"My Zambian Adventure"

by Rev. David Ferguson, June 2008

"With our preparations complete as far as we could tell, all the vaccines taken, the visa, air tickets and passport to hand and the suitcases packed, on 3 June, Stephen and I headed to Aldergrove Airport where we were to meet the Rev Brian Stewart who was to accompany us on our trip.

"There were many thoughts going through my mind as I prepared for this trip. I was a little apprehensive travelling, excited about seeing new places and meeting new people. Questions such as what will the local cuisine be like, will the weather be very warm, will I find the poverty overwhelming were impossible to answer until we actually arrived.

"We left Belfast at 5.15pm on 3 June with our suitcases bulging as we tried to bring as many bits and pieces as we could such as footballs, skipping ropes, pencils and balloons to give out to the children we would meet. As we made each connecting flight the question was would the airlines charge for excess baggage. It didn’t help as we struggled to get our suitcases onto the conveyer belt trying not to bring ourselves under notice. But the airlines were very good and understood what we were trying to do.

"After travelling for nearly twenty hours we arrived at Ndola Airport in Zambia where we were met by the Rev Keith Scott and his wife Lyn. They took us on the final 40 kilometres journey by road to Kitwe and the home of Bishop Albert Chama which would be our base for the next ten days.

"The first thing which struck me was that despite it only being teatime it was already dark. All you could see were hundreds of people walking home from work. There were no footpaths or street lights, just dusty paths along the side of a road with so many potholes. What was to be a bumpy and dusty ride was repeated each time we travelled out to the different locations we were to visit.

"In the forthcoming days we saw many things which have left lasting impressions. I was overwhelmed by enormity of the situation many of the people found themselves. I asked myself the question as to how we could make a difference, it was a seemingly impossible task. But as we meet the people of Zambia, I came to understand they are grateful for whatever support one can offer and are prepared to do much to help themselves with the limited resources they have.

"One of the highlights for me among many was the dedication of the Home Care Teams. This is a project organised by the Diocese with the support of Mothers’ Union. Support is provided for those who cannot look after themselves because of illness such as Aids, TB or Malaria. If the person who is ill is the breadwinner, the family are given support as well. Home care workers visit homes providing practical help, food and medicines as well as spiritual care. The cost to supply food and medicine is approximately £10 per week per family but with world food prices continuing to rise, these costs will also increase. Ultimately this will result in fewer families being able to receive this much needed aid. At the moment the Diocese’s budget for this project allows them to provide care to about 80 families. Without more funding, this figure will have to be reduced. I think this is a project we could consider supporting as it is an excellent example of practical Christianity at work

"I brought many memories back from Zambia such as the cock which crowed outside my bedroom window each morning as the sun came up at 4.30am. There was the heart warming e welcome and the hospitality we received from everyone with whom we came into contact. We can learn much from our new friends about hospitality, community spirit, lively and sincere worship and how they share whatever meagre resources they have. The faith of the people we met is an example to us all. For them, faced with such poverty and illness every day, there still appears to be a sense that in the fullness of time God will put things right. It is evident that their faith and worship plays a vital role in their lives.

"There are too many other memories to mention, but hopefully you will hear of more examples in the coming weeks. The memories I have will remain with me for the rest of my life. Whatever projects we undertake to support the people in the diocese of Northern Zambia in the coming years, surely this is an excellent opportunity for us as a parish to fulfil in a practical way the teachings of Jesus.

"May I take this opportunity to thank you all for allowing me to be one of your representatives on this trip to Zambia. It is a time in my ministry I will never forget."