“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
All during our recent trip to Zambia, these words of the Apostle Paul rang in my head. There was so much for us to rejoice about at every turn!
When our team of 6 finally arrived in Chitambo on Sunday morning after several long days of traveling, we stopped to worship with our friends in the village before going to Agape Orphanage. It was Palm Sunday, and the people of Chitambo were processing to church waving palm branches of various sizes and shapes that they were able to collect along the way. Not all were able to find palms to wave, but all were singing and praising God as they took the dusty walk to their church.
The worship was vibrant on this Palm Sunday morning, as it is every time we worship with our African brothers and sisters. During the singing I was reminded that David danced before the Lord with abandon. Why should I be surprised to see that here? The enthusiasm I always feel in an African service causes me to believe that our African friends will surely be leading the choirs in heaven.
As soon as the church service concluded, we left for Agape Orphanage. What a beautiful sight met us as we reached the end of the long, narrow sandy road! Agape Orphanage is truly an oasis in the middle of the African bush – an oasis that God has provided for many children, and for those who care for them. Flowers are blooming at the base of each tree in the front yard where they have been carefully planted. The ground has been swept clean with homemade African brush brooms, and carefully planted grass is beginning to spread from a corner of the front yard. I feel much joy when I see all of this because I know that the same care I am seeing displayed on the outside of the building is, also, being given to the children who live in this place.
Upon entering Agape Orphanage, we saw the children waiting expectantly for us, as always. We know that the shyness we now see will dissipate quickly as we interact with them – and it does.
Over the next several days we sing and we laugh; we dance and we hold hands; we decorate beautiful foam crosses and we make paper flowers; we fly kites and throw Frisbees; we twirl hula hoops and we write letters; we teach the children how to hit a ball with a bat and we watch them play volleyball. And, in the midst of all of this, we wonder who is having the most fun – the children, or our team of 6.
Each evening before dinner is served at Agape Orphanage, the children have a time of devotion, usually conducted by a staff member. One evening we were literally taken aback when one of our boys, Gasper who is 11, did the devotion. Not only did Gasper have a wonderful message to deliver using 2 different passages of scripture which he tied together very nicely, but he did it all in perfect English! This is really huge since these children have come from a bush culture where people mostly do not speak English, but one of the 73 dialects of Zambia. What a thrill to see the results of both good spiritual training and good training in English.
Also, while in Zambia, our team did some outreach projects away from the orphanage on two days. Team member and optometrist, Charlotte High, examined eyes in two different villages, screening for cataracts and giving out reading glasses to those in need of them. Peggy Perry assisted Charlotte, as did our Agape Orphanage Director and Matron, Nyawa Lungu and Annie Mutale. Also assisting on one of these days were two members of the AVF Board in Zambia, Mr. Chansa and Mr. Lukwesi.
On the day that the eye camp was being conducted in Chitambo by the women on our team, Gerald Batts, Bill Deans and Mickey were busy installing a new radio antenna on the water tower at Chitambo Hospital. These men worked many hours securing the antenna so that the hospital can communicate via two-way radio with out-lying bush clinics that cannot reach the hospital by any other means. When this project was completed, communication was possible with even the farthest clinic which is more than 100 miles from Chitambo Hospital. This will be a huge help to the hospital.
The second of the two eye clinics was conducted in Teta, where our friend Reverend Dan lives and has a church. During the entire time that the eye clinic was underway in Teta, the Teta Church choir members were singing joyfully in new choir robes that were purchased for them by a friend in the US and brought by our team to Zambia. When the eye clinic was concluded, the Teta Church provided a lovely African meal for us as a way of thanking us for the eye clinic and the choir robes. It was a wonderful day of rejoicing, even though our dear friend, Dan, was not feeling well as a result of repeatedly having malaria over the last year.
On the day before we left Chitambo, Bill Deans, team member and neurologist, was called upon to examine a government official who was at Chitambo Hospital and was exhibiting signs of a neurological disorder. The doctors in Chitambo were very grateful to have Bill there to consult with them. We rejoice greatly that Bill was present to advise the doctors about moving forward to help this official who has been such a good friend to us and to Agape Orphanage.
Leaving Agape Orphanage is never easy for us, but as we left we were rejoicing over many things that took place while we were in Zambia. Most of all, we were rejoicing at the goodness of our God who has provided a wonderful home for the Agape children, who provides for their needs on a daily basis, who will never leave or forsake them, and who has plans to give them hope and a future.
Our God is good! Rejoice!!