We are home after an eventful trip back to Sons of Thunder (SOT) in Zambia. Here are some of the highlights:
Five of us from the US went this time;
- Pastor Jerry Beall, the director and founder of the mission from Damascus MD.
- Mike Hall from Virginia and quite a talented musician of the Southern Gospel style.
- And the two of us.
I (Don) was assigned the task of taking pictures of all of the Farm families for a picture directory. This meant traveling to all of the villages and meeting 64+ families and their children and taking the family portraits. Some of the villages are way out in the bush and many do not have electricity although all have a deep well and fresh water. This task had me leaving the guest house at 7:30 every day for about 4 hours each day for about 6 days. Now we are trying to put together the directory which will keep us occupied for a while.
On Sunday I (Don) went out to a remote bush village for a church service with Leroy, Pastor Winfred and his wife Harriet (local people) and driven by Sal our American medical guy. Leroy preached there. It was quite an experience. Winfred is the pastor of this church and travels weekly on his bicycle with his wife on the back of the bike. Twice a month they travel there on Saturday and spend the night so they can visit with the people of the church. It takes them almost two hours across rough bush roads. The church is a mud semi open-air structure with a thatched grass roof. The singing and worship lasted about an hour before Leroy preached. It was very enjoyable.
We were able to capture on video several interviews with a few of the local people; two with Alexander the national leader on the arm and quite a remarkable man, one with Padmore who was anxious to share with us, and one with Linah B, a lady that Diana became close to on our first trip to the farm.
Changes we noticed since last year include;
· A new laboratory has been built next to the clinic for blood work and other medical laboratory tasks. This is quite an impressive new building constructed by village workers under the direction of Godfrey. It is a concrete block structure nicely finished with stucco and painted tastefully. The plumbing goes in and out on the outside and is neatly dressed. They now have a technician working the lab. The irony about this lab is that it was built by villagers who live in mud houses because they can’t afford anything better. These are poor people but with an attitude most would envy.
· A new produce stand is under construction by the same crew and I’m sure it will be an attractive and profitable addition to the farm.
· There are additional staff members working in the clinic with Sal.
· Last year SOT farmers Alexander, Tyson and Graham traveled with Patrick Cairns, from South Africa, to a Farming Gods Way conference in Harare, Zimbabwe. They leaned a lot on that trip and are now in the process of trying to spread these farming methods to all the farmers on the farm. We can see the results in walking through the fields and seeing the truck loaded with produce headed to the markets in Livingstone. The haphazard farming ways of the past perpetuate meager substance living so Farming Gods Way is a big boost to their day to day lives.
· We got a glimpse of just how difficult life was in past years when several of the villagers shared that they used to walk 2 to 3 hours each way just to get fresh and clean drinking water. When the deep wells were placed in each village life, though still difficult, was made much easier.
· The businesses that were established last year are still developing and growing.
We are blessed by just being around these new (by now old) friends we have made in Zambia. We are met constantly with big smiles, handshakes and often big hugs. So many of them demonstrate to us the fruits of the Spirit talked of by Paul in Galatians 5:22 “ … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” And I’d like to think I learn these habits in a deeper way in being with them.
And we see the faithfulness of Sal and Renee Marini who have been over there for 7+ years now. We see and hear the love and high regard that the villagers have for these two faithful servants of the Lord. We see them relentlessly battling the onslaught of HIV/AIDS which still takes its toll on the villagers; on each of our last two trips, there have been young women die or in the final stages of AIDS. Medication and testing makes a big difference in this ongoing battle and if a pregnant HIV positive mother stays on the medications throughout the pregnancy (and for the rest of her life) then the child will be born uninfected and giving hope for the next generation. And a shameless plug here for the American pharmaceutical and medical industries and George W. Bush who have developed and made available these medications to these people. The root cause of this epidemic however, remains sexual promiscuity and Sal and Renee are attacking on this front as well in education and Biblical teaching on morality. An irony I saw in a poster in Botswana advices circumcision as helping to prevent transmission of the HIV virus; the irony is that in San Francisco recently they tried to outlaw the ancient practice; which is the more civilized and humane attitude?
