Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Singing at Kasikili

As I mentioned in our weekend update, I had an enjoyable session with the women at Kasikili on Saturday. One of the women was particularly enthusiastic leading the singing, as you will see in this video clip. The song’s meaning is something like this: “You are living in the darkness of sin. Jesus is the light. Go to the light to be saved.”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Weekend Update

Saturday David and I traveled with Rodgers Namuswa and Fortune Masiya to the village of Kasikili for an area-wide training seminar. Fortune and I taught the women how to teach children's classes using the Beginner's Bible, and David and Rodgers led sessions on the qualities of a Christian leader. We had over fifty women and nineteen men in attendance. It is always refreshing to get out into the villages to teach because the people are hungry to learn and so thankful for our lessons!

The women were quite animated and enthusiastic in the classes. We acted out the storm at sea, played a few games, and had a great time learning together. As we left they lined up in front of the building and sang a farewell song for us.

On Sunday David and I (with Jason along for the day) took the Amazing Brothers singing group on an outreach to the Twin Fountain congregation. These nine high school guys love to sing and love to share the word. They sang from the time they got in the Land Cruiser until we arrived at the church building. The congregation served us lunch after services, and then we loaded up to head home. They sang all the way home and were still singing as they got out of the vehicle at their dorms!

Seven of the guys are under the US sponsorship program, one is sponsored by Zambia Mission Fund Canada, and one is sponsored by another missionary. Without sponsorships, none of them would be able to go to school. What an encouragement to see such fine young men getting an education and learning how to lead.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Feeding the Hungry

It used to be easy to feed the hungry. In America, hungry people were nameless and faceless. They were somewhere else—certainly not in my neighborhood. I could feed them by dropping a can or two into a wooden box in the front hallway of the church. I could even feed the nameless, faceless hungry people in other countries with just the flourish of my signature at the bottom of a check.

Now it’s not easy. Now the hungry people are the faces that I see when I answer the knocks at my door. Now they are the names on my lists of who has come for help and who has been fed. Now they are hollow eyes and apologetic smiles. Now they are babies on the backs of their mothers, or toddlers hanging onto their mother’s skirts. And it’s not easy to feed them.

I confess that sometimes I want to close the door and cover my ears so I don’t hear the knocks, and I want to pretend that there are no hungry people at my door. And sometimes a voice in my head wants to scream, “Go away! I can’t feed every hungry person in Africa!” And when I hear those thoughts, I hear another voice, the voice of Jesus in Matthew 25 as he says, “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.”

So I open the door, and I try to see Jesus on each face. I feed the hungry. But it’s not easy any more.

One of the women who comes for food. She is in her seventies and is raising a houseful of orphaned grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bicycle Outreach

Abishine (left) and Justin are college students. They came by this morning to pick up bicycles so they could ride to the Mawaya congregation to teach and preach. They brought the bikes back this afternoon, along with a report on their time with the congregation. We hope these new Zambikes will get a lot of use by students like Abishine and Justin.

The People at My Door - Benito

This has been a tough week for me. The Zambian educational system requires every student in ninth grade to take an exit exam. Only those who pass the exam can go on to high school in grade ten. There are not many high schools, and students who pass the exam are assigned to a school. High school is not free, and students must come up with the money for tuition and boarding in order to be accepted at their assigned schools.

The results of the grade nine exams came out a week ago. Since then there has been a steady stream of hopeful students at my door asking for sponsorship. I have turned away all but a handful—the fortunate ones who turned in applications last fall and were already selected by the sponsorship committee. The rest will have to seek for help elsewhere. Every one I turn down tugs at my heart, for I know that it may mean the end of the student’s schooling. A friend recently watched me say no to a prospective student. She later told me, “You have the worst job in the world.”

But Benito reminded me to focus on the ones I can help. He arrived on Thursday from Simalundu, a village 60 miles away, deep in a remote part of the Zambian bush. Kelly Hamby once told me, “You can’t get any farther out in the bush than Simalundu.” Benito had been accepted for sponsorship, had his acceptance letter with him, and was now cleared to start classes.

I knew that Benito was an orphan being raised by an elderly grandmother, and I suspected that he didn’t have many possessions. I asked him if he was ready to move into the dormitory. He hesitated a minute and said, “I think I need to go home and get another blanket. I only brought one.”

“How will you get there?” I asked.

“The same way I came. I will walk.”

(Gulp! Sixty miles? In the bush?) “How long did it take you?”

“Two days. I stopped and slept in the bush on the way.”

“Benito, how about if I give you a blanket? Then you won’t have to go all the way home and back, and you can go ahead and start classes.”

“Okay, madam,” he said, obviously relieved.

I went in the house and got him a crocheted afghan my mother had made years ago. I couldn’t help but think how pleased she would be to know her handiwork was keeping Benito warm! I handed him the blanket and continued the questioning. “Benito, what else did you bring with you?”

He looked down and shyly said, “Well, I brought one other pair of trousers. I have this shirt I’m wearing, and I borrowed this sweater from my nephew.”

It took a minute for me to let this sink in. “Okay, Benito. Let me see what I can find.”

