Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Visit with Mavis

A highlight of my trip to Zambia was re-connecting with some of my former students. Mavis Chibbunu Phiri and her husband Louis made a special trip from Choma to see me at Namwianga, and it was a great joy to hear about the latest events in her life—a life that earlier had been filled with challenges and difficulties.

Mavis lost her mother in 2005 during her first year of college. Then the next year her father became ill. In her last year of college, when Mavis was ready to do her student teaching, she found that her father had lost the family's house because he could not work and had no income. Mavis's four younger brothers had been sent to live with friends and relatives, and Mavis had no house to go home to. A friend of Mavis's mother invited Mavis to live with her in return for helping with child care, and Mavis did that in order to complete her student teaching.

Mavis finished her courses successfully and graduated from GBCC in 2008. She accepted a teaching position in Lusaka and found a place to live for herself and her two youngest brothers. She got them started in school again and got them the medical treatment they needed for health problems. Her father died the next year, and two of her brothers were still separated from the family and working on a farm in northern Zambia.

Last February, Mavis got married. She and her husband are both teaching in Choma and doing well in their jobs. All four of Mavis’s brothers are eligible to start tenth grade next year. Mavis and her husband plan to have the two younger brothers live with them and go to high school in Choma, and they are trying to find sponsorships for the other two brothers to attend Namwianga and be in the boarding school.

Mavis and I had a delightful conversation. It is obvious that she has a heart for teaching and for helping students. She and Louis are active in a local church congregation. Even though her life has been filled with problems, Mavis considers herself blessed to have an education, a husband, and a church family. She is confident that with God’s help her brothers can overcome their past difficulties and have a bright future.

As our visit ended and we had our final hugs, I shared the thoughts of 3 John verse 9: “I have no great joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Flat Tire

On the way home from the wedding the Land Cruiser had a flat tire. We had just picked up some college students who needed a ride, and one of them jumped in and helped change the flat. George and Jason supervised the work.

Jennifer's Wedding

Last Sunday (the 17th) was Jennifer Merritt's wedding. Jennifer is the adopted daughter of Roy and Kathi Merritt, and since George and Jason have grown up in the same house, she is also a sister to them. I volunteered to take George and Jason to the wedding, and we went with the Harding In Zambia group.

The wedding was an interesting blend of Zambian traditions and Western influence. Jennifer was lovely in her white dress.

Some of her attendants danced down the aisle in carefully rehearsed steps. Later at the reception there was more of their footwork.

I wasn't sure how much Jason and George were getting out of things, but they proudly announced, "I had fun at Jennifer's wedding!"

Harding in Zambia Blog

Shawn Daggett posts a blog with photos and news of the Harding In Zambia group. Here is the link if you are interested:;

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday at Gwangwazu

Rodgers Namuswa arranged for Shawn Daggett and me to do a leadership seminar at Gwangwazu on Saturday, October 16. It turned out to be quite a trip--over an hour on the Kabanga Road and then another hour jolting through the bush on bad roads and cow paths.

We arrived to find a large crowd already gathered under the trees, singing as they waited for us

. I took the ladies to the nearby church building for our sessions, and the men stayed outside. This turned out to be one of the the largest groups I ever taught in Zambia--over 120 women from 12 different congregations! I had warned Rodgers that I only had 7 Beginnners Bibles because that's all I could fit into my luggage. He passed on that information to the leaders who were organizing the seminar, but the bush grapevine spreads quickly, and additional congregations came without invitation. Now I have to figure out how to get additional books to Rodgers in Zambia, and Rodgers has to figure out how to get the books to the congregations in the bush. Zambians are patient people, and I trust it will all work out.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Back in the USA

I left Namwianga on Tuesday morning and arrived back in the USA on Wednesday. The trip home was uneventful in all the right ways. I had three seats to myself on the long 16-hour flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta, so I stretched out and slept several hours.

I left the heat and dust of Africa and came home to the cool autumn beauty of southwest Missouri. The trees are vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold now. Mornings are crisp and chilly, afternoons are warm and pleasant. I am a world away from my other home in Zambia.

I'll try to get caught up on the stories of my trip that didn't make it to the blog yet.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Cat

Some of our long-time readers may remember our cat Makua. When we left Zambia in April, we gave the cat to the Merritts. They took him to their house at Eureka, about a mile from the house where we had lived. Makua immediately went back home. They tried again, but as soon as Makua had a chance, he made a beeline for our then-empty house. They thought that surely if he just stayed a night or two with them, he would get used to his new situation, so they brought him back to Eureka again, and this time they put him in their bathroom for the night. The next morning--no Makua! He had torn a hole in the screen with his claws and escaped again. This time they gave up and let him go for good.

