Newsletter (October 3, 2019)

Dear all, Greetings from Zambia! Another two months just flies past and we are now at the end of September and the weather is getting hot. The past two days were unusually cool though and we were told that was the very sign of a very hot summer!

Death is very real in this part of the world. Every week at church there are announcements of deaths of church members or their relatives. It is not uncommon to meet someone at church who has lost two or three relatives in their extended family within a very short time, maybe a week or two. Although life expectancy in Zambia has improved to about 55 years in 2018 there are still too many deaths happening every day. In August we came to know of three deaths that were related to the SIM Zambia community in Lusaka.

Our board chairman lost his firstborn son who died of cancer. He was only 26 years old, a very promising accountant. I and Zara attended his funeral. His father is a well-known clergyman in Zambia, so the church was packed full of people. The sermon was evangelistic and we pray that it would leave an impact to those who before had no means of hearing the good news in their lives. Normally we will attend both the church service and the burial service, but this time we left early because the church service turned out to be a very long one. We left after three hours, just before the viewing of the body began. With the sheer number of people gathered it might take another hour before that would finish, so we slipped out and left.

The second one was even more tragic. Our colleague is seconded to the Navigators and their director and his wife lost their child, a young girl who was only four years old. She died of severe burns. This is one of the most common injuries to children in Zambia and unfortunately many of these injuries are fatal because the burns are too severe. People normally cook or boil water with a brazier and the brazier is normally put on the ground. The ground in many homes (either inside the house or outside) is not too level, so it is quite easy for a child to knock it down and get burned. We do not know how she got burned but tragically she died after two or three weeks. You could imagine how devastated and heartbroken the parents are and please pray that the Lord will comfort them and give them strength to face the future.

The third one is the pastor of a church which a number of expatriates attended. Some of our missionaries go there from time to time. They recently called a pastor from New Zealand (!) and he and his wife arrived about April this year. Then he had a heart attack three weeks ago and died! We think he was in his 60s. He was born in Zimbabwe and was pastoring a number of Baptist churches in Harare before migrating to New Zealand 15 years ago. He was a pastor in one of the Baptist churches in Auckland for many years before answering the call to Zambia. We were so shocked when we heard the news from our director.

So we are very thankful that we are still healthy and well and still have the opportunities to serve the Lord in Zambia.

Load-shedding [power interruption] is getting worse now. At the beginning of September it was increased from four hours a day to six hours a day, but because of some faults in one of the generating plants, it was always more than six hours. From the second half of September, the hours were further increased to a minimum of eight hours, so on Friday it was close to twelve hours and Saturday it was about nine hours. We had been wondering if we should invest in an inverter in early August, just before the increase of load-shedding hours. The cost was very high though! It so happened that the owner of the property had one with a faulty fan that they were happy for us to try to fix and use. With the help of our good friend who is a handyman, and he managed to fix it after getting a very cheap fan, we have the privilege of using an inverter. It is a very powerful one running on four batteries. When the power (AC) is out, it automatically switches to battery mode (DC). When power comes back, the batteries will then be charged. We think the inverter can last for at least eight to ten hours but since the property needs to turn on the generator for two to three hours during the day to keep the water pump going (otherwise we will run out of water from the tank), the inverter does not need to work for that many hours on batteries. So we are in a far better situation than most people in the country. We have virtually uninterrupted power throughout the day, we have a gas cooker for cooking and we have constant water supply. God is indeed good and gracious to us.

Zambia is going through some very difficult times right now. There is a serious famine in the country, especially in the southern and western regions, as these have had very little rain in the last rainy season. Many people do not have enough food to eat. The main hydro lake is fed by these two regions, so the lake level is very low (about 19% full), the lowest since the big drought in 1995, and that in turn leads to an acute shortage of electricity supply.

The power company wants to import power from South Africa but has no money to buy, so there are talks of increasing electricity tariffs substantially in order for the company to purchase additional electricity. The Kwacha [currency] has dropped a lot because of high debt levels. Coupled with high oil prices, the price of fuel has just been increased.

All the above has a crippling effect on most business, especially small and medium size enterprises. Everyone is affected by high fuel prices and high electricity tariffs. Businesses will have to close and lay off workers. The long-range forecast for the coming rainy season is promising, with above normal rainfall in most places most of the time.

Please pray for Zambia, that God will give us more than enough rain in the rainy season and that the economy of the country will improve. Please pray also that the food reserves in the country can sustain the people who are in great need of food.

We will send this out first and will continue in another newsletter which we hope to send to you very soon. One of our friends somehow came across our old newsletters and asked us if we could write more frequently. That is our desire too.

Please continue to pray for Timothy’s application for the residence permit. It has taken close to a year now for Immigration to approve it and please pray that it will be approved very soon. We thank God for his protection while we live in Zambia and your prayers surely will be much appreciated. Blessings.

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