Newsletter (September 25, 2008)

Dear all, Last time we mentioned that we had a visitor staying with us.  She is a missionary sent by SIM Australia and, like us, she is originally from Hong Kong.  She came in May too, only four days after us.  She is serving as a registered nurse in Mukinge Hospital, in another province rather far away from us, and she will be in Zambia for two years.  What fascinated us was her story of becoming a missionary.  She had this vision of serving our Lord as a missionary 17 years ago after she was converted.  She read a book which talked about the need for medical missionaries in Africa.  Because of this she resigned her clerical post in a school and went to be trained as an enrolled nurse in a hospital in Hong Kong!  She later qualified as a registered nurse in Sydney and had a two year theological training.  She is a pleasant and outgoing lady.  Despite all the problems she is facing, the fact that she is now working at a ward with the African children and their mothers assured her that this is the place our Lord had prepared her to be.

Compared with her, our situation in Ndola is much better and it is much easier to get adjusted to life here than in Mukinge.  The mission hospital is located in a rural region and she has to walk for 45 minutes to buy meat and some other necessities.  Can you imagine her carrying a 10kg bag of rice on foot back to her home?  It was good that she came to Ndola as she could do some shopping here.  So she and Zara spent quite a lot of time buying provisions that she could not get locally and they spent a lot of time cooking the food she missed.  Dr Fan came to visit us one morning and she requested him to show her around at the hospital he worked.  So the two ladies also spent an afternoon at the central hospital watching an operation!

On Friday, her last day with us, she has to go to Immigration to extend her visa which was due to expire the following day.  (Doesn’t that sound familiar?)  She spent her first month in Lusaka preparing and undergoing her nursing exam and could only apply for her work permit after she had passed the exam in August.  So at the end of her first month in Zambia, she had to pay K1 million to get a temporary visa for three months.  Before she came to Ndola, she checked with Immigration at another town and they told her that for the renewal of her visa this time she needed to pay K2.5 million (NZ$1100)!  We were hoping that the SIM personnel in Lusaka might just be able to check in time with the Immigration headquarters that her work permit had been approved even though not yet issued, something similar to what happened to us.  Unfortunately it was not the case and she was told to go ahead to renew it.  Zara went with her but it was not a particularly joyful task as our last experience with Immigration was not a pleasant one.  Well, she was served by exactly the same woman officer that handled our case.  Yet Zara was thrilled in the end despite having to go there three times.  To cut a long story short, our nurse friend managed to get a one month extension to her visa when it was nearly 17 hours [5 o’clock] but did not need to pay a single kwacha at all!  That proved two things to us.  The woman officer was not after bribes (as was suggested to us by someone when we related our unpleasant experience to them).  Even more significant is that we learnt to pray for the impossible and that God listened and did the impossible.

Term 3 for TCCA began on 15 September.  The final year students returned to the College after doing internships in Term 2 and we finally managed to meet them.  It is also good to see more people in the library and at chapel.  The final year students also take turns to inform us at chapel of their internship experiences.  Some were in ministry, some teaching religious education at high schools and some were doing community work.  One young student was from Cameroon (a West African country) and he spent his time doing pastoral work in a town at the border with Tanzania.  The living conditions were not good and he experienced vividly some dark spiritual forces against him one night.

Last week there was a financial crisis at TCCA.  The bank suddenly changed some rules without consulting or informing its clients and as a result the College could not withdraw money from its account.  Last week was pay week for the students and the College was facing the disaster of not able to pay the students.  Perhaps we need to tell you what the students need to pay when they enrol.  At the beginning of each term a student needs to pay student fees and living expenses.  The amount of living expenses varies for each student, depending if he/she is single or married, plus the number of children that he/she has, if married.  The living expenses are then paid back to the students as a monthly ration.  What the College could not pay to students last week was the monthly ration.  This would create serious hardship among the students community as most of them struggle financially and if they did not get the ration, they would have no money to buy their daily provisions.  The situation was indeed serious.  This is not the first time the College has had such a problem (the bank changing its rules unilaterally, without informing its clients).  Each time the problem was resolved very quickly (the bank changed its mind), but not this time.  Somehow towards the end of last week the College managed to get enough cash to pay out most of the ration, and a disaster was averted at the last moment.  Things are still not yet resolved and after messages and phone calls to and fro, the bank finally said things may go back to normal in 2–3 weeks’ time.

This month is harvest month for the Church and there are a series of evangelism meetings and activities from today (Thursday) till Sunday.  Last night our home group went out to distribute some tracts to people.  We thought it would be hard and difficult, somewhat like what we used to experience in Hong Kong and New Zealand.  However we were very wrong.  Zambians are very open and receptive to what we handed out.  They were very eager and some even came to us to get our tracts.  We do hope some of them will come to our meetings.  If we knew Bemba we would be able to talk to them more.  Some people mistook Timothy to be a pastor and we had to point them to the right man, who was with us distributing tracts.

The weather is getting really hot now and daytime temperatures have reached 34 degrees.  It is also very dry with relative humidity sometimes dropping below 20 percent.  So far we are coping ok with the heat.  We try not to go out from 1100 hours to 1500 hours, and drink lots of water.  Even Zara, who normally does not perspire, perspires a lot.  October is the hottest month and people have told us it will not be significantly hotter than it is now.  If this is correct, then probably we will not have any problem coping with the heat.  We are very thankful that our house is quite cool and despite the heat we need not turn on the fan.  People are looking forward to the rainy season now.  The air is quite polluted at the moment and once the rain comes, it will be not as hot and it will wash away the dust particles and the sky will become very clear.  So please continue to pray that we will be able to adjust to the heat and that there will not be any problem with our health.  In Christ.

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