Durban, South Africa
Johannesburg, South Africa
Kambani and Shirley Banda arrived at 5:45 am to take us to the Lusaka airport for our flight to Johannesburg and continuing down to Durban where Andre and Elize van Belkum live. We have gotten very close to the Banda’s and admire their service to the Church people as their minister and his exceptional skill as administrator of the LifeNets projects. He is tough and disciplined, but that is the what it takes to get RESULTS in this part of the world. He doesn’t take excuses and demands that people do their part and holds their feet to the fire. Now after doing this for five years in Mumbwa, we can see outcomes that are quantitative leaps economically from where they had been. In the process they are taught to be more disciplined and to work hard and see the correlation between hard work, good management and prosperity. I thought we were getting to the airport a bit too early, but it took all that time to first pay the airport departure tax of $25 a person, then stand in line for the first security check. Then you check in. Then you go through immigration which took more than half an hour. Then another security check before being put on a bus to go out to the waiting South African Airways Airbus to Joburg and then to Durban where the van Belkum’s live.. It was great to see Andre and Elize again. He has been a special friend of ours the past 15 years – to me if there is any human for being one who has no guile, he and Elize are it. He’s a great pastor and takes life as it comes whether he is exalted or abased. With them we just enjoy sitting around and talking whether it be Church or LifeNets. He is the LifeNets chairman for LifeNets Southern Africa. Their main contribution has been with the Developing Nations Scholarship Program. They sent a young lady of Indian origin to University in Cape Town for three years and she now has a high profile job with Shell Petroleum in Durban. LifeNets SA is also sending Zimbabwe students for their higher education. They also send teens from impoverished families to summer camp. In the evening local church elder Neville Smith came over for dinner and we just had a great time telling stories and enjoying each other’s company.
About 7:00 am Kambani Banda came by to pick us for our trip to Mumbwa. Apren Moomba did not return until 10 pm from taking the first load of about 60 people to their homes in Mumbwa. The trailer carrying the luggage had a flat tire and ruined rim that had to be replaced. He barely made it back to Paray’s Game Park where the Feast of Tabernacles was held. The remaining second group of 60 people had to pitch tents again. Food had to be purchased for feeding them. The Paray’s Game Park is on the way to Mumwa and we stopped to see what’s going on. When we came out there they were all waiting to get on the road for home. It’s now two days after the Feast, but no one is disappointed or deterred. They take things in stride. Apren Moomba has left with the big “van” to Luska with the disassembled meeting building, the tabernacle, that is being stored at Kambani Banda’s home. He will return pick up the people. We load up our pickup trip with as many of their belonging as we can pack up. The van will then have to take all the people and belongings back without the benefit of the trailer. So Kambani Banda, Beverly, Jerrison Shachoongo and I continue on to Mumbwa. We are told that there is a better road that has been graded. It’s a total of about a 100 miles with only 40 miles on dirt road. But when we come to the dirt road, there is little evidence of any grading. It’s a long way out to Kasumpa where Jerrison lives and seems much more so when you are navigating on a dirt road through the ruts and craters. After a bumpy jostling trip of three hours we get to Kasumpa where we first go to Jerrison’s home. He has done the best of anyone with the LifeNets grants for cattle, a well and with the farm credits. He has produced nearly five tons of maize per hectare. Typical yields the year before were about one ton per hectare (2.4 acres). His LifeNets cattle has grown from two to seven. One of three recent LifeNets wells is on his property and his spread is impressive. His income has quadrupled because he is a hard worker and a great manager. Water is a lifesaver in this area. While there is no electricity in this area, he does have a television set powered by solar panels. And amazingly he also has cell phone service if he goes out and climbs a hill some distance away. Much of the LifeNets cattle was brought over to Jerrison’s corral so we could see it. The herd