Zambia Mission Team
Visiting grant recipient sites in Zambia
Left to right: Michelle Lentell, Marilyn Jenkins, Reba McQuinn, Martha Jenkins, Nancy Brown, Grace Musuka (UMW missionary), Kathy Durkee, Cheryl Bell, Terry Petersen, Anita Tebbe, Betse Gage, Sharon Ritter (dressed in our African clothes).
The team wishes to express gratitude to the families we left behind, to United Methodist Women and others praying for us, for all those who donated funds to make possible the solar lights, menstrual kits, women’s conferences and other resources. Special thanks to Minerva Phiri, her family, staff, friends and others who welcomed us with open arms, hosted us in various ways, prayed and served with us in meaningful ways. Our lives will be forever changed because of those we met who blessed us with their presence. Our prayer is that we too were a blessing to them!
Purpose of Trip
There were several purposes for the trip, including the distribution of three grants from United Methodist Women at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, as well as visiting the recipient sites of their work. The grant recipients included: Bwafwano Care Providers ($4,800); Lusa Home Based Care ($3,000); JP Schools ($2.500).
For Team Leader Nancy Brown, it was an opportunity to reconnect with friends who had been previously involved in a United Methodist Church of the Resurrection mission partnership, with a now defunct organization called SHADE, a previous United Methodist Advance Special affiliated with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. SHADE (an anacronym for Sojourner: help, advocacy, development, education) had twenty-one satellite sites in various countries with whom they worked to assist and empower women through training and project development. The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection worked with SHADE for almost a decade until its demise in 2010. Two of the three grant recipients, Bwafwano Care Providers and Lusa Home Based Care were in satellite relationships with SHADE and the Resurrection relationship has continued through United Methodist Women of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.
Tudikwashi Rural Health Care
The Tudkiwashi Health Care Project is an organization directed by United Methodist missionary Betty Tshala. Tudikwashi was a 2017 recipient of a grant from United Methodist Women of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Their mission is to empower women and children to improve their status, well-being, self-esteem and quality of life.
Under the auspices of Tudikwashi, Betty developed a project called Tudkiwashi-Wash, which included the drilling of six bore holes in the Mwaiseni community for water access, as well as the building of twenty latrines (sanitation houses). Mwaiseni is home to more than 10,000 persons who live in poverty and have been facing challenges for many years.
In addition, she has recruited and trained a dedicated group of community members who are not only trained to take care of the new boreholes, sinks and toilets, but are the liaisons within the community, educating others about proper sanitation and health initiatives (especially HIV testing and treatment).
Walking through the community had a profound effect on the team. There were no streets where vehicles could maneuver, and there were layers of debris and trash built up over many years. Homes were dirt shacks or shanties, and bathrooms were pits in the ground surrounded by plastic or cloth sheets on sticks providing little privacy scattered throughout the community.
The new sanitation houses had wooden walls with partitions for men and women with a lined hole in the ground on each side for toileting. We saw several of the new pumps for water. More cannot be added without tearing down houses in order to clear space for trucks to enter the community. The government is planning to move many of the residents to a new community because improving the living conditions in Mwaiseni is almost impossible given the deterioration of the area.
Bwafwano Care Providers
There is a very strong synergy between Tudikwashi Rural Health and Bwafwano Care Providers as they share some of the volunteers who are trained to meet the needs of the community by both organizations. Both organizations use the same drama group for community mobilization, sensitization and education so as to engage the youth in the community positively.
We also visited a government sponsored community health clinic that provides very basic care, immunizations and follow up for pregnant women and patients with HIV. Bwafwano Care Providers works hand in hand with the Clinic in Growth Monitoring with some of the Community Health Workers serving as members of the Health Neighborhood Committee at the Clinic. There are no facilities to deliver babies in close proximity and expectant mothers have to find and pay for their own transportation to the hospital when labor or complications develop. Here a Community Health Worker trained by Bwafwano Care Providers explained in detail how they are working with the Clinic in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS from the first visit to the antenatal, referral to the HIV Clinic, Access to ARVs, Adherence of ART up to delivery and subsequent testing of new babies.
