Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Trip to Mpika
This weekend Sydney and I traveled to Mpika. He spent a month there before the wedding, but I had never been so LBC sent us there to have a time for Sydney to minister on Sunday and also for me to get to know the place and the people a bit.
Driving there was something of a nightmare. We passed through NINE police “checkpoints”. We had to argue at a few, but two of them stopped us and actually charged us with (my favorite phrase) unpardonable offenses. The first place asked us if we had triangles and a fire extinguisher. (For my American readers, they are small triangle shaped reflectors you have in your car so if you have a problem on the road people can see from far off.) I told him I had triangles but he said by law I was required to have a fire extinguisher- which I have never heard of before. I argued and he said it was a 'new law' which I didn’t know. I started to get upset because they were very obviously being corrupt and making up charges (he spent 5 minutes going around the car first looking for anything wrong and was upset when there was nothing- that's when he now went to the fire extinguisher). I asked for a ticket that we could contest at the station or court and they said “we don't give tickets anymore cause no one pays them” I was at the point of almost getting into a serious fight because that was just ludicrous, so I asked Sydney to deal with them and I went and sat in the car.
While in there, Sydney tried to reason with them and mentioned the fact that I was his wife, and the female officer said “Hmm, you have moneeyyyyyy”. From that point, we were told we were being impounded (car and license taken away) if we didn't pay a fee. Sydney realized you can't argue with a fool so we paid the $36 fee.
We continued on, showing the triangles at the next stop etc.... no one else ever mentioned a fire extinguisher being necessary. When we got to another road block, they again asked for the triangles and then said ours were plastic and we needed metal ones- another $36 dollar fee. We argued for quite some time but to no avail. They didn't even take my license or anything and let me sit with the car running so I was ready to just drive away, but Sydney had 20 dollars in his pocket and told them that’s all we had to give them so the officer told him to go and look for the rest from others who were pulled over (we were in the middle of nowhere). He told him to give us a ticket and we got the same story. So he finally accepted the 100 kwacha (20 bucks) and then wrote a receipt that said we didn’t pay, but had been warned to buy triangles because ours were “insufficient”. So he enjoyed a night our with our 20 dollars obviously it went in his pocket.
We finally arrived in Mpika and were so nicely informed that actually the law just says triangles and doesn’t specify whether metal or plastic, and fire extinguishers are required for public transportation not passenger vehicles. It's so encouraging to know that some of the biggest criminals in Zambia are the police. They are most dangerous because of the “power” they have. They steal in broad daylight.
When we got there, I was beyond exhausted. We had a tough night of sleep the night before and got up at 4am to travel and since Sydney is not driving right now, I did all the driving. I was mentally FINISHED! We chatted for a while with one of the church members who is taking care of the pastors home while he is away, and then I had to lay down. We slept about 2 hours when a knock came at the door and the deacons from the church came and paid us a visit. I wasn’t much company because I developed a very intense migraine headache that was making me feel sick, but we did visit with them for a while and it was nice for me to get to know them.
Because of the headache I was experiencing, I had to sleep early, around 8 or so. I woke up in the morning feeling much more refreshed and ready for the day, although the house also took some getting used to. (this part if for my American readers and family, who are more interested in hearing about this stuff and may have never seen/experienced it before if they haven't traveled here.) There was no running water, but the same church member who was at the house when we got there collected water in buckets- and it was MORE than enough to see us through the weekend, which I was very grateful for. It was just a learning experience to deal with how to bath, use the toilet, wash the dishes etc. It's always awkward when you are in a new home but I can assure you- running water makes all the difference. The stove also wasn't working when we got there, but an electrician came and fixed two of the burners. They were either on full blast, or off- so that was also a trial by error (much error) and Sydney ate a few burnt things with a happy heart- even telling me he likes cabbage better when it's a bit dark. Bless his heart. I had to warm up water for bathing, but like I said there were only two working burners on the stove and in the mornings, the power is dim so it took about 30 minutes to heat one small pot of water for a bath.
The house is quite old and a few things are on their last legs, and of course in the first hour I somehow locked myself in the toilet room and Sydney had to rescue me....
The security also was something for me personally to get used to. There was no light bulbs in the security light outside or in the kitchen, so we had to move some around from other rooms we weren’t using and buy one for the kitchen, although the socket for the one in the main part of the room was broken so the light was over in the corner and it wasn’t easy cooking in the night, because the light just barely reached the stove area. Also, the front door had no security bars, and was broken on the bottom and a broken handle (there is actually no handle on the inside of the door) so the only thing keeping it shut was a small metal rod on the inside. Otherwise, there was a piece of wood and a sheet blocking the hole in the bottom. There is no outer wall fence and the house is quite central with people walking by right through the yard. Coming from Lusaka, where you have a cement fence with an electric fence on top, metal bars on the windows and doors and dogs..... needless to say I was out of my comfort zone.
It was interesting that when the deacons came they assured us there is no crime in Mpika, and then went on to tell us one of the deacons homes was broken into TWICE in two weeks and another church member also had thieves.... but I later heard the whole story (after losing sleep over every bump in the night) that it was some neighbor kids who broke in and charged their cellphones with the wall chargers and stole cartoon dvd's!
I also had to get used to the wind in mpika, it literally felt like the house would lift off the ground and fly away and I worried for the roofing sheets!
