The 24th of July was the big day when our 8 day journey to the Luapula province would begin. To undertake such a trip here in Zambia takes a lot of planning and prayer; as in any developing countries, unpredictable circumstances can and often happen.
As a visionary I wanted to accomplish twice as much this year as last year with greater accomplishments. So I proposed seven goals to which our team should achieve: 1. Showing of the Jesus film seven times, 2. Ministering to the Chiefs and Headmen, 3. Seeking out pastors who want to go to Bible school, 4. Giving bilharzia medication to the infected island of Isokwe, 5. Distributing 10,000 Gospel tracts, 6. Praying and counseling with those who need Christ, 7. Documenting and collecting useful data for future trips.
I assembled 6 team members from different walks of life who would abide in their calling and work together in unity. We collected all of the necessary equipment, baggage, and food for our trip, packed them and had a good prayer.
We left the house by 5:30 am. Our first camp would be approximately six hours away at the small town of Samfya, a lakeshore fishing spot.
After 3 hours we came to a small town called Serenje. This was a good place to re-fill our 15 gallon tank (60 Liters) diesel truck and to stretch our legs. It was a good thing that we had brought our 55 gallon drum of diesel with us, as today there was a shortage going around. So after checking the tires and water levels we were off again. This time I sat at the back of the truck monitoring my GPS (Global Positional Satellite). This way I could mark the different towns and important areas of interest. Then I noticed we started to reduce speed. The driver pulled over and said his pedal was to the floor but just couldn’t get any speed! We looked over the engine but couldn’t find any noticeable problem. We tried a few times in vain to travel but the truck would just lose power and shut off. After assessing the problem, we came to the conclusion that the fuel filter must be clogged. Here we are on a deserted road in the middle of Zambia. Just like I do in many situations like this, I prayed. After 30 minutes a car drove up. I waved him down and asked for a ride in town to get a mechanic. So he said he would take a look. Another man came out of the car and just so happened to be a friend of one of our team members. It’s a small world. After taking care of the air-lock we had due to a clogged fuel filter, we were on our way to Samfya. Praise the Lord, He never fails! We were only 30 miles (70 km) away from Samfya so it was a relief to arrive safe and sound by 3 p.m.
As we entered the town we saw Pastor Zachariah and some church members waiting patiently for our arrival. After greetings we got down to business. We found out that the ferry The Friendship that was running weekly on Mondays now traveled on Thursdays. It was explained that it would only go when enough passengers were booked. So I sent some local pastors to find a boat that could carry at least 6 passengers with baggage. I budgeted 480,000 Kwatcha or $100 for the boat there and back. While that was being worked out, we went to the local church to set up the Jesus Film. The grounds were a bit small but since it was getting dark, we went ahead with the setting up. Once the darkness fell upon us, and the projector lights went on, swarms of lake gnats invaded us. When I swallowed some of the bugs the pastors said that was a sign that we were being blessed. HA!
Dinner was coming closer to our minds by this time so I nominated one of our team members to make sure that on a daily basis we spent no more then 50,000 Kwatcha ($10) throughout the day. I put this amount into seven sealed envelopes and I am happy to report that we ate very well and that it was a perfect amount. While the two hour film was showing, Our “Food Deacon” took the rest of the team to a traditional Bangweulu restaurant by the lake for a plate of 3 lumps of nshima, chopped rape, and 2 medium sized bream fish--all for 7,000 Kwacha ($1.50). Yum yum! By 7 p.m. and with no lights, I attempted to set up our kerosene lanterns and 3 tents. No easy task. But knowing that a sleeping bag was just around the corner, I persisted. Victory was in sight!
About 9 p.m. the other team arrived in the truck with the rest of the Jesus Film equipment. They announced that around 1000 people attended! The souls were about 400 and about 500 gospel tracts were distributed. Our team got together and had a good prayer together in the tent and then went fast to sleep. That night the wind was violent as we were right next to the lake and under many large trees but my sleep was sweet as those sounds are my favorite.
The next morning we broke camp and stored all the unnecessary baggage behind a store counter as we would be traveling by a small boat and space was limited. The driver decided to stay back to find a mechanic to solve the fuel filter problem.