I dug through my drawers and boxes of donated items and managed to come up with two brand-new T-shirts, a school uniform, a new pair of socks, and some personal care items: toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, lotion, and laundry detergent. I also found him some notebooks and pens.

Benito’s smile made it all worthwhile. He took his two sacks of new possessions and set off for the dorm.

And I went in the house and thanked God that I have the privilege of helping a few of the Benitos in the world.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The People at My Door - Mary

Mary and her baby knocked at my door one Monday in January. With her were a teenage daughter and the daughter’s friend. They told me they had come from a village some distance away and were looking for piecework in exchange for food. We gave them about two hours’ worth of work in the yard and promised them three small bags of mealie meal.

Two hours later the three ladies had transformed the front yard and accomplished as much as we usually expect from a full day of work. We fed them lunch, gave them their bags of mealie meal, and thanked them for doing a great job.

The next morning they were back. They had found an abandoned house to stay in for a few days. Mary asked to continue working for food, and the girls asked to work to earn money for school fees. We assigned Mary jobs close by in the back yard while the girls took slashers (blades with handles) and began cutting the four-feet tall grass in the empty lot behind our house. By day’s end the two girls had cut more grass than the three college guys who had worked the previous day!

They continued with us for the rest of the week. Mary and the baby stayed in the yard, where Mary weeded and edged every flower bed. Her baby played happily on the driveway or stayed tucked into the chitenge on Mary’s back. I never heard him cry or fuss. The girls slashed grass and did other chores, always working hard and often singing as they labored.

On Friday Mary and the girls were ready to go. School had already started back in their village, and they needed to go home. We paid them generously with bags of mealie meal and cash for school fees. They were delighted as they set off on foot.

Our yard looks better than it ever has, thanks to Mary’s work. As I walk through the grass and enjoy the flowers I often wonder about Mary. I hope she has enough to eat and that the girls are doing well in school. I expect them to be back when the school term ends--and there will be another knock at my door.

Our house after Mary's work

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hanging with the Chickens

Jason spent Sunday afternoon with us. Part of our usual routine when he's here is to go visit the chickens. He tucked his little hand in mine and we strolled through the back yard to the pen. We checked their food and water supply and watched them for a minute or two.

Then I caught sight of chicken feet--in the air! One of the hens was swinging from the nesting boxes by her foot! The plastic grain sack that the chickens use for nesting material had frayed into long strings. One of the strings had looped around the hen's leg and caught her when she jumped down from her perch. There she hung, swinging gently back and forth two feet from the ground, eyes wide with terror.

Jason and I bolted for the house yelling for David. I grabbed a pair of scissors and ran back to the pen. David arrived in time to hold Jason while I climbed inside to help the frightened fowl. She didn't fight me too much as I gently lifted her up and snipped the offending string off her leg.

The now freed hen limped around on her weakened leg. I guess she hadn't been hanging too long, because she was walking normally in just a few minutes.

The rest of the chickens in the pen were gathered on the opposite side of the pen, far away from their hung-up friend. These usually busy-body biddies had totally ignored her plight. She would have been dead in a few hours, but they seemed not to notice or care.

Hmm. Made me think about how we ignore our fellow Christians who get hung up in sin. I for one would prefer to move to the other side of the pen and pretend nothing is wrong when I see the danger signals that something is not quite right about a given situation. It's easier to look the other way than to confront the problem and risk the anger of the one we need to help. And the consequences of staying away just might be worse than those that were about to befall my feathered friend.

I've learned another lesson from my chickens. I think I'll remember that swinging hen the next time I'm tempted to ignore someone who's heading into trouble. I hope I'll have the courage to step in and help.

Back on her feet after a close call

Daily Routines

Brian Davis from Mumena Mission in northwestern Zambia shared this story with us and I thought you would enjoy it as well. Just another day in Africa . . .

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow missionary asked me, “So do you have a daily routine?” As I have pondered that question, yesterday seemed to stick out as a good example of my routine:
After sitting down at my desk in the morning to prepare some Bible lessons to be taught in April, my gardener burst into my office all out of breath. He said his mother was giving birth at the local clinic but had run into difficulties. Now they urgently needed transport to the hospital in Solwezi town, 60 kilometers away. I grabbed the keys to my truck and off we sped. After loading his mother into the back of the pick-up, we departed for Solwezi at full speed. Half way to Solwezi, we ran into a torrential downpour; I slipped the Three Tenors into the CD player to steel my nerves. Upon arrival at the hospital, I backed the truck up to the front door of the main building only to find out as we opened the tailgate that the baby was tired of waiting and on its way. The doctor and nurses just jumped into the back of my truck, and moments later, a little baby was born to the moving tones of Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma.

"…I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.”
Genesis 3:16 NIV

Being in labor for 45 minutes at 120 kilometers per hour in the back of a Toyota 4x4 brings new meaning to this verse for me. I asked my gardener what they were going to name the child. He replied, “Toyota Rain”.

A daily routine? I don’t think so.
Brian, Sondra, Noah, and Bryson

Pictured: One of the many precious babies born here under difficult circumstances.