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.