News from Zambia

Missionary Newsletter February 2020

Dear Church friends,

Choma reservoir in January 2020
Choma reservoir in January 2020
Wishing you all every happiness in 2020. This last 12 months have been momentous for us all. The UK has seen many political and policy changes; globally there is more uncertainty, both politically and with new health and climate threats. Here in Zambia we are feeling the effects of climate change. A severe drought has seen the price of mealie meal rise from 62 to 190 a bag and we in Southern province feared for the harvest. This last 2 weeks though, has seen more rain than we have had in the last 4 months, and farmers are hopeful again that they can salvage something from their fields. The rainy season ends in March, so it is a very timely change in the weather.

Inflation and a rise in the price of fuel made the prices of imported goods and transported goods soar, and small businesses (including Chodort) are struggling. Many have gone to the wall, and 10 or more people from large farms in the area have sold up and returned to their countries of origin. Foot and mouth continues to restrict the incomes of those farmers who remain.

I am winding down my term as mission partner, and as a result of that I have given up the job of principal at Chodort. I was succeeded by Rev Bwalya, who despite a lot of energy and effort to take Chodort in a new direction, gave up and left at the end of 2019. A new principal was appointed and arrived last week. Please pray for him in this challenging job. His name is Dr Edward Nondo, just recently graduated with a PhD, he has experience of setting up commercial businesses and marketing as well as working with charitable organisations at a very high level. We have had some good conversations and I think his capabilities to move Chodort forward are much greater than mine.

The alcohol rehab group meets weekly
The alcohol rehab group meets weekly
I am now able to concentrate on 2 “pet” projects I have been thinking of for many years, but have not been able to do because of time. One is to start a Citizens advice style movement within the local churches called “Churches ADD” (Churches ADvice and Development), where professionals from congregations can offer advice or expertise in certain areas to help improve the local communities. These short (2 hour) sessions once a month will be open to all and include such topics as health advice (eg Blood Pressure with BP testing); managing cash flow for small businesses; how to deal with debt and safe water hygiene. We are pleased that the District Commissioner, Mrs Sheena Mulenga has offered to talk on this last subject, and have slotted her in for late March.

My second project has been on my heart for a long time. One common way for temporary escape from poverty / failing business / family problems etc is alcohol, which is very cheap in Zambia. A ¼ bottle of cheap spirits costs K7 (36p) and this is how a lot of mini bus conductors / street sellers start their day. Despite being a huge social problem there is little awareness of the effects of alcohol addiction.

On Wednesday this week I was asked to help escort a young teacher to hospital by a person from Welfare who is in our discussion group about alcohol prevention / setting up support groups. This lady had been called to the education board to be disciplined because of her misuse of alcohol and had collapsed drunk outside their offices. She had her 15-month-old son David with her, whom the social worker worried was being neglected, and who appeared to have foetal alcohol syndrome. ( Her family was past caring and we had a struggle to meet the criteria for admission to hospital for detox. She was admitted however, and hopefully after a successful detox will be willing to receive support to stop drinking. She is one of many in our small town whose lives are affected in this way.

My tortoise
My tortoise
Finally, on a lighter note, after having moved out of the Principals Manse I have been one-year living on the Chodort housing estate and my emerging garden is becoming home to several animals. As well as the 2 dogs and a cat, I have acquired several Chaleleons. The latest addition does not have a name yet, but was brought to me by a local farmer who spotted it in the road. I feared for its survival but I discovered it likes centipedes, avocados and baby sweetcorn. If I am cheeky I may call it Nondo, same as the new principal’s name, as it means tortoise in Bemba!

Items for Prayer:

  • That our small-scale farmers who depend on their crops to feed their families, will have enough to do so this year
  • That Chodort will be able to recover financially and thrive despite the poor economic climate
  • That the alcohol recovery groups will be successful
  • That churches will take up the idea of giving back to the community through Churches ADD
  • That Choma water supply will be sustainable in 2020
  • That Jane Mwenda, Play4all manager, who married in 2019 will have a smooth delivery of her baby girl in March / April
  • Safe travels for Rev Elspeth Maclean and other visitors to my home this year

Items for Praise:

  • That Laurenz Koch our former bread for the World volunteer has been such a blessing to Play4all in Kitwe, and still continues to support the feeding programme
  • That we have had rains at last
  • That the church has been able to appoint Dr Nondo as our new principal at Chodort
  • That my house was completed on time and has swiftly become my home. With every good wish to you all

With every good wish to you all for Peace, Grace and Joy this Christmas,

Jenny Featherstone