Tag Archives: Zambia

Will we concede Southern Africa to Islam?

Our last day in Zambia was full of constrasts — and Lusaka’s traffic jams! We shopped at the mall with the rest of the 1% and looked over an unpaved alley full of vendors. We had our last baked beans for breakfast, lunch on a posh balcony, and had a farewell dinner at The Retreat — a poolside eatery inside a walled suburban tract.

Levison Soko, Lusaka area overseer for the BIC
Levison Soko, Lusaka area overseer for the BIC

While sitting in traffic we had a lot of time to check out the sites. One of the surprises was to see three large mosques in the downtown area. During lunch, I asked our guest, the district overseer for the BIC in Lusaka, if he felt the impact of Muslims in Lusaka. He immediately became more animated. He told us that big spenders were coming in (reportedly from the Middle East and Indonesia, we heard) to put up big new meeting places. To go with them, they attach free schools and often free clinics. Poor people, mostly Christians at some level, are taking advantage of the free gifts, since they have nothing else. Soon their children are followers of Islam. This is the strategy: convert the children of Zambia, village by village.

We told him that some people in the U.S. doubt the evangelistic value of MCC, which supplies our compassionate mission, complete with schools and health care components. They think the ministry of the word is enough. He was flabbergasted. He could not understand how the spoken and enacted word could ever be separated, and reinforced that the BIC in Zambia consider MCC and the BIC to be one movement. Then he quoted the word to us as a final admonition: “If you have done it to the least of these you have done it to me” (Matthew 25). Works of compassion are the first steps of evangelism; isn’t that why the Lord’s teaching often follows an act of healing or dispossession?

I received his admonition. But as a church planter, I have to admit, my competitive juices also began to flow. Will we actually concede Southern Africa, where we have been supporting successful church planting for over 100 years, to the Muslims? Have we conformed to the world so completely that we would follow liberal irreligiousity or conservative protectionism instead of following Jesus, who is waiting for us to unite his resources in the cause of redemption? We have capable partners already in Zimbabwe and Zambia, I have learned. But they certainly don’t have our resources — or those of the local imam’s apparently!

The other Africa posts:

April 13
Circle of Hope travels to southern Africa.

ZIMBABWE

April 18
First thoughts from Zimbabwe

April 19
Being poor is tough

April 20
Going around doing good

April 22
Coming up against the powers

ZAMBIA

April 25
The food chain

April 25
The work of the Lord

April 26
Showing God’s love in practical ways

April 27
Will the northern hemisphere ever grow peace clubs?

Will the northern hemisphere ever grow peace clubs?

We had a less-packed day today — a peaceful day devoted to peace clubs.

MCC peace worker, the prison's teacher and the warden
MCC peace worker, the prison’s teacher and the warden

A peace club in prison

I hope I have this story right because it seems like the greatest thing I have ever heard. An MCC service worker, Kajungu Mturi, from Tanzania was assigned to do peace work in the Choma, Zambia area. He was interested In applying the peace club curriculum in schools developed by Issa Ebombolo of the Congo. He had an inspiration to apply it to the local prison and asked the superintendent for permission. He met with skepticism. That man was replaced and the new leader immediately called him back to tell him he wanted the program implemented immediately. I felt privileged to hear from both men this morning.

The work is strangely successful. We heard from the most recent leader of the club from among the prisoners. He told us about the five modules: conflict, violence, cross gender violence, reconciliation, and trauma healing. They come at it as Christians (the Zambian BIC peace coordinator will probably be instrumental in keeping the program going when the service worker is gone). This is peace evangelism. People accept their wrongs. Often the offended are brought to the prison before the sentence is complete so amends can be made. They re-enter society as transformed people, not vengeful recidivists.

The MCC folks did a study that validated their success in fomenting transformation. When the President of Zambia does his general pardons to reduce prison overcrowding, members of the peace club are first to be pardoned. The warden is happy to repeatedly be number one in pardons. Now another warden wants training to start peace clubs. The warden and teachers would love it if donors built them a classroom In which they could hold their classes, including the ones that teach the peace club curriculum — they even hope to open the peace curriculum to the community to learn alongside the prisoners.

