Saturday, November 12, 2011

Award Winning Students

Patricia Machalele and Sylvia Siachalinga won awards at a recent JETS (Junior Engineers, Technicians, and Scientists) competition.
Four area schools sent students to present projects and compete in quizzes. For the second year in a row, Patricia won first place for her Village Development project. Patricia produced a natural medicine to ease coughs and throat pain, especially in cases of tuberculosis. Patricia used her grandmother’s recipe to create tablets from cassava powder, mweeye leaves, and red wild spinach.
Sylvia Siachalinga (left) won second place in the Math and Science Quiz division. Students had to answer questions orally in spelling bee format. Subject matter included all areas of math and science.

A Little Nostalgia

My new job as a second grade teacher in Carthage keeps me busy grading papers every night. My usual work station is the couch where I wrap an afghan around me and often watch TV as I grade. It's a long way from the days at Namwianga when I graded by the light of my headlamp during power outages and listened to the crickets and bats outside the window.

Update on Jason and George

James Mwale, the new "dad" at Eric's House orphanage, wrote us a note this week to tell us that Jason and George have now graduated from preschool and will start first grade in January. The photo above was taken when I was at Namwianga in June. Jason loves all things school-related: coloring, writing letters, counting, and he's even beginning to read. George is the social one and not quite as academically oriented. Jason is determined to make a student out of him, however, and loved to tell me, "Nana! He's not coloring it right!" as he frowned in disapproval.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I'm Back!

I apologize to any faithful blog readers who are still checking for updates. I have started a new teaching job that is consuming most of my waking hours. I love the work, and I love my sweet second grade students, but right now I have very little time or energy left to blog. I hope to get back into blogging about Namwianga eventually, but for the next few months you can expect only occasional postings.

Here are a few updates:
Meagan Hawley and Louisa Duke spent last weekend here with us. Long-time readers know that Meagan and Louisa worked with us at Namwianga from 2006 on. They became like family to us, and we shared experiences with them that bonded us in ways only other missionaries can probably understand! Meagan is now teaching middle school in Edmond, Oklahoma, and Louisa is a physician's assistant at a clinic for low-income children in Fort Worth. We had a fabulous weekend with them, laughing and crying our way through years of memories and sharing the struggles of re-adjusting to life in the US. It was a blessing that I will treasure.

Jason and George are having their own adjustments at Eric's House. Roy and Kathi Merritt are retiring from full-time parenting in the orphanages. They have built a house next to Eric's House and will still be very involved in the work, but they will no longer be the mom and dad for Eric's House. James and Leah Mwale have moved in and are now in charge. I haven't heard how things are going for them, but I'm sure Jason is giving them lots of advice about how to run things and George is smiling his way into their hearts just like he does with everyone else.

George Benson Christian College held its graduation ceremony in late September. One of our sponsored students, Muyano Siabalumbi, was honored with a Distinction, the highest academic honor a student can receive. She is shown in the top photo. Muyano is now teaching at Sinde Mission. You may remember her as one of the teachers of whom the headmistress said, "They have transformed our school!"

Hanna Boyd, pictured in the lower photo with Jason and George, grew up at the Brentwood Oaks Church in Austin, our sponsoring congregation. Hanna is now spending a semester at Namwianga with the Harding in Zambia program. It has been a thrill to read her blog posts about her experiences and to see Zambia and Namwianga through her eyes. I hope to put some of her posts on the blog in the future.

Thanks for your patience as I learn how to manage this next challenge of dividing my time and my heart between ministries on two different continents!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Great Articles About Zambia Medical Mission

David Ramsey, 2011 Zambia Medical Mission team member, is a columnist for the Colorado Springs Gazette. After this year's trip, he wrote a feature article on Zambia Medical Mission which highlighted the 12 ZMM team members from Colorado Springs. This article was featured on the front page of this morning's Sunday paper. There are actually two articles, and you can click on the links below to read them. Thanks David for the excellent articles.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Two Heartbreakers

Meagan sent me this photo of George and Jason in the new outfits that my daughter Sara sent for them. These two really are Best Friends Forever as well as the source of much mischief and laughter wherever they go!

HIZ Group Arrives at Namwianga

Another excited and enthusiastic group of Harding University students arrived at Namwianga this week. One of them is Hanna Boyd, a sweet young woman who grew up in our Brentwood Oaks congregation in Austin. I have known her since she was born, and I am thrilled that she is now experiencing Zambia through the HIZ program.

Hanna wrote a blog entry about her first days at Namwianga, and it is easy to tell that she is quickly falling in love with Africa. She has met George and Jason, held babies at the Havens, toured the campus, and met Mrs. Moono. David and I love hearing her excitement. Here are some excerpts:

We flew into a little airport in Livingstone, Zambia, and from there went to Victoria Falls. That was a BEAUTIFUL place. I had been there before but I didn’t remember a lot of it. We spent a few hours there walking around and taking tons of pictures at all the different sight spots! Rainbows were everywhere and seeing the power of the falls was incredible. The Hippo Song has always been a funny little camp song but we kept singing “God’s fingerprints are everywhere just to show how much He cares” and it wasn’t just a funny song anymore. I don’t know how you can see Victoria Falls and not think about how much God cares about you. . .

We went to visit Mrs. Moono. She lives on the mission and she sews anything we want out of chitanges! That was the first time we met her and she was so sweet! Gregersens and Broadways-she was so happy to hear that I know y'all…she asked all about how y'all are doing and she gave me big hugs for each of you!

. . . The very little time that we have spent at Namwianga has already been incredible! It truly is home. I love it already…I love Namwianga, I love the people and the children, and I love my HIZ family that I’m here with!

Africa has claimed another student. Hanna will never be the same.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Back to School

Some personal news: I started a new job last week. I am teaching second grade in Carthage, a town about 30 miles west of Mount Vernon. So far I've had six days of in-service training and spent many hours getting my classroom ready for the first day of school on August 18.

