Newsletter (September 17, 2009)

Dear all, We have had a very busy two weeks.  Our annual reviews went very well.  The meeting was very positive and we were very much encouraged.  It was also nice to meet Sean Marston from SIM New Zealand.  Most of you would have met him as he came down to attend and speak in our commissioning service in March 2008.  What a surprise to receive the big “Thank You” card that all of you have signed and the church photo which includes more or less everyone.  We are deeply touched by what you have done and we treasure all the nice words that you have written.  This is indeed one of the most memorable things that we have received so far in Ndola.  It should be the two of us who say thank you to all of you for your support, encouragement and prayers.  We did talk to Sean about our future and he would bring back to New Zealand the things we have discussed and we are confident that some arrangements could be worked out among ourselves, SIM NZ and SIM Zambia.

TCCA did have a staff retreat last week and it was held in a lodge about 15 minutes from Ndola, quite close to the Congo border.  One can find lodges everywhere in Zambia, and some of them are in very remote areas.  Some, like this one, are in places very few people would want to go, as there is nothing special about them (in our opinion).  So we always wonder how they survive.  Nevertheless, it is good for all of us to have this opportunity of rest and fellowship together.  The main topic discussed was curriculum development and it involved quite a bit of forward planning for TCCA which is really good.

Sean went to the TCCA retreat and talked to the staff about youth ministry and how a theological college could help developing this vital ministry in Zambia.  He also talked to a group of youth leaders and students (some from TCCA) about youth ministry in another gathering.  People found his talk very enlightening and useful and would love to have him back again next year for more training.

During last week one of the church members passed away and we attended the funeral and burial services on Saturday.  This was the first time that we attended an African funeral and it was quite different from what we have experienced before.  We attended the church service, then everyone went to the cemetery.  At the burial site, the first thing that people did was to pick up some long grasses and measured the length and width of the coffin and then measured the grave and see if it was long and wide enough for the coffin. The grave was quite deep, about 2m, and we wondered how they would lower the coffin into the grave, as they did not have ropes or other things to help them.  After further digging, two men jumped down into the grave and the people above lowered the coffin to them and they gradually lowered the coffin down and when it was done, they climbed up.  There was lots of wailing from the relatives and the mood was very sad.  After that, the pastor/elder prayed and then people started to put back the earth until they had formed a small mound.  Lastly, relatives and friends took turns to lay wreathes or flowers on the mound to show their last respect.  After that most people visited  the bereaved family at their home (which they called funeral house).

This cemetery is possibly not for the rich people, as most of the graves have no tombstone.  What they have is just a not-so-proper black metal plate and written on it is the person’s name, date of birth, date of death and date of burial.  The graves are packed very close to each other in order to maximise the use of land.  Most people buried there were in their 20s and 30s, some even younger.  Our church member died at 49 which is still very young by our standards, but already was the oldest person to die in the graves that we came across on that day.  This fact alone is extremely sad especially when you know that many of the strongest young people of Zambia (and indeed throughout Southern Africa) have died so young.  Most of them die of HIV/AIDS, and a smaller number of malaria or malnutrition.  The death of so many young people has a crippling effect on the economy of Zambia, and leads to many social and economic woes for the country.  Sadly there is no end in sight yet, although life expectancy of a Zambian has increased slightly to 40.5 years.

Rev and Mrs James Ha from SIM East Asia have returned to Lusaka in late August and, with the help of the existing Chinese Bible study group there, have started the Lusaka Chinese Christian Fellowship meeting once a week.  Please pray that people will be saved and a core group of committed Christians will be formed and further the cause of God’s kingdom among the Chinese people in Lusaka.  The Has will be leaving on 26 October and will return to Lusaka again, DV, in January or March next year.

Several days ago Zara was asked by the TCCA principal to help out in the registry.  Our registrar has resigned and moved to Lusaka and this time of the year is the busiest in terms of new admissions.  This is something that Zara has not done before, so please pray that she will have the wisdom to do the work and that she can master all the procedures as soon as possible.  The timing of this request was very good, as we have finally managed to find a young man to work in our garden.  He is a very hardworking and good worker, so releasing us to have some time to do other things.  God’s timing is always amazing.

Zara has recently had some skin infections on her chin which she thinks may be contracted from the cerebral palsy kids that she helped.  We are pleased that before we came a doctor has given us an ointment which is very good for this and now she is more or less ok, after some initial worry.

The temperature has been rising steeply in the past week and it will be rising even more in the coming weeks, until the rain comes in late October.  Last year we felt very uncomfortable with the heat so we have decided to take three weeks off and take a rest.  We will be going to Croatia for a holiday at the end of the month and will be back on 22 October.  We don’t know if we will have the chance to write you something then.  If not this will be our last letter before the holiday begins and so we hope everyone will enjoy the springtime back home and we will resume our newsletter when we get back.  With Christian love.

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