, thanks to some thoughtful visitors who brought it from the US last year. I brought back some canned sweet potatoes and marshmallows from my trip, so we'll have that traditional dish as well. Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, and carrot salad are also on the menu. What we won't have is turkey. The electricity has gone off several times a day for the past two weeks, so there is little chance of having power long enough to cook a turkey. Instead, David is grilling chicken and Harold Sichimwa is frying some.

We are expecting at least six Peace Corps volunteers from our area to join us. Some we have met, but some will be new friends. Then we'll have a mixture of Americans, South Africans, and Zambians to round out our guest list.

My own children have friends and extended family to share the holidays with, and we are blessed to be substitute family for other young people who are far from home. We have much to be grateful for as we look forward to Thanksgiving Day. And we will be extremely thankful if the electricity stays on while we do rest of the cooking!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fuel Shortage

During the recent fuel shortage we saw this scene in Lusaka. As soon as the rare shipments of fuel arrived, lines of cars snaked down the major streets as people waited for their turns at the pumps.

Jason and George

Jason and George are showing off their new basketball uniforms and cool sunglasses that Sara sent for them.

Too Quiet

We enjoyed a visit from Harding University's president Dr. David Burks and his wife Leah last weekend. The Burks spent a busy three days at Namwianga seeing many facets of the Mission and the Harding in Zambia program.

On Tuesday morning the Harding In Zambia group left for a week of travel in Kenya and Uganda before they return to the United States. We have grown very close to this special group, and their leaving was a tearful time. The campus is now much quieter and our lives much emptier. We told them that we wanted them to leave with an Africa-shaped hole in their hearts, and I think we are left behind with a HIZ-shaped hole in our hearts.

Our house is especially quiet. Since late September the HIZ faculty sponsor Ross Cochran had lived with us. Then in late October Ross's wife Nita, their daughter Hannah, and David's niece Anna Britton had joined us. Anna and Hannah, both Harding Academy students, have been friends since childhood. We had a blessed time sharing our home with these dear, fun-loving and thoughtful people. We will treasure our memories of their stay with us.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Visit from David Burks, President of Harding University

This is a guest post from Roy Merritt, longtime missionary at Namwianga.

David Burks, President of Harding University, is visiting here in Zambia. He is spending time with his HIZ (Harding in Zambia) students, and also with some of the “local wildlife”.

Here he is bonding with Peter, one of our HIV positive babies.

David and Leah Burks with Peter.  David is the third Harding President to visit Namwianga Mission.

Harding and mission work in Zambia have links reaching back to Odessa Missouri and Harper Kansas, where Bensons, Sears, Shorts and Merritts all attended school and built friendships that stretched across oceans.

Today we moved 21 HIV positive and TB babies from Eleanor’s House to Marjorie’s House.  The Burks, Harding students and teachers came to share the moment and bless the new house.

Quietly presiding, teary-eyed, Cecelia Siafwiyo was sad/glad to see so many of “her” kids move out!

21 new residents of Marjorie’s House, and friends.

Obrien's Graduation

Obrien is an orphan we have sponsored ever since we arrived in Zambia. He recently graduated from Mwaata Day High School in Kalomo, and we were there to help him celebrate. High school graduations in Zambia are quite exciting events. There is no "Pomp and Circumstance" as they come down the aisle. Instead, they dance their way into the ceremony with some pretty elaborate footwork. Enjoy the video!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yikes! Snakes!

Shown above is Patrick, the night watchman for Meagan Hawley's house. While I was in the US, Patrick killed an eight-foot long black mamba--with his slingshot!!! He saw the snake up in a tree on his farm a few miles away from Namwianga. He brought the mamba--one of the deadliest snakes in the world--to Namwianga and David couldn't resist getting his picture made lying beside the snake carcass.
A few nights later, the night watchman at the Mann Guesthouse (two doors away from us) killed a puff adder, another very dangerous snake. We're thankful for these diligent guys who watch out for us!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Invasion of the Flying Ants

When I talked to David right after the storm on Saturday (see previous blog), I told him that I thought the flying ants would arrive that night. Sure enough, the invasion began at dusk.

The winged creatures come flying in huge formations that look like brown clouds. They are drawn to the light and will crawl into the house through every tiny opening they can find.

Many of our Zambian friends eat the ants. They cook them in a skillet--the ants make their own "oil" for frying--and I've heard they taste like popcorn. I'll take their word for it.

Storm Damage

A storm with straight-line winds roared through Namwianga on Saturday. The roofs were torn off the secondary girls dorm and one of the secondary classroom buildings. Several trees were uprooted or blown over. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The strangest thing is that the electricity stayed on through the entire storm. On a typical day the first drops of rain and hint of wind cause a blackout!

