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A Time of Celebrations and Harvest

A Letter from Charles and Melissa Johnson, serving in Zambia

May 2019

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Write to Melissa Johnson

Individuals: Give to E200534 for Charles and Melissa Johnson’s sending and support

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Greetings from Lundazi, where we have exciting news to report to our friends and supporters. Both of us have been busy on multiple fronts as we work with our partners on several projects. We thank God daily for the love and support each of you demonstrates for our work through your prayers and financial contributions, not only to our support, but to our projects.

In our last newsletter, Melissa wrote about the partnerships that have been developed to work on multiple projects that we have underway and how many of you have supported that work. April 10, 2019 was an important day for two of these projects — first, a handing over ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the Egichikeni mother care shelter. The purpose of this ceremony was to officially hand over the completed facility to the community served by the clinic. It was a wonderful event with skits, choirs, special guests, and of course, the ribbon cutting on the new facility.

On the same day, just a few miles down the road in Chasefu, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to celebrate the construction of the new Chasefu Agricultural Income Generating Activity (AIGA) agricultural storage facility. Construction is going well, with the structural steel erected and the corrugated steel roof completed. The next step is the substructure, and then construction of the concrete block walls will begin. These two events were even more special as we had visitors from our home congregation in San Antonio, Northwood Presbyterian Church, who were able to experience the joy and happiness of our friends in Chasefu and Egichikeni.

Melissa and CCAP Zambia Health Department Coordinator Richard Willima have also been very busy with regard to the new construction project, the CCAP Zambia rural health center that will be built in Phalaza. On April 9, a meeting was held to open construction bids submitted by six contractors. A panel will meet soon to begin reviewing the bids and contractors’ qualifications as a part of the selection process, which they hope to complete by mid-May with construction to begin soon after. The Health Department is blessed to have Lexington Presbyterian Church in Lexington, KY, leading the fundraising efforts for the Phalaza project. I’m hoping you have all heard from Elizabeth at Lexington Presbyterian by now, but if you haven’t please shoot me an email and I’ll connect you.

Another exciting development for the Health Department was the award of the Presbyterian Women Thank Offering grant for the implementation of a cervical cancer screening, treatment and education program. Cervical cancer is shrouded in silence, fear, and stigma. This grant will provide for the training of Health Department personnel, clinic staff, community-based volunteers and trainers of trainers to demystify cervical cancer and reduce stigma. All those being trained through this program will have a high level of information about what cervical cancer is, its presentation, how to seek prevention, screening, and early treatment. They will be empowered to speak out and break the silence surrounding cervical cancer, which will result in thousands of Zambian women being screened and treated. Cancer of the cervix is preventable, easily detectable, and curable in its early stages, but lack of awareness and limited screening programs result in the majority of women presenting at late stages with invasive and advanced disease when it is very difficult and expensive to treat. Our main objective is to expand access to cervical cancer awareness, prevention, early detection, treatment and care to reduce mortality as a part of the Ministry of Health’s National Cancer Control Strategic Plan and help them reach their goal of a 25% reduction in mortality rates.

Last September, Rev. Eliud Munthali was appointed as the Chasefu AIGA coordinator. Charles has enjoyed getting to know Rev. Munthali and working with him. Still, the appointment of Rev. Munthali represents the third coordinator in three years, and at times these changes have made it challenging to maintain traction in our farming efforts. Our work has also faced the challenge of his lack of transportation from his village, Phikamalaza, to Chasefu.

This year our crops have benefitted from good rains, but we are hampered by poor soil quality. Since arriving in 2016, we have worked hard to improve the soil by planting legume crops and following conservation farming practices. These efforts are frustrated at times by children who burn crop residue as they hunt for mbeŵa (field mice), a source of protein during dry season. Burning of fields is a major problem in Zambia, as this practice prevents the decomposition of organic matter to improve the soil. Still, we work together to do the best we can with what we have and to educate the community about the benefits of conservation farming.

Because of the rains and our efforts, we hope to have good harvests of soybeans, groundnuts and pigeon peas. The soybean harvest is currently underway, and at this point it appears our results will be better than last year. Although our storage facility won’t be completed in time to store this year’s crops, we look forward to the day when we can store crops, in hopes of receiving better prices than those typically paid at harvest time.

In June, we will be leaving our home here in Zambia to return to the U.S. for interpretation assignment. In addition to traveling to speak at churches located throughout the country, IA provides a time for self-care (time with family and friends, visits to doctors and dentists, and time for relaxation). Sometimes Charles has to be reminded of the self-care aspect of IA as he works to schedule visits. He has promised that the scheduling is now finished, with 55 visits confirmed, some of which are cluster gatherings. If your church isn’t one of these churches, please come learn about the current status of our work at one of the cluster events or other churches near you.

Recently you may have received requests for financial contributions to help fund the completion of the Chasefu AIGA storage facility. We are thankful to have heard from some of you pledging support. If you would like to support this project financially, please make your check payable to (PC)USA, referencing Chasefu AIGA Construction, ECO Account Number E052043. Your check can be mailed to the following address: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

Sometimes we get busy with our work and forget to tell you how much we appreciate your prayers. Living and working in another culture is challenging, and there are times when we get worn down despite our best efforts. During these times, we have to remind ourselves to breathe and take comfort in the knowledge that we have a lot of supporters who love us and are praying for us. We hope you know that your support, whether it be prayer support or financial support, is what allows us to be here in Zambia doing this amazing work that God has called us to. We would ask that you consider a gift of financial support if you haven’t already made that decision. Did you know you can make a recurring gift as small as $10 per month? No gift is too small, and all are gratefully appreciated.

Again, thank you for all you are doing for us and for the church and people here in Zambia. No matter how you are supporting us, please know you are very appreciated by us and those we work with here in Zambia.

Charles and Melissa

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