Brook Strayer in the school's new peace garden
Brook Strayer in the school’s new peace garden

A SALTer and her peace clubs in schools

Brook Strayer took us to a BICC school to tell us about her work on peace clubs in school. Although she had never heard a sermon on peace in her home church growing up and her senior paper on the BIC U.S as a peace church did not encourage her, she still felt she should contribute to teaching the way of peace. She is applying the Issa Ebombolo curriculum as it was first intended, to teach children alternatives to unreconciled conflict and violence. In the boarding school, this is very useful. It is useful all over the world. There are not only clubs in Africa, they exist in Colombia and Laos, we heard. I wonder if they will ever move into the Northern Hemisphere more  widely? We could use them in Philly.

Apparently, one pastor answered Brook’s questionnaire for her research paper by saying he would discourage people from attending Messiah College because she did this investigation! Another said Jesus was not concerned with peacemaking so we should not be either. I suppose those responders need to be in a peace club, learning to deal with their anger, how to respond when they feel threatened, how to practically apply what it means to love people who are enemies, and how to follow the Lord, who is our peace — not just peace with God, but with others, the Lord who blesses the peacemakers.

The other Africa posts:

April 13
Circle of Hope travels to southern Africa.

ZIMBABWE

April 18
First thoughts from Zimbabwe

April 19
Being poor is tough

April 20
Going around doing good

April 22
Coming up against the powers

ZAMBIA

April 25
The food chain

April 25
The work of the Lord

April 26
Showing God’s love in practical ways

April 27
Will the northern hemisphere ever grow peace clubs?

April 30
Will we concede Southern Africa to Islam?

Showing God’s love in practical ways

Our day revolved around Choma, Zambia today, the home of the Brethren in Christ in Zambia and the new provincial capital. We found a new South African pizza chain for lunch (whatever); we walked the main street. I think we all felt a bit of the strain of understanding how foreign we are and how daunting being Zambia feels to us. For instance, the hotel just turned on the generator, since the country is on rolling load shedding and we only have power for part of the day — a problem most people do not expect to be fixed for years

But we were with people all day who like to fix things. They show God’s love in practical ways by helping people find inventive ways to survive and even overcome the crushing difficulties they face — love in action, not just words.

Festus and the tomato farmer describing h is successes

More conservation farming

Conrad (do not expect “Zambian” names here) and his team introduced us to three farmers who are being trained to farm in a less invasive and more productive way. Their old methods use more scarce water and expensive fertilizer than necessary. They are committed to maize. It was interesting to tromp around fields and see how people farm.

My favorite was the proud tomato farmer who bragged that last year’s tomatoes were purchased by people as far away as Livingstone. He had taken the risk to learn tomatoes and stop planting corn altogether. The BIC farm consultants helped him with the knowledge he needed to do more with less as MCC supplied them with theory and practical support.

Ron is calling Todd out of the wood shop to meet with us

A self-sufficient training program

Todd is an MCC service worker from North America who feels the pull to use his advanced engineering and science degrees to serve in Africa. He was placed in a church-run job training program that has promised its European partners it would become self-sufficient for many years. It isn’t self-sufficient but it will be if he has anything to do about it.

They teach people computer skills, tailoring, wood working, sewing and basic life skills that will help them turn skills into their own business. Most Zambian jobs are entrepreneurial. Probably only 20% of all workers are employed in trackable jobs. Todd got the center starting with Quickbooks so they could see if they made any money. He got involved with the cabinet-making shop when he discovered they made cabinets and furniture with some wet wood that warped. He turned a big shipping container into a solar-powered drying kiln. He is having the time of his life.

What should we do when our compassion seems like a drop in the bucket? — people don’t heed our advice, they misuse the resources we give, they don’t even honor or receive the love and generosity we show! We keep dripping, because the love of God overflows — not necessarily to produce results, although it surely does, but just because that is what God’s love does.

