Chipata, Zambia with Filius and Chosiwe

Sunday, April 21, 2019
Chipata, Eastern Province, Zambia
We leave early today because we have a long day going back to Zambia and spending the day with Filius and Chosiwe Jere and the Chipata church.  We were awakened to the sound of prayers to Allah from a nearby mosque. The plaintive sounds of prayer prevail over the city starting as early as 4 am.  It is also Easter Sunday.
Nick and Megan arrive at 6:30 and we head off for the Zambian frontier on the M12, which is actually quite a good road.  We pass by our Church farm at Nkhwazi, then pass the road leading to Cephas and Patricia Chapamba’s home and clinic. Then to border.  Some of our road is actually the border of Mozambique (on the left) and Malawi on the right. Three countries come together here: Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. 
We reach the border at Mchinji. This is one of the worst border crossings I’ve ever experienced. It’s not dangerous or mean, it’s just dirty and uncaring.  Big trucks are trying to cross.  It is unclear what lane to take for our vehicle.  There are no signs, or they are unclear and actually misleading.   There are cones and barriers that you dare not violate. But, gone (or at least I didn’t see it) was the friendly sign: “$2000 fine for crossing this line.” 
We easily exited Malawi, but now needed to get into Zambia with our vehicle.  This process took longer; much longer. All of a sudden I heard a familiar voice: “Are you from Cincinnati?”  It was Filius himself!  I didn’t realize that he would come to meet us at the border.  His thought was that we would leave our vehicle on the Malawi side in a “secure” spot and ride with him to Chipata, about half an hour away.  But Nick had already started the proceedings to get our vehicle over into Zambia—buying insurance and making sure we had registration and another sticker affixed to the ones already. They are reviewed continuously as you drive.
Nick spends an hour sorting all of this out. I’m impressed by how Nick tackles each challenge with a vigor and keeps at it until solved. 
We did have a man flitting about around us as an unofficial advocate, mentor or ombudsman to help us in the process… primarily for the purpose of our paying him.   He was helpful, though.
There is a public “rest room” at the border which is a stench-filled closet with a rectangular hole in the ground.  It has likely never been cleaned since it was built.  And you have to pay 100 MK to use it!  My reaction ranges from disgust to uproarious laughter at this phenomenon.  Nothing had changed in the past two years except that this has become stinkier.
The border crossing took more than hour, but it gave time for me to talk to Filius and his guest Fred Mwaba who was visiting from Lusaka. We had seen Mr. Mwaba in Lusaka when we were there a few weeks ago.
All is well. We proceed. We are sandwiched in between two vehicles as we journey west.  Very quickly we are stopped by a woman policeman.  There was not a shred of warmth in her.  Nick tries to be outgoing to all he meets and hopefully have response in kind.  It didn’t work here.  She just said, “I need money for the toll.” There are no toll roads between here and Chipata.  She took Nick’s driver’s license and disappeared for several minutes.   We just sat there. She was not a nice looking lady, either. She was looking for a bribe.  She came back and had no choice but to return Nick’s driver’s license. We arrived on the other side after a short walk and after Nick drove the vehicle across.
Filius had an ambitious schedule for us upon our arrival in Chipata in about half an hour.
First, to his private home in Chipata. His daughter Thokozile's name means thankful. We really appreciate being welcomed into people’s home and see the neighborhood.   
Also, as mentioned, Fred Mwaba from Lusaka was visiting for the Holy Days. 
We had tea at Jere’s home during what was called the “briefing” on the schedule.  Then off to the location of the Church building. About six miles away but it is on a very bad road, although it is in better shape than when we were here last with Lewis, Lena, Brennan and Michala in 2017. It was almost impassable then. Now it is upgraded to barely passable. Jere’s car got hung up on a stump and the front bumper/fender was ripped off.   Fortunately, they were able to clip it back into place.
We first stopped at a ribbon-cutting for a new home built for an elderly couple with the surname Alimakiyou.  This was a Good Works habitat project and the Church gathered around for the event. 
We found that many houses in the bush don’t last very long here… sometimes it's only two years before they have to be rebuilt.  They showed us one of their former dwellings off a hundred feet in the the field. 
The new house is built of concrete blocks and is solid.  It has two rooms and a sheet metal roof. Much better!  Thank you, Good Works!
After the ribbon-cutting, we went to the home of “Pastor Gift.” 