We went to the shore and found a 25 foot fiberglass boat that would take us all the way to the island of Chilubi and take us back to the mainland the next morning for the price of 480,000 kwacha ($100). He said it should take around 3 to 4 hours each way. We started off at 9:30 a.m. and we went about 16 km. (30 miles) per hour. We had to go slow because we had choppy waters and water started to splash into the boat and on the team. Then we got to a spot on the lake where the Luapula River flows through. Things got a bit scary. Our boat was tipping back and forth and water continued to splash all over. We had to go under our blankets to keep from getting wet. I was at the front of our boat and when the boat would slam down it gave a good thump to my behind parts! That went on for about another hour. But like all good things which have to come to an end, it did! Praise God!
While continuing to cruise at a more pleasant pace, we spotted 2 more islands that I didn’t know about. One on the east is called Mbabala with over 6,000 people on it. Another on the west is Chishi also with 6,000 people. These islands are so out of communication with the rest of Zambia that most Zambians don’t even know they exist! As we continued on our way to Chilubi we followed along the shore of Mbabala, looking for fresh fish and stopping at the different temporary straw huts on the shore. But to our disappointment it was too early to find any large fish. One man on the shore waved us down so we stopped and came to his water inlet through the reeds. He went into this small grass house (the door only being about 2 ft tall and came out with a small basket of old fish that he had dried out in the sun last week. He wanted 10,000 Kw ($2) for it. The locals who were with us said it was expensive for old dried out fish so we left. I think he imagined that we had a lot of money since they were with a white man.
As we continued along the changing terrain of the island of Mbabala, the boat driver pointed to a patch of tall trees on a small hill. “There,” he said, “is where Chief Mulongwe’s palace is. He is chief of the Ngumbo tribe.” I sat there in the boat just staring for some reason at that site. Something burning inside me was urging me to visit the chief, like this was an opportunity that could not be missed. So I asked the driver to bring us to the shore of Mbabala to see the chief. My other team members were confused as this was not part of the plan. But sometimes, this is how God works, not letting us know all the answers before it is time.
We cut our engine and drifted silently through the short reeds. There was a canal cut through from frequent fishing canoes, so we paddled our way down the path filled with lily pads. As we came to the shore, there were about 3 women with a few kids washing some clothes and dishes. They stood up and stared not knowing what to think of us. The driver got out in the mud and pulled our boat to shore. The place was exceptionally quiet, probably because for the past couple of hours our 25 HP mercury engine was loud and vibrating. We all got out and started walking up the hilly path. As we got to the top of the hill, an old man was standing in the middle of the path, just standing there as if he was expecting us. I somehow knew this was the induna (the chief’s messenger) sent by his Chief to find out information and why we had come. I explained through our translator my intent and that I was here to offer Christian education for the Chief and his royal family. I put a donation in an envelope and handed it to the induna to give to the chief. You see, it is customary to do that or to give something when presenting yourself to the chief. Our translator, John, is from a royal family but had decided to give his full life over to the Lord to become an evangelist. So when it came down to dealing with royal blood, he was our spokesman as he knew the protocols of the tribes. John explained our mission as we walked through a small village. A bench was pointed out for us to sit while the induna went into the palace to present our case. Within a few minutes, we were invited into the room where the chief sat. We did the usual greetings by kneeling down on one or two legs and clapping 3 times and waiting for his response. He was a short thin man who seemed to be in his 70’s and had a big grin. He didn’t speak English so my presentation was translated into the Bemba tongue.
I told him that I wanted to offer our Christian education in 4 different ways:
- Chief training which includes Christian leadership and Bible knowledge.
- Teaching the Royal children Bible stories via flannelgraphs.
- Teaching his wives and other female relatives the role of the Christian woman, the values and virtues that are needed.
- Teaching the indunas, capassos, and other male relatives Bible Knowledge and how to serve others in a Christian way.
He was overjoyed to hear our proposal and said that he will be waiting for our return next year. He commended us for our courage to brave the rough lake and for taking time out to visit him. He said most boats that occasionally pass by, head only towards the big island of Chilubi where over 15,000 people reside; where it is more developed with schools, shops, Churches and even vehicles. The last time a missionary had dropped by was over a year ago. The chief showed his appreciation and pleaded us to return soon and not to forget him. He said he was Catholic since a Catholic church was built long ago on the other side of the island but couldn’t go to mass because it was too far to walk. He said the only thing that he needs is a bicycle so he can get around the island in a quick time. He said the only problems that his people are battling with at this time are mosquitoes and diarrhea. Around 1000 mosquito nets and safe drinking water are needed. After saying a good prayer for him and his tribe, we returned to our boat feeling satisfied that we had made a friend for life.
