Saturday, January 31, 2009

The People at My Door - Gilbert

Gilbert knocked at my door recently--to show me his report card! At somewhere on the other side of 40, Gilbert took advantage of a new law in Zambia that removed all age restrictions on school attendance. He is now in the ninth grade at a school in a remote village, making all A's and B's. In fact, his report card noted that he is #1 in his class. You go, Gilbert!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The People at My Door

We have a constant stream of people at our door, so I'm going to feature a few of them in blog entries.

Daniel has been a frequent visitor for the past year. He is partially blind and lives with his mother some distance away. He had been seeking help for his eye condition, and we were working with his local congregation to get the funds for an evaluation. When he finally was seen at a special clinic, the doctor said there was nothing more that could be done for Daniel's sight.

Then Daniel asked for help to go to school. He had stayed home in 2008 because he didn't have the money to continue at the special school for the blind run by the Lions Club in northern Zambia. About that time a family in Austin sent us some funds to be used as needed. I managed to contact the school and arrange for Daniel to re-enroll. He had to have school shoes and funds for the two-day train ride to Ndola in addition to the school fees, so I arranged all that.

The day came for Daniel to leave on the evening train. He would be traveling alone for two days and two nights, so there was obvious danger that his money might get stolen. Some of my Zambian friends gathered on the veranda as we debated the best way to safeguard his funds. One who had survived a robbery on the train thought he should keep the money in his socks. Daniel was afraid it would fall out. The zipper on the back pocket of his jeans didn't work, so that was out. We finally decided that he would keep out only what he needed on the train, and the rest went into an envelope that we safety-pinned into his front jeans pocket.

We said a prayer for Daniel and sent him on his way. If he was fearful, he never showed it as he headed off on foot for the train station in Kalomo. I'll see him again in April when there's another knock at the door.


I plopped Jason on top of these pumpkins so you could see how huge they are! This pile by our front door is causing quite a stir around the mission. The Zambians have never seen anything like these pumpkins, and certainly have never seen any this huge. We got the seeds from the United States, but the package is long gone so we're not sure what variety they are. They were bright yellow before they began to ripen, and since we picked them they have continued to turn deeper shades of orange. Our Zambian friends say that it's too bad the agricultural show is in August--they are sure these beauties would win first prize in the pumpkin category!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Starting School

Laiford Muleya (left) is the uncle to young Current, seen here in the wheelchair. Way back in 2006, Laiford and Current met up with Sheryl Ramsey on the medical mission. Sheryl wanted to help Current get started in school and enlisted my help after she returned to the US. Thus began a long, complicated journey through the fledgling special education program in Zambia. Laiford, the official guardian for Current, lives hours away from Namwianga in a remote village. He has no cell phone, and even if he did, there is no cell signal in his area. Every time he needed to communicate with me, he had to come to Namwianga on one of the public transport trucks that go to his village only three times a week. He would have to find a place to stay in town and walk the four miles to my house. He did this several times carrying Current before we were able to get the boy a wheelchair.

After investigating several possible schools, we located one in Monze that agreed to take Current in 2007. Laiford and Current arrived, only to find that the headmaster had over-enrolled the class and there was no place for Current. The headmaster guaranteed a spot in January of 2008.

January of 2008 came and went, and there was no word from Laiford. I had no way of contacting him and had no idea what had happened. In September, he came again. He had been sick in January, he said. He brought with him some phone numbers for officials in Lusaka who had agreed to help Current. To help ease the communication difficulties, I gave him money to buy phone time and sent word to a mutual friend in Nyawa, a town closer to Laiford's village. I asked the friend to let Laiford use his phone as needed to keep in touch with me.

I made calls to Lusaka and got no response. I called every special education contact I had and found no program for Current. Laiford came again, and I sent him to check at another special education school in Choma. That school referred him to Maamba, a mining town about four hours away. Laiford and Current made the trip to Maamba and Current was accepted to start school in January.

Last weekend Laiford and Current came by to see us on their way to school. Current is now 12 years old and beginning first grade. He will be in a boarding facility and will have a personal caregiver to help him bathe, dress, and eat.

