Newsletter (July 17, 2008)

Dear all, Hope you all are well.  We are fine here.  This July is turning out to be very mild, except for the past few mornings.  People have told us that July is normally very windy, but if what we have experienced so far represents what it should be like, then it is nothing compared with that in New Zealand!

The President of the country had a stroke while attending an Africa Union meeting in Egypt at the end of last month.  Several days later he was flown to a military hospital in Paris for further treatment.  There is not much information about his condition and every time the government announces something it is basically the same, namely he is in a stable condition.  He is still in hospital so we believe his condition is quite serious.  This is quite a blow to the nation, and to a certain extent, to southern Africa as well.  Zambians quite like him, as ordinary folks thought he has done something for them and for the nation.  He also seems very determined to fight corruption, an uphill battle but it is surely a very laudable effort.  What we want to say is how Zambians and the government deal with the situation which is something the present day New Zealand government would never do.  The government here asks everyone to pray fervently for the President and for his speedy recovery.  So you could see all the ministers, armed forces chiefs, VIPs flocking to churches to pray for the President and everywhere people are praying for him.  We at TCCA also pray for him whenever we have prayer meetings.  All companies and institutions, big and small, have been placing ads in the newspapers praying for him and wishing him speedy recovery.  Regardless of the genuineness of such gestures, at least we can see that people in this nation are very religious and that God is still occupying an important part in their lives.  Whether this belief in God permeates deep down into their hearts is another matter and this is something that we need to pray for—a true encounter with God that produces a lifechanging experience, in short a true disciple of Christ.

A student invited us to visit his church one Sunday.  The church is in a township and this is the first time that we attended a vernacular service.  In this church everything is held mostly in Bemba, except that the pastor will preach in English with a Bemba interpretation.  This time it happened to be the deacon who preached and he did so in Bemba, and for the sake of us they had it interpreted into English.  This is a very warm church and although we couldn’t follow everything, we could still feel we are one in Christ.  The worship service was very long as on that Sunday there was also a children dedication service and the pastor prayed with each of the young children that were brought to the front.  The service finally ended at 13:15 hours, nearly three hours long.  The Church invited us for a traditional Zambian meal afterwards and we could have time to talk to the pastor and one or two officials.  This was very generous of them as, because of poverty in general, most churches just could not afford to have coffee or tea after the service.  We had a glimpse of the township and people told us that it was not a very poor one, although we could see the houses are much more crammed and the population density much higher than the district in which we live.  (We will go to see other townships and shantytowns around Ndola later on.)  Even after two months in Zambia we are struck by the poverty of most people that we have met.  Most people struggle to make ends meet.  Every family has acute need of something.  Some can’t afford electricity because they don’t have money to pay, others have no money to take public transport and they have to walk.  A TCCA student does not have sufficient sponsorship to stay on campus and he has to walk an hour and a half each way to the college every day.  His church is two hours’ walk from home.

Lately we are attending a Reformed Baptist Church and most likely we will continue worshipping there.  We have attended their home group as well and they are looking at 1 Timothy(!) [was studied in Dunedin home group last year – Ed.] at the moment.  After attending several churches so far, we find that African preaching is very practical and we find it very helpful to us as well.  We notice African Christians memorise many hymns, long or short.  Not only the first verse but all the verses!  They have many vernacular hymns and they love singing those, clapping along with their hands without holding their hymn books.  We asked people if they were as good with the Bible and the answer was No!  However, another source told us that the older generation could memorise many more Bible passages (or several whole books of the Bible).  We are very impressed with the home group.  It is mainly Bible teaching and the whole family comes (with babies and young children!) and joins the discussions.  We had 16 people last night and three families were not around, otherwise we would have had many more people.

Not long ago we had the Evanses over for a Saturday lunch.  They were the former occupants of the house, having lived here for 11 years.  They went to Namibia in January and were passing through to Kenya before returning to the States on home assignment.  They told us heaps of things about the house.  Some they had mentioned in the email correspondence before they left Zambia, but those things only make sense to us now that we are staying in this house.  They showed us how to ‘bleed’ the water to get rid of the air bubbles and adjust the water pressure.  They showed us the ‘trick’ of opening the front door of the house (by going all the way and opening from the outside!  We have since had it fixed, by John of course!)  They told us the problems we might have with the different utility companies.  They warned us that we should protect all our electrical appliances during thunderstorms in the rainy season.  They advised that we should buy a fan in this cool season to get a bargain price but then buy a quality one that can last.  (Some cheap ones can function only for several weeks!)  They showed us tree by tree in the front yard and told us how they should be taken care of (only then did we realise that we have a lemon tree and a tangerine tree!)  We really appreciate all that we learnt from them.

Last time we mentioned about cell phones.  You may wonder how come Zambians have money to have them.  We asked people and they said that many townships and houses just don’t have phone lines.  Many people have applied for a phone line for years but they are still waiting.  A cell phone can therefore provide the means for many people to overcome the inadequate infrastructure and move upward and forward.

About the sacks of rubbish that were dumped onto our property.  We are still getting them but after observation, we think the most likely culprit might be a person who lives on the street several blocks up.  He must be having some mental problems.  We asked John our good friend if it will be useful talking to him and he said no, because his mind is confused.  So most likely this whole thing is quite harmless, but a bit annoying.

Thanks again for all your prayers.  This time we have an additional request.  We were told that there was a small Chinese community living in Ndola!  The Chinese government sent doctors to serve here for a term of two years and they can then decide whether to return home or stay behind.  (No wonder people on the streets have often mistaken us as doctors!)  We are praying for opportunities and boldness to contact them and make friends with them.  We dearly desire to share our faith with these people.

That’s all for now.  Next time we will talk about some visits by the SIM personnel from Lusaka and the interesting experience at the International Trade Fair held here ten days ago.  In Christ.

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