An account of the Lord’s work in Zambia
Our first knowledge of the need for new workers in Africa came through contact by letters from various missionaries who were serving the Lord in both Angola and Zambia. We were, however, well settled into life in Canada, comfortable, content, and enjoying the blessings of a good job and a very pleasant life style, thinking that this is where we would be staying for the rest of our lives.
In the assembly one Lord’s Day, a letter was received from a sister in Angola acknowledging fellowship that had been sent to her. She related the following incident in her letter. The elders in the assembly where she was came to her one-day and asked, “Are there no men in your assemblies in your country?” While this might sound like a strange question, the reason it was asked was because all the missionaries in that area were single sisters. After reading this letter to the assembly, I challenged the young people asking, “Are there not any who are willing to go?” Yet the Lord spoke to me very clearly about what right I had to ask others to go when I myself was not willing. Of course I could come up with many reasons, which were in reality only excuses, as to why it was not possible. The truth is that it is so much easier to see God’s call for others than for oneself. It was at this point where we laid our lives out before the Lord, and in the words of Scripture echoed, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” We have learned by experience that to be used of God, it is necessary to be prepared to obey God’s will and Word whatever the cost; even when it means uprooting ourselves from family, friends, and leaving the comforts of home to embark on a journey to a very remote part of the world to a mission station called Chitokoloki.
We first came to Zambia in the summer of 1985 for a period of six weeks, and then returned to Canada where some time later I resigned from my employment. The following year we headed back to Zambia where we have been living ever since. Like many other places throughout the world, Zambia is a country where there are plenty of opportunities, much need, but few workers. This country has been blessed for many decades with missionaries from various homelands investing their lives for the sake of the gospel. Today, the fruit of their work includes over 1,200 assemblies throughout the country, a medical work that is the second largest in the country, opportunities to teach the Scriptures in any Primary or Secondary school, prison work, and literature distribution. In most instances the government will oblige where they can to facilitate and grant special dispensations, as they do appreciate the various works carried on by assembly missionaries. This legacy and trust is something that must not be either taken for granted or abused.
Chitokoloki is a very lovely although isolated place on the banks of the Zambezi River, situated approximately 500 kilometers from the nearest town. It is comprised of a large hospital, leprosarium, staff and missionary house, and an assembly building. The medical work is very demanding, time consuming, and requires a lot of resources; yet it is also the means by which so many have heard the gospel. The number of missionaries involved in this work is very few; at present just one nurse and one doctor. Hundreds come daily to receive medical help. The assemblies run the hospitals and clinics, of which there are six, and are known to provide the best medical care in the country. We are very thankful to the Lord and His people who have enabled this work to continue, to make medicines available when most government hospitals are without, and to have the very best of doctors providing excellent services including almost all surgery that would be carried out in any major hospital at home.
For the past couple of years a lot of my time and energy have been focused on assisting the many thousands of refugees that have entered Zambia and are living in refugee camps throughout the country. This has not been easy, as the camps are great distances from Chitokoloki in remote locations. Nangweshi in particular is at times completely cut off from the rest of the country due to the floods that come every year. In 2002 I spent more time away from home than before due to the difficulty in acquiring supplies, getting them to the camps, and distributing them to the refugees. It is a very involved process and requires a lot of logistical planning. Some supplies are purchased in South Africa and shipped by road to Zambia. Others are acquired in the UK or Canada, either bought or donated, and shipped by container to Zambia. A few items are purchased within the country. All of the goods are consigned to a depot in the Copperbelt called Musenga where they must be stored and sorted. When the time is right, they are re-loaded on to a large truck carrying three containers and carted 1,150 kilometers to Senanga where they again must be off-loaded before the last stage of the journey begins. It is at this point that the road ends and so help must be obtained. During the rains the Zambian army transports the supplies by amphibian or barges. At other times of the year, UNHCR 4-wheel drive trucks transport the supplies into the camp through very thick sand on non-existent roads. It is only a distance of 48 kilometers, yet on one occasion it took us nine days to reach the camp from this point.
We are very thankful to the Lord for opening this door of opportunity. We have been accepted by the UNHCR and all government agencies; this has allowed us to work in the camp without any constraints whatsoever. We have even been assigned a site in the middle of the camp, which we use as a base in which to stay, sort, and distribute supplies. In addition to blankets, clothes, basins, mosquito nets, tents, food, soap, and medicines, we have supplied every family in the camp with a Bible, Seed Sowers text in Portuguese, tracts, and other Christian literature. Almost all in the camp have experienced traumatic incidents in the past, and death is very much a reality. How wonderful to be entrusted with a message of Hope, Life, and Love! We know that the Spirit of God can apply the gospel message to the hearts of those that hear, producing repentance that leads to salvation. I am very thankful that my limited Spanish, learned in Chile where I grew up, has given me a base for speaking Portuguese. There is no English spoken in the camp and I have had to preach almost every day that I am there. My wife Ruth, along with Margie Gould, has helped as well in this work, but it is not easy to liviefor long periods in the camp without very basic amenities. Yet, I often remind myself that we are here by choice and can leave at any time, but those in the camp have no choice and will be here for a lot longer.
In addition to the refugee work, there are many invitations for meetings around the country and the ongoing work back at Chitokoloki. Of late we have attempted to help a little at Sakeji School. Some may have heard that it was to be closed at the end of 2002; however many of us felt that it was the Lord’s will that the school continue to be a blessing as it has been for over 77 years. Sakeji School will re-open in 2003 under a new Board of Governors comprised of assembly missionaries, and we are very encouraged that the enrolment is up considerably overall, including missionaries’ children. We are still looking to the Lord to call some who are willing to come to help, either in teaching, or in the many other functions required to keep a boarding school going.
We value the prayers of the Lord’s people for continued peace in Zambia which is surrounded by other countries either at war or with civil unrest. The Scriptures declare, “Unto whom much is given, much is required.” Zambia truly has been blessed with the gospel and yet so many who claim to be Christians show little evidence of it in their lives. May our days here be wisely spent for the furtherance of the gospel, the edification of the Lord’s people; and that all that we do might bring honor and glory to the Lord’s Name.