I have thought many times about the contrast between back-to-school preparations here in the US and those in Zambia, so I thought I would re-post a blog from 2007 about Brian Siakuba's student teaching experience.

Today we made another grueling drive to Chiili to pick up Brian Siakuba, a GBCC student teacher who had been there since May. The community came to say goodbye and gathered for this final photo. Brian is on the left side in the front row wearing a white shirt.

The community leaders were sad to see him go. He had proven himself to be an excellent teacher and a great worker in the local congregation. The woman who serves as head of the village begged us to send more teachers from GBCC. We hope to do just that!

On the way home, I asked Brian to describe the greatest challenge he encountered. He told us about facing the start of the term alone. We had taken him to Chiili on the first Saturday in May before the term was to begin on Monday. No other teachers were there, but we assumed they would be arriving on Sunday. As it turns out, Brian was the only teacher at the school for the first two weeks of the term. One teacher arrived after two weeks, and the head teacher arrived three weeks after the term began. Poor Brian had to figure out what to teach without any guidance! He seemed to have taken it all in stride and recommended that we send more student teachers there next year.

We are proud of students like Brian and look forward to hearing more of their stories as they return from their first experiences in the field.

Update on Brian: Brian graduated in 2008 and spent two years working with a newly planted church in northern Zambia. Currently he is back in the Namwianga area and teaches in a rural school. His wife is also a graduate of GBCC and teaches at the same school.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Left Behind Group

Zambia Medical Mission 2011 ended with a transportation nightmare when 18 of the team members missed their flight got left behind in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Read Ellie Hamby's description of it here:

Overall the Zambia Medical Mission 2011 went exceptionally well. We had two major is sues (one at the beginning and one at the end) but other than that it was great. We saw thousands of people, our group stayed basically healthy, we had plenty of medicine, and the kitchen crew did a suburb job of feeding everyone. A big thanks to Josh Judkins and his kitchen crew for stepping up when Nadara could not come. They did an excellent job and Leonard Sichimwa, head cook, said it was 100%.

Carole Buchholz, who suffered the broken wrist at the beginning of the medical mission, was sent to Nashville for medical treatment after she spent about a week in the hospital in Johannesburg. We understand she had surgery in Nashville and is doing much better.

Of course, many of you have heard about the “Stranded 18” in Zimbabwe. We had to send 33 people to Victoria Falls to fly out as there were not enough seats for the whole team on the flight out of Livingstone. Normally, it is not a problem to cross the border, but that day it took 3 ½ hours at immigration at the border and this caused 18 of our people to miss their flight. I went on the bus to the airport with the first group and even though the gate was closed for the flight I managed to get them to open it back up for our group. The ground crew agreed to delay the flight as long as possible to wait for the remaining 18 to come and did so until the captain said he was waiting no more and closed the door. The plane took off just as the group arrived at the airport. The 18 had to spend the night in V/Falls and we were able to find them accommodations at Russell Caldecott’s (Ultimate Africa) and they did get to go to the Boma for their evening meal.

The problem we were facing is that a group ticket cannot be changed without huge penalties. The agent at V/Falls agreed to send the group on to South Africa at absolutely no charge and even upgraded the group to Business Class. I decided to fly with the group as we were facing monumental problems upon arrival in South Africa. I had awaken our travel agent at 1:00 am in the morning and also I called KB and told him the worse case scenario was that we were facing a cost of at least $3000 for each person to reissue a ticket. Our travel agent worked on the issue but told me all I could do was plead our case to the international ticket agency in J/Burg airport. On the flight there I spent all my time in prayer and rehearsing the speech I was going to give. I planned to tell them that we were loyal customers of South African Airways and that our group was all volunteers doing humanitarian work in Zambia. When I arrived at the counter and started my speech to the supervisor, he quickly stopped me and said, “If you are with the 18 coming from V/Falls do not worry as all has been taken care of and all they need to do is go check in.” I asked him to repeat it twice to make certain that is what he said. The group quickly went to check in and got boarding passes for their trip back to the USA. All this was done with no cost to Zambia Medical Mission. I do not know who intervened (but I know prayers were answered). KB said in his email, “Those who are with us are greater than those who are against us.” The stranded 18 were real troopers and made the job of sorting things out much easier.

Special thanks to all who helped make ZMM 2011 a huge success. Many of you donated money to help individual team members and also for medicine, clean delivery kits, cataract surgery, containers, and wheelchairs. Your participation with us is greatly appreciated.

My notes: Ellie does an amazing job of coordinating this huge medical mission, handling crises like this with courageous grace. What a hero!

Zambia Medical Mission 2011

This is a photo of the Zambia Medical Mission team for 2011. Ellie Hamby describes their efforts:

We have just completed our 17th annual medical mission trip to Zambia. This year we had a team of around 240 (this includes the 120 Zambian medical, spiritual and support staff volunteers). Our group worked very hard as the lines of patients coming for treatment were often quite long. We were able to treat all that came and that is always our goal. This year we saw over 16,000 patients in 6 days of clinics. On our 5th day of clinics we saw 3700 in one day and you can imagine everyone was very tired. Our team stayed healthy and we are thankful for that. The first few days we experienced very cold weather, but the last few days it was quite warm.

We sent over 150 cataract patients to Namwianga where Dr. Moonze and Dr. Teague performed the surgeries. They made many people extremely happy to have their sight restored. As the A-Team (Advance team) was traveling to Kasukwe for our 3 clinic they saw a man at a junction wearing cataract glasses. When the man saw the Namwianga vehicles he started shouting “Namwianga, Namwianga, I can see now that I had eye surgery at Namwianga”. It was a blessing for all to experience his dancing for joy on having his eyesight restored.

