Missionary Monday - Zambia

Mwatandaleni (You are visiting),

And I thought the public bus in Zambia was an experience…wait until you hear about the public boat! Constant shouting, hard benches, the smell of petrol and dried fish, not to mention that the ride took 10 hours. This experience felt like the real Zambia, the real Lake T. I was traveling to the very remote Nsumbu Village to fetch a little boy who lives with one of the missionaries on base. He was visiting home while this missionary was travelling for meetings. I hadn’t been to Nsumbu before, so I thought, “Why not hop on a boat and go?” The visit was great, and I’ve decided that Nsumbu is now my favorite lakeshore village out of the four I’ve visited. OM has a base there, so I was able to stay with missionary friends during my visit, and visit the families of several students from school who stay with relatives in Mpulungu during the school term. Everywhere we went in Nsumbu people greeted us, “Mwatandaleni.” If you go to a village and don’t visit people or greet them, they will remember and hold it against you. Needless to say, we made many visits and exchanged countless greetings.

Aside from visiting families, the most fascinating part of this journey happened on the boat. The “big” public boat doesn’t actually dock at the villages along the route. Small canoes and ring-net boats paddle out from the village shore to bring people to and from the public boat. The fascinating part is that the people paddling out are young boys. Some of them only 10 years old! I asked my traveling buddy (a Zambian from Nsumbu Village) how old the boys are when they begin learning how to fish. He said that boys can be brought along on the fishing boats at 5 years old, and start going out to fish in the small boats on their own by the time they’re 10. This wasn’t surprising to me, but startling, because I’ve heard about what happens on the fishing boats. Many of the men drink, smoke, and throw insults. Most of the boats are covered in witchcraft rituals. And you may not know, the fisherman along Lake T are considered an unreached people group. Please pray for these men and young boys to know the protection, hope, and freedom that they can have in Jesus. 

Since my last email about the tough stuff happening, I have seen rays of sunshine here at the lake. I have no doubt that this light and warmth has come from surrendering to God and from your prayers. There has still been some heavy stuff to deal with, but God’s grace has outweighed it. There was a day when things just felt too heavy and I was tired. I went home early from school on this particular Monday because I had been travelling most of the weekend with an outreach. I sat in my room and prayed…and cried, releasing my burdened heart to the Lord. As I was praying and crying I heard a knock and, “Teacha Selah!” There was about 10 students at my door. I tried to ignore them, but they started opening the door to come into my house! Now, I’m not telling you this so that you can be sad that I cried, because it was a freeing kind of cry. I’m mostly telling it to you because I now find the intrusion funny, and because I’m human and I think it’s important that we be open about our brokenness…and the strength we find in Jesus. 

I created a note on my phone that lists some of these sunshine rays because I want to remember each glimmer of light. Here are a few…My boys meeting me at the boat harbor because they were so excited that I was coming back from Nsumbu (as they were waiting apparently one of them called me auntie and one called me mom), getting a message from one of my students saying that he missed me and asking me to come back to Mpulungu, 3 fellow missionaries being amazingly supportive friends during the tough stuff, receiving a compliment from one of the government teachers who I thought was not a fan of mine, taking a few of my boys to the lookout point and hearing them say that I was their real coach when they were jokingly being persuaded otherwise, gaining Godly wisdom and advice from mentors to work through difficult situations, seeing God care about the little details of bringing people together, Team Cooperation victories, visiting the guardians of my boys, and so many more.

Team Cooperation is my football (soccer) team. Since that first time I went to watch the boys play and got stuck in the mud with them, I’ve been to many more games and had many more adventures. I usually walk an hour through town and Muzabwela village to get to the plot where they play, because the minibus is not working and the rains have made the roads quite bad. This has earned me the title of “Coach” which is the running joke of everyone on base because I know nothing about football. But I show up, and I care. That’s really what it’s all about. The boys don’t care that I know nothing about football because they know that I care about them and am willing to give up weekends to support them. I was feeling hesitant about the boys being the ones that I was spending so much time with, but now I’m embracing it. These are the ones that God has brought into my life…and there’s a reason, and I’m so thankful for each one of them. Pray with me for these boys; I don’t want to miss any opportunity that the Holy Spirit gives me to tell them about and show them Jesus.

One of my boys has had a really tough time at home. He’s almost 18 and is in grade 6. His mother is extremely ill and he has a 14 and 1-year-old sister. He’s been trying to provide for his family while going to school as the older sister stays home to take care of the mother and baby (although some days she runs away). He asks for small jobs to earn money for food and rent, but has had trouble making ends meet. Two other teachers and I sat down to think of how we can best support his family. I was able to give money (from you!) to him to buy items that his mother can re-sell in smaller packs to others in the village while he’s at school. One of the other teachers (a missionary in charge of Self-Help Groups) went shopping with him and will follow-up with the family to make sure that they are earning enough to provide for their basic needs, buy more product, and save. We’re hoping that this will be a sustainable way to empower them as a family to take care of themselves. Please pray for the mother’s health, and for this little family’s welfare. I actually went to visit this boy and his mother at their home several times before we provided the capital. His mother gave me a big hug and held my hand for the first several minutes of my visit. And just like she held my hand, God has them in His.

At school we’ve been learning about character traits in devotions, and teach them using Bible stories and verses. The first was cooperation, then integrity, and now we’re moving on to compassion. This character program has been the highlight for many of the teachers this term (this means I did something right, wow haha). The kids have had some lively and honest discussions about the applications of these words and stories to their own lives, and have even enjoyed creating skits. The teachers have even been studying the traits in their devotions, so it’s been just as convicting for us as it has been to some of the students. Pray that God would continue to use these traits and His word to transform each student and teacher.

Eesh…and I thought I wouldn’t have anything to say when I started typing this update! Thank you SO much for your prayers since my last email; they have been felt as little rays of sunshine coming through the clouds…which are often the most beautiful. I hope that each of you have been experiencing your own rays :)

In Christ, 

Teacha (Coach) Selah