Create in me a clean heart, o God and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
In the Lozi dictionary the word for ‘Lent’ is given as Karesima. This word is used mainly by the Roman Catholic church; the other denominations that recognize Lent, tend to use the circumlocution, ‘the time to prepare oneself for Easter’. As Advent prepares us for the Incarnation and Christ’s coming again, so Lent prepares us for the coming of our risen Saviour.
As a whole in Zambia, Lent focuses more on the Church community rather than on the personal and rather private piety that is the case amongst Western believers. Christians here do use Lent as a time for personal introspection and examination but this is also combined with a greater sense of communal reflection and outreach. It is interesting that both cultures do both things but the emphasis is different, perhaps reflecting the nature of our respective societies and our respective general attitudes towards the individual and the communal. However, both would agree that Lent is a time to make a special effort to love others more.
On Sunday, for example, the members of the Mens’ Christian Fellowship rededicate themselves to their duties and work as they do annually. This is reminiscent of the passage in Acts 14:23 where Paul and Barnabas with prayer and fasting entrust elders to the Lord.
So what’s been happening on the ground recently? Well, we’ve had two American Medical Teams, the first group were paediatricians who did some good work at the Orphan and Vulnerable Childrens’ Day Care Centre. The second group were on their annual visit. They are the eye surgeons who do mainly cataract operations. They left today. We have another annual group of general surgeons arriving mid-month. They undertake hernias, fibroids and other such work.
We have also had two visitors to stay with us in our home recently. Alice Strittmatter, from the Gossner Mission, a German sister-organisation and partner to the UCZ. Alice also served in Zambia with the German Aid Service in the late 70s and early 80s. Alice was followed by Cathy Crawford who came to visit the Mwandi Aids Relief Project and a women’s support group in Livingstone. We look forward to catching up with them both when we are home on furlough.
Yesterday the 92 roofing sheets for the second classroom block were ordered and paid for - a cool K24m (almost GBP4 000). The steel trusses (24 x12m) for the roof are now ready. They have all been welded locally and to a good standard, so I bought red oxide paint (Forth Railway Bridge colour) and thinners to apply to and seal the metalwork . We are grateful for the Swiss-French Church’s financial contribution towards this part of the building. In the following weeks I will be purchasing glass and putty, electrical conduits, wires, light sockets, plugs and switches, paint and cement for the plastering and drainage. This should mean the block should be completed by the end of April or early May.
Work on the High School latrines has come to a stop. We received earlier this week new plans from the Ministry of Education District Officer. The pit has now to be increased in length by one metre. I have been assured this should not affect the Bill of Quantities but I’m not holding my breath!
We have two public holidays this week: International Women’s Day was on Monday and Youth Day on Friday. There will be sports, football and netball tournaments held on Friday at school to celebrate the Youth Day Holiday.
Mubita and I are ‘bothying’ at the moment, Ida left on Tuesday to attend the UCZ Synod Council of World Mission Committee Meeting in Lusaka and should return on Saturday. Saying that we are being well looked after by Dorothy, Florence and Stella. Dorothy has just returned to work; her eldest daughter died in hospital at the beginning of February. She is bearing up well considering, and has the consolation of her strong faith.
Ida has enjoyed meeting many of the other partners stationed elsewhere in Zambia and we were delighted to learn that Marina, one of the Bangladeshi nurses, gave birth to a little girl earlier in the week. Mum, Dad and baby are all well and recovering. This will be another grandchild for us along with Lucy and Akash, Liton and Leya’s little boy.
Finally, we’ve been reading ‘Salt and Light’ - The Letters of Jack and Mamie Martin in Malawi 1921-28. This book gives a warm and loving insight into the lives of a missionary family 90 years ago and of the people they served and stayed with at Livingstonia. All the joys and sorrows, the difficulties and triumphs and the wonderful variety in the work are all there. Despite the passage of time and life in a different era with different attitudes, there is still much that we, as workers for the same Kingdom, recognize and can empathise with in it. Plus ca change…