looked magnificent and Jerrison and the others thanked LifeNets donors profusely for making this possible. We did a bit of videoing and interviewing on the scene. We then went over to other families that received LifeNets help. One was Armstrong Maninga and the other Lloyd Chifwepa who has also done splendidly with maize production Armstrong has a well that’s working, but no pump yet. Buckets are dipped to draw water, but this brings contamination and we will be getting him a hand pump as well. Armstrong Maninga also wanted to thank donors who helped him with getting a large growth removed from the side of his face. Finally we went to the Nalubanda area about ten miles away and saw the home of Apren Moomba. His property was where the Feast of Tabernacles had been kept several years back. He now has a well and pump. Three years earlier we helped him with digging a well, but they came across a rock that they could not dislodge. Water was available only during the rainy season. Finally, it was decided to start over and now he has a gushing well with a handsome pump. Apren’s wife walked one and three quarters miles each way three times a day to bring home water on her head. Having a well on the property is a fantastic blessing. Australian brethren helped with the financing of these wells. We saw the church buildings that are being built out in this area by the United Church of God. Each building will cost $5,000. Two are well on the way to completion and will be a convenient place for the congregations to meet on the Sabbath. The third one has yet to be started. The people currently meet in very makeshift buildings. One which is a wood frame with straw for the walls and the other a wide open shelter. The last stop was at the funeral of Nice, Often and Mostly’s father. I had never experienced a funeral like this before. Hundreds of people came to the burial which was today. The entire funeral will carry on for a total of five days. People brought their mourning sticks. Men marched up and down with the canes with mournful wailing. Women sang emotionally and cried as a drum beat. The pastor officiating asked if I could do the last part of the service. The deceased man had had six wives of which two were still current ones. They both walked up together to the open grave, looked and went back. He had fathered more than 50 children. As I mentioned, one of his ex-wives was the woman I baptized two days previously. The burial was part of the service. The coffin was lowered. Then a carpet was on it followed by a piece of sheet metal. Then cement was mixed in front of us and poured over the sheet metal. The service continued. I started with Job’s question in Job 14:14, “If a man die, will he live again?” I explained that a man would lie in the ground until his “change came.” I then quoted I Thessalonians that we don’t sorrow in ignorance and ended with I Corinthians 15. We met with the chief of the area and made a customary monetary donation. Those present clapped. It was touching and interesting to experience all this. We then drove back to Jerrison’s spread again and lo and behold we see the remainder of the people from the Feast on the van being driven by Apren Moomba. It was nearly 4:00 pm. The entire process looks so aruduous. I cannot imagine what the ride was like with the van with 65 people on the rutted road, the 40 miles of unbelievable potholes and navigation challenges as you must careen from one side of the road to the other to negotiate the craters in the road. Kambani and I decided that we better get on back to Lusaka. Kambani is tired and glad that I volunteered to drive back. We decide to take the other road because the one that had taken out was not really any better since it had nearly 70 miles of craters. It was getting dark. More than an hour and a *********** before we saw an oncoming car. Bev gasped as I tried to get around or ride over the craters. I’ll have to say that I was a wreck myself after driving back four hours to Lusaka. Even getting on the tar road was little consolation in total darkness punctuated by trucks and other vehicles that would not dim their lights. On the shoulder lines of people would be walking or riding bikes. I silently prayed that I would not hit anyone or be hit by anyone. We went to one of our favorite haunts from our previous visit two years ago, an Indian restaurant. Shirley and her sons along with Bevin Moomba joined us and we really enjoyed ending the day together, but we are exhausted. Again, I’m thankful that I didn’t wreck the vehicle driving back to Lusaka nor injure anyone or get killed ourselves.