We made 3 emergency runs where we had patients that would not have survived if we had not been there. One was an old man that was critically ill with stomach issues and was being brought in an ox-cart. A truck was driving by and saw the man was very sick so they moved him to the back of the truck and he was brought to our clinic at Njabalombe. Dr. Tate attended to him and said he had to be transported immediately as his condition was grave. We hooked up IV’s in the back of the Land Cruiser and lifted the old man into the back. He was transported to the nearest hospital which was over 2 ½ hrs away. All indications were he was going to make it.

On our 4th clinic day we were at Kasukwe and a young man was carried in with a horrible foot injury caused by a maize threshing machine. He had traveled 6 miles in the back of an ox cart and had lost a considerable amount of blood on the way. He was bleeding profusely as he was being carried into our wound care clinic. Dr. McKenzie quickly attended to him to get the bleeding under control and IV’s were started. The young man had gone into shock as his condition was also grave. Within 10 minutes of his arriving at the clinic we had him in the back of a vehicle with IV’s connected on the way to Macha Hospital. They rushed him there in record time (about 1 ½ hrs.) and by the time they got to Macha he was becoming alert. Our medical personnel are confident he would have bled to death if we had not had our clinic at Kasukwe.

On the 5th day of clinics at Kasukwe we had a 15 year old girl come in with lesions on her face. It was determined that she did have leprosy and we gave her mother funds to take her daughter to Chikinkata (the leper hospital in Zambia). It is felt if she can get started on treatment they will be able to save the loss of her limbs and the advancement of the leprosy.

We had over 50 people brought in that needed wheelchairs. Some of them crawled, some were carried, and some came on bicycles or oxcarts. These were given wheelchairs and therefore the gift of mobility.

The expression of joy of the faces of the thousands of people is indescribable. The following statement was often expressed, “Why did these people cross the waters to help someone they did not know?” The answer was simple “They did it to show the love of Jesus”.

Lives were saved both physically and spiritually, eyesight was restored, dignity was given to each patient and all in the name of Jesus. There were around 80 people baptized and we praise God for that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Zambia Medical Mission

Zambia Medical Mission is at work in Southern Province this week. Shown above is Kel Hamby giving instructions to some of the Americans who arrived last weekend to join the team. The lower photo shows the new bus that is part of the convoy that took over 200 Zambians and Americans and all their gear out into the bush to begin the clinics.

July Lectureship

Namwianga hosts an annual lectureship the first weekend in July. People from all over the country attend. Roy Merritt sent this photo of this year's Sunday morning lectureship gathering in Johnson Auditorium. There were 951 squeezed into the building. I can only imagine how wonderful the singing sounded!

Sunday, July 03, 2011


I left Namwianga last Monday morning at 8:30. I was supposed to take an Air France flight out of Johannesburg, South Africa, that afternoon, but the flight was delayed 12 hours. That meant I couldn't make my connecting flights, so Air France booked me on a Delta flight for Tuesday night and put me up in a nice hotel across from the airport. Tuesday afternoon I arrived at the Delta counter and found out I was not even in the Delta computer system and was not going anywhere. After another night in Johannesburg, I finally flew out on Wednesday night and got home Thursday night. My luggage didn't make it here until Saturday. Oh well, I'm finally home and unpacked. It was a great trip and I brought home great memories to treasure.

Student Outreach at Kanyaya

Outreaches are an important part of the training that sponsored students receive at Namwianga. By visiting and ministering in other congregations, the students develop their leadership and preaching skills. Most outreaches from Namwianga are on Sundays. Students get up early to load onto vehicles, jump on bicycles, or just head out on foot to village congregations. But now and then there is a weekend outreach like the recent area-wide meeting at Kanyaya.
Loading for this weekend outreach began on Friday afternoon. And what a load it was! Students brought their mattresses from the dorms and stacked them in the open backs of pickups. Luggage and blankets were tied on top or wedged in on the sides. Vegetables and other food items found a place. And then the riders squeezed in wherever they could. Somehow there was room.

The students were driven to the village of Kanyaya where an area-wide meeting was held. Almost 150 people from seven congregations gathered in and around the tiny mud brick and thatch church building. Grass-fenced shelter areas had been built underneath shade trees to provide a larger gathering area, and another grass-fenced area was designated as the kitchen where meals were cooked over open fires. For this weekend outreach, the students brought mealie-meal, vegetables, and cooking oil from the college’s kitchen. The village congregation provided water, firewood, and grass shelters.
Rodgers Namuswa is the coordinator for student outreaches. He says the students did most of the teaching, preaching, and song leading for the weekend. On Friday night there were some lessons, but the singing went on until well after midnight. Finally the men settled into their sleeping spots inside the grass fence and the women slept inside the building.
On Saturday the sessions resumed with more preaching and teaching. The college women taught Bible classes to the children and the college men did most of the lessons for the adults. By Saturday night the weather had turned very cold, so three big fires were built to ensure that everyone could be close to a source of heat. At 11:00 the GBCC Heavenly Echoes choir began singing to those gathered around the fires, and the singing continued until 6:00 the next morning.
Rodgers Namuswa describes the warm welcome that college students receive on outreaches like this one: “People like the college students so much! Many village churches are really encouraged a lot by visits from the students. The students are able to do the work of the outreaches because they like to go out and share God’s word.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Late Scholars

The government of Zambia lifted the age restrictions for schools. Anyone who wants to go to school can do so. Gilbert, shown above, is in his forties (we think) and is in tenth grade. He started grade seven in 2008 and has been a full-time student ever since.
Webster is around 30 years old, married, and has three kids. He worked as our security guard when we lived at Namwianga. He often studied while he was at his post at night, and I had given him several reading comprehension workbooks to help him. During my recent visit Namwianga, Webster proudly told me that he is now doing grade nine at a school in Kalomo. He does his security job at night, goes home to sleep for a few hours, and then goes to school. He tells me that he looks quite "smart" in his school uniform and that the head teacher has appointed him as a monitor.

Way to go, Gilbert and Webster!

Workshop at Kanyaya

Last Saturday I did a teacher training workshop at Kanyaya. Four congregations sent representatives to learn how to use the Beginner’s Bible to teach children in Sunday School classes. I have taught many of these workshops through the years, but I think this was the best one yet.

