Friends and family-
Here I am in Lomé, Togo–man, it still amazes me that I’m in Africa! To start, let me tell you a bit about Zambia. Upon arrival, after a day and a half of flying across the world, we fell suddenly into the warmth of the culture with a welcome of scrambled eggs, PB & J, and a bed. There were 5 of us at our host, Mama Jacklyn’s, home, and after an evening and night of rest we joined the rest of the group and headed to the school we would be working at during our time. This school is a product of Hope ministry, a collaboration with an organization called Spark Ventures. The primary outreach of Hope is ministering to the children of Twapia, a neighborhood of Ndola in particular need.
When we first thing arrived at the school, we were ushered into their church/assembly construct, with a tarp roof and dirt floor, for a welcome ceremony. All of the 350 or so children were there, grinning out of their green uniforms with buttons missing here, shoelaces missing there, and a boatload of medical issues constantly grating at them. Amazingly, their spirits remain just as constantly unaffected. After singing and dancing for us and forcing us to join them in dance, we spent a full afternoon playing games and talking with the kids. Although the official language of Zambia is English, the kids primarily speak the local language of Bemba, with the older grades able to converse in simple pleasantries alone (my name is.., how are you?). Language barrier aside, we had a blast, and such were the days of the first week, doing spelling activities in the classroom, teaching the 1st graders how to brush their teeth, reading English books with the 4th graders, and simply building relationships with the children, trying to instill in them a sense of self-worth the world often forgets to provide. Then came the clinic, 3 days of malaria testing, health assessments and far more needs than we had medicine to fix. We did have malaria medicine for the perhaps 40-50 students who tested positive for it. One student had a tooth nearly decayed away, many more needed glasses, others more serious care for which we could only refer to the doctor who would be there one day, and hope what they needed was able to be provided by the parents. After the medications were issued, it was up to God to ensure they were taken, the instructions followed, the pills not stolen. A hard pill to swallow, no pun intended. After 3 weeks of new friends, lots of kids and a visit to Victoria falls to conclude, I can thank God for a lovely lovely time in Zambia.
To those who were praying for my travelling alone and not getting lost in airports — thank you. I couldn’t have had an easier time of it. While apprehensive at first when at the customs desk in Accra, Ghana I was told I needed to get a visa though not even leaving the airport, it was a smooth ride after that. A “help the foreigners” guy accompanied me through the whole process, from establishing that I did not need a visa, to re-checking my bag, to printing yet another boarding pass, to finding the gate which was not labeled on said boarding pass. The same thing happened upon my arrival in Togo. While filling out my various forms, another “help the foreigners” lady came and took my pen from me to fill it all out on my behalf. She helped me until I was out of the airport (even showing me a picture of her daughter while I started scraping together my tiny bits of French to try and communicate with her) and reunited with my friend Pastor Macklann.
Here I am now with Macklann and Rose Basse, together reaching out to their city with a school and a boatload of small ministries. They have 5 wonderful kids and about 100 students. Around them, the church has huge struggles pulling together, with a hierarchical and very political Presbyterian church government watching the words of their pastors very closely. Things that might kick up dust, e.g., Macklann’s Gospel-based teachings about discipleship, the body of Christ, and equity of resources therein, are considered threatening. If he hadn’t paid for his own education he could be fired after a single one of these “radical” messages. On top of that there is the threat of witchcraft — from inside the church, sometimes even from elders! Imagine not being able to lean on a congregation for support as a pastor. Twice he has been poisoned because of his messages and ministries. It’s incredible to me — so scary. There is also a huge Muslim conversion happening here. Money is being provided in bushels from somewhere for them to counteract anything the church is doing, while the Christian churches pocket more than they need and struggle to stay in service. A difficult place to be a pastor — keep Togo in your prayers.
Today I started teaching the adult English class. I have been doing the kids’ English lessons as well, which has been a blast. I am learning a lot by observing the teachers and by trying to serve my gracious host family, not to mention trying to understand all of the French coming my way. The little French-speaking toddlers are the best, they always make my day in their funny little ways. I’ll write more soon, hope all is well!
PS> Thank you all for your support.