The other Africa posts:

April 13
Circle of Hope travels to southern Africa.

ZIMBABWE

April 18
First thoughts from Zimbabwe

April 19
Being poor is tough

April 20
Going around doing good

April 22
Coming up against the powers

ZAMBIA

April 25
The food chain

April 25
The work of the Lord

April 26
Showing God’s love in practical ways

April 27
Will the northern hemisphere ever grow peace clubs?

April 30
Will we concede Southern Africa to Islam?

The work of the Lord

The last three days have been an intensive dip into the BIC homeland in Zambia. Keith Cober (gregarious connector, historian and much-needed plumber) keeps telling us how much has developed in Macha since he was first involved and even since 2000. The hospital, nursing school, and especially the Macha Malaria Research Institute have created something of a small city, which looks to me like it might reach some kind of critical mass of urbanism some day. To hear everyone tell the story, it is all the work of the Lord. As before, there is too much to tell you about it all. So let me theme it as: three ways we saw the work of the Lord, with the emphasis on the work.

Getting ready for the Sunday meeting with Phil and Elaine Thuma
Getting ready for the Sunday meeting with Phil and Elaine Thuma

Macha Brethren in Christ

Phil and Elaine Thuma and John and Esther Spurrier should probably be more famous than they are. They are the main engines of Macha Mission’s development since the 90’s, and before. I sat next to Phil during the fascinating and often moving church service we attended. It was a blessing to have him keep leaning over and explaining why things were happening. Odd things: The adult men and women sat on separate sides of the church, which is about as old school BIC as you can get. Some ladies were in the BIC uniform. Visitors have to stand in front of the church and explain why they are there (I gave them greetings from you, Circle of Hope, and they voiced their delight). Great things: Various musicians, including choirs, are invited each week to register to lead the church; we had five groups including a man who played a home made guitar, the extremely well-rehearsed youth choir and a woman’s choir with a solo by a 70-year-old that generated applause. We learned to sing traditional hymns in Tonga.

The church and the work of the Lord are central to everything we have seen. The work week begins on Sunday.

On the Spurrier’s porch for tea

We experienced the blessing of a history lesson on Macha Mission Hospital and the Malaria Research Institute by the Thumas and Spurriers on a beautiful afternoon. Here is an article on Phil from a main funder that can give you more. I have known the Spurriers for many years and the Thumas mainly by association. It was a treat to relate to them in their native environment. One of the encouraging things they reported is how they feel more supported as a mission than ever. They are delighted with Jonathan Lloyd as a leader. They think the relationship of MCC and the church in Zambia is exemplary and report the historic relationship between MCC and the hospital as invaluable. Their work is laced with friendship, humility and joy.

Jose lining up kids at Macha Central
Jose lining up kids at Macha Central

Institutions: MRI, Macha Central school, Macha Hospital, the nursing school

Macha, Zambia is a hub for BIC-founded enterprises: schools, hospital, and the amazing Malaria Research Institute (which is a work of God but independent).

  • Let’s start with the MRI (also MRT and other names depending on the registration with various powers). Most of you do not know that this jewel exists in an extremely unlikely, out-of-the-way place in the world. Who would think the the BIC would come up with a world-class research institute in their remote mission station! Phil Thuma is a funny, lucid, salesman saint and the engine behind it. I wanted to sit and listen to him teach me everything I could absorb of what he knows about viruses of every kind and how to get a university to send you a $35K machine.
  • Likewise, John Sprurrier (and the two are a tag team) has been the work horse behind what appears to be a well-run hospital. Upwards of 10,000 HIV AIDS patients are in active treatment, among many other things. MCC provided all the linens and blankets for the 200-bed hospital; in the state-run hospitals, you provide your own.
  • When it comes to the schools, there is a consistent theme: not enough. At Macha Central school we learned that many kids get up with the rooster at 5am and start walking without breakfast. They arrive at school by 6 to a class of 40, at least. No food will be provided; the homes for teachers have no electricity; and there is no money to complete the needed classrooms or even the fence to keep the goats off the soccer field. MCC’s Global Family project helps, but also does not have enough. As I’ve said before, it is daunting.

