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Joys and Frustrations

A Letter from Charles and Melissa Johnson, serving in Zambia

March 2018

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Write to Melissa Johnson

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We are still newbies as mission co-workers, and each and every day we learn something new about the community and people we are serving and about ourselves. Since returning to Lundazi after five months in the U.S., we’ve both experienced the joy of being welcomed back, the joy of seeing our friends and co-workers again, but we’ve both had our share of frustrations.

By the time you are reading this, Charles will have just completed teaching Agricultural Science III to third-year seminary students at Chasefu Theological College. A number of topics and projects were taught, including analyzing soil pH; scouting maize fields for Fall Army Worm damage to make a determination regarding the economic feasibility of intervention; training on the proper use, safety and maintenance of knapsack sprayers; and training in business management.

Because there has been a recent cholera outbreak in parts of Zambia, including Lundazi District where we live, Charles included a brief discussion of proper handwashing and cross-contamination. He and the students also constructed a tippytap handwashing station at the farm’s borehole, where many children and adults come to draw water. A tippytap is easy and inexpensive to make, requiring only a plastic jug, some string, several branches and a bar of soap (or ashes).

As Charles and the students discussed constructing the tippytap, students agreed it should be conveniently located, but also in a location that slopes away from the borehole. Once the site was determined, students divided up tasks among themselves and set out to collect the necessary materials. When everyone returned, construction began. The final step in the construction process was hanging a bar of soap from a string. As we did, Nellas, the only female third-year student, said, “The soap might not be here tomorrow. Most people can’t afford to buy soap.”

Early the next morning, Charles went to the borehole, and guess what? The string and soap were gone. This wasn’t the first time Charles has had to remind himself of the words attributed to Mother Teresa, “God didn’t call me to be successful, He called me to be faithful.” In the past, a black plastic sheet covering a compost pile was taken during rainy season, probably to repair a hole in a grass roof, and bolts were removed from the hand pump, probably to repair someone’s ox-drawn plow. Although these items are not considered expensive to most Westerners, to someone living in extreme poverty, they are.

It was such a joy to see the seminary students collaborating, measuring, cutting and building the tippytap. After it was finished, as small children came to the borehole to draw water, the students showed them how to use the tippytap and properly wash their hands. In building it, they had done something to benefit their community. After Charles discovered the missing soap, he shared his frustration with the students, though they seemed to accept the situation as just the way things are. We sometimes need to be reminded in these situations that not only are we recipients of God’s grace, but we’re also expected to show grace to others, even when it can be frustrating. And we’ll be reminded to hang an old maize sack filled with ashes from the nearby tree for handwashing in the future.

After months of feeling frustrated by how slowly programs in the CCAP Health Department were progressing, recently there has been a whirlwind of activity for Melissa and Mr. Richard Willima, CCAP Health Department coordinator. In January, we were in Lusaka and were finally able to purchase 20 beds and mattresses. The Egichikeni Rural Health Center has only had one bed since opening in 2011. While Melissa was frustrated over a few months of waiting, the Egichikeni community has been waiting for years. Pregnant women who come to the clinic to wait to go into labor have been sleeping on dirty, torn mattresses on the hard cement floor. Thankfully, the waiting and frustrations are finally over!

Mr. Willima successfully planned the ceremony at Egichikeni, where 14 beds, mattresses, bed sheets and blankets were officially handed over to the Egichikeni Rural Health Center. Our cooperating partners and the community showed their appreciation to the CCAP Synod leadership, the CCAP Health Department, the PC(USA) and, specifically, Liverpool First Presbyterian Church in Liverpool, NY, who generously provided the financial resources. The day of the handover ceremony began with a torrential downpour (it is rainy season after all), but Charles reminded Melissa that there were now two things to celebrate — the gift of beds and mattresses, and the much-needed rain. Thankfully, the rain didn’t dampen the joy of the celebration.

The following day, the sun shone brightly and the remaining six beds were handed over to Ndaiwala Rural Health Center. Our team arrived in Ndaiwala to find hundreds of women and their babies waiting, not only to show their appreciation, but for their children to receive much-needed immunizations.

Both days were beautiful, joyous celebrations full of prayers, rejoicing, singing, dancing, dramas and speeches from invited guests. They were very good days!

Switching Gears (no pun intended)
In Zambia, the challenges of transportation affect all facets of daily life — delays in beginning meetings, the transportation of goods, commuting to work — the list goes on and on. These challenges also affect the work of our partner church, the CCAP Synod of Zambia.

The CCAP Zambia Health Department and Chasefu Model Farm and Agricultural Income Generating Activity face the same transportation challenges. The Health Department has no vehicle to use in its work: it relies mostly on our privately-owned vehicle to travel to clinics, meetings and other activities. From Lundazi, Egichikeni is 23 miles and Ndaiwala is 39 miles. The remote location of Chasefu (26 miles away from Lundazi) presents its own transportation challenges. Farming inputs (seed and fertilizer) must be hauled from either Lundazi or Chipata (100 miles away), and the nature of farm work requires frequent trips to Chasefu.

There is a great need for funds to support the transportation requirements of the CCAP Zambia’s Health Department and Chasefu Farms. These funds would provide for fuel and oil, normal vehicle maintenance and repairs of damage resulting from poor roads. In addition, funds would allow the synod leaders to make the 9-hour, 400-mile trip from Lusaka a couple of times per year to monitor the work of both programs. Hopefully, funds might even provide for vehicles for both programs — dazi limoza (one day)!

If you would like to support the transportation needs of the CCAP Health Department and Chasefu Farms, you can do so by making a donation to the CCAP Zambia ECO account. On the check’s reference line, write Transportation — CCAP Health Department/Chasefu Farms and account number E052043.

Please continue praying for us, particularly during those times when we are weary and challenged in our work. In addition to prayer, many of you have supported our work financially and we pray that you continue to do so. That support is what allows us to be here in Zambia answering God’s call to serve the people of Zambia.

Taonga chomene (thank you very much).

Charles and Melissa


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