Webster, our security guard, is now employed by the Mission to watch over the area of the campus where our house sits. When we lived there, Makua always liked patrolling with Webster, and Webster is one of the few people who actually like our temperamental cat. Now he feeds Makua what he can manage, and I'm sure Makua gets a pretty good diet of mice and lizards as well.

Mexican Food

Dustin McBride (see earlier story on Zambikes) told us about his newest business venture: a Mexican restaurant in Lusaka! Half of the profits from the restaurant go to benefit a program called Teach To Fish. We couldn't pass up Mexican food in Zambia, especially when it helps a good cause. On our last night of the trip we enjoyed having dinner and relaxing in the beautiful outdoor courtyard of the Revolucion Restaurant.

On the Rocks

On the outskirts of Lusaka we passed an area where gravel is made and sold. It was sad to see old women and children sitting amid the piles using hammers to break the rocks into smaller pieces. The day was beastly hot, and I could only imagine how difficult their lives must be.

The woman and child managed to create a makeshift shelter to protect them from the sun. Many were not so fortunate.


The Zambikes crew served us a traditional lunch after our tour. Then we had some great fellowship with them as we sang for them and listened to their songs.


We stopped in Lusaka on our trip and visited the warehouse of Zambikes. Dustin McBride, one of the founders of the company, shared his story with our group. Dustin and a friend visited Zambia in 2004 while they were students at Azusa Pacific University. When they went back to college, they used their knowledge of Zambia and its needs to develop a business plan to fulfill an assignment for one of their classes. But their assignment didn't end with a grade at the end of the semester. They put their plan into action, and by 2007 their plan had become a reality with the creation of Zambikes.

Zambikes' aims are to provide jobs and training for Zambians and to produce a quality bicycle that can withstand the rigors of bush life. Recently they have begun making bamboo bike frames--shown in the background of this picture.

The HIZ students enjoyed hearing Dustin's story and seeing the good things that God is doing through Zambikes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

HIZ Group

Our HIZ group posed in front of the yellow bus that carried us all over Zambia. School buses like this are extremely rare in Zambia, so we got many surprised looks as we drove through the countryside.

Sunday's Child

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this adorable child who was wandering around during Sunday's worship service. Zambian children are so beautiful.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday in the Village

On Sunday we divided up into small groups and visited some of the 13 new churches that have been planted in the Mumena area in the past four years. Dr. Frank Black from Indianapolis is with the Harding group this semester, and he taught the Bible class on Sunday morning. Dr. Black and his wife Lou Ann were missionaries in Tanzania for five years and are still very involved in medical missions. I loved being back in a village congregation meeting under a thatched roof!

Friday, October 15, 2010


Our transport for the Mumena trip was a yellow school bus--without air conditioning. Those of you enjoying the chilly days of fall in the US need to remember that we are in the middle of the hottest time of year here. Our afternoon highs approach 3 digits.

So the first thing the students did when they boarded the bus was to try to lower the windows to let some air in. Buster, our driver, saw Zach struggling with the window latches and handed him these nifty tools--two forks with bent tines. And yes, they do work to get the window latches to release.

Zamgenuity at its best!

Brian Davis

I just tabulated student evaluations, and for the second year in a row, the students agree that lectures by Brian Davis are one of their favorite parts of the trip.

Brian has an extensive background in missiology. In his lessons, he describes how the Mumena team learned about the culture of the Kaonde people and then planned their missions strategy. He openly shares the successes, the failures, the joys, and the sorrows of starting a new work in a new people group.

Mumena Trip

We returned yesterday from our eight-day odyssey to Northwestern Province. The trip went remarkably well--a huge contrast from last year's adventure. This year I did NOT forget the sleeping bags, we had NO flat tires, and the bus did NOT break down. There were no treks to a soccer field to get cell phone reception, and no picnic lunches in parking lots while tires were patched.

We did have a wonderful stay at Mumena with the missionary families: Brian & Sondra Davis, Rick & Karen Love, and Don & Rita Boyd. Brian taught some great classes, and we enjoyed sweet fellowship with the missionaries, Zambian Christians, and Congolese refugees.

The bus gave us no problems, and our wonderful driver Buster handled every road condition and situation with competence. Harold Sichimwa went along as our cook and, as usual, served us some fantastic meals. The students were cooperative and involved--a real joy to work with.
I'll post more details and photos in the coming days.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Blog Break

I will not have much access to the internet on our trip, so there will probably be no posts for the next week. Keep us in your prayers!