Nevertheless, the people exude hope, competence, community, spiritual passion and invention. There has been a lot to learn on the learning tour.

The other Africa posts:

April 13
Circle of Hope travels to southern Africa.

ZIMBABWE

April 18
First thoughts from Zimbabwe

April 19
Being poor is tough

April 20
Going around doing good

April 22
Coming up against the powers

ZAMBIA

April 25
The food chain

April 25
The work of the Lord

April 26
Showing God’s love in practical ways

April 27
Will the northern hemisphere ever grow peace clubs?

April 30
Will we concede Southern Africa to Islam?

The food chain


We had a couple of days to travel and reflect. What stays with me at this point is what it feels like to be at the bottom of the power food chain. Of course,  I know I am disguised by white privilege and empire power. But our travels gave me some small empathy for people in Zimbabwe and now Zambia.

We went to the game park and they took us to see the animals. That gives one the best idea of the actual food chain and how it works. New factoid: elephants crashing through the underbrush wrecking trees helps new trees to grow. They are like forest farmers.

I forgot to count how many police check points we went through on the trip out of Zimbabwe. It was at least 15. At each one the policeman might require a bribe to let us keep going. It was a bit exhausting to know that any minute a gun-toting young officer was in charge and held sway over what we could do.

figuring out the border

At the border we had to get out of the Zimbabwe exit process, walk a mile of “no man’s land,” and then get through the Zambia entrance process. It felt tense. We were at the mercy of potentially capricious clerks. Our handlers were a bit anxious. The whole time vendors swarmed looking for a sale or a handout. At Victoria Falls (which is right on the border) the baboons swarmed looking to raid someone’s picnic. We felt preyed upon. It is an unusual feeling for us, but it is an everyday feeling for most of the people in the countries we are visiting. They adapt to being powerless. The U.S. dominates them. Their governments dominate them. The local police and corruption dominates them. Then there are the traditional chiefs who still allocate land in less organized areas. I think most people feel like they are at the bottom.

The BIC bishop in Zambia and his grandson

We met the Zambian bishop yesterday Saturday. He seems like a good man. Our MCC guide made sure we paid him a courtesy call on the way into the country. He seems to be a bit like a religious chief. He’s the top of the chain. He told our moderator when he visited that the U.S. Church should act with MCC like they do: as one. I somehow missed the report Alan Robinson gave on his travels. I hope one of you will forward it to me.

The other Africa posts:

April 13
Circle of Hope travels to southern Africa.

ZIMBABWE

April 18
First thoughts from Zimbabwe

April 19
Being poor is tough

April 20
Going around doing good

April 22
Coming up against the powers

ZAMBIA

April 25
The food chain

April 25
The work of the Lord

April 26
Showing God’s love in practical ways

April 27
Will the northern hemisphere ever grow peace clubs?

April 30
Will we concede Southern Africa to Islam?

Circle of Hope travels to southern Africa.

We are off to Africa! Ten people from the Brethren in Christ have been invited by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to learn about how our relief, development and advocacy arm acts with and through  the largest concentration of Brethren in Christ people in the world in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The ten include Rod and Gwen White, who helped organize the tour (Gwen is secretary of the MCC U.S. board), Joshua Grace and Bethany Hornak.

I intend to do some blogging about it here. We’ll see how my internet connections work out!

Today I am writing because people have asked to follow along with our itinerary and pray. It is a rare occasion when a loved one connects you with a faraway and relatively unknown place. From the look of our schedule, it appears that our hosts are making sure we don’t suffer too much hardship.

After 20+ hours in the air, we get to rest at the eMseni Retreat Center in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Recipients of aid in Matabeleland

On Sunday the 17th we fly to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and settle into Sethule Lodge. Monday to Thursday we are in and around Bulawayo, the center of the Brethren in Christ Church in Zimbabwe. On Tuesday we will take a day trip out to Mtshabezi school and hospital. On Friday, we head to Zambia by car, stopping at the Hwange National Park and then Victoria Falls on Saturday!

