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Writer’s Block

A Letter from Melissa Johnson, serving in Zambia

Spring 2021

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Dear friends,

The sun is making golden slits of light across the bed through the blinds. They wake me and tell me it is morning and time to get up and begin a new day. I make my tea and I sit down in front of my laptop as I do almost every morning. Writing my newsletter surely won’t take long. I sit staring at the blank screen and no words come. But wait, breakfast needs to be made. Sometime later I sit down again to get the writing done. What do I say? How do I begin? Oh, wait — the laundry needs to be done and the sink is full of dishes. Ok – now I’ll get this done. Ding!! What was that notification? I better check that email. Wow — how did so many emails come in. Let me deal with these really quickly. What time is it? Good thing I checked, I almost missed that ZOOM meeting. Sigh — well not much writing got done today – again. I’ll get it done tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow the words will come.

I told myself that I would have an easier time writing my newsletter after we went to Zambia in February. I’ll have so many good stories to tell when we get back. But every time I tried to think of what to say it all sounded like complaining. Yes, we went to Zambia, but no, I didn’t get to spend time with friends or do any work (thanks COVID). It was just working remotely from a different locale. We went to Zambia for Charles to hand over his work materials to our partner, the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Synod of Zambia (CCAP Zambia), retrieve most of his personal belongings and our two dogs, Gus and Woodrow who had been alone for almost a year. Before we went, I told myself that I would find a way to see people safely, and we were able to see a few folks, but it wasn’t the joyous reunion I had anticipated. While everyone was excited to know we were back, there was disappointment as well; disappointment that we were only there for a few days!

Disappointment has been one of the reasons that I have been struggling with writing, with the writer’s block that has kept me from putting words on paper. What do I have to say to you all that won’t sound like complaints and whining? Aren’t we all in this same place of feeling like our lives are not what we would like them to be? What can I possibly say to you? That has been my block.

But this week I had a ZOOM meeting with my co-worker, Richard Willima, CCAP Zambia Health Department Coordinator to work on our quarterly status report to the CCAP Synod and project reports for PC(USA). As we talked for that hour and a half, I realized how much work has still been done despite our separation and working remotely. In the year that I’ve been gone from Zambia the new clinic at Phalaza has continued to be built. All that remains now is the construction of the three staff houses and soon health care will start being provided to a community that has had to travel 12 miles by foot to the closest clinic. The hope, patience and perseverance of the people in Phalaza for this clinic to become a reality is truly an encouragement to me – they have been faithfully waiting and working toward achieving this goal for the years.

We also discussed how the Days for Girls Enterprise has finally accomplished their goal of becoming Gold Certified. Being Gold Certified means that these women have gone from not knowing how to even hold a pair of sewing shears to being expert seamstresses who can sew the washable, reusable feminine hygiene components at the very highest quality control standard. Now that schools are back in session in Zambia, Stella, Cecilia, and Eunice have resumed teaching and distributing kits in the CCAP schools in the area. Both of these developments mean that there are many more opportunities for this program to reach more girls and women, to helping educate girls about their bodies and helping empower them to stay in school which in turn will help reduce poverty and hopefully reduce early pregnancies and marriage.

As we talked, we reminded ourselves about the Health Department’s goals to provide a better, healthier life for the people of Zambia, and we have been making progress. All of what is happening with the CCAP Health Department is due in large part to your prayers, support and partnership. Richard and I are so grateful for you all.

Some of you have asked whether or not I still need your financial support and the answer is a resounding “yes.” This pandemic has taken a huge toll on the financial resources of PC(USA), so if you are in a position to support me financially it would be a huge blessing. The plan is still to return to Zambia when the world is a safer place. I am praying, as I am sure we all are, that this pandemic will be over sooner rather than later.

Would you look at that – I’ve written my newsletter! Take that writer’s block! I hope you will all forgive my lack of communication with you all. This transition from working as a team with Charles to working alone has been a hard one. Charles has always been my encourager and prodder and the better communicator. I will try to do better! If you have any questions about the work that the CCAP Health Department is doing, please send me an email and let’s start a conversation. Thank you for being a blessing to me and the people of Zambia.


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