The combined team of volunteers in the community used music, drums and dancing to gather people in groups to teach basic health concepts. The musicians followed us throughout our tour.
Next, we traveled to visit the Luangwa sewing program also begun by Betty and Tudikwashi Rural Health Care. Grant money in 2017 from UMW for sewing and knitting machines helped establish the program to teach sewing skills to women in the community. Through this program women are able to make products to sell and support their families. The program is housed in a small AME (African Methodist Episcopal) church, but the sewing machines frequently have to be carried home by participants after training sessions. We were able to see some of the clothes and other items being made by the women in the program. The hope of the instructors is to buy more machines in order to reach more women. Currently classes are led by a tailor, and they hope to include more women in their training program. Location and transportation are always a problem for the women.
Special Needs Day Program
Bwafwano Care Providers (BCP) Special Needs Day Program for children and adults with special needs is one of the first such programs in Zambia and was begun by Minerva Phiri. We visited the house where this program is currently operating to meet some of the students and get ideas for our full day of programming at the facility the next day. A small house is currently being rented but poses major challenges in accessibility for students and provides very limited space for cooking and other projects. There was a covered area outside in back with some open space and tables for activities and a very small uneven yard. We met five or six students and young adults. Several of the young men were already graduates and working or pursuing more training or education. We discussed the major difficulties in transportation of students experienced by families and caregivers. Transportation problems affect the students’ abilities to participate on a consistent basis in the services offered at Bwafwano. The students had different disabilities and their needs varied greatly. The staff and students were excited to meet us and looking forward to the programs and activities scheduled for the next day.
Wusakile is a local government sponsored community health clinic. Staff from the clinic explained their services and demographics. The clinic, with help from Bwafwano Care Providers, has trained a group of volunteers who are committed to reaching out into the community to identify people with health care and other needs, and encourage them to seek medical care and support. They are also trained in issues around HIV infection identification, prevention and treatment. They are part of the group trained in both Msaiseni and Wusakile. These volunteers were clearly very proud of their training and knowledge and committed to bettering the health of the communities.
JP School is a new school opened in 2016 by United Methodist Pastor John Kalambo and his wife, Phelile. Though trained as an IT technician Rev. Kalambo felt that God was calling him to a life of Christian service and entered seminary. He is currently serving as Pastor of Living Word United Methodist Church in Kitwe. Rev. Kalambo and Phelile both had visions of service for God: Phelile’s vision was to help vulnerable women, while Rev. Kalambo’s vision centered around education. This resulted in the fulfillment of a dream to create a school. They ultimately used funds from a severance package to acquire resources and register JP School (using their initials in the name). Their current school is on lovely land, with a huge tree of avocados and a garden, cared for by the children as part of a science education.
JP School has 29 students, children ages 3-12, who greeted the team with three groups of singing performances. They do not receive funding from the government and whatever tuition they receive goes to rent and paying staff. They have devoted themselves as full time volunteers. Rev. Kalambo said,” We prayed and ask God to give us a sign in the midst of great financial constraint that if this is really what you want us to pursue then give us a sign. No sooner had we dared God did we see a sign through the blessing of a grant of $2500.00 from UMW of the Resurrection.” He said my wife and I cried! The grant funds are being used to establish a computer lab for their students to enhance their learning skills and to improve their community. The passion of the Kalambo’s for creating a loving, safe and exceptional Christian educational environment was clearly evident.
After having met some of the students at Bwafwano on Wednesday, Terry Petersen, PT, and Betse Gage, MD, spent time that evening brainstorming how to best interact with the students and their caregivers. In addition, they offered suggestions for programming while engaging the students in activities. They decided to incorporate music, physical activity and games, crafts and interviews with the students to learn more about each of them and their abilities and their challenges.