In Zimbabwe an estimated 1.5 million people – 16 % of the population – are projected to be food insecure at the peak of the 2015-16 lean season, the period before the next harvest when domestic food stocks get scarce. This represents a 164 percent increase in food insecurity compared to the previous season. Nearby Malawi declared a state of emergency today due to scarce food supplies after prolonged drought. The Brethren in Christ sent missionaries to Zimbabwe in 1905. MCC started working there in the 1980s. The BIC is active in renewing the life of the Church amidst the country’s prolonged struggle for social, economic, and political welfare. The leaders of the BIC Church not only urge their people to embody a life modeled after Christ, but urge other members of the global Anabaptist-related churches to walk with them in their struggle. The BIC Church- Zimbabwe has 317 congregations. Historically, the Church was based in the Matopo Mission region with extensive membership in Bulawayo. The Church sponsors the Ekuphileni Bible Institute and the Mtshabezi Mission Hospital. Lobengula BIC Church in Bulawayo is known to be the largest BIC congregation in the world.

Zambian 100th Anniversary General Conference Meal

On Saturday the 23rd we are in Zambia and begin our time at Macha Mission/Hospital. Tuesday and Wednesday we are in Choma making connections with the BIC in Zambia and MCC work centered in that area. Thursday we travel half a day to Lusaka (the capital) where we will meet with MCC staff and BIC leaders. On Saturday it is back to the airport for an all day and night travel experience.

Zambia is one of the 20 poorest countries in the world. 60% of its people live in poverty. The Brethren in Christ Church sent missionaries from Southern Rhodesia to Northern in the early 1900s. MCC started a program in 1962. Throughout the 50+ year history, MCC has had an ongoing relationship with the Brethren in Christ Church. The church has congregations and ministry throughout the country, but has its headquarters in Choma, Southern Province. The majority of the church congregations remain in Southern Province. The BIC has about 180 congregations with about 15,000 members, and administers 12 schools, a hospital and nursing school in Macha, and a pastor’s training institute in Sikalongo. In recent years, MCC has focused the placement of MCC workers in Southern Province, because of the ongoing commitment to work with the BIC.

That should get your prayers started! We see ourselves as your representatives on this trip. So we will try to keep you informed.

The other Africa posts:

April 13
Circle of Hope travels to southern Africa.

ZIMBABWE

April 18
First thoughts from Zimbabwe

April 19
Being poor is tough

April 20
Going around doing good

April 22
Coming up against the powers

ZAMBIA

April 25
The food chain

April 25
The work of the Lord

April 26
Showing God’s love in practical ways

April 27
Will the northern hemisphere ever grow peace clubs?

April 30
Will we concede Southern Africa to Islam?

Parades at the MWC

As I acclimated to the sprawling Pennsylvania Farm Show complex in Harrisburg I ran into a parade of good memories of worldwide travel with the Mennonite Central Committee. I met Ron and Judy Zook with whom we traveled to Palestine. I saw Bonnie Klassen from Colombia who has impressed anyone who has met her since I did. A new Beachy Amish friend talked about visiting San Pedro Sula, in Honduras, like I had on my first learning tour with Ron Byler (and later I saw Steve Penner!). MCC has a big presence at the MWC /Mennonite World Conference, with which the Brethren in Christ are affiliated. I have been all over the world with our relief and advocacy mission, now I am experiencing the whole world coming to Harrisburg.

The first meeting started off with a dramatic parade. Native Americans representing those displaced by Mennonite immigrants in the 1700s came in to drums, singing and flutes. They reminded us of a recent ceremony of mutual understanding and forgiveness that took place. The ground was made clean for the meeting.

native

Then there “a parade of nations” reminiscent of the Olympics to begin the week. Brethren in Christ churches from Zambia and Zimbabwe were represented, banners and all.

Continue reading Parades at the MWC