In some ways, the saga of Current has ended now that he is in school. In another way, it is just beginning. Laiford worries because Current has never been away from him before. He will have no way to communicate with him until the term ends in April. The story will go on, and we pray for a happy ending.

Welcome Week

The school year starts in January here, and the college opened this week. Last weekend the Welcome Week committee arrived on campus to prepare for the new students. I hosted a dinner for the 25 student committee members last Saturday night. It was another near disaster because, once again, the power was out for most of the afternoon as I was trying to prepare the meal. This time, however, the problem was only at our house. I took the rice over to Sheri Sears’s house for her to cook there, and David grilled the chicken outdoors, so we weren’t in too much trouble.

We did have to call in the electricians to fix the problem, though. The two guys arrived just before 6:00 and announced that they needed a ladder, and the ladder was missing from the maintenance department. David was busy cooking the chicken, so I loaded the electricians in our vehicle and we went on a ladder hunt. We traced it to the compound at Wasawange, about a mile from our house. There is no official road into the part of Wasawange where they thought the ladder was, so I carefully threaded the truck through the 4-foot tall grass on a foot path to get as close as I could. The electricians walked the rest of the way.

They came carrying a 20-foot ladder and we headed back to our house with the ladder sticking out the back of the pickup. It was now almost 6:30—the time the dinner was supposed to start—and the sky was turning black with storm clouds. I hurried around finishing up the meal as the electricians climbed the electric pole near the house. Most of the students had arrived when the storm hit. The thunder rolled, lightning flashed, and torrents of rain hit the veranda as we served the meal. The electricians managed to avoid the lightning, and before we finished eating, the power was back on.

Welcome Week turned out to be a success. The committee members formed teams and met the new students as they arrived to show them to their dorms. The teams worked on campus projects with the new students and offered informal orientation to campus life. We had special evening activities, including devotionals, Bible study, two movie nights, and a showcase for singing groups. One of the highlights for the students was the prize giveaway. I had collected an assortment of T-shirts, ball caps, stationery, chewing gum, and other assorted goodies to give away. We held drawings every morning after chapel and every evening at the group activity to give the items away. The students loved this and begged for more!

The photo above shows the Welcome Week Committee at their dinner last week. They loved having blue caps so that they could be easily identified as committee members.

Update - 25 January, 2009

I apologize for not posting lately. We've been incredibly busy!

We had a visit from American superintendent Richard Prather and Zambian board member James Crowder January 15 - 22. They may have set a record for the number of meetings conducted in one week, but we enjoyed spending time with them in between meetings.

The secondary school opened on January 12. We've been welcoming back our sponsored high school students and helping them get settled back into school routines. Every time I ask, "What did you do during the holidays?" I get the same reply: "Plowing!" December is the time for plowing and planting the maize crops. Even city dwellers get in on this activity as they are sent to the rural areas to work on the farms for their aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins.

The college opened on January 19--a week later than the originally scheduled date. The new women's dormitory wasn't quite ready, and there was no place to put the women, so at the last minute the decision was made to push opening back a week. A few students didn't get the message in time and arrived a week early. They didn't seem to mind having a few days of relief from plowing!

The opening of school means that many families are scrambling for money to pay school fees and buy uniforms. We've had a constant stream of knocks on the door from people wanting to do piecework. We have employed all we can manage, and as a result our lawn looks the best it ever has! We've also used workers to slash the tall grass in areas around our house and the dorms to get the campus looking nice for the start of school.

I was glad when we finally started having classes this week. I'm teaching educational psychology this term in addition to my English classes--a welcome challenge and change for me.

I'll post some other news in separate blog entries.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It Makes Perfect Sense--In Africa

Just had to share this story from our fellow missionary Brian Davis who works in northwestern Zambia:

On New Year’s day, our team planned to go to a local hotel and share a meal together while the kids swam. Dropping by the bank to get some cash for the restaurant, I was rudely confronted with a slip from the teller machine telling me that our account was K25,054,847 in debt. Having a negative balance of that size was shock enough, but what of all of the ministry and personal funds that were now missing?
After an un-enjoyable meal and a sleepless night, Sondra and I arrived at the bank at the opening hour. After seeing the negative balance on the slip, the bank manager smiled and said, “Yes, Mr. Davis. It seems that your card has expired. A balance reading of – K25,054,847 is our little code that lets us know that you need a new card….” WELL SURE; WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT? After a couple of minutes, we left the bank with our new card and our old balance. No problem.

