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One Year and Counting

A letter from Charles and Melissa Johnson serving in Zambia

March 2017

Write to Charles Johnson
Write to Melissa Johnson

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

Congregations: Give to D507589 for Charles and Melissa Johnson’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of our arrival in Zambia. It seems like only yesterday that we were sitting in the plane on the tarmac for over four hours as mechanics replaced a circuit board that controlled the inflight entertainment system. We finally took off for our new home and lives in Zambia, knowing we would miss our connecting flight in Johannesburg. What we didn’t know was that it would be another 10 days before the last of our luggage would arrive in Lusaka.

As we look back over the past year, that beginning as Presbyterian mission co-workers in Zambia is somewhat representative of our time since we began this journey. There have been times of anticipation and excitement, times of frustration and impatience, as well as times of sadness, great joy and happiness. And always there has been great satisfaction with our work, our lives and our decision to follow the call to our new lives, serving in God’s mission in Zambia. We’ve been blessed by new friends who have welcomed the two new vazungu with love and acceptance. A recent highlight was our inductions into the Umanyano (Christian Women’s’ Guild) and Madodana (Christian Men’s Guild). Whenever we’re facing challenges we remind ourselves of the quote by the young hotel manager, Patel, in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it is not yet the end.”

During the past year Charles’ work has included teaching two courses at Chasefu Theological College, Agricultural Science I—Sustainable Farming, and Agricultural Science II—Livestock in a Natural Farming Program. His work has also included assisting in the continuing development of Chasefu Model Farm and beginning to develop the separate Chasefu agricultural Income Generating Activity (IGA), a precursor to a future commercial farming operation on church-owned land. The past year’s farming activities saw Charles working with Acting Model Farm Coordinator Rev. Mapopa Nyirongo, who has been instrumental in assisting Charles in matters of language and culture. The Model Farm and IGA have two distinct visions and missions, which will become more apparent as each continues to develop. Rev. Nyirongo’s assistance and friendship is greatly appreciated and that friendship became even stronger during their 3,100-kilometer drive to Arusha, Tanzania, where they attended the 2017 ECHO East Africa Symposium.

Harvest at the Model Farm and IGA will occur over the next few months as dry season approaches. We’ve been blessed with good rains, despite a two-week dry period not long after transplanting red onion seedlings in early December. Although a good onion harvest is anticipated in April, it won’t be as good as originally expected. On the other hand, a good maize harvest is expected, which presents its own challenge—no shared storage facility for the IGA and Model Farm. As a result the maize and soybeans grown and harvested by the IGA will be sold at harvest rather than stored to sell later in the year when better market prices are typical. The Model Farm will also sell a good portion of its maize crop but will utilize storage at the student hostel and principal’s house located at Chasefu Theological College to ensure sufficient food for the students and staff over the next year.

The need for a storage facility as well as other infrastructure such as a small house for a security watchman for the farm, a classroom for training courses, and a dormitory for those attending such courses, are all being discussed. In addition projects for obtaining farm equipment (Charles, Rev. Nyirongo and Rev. Chiboboka paid a visit to the John Deere dealer in Lusaka recently) and equipment for irrigation are also being discussed. We’ve developed a new saying which seems to have caught on—dazi limoza! or “one day!”

In September Melissa began working with the CCAP (Church of Central Africa Presbyterian) Health Department. The department has been working hard to restart its activities after several years of inactivity. So far that has meant lots of meetings to learn what’s happening in the community and with governmental, NGOs and church-based providers here in the Eastern Province. Meetings are not the most exciting or glamorous work, but most have been very fulfilling and have provided Melissa and her co-worker, Richard Willima, a much better understanding of the needs of the Zambian people. Because maternal and child health are a priority for both the Zambian government and the CCAP, the Health Department has been asked to assist in providing community sensitization in the areas of gender-based violence and increasing male involvement in maternal health. Male involvement in all aspects of women’s health has been shown to increase antenatal and postnatal care, increase testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS, and reduce maternal and infant mortality.

As Health Education programs facilitator Melissa has been asked to provide lessons to the Women’s Guild gatherings on two occasions. The first lesson pertained to menstrual hygiene and has led to the development of a program, collaborating with the CCAP Education Department, to provide menstrual hygiene education and washable, reusable feminine hygiene kits to the girls in the 10 CCAP schools in the Eastern Province. A group of women from our home church in San Antonio, Northwood Presbyterian, are bringing the first load of kits when they visit in May. The department is hoping this program will grow and become self-sustaining as the women learn business, marketing, sewing and training skills to enable and empower them to make, sell, educate and distribute the hygiene kits to women and girls here in Lundazi and throughout Zambia.

The second lesson pertained to gender-based violence, which is a very difficult and widespread problem globally and in Zambia. The government has committed to work toward improving the problem here in Zambia and things are slowly changing with new laws and programs being implemented. Changing the culture, however, will take time, patience and lots of work to help people understand why it’s never acceptable or appropriate to use violence to resolve conflict. Melissa is working with the CCAP using a biblical approach to help the community understand a more loving, respectful, faith-centered approach to gender roles and responsibilities and managing conflicts in relationships, whether the conflict is between a man and woman or parent and child.

We have been strengthened by the many ways you have supported us during our first year in Zambia. Your prayers for us, and for those we serve, are daily reminders of your support. We have also been reminded of your love when we have received the numerous cards, letters, emails, care packages and other forms of communication. We want to thank everyone who has contributed to our financial support. Although the financial support we received during 2016 represented a good beginning for our first year of mission service, it was just slightly more than half of the annual amount required ($138,000) to support a mission co-worker couple serving in team ministry. Please consider making a recurring gift in support of our work in Zambia today.

We will be returning to the U.S. for Interpretation Assignment in mid-June and we have already confirmed visits with over 40 churches during our time in the U.S. Our goal is to ensure that our work is fully funded in 2017 and beyond. If you are not already on our schedule, we would love to visit you and tell you about our ministry here in Zambia and share with you stories of the people we have grown to love over the past year. If you are interested, please contact us soon because our calendar is quickly filling up. Charles can be reached at, and Melissa at

Charles & Melissa

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