Monday, November 26, 2012

And Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting...

Yesterday, there were sixteen children in our front yard, and yes, everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting. In fact, the older children were even singing the song while practicing their high kicks and some very impressive backflips. There were hours of laughter as older children flipped the tiny ones, and then, of course, there were breaks to kick around the futball. While it is true that I tend to resist any sort of violence with all my might, this was just pure, hilarious fun, and the kids were all smiling from ear to ear.

Frankie and Johnny have such lovely friends here, kids who spend most of their time outdoors, and find entertainment in doing backflips, kicking around a ball, dancing to improvised drums, and climbing trees. The boys are learning where to pick mangos, how to rock out using sticks and a metal slide, and some pretty impressive dance moves. When the rains came a few days ago, I stuck my head out the door to call in our kids. Frankie, however, couldn't come, because his rear end was stuck at the top of a mango tree. Joel had to go and pull him out, and they came inside, drenched and laughing.

While we find enormous joy at our home, surrounded by wonderful children, and very kind neighbors, we are also able to continue our work with CCAP Zambia. I continue to preach in congregations, and I have started to do home visits with the Home Based Care Program. These women go every week to visit the homes of those who are sick, and those who are HIV positive. As I learn more about their work, I am incredibly impressed.

On the days when they are not doing their visits, the women of the church make embroidered cloths and clothing to sell in the market. With the profits that they earn, the women buy food and medicine to bring to the homes of those who are sick or struggling with HIV. So, each week, they can provide food and medicine, as a way to testify to God's love for all people.

When I first met these women, I saw their beautiful embroidery and they shared stories of those for whom they cared. Mrs. Phiri explained that she visited someone who was sick, but very afraid to go to the clinic alone. And so Mrs. Phiri provided money for bus fare, and accompanied the woman to the clinic. This woman is now able to get the medication that she needs, and Mrs. Phiri visits her regularly to provide support, and to bring extra food to help in her healing. There are 15 women, in one congregation, who each visit 5-6 people. Just in this one community, the Home Based Care program is providing love, food, and medicine to over 60 people. It is exciting to think that this loving care is happening all over Zambia, through CCAP's HIV/AIDS programs. It has been a great blessing to work with these women and accompany them on some visits!

As I continue to learn Chichewa, to watch the children play and thrive, to work with Joel on exciting projects, to see CCAP Zambia touch the world with love, I can't help but feel enormously grateful. We are so blessed to be here, to be with such amazing people, and to learn from the generous and faithful hearts of our partners in ministry.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Pregnant Women

The pregnant women were laying on a grass mat, on the dirt, surrounded by cows and chickens. The clinical officer had been transferred, so the Ministry of Health was taking advantage of the opportunity to re-roof the clinic. The roof had been damaged by previous wind storms. Not wanting  to completely close the clinic, the Ministry of Health had moved clinic care to the home previously used by the clinical officer, and had left the "cleaner" to administer basic health care and first aid. She administered medication from a closet, using a large book to determine what drugs to provide.

This was my first exposure to the health care system in rural Zambia, and to issues of maternal and infant mortality in Zambia. Needless to say it made quite an impact on me! Unicef estimates that the lifetime risk of maternal death for a woman in Zambia is 1 in 38; rural Zambia has one of the worst maternal death rates in the world. I was relieved to learn that Zambia is in the process of implementing a plan to improve maternal mortality, and the Lundazi area where I was visiting is one of the targeted implementation areas. 

The next day, I traveled to another clinic. This one had a functional building, but was also in transition as again MOH had transferred the clinical officer and public health officer who had worked there for many years. Maintenance was required on the home provided for the clinical officer before the new clinic staff person could move in. 

During the trip, members of the CCAP Zambia synod office invited me to join with them as the offered condolences to a CCAP Zambia pastor who had just lost a newborn baby. I experienced the traditional process of condolence. We sang and we prayed and we sat together. The pastor explained that his wife had high blood pressure, and the baby was born prematurely. The story is not unusual. Often, when I talk to people here about their children, they tell me how many kids they have that are living, and how many are dead.  

My visit to rural eastern Zambia,birthplace of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian/ Synod of Zambia lasted four days. During that time, we visited the two clinics, 4 schools, 2 churches, a theological school, and one community health evangelism site. I enjoyed 6 department presentations, and learned about the courageous work that CCAP Zambia is doing to address the incredible challenges in Zambia. We heard from the Relief and Development Department, the Health Department, the Education Department, the Protected Water Department, the Lay Training Department, and the Evangelism Department. The Relief and Development Department is working on agricultural programs, adult literacy, orphans and vulnerable children, and home based care for those who are HIV positive. The health department is working hard to address  maternal health and other issues. There is great work going on; however, the challenges were incredibly apparent every time we visited the program sites. 