We then traveled on to Chilubi Island. The pier is made of metal but one side of it was lop-sided so we resorted to going to the beach area. We got out and some local church members helped with getting our things. We placed our personal things in a church member’s house and then took the Jesus film equipment to the school grounds. We started to set it up and announced through a loud speaker that there was going to be a Jesus film showing at 6 p.m. It was now about 5 p.m. so I asked to take a sponge bath and while the water was being boiled, we set up the tents. The sponge bath was an experience. Imagine, if you can, the bathing place being a grass wall held up by a few sticks measuring 1 meter by 1 meter (3’ x 3’) with no roof and a few worn out pan bricks to balance on. Where the water goes I know not, but being white and butt naked washing behind some sticks surrounded by natives on an island gave a sort of comical feeling to the situation. HA! Then with clean clothes and feeling fresh, the film started. By this time about 1,000 people had gathered and were watching the film. One of the headmasters (principals) of the school invited us for dinner. So we went to his home and ate nshima, kapenta, and rape. He then prayed for him and his family and blessed his home. Then we went back to the showing where the people were praying. About 3,000 people were present. 1,500 raised their hands to receive Christ. Praise God! We then packed up the equipment and went to the tents.
When we reached the tents a man approached us who was in dire need of our help. His child was having fits & the man wanted us to pray for him, so I told him to bring the child. After an hour he arrived with his wife and son. We started asking questions and found out that his child got cerebral malaria about 6 months ago. He went to the hospital, but they just sent him away saying they couldn’t do anything to stop the fits. The father resorted to taking his son to the witch doctors, but after some time this didn’t help either. When he heard that men of God were on the island, he decided to get prayer for him. This became an involving task. First we spent time explaining to him the salvation message that Jesus has to offer. That night both he & his wife knelt down to pray the sinner’s prayer. They dedicated themselves to the Lord and wanted to become Christians. After praying for the child we directed his family to a local church for further counseling. I told him that this was the beginning of his new life and that the Lord has a plan for all his children. We prayed again and departed to our tents and went to sleep. Each night we had a good united prayer with all the team members.
From what I could see, the island of Chilubi is well equipped. It has a good clinic and 2 schools with a population of 15,000 people distributed throughout 4 towns. I was even able to drink a cold Coke! Electricity and phones are available. The chief of the island was far from the town that we camped at which was called Muchinshi; the other ones are Santa Maria (which has a hospital), Kawena, and Mukotelo.
The next morning we had a breakfast of rice and eggs. (We actually ate twice because two different families wanted us to bless them; so as not to offend any we ate in two different houses)
We then packed up the boat and started off. The weather was perfect, no choppy waves and no wind. The lake was flat as a pancake.
We arrived back on the main land and found the driver of our truck waiting for us. The mechanic found out that the fuel filter was really dirty and unusable, so we bought one for 45,000 kwacha ($9) plus some oil. We started off on the next stage of our journey around 1:40 p.m. with our collected baggage. It was a late start but we had to make it to our next destination which was Kashikishi.
On our way we passed Mansa and then Mwense. As a precaution we put another 60 liters (15 gal.) of fuel into the drum. We passed Kazembe, then Nchelenge, and finally arrived in Kashikishi. It is a lakeshore town like Samfya. We rolled in at 7:30 p.m. so the school grounds were pitch-black. But that didn’t stop us from unpacking the equipment. Within 30 minutes the film was showing and being that Kashikishi has an active night life 4000 people were there to see it. Around half raised their hands to rededicate themselves to the Lord!
Then we met some church members who offered their property for us to set up our tents. So we packed up and went to the house of the headmaster (principal). We ate dinner at a local restaurant at 7,500 kwacha ($1.55) per plate. It consisted of a large lump of nshima, some green stuff I could not identify even after I tasted some, and some bream fish.
We set up our tents and went to bed by midnight. I think by this time all of us were feeling the weight of this tight schedule. But thank God that He gave us extra supernatural strength during this trip!