One section of the secondary girls dorm lost a roof
Roofing sheets from the girls dorm ended up in a nearby tree.
A section of secondary classrooms also lost a roof.
A fallen tree missed the buses by a few feet.

Update - 7 November

I'm blogging from Texas. I flew in last week to have some medical tests done. I had surgery on Wednesday--two biopsies-- and got the pathology report yesterday showing no signs of malignancy.

In between numerous appointments with a variety of doctors, I have had a great visit with family and friends. I am very thankful that I was able to come back here for the tests. We looked into the possibility of going to South Africa, but the timing wouldn't work for both of us to go, and it turned out to be about the same cost for me to travel by myself to Austin. I have been blessed by the prayers and support of so many here, and it was a great relief to be seen and advised by the same doctors who treated me last year.

This is a quick trip; I'm headed back to Zambia on Tuesday. I've missed lots of excitement at Namwianga, so I'll blog some of that as I have time.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Mumena Trip - Zambikes

Our last stop on the Mumena trip was a visit to Zambikes in Lusaka. Dustin McBride, one of the founders of this unique development project, showed us around and explained the history. Dustin and his friend Vaughn came to Zambia for a summer mission trip in 2004 when they were in college. They went back to Azusa Pacific University and dreamed up a project for their international business class. Their idea was to provide sturdy bicycles that would stand up to the rigors of the African bush and to provide jobs for Zambians who would build the bikes.

Lots of prayer and hard work produced Zambikes in 2007. The bicycle parts are shipped to Zambia where local workers assemble the bikes. We met the enthusiastic employees who proudly showed us around their workshop and introduced us to their newest product, the Zambulance. The Zambulance is a lightweight two-wheeled cart that can be pulled by a bicycle and used as an ambulance in rural areas too remote for cars and trucks. Some of the Harding students tried it out both as “patients” and drivers,

I had planned just a quick, one-hour tour at Zambikes, but Zambian hospitality overwhelmed us once again. The Zambikes staff invited us to stay for lunch and shared their nshima, beans, and cabbage with us. We closed our time by singing to them and listening as they sang to us. We reluctantly said goodbye to our new friends and headed back to Namwianga, and the end of our wonderful trip.
Sheralee rode as the patient in the Zambulance.
Daniel joined the Zambikes crew and learned to put bike wheels together.
Lunch with the Zambikes staff 

Friday, October 30, 2009

HIZ Group at Mumena

The HIZ group posed in front of the yellow bus at Mumena. The bus was broken down at this point, so right after this photo was taken the students boarded a rented bus and went on to Chimfunshi. This bus was repaired a couple of days later and managed the return trip with no problems.

Mumena Trip - Communication Detail

In the last blog about going to the soccer field for cell phone service, I left out a piece of information. Innocent, the Chimfunshi manager who escorted us to the soccer field, told us that during the rainy season from December through April the soccer field is under water. Innocent paddles a canoe to the field when he needs to make a phone call.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mumena Trip - Communication and Transportation

Transportation and communication are the constant challenges of life in Zambia. And on a trip with 30 people into an isolated and remote area of the country, those challenges become even more daunting.

During lunch at Mumena on Sunday, our driver Donald came to us saying that the bus would not start. He had been working on it for some time and knew he needed a mechanic. We consulted with Brian Davis and got some leads and phone numbers for diesel mechanics, and Donald made phone calls. At Mumena there was only one spot where our cell service would work. As Sondra Davis explained, “You have to go stand under that jacaranda tree over there.” So Donald did just that and tried to find a mechanic. No luck on this Sunday afternoon.

The next step was to rent a bus to get us three hours down the road to our next destination at Chimfunshi Wildlife Refuge on Monday morning. Donald made the arrangements, and the rented bus with its driver got us there in time for Monday lunch. Meanwhile Donald was in Solwezi trying to get a new starter for the bus and find someone to install it.

As soon as we arrived at Chimfunshi, I asked whether they had cell service. The answer was, “Well, yes and no.“ There was no service at the spot where we were staying (dorms at the education center), but there was service on the soccer field. Innocent, the director of the Chimfunshi program, invited us to jump in his pickup for the half-mile jaunt through the woods and past the workers’ compound. Sure enough, on the edge of the soccer field my cell phone came to life and we were connected with the world.

I called Godfrey Lemba at Namwianga and discussed Plan B—he and the head mechanic from the mission would drive the other big bus from Namwianga on Tuesday. They would drop the bus off at Chimfunshi and Donald would drive us on home. They would proceed on to Mumena and repair the broken down bus. But Mr. Lemba had a new complication—Zambia’s one refinery was shut down, and the news stations were reporting diesel outages around the country. He wasn’t sure they could get diesel for the trip, because the Kalomo station had none.