At 6:00 am we started working on takedown in dismantling the shelter where we met during the Feast of Tabernacles. The men spent three days putting it up and the takedown was to take a good part of the day. I helped out with taking nails out of the wall supports. Every nail I took out was saved…it will be straightened and used next year as the shelter is set up again. Nails are expensive. We rolled up the home-made bamboo mats there were used for flooring and for the walls. The crew moved quickly and aptly under the direction of Haben Moonga, a hard-working, competent farmer and builder. He has put in charge of building the three UCG church buildings in the Mumbwa area. A ride for the Copper Belt people was arranged by running out to the main highway and getting a bus to drive into the game park and picking up the 18 people heading to Northeast Zambia. The Copper Belt people assumed that we were going to give them a ride to Lusaka, but that was not the case. Kambani Banda is a great planner and had all the logistics thought through with getting equipment back first to Lusaka and then taking two loads of people of over 60 at a time on the truck for the three hour trip to the Mumbwa area from Paray’s Game Park. Kambani Banda is a man of great patience who was able to handle the misunderstanding and arrange adroitly for everyone and everything to be accommodated. We then loaded the rented chairs and other equipment on the LifeNets truck that I drove back to Lusaka. Some of the Lusaka people also were taken back. One was an older woman with her grandchild that climbed amidst the luggage. There were four people in the back of the truck. Actually, this truck is called a “van.” What to me is a van they call a small bus. In the cab of the truck with me was Apren Moomba and his wife Grace. Grace was going into town to be with her daughter-in-law and nine-month old grandson Derrick who has cancer in his eye and will be having it removed. Doctors suspect that Derrick’s other eye may cancer in it, too. Surgery will be Tuesday at a hospital in Lusaka. We dropped off Grace and her son Javelin on a crowded street in Lusaka and then we carried on to a drop off half the chairs at an elementary school and the other half at a Catholic church and school. Both places rented the chairs to us. Finally on to Kambani Banda’s home where we unloaded many bags and boxes along with a full bed. Time was moving on and we needed to get back to load up all the people and their belongings for the bumpy trip home. The process of loading the first 60 people on the “van” was arduous. Tents were folded, belongings packed away in sacks. When we return we learn that the father of three of the members and ex-husband of another died earlier that day. The day before The day before I baptized Mostly and his mother Emily who were a son and the ex-wife. The other children were Nice Shachoogo, wife of Jerrison and Often Chifwepa, wife of Winter. In the loading process of the van, all 60 people were sitting on back of the van baking in the sun, but no one complained. Instead, there was happy bantering and I was told that they were not going to suffer on the three hour ride to Mumbwa because the wind was going to air condition them. The group got on its way. Shirely Banda after a while took me and Bev to the compound were we would stay the next two days. It was a walled secured complex of an inn and guest houses run and used by the government for diplomats and foreigners. It was huge and Bev and I walked around the perimeter that we estimated to be about two miles long. Kambani didn’t come until about eight PM….he stayed out at the game park and hadn’t heard about Apren Moomba’s return. It was dark and it was decided that the remaining group would pitch their tents again and return the next day. Apren did not return until after 10:00 pm. Bevin Moomba and Joe Banda were to dinner with us. Bevin will be receiving a LifeNets Developing Nations Scholarship. We are quite impressed with him. He will be attending University in either Lusaka or Kitwe in the Copper Belt starting in January. There is one more young man in Mumbwa that LifeNets wants to help go to University. This is a big step forward in this area as no one has ever had a higher education from this area. We really love the people of Zambia. There is a beauty in their warmth that is perfected with Christian conversion Tomorrow we go out to Mumbwa to see the LifeNets projects: cattle, wells and the agriculture program.
Today is the Last Day of the Fall Festivals. I speak three times with two sermons and a blessing of the children sermonette. Evertything that is said is translated consecutively and it is a challenge to keep the tempo going. I find that short quick sentences are best keep the sermon moving along better. Early in the morning I heard a beautiful harmony from a group of young singers about 100 feet from where we stayed. It was the youth choir practicing for their special music in the morning. The harmony and rhythm were perfect. At 9:30 am we had two baptisms. One was Emily who is the mother of three children in the Church. The daughters are Often and Nice. The son’s name is Mostly. We had arranged with the owner of the game park to use the pool for baptism. He was OK with that. But, when all of us got to the pool for the baptism the caretaker and lady manager put up a fuss and told us all to go to the lake some distance away. About 30-40 members showed up for the baptism and it was so demeaning. Kambani Banda was visibly upset and so was I. So many things are so hard to arrange and I felt that these people simply detested our people. I walked over to older lady and simply told her that we were going to go ahead with the baptism in the pool as we were given permission and asked her to respect what we were doing. Just then the owner came along and all was OK; the lady just glared at me. Kambani Banda was too upset to give the opening prayer, so I did. The baptism went beautifully. Kambani Banda had fallen the day before in Family Day races and skinned and bruised himself and could not enter to pool so I did the baptisms which we both concluded with the laying on of hands. Off to services a few hundred meters away. I gave a sermon about the White Throne Judgment as part of the Day of The Lord and put together the chronology of prophetic events shadowed by the Fall Holy Days. Apren Moomba translated. After services a group of us would sit in a circle and have lunch. We found this a very enjoyable experience as it became relaxing with good conversation. Bev and I are about the only ones who eat with utensils, everyone eats with their hands. A bowl with water for washing hands comes around before and after the meal. The afternoon services was clouded by sadness that our visit in Africa was coming to a conclusion. We really love these people. In some ways we feel so far away and in other ways it’s like being with very close friends and family who share the same human experience, but under different circumstances with different means. I am struck by how little they have and how much they enjoy the Feast experience. Our daily attendance is a strong 160 with almost every chair filled in the meeting shelter. In the afternoon the adult choir sang. All the singing has been without accompaniment. After services Mr. and Mrs. Mfulla invited the people who were most responsible for setting up the Feast site for drinks and socializing. We gathered by Kambani Banda’s tent in a big circle with about 20 people and reminisced the Feast. There were many questions about the Church and what is happening at the Home Office and future plans. The last activity was the “DANCE” in the meeting hall. That was fun. Bev and I were asked to come out and dance sort of a line dance–the people loved it. Everyday has been an absolute adventure here in Zambia. Tomorrow is the day we need to load 130 people up in two loads on the LifeNets truck and take them back 100 miles to the west.
