Zambia 2008

We have come back from Zambia with cameras full of photographs and minds full of memories such as the sights, sounds, smells of cooking, the noise of the market place and the laughter of children in schools, the harmonic singing of the students in the college chapel and the beauty of the vast expanses of unspoiled countryside. The worship was one of the highlights of the trip for both of us. I knew African worship was very different to the way we worship in Antrim, but it was only by taking part in the services that we got a real flavour of how important the things of God and his church are for our partners. We never thought of our trip as a missionary exercise where we did the mission. From beginning to end, our African brothers and sisters in Christ ministered to us.

We still have lots to think about as we have only been home for a few days, but already our visit has convinced us of the need to strengthen our support for the people of northern Zambia. £1,000 will roof a church, £10 will provide food for a person on the health care project, the £2,400 we gave as a start up grant for the farming project will help to provide twenty jobs in an area of high unemployment.

A relatively small amount of money from here can have a huge impact on the lives of many people in the areas we visited. We can provide material and financial resources, but our partners can teach us about what it means to be truly dependent on God. The people we met were the living embodiment of Christ’s beatitudes as recorded in opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter five … ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Some may ask as to why we didn’t send £1,600 to Zambia instead of David and I going to visit, but there comes a stage in any partnership when a visit is expected and when our partners can offer us hospitality in their homes. The welcome we received was beyond words and our hosts were delighted we had made the effort to travel 6,000 miles to see the hardships they have to cope with everyday in order to forward the mission of the church. The journey to the most remote corners of the diocese are made on roads which are crumbling and only passable in a large jeep. In some parishes there is literally no money and people exchange good by bartering. Bishop Chama’s goal is to make his diocese self sufficient and the new diocesan office complex and the farming projects will generate much needed cash flow.

We visited a school with over 600 pupils who are accommodated in three classrooms and have only a dozen desks. The roof on one classroom is about to collapse. We watched parishioners make the clay bricks which will be baked and then assembled into a new church. We were taken to view two churches which are used every week but don’t have a roof. We met clergy who travel many miles by bicycle each week to make contact with their parishioners.

Throughout our visit, we witnessed a church where financial resources are in short supply, but blessed with people who serve Almighty God with heart and mind and soul and strength. The concerns which we may be worried about in Northern Ireland are nothing compared to the obstacles the people in Zambia have to overcome. The visit certainly has made us look again at where our priorities lie in our own lives and ministries.

Our parish can make a huge difference in the lives of so many of our Zambian brothers and sisters. Bishop Chama and his diocesan team are looking at six or seven projects we will become more involved in. Your Smartie Tubes and their 20p pieces are already making a difference. Watch this space for more information on how our project is going to progress.