July 24: Pastor Moses Yamba, Percy and we traveled from Sesheke to Nangweshi, a trip of about 3.5 hours, the last hour over a very rough gravel and sand road. The vehicle was extremely cramped so we arrived tired to our very spartan lodge. Spartan, but clean, and staffed by two lovely women who would, along with two women from the ECZ church, give us four star service in our one star accommodation. At $6/night who could complain? Small rooms with strips of loose linoleum over the concrete floors. Concrete outhouses. Concrete bath houses with tables and basins. An outdoor kitchen using an open fire with an outdoor washing and separate laundry area. A solar panel for our single bulb at night. Nangweshi has yet to be electrified, although the poles are in the ground. No one knows when it will happen.
We rested until late afternoon when host-pastors Titus and Martin arrived to welcome us. What great guys! After our visit, we sat down to a fresh bream, nshima, gravy and greens dinner. The fish was fantastic, having been caught that day from the nearby Zambezi River, and we fell asleep wondering what the morning's training would bring.
July 25-27: Expectations are funny things. Set them too high and you'll likely be disappointed. Set them too low and the shock might jolt you. For two years, Pastor Yamba had told us that Nangweshi was hungry for the Word. He had finally convinced us to come.
We had asked for fifteen students from at least three churches. Pastor Titus had assured us there would be more. There were. We had definitely set our expectations too low!
The first morning we arrived to about 15-20 students. By the time we began praise and worship, we were at about 35. As the training began, our class stood at 56. Seven churches were represented and all the students were hungry and attentive and delightful!
The second day our numbers had grown to 75 students. Breakout sessions into small groups definitely took some organizing. LOL!
After an afternoon rest, we returned to the church to visit with the students, many of whom had traveled for the class and were eating at the church, although staying with families in the village. Pastor Titus, Percy and I then walked to town about 3/4 mile away to xerox the portion of our training manual we were using so folks could get a copy. I couldn't believe there was a xerox machine in this bush village, but, sure enough, a very professional young woman copied our manual on a small multi-function printer to the rumble of a small Honda generator. Nothing to it!
As we walked back to the church, Percy ran into an old high school friend he hadn't seen since graduation. They had a joyous reunion. How cool is that? Then, when we returned to the church, we found Abby giving simple bracelets to the kids, making new friends and then dancing with the women. In other words, doing what Abby does so well!
By day three, our numbers had grown to 100! Pastor Titus urged us to stay longer. He said if we stayed that 200 would come, maybe more. Can you imagine? Sadly, we told him we had to leave because we had training scheduled in Mongu. Next time?
We met some amazing people in Nangweshi. Chameya Ngomba, a sixty year old brother, had bicycled over rough gravel and dirt roads 148 kilometers (92 miles!) to come to the training. What a dear man! Elder Regan sat on the front row every day deeply engaged, and has been talking regularly with Percy by phone ever since the training.
But it was Pastor Martin Ilukena''s story that broke our hearts, that touched us so deeply. After day two, while Abby was dancing with the women, Pastor Martin told Percy and me that just two miles from Nangweshi, in the 1990's, the United Nations had built an Angolan refugee camp housing 27,000 Angolans fleeing the communist insurgency. It was all new buildings with running water and generators for electricity. (What a contrast to Nangweshi, a bush village of only 2600 people.) Swimming across crocodile infested rivers, the refugees had arrived war torn, many missing limbs or eyes, in deep shock, starving, and separated from their families, many of whom had died in the war or in river crossing.
With tears in his eyes, Pastor Martin told us how he had become a chaplain to the refugees from 2000 to 2008. During this time, while he ministered to these broken, confused and wounded people, he himself became terribly wounded. All nine of his siblings died during those years, six by natural causes and three brothers to murder by one man who confessed to Martin his crime. He told how he had surrendered his AK-47 to the police once he knew the man's identity because he was afraid he'd kill him. How desperately in prayer he'd asked for the strength not to seek vengeance. (Sadly, the man was never prosecuted.) Today, his mother and he are the only surviving family members.
He went on to tell us that, somehow, ministering to the desperate refugees during his time of deep grief had helped him. And then he emphasized that Abby's teaching that day on the "Wounded Pastor" had made him realize for the first time that the deep burdens and terrible memories he'd been carrying all these years were shared, in some way, by other pastors. That he was not alone in his woundedness. And that Jesus, the Wounded Healer Abby had taught about, had ministered to him and touched him deeply that day.
"You have no idea what today has meant to me," he said. "It has touched me deeply. It has changed me." I called Abby over from the dancing and he then told her how much her teaching had meant to him. It was, to say the very least, a truly sacred moment. One we will never forget. One we could never forget.
July 28: After tender goodbyes, we departed for Mongu via a shortcut.
Please pray for Nangweshi, for Pastors Titus and Martin, and for us as we process what God has done, is doing and will do in Zambia. And next year, in Angola!