We arrived safe and sound in Lusaka, Zambia on Friday the 11th of August 2006.We had visited Zambia a year ago, prior to our 2005 US/Puerto Rico assignment, to meet and have discussions with the Baptist Convention of Zambia (BCZ) - our new International Ministries partners- and scout out and get a feel for where we would live and do ministry for our next four year foreign mission assignment.
While in the USA, for one year, as Missionaries in Residence in the American Baptist Churches of the South Region, we had prepared ourselves through prayer and research for this task, but our preparation was not nearly enough.Poverty had been all around us in South Africa, our previous mission field since 1997, and we also witnessed and lived among the poor in America, but nothing had prepared us for the crushing poverty of Zambia.
The resources are abundant but, as in most countries, in the hands of the very few.As foreigners in this new land, we get only a glimpse of the overwhelming sense of helplessness some of the national Zambians experience and live under everyday.Unable to participate in their own economy and shut out of the economic system due to the extremely high unemployment rate, they are forced to literally live off the land.With lending rates upwards of 23% and savings and investor rates of a mere 1-6%, most people can't afford decent housing.Those who are able to rent out their house for income do so at exorbitant rates asking for 4-6 months, and in some cases 1-2 years, in advance.They, in turn, take this upfront money to renovate the unfinished house you rent and the owner of the particular house will take his/her family and live in a less expensive rented flat!
It is common and welcomed to see vendors peddling fresh fruit and vegetables; it is also common to see weavers along the sides of the road weaving cane chairs, couches, tables and baskets.But the sight of women and children sitting on piles of rocks working in extreme heat, breaking the rocks into pebbles with pick axes to sell, is heartbreaking and defies the imagination. It is common to see women walking with heavy loads of water or bundles of goods, or sticks on their head to sell for firewood.As a way of life some of the men peddle a bicycle selling charcoal in sacks in order to feed their families. There are many street children begging at the side of the road for money or food.If money is given the child will take it in some cases to by glue, their cheap drug of choice, to huff.
The sights and sounds of our new mission field, where we are to make our home, are still overwhelming but we know that God has put us in a position to learn from others and to walk in their shoes.We have, on occasions, heard some pray: "Lord break me and mold me and use me and fill me up.But wow, the breaking and filling up process can be quite painful.
Chasah, Caleb and Charliese, our three Missionary Kids (MK's) on the field with us, have started school at the American Embassy School in Lusaka.We do not have a ministry vehicle and have had to rent a car to get around and to begin our search for a house to live in. So many times we started out on a road and lo and behold, the road, or at least the paved portion of the road, would end giving way to rocks, dirt, ruts or major potholes.
Presidential elections here are September 28th, and already we have received warnings from the American Embassy for all Americans in Zambia to "keep a low profile".Zambia is basically a peaceful country but sporadic violence can break out in some areas during government elections.Please pray for the people of Zambia that their new government would be more sensitive to basic needs of housing and water, good roads and safe transportation.We pray for ourselves that this situation of no house and no vehicle for ministry is temporary.We, also, ask you to join in prayer with us for God's assuring presence and deliverance of our Zambian brothers and sisters, who have come to know lack and frustration as a way of life.
Charles, Sarah and our children