For one thing, it was a small group—only about 20. I have had over 100 in some of the workshops, and it is difficult to involve the participants when there are so many. And these women were active! We acted out the story of the good Samaritan, and they really got into it. Then I had them create some skits to demonstrate kindness, and once again they gave it their all.

One thing I always do is teach them how to use the “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” as a review game with kids to make sure they are getting the point. These participants loved that, and even after our workshop was over, they were giving me the “Thumbs Up!” sign when they were happy about something.

And the grand finish was a delicious lunch of village chicken and nshima that we ate outside under the trees.

I met this lady at the workshop. Four of her children have attended or are now at Namwianga.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Frost Bites!

It FROZE at Namwianga on Saturday night! Roy Merritt writes this report:

Zambia usually enjoys chilly, but sunny winters. We never have snow, and frost once every three years or so. A couple days ago we had the hardest frost we’ve experienced since 1980. It wiped out our tomato patch! Quite a blow for us, but overwhelming damage to small farmers who depend on vegetable sales for their livelihood.

Frost got the leaves but not the stems. We hope the plants will recover, but meanwhile we’ll have fried green tomatoes by the bushel.

The rest of our garden is okay—cabbages, onions and canola greens.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Steps to Heaven

Steps to Heaven is the group that sang in chapel on Friday. Amazing harmony from these guys! They love to sing and teach and preach as they share their talents on outreaches.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three Friends

These three precious friends came to see me today--and to invite me to pray with them.

Mildred (left) is 37 and looks 20. She has five children of her own and is raising a grandchild and her husband's siblings. She works long, hard days, but there is always a smile on her beautiful face and laughter on her lips.

Esther (center) is a widow. Two years ago her only son, a teenager, was killed in a car accident on the Namwianga road. I found her sitting in a ditch near the accident site just after she had heard about her son. I remember collapsing in the ditch with her to mourn and weep. Esther is a retired teacher. When she was still employed, she came to a workshop that I did on teaching from a Christian perspective. Now that she is retired, she is going to schools and sharing that workshop material with other teachers.

Jennifer invited Mildred and me to form a prayer team when Meagan Hawley was so desperately ill in 2010. We met weekly during Jennifer's lunch hour to pray for Meagan. Often I would pray in English and Jennifer and Mildred would pray in Tonga. What a blessed experience.

I love these women dearly and treasured this chance to reconnect today as we knelt together and lifted our prayers to the Father.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Computer Lab

Robby Banda teaches computer skills in the new lab. Students from the remotest areas of the country now have access to technology.

Jason and George

Jason colors beautifully and takes it very seriously!

George's smile just melts my heart!

I love these little guys!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


At Sinde Basic School on Monday I witnessed some girls playing a spirited game of dodgeball in the school yard. Their homemade ball worked quite well! I love Zamgenuity.

They Have Transformed Our School!

Roderick, Muyano, and Benson are three of my former students. I visited them at Sinde Basic School yesterday. Here is their story.

Lina Tiyo, headmistress of Sinde Basic School, glows with enthusiasm as she describes the three George Benson Christian College graduates who began teaching at her school in January. “They have transformed our school!’ she announces proudly.
Roderick Siantobolo, Muyano Siabulumbi, and Benson Kapule finished their coursework at GBCC in December. Their official teaching credentials will not be ready for several months, but for now they are already in the classroom and making a huge difference in the rural community of Sinde. Benson teaches math and science, Muyano teaches English, and Roderick teaches history and religious education. All three are coaching sports teams and providing supervision for the students who board at the school. “Before they came, I was the only one who wanted to have chapel,” Miss Tiyo explains. “Now we have chapel every day, and they are teaching the pupils how to lead the chapel services,” She adds, “Their behavior is outstanding, and they are role models for the pupils.”

A GBCC graduate herself, Miss Tiyo requested help in 2009. Sinde is a grant-aided school and is allowed to emphasize and teach the Christian faith, but its teachers are hired and paid by the government. For several years the teachers who were sent to Sinde by the government were not committed Christians and did not provide spiritual leadership for the school or the church.
In January of this year, the Golf Course Road Church of Christ in Midland offered to support GBCC graduates who would agree to serve in the rural Christian schools under the Namwianga umbrella. Benson, Muyano, and Roderick were chosen for their excellence in academic performance, their Christian character, and their leadership skills. They receive a small living allowance for their services now, but it is expected that the government will soon hire them on as official teachers and they will be self-supporting.

Beyond their duties as educators, the three GBCC grads are working with the local Church of Christ. The congregation had split in 2010, but the new teachers have been able to help heal the division. Benson and Roderick share the preaching duties with other men of the congregation, and they also teach a Saturday Bible study class. Muyano is in charge of the children’s Sunday School classes. The three of them started a visitation program, and now they go out with other members to call on those who are sick or who have been absent from church services. Benson notes that attendance has been climbing steadily and that people who had stopped coming in years past are now back.

Muyano says her education at GBCC prepared her well for the challenges she faces at Sinde. “The Bible studies and chapel services (at college) helped us. We don’t fumble here and there, and we emulate what we learned from the college.” History teacher Roderick adds that his college training helped him learn “the importance of a good model and how to be a good model.”

Benson, Muyano, and Roderick are representative of the many Namwianga-trained teachers who are teaching with excellence and spreading the gospel all over the country of Zambia. Schools and communities everywhere echo the plea: “Send us more teachers from George Benson Christian College!”

These three teachers would not have been able to go to college without sponsorship. Others like them are waiting for sponsors right now. If you would like to help train self-supporting evangelists in Zambia, please consider sponsoring a high school or college student at Namwianga.

