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.  

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On to Mumena

Our first day of travel ended at Fringilla Lodge, a gorgeous inn and working farm just north of Lusaka. The dinner buffet was delicious and our lodging very comfortable.

The next morning we had an early breakfast and were about to get on the road when the bus had a SECOND flat tire. The students had already cleared out of their rooms, so they patiently lounged on the lawn as our driver Donald, with help from Ross, changed the tire.

The tire delayed us an hour at Fringilla and another hour in the next town where we had to shop for a new inner tube.

We had hoped to get to Mumena and get settled before dark, but that was not to be. We pulled in about 7:00 in the inky black of the African bush at night. The missionary families had chili and cornbread waiting for us. We feasted and then settled into our quarters. The students stayed in unfurnished dorm rooms, using sleeping bags on the concrete floors, while we sponsors had beds in the missionaries' houses. (Will it surprise you to know that the students LIKED roughing it? Some listed this as one of the highlights of their trip. They're amazing!)

Our Mumena adventures had just begun.

Making Friends

These ladies run a store that opens onto the parking lot where we had our impromptu picnic in Mazabuka. They saw the Namwianga logo on our vehicle and were proud to point out their connection to our community, telling us that they were in the first class of students to graduate from Kalomo High School in 1970.

We were glad to meet them and glad to find out that they had soft drinks for sale. We cleaned out their inventory of cold drinks before we moved on.

Mumena Trip - Day One

We got off to an early start on our first travel day. The students arrived EARLY for breakfast, loaded their luggage, and were on the bus and ready to go five minutes before our scheduled departure time. I was gloating to David as we headed toward the Land Cruiser we were going to drive behind the bus. "Well, you haven't left yet," he reminded me.

Sure enough, just then the carpenter dropped by to pick up his payment for a new bed. We couldn't find the keys to the house and were searching for those when Ross called from the bus saying that a passport had been left behind in the safe. He was coming back to get it, so we were to wait for him. About forty-five minutes later we had gotten into our house, paid the carpenter, gotten the passport, and Ross was with us as we set off. We were still quite sure that we would catch up with the bus quickly.

An hour later we were cruising along when I remembered that we hadn't packed the 25 sleeping bags that would be needed for our stay at Mumena! We turned around and headed back as we made frantic phone calls to try to find someone who could pick up the bags and meet us halfway. Roy and Kathi Merritt were just about to leave for Choma when we caught them, and they graciously agreed to help us out. They got the bags and started north as we drove south. We met them and did a quick side-of-the-road transfer and were off again--now about two hours behind schedule!

We called Janice Bingham and Sara Kathryn on the bus and told them what had happened. Since we had the food for lunch with us, we advised them to stop in Monze and get everyone some snacks to tide them over until we caught up.

They had traveled about an hour after their snack stop when the bus had a flat tire. We managed to find them in Mazabuka a little past 1:00. We broke out the sandwiches and chips as the students found places to sit in a parking lot under the tree and had our lunch together.

Through it all, the students had great attitudes--no whining and complaining from this group! The tire was repaired and we traveled on as some of us wondered what would happen next . . .

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Back from the Trip

We just got home a couple of hours ago after nine days on the road.  What an incredible group of college students!  They were wonderful travelers who made the trip a fantastic experience!  There will be many stories for blog fodder in days to come, but here are a few teasers:

I forgot the sleeping bags, so we had to turn around and go back for them the first morning.
The bus had two flat tires within the first 24 hours.

Our original bus developed a major problem on Sunday, so a Namwianga mechanic and the transportation director drove over 16 hours straight to bring us another bus for the return trip.  They then repaired the first bus and drove it back.

We all stayed remarkably healthy the entire trip.

We met some incredible American missionaries, sang with some great Zambian Christians,and  worshiped with some very enthusiastic Congolese refugees. 

We've been up close and personal with a vervet monkey, a 2-ton hippo, and a bunch of chimpanzees.   

Details and photos to come.  

Monday, October 05, 2009

HIZ Trip

We are making our last-minute preparations for the Harding trip. Here is our itinerary:

Wednesday, October 7 - leave at 7 a.m. and drive to Mapepe Bible College near Lusaka for a tour. Travel on that afternoon to Fringilla Guesthouse north of Lusaka for the night.

Thursday, October 8 - A LONG BUS RIDE from Fringilla to Mumena. We will be eating both breakfast and lunch on the bus with stops only when absolutely necessary. Our goal is to get to Mumena (near Solwezi) and get settled into the dorms before dark.

Friday, October 9 - At Mumena with Brian and Sondra Davis and their sons Bryson and Noah, Don and Rita Boyd, and Rick and Karen Love. Possible visit by Chief Mumena.

Saturday, October 10 - Visit to Maheba Refugee Camp and lunch with the congregation there.

Sunday, October 11 - Divide into small groups and visit newly planted churches in the Mumena area.

Monday, October 12 and Tuesday, October 13 - Drive to Chimfunshi Wildlife Refuge at Chingola for a two-day program of learning about chimpanzees and other animals.

Wednesday, October 14 - Drive to Fringilla

Thursday, October 15 - Visit Zambikes ministry in Lusaka; return to Namwianga.

Please pray for our safety and health on this long journey!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Jacarandas in Bloom

A highlight of October in Zambia is the marvelous beauty of the Jacaranda trees.  Their purple blossoms form towering arches over houses and roads, while the fallen petals create amethyst carpets on the dusty trails.  

The Jacaranda tree blooms at the end of the dry season.  Five months or so after the last rains of April, the Jacaranda broadcasts its vivid message of faith that new moisture will soon come.  

May God help us to have that same kind of faith:  a Jacaranda faith that grows and flowers in the dry seasons of trials and doubts, a faith that enables us to spread a vibrant message of hope even when showers of blessings are a distant memory.   

Hook 'em Horns!

Our daughter Sara brought these Texas Longhorn shirts for Jason and George.  The boys are proud to wear their "cow shirts" as they call them, and I couldn't resist getting a shot of all three of these Longhorn fans.  George can even make the "Hook 'em Horns" hand sign.

The boys have Aggie shirts that Sara brought for them, too, but don't expect David to be in that picture.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Packing Up

On Wednesday we are setting off on a trip to northern Zambia with the HIZ students.  We will visit Mapepe Bible College on the way and then spend three days at Mumena Outreach Center near Solwezi where our good friends Brian and Sondra Davis will be our hosts.   We are also scheduled for two days at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, and then we'll visit Zambikes ministry in Lusaka on our way back to Namwianga.  

This will be a nine-day trip, so there has been lots of planning and preparation to get ready.  This morning Harold (right) and I packed up the food we will need for the trip.  Harold and his father Leonard are the regular cooks for HIZ, and Harold is going on the trip to do the cooking for us at Mumena.