“…Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
Luke 12:25b-26 NIV

Good Question. I found out that by worrying, I can deduct an hour or two from my life!
Brian, Sondra, Noah, and Bryson

Pictured: Our communications satellite dish… that the company disconnected for the past week… because we OVERPAID our bill.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


This handsome little guy is Moses Siangandu. When we first visited Namwianga in 1999, Moses had just arrived at the Merritts as a very sickly orphaned baby. His health was so precarious that he almost died several times. Eventually he grew healthy enough to be placed for adoption. Hunter Siangandu, a teacher at Simpweze Basic School, and his wife decided to add Moses to their already large family. Hunter arrived on his bicycle to get baby Moses. He tied the baby onto his back with a chitenge (2 meter strip of brightly colored fabric), and off they went for the 30 kilometer trip to their home in the bush.

Now a charming ten-year-old, Moses is much loved by his older sister Loreen. Loreen recently graduated from GBCC and was given a teaching job in Western Province. She didn't want to go alone, so she took Moses along to live with her and keep her company.

The Siangandus won't be lonely back at home. Hunter and his wife have five birth children and have adopted several more--including two boys named Moses. They are also guardians for some of their nieces and nephews whose parents have died. Their two-bedroom house is often bursting at the seams with the 17 family members!

That's My Picture

The calendars featuring the children from the orphanages at Namwianga are gorgeous! Jason was with us for the day recently and found ours sitting on an end table. He recognized himself (he's in four of the photos) and his buddies, and he had a great time looking at the pictures and jabbering to me about them.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Off to Teach!

Communication and transportation are the two constant challenges we face in our work here.

Today was the day a group of just graduated George Benson College students were scheduled to head off to eastern Zambia for new teaching assignments. Shadreck Sibwaalu was in charge of getting them there, and he had reserved two of the Mission’s Land Cruisers for the journey. I took my camera and went to see them off early this morning.

Loreen was there waiting to leave. She didn’t want to be posted in strange territory alone, so she was taking along her nine-year old brother, one of her sisters, and the sister’s baby. Getrude, a single mother, had her two children plus a nephew with her.

Sam was there, Nicholas was waiting just up the road, Fikoloma would jump on in Livingstone, and Auditor was meeting the group in Zimba--with a wife and two kids. The passenger count was at 15, plus two drivers. The Land Cruisers will seat a total of 22, but that’s without any baggage. All these passengers were staying for three months, and their luggage included everything from mattresses to sacks of mealie meal to bags of charcoal--even a hobbled chicken was waiting to be loaded! There was no way it was all going to fit.

I ran home and got David to come offer his advice. We called Shadreck, who by now was headed north with another group. Shadreck suggested that they ditch one Land Cruiser and take the Coaster bus instead. One of the drivers agreed that might work, but informed us that the Coaster couldn’t get to a couple of the schools that were off the beaten path—four-wheel drive would be needed to reach those sites, and the Coaster would get stuck too easily.

David decided that the best solution would be for him to drive our vehicle which will comfortably hold five passengers in the front and lots of baggage in the back. He went home to pack his bag for the overnight trip while the drivers loaded up everyone else’s things inside and on top of the Land Cruisers. An hour or so later the group was ready to leave.

David called me later to tell me about another surprise. It seems Shadreck had agreed that another teacher could have a ride from the clinic, and of course the teacher had his wife and two kids along. As it turns out, Auditor’s wife and kids stayed at home, so there was room for the extras.

David had his group of teachers, relatives, and baggage delivered to their posts by early evening and made it back to Livingstone to spend the night.

Communication and transportation—always the challenges of living where we live and doing what we do!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Kasaka Outreach- January 4, 2009

Sunday was a day of surprises and encouragement! We weren’t scheduled for an outreach, so when our friend Andrew Sibwaalu called at 8:00 and asked us for a ride to the Kasaka village congregation, we were glad to go.