The team of eleven women began the program on Thursday around 9:30 am. They expressed surprise but were pleased and somewhat anxious to find that there were many more students and their caregivers present than anticipated. The Bwafwano staff did an excellent job of getting out the word of our arrival and encouraging attendance. The team introduced themselves and met with each student and caregiver. In order to get to know the students better, a list of interview questions was developed, and two members of the team interviewed each student and their parent or caregiver with a translator, recording answers to questions concerning their medical history, strengths and difficulties, areas of needs and hopes for the future.
Despite some trepidation, the team jumped into the activity with interest and compassion. The students and caregivers responded with openness and honesty. It was obvious they were responding to being listened to and validated. After the interviews, members of the team shared what they had learned from each student they interviewed. The students and caregivers felt affirmed and also learned more about each other. During this time, Betse also took two instant photos of each student and used one to make individual name tags and sent the second photo home with students. This was a huge success!
During this interview period and in the afternoon, Terry was able to work on an individual basis with several severely compromised students, and demonstrate recommendations on positioning, feeding, safety, nutrition, etc. The parents were eager to learn how to better care for their children and welcomed Terry’s assistance.
After the interview, Betse was able to discuss her experience as a pediatrician and parent of an adult son with special needs. She described his sudden disability from a massive stroke at age 2, and the progress he has made since then. In Zambia many people still believe that illness or disability in children is due to them being cursed by someone, which leads to family strife and lack of appropriate medical and long term care. Betse shared pictures of Craig and spoke about the importance of advocacy and emphasized the sacred worth of every one of God’s children. Some parents expressed frustration with the lack of services in Zambia and felt hopeless that things would change. Betse acknowledged that services are much better in the US now but were not so good forty years ago. She emphasized that change requires constant parental and community demands for equality and appropriate resources.
In the afternoon, Marilyn Jenkins led groups of students in exercises and games with bean bags, beach balls and songs. The students loved the activities and benefited from the exercises. One of the goals was to demonstrate and encourage the students how to use different senses and muscle groups in a fun way. The team also helped each student make a bead bracelet from kits put together by Kathy Durkee. This activity was challenging for many, but they loved the final product and wore their bracelets proudly.
Music is an excellent way to reach all students, teach new skills and provide an opportunity to perform and create. Given the success of music programs at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection for the special needs adults, we brought instruments that can be used in rhythm exercises, and even a rhythm band. A finger harp, triangle, chimes, kazoo, harmonica, drumsticks and many rhythm sticks were brought for the students. Cheryl Bell and Betse demonstrated the use of the rhythm sticks and symbols on cards to practice different rhythms. The students caught on quickly and seemed to really enjoy this activity. There are many ways to expand the use of music to benefit the students.
The team ran out of time to complete all activities but were able to leave more beading supplies, looms and loops, drawing supplies, dry erase boards, yarn and webbing, etc., for the program’s use in the future and as different ideas to explore how to make items for sale. We were also able to donate several books about care for children and adults with disabilities where services are limited.
A wonderful gift to Nancy Brown was the brief presence of three friends, who were once leaders in two SHADE satellite locations, Johannesburg, South Africa, and Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Kassy Kasang Kabamb took a bus from Johannesburg to meet Helene Mukonde and Jeanne Amisi in the DRC, where the three of them traveled to Zambia for just a few hours to visit and pray with and for Nancy before returning.
This was a day of relationship forming, affirming and encouraging and giving hope for a better future to students, caregivers and the dedicated teachers and volunteers at Bwafwano Day Service. It was clear during our evening prayers and discussions as a team that the experiences of the day had a deeply personal and emotional effect on all members of the team.