What I had not realized until today here at the game park where everyone is camping is just how much work was put in by the United Church of God members to prepare this location for the Feast site. The last two years the only economically viable location for the Feast here in Lusaka has been this game park. The cost is $200 a day for everyone. It is somewhat a broken-down place as the owner does not keep it up and makes most of his money from hunting and selling game meat. Our men came here weeks before to cut down the tall grass and build the building where we are holding services. I thought it was permanent structure, but it will be taken taken down after the Feast. There is quite a large sheet metal roof on top. There is no other place to meet that would not be five to six times the cost that would take as many children as we have. The owner here has a pool but will not allow the children to swim in it. This festival site could use an infusion of some serious financial help to bring it up to better standards. There are more than 150 people here and with the new people coming from the Worldwide Church of God, there will be quite a large group. This site is a step up from Mumbwa, however. People live in new tents which they really like instead of the quickly constructed grass huts. The hall has comfortable chairs that Kambani Banda was able to borrow from other churches that were all hauled here. All the church people from Mumbwa were brought on our LifeNets truck in two shifts with each load carrying over 60 people. They will be returning to Nalubanda and Kasumpa in Mumbwa on Sunday…I must get some photographs. For us it’s been easier not having to travel into the bush to keep the Feast. I gave a sermon today about learning to live with joy–rejoice at the Feast and carry the joy beyond the Feast. I was notified 10 seconds before the start of services that I also had the sermonette. I took the time to talk about our meeting the day before in Makopa with the people keeping the Feast there. I mentioned the name of the leader Wilson Nkhoma and the people here were well aware of and took all the new developments very positively. After services we passed out candy or as they say “sweets” for the children. It’s a simple thing, but is a special touch that makes the children happy. Then we passed out the mosquito nets. Christina Davis in Portland, Oregon raised over $5000 for mosquito nets in Malawi and Zambia. It will buy almost 3000 nets. We passed out 100 of them to our church members who received them with great appreciation. Then lunch. Chairs were rearranged in the meeting hall. We sat with Mr. and Mrs. Mufosa and Maxwell and Joyce Kasakabantu. Mr. Mufosa has somewhere between 30 and 50 children. We don’t fully understand the entire story. He is 80 years old and had their last baby four years ago. Lunch consisted of rice, nsima, steamed carrots and chicken. It was tasty and we enjoyed great fellowship with talk and laughter. It gives us great joy to be with these people in such a poor society and see them enjoy themselves so much. It’s FAMILY DAY!!! We are told it is to be great fun and indeed it is! Races of all kinds for all ages. Take a look at some of the photos. The grand finale was the Tug of Peace. I’ll let the photos tell the story of the race. Awards consisting of more sweets were presented at the end of the program After the races we walked through the game park and saw zebra, bush buck, guinea fowl, buffalo. Several of us stopped by at the bar to have a drink. We spoke with the crusty owner who is a second generation Zambian with roots from South Africa. He told us about a new copper mine that he opening in the Mumbwa area. Zambia is rich in copper and prices are up making mining viable. The Banda’s and us came back to our chalet to work on his computer which has a serious problem with the primary hard disk. As we come closer a few families greet us. One family tells us how much they have appreciated the gift of LifeNets cattle, the medicines and the farm loans. They have applied themselves and greatly improved their life. That’s all they came to talk about–just to express gratitude. The other family had come to have the wife and ten year old daughter be anointed. Medical care is so difficult to come by. Our prayers were extra strong and we will continue to pray for these large families that live so remotely under such harsh conditions. Bev and I have special admiration for them and want to continue helping them by not just giving them more, but helping them with the means to help them have a better life. It’s Friday night at the campground and an outside party comes to celebrate a birthday deluging us with loud music until way past 1:00 am. Our minds are filled with many impressions and thoughts. We ask God for guidance as to how to proceed further. Tomorrow I have give two sermons, the blessing of the children (of which there will be many) and a baptism at the pool at 9:30 am reluctantly agreed to by the owner.