We had been at Kasaka in April of 2007 when the congregation was meeting under the trees and using logs for benches. Today we drove up and found a spacious, new brick building with a metal roof and brick benches (still not comfortable, but better than logs). There were less than 30 people in attendance when we gathered in 2007; today there were 79. We enjoyed our worship time with the group and then stayed around for some fellowship and snacks. Andrew and his family had worked all week to gather enough mangoes to share with the entire congregation.

The next surprise was finding five sponsored students in the congregation. Three of them are shown above. Fleming Kaango (left) graduated from GBCC in 2006 and is now part of the Westreach evangelism effort. He and two other GBCC grads teach at Sesheke High School and work with a new church that they planted in the town. Fleming reports that the new congregation in Sesheke has 30 members now. Wisborn Siatubebe (center) just graduated from Namwianga High School. He was the song leader for today’s worship service and did an outstanding job. Riffar Kaango is Fleming’s sister and a 2007 graduate of Namwianga High. Riffar recently attended one of the Sunday School training classes, and today she used her Beginner’s Bible to teach the 23 children in Bible class.

What an encouragement to see these Christian young people at work for the Lord, and to see a new congregation growing strong!

Friday, January 02, 2009

What's for Dinner?

Take a look at what's growing in our garden right now: zucchini, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, yellow squash, eggplant, and carrots. Not shown are the purple hull peas, pumpkins, and watermelons, plus 70 ears of corn already in the freezer. And we have a 10-foot sunflower plant towering over it all!

We have so much zucchini that I've had to get creative finding ways to cook it. For New Year's Eve we invited friends over for dinner and I made a zucchini pie that tastes just like an apple pie.

We are blessed with this bounty.

End of Year Newsletter

Here is our end-of-year newsletter that goes out to anyone interested. Regular readers have seen it all before. If you'd like to be on our e-mail list to receive periodic newsletters, send us a message at

Namwianga News
David and Linda Gregersen

Blessings and Challenges

As 2008 draws to a close, we reflect on a year of blessings and challenges. We were blessed by the addition of a wonderful daughter-in-law when our son John married Leah Vickers in June. We faced the challenge of my diagnosis of breast cancer in May and then were blessed abundantly during our extended stay in the U.S. as we had opportunities to enjoy time with friends, family, and our sponsoring congregation at Brentwood Oaks. I was again blessed with no side effects from the radiation treatments (in spite of the dire predictions of my oncologist).

In August just as I was finishing my six-weeks of radiation, David’s father was diagnosed with acute leukemia. We were blessed to be able to spend a few days in Arkansas with David’s parents before heading back to Africa on September 2. When Mr. Gregersen passed away on September 21, we were blessed to be able to return to Searcy and join family and loved ones in remembering a life well lived. It is a tribute to Mr. Gregersen’s legacy of faith that his sons, grandsons, and sons-in-law conducted the funeral service.

There were many challenges and blessings when we returned to Namwianga after five months away. Our friends and co-workers gave us a warm welcome, and then we set to work catching up on all the projects and activities that needed our attention.

Student Teachers

The college students who had been doing their teaching practice during the second term (May – August) returned to campus about the same time as we did. We gathered them together to hear about the blessings and challenges they had faced. Sponsored students are expected to do more than develop their teaching skills during their practice teaching; they are also expected to be active in planting a new congregation or encouraging an existing one. Some were sent to northern Zambia where their first challenge was to learn the Bemba language so that they could communicate with the local people. Other student teachers faced opposition from community members who thought they were Satanists. Most had to overcome logistical problems with housing and transportation. In spite of the difficulties, much good was accomplished. Three new churches were planted, and many more congregations and individuals were strengthened.

One effort involved a coordination of the sponsorship program and the Church Development Program (CDP). The head teacher of the school at Kasukwe is a graduate of George Benson Christian College. She contacted the Church Development Program and asked the leaders to send some teachers to plant a congregation at Kasukwe.