Harding Group Serves and Learns

Jill Taylor and Kritz

Lauren Davenport and Rita

Jill Taylor describes her experience at Namwianga as “life-changing.” Laura Davenport calls it “an amazing opportunity and experience.” Both were part of the third group from Harding University’s Speech/Language Pathology program to study and serve at Namwianga. Eleven graduate students and three supervisors spent six weeks in May and June working with babies and toddlers at the Haven and Eric’s House orphanages.

Dr. Dan Tullos and Dr. Beckie Weaver lead the HIZ Path group. Tullos says the program gives students an opportunity for multicultural clinical therapy practice in a setting they would not ordinarily experience. The students also provide needed services in an environment where speech therapy is a new concept. The students receive clinical credit for their time here.

Their days are spent at the orphanages working on language enrichment and stimulation with the children. They encourage the babies to imitate sounds and words, which is a part of normal speech development. They also encourage the premature babies to crawl, interact, and reach for objects.

Language experiences often occur in groups of six to ten children. These sessions resemble cradle roll classes where the children are shown pictures and objects and are encouraged to sing, repeat words, and interact with the teacher. The Zambian caregivers listen in on these sessions and are encouraged to continue the activities after the Harding students leave.

Babies and children identified with special needs such as cerebral palsy or autistic tendencies receive specific and intensive therapy. Another special needs group consists of premature babies and others with swallowing or feeding problems who are either unable or uninterested in eating. The therapists stimulate facial and neck muscles to help the babies swallow and feed normally.

Dr. Tullos tells the story of Hamilton, a pudgy, active toddler in this year’s group of children. Last year Hamilton was near death when the HIZ Path group arrived. He was not eating and was not expected to live through the night. With therapy provided by the Harding students, Hamilton began to eat and thrive. Now Hamilton is benefiting from language therapy and is learning to imitate sounds. “We feel like we had a big part in saving his life,” says Tullos.

Other benefits of the speech and language therapy are just as impressive, if not as dramatic. Roy Merritt comments about the effect of the speech therapists on the little boys at Eric’s House: “They turn them into chatterboxes! The little rascals are talking in complete sentences, saying things like, ‘Please may I go into town with you?’”

Harding’s speech pathology efforts are unique in Zambia. Tullos and Weaver hope that Harding can eventually help George Benson Christian College develop a speech therapy program so that Zambians can provide the services to their own people.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Today’s party for the 60 sponsored high school students was a smashing success. There were a couple of surprises, but they were good ones. First of all, the party was supposed to begin at 3:30. On Zambian time, that might mean anywhere between 3:30 and 4:30, but the first group of students arrived at 2:55! No problem there, since that gave me time to take a photograph of each student.
The first game we played was the “Candy Walk”—just like the carnival game “Cake Walk”, but with small bags of candy awarded instead of cakes. As usual, I had to improvise a little. I couldn’t locate a CD player, so I had the students sing as they walked around the circle, and then I rang a dinner bell when it was time for them to find their seats.
We did the Candy Walk outside in the back yard of the Hamby Guest House. Next I had the students sit at tables on the guesthouse verandah for our Bingo game. They had never played Bingo, and they loved it. Each winner got to choose from an assortment of prizes that I had brought with me or rounded up from Ellie’s stash of donations. The first prizes to be taken were the two Bibles. When they were gone, students chose spiral notebooks or pencils, items that are precious commodities for these needy students. Posters, chapsticks, gum, and candy were not nearly as popular.
We served cake and Kool-Aid and had closing comments before sending the students back to their dorms. They all seemed to enjoy the party, and many came by to say “thank you.” It was a pleasure to put together this very simple affair and see them enjoy it so much.
The internet is so limited here that I can't manage any photos. Sorry--I'll post some when I'm back in the US.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Update

I started my morning in college chapel. The singing overwhelmed me, as always, and I wanted to weep at the incredible harmony. I spent the rest of the morning in meetings with students and co-workers.
This afternoon I managed a quick trip to the Haven III and Eric’s House in between meetings. Jason was thrilled to see me, and I could hardly believe how much he’s grown. He is a tall 6-year-old and not a bit chubby any more. As I expected, he knows all his ABCs and was quite proud to prove it to me. George was out roaming, and I didn’t get to see him.

I gave up on my phone! First I put in a new sim card and immediately got 168 text messages again. I borrowed a phone from Ellie, inserted the original sim card, and all is well. I don’t understand what happened to my phone because it worked fine when I was here in October.
Tomorrow I’m hosting a party for the 60 sponsored high school students. We’re playing Bingo, and Meagan assures me that it will be new to most of them. Should be fun!
The power has stayed on all day, so I’m going to post this quickly before the inevitable blackout begins.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Let the Adventures Begin

I landed in Livingstone and made it through Customs and Immigration without incident. My greeting committee of Ellie and Kel Hamby, Joseph Lawrence, and James Estes (all here preparing for Zambia Medical Mission) welcomed me, and we set out to do our errands in Livingstone. Then the adventures began.
The first ATM I tried would not work. I went down the block and found another one. Then we went into a fast food chicken place and got in line behind two other people. Fifteen minutes later it was finally our turn to order. I ordered first, and then Joseph ordered the same thing. Sorry, I had managed to get the last order of potatoes and Joseph had to order something else. Then the clerk did not have enough change to give me in return. Joseph had to chip in the equivalent of two dollars so that I could get my change. I’ll pay him back some day.
Next stop: cell phone shop. I bought a sim card and inserted it into my global phone. Immediately I started getting spam text messages – 2 different messages repeating every few seconds until my phone reached its limit of 168 messages! At that point, I couldn’t send any text messages because—surprise—there wasn’t enough memory!
I started trying to call the cell phone company. I followed the prompts: Press 1 for English. I listened to the menu, which surprisingly does not feature “How to handle 168 spam text messages,” It does say “Press 5 for all other business. “ I pressed the 5 and listened to another menu that again ends with “Press 5 for all other business.” I pressed 5 and got “We are disconnecting you now.” So far I’ve tried this about 25 times, and twice I have managed to get put on hold instead of being cut off. Those two times I got to listen to three minutes of music before being cut off. Meanwhile, as fast as I can delete the messages, they come in again. I hope you’re not trying to text me here in Africa. It may be a few days.
Back at Namwianga, things are much more functional! Harold had fixed his famous chicken spaghetti for our supper, along with his equally famous chocolate cake. The electricity went off just as we finished eating, making me feel right at home in Zambia. Security guards Webster and Justin let me join them around their brazier fire and get caught up on the news. Sadly, Webster reports that our cat Makua disappeared over a month ago. He says I should not worry, because the cat has done this before and always returns eventually.
The sky is brilliant under the blanket of stars, the crickets are chirping, and the air is cool and crisp. Africa has me in its grip again.
I’ll try to write more after I delete 168 text messages . . . and if the power stays on . . .