Mumbwa Town, Zambia
We live in a little cottage. We are glad that we got the mosquito net not so much for the mosquitoes, but because of all the other creepie crawlies. We chased off the five inch spider, but he as back today! So, we’re just going to live with him. Bev has even befriended him calling him “Goliath.” He is just over the night stand and we have to be aware not to bump our head into him. Kambani Banda told us that he has never seen such a spider and that he “hopes it’s not poisonous.” We had not planned on this, but an interesting development has taken place in that the what remained of the Worldwide Church of God in Zambia. WCG members in Zambia were told that the church was going to Sunday worship and that the Festival Days, that we had been observing for years, were no longer to be kept. These church members were kept in the dark about where the church was really going all these years. Beacause of loyalty to the church, they hung on as long as they felt they could keep the Sabbath and Holy Days, but earlier in the year they were notified by their leaders that observing the God-ordained Sabbath and Holy Days was no longer to be done. The leader, Wilson Nkhoma and many of the brethren could no longer accept this and withdrew from the Worldwide Church of God. Just before the Feast of Tabernacles they notified the United Church of God that they wanted contact. Our Zambian pastor, Kambani Banda spoke to UCG’s president Clyde Kilough about this at the very recent Southern Africa ministerial conference and it was suggested that when Beverly and I came to Lusaka for the Feast that we would also go to the place where the remnant of WCG was keeping their Feast in Mapoka in the Mumbwa region. It was a two and a half hour drive to Mapoka. The last eight kilometers were very slow going over very rutted road and potholes that could swallow up an entire car. As in Lusaka where the brethren stood waiting and singing a greeting song, we were welcomed warmly by more than 100 people. After some introductions, we started the church service that went for more than two and a half hours. Wilson Nkhoma gave an introductory message about himself and the group that was most enlightening. He had been a member of the church since 1963. He had a rich experience in the church and a proper understanding of the Truth that God has granted us. He was kind and respectful. Next speaker was Kambani Banda who was to introduce me, but Mr. Banda went on to tell about himself and his history in the Church. Again, this was most enlightening and very tastefully delivered. I then spoke about United Church of God and how and why we started. Then I gave a sermon about understanding the Gospel of the Work of Jesus Christ through the Festivals and Holy Days. Afterward we had lunch. All the cooking was done outside. I was able to get better acquainted with Wilson Nkhoma and his wife Dorothy. I was very impressed by him, his maturity. He told me that in Zambia there will be probably about 200 people who will want to worship with the United Church of God. Realistically, it may be more like a hundred, but certainly it will add greatly to the 150 we already have. Kambani Banda is very pleased at this development. We then took a group photo, chatted some more and started on our way back to our Feast site in Lusaka. I drove both ways in Kambani Banda’s club cab pickup. Back at the game park/camp ground we were glad to see the boys playing soccer with ball we had brought with us. The evening ended with a variety show. It consisted of mostly hilarious skits. The most enjoyable aspect was seeing the people in meeting hall laughing uproariously and just plain having a good time. Another fascinating day end. I now focus of three more sermons I have to give in the next two days.