On November 2 & 3, 2018, the Zambia Team hosted a conference for approximately 80 women (and a few men). Following the previous two days that demonstrated the sacred worth of ALL people, including those with disabilities, we focused on these main topics:
- the sacred worth of women and girls,
- the importance of telling our stories to strengthen one another,
- body and soul care
- the importance of groups like United Methodist Women to organize for change, for companionship and for personal growth
- the work of United Methodist Women in the world and, specifically, in Zambia
The conference began with welcome messages from Minerva Phiri and Nancy Brown. The morning session, presented by Sharon Ritter, dealt with the Sacred Worth of Women. Contrary to messages often received from family, friends, media and even the church, God’s messages have clearly valued women highly, regardless of marital status, age, occupation or titles. A number of scriptures were referenced to demonstrate how Jesus treated women, including the first revelation of His divinity to a woman. After looking at some of the reasons why women might not believe that they are equal to men or have sacred worth, attendees were encouraged to see – and help others see – their own sacred worth. One way women are encouraged to do this is through story-telling, based upon their own experiences, to help support women and girls who have had similar struggles.
We also hosted special guest Reverend Davy Chingelesu, Nchanga District Superintendent, who delivered a welcome message to all guests.
After a break for lunch, Dr. Michelle Lentell, in her presentation entitled Body and Soul Care, talked about the unique way that women’s bodies were designed and should be treated as having sacred worth. A common barrier to education for girls in Africa is not having adequate supplies/resources while they have their monthly periods. Menstrual kits from Days for Girls were demonstrated as a sustainable means of providing feminine hygiene pads to young women. The team, thanks to the generosity of donors, funded the purchase of numerous menstrual kits and encouraged Bwafwano to consider making the kits as a fundraising project.
Attendees, including men in the audience, had many questions for Michelle about what is normal and what symptoms might be of concern to a woman. Michelle was assisted in her presentation by Reverend Matilda, our interpreter who added much to the event. She was animated, funny, interacted well with the audience. The team was so grateful for the way she performed this very important role. Nancy then talked about Safety for Self and Others, focusing on Boundary Awareness, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence and Sexual Trafficking.
The day ended with a graduation ceremony, filled with music and dancing, for special needs adults. This was especially meaningful for family members who were able to witness the value and worth of their loved ones in God’s church. At the end of the ceremony, one man, a local pastor, spoke of how he had been hiding his daughter at home, fearing that people would view his daughter’s disability as a sign of unworthiness or failure in the family. He vowed to bring her to church and involve her in Bwafwano’s program in the future.
The focus of the conference on the second day was the United Methodist global church and the programs focusing on women, including the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCOSROW) which is committed to the full participation of women in the life and mission of the church, and United Methodist Women (UMW) whose purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative, supportive fellowship; and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church. Focusing on women, children and youth, United Methodist women are committed to putting faith, hope and love into action, as demonstrated by the Zambia team and their Zambian sisters.
Nancy Brown shared excerpts from the United Methodist Book of Discipline and described the connectedness of all United Methodists, and spoke about how to capitalize on relationships within the community locally and internationally. Describing the hierarchy of United Methodist Women, she emphasized that UMW is an organization that is separately governed from the church or church leaders.
After this presentation, we heard from regional UMW missionary, Grace Musuka, who traveled to the conference from Zimbabwe. Grace talked about her work as a missionary and about the kinds of programs that missionaries in Africa are involved in. The day ended with an anointing service which was particularly meaningful for all.
After a busy, but blessed, several days, the team took some time Saturday afternoon to visit a Mindolo Dam, a nature reserve, and have dinner with our hosts. The next day, Sunday, the team attended church services at Living Word United Methodist Church, served by Rev. John Kalambo. This is also the church of Minerva and Gideon Phiri and Betty Tshala.
Following a wonderful lunch at Betty’s home and a fond farewell to our hosts in Kitwe, we set out by van to Solwezi. On arrival we paid a courtesy call on the Solwezi District Superintendent, Rev. Kasweka and the Jerusalem United Methodist Church pastor, Rev. Daimani Mansa. When we arrived, we were also met by the Yoba family and others who welcomed us and invited us in to their community center, orphanage, school and meeting place. A project of SHADE and The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection almost a decade ago, it was named the Mama Nancy Brown Multi-Purpose Community Hall upon its completion. Unfortunately, when SHADE dissolved, the building was never completed as planned. After a brief welcome, we made our way to our hotel, checked in and had dinner.