I told Innocent about the diesel issue. He knows people in towns up and down the main highway through Zambia, so he got on his cell phone and started making calls while I kept up conversations with Mr. Lemba about possible scenarios for getting enough diesel. Within a few minutes Innocent had called enough people to reassure us that at least for now there was diesel between Lusaka and Chimfunshi, and I had located enough diesel to get them to Lusaka.

Amazingly, the plan worked. Mr. Lemba and Buster, the mechanic, set off from Namwianga at 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Donald left from Chimfunshi at 7 a.m. and went by public bus into the nearest big city, Kitwe, and bought a starter for the bus. Mr. Lemba and Buster met him there late Tuesday afternoon and brought him on out to Chimfunshi. They arrived at 8:30 Tuesday night. Donald stayed with us while Mr. Lemba and Buster went on to Mumena. I tried to talk them into spending the night at Chimfunshi, but they were determined to get the job done as quickly as possible. Mr. Lemba’s words were: “We are men. We will do what we have to do!”

We left Chimfunshi on Wednesday morning in the working bus and continued our trip without interruption. Buster and Mr. Lemba had the other bus at Mumena working by 2:00 on Wednesday afternoon and started their homeward trip. They spent the night in Lusaka and actually made it back to the mission a few hours before we did on Thursday.

Transportation and communication—conquered once again.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mumena Trip - Sunday at Konkwa

On Sunday our students divided into three groups and visited some of the churches that were planted in the last three years. David and I traveled with Don and Rita Boyd and several students to Konkwa, about 2 kilometers from Mumena. I had been reading about Konkwa in Don and Rita’s monthly newsletters, as they planted this church and continue to work closely with its members.

Konkwa is in the forest; the building is surrounded by tall trees. On this Sunday we sat outside and enjoyed the beauty around us. The Konkwa choir presented several songs, David preached, and Derek Molina led the Lord’s supper. Some of the students taught the children’s classes. It was a delightful morning and another experience to remember from our time at Mumena.

Rita Boyd with one of her little friends at Konkwa
The Konkwa choir
Jordynne Case and Niki Hitt teaching the Konkwa children's class.
David preaching at Konkwa

Mumena Trip - Meheba Refugee Camp

On Saturday we drove to the Meheba Refugee Camp to worship with the Congolese congregation. Meheba is the largest refugee camp in the world in terms of size and was once the largest in population as well. The chaos in the Congo during the 60s sent refugees streaming across the nearby border and prompted the area’s chief to offer the land to the United Nations for the establishment of the camp. Later, refugees from Angola arrived, and during the war-torn years of that conflict the population of Meheba swelled to over 150,000.

Organizers attempted to form stable communities for the refugees, settling them together with people from their own country and area who shared the same language and similar customs. The UN provided housing materials, land, and seed for each family with the expectation that the family would be self-sufficient within two years. Clinics and schools provided health and education services, and the Meheba camp became home to a generation of children who were born there or cannot remember their homeland.

The Road 68 congregation of Congolese refugees was formed because Namwianga sent Leonard Mujala to work with the people in the camp. Leonard has a gift for languages and was able to communicate and teach effectively, planting new churches at several locations, including Road 68.

We spent a spirited four hours with the Congolese, who welcomed us warmly and led us in enthusiastic singing and praise. Ross Cochran and Derek Molina preached, as well as one of the Congolese church leaders.

The congregation fed us a wonderful lunch of goat, chicken, and rice. We were humbled when Brian Davis told us about the sacrifices that were made for that meal. Brian and Sondra drove to Meheba the Saturday before we came to make the final arrangements, but found none of the members at their homes. They investigated and found that the church members were all out hoeing fields to earn money to buy a goat and chickens for our lunch.

This truly was a love feast.

Monday, October 19, 2009


We spent three days with the missionary families at Mumena.  On Friday Brian Davis held some classes for us, explaining the theology and missiology behind the work they are doing.  The work at Mumena began only four years ago, and hearing about the initial efforts and struggles was very interesting.   Mumena was once a development project run by a Danish non-government organization.  After 15 years of unsuccessful attempts, the project was abandoned. The buildings stood empty for five years before the Hillcrest congregation in Abilene sent Brian and Sondra Davis, along with Sondra's parents Don and Rita Boyd, to start a new work there.  

Brian reported that their first task was to FIND the buildings in 12-foot tall grass.  Then renovations and repairs had to be done.  A team from Hillcrest spent the summer of 2006 camping out in tents as they worked on construction and other projects.  

Rick and Karen Love and their three children joined the Mumena team two years ago.  Rick and Karen are Harding grads (class of 2004), so they had an instant bond with the HIZ group.  We all enjoyed interacting with the Loves, Davises, Boyds, and Sullivans (a couple who had been at Mumena for a short-term work).   In fact, I gave out a survey after we returned and asked the students to rate their experiences on the trip.  The top-rated activity was "Interacting with the Mumena missionary families."  We were truly blessed by our time with them.