It was interesting stay overnight at the home of Mark Katsonga Phiri. He is quite a national leader. He has also been a long-time member of the Blantyre Chamber of CommerceHe was President of it for four years. Servants prepared a tasty breakfast for us before we packed up in the same vehicle we traveled in yesterday and Peter drove us to the Blantyre Airport. On to Lusaka! The flight first went to the capital Lilongwe and then the one hour 40 minute leg to Lusaka. Shirley and Kambani Banda were there to greet us. How good to see them again!! Kambani Banda has been an excellent minister in Zambia, an excellent manager and one who has made our LifeNets projects intending to change people’s lives for the better a phenomenal success. I have a great deal of trust in their capacity to make things happen…simply because they HAVE made things happen. Always, the strength of LifeNets has been our competent delivery at the beneficiary’s end. Other organizations such service clubs and churches have noted this about LifeNets. I tell them that we use our ministers and old-time acquaintances to deliver our programs. We are strict regarding accountability and if we make mistakes we correct them and determine not to make them again. We stopped at Manda Hill mall to change money. The Zambia Kwacha is 3850 to one US dollar. We got about two million Zambian Kwachas for $500. Bev was commenting to Kambani Banda who is a certified public accountant that you need an accounting degree in this country just to manage the money and exchange rates. We headed out to Feast site which is at Paray’s game park just outside of Lusaka. The entire church greeted us outside the camp ground with a wonderful welcome sign for Bev and me. They sang a few greeting songs. It was very touching to us. We settled into our chalet and prepared for the afternoon church service which didn’t start until almost 4:30 PM. Compared to keeping the Feast in the Mumbwa area in Zambia’s interior, this shelter was superior. There were nice chairs for everyone instead of wooden benches and actually no seating in year’s past. As in Malawi, we are becoming more familiar with the people and feel we know them so much better. I gave the sermon. The special music was exceptional! The choir sang beautifully, in harmony with no accompaniment in perfect rhythm. The voices were skillfully blended. The people look great! So much better than our first years. The dress, appearance, even the demeanor is a tribute to Kambani Banda’s management of livelihood development programs that are working beyond our expectations. Mr. Banda tells me that an indicator of improved conditions is the tripling and quadrupling of church tithes. Just as we were leaving the hall Mr. James Mphulah stopped by. He is deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs here in Zambia and a member of the United Church of God. He is a man of great humility and competence. Under his administration is the Zambian police and control of the borders. Dinner was brought to our chalet. There are lots of bugs and Bev yelped at the five inch spider. Kambani Banda and Apren Momba got a mosquito net put up more for keeping out all the critters than the mosquitoes of which there are few. Another day of excitement comes to a close……tomorrow I’m sure there will be more!
This is our last day at the Feast here in Malawi and saddens grips me. We love the Malawian people, they truly have the warm heart of Africa as the travel advertisements go. Bev and I have gotten into the personal lives of so many of the Malawi brethren and feel satisfaction in being providers of hope not only spiritually, but vocationally as well. We have taken at least ten application for livelihood development projects to consider and to fund before the beginning of the year. Most projects to this point, both in scholarships and livelihood development have been successful. We try to tell them about the LifeNets mission of providing practical aid that makes people self-sustaining and then helps them help others. Bill Jahns and I both gave sermons, Bill about the Resurrection and I spoke about marriage. Since we enjoyed the children’s choir so much earlier, I made a special request for them to sing again. They did. Then the church choir sang as well. It was beautiful. After the service was complete, Beverly addressed everyone about LifeNets and gave some important pointers about our programs Then the lunch. Today we invited everyone over to the Nkopola Lodge for a lunch. All 140 people came and enjoyed a delicious lunch, provided by brethren in Boston, Houston South and Central Illinois. Time to go. Our driver is “Peter” from the Customs and Excise Office of Malawi. He works for my Rotarian friend Agnes Katsonga Phiri who is the head of that division. Rotarians help one another and this was a BIG help as the 100 mile distance from Lake Malawi to Blantyre is difficult to arrange. I cannot say enough about Rotary’s support for what we are doing to help people. We were taken to the home of Mark and Agnes Katsonga Phiri. Agnes has gone to visit her daughter in London, but the house is made available to us. Mark is a bit late coming from work. He is also a major poultry producer in Malawi. He had been President of the Chamber of Commerce. He has dinner with us served by home servants. A young orphan girl Loughan who is Agnes’s niece lives with them. She is a senior in high school. She is very friendly with us and we enjoy her presence. Mark Katsonga Phiri is a very competent person who is intimately acquainted with the politics and economics of Malawi. We do see him as the President of the country in the future. The six of us carried on an animated conversation until 10 pm. It was fascinating and enlightening.