Overnight Visitor

Last night there was a special visitor in our house. Baby Trey is a tiny, sick infant from the orphanage. Nurses Jessica (shown with Trey) and Janice Bingham are staying here at Meagan's House with me, and they decided to bring Trey home so they could feed him every two hours. They had a long night with very little sleep, but Trey got the nourishment he needed and was able to go back to the orphanage this morning.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Road Trip 2010

Tomorrow I'm leaving with the Harding In Zambia group for an eight-day road trip to northwestern Zambia. We'll end up at Mumena Mission with Brian and Sondra Davis and the rest of the Mumena team. One purpose of the trip is to let the HIZ students see a new mission work and also get to know missionary families with young children. Last year's HIZ group loved their time at Mumena, and I hope these students will too.

Our transportation is a yellow school bus with no air conditioning. It's been really hot the past few days, so the ride should be nice and warm!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Kabanga Trip

Today was one of those rare days in Zambia where things go like they're supposed to--or at least close to it.

I got a driver to take Rodgers Namuswa and me to Kabanga. The plan was to do a teacher training session and interview students for sponsorship. I had asked Simeon to make the arrangements, and he assured me on Sunday that the headmaster and teachers were expecting me.

The Kabanga Road has been kept in good condition, and the trip had little of the bone-jarring, white-knuckled thrills of years past. We arrived after just an hour and a half of travel.

The head teacher welcomed us. Yes, he knew we were coming to interview students, but he did not know I planned to do teacher training. No problem, though--he just sent out a messenger and all the teachers dismissed their classes. They cleared out a classroom, got me a few pieces of chalk and an eraser, and we were good to go. The teachers were responsive and receptive to the sessions, and the morning flew by.

Rodgers and I interviewed 16 students who are applying for sponsorship, and then he told me that a friend of his had prepared lunch for us. We feasted on chicken, nshima, and soup.

The homeward trip was hot and dusty. The Land Cruiser's AC is broken, so we had the windows down. Every time we met a car or passed a car, we choked on the dust for a few seconds. All in all, though, it was a good day--and a rare one--in which we were able to get done what we planned. And tomorrow is another day.

Day at Kasibi

Today Jason and George and I went with the Harding In Zambia group to Kasibi for the day. Kasibi is the home of Leonard Sichimwa, longtime cook for medical mission, as well as a dear friend. Leonard invites the Harding group each year to spend a day with his congregation in the village.

First thing this morning I picked up Jason and George in their new outfits that my daughter Sara got for them. Don't they look sharp?

We had a delightful worship service with the Kasibi congregation. David and I spent many Sundays with this group, and it was wonderful to see so many old friends again.

Then it was time for a traditional Zambian lunch of chicken, nshima, tomato onion soup, and fried cabbage. We ate Zambian style seated on the ground. Dillon and Mariah Daggett are shown here with Jason and George.

Then the band began to play. Most of the instruments are homemade.

The most interesting instrument (below) resembles an archer's bow with a gourd attached. It's played by plucking the string with a skinny stick.

A day in Kasibi always makes me feel like I've stepped into the pages of National Geographic.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


Another chicken blog! My next door neighbor Mrs. Moono bought some of my chickens when we moved. She took Petronella, Big Red, Justafella the rooster, and five of the smaller hens. Today I went to see Mrs. Moono and got a tour of the chicken pen and a report on the happenings of my feathered friends.

Sadly, the Moonos ate Petronella and Big Red because they were old chickens. The young hens are all grown up, and there have been a couple of new broods hatch since we left.

Justafella the rooster still keeps watch over the hens and their chicks.

I took Shawn and Donna Daggett's children with me on my visit. They were thrilled to go in the pen and collect eggs with Mrs. Moono. We took the eggs home and scrambled them for a snack. Now that's a fresh snack!


Even though we are living back in the US, the name of David Gregersen is still flying around in Zambia. At least three babies were named after David while we were at Namwianga. Today Justin, a security guard at the mission, and his wife brought their son David Gregersen to meet me. This David is an adorable 17-month-old with gorgeous eyes. Justin tells me that the neighbors just call the baby Gregersen. Our legacy lives on!

David Gregersen Musanje

David with his parents

Kalomo Hospital

After Plan A, B, and C, I was hoping Friday night would be a bit calmer. It wasn't.

I was visiting Sheri Sears when Rajiv knocked on the door, distraught and shaken. His aunt had been in a bad accident, and he asked me to take him to Kalomo Hospital to check on her. I agreed, and the Cruiser soon filled with others who were relatives or friends of the accident victims.

At Kalomo Hospital there were 40 or so people milling around outside in the dim courtyard. Our contingent gathered near the window to a treatment room. No HIPAA regulations here--anyone could look in through the broken panes and watch what was going on.