While shopping in Livingstone with Renee, we happened upon a man, Costa. He was very happy to see Renee and was quick to share with me that Renee and Sal had changed his life. “I was dead, and now I am alive,” he told me. I asked Renee to share with me what he meant.
When Sal and Renee were first here at Sons of Thunder, Costa came to them, very sick with HIV and TB and, they thought, near death. They treated him at the clinic for a month, feeding, medicating and doing what they could for him. They shared the love of Christ with him as they do with all the patients they see. He was an obnoxious, difficult patient, but they nursed him to the point that he was able to return to his home, knowing Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord with the joy of the Lord in his heart.
In the meantime, they found that his wife was HIV positive, too. Because Costa was unable to work, they had no food, so again, SOT provided nourishment and found other ways to minister to him and his family. Medication was given to them and as a result, he became stronger and was able to return to work.
Now, Costa is a trusted security man in Livingstone providing for his family, pleasant and giving testimony about the change in his life.
I, Diana, had a unique visit with my friend, Linah, on Friday. Linah is a 41 year old single mother of 16 year old Sidney. She had invited me to dinner so stopped by to get me after finishing work at the preschool. Linah lives in the village named Revelation, just a 15 minute walk from the guest house. (There are seven villages on the farm consisting of 7 to 10 families per village.) Linah asked Sidney to light the charcoal before she got home so the fire would be hot for her to prepare our dinner. Dinner consisted of nchima, the corn meal porriage which is the mainstay of the nationals, eggplant and tomatoes, fresh from the farm, and sausage that she had purchased in Livingstone. It’s quite a process to prepare the meal as the brazier she uses is small, allowing for just one pot at a time.
I wish that you could see her humble house. It’s a small mud hut with a tin roof. The main room consists of an area she uses as her “kitchen” (a small table with a basin for her sink, an assortment of pots and pans, a covered bucket that houses her mealy meal from which they make nchima and another bucket that has her drinking water) and the seating area for relaxing, sewing, and, yes, even watching TV. She has a small cabinet that has a few dishes and a set of covered pots that appears to never have been used. She has a sewing machine that is hand powered with her left hand as she guides the material with her right hand. The only other room is her bedroom. She has a single light bulb in the main room and one in her bedroom. Revelation village has electricity to it, however, there was an overload that blew the wiring so they have been without power for the past two or three months. The repair is forthcoming. Waiting is a part of life there. In addition to the main house, her son had his own little hut off to one side now that he is older. His is a mud hut with a thatch roof with room for his bed and a small area for a chair and his things. Linah has a “bath house” made from reeds and sticks which is merely a shelter for privacy where she can bring her basin of heated water to wash with. She plans to have a latrine dug and enclosed in the future when she can afford it and in the meantime, goes out into the bush to take care of business.
Linah and I had a great visit where she shared some of the changes she has experienced in the 10 or so years that she has lived at Sons of Thunder. Seven years ago, Sal and Renee were called to set up a medical clinic on the farm. Evenutally, the missionaries went back to America and Sal and Renee took over the operations at the farm. Sal as the clinical leader and Renee as the administrator of all other areas. Linah shared that many families lived alone without the benefit of community on the perimeter of the farm. They had no drinking water, only the river water near them and, as Don heard from Graham, many walked as long as 3 hours each way to bring safe water from the well near the main house. As the need was made apparent, villages were formed, headmen chosen for each village, and deep wells dug for each village. Linah also shared that Sal and Renee have made an impact with regard to her health. She was very sick and feared that she would lose her life. She had been receiving medication from the woman that ran the orphange, but wasn’t getting results. There hadn’t been any tests run to determine what was causing her symptoms, so Sal had her blood drawn and was able to medicate her for the specific illness from which she was suffering. She is thankful as are many, many of the people that he has helped.
We talked and visited until the light was too dim in the house and we moved to the porch. Linah is anxious to get electricity back as she normally listens to Christian music as she cooks and sews. She loves the Brooklyn Tabernacle music. In fact, the first time I visited her back in 2010, she hadn’t been able to afford having lights put into her house, but had the DVD player and the TV where we watched one of their perfomances. Her prayer is to be a missionary to reach the unsaved in her country. Jesus is such an important part of her life.
The friends we have made at Sons of Thunder covet your prayers. They are blessed to be a blessing!!
Don & Diana