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Itch for Africa

Our first trip to Africa was in 1999. We thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we thought we were doing it mainly for our teenage kids. Near the end of our three-week stay, a co-worker who had grown up as a missionary's kid in Africa warned us that we would have to return. He said, "Africa is like poison ivy on the brain, and the only way to scratch it is to go back."

He was so right. Twelve years later I know that Africa has infected not only my brain, but my heart as well. There is always a part of me that is itching to return. There is always an empty place in my heart--an Africa-shaped hole that can only be filled with the people and places and craziness of Africa.

And tonight I'm starting to scratch my African itch. I'm overnighting in Johannesburg, South Africa, on my way to Namwianga. This trip is mainly to work with the sponsorship program--I haven't met the students who are new to the program in 2011. I need to meet with them and also check on how Rajiv is managing the overwhelming responsibilities I piled on him.

But George and Jason are part of the itch as well. I can't wait to have their little arms around my neck and hear them say, "I love you, Nana!" I'm sure Jason knows most of his alphabet by now, and he'll want to impress me with his new knowledge. George will have to show me his usual cute antics, and there will be other toddlers to love and hug on as well.

Meagan Hawley is at Haven III for the summer, so I'm looking forward to some long talks with her as we compare notes about our year of re-entry and get caught up on our lives in America. I brought along some Beginner's Bibles, so Rodgers Namuswa and I will head out into the bush somewhere to train Bible class teachers. Mrs. Moono and I will have tea and discuss our families and the chickens. I hope Webster will bring our temperamental cat around, although it's too much to hope that the cat might be glad to see me.

And who knows what else might be in store? The only thing that's certain on a trip to Africa is that there will be some unexpected, unplanned, and maybe slightly crazy adventures along the way.

There are few things in life that feel as good as a scratched itch. Africa, I'm back! And it feels so good.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Aunt Norma's Legacy

My Aunt Norma died on May 28 at the age of 83. I remember her as a vibrant, energetic woman who loved her family. She was very proud of her three sons, or as she called them, "the boys."

In 2006 Aunt Norma began sponsoring a student at George Benson Christian College. When her first student, a young widow with two children, graduated in 2007, I chose Rajiv Siamweela to be her next sponsored student. I knew that he was one she could take pride in, just as she had her sons.

Rajiv graduated in December and is now teaching high school math at Namwianga Christian High School. He also serves as my assistant in the sponsorship program. Through the years I reported to Aunt Norma about Rajiv's accomplishments and assured her that she was making a difference in his life.

When I told Rajiv about Aunt Norma's death, he sent the following tribute:

As I am writing, my heart ìs in deep sorrow. . . . At his own right time when I was in need, God helped me through his servant who probably helped me more than anyone could have done. I am grateful, and I appreciate so much the aid she gave me. I will always be thankful of her love for me. In me she planted a seed that is and will be fruitful. May Her Soul Rest in Eternal Peace.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Tornado and Fredy's Dinosaur

On Saturday I joined a crew from our congregation and headed to Joplin to help in the relief efforts. David and I drove there in his pickup truck. I was glad we were alone when we found our way into the center of the area hit by the tornado. I thought I was prepared after seeing the photos and video on TV all week. But nothing prepared me for the actual sight of miles and miles of devastation. Miles and miles of houses reduced to rubble. Very few had even one wall still standing. Cars crushed like Coke cans and carelessly tossed like pieces of litter. Electric lines snaking and coiled on the ground by the roadsides. Naked trees stripped of leaves and bark. All I could do was cry and wonder how anyone escaped alive.

We drove to a house in an area that was one block away from the worst-hit area. That one block was the difference between matchstick rubble and houses that were still standing. A lady named Viviana and her preschooler waited out the storm in an inner closet. They emerged alive, their house damaged but structurally sound. A block away the stories were much more tragic.
Viviana had windows blown out on two sides of her house. The Mt. Vernon crew had put a tarp on her roof and cleared fallen trees out of her yard on Thursday. The job for six of us women on Saturday was to help her get the interior cleaned up and livable. Glass was everywhere, and rain had soaked the carpets and furniture. My brother had brought a generator, so we cleaned up the glass and vacuumed the carpets with a ShopVac. Mud splattered the living room walls, and we cleaned them off as best we could. The living room furniture was ruined and had to be carried out to the curb to be picked up by the trash crews.

Viviana's son Fredy uses a small enclosed porch as his playroom. The shattered window had scattered glass shards all over the floor, and most of the toys were drenched. We started taking the toys outside and sorting what was salvageable from what would have to be thrown away. Fredy had been gone for the first hour of our work, and when he came home he headed straight for his playroom. He eyed the bare spots silently as his mother explained that his toys would have to be washed and that we were going to help. Without a word he began gathering up armloads of small items that had been kept dry by a plastic bin and carefully carried them out to the porch and piled them up. He made trip after trip, adding to his little piles in silent determination.

Then tragedy struck. His favorite toy, a maroon stuffed dinosaur whose electronic innards made it roar and move, was found soaked and still. Viviana pronounced it a discard. Fredy's big brown eyes dropped to the ground. His chin trembled. He tried really hard not to cry in front of these strangers. But it was the last straw for Fredy. The tears fell, the silent sobs became uncontrolled weeping, and no one could console Fredy. His mother's promises to buy him a new dinosaur were useless. And we six other women stood around Fredy and Viviana and tried not to cry with him.