All in all though, we were perfectly fine and well taken care of especially in terms of water from the church there. This house was meant to be our temporal home for some months while we wait for something more permanent- but it looks like we will be looking for an alternative home. I can deal with a lot of things- and I have lived quite contented with water and power issues, but for some reason, I think with the exhaustion on top of all of it- I struggled and panicked a bit in that house. Pray that I will learn to be contented anywhere God places me. I have made it very clear that I will follow Sydney wherever he goes, but he is also very sensitive to my feelings and needs and I don't want to negatively affect his ministry by my negative attitude.
Mpika, the town itself, we explored on Saturday. It is by no means Lusaka- there are shops, not stores. It is small and the town is not big enough for street signs or traffic lights or anything, but it is developing. That being said, I love the place! It is clean and uncongested, it's quiet and people were so friendly even in the market place- where in Lusaka I am called names and yelled at or even grabbed in the inner markets, here I was obviously something “new” but it was a friendly curiosity. We did not see a single other white person there. I really enjoyed the town itself. Buying things will be very different, we'll go to the butcher for meat, and the baker for bread, and the market for vegetables- not Shop rite for everything like I do here, but I have no problem with that. We saw the plot for the church parsonage, which has yet to be built, obviously, and it's quite beautiful. We also drove to see the house the pastor is building which will also be beautiful when it is finished. We will potentially live there when it's done since the parsonage is on the back burner to the church being built.
The church building is in progress, the outer walls are there but no floors or roof. We hope to put the roof on first thing so that we can move to the main sanctuary and start a vernacular service in the old sanctuary so that we facilitate more of the peoples needs there, and more from the community will feel welcome.
The church plot itself is spacious and we have future plans for a school/orphan work there as well as a pastoral training school, since the northern part of Zambia is lacking in Reformed Baptist Churches (ours is the only one).
On Sunday Sydney preached twice and we attended the adult Bible class where they are studying systematic theology. There were about 13 including us in attendance there, mostly young men, which was quite encouraging. I had a chance to get to know the ladies in between services a bit, and after church Sydney and I drove one of the young boys home so we could visit his mom, who is one of the members of the church and has been quite ill. She was very encouraging to me somehow. She and her home reminded me of one of the families I’ve worked with in kabanana, in fact I felt like we were transported back there. She is very frail and told us she has trouble eating anything but porridge, which showed. However, she spends her time working for an organization to aid those suffering from HIV and AIDS, and underprivileged women and children. She asked me if I'd like to come with her when we get back and I am really looking forward to that. She was a blessing to me. Sydney gave her the outlines of the sermon since she couldn't attend, and we prayed with her.
Sunday night the power went out and it was pitch dark in the neighborhood so we locked up and watched a movie on the laptop while we waited for it to return. We slept early, knowing we were driving again Monday morning. In the morning we packed up and went to visit the home of a church member and his family who weren't at church the day before. Sydney gave them the message, in short form, and an assignment to do some reading/studying. We then went to the deacon's home to pick up his nephew, who needed a ride back to Lusaka to see his parents and family who he hasn't seen in two years. We spent a while with them but then hit the road.
While in Mpika, we purchased metal triangles and a fire extinguisher so that we wouldn't be harassed again, but of course not a SINGLE roadblock officer hassled us, they all waved us through. Sydney was actually irritated but I told him that’s how it goes! Now that we have them, they'll never ask for them again!
We were almost in an accident on the way back. Just after a roadblock, where they are supposed to check the fitness of these trucks and their cargo, we were following a very huge truck over packed with bags of mealie (cornmeal) and Sydney pointed at the tires and said, “have you seen the tires, they are not moving right” I also noted they looked like they were being pushed down by the weight of the mealie. No sooner had we said that when THREE tires blew, one right after the other. I had to slam on the brakes because dust and shredded rubber was flying all over the place, and the tires were blowing off FAST. He actually KEPT driving for another kilometer with all that stuff flying on us and in oncoming traffic before pulling over. It was incredible and improbable that every piece of rubber shrapnel missed us- we were quite close behind him.
Otherwise we had no incidents and were able to drop the boy off with his family and got home safe and sound. However, I was feeling extremely exhausted and achy, I thought from driving, but woke up numerous times with a bad stomach ache and I’ve been suffering from a stomach bug even into this morning, thus me lying in bed with time to write this! I am hoping it was just the travel and it will pass soon. We were both chewed up petty bad the first night by mosquitoes before we were able to purchase any spray- so pray we aren’t struck with malaria in the coming week also!
On Thursday, Sydney will give a report on Mpika and what we plan, by God's grace, to implement there. Sunday he is preaching again at Emmanuel Baptist church in Chelston. Next week we hope to go and visit his family on the copperbelt for a day or two, his mother hasn't been well. After that, there will be a setting aside service to set us apart for the work in mpika on September 1 and then the family conference. Sydney's brother, Bright, will be coming to stay with us here for the week so that he can also attend the conference.
Please also pray for fanny, she is having complications with her pregnancy. She is due in two weeks but the baby is breech. She has been told to have a c-section but the facility where she will have to do it is not ideal in any way- and care there can be questionable at best. She also just received word that her mother is not well, and that stress can't be helping at all. Please keep her family in your prayers.
Thank you for your prayers for travel mercies and for us as we visited mpika. We are looking forward to ministry there, and ideas for ministry and opportunities are flowing even as I type!