As we waited for word, I was greeted by many friends from the mission and Kalomo town who provided information about the wreck. Little by little I pieced together the story. The vehicle was a mid-sized truck, and the passengers were in the open truck bed. It was overloaded, as bush transport vehicles often are. Most of the passengers were teachers on their way home from a District Education Board session that trained them to administer exams. Some were new teachers on their way to newly assigned schools. The truck was headed to Kabanga on the dreaded Kabanga Road. Apparently the driver fell asleep, and the vehicle veered off the road and rolled three times.

Two passengers died. One died at the hospital, and we watched in silence as his body was rolled out on a gurney. Several others are in serious condition, including Rajiv's aunt. Thankfully, her one-month old baby who was in her arms is fine. The Kabanga headmaster's wife is one of the seriously injured.

An hour or so after we arrived, a nurse came out and read off the names of the patients who were being sent home and those who were being admitted. Eventually, the hospital door was opened and all were allowed to go in to see their loved ones. The bystanders threaded down the hallways and through the wards for brief glimpses of the injured victims.

Our somber group loaded up again for the trip back to Namwianga. Soon we were singing songs of hope and comfort: It Is Well with My Soul, Farther Along, and Wabota Munzi Waba Jesu.

Your prayers for the injured and the grieving are appreciated.

Jacarandas in Bloom

The Jacaranda trees are simply breathtaking. Their amethyst blossoms sparkle in the parched landscape. This canopy of color is at Namwianga Basic School.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Plan A, Plan B, Plan C

In Zambia, I try to have a Plan A and a Plan B. Sometimes I have to come up with a Plan C. And I wonder occasionally if it’s better not to plan at all.

Today my Plan A was to go out to Zyangale Basic School and do two things. First, I planned to interview their top grade nine students to see which ones might qualify for sponsorship at Namwianga Secondary School next year. Second, I planned to have a training session with the teachers and challenge them to be intentional about teaching from a Christian perspective and also to involve their students actively in the learning process.

Last week I had sent an e-mail to Simeon, the administrator over all of Namwianga’s satellite schools, and asked him to set up the interviews and training. When I talked to him yesterday, he told me he hadn’t been able to reach the headmaster, but he assured me that we should go anyway and that we would be able to do the interviews and training sessions.

Rodgers Namuswa, Simeon, and I set out in the Land Cruiser this morning with me driving. A few miles of paved road and then we were rockin’ and rollin’ in the dirt and sand. Dodging potholes, selecting the shallowest of ruts, and fishtailing in the sand--Woo Hoo! I’m loving my bush woman status!

It was an hour of that kind of fun before we got to Zyangale: Mud brick, tin-roofed classrooms stuck out in the middle of a dry, barren field. Some of the classrooms don't have window panes. The facilities are spare, and yet this school consistently does a great job of preparing its students for high school.

We got out and walked around. There were a few students in a couple of classrooms—but no teachers! We finally located the deputy head teacher who informed us that she was the only teacher there. The others had gone into Kalomo to the District Education Office so that they could plan the activities for Tuesday's upcoming school holiday—Teacher’s Day! I tried not to fume at the waste of classroom time consumed by a holiday to celebrate teachers--this holiday that requires the sacrifice of AT LEAST two days of learning, plus all the expense of transporting an entire staff into town and giving them their per diem payments for off-campus activities. Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I just have to do what I can and not worry about what I can’t change, and I certainly can't change a national holiday.

Time for Plan B, which is half of Plan A. We wouldn’t do teacher training, but at least we could interview students. I asked the one remaining teacher to gather any of the grade nine students who were sure to pass the government exam and might be candidates for sponsorship. I expected a handful of students, knowing that only two or three could be chosen from this one school. She took me into a room full of 19 students. She didn’t have access to their records, so she wanted me to interview them all. Gulp! This was going to take a LOT longer than I planned.

Plan C. Rodgers and I worked out a system so that we could interview all 19 of them before dark. We both talked to each one. As I finished the interview, Rodgers took the student outside and snapped a photo while I got started with the next student. It worked beautifully and we were able to interview every single one of them—even though it was painfully obvious that many were not qualified academically. I was exhausted by the time we finished.

We rocked and rolled back through the bush to Kalomo town. The bush woman role had lost its luster by this time. I was tired and hot and covered with dust--and just hoping we wouldn’t get stuck in the sand since it occurred to me that I don’t know how to set the 4-wheel drive on this borrowed Cruiser.

In Kalomo we stopped for Rodgers to go to the bank. There on the sidewalk were some of the Zyangale teachers—now finished with their Teacher’s Day preparations. We were able to talk to the head teacher and get his short list of the students who were worthy candidates for sponsorship, as well as his recommendations. As I suspected, we had interviewed many students who were not qualified.

Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. We made it through the day and got at least part of the original plan accomplished. That will do for now.

Ladies at Zyangale carrying water from the well.