My sister-in-law Carol grabbed up the dinosaur with one hand and hugged Fredy with the other. "Fredy, I'm going to put it right out here in the sunlight and we'll just see if we can't get it dry and maybe it will work again." Fredy hid his face on his mother's shoulder, finally gaining control of himself and reluctantly releasing the dinosaur to Carol's kind hands.
I wonder how many scenes like this are happening every day in Joplin. How many Fredys did the tornado leave behind? Fredys who can't understand an EF5 storm and only know that their dinosaurs are wet and life will never be the same?

I just had to grab my broom and cleaning rags and keep moving.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HIZ Path at Namwianga

Harding University's speech pathology program has a group of students and faculty members at Namwianga now. This is their third year to come, and they are once again making a difference for the children at the orphanages. The students provide various kinds of therapy and language development experiences that the kids would not get any other way. The results are wonderful for both the kids at the Haven and the Harding students who fall in love with Africa and its people.

Dr. Dan Tullos has a blog about his experiences with the group, and his blog has links to several student blogs as well. Check it out if you're interested.

Natural Disasters

David and I live in southwest Missouri, an area that used to be famous because of Branson. Now Joplin is making headlines, and our entire region is consumed with helping Joplin recover from the devastation of last Sunday night's tornado.

Sunday night at 5:25 we were in the church auditorium hearing yet another of my husband's great sermons. My niece who lives in EL SALVADOR sent a text message to my brother that a tornado was on its way and we should take cover. Right after the services ended, my brother (who had then checked out the situation on his Iphone) announced that we should all head for the basement. About 25 church members and neighborhood residents spent the rest of the evening in the church basement. We followed the tornado news on laptops and Iphones, hardly able to believe the terrible reports. Of course, we soon found out that the initial reports couldn't begin to describe the incredible damage.

Our community of Mt. Vernon is 45 miles west of Joplin, and we were spared. David and my brother have been to Joplin and will be going again tomorrow to help with relief efforts. Everyone here is shocked by the horrible sights and reports of what happened in Joplin. The community and the nation are mobilizing all kinds of resources to respond and help those who lost everything in a few minutes of terror.

I've been reflecting on storms, disasters, and my experience of living in Africa. There are no earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes in Zambia. About the only natural disaster is drought, and it is a slow, insidious danger--nothing like the apocalyptic destruction of a tornado. The other slow, insidious killer in Zambia is AIDS. As horrible as the Joplin tornado is, AIDS may be just as destructive--or more so. Every family we knew at Namwianga had been touched by the AIDS epidemic in one way or another. A slogan that is often repeated in AIDS awareness campaigns is "We are not all infected, but we are all affected." Parents die, leaving helpless orphans to be raised by relatives who are already overburdened with their own poverty and need. Orphans with no family to care for them end up at orphanages like the Havens--wonderful places for children who must be there, but nothing like the safety and security of a true home. Workers in their prime are cut down by the dreaded disease, robbing the country of needed talent and skills. Weakened immune systems cause employees to miss days and days of work, hampering the efficiency of a nation already struggling for economic survival.

I weep at the photos of Joplin's flattened neighborhoods and think of the many lives destroyed by the tornado. And I grieve for the lives destroyed by the quieter and equally powerful pandemic called AIDS. May God help us to be just as shocked, touched, and motivated to help those whose lives are destroyed in years of suffering as we are by those who lose everything in an instant. May God help us all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to Pray for Missionaries

To those of you who want to pray for missionaries, but don't know what to pray, here is a link to a weekly cycle of prayer topics. The article includes some excellent insights to help you become a prayer warrior for those who are serving in the mission field.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Road Rage African Style

These photos are from Thursday, February 17, by someone from Centurion in Pilanesberg Game Reserve, South Africa.

Road rage affects us all!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A Tribute to Mother

My mother has been gone for several years now, but her heritage of love and faith still inspires me every day. In honor of Mother's Day I am re-posting a tribute I wrote about her.

Mother's Quilts

The quilts tell her story. I finger the bright prints and smooth the muted solids. I trace the stitching on intricate designs or snap a simple nine-patch design over a bed. And when I do, each quilt whispers her story.

I asked my mother many times to tell me her story. Usually she refused to offer more than the briefest of details. “Not much in my life,” she would say, “is worth telling.” So I am left with the quilts—the bits and pieces of my mother’s story.

Like the quilter who stitched them, the quilts are sturdy. The stitching speaks of one who can endure repeated trials without coming apart. Mother’s trials were all too many. She was raised in a crowded household by a preoccupied and distant mother. The reality of the depression was a constant presence on the Iowa farm. Mother loved learning and longed for a good education, but there was no way to get into town for high school, so she was forced to quit school at age 13. She married at 21 and worked with my father on the farm from sunup to sundown. Farm life was a constant struggle against the capricious whims of drought and crop failure. There was never more than just enough money to get by. When she was a young mother, her brother committed suicide and her sister’s only son drowned. When Mother was in her fifties, my father was killed in a tractor accident, leaving her with a farm and a construction business to run by herself in addition to her job as a nurse’s aide. Just a few years later her infant grandson died of a rare illness. Through it all she remained strong and uncomplaining. Only sturdy women like my mother endure the bits and pieces of hardship and pain without bitterness.

The bright hodgepodge of prints in her quilts tells of one who was frugal. Mother used only scraps of fabric for her quilts. Others might plan and purchase colors and prints for a coordinated palette, but Mother was content to use what she had. “Make do or do without” was a proverb she lived by, first of necessity during the long years of the depression and the lean years on the farm, and then from sheer habit. So her quilts are pieced from leftover fabric, from fabric others gave her, from the good pieces saved from discarded garments. One of her most beautiful quilts was stitched on white blocks that were cut from my father’s white dress shirts after he died. In her later years, she promised that when she had sewn up all the scraps she had, she would go out and buy fabric like the modern quilters did. I knew that day would never come—and it didn’t. After her death my sisters and I found boxes of fabric scraps ready to be sewn into quilt tops.