The next morning we got up and had tea and a few of us went to talk to the boat people. We negotiated the price to 350,000 kwacha ($73) for the trip to take our team first to the island of Kilwa where we would spend the night, and then take us to the next island of Isokwe, to spend another night, and then return us to the mainland. This next boat was small for a wooden boat, but bigger than our previous one. It had the same type of motor: a 25 HP Mercury engine.
As we packed up only what was essential for the two islands, I decided to bring my inflatable raft. I had done some research and found that the lake of Mweru can be violent at times and people have drowned because of it. I found a tire mender and inflated the raft to the max. While gathering our team around the boat I asked who could swim and out of the 10 only 3 were able. This was a bit of concern to me so I instructed them that if anything should happen to hold onto the rubber raft and pray. They still wanted to come so we continued to load our wooden boat. There was some water in the boat and I asked how did it come in, and the driver said he had just repaired the leaks. I looked at the places he showed me and he had painted blue swimming pool paint in the cracks. It was still wet but it was fast drying.
We then sent somebody to buy 25,000 kwacha ($5) worth of food for us to take to the island.
While waiting, I put on a small puppet/magic show for the local children, leading about 30 children to the Lord.
We finally shoved off at around 11am. The water was very choppy and water was splashing into the boat so we got out our blankets and hid under them again. I made a small shelter while sitting in the life boat with Zack. Kilwa here we come.
After many hours, we could see on the tip of the island about 50 grass huts. It is a very rocky place. We circled around to the other end of the island where another group of huts were. As we entered, villagers in a large group came down a slope singing and running to greet us. They were informed of our arrival so when they heard that a boat was sighted, they got themselves together. What a welcome! As our boat came to the shore, mud was still a problem so we took out our life boat, placed it in the water and we were brought 2-by-2 onto the shore. The villagers hugged us and shook our hands. Our boat was unloaded and our luggage was distributed for the people to carry. We went up a small enclosure to a village. Kapenta and small fish were seen spread out in front of the huts. I saw a woman with a bowl of what I thought was just mud spreading out to make a floor. After inquiring, I found out it was powdered cassava (the root used to make tapioca) and mud mixed to a paste which when spread over on an area will harden like cement. Bugs, birds and rats don’t eat it. This is typical African ingenuity.
We took our things to the pastor’s house and did the traditional greetings. We then went to see the head man over the village and to let him know of our program. I gave him a Christian book and asked about the health situation on the island. He said that Malaria was seen in small amounts but was not a big problem. Most inhabitants have nets. Bilharzia is also not seen. But cholera has its outbreaks at times; diarrhea too. A clean water system is needed. There are 15,000 people on the island. There are five villages, one chief—Nshimba, and five head men. There is one simple clinic but it is 7 km from this village. Most don’t go as it is too far to walk when you’re sick. So the problems become worse. When it gets really bad they have to go to a hospital and the nearest one is across the Luapula River into the Congo.
We thanked him and left. We went to see a new church which had brick walls but no roof. Then we went to the school grounds where we would be showing the film. We walked around and took some pictures of village life. We went back to the house and set up the tents by 5:30 p.m. The film was being set up while I took a sponge bath. Then we went and ate dinner. We had fish, chicken, and nshima. Then we went to the Jesus film. I counted 1,200 people at this point.
Children were always following me as they never met a white person before. The Jesus film was last shown here 15 years ago by a white man, named David, from the U.K, who had come from the CMML church. After the Jesus Film showing we went to sleep--dead tired.
The next morning we got up and broke camp. We went to the church where they played their drums and sang for us. We ate breakfast, saw the head man, and said our goodbyes. Then we went and put our things in the boat and as a treat for the kids being kind to me I bought about 200 sweets (candies) for the children and threw them in the air. I think I had about 200 children scampering about like when a piñata is broken.
Then we left. The waves were bad--worse then ever. I thought the boat was going to capsize at times. Our team members were praying aloud for the Lord to save us. Then after about 45 minutes it became calm. The Lord does it every time!