Lusa Home Based Care
We returned to the Community Center Monday morning and were warmly welcomed. Lusa was presented with a grant from UMW of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection to upgrade and restock their fishing ponds. We then toured the orphanage and property where we saw the fish ponds, gardens, fields and several school classrooms. The team was particularly impressed with the activity taking place in the classroom. The rooms were crowded, hot and poorly lighted, yet the students were dressed in uniforms and respectfully listening to their teachers. One class in particular impressed the team where they witnessed students writing their chemistry equations on an old blackboard!
With the ownership of a large tract of land, Lusa Home Based Care is able to raise crops to feed the orphans and students, to share with caregivers who receive no salary, as well as sell the excess when able. The fishponds and poultry production will further expand the opportunity to provide protein to those under their care as well as generate income for other needs.
The team was led to three very vulnerable households where we met some of the people that Lusa supports through caregivers. Our first stop was to visit a grandmother caring for seven-month-old twins, as well as three other children. Her roof sheeting had blown off and a collapsed wall was in need of repair. The twins were being fed a local drink instead of formula, and is dependent on Lusa Home Based Care for food.
The second stop was to meet a young man named Joshua who lives with his aging grandparents. Nancy was at Lusa Home Based Care when Joshua was born nine years ago and never forgot holding him soon after his birth. Lusa Home Based Care has been assisting the family since his mother, who was HIV positive, died at his birth. Joshua has not attended school since funds were not available for school fees, uniforms and shoes, and it is his and is grandparents greatest wish. Thus, the team decided to pay his school fees for this year and funds will be made available in the future for him to continue his education.
The third stop was to visit an elderly blind lady, who lived alone in a dilapidated hut. She could not walk and was only mobile by scooting on her bottom. Her grandson lived in a hut across from her but was unable to help since he is HIV positive and is now experiencing the devastating effects of the disease. The team made some suggestions and encouraged Lusa to let us know how we could assist this family. A Lusa Home Based caregiver visits three persons in this area and provides assistance when able.
It was with joy that the team presented Lusa Home Based Care with solar lights for them to distribute to those they felt had the greatest need. This gift was possible through the generosity of the many donors who provided funds for the team to share with others in Zambia.
After lunch, we toured one of the public markets then returned to Lusa for singing and dancing with the orphans and students. A concluding discussion was held to determine how we could best assist Lusa Home Based Care in the Future.
Traveling with the team were The Reverend Cheryl Jefferson Bell of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection and The Reverend Marilyn Jenkins (an Episcopal priest and long-time friend of Nancy Brown). The team was surrounded by, infused with, and empowered by the power of prayer! Nancy and others arranged for prayer warriors to prepare our way and sustain us throughout our mission trip. There were saints who were praying for us for our entire trip. Some even sent cards to us, a reminder that we were being carried by The Spirit!
While on our trip, our team pastor/chaplain, Marilyn, led us in the Daily Office of Morning Prayer and Compline most mornings and evenings. The daily dose of psalms, that express the full range of human emotions, was much needed with what we experienced each day. The Morning Prayer prayers prepared us for the day we had ahead, and Compline collected us and enabled us to rest through the night. What a blessing it was to pray and worship together as a team. It added meaning and substance to our experience!
Cheryl’s amazing voice brought life to everything we did through singing! Singing, with drum accompaniment, greeted us at almost every place we visited! The spirit of those who welcomed us was such a blessing. The joy and excitement were contagious! Even the family of our host sung for us!
Cheryl Jefferson Bell had the honor to preach on Sunday morning at Living Water United Methodist Church, the home church of our host, on the topic of joy (which she exudes). The music and spirit were high! The folks were friendly and welcoming! We had church!
We ended our time together with a healing service with Eucharist. We are so grateful to Marilyn for thinking ahead in preparing the booklets used for this service. We stood shoulder to shoulder as we were anointed, prayed for, especially lifting up our amazing team leader as we received Holy Communion. It was the culmination of an amazing adventure, again, infused with God’s Spirit!