Two of Mother’s quilts were made especially for my children. Sara’s is a beautifully pieced and embroidered “Sunbonnet Sue” pattern put together with strips of pink. John’s quilt pattern is called “Bow Tie” and is pieced with bright blue. Both quilts speak softly to me of Mother’s love for children. No one could name all the little ones who came in and out of her life. When the depression forced her to quit school, she became a hired girl for families in her Iowa community. She would go to their homes and help out when the mothers had their babies. Later she married and had four children of her own. A nephew needed a home, so he was added to our family. Still there was room for more, so she and my father became foster parents. Through the years 14 different foster children called her Mama. After my father died, she became a relief housemother at a children’s home and became “Grandma Clurg” to hundreds of other children who needed warm hugs, loving smiles, and gentle words of wisdom. Each child was precious to her—bits and pieces added to her heart.

I’m not sure how many quilts my mother made in her lifetime. Only a few were truly works of art. The rest were pretty to look at, but made for service. “My quilts aren’t beautiful,” Mother would say, “but they are meant to be used!” Such service is a part of Mother’s story as well, for she loved to help others. She prepared countless meals for family, guests, and church potluck dinners. At any family gathering, we expected to find Mother in the kitchen washing dishes or quietly finding a way to clean, straighten, or make someone else comfortable. Mother had no desire to stop serving as she aged. After she left her position at the children’s home, Mother became a private duty nurse. She finally retired for the last time when she was 70 and began her volunteer work at the community hospital, accumulating hundreds of hours of service. In her younger years she taught Sunday School classes, and in her later years she was a regular helper in Vacation Bible School. When her 80th summer approached, my sister and her husband invited Mother to go with them on a road trip through the northwestern states. Mother was disappointed that the trip caused her to miss helping with Vacation Bible School. Yes, like her quilts, Mother was created to serve.

Not all of mother’s quilting became bedding. She used some of her scraps to make potholders. Those potholders remind me that much of Mother’s life was spent in the kitchen. She was known in our family and our church for her cooking skills. She seemed to put a delicious meal on the table with no effort at all. Her cream cheese mints, hot rolls, and chocolate chip cookies were her trademarks. My daughter once asked her, “Grandma, why do your chocolate chip cookies taste so much better than anyone else’s?” Mother’s immediate reply was, “Because there’s a little love in every bite!” Even as a widow living alone in a small house, she kept her freezer stocked full of food ready for company. Her death came just 12 days before Christmas in 1998. We were not surprised to find that the Christmas dinner for the family was already there in the freezer: the turkey, the pies, the rolls, the vegetables, and, of course, the chocolate chip cookies, with bits and pieces of love in every bite.

Not all of the stories in Mother’s quilts are hers. Each family member has stories told by the quilts. We love to admire the quilt tops and take turns pointing out, “I had a shirt out of that!” or “That was my Easter dress!” We recall first days of school, dates, bedroom curtains, school trips, and 4-H projects. My niece is a young adult now, but she claims the quilts can transport her back to her childhood. She says, “It's always amazing to me that looking at a tiny scrap of fabric on a quilt can evoke such deep emotions. I can see a quilt piece and remember the exact outfit made from that fabric. Suddenly I feel like I'm 10 years old again, wearing that outfit and heading to church or going to school.” Mother’s quilts tell the bits and pieces of our lives, too.

Mother took the random bits and pieces of her circumstances and stitched them into a life that was loving, sturdy, frugal, and serving. God’s hand placed the final stitches. With timing as loving and kind as Mother’s sewing, He gave Mother’s life a gentle goodnight. Surrounded by family and at peace, she died as she had lived—quietly and lovingly.

There will be no more quilts made by my mother’s loving hands. But we will still discover more of her story and ours. The quilt of Mother’s life lives on, warming our hearts just as her handmade quilts warmed our bodies, and reminding us of the bits and pieces of a life well lived.

Copyright pending

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mother's Day Gift Suggestion

We would like to suggest a way to give a Mother’s Day gift that will give life to a mother and her baby in Zambia. A gift of $10 will purchase two Clean Delivery Kits (CDKs) for Zambia. We plan to give these CDKs out to expectant mothers during our Zambia Medical Mission and throughout the year at the Namwianga Rural Health Center. We will be targeting mothers who will not have access to a hospital or rural clinic for delivery.

Each year about 60 million women in developing countries give birth with only the help of an untrained attendant or family member or with no help at all. Many of these deliveries take place at home and often in a small hut in a remote village. The infection rate is high with some 1600 women per day dying from complications associated with pregnancy or childbirth, and infection is a leading cause. Around 950,000 newborns per year die from infection, according to the World Health Organization. Many of these infections can be avoided when Clean Delivery Kits (CDKs) are used. Our kit includes the following:

Bar of soap and wash cloth
Square yard of plastic sheet
Razor blade (single edge)
String for umbilical cord
Sealed bag for packaging
Baby blanket
Infant sleeper or onesie
Two pairs disposable gloves
Tylenol Extra Strength
Prenatal multi-vitamins for 2 months

Last year, we gave out 500 CDKs in three days, so this year our goal is 1,000 kits so that no mom-to-be will go back to her hut without having these essentials for her hut delivery.
We are making a special drive for Mother’s Day by encouraging family and friends to donate to Zambia Mission in honor of a mother, wife, sister, or friend. A personal note will be sent to individuals informing them of this gift. If you are interested in participating, please make checks to Zambia Mission Fund and send it to Zambia Mission, 658 E.N. 21st St., Abilene, TX 79601. Please include the name and address of the person you are honoring. If you have further questions, please contact Star Ferguson ( or phone: 325-668-0687)