We then arrived on the island of Isokwe which has a population of 3000! We landed on the other side of the island from where we were last year. As we walked through the village, there was a creepy atmosphere. When talking to the Headman, and explaining our mission, he told us to go on the other side of the island to show our Jesus film. We were glad to depart from that place. Something was just not right. When arriving on the other side to the school area, immediately people received us with open arms. Children came running up to greet us. We unloaded the boat and took our things to the school grounds where we would set up our tents. I met the headmaster (principal) again and he said he had a dream that some visitors would be arriving soon. So he was glad it was us. I presented to him 1000 doses of Praziquantel medication to cure the Bilharzia that most of the island is suffering from. He was so thankful and appreciative. We agreed that health education is very important and that the people need to be taught how to live healthy lives. He said he would send us one person that speaks English well, and is able to teach, for one month so we can give some basic health and nutrition education. He would then be able to go around the island teaching the right thing. We will be in contact with the headmaster about this idea.
The Jesus film was set up and around 2000 people showed up. Most of them received the Lord.
After we ate dinner of Nshima, rape and fish, we had a good united prayer together with our team and went to sleep or at least tried to. That night, our tents flapped back and forth, and up and down so much I thought we were going to fly away. This went on most of the night.
The next morning we got reports that 8 villagers who were out in their canoes fishing for kapenta were drowned. It is no small thing when something like that happens.
We then packed up our things and said our farewells. The boat ride back to the main land was quiet and safe.
We arrived back in Kashikishi and unloaded the boat. We sent the driver and someone else to get the vehicle. Then we loaded up the vehicle and started toward the town of Kazembe.
After some time as we approached the town we saw over 1,000 people assembled on the road blocking it. On both sides were ditches and there in the midst was Mwata Kazembe, and his witches, wearing his full white attire. He was there celebrating the hiding place where the first Mwata hid to conquer his enemies. Since our truck could not pass we got out to see what was going on.
I noticed that the chief had brought 2 of his people who carried the ceremonial rifles. As I watched them shoot off those 100 year old guns, somehow a woman fell down unconscious. Whether the bullet was a blank or not we didn’t know but there was blood on her chest. It just so happened that our vehicle had managed to pass all the other cars and people on the road and was ready to pick us up. We placed the woman in the back of the truck and we buzzed down to the mission hospital 15 minutes away. Within a few hours we got another report that another person was shot in the leg. Obviously the Lord is not happy with the Chief and is continuing to send strong signals to him. (Note: Both people who were shot recovered fully.)
We then went to one of our team member’s house and started to set up our tents. We got in touch with the capaso (The Chief’s messenger) and asked what happened to the chief. He said after we had gone, he started to change for the better but after some time with the influence of evil men he reverted back to his old self. So I told him we wanted an audience with him after the ceremony was done with and to warn him that 2 people were shot and that God was not done with his judgments.
We took sponge baths and got all dressed up for some graduations for 17 people who attended a bible school for 3 months. I went with 3 of our members to the different churches and took pictures. We returned to the house to eat dinner and went to sleep.
The next morning, we woke up early to observe the ceremony. Nothing had changed. During the lunch hour, we went back to the house, got refreshed, and went back to see the ending of the ceremony. By the end of the day we were exhausted. The Capaso came to us to report that the Mwata had agreed to see us at 10 a.m. at the palace. I asked what his reaction was to the shootings and of my opinion that it was judgments but the capaso said he wasn’t able to tell the chief.
We next went to the school grounds and showed the Jesus film. Around 3000 showed up and many were brought to Christ. On an encouraging note, one student came up to us and told us that last year when we showed the film he dedicated his life to Jesus and had been going to church ever since. He thanked us for bringing the film and helping to change his life.
When the film ended, we packed up our equipment and went back to the house where our tents were and went to sleep.
The next morning we got all dressed up with suits and ties to see the Mwata. Then we heard some news that during the Mutomboko ceremony one of the most prominent chiefs under Mwata died--Chief Kanyembo! This hit the Mwata hard and according to tradition, when a sub chief dies, for 3 days no one will be allowed to speak to the Mwata. We went to the palace to try to speak with him, but weren’t able so I instructed one of the pastors to see the Mwata after his mourning period and ask him if he would be willing to have Bible classes on a weekly basis. The local pastor will send me his answer. We packed up our things and went our way back to Samfya for one last film showing.
We arrived at Samfya and found a small beach area where we just relaxed on the sand. I think we rested for about 3 hours. Then we went to the school grounds and started to set up the equipment. I estimate about 2000 were present. Again, most of them received the Lord. We ate dinner at the Bangwelu restaurant and then went back to our tents for the last time.
We said a united prayer praising the Lord for all that he has done and for His protection.