Two weeks before the term began, five of the evangelists who usually go out on bicycles were recruited to go to the village of Kasukwe. For the next two weeks these men went door-to-door making contacts and holding Bible studies. They also invited people to attend an evangelistic meeting. From their efforts, a new congregation began meeting in early May. As planned, the evangelists left just as three student teachers from George Benson Christian College arrived. The students spent the next three months at Kasukwe helping the new church to grow and become firmly established as they also did their student teaching practice. The head teacher of the school had nothing but praise for the student teachers. She reported that they performed well in the classroom, were models in their behavior and lifestyle, and were effective leaders in the congregation.


The school year in Zambia runs from January through early December, and the tradition is to hold graduation ceremonies in November. As in past years, I volunteered to be “Mom for the Day” for any secondary student who had no family members in attendance. This year my “son for the day” made me especially proud when he was given the Bible award in recognition of spiritual leadership. His gift was a bicycle, and he was encouraged to use it in spreading the gospel to surrounding villages. Many other sponsored students received awards for academics, leadership, and athletics.

The college graduation recognizes the students who finished their courses in 2007. The system requires a “gap year” in which the final diploma exams are graded. We were thrilled to see many of our students return to the campus with stories of their teaching experiences and evangelistic work.


Sunday outreaches continue to be a big part of both the secondary and college campus experience. Buses, trucks, and Land Cruisers full of enthusiastic students head off to surrounding villages every Sunday morning. The students preach, teach, and lead singing at the congregations they visit, giving the students valuable experience and giving local congregations fellowship and encouragement.

GBCC students continued the prison ministry that began in January. Regular visits by our students have resulted in over 20 prisoners accepting the Lord in baptism.

The bicycle evangelists keep the good news spreading into the far reaches of the bush. They gathered in September for a three-day training seminar conducted by the Church Development Team. We recently discovered ZamBikes, an aid organization that provides sturdy bicycles at a very reasonable cost. We have purchased several of these so that we can send out some new evangelists and also replace the bicycles that our current bicycle evangelists have worn out as they travel on the rough bush roads to teach and preach.

The Welcome Mat Is Always Out!

Phil Gardner from Peoria, Illinois, came to Zambia in August to help fill in for Don Oldenburg and for us while we were in the United States. He stayed on after we got back in September, and we enjoyed our time with him very much.

Brian and Sondra Davis and their sons Noah and Bryson visited us in September, along with Bart Bruington. The Davises and Bruingtons work with Mumena Mission in Solwezi. Besides having a great time with these good folks, they also did some work here. Brian and Sondra talked to the HIZ students about the life of a missionary family, and Bart offered advice on upcoming construction projects. As always, their visit was too short!

We had an enjoyable week in October with Dr. Dick Bedell of Project C.U.R.E. He stayed with us as he evaluated the needs of the clinic and arranged for a shipment of medical supplies.

We hosted seven Peace Corps Volunteers for Thanksgiving. These young women are near and dear to our hearts, and we loved pampering them during their stay. It doesn’t take much; we just gave them lots of home-cooked American food and access to soft beds, hot baths, and Internet.

Our holidays were brightened with a visit from new friends Jerry and Claudia Templer. The Templers moved to Lusaka in October. Jerry is a retired physician who is helping to train doctors at the University Teaching Hospital. Claudia, the daughter of long-time missionaries J.C. and Joyce Shewmaker, grew up at Namwianga and has connections to many of the families here.

Harding In Zambia

The second Harding In Zambia (HIZ) group arrived on campus September 4. The 21 Harding University students immediately became part of all facets of campus life. They joined sports teams, sang with the GBCC choirs, taught secondary and elementary school classes, worked at the Namwianga clinic, and took care of babies at the orphanage. On Sundays they were often out in the villages for outreaches. David and HIZ leader Shawn Daggett took a group for a weekend outreach in September, and another HIZ group was part of a church planting effort in October.

The HIZ students and their teachers were a great blessing to Namwianga and to us personally. We were sad to see them leave in November, but we are confident that many of them will be back, and all of them will have unforgettable memories of their time in Africa.

We look forward to another year of blessings and challenges in 2009.

The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Ps. 28:8