The highlight of the visit for me was the invitation to preach at the licensing of 12 new CCAP Zambia pastors, graduates of CCAP Zambia's fledgling Chasefu Theological College. These new pastors will continue to work for  God’s kingdom here on earth. They will go out, all over the country, and struggle for justice, for health care, for compassion, for healing, for hope. And they will comfort those who mourn, and they will speak of God’s love, and they will offer hope in the name of Jesus.  

I feel blessed to work with CCAP Zambia, and humbled by their amazing commitment to fight against incredible odds. I am humbled by all that they give in order to create the Kingdom of God here on earth. I am humbled by their ability to face incredible pain, and keep on following Jesus. I will walk with them, and learn from them, and pray with them. And I ask that you will, too. God is at work here, and God needs us to be a part of this work, to walk with CCAP Zambia. 

Thank you for your partnership and prayers. Thank you for your love and compassion. And thanks be to our God of grace, of hope, of healing. 

Beautiful sites in Lundazi

A CCAP Basic school

Girls at Mphamba Basic School, run by CCAP, where they run an excellent program to keep girls in school

Girls at a CCAP Boarding school; they are in front of the kitchen where they make their own food

At Chasefu Theological College, they make their own bricks as they rebuild the school

The licensing service for 12 new pastors

After the service, with two of the new pastors

The only woman in her graduating class, Naomi was beaming throughout the service

The second clinic we visited

Women waiting outside the clinic

Thursday, November 1, 2012


This past Sunday, I was blessed to participate in the licensing service for Rev. Mapopa Nialongo. In CCAP-Zambia, pastors are licensed for one year to the ministry of the word (preaching), and then after one year, they are ordained to ministry of the word and sacrament (baptism and communion.) When pastors are licensed, they are able to go and serve a church, but cannot administer sacraments.

The worship service was in a congregation in Linda, a little ways outside of Lusaka. I was there with many colleagues, including most of the staff of the Synod. The church building was packed full of people, and the choirs were amazing. A children’s choir, a youth choir, and an adult choir all sang, and danced, and filled the small building with beautiful praise. It was a joyful, wonderful worship experience. When I delivered the charge/sermon, it was translated into Chichewa, and I felt such joy in being able to preach at this gathering. I am determined, however, to preach in Chichewa by a year from now!

Mapopa Nialongo became Rev. Mapopa Nialongo during that worship service; afterwards, I visited with his wife and his 3 year old son, Alec. Their family lives on the same campus as we do, and Alec has become Johnny’s very best friend here in Lusaka. Unfortunately, their family will be leaving to serve a church in Eastern Zambia, so Johnny is very sad to lose his new friend. At the same time, it is so exciting to see a new pastor who is ready and gifted to serve a church. 

I have participated in quite a few ordination and installation services in the United States, and it is so interesting to me how the spirit moves us in such similar ways, across culture and geography and denomination. The sense of joy and gratitude, the experience of wonder and praise, the hopeful, faithful expectation that God can, and will, work through us, is there despite the differences between us. The similarities, the fact that we are all seeking to follow Jesus, to serve God, to respond to the Holy Spirit; these things unify us in such powerful and miraculous ways. We truly are one in the Body of Christ, and that oneness was so evident this past Sunday, as Rev. Mapopa Nialongo was prayed for, blessed, and honored, as he begins his ministry as pastor in CCAP Zambia.

After we left Linda, we visited another pastor, a man who was in mourning, having just lost his brother at forty-three. I arrived, with five other pastors, at this man’s home, to offer condolences and prayers. While we were there, we sang and we prayed and we sat in silence for awhile. The house was full of women, maybe 25 women all seated together on the floor of an emptied room. Outside of the house, the men were gathered, probably about 20 men sitting underneath a grass roof. It was very visible to me the way that people here support one another. Those who were grieving were not alone; they were surrounded and upheld by love. After we sang, and prayed, and sat, we said good-bye, and offered our blessings. It is so heart-breaking that people here often die so young; this happens far too often in a country where the life expectancy is 39. But, it is also an incredibly moving experience to see the ways in which love, grace, and compassion are abundantly present in the midst of loss.

Through their agricultural programs, their community health programs, their HIV/AIDS programs, their community school programs, and a variety of other ministries, CCAP Zambia is working to create a country where people can live longer, healthier lives. But, they are also present where there is loss, to speak to the love of God, the promises of Jesus, and the presence of the Spirit. This is holistic ministry, and I am so grateful to be able to walk with them on this journey.

From a joyous commissioning, to a moving funeral visitation, back to home, exhausted, but blessed. What a gift to be in ministry here.

Here are some photos from that day, and from the rest of the week...

The CCAP church at Linda

The children practicing their song before worship

Delivering the charge in worship; Rev. Gerald Phiri was kind enough to translate

Rev. Mapopa Nialongo, Mrs. Nialongo, Alec, and the Synod staff, after the service.

Johnny and Alec

Joel playing soccer with the kids at Justo Mwale

First day of school!

On the campus at Lusaka International Community School