I had previously written about him on my Website at
His mother, who now attends the Chipata church (300 meters away) gave a testimonial about how her son Gift just loves to go to church to worship God and hear the Bible. We thought he was three or four years old. He’s not.  He’s two years and eight months old!  A precocious little guy who loves God and wants to tell others about Him.   What does God have in store for this little fellow?
One of our LifeNets oxen has died in the last day or so almost in this spot.  A spitting cobra spit into the eyes of the ox. It got sick and died.  This is a great misfortune.  Both Filius and I sigh about how hard life is here in Zambian bush.
We continue on to the church hall on the rutted road.  Again, it was much better than it was on our previous visit. 
Much of the congregation is gathered at the gate of the new wall surrounding our property.  Filius is the owner of about 10 acres of ground.  He has donated about one acre to the Church which contains the building, hand-dug well and solar-paneled borehole that will be enclosed by the concrete block wall.  The dimensions are 70 x 80 meters, but there is one more side, making it a pentagon.
I do the ribbon cutting. In my speech I comment about how the gate is symbolic of an opening for people to enter into for salvation.  The wall is to keep evil out. 
The wall is almost finished.  Outside the wall, Filius has a small house but is building a larger house.  We are so happy to see this progress. He is a man with a plan and a mission.  And, through his energy, he has succeeded.  Many of the people are new. He introduced us to newly-baptized people. Filius is truly an elder filled with purpose and mission and it has borne the fruit that we see here as the churches are growing.  
Filius also showed us his crops and explained some of the soil conservation methodology used to create compost and layer nutrients into dug holes where the maize would be planted. He is an example of putting into practice what he speaks about on his farm radio program. He is filled with the subject and has become a known radio voice not only for farming but for the Beyond Today radio program.
After the dedication of the wall, we did a walkaround inspection of the project with Filius explaining all that had been done.  They have done A LOT in the last two months!  The wall is days away from being finished.  Electrified wire will be placed on top and will be powered by solar.  We need to fix the pump.  We don’t know the full damage yet until we connect to power. We won’t buy the solar panels until we know that the wall is finished and the inside is secure. 
We sat down for a program that featured testimonials from various people about their conversion. It was well done.  Some had come under duress from Sunday-keeping groups who were not happy with their conversion.  Some detractors have branded our church as “satanic.”  Even when little “Pastor Gift” started coming to our church, neighbors warned his mother of us being of Satan. But, when the mother started attending, she saw that we were anything but. 
There are many young people… not only little children, but teenagers as well.  It’s a very healthy demographic distribution.  In the program a number of spiritually-based musical numbers were featured.  Fred Mwaba and Filius and Chosiwe’s daughters sang the Zambianized version of “Amazing Grace.”  A young lady did some rap.  Five teens did a dramatized poem that was really great.  I got it all on video and will post as soon as I can. 
Then we had lunch.  We were brought inside the building which is now used as a storage room for building supplies, mostly for bags of cement.  We had our usual tasty fare of nsima, chicken, salad, avocado, papaya and other goodies.  We loved it. 
Then Filius and I did a podcast outside the building.  We focused on the January 29 break-in, the rebuilding process and conservation farming.  This is the third podcast that I’ve done with Filius. 
Then it was time to leave.  We all said a few more things to those gathered.   What an experience! 
We and the Lamoureux’s thought we could get to the border on our own, but Filius insisted on following us. We got to the Zambian side and were stamped out, then entered Malawi on our double entry visa and carried on.  It was a lot easier on this border crossing than earlier in the day.  Also, there were no lines to wait in. 
It is getting dark. There are no lights on the road.  Many, many, many people are walking on the side of the road and you can hardly see them.  Vehicles ahead of us often don’t have lights.  We came upon a motorcycle that was almost invisible.  I silently prayed for protection… not so much for us, but for the people just sauntering on the road going somewhere.  There are no visible house, just people walking from somewhere to somewhere.  There are unbelievable loads being pushed on bicycles.  Mostly charcoal going to market.  The land has been stripped of trees to make charcoal.  Also, there are racks of wood piled high on bikes.  A sight to see: the daily struggle to make a living in one of the poorest countries in the world.
We arrived in Lilongwe about 6:45 and by unanimous acclaim went to Mama Mia’s. It's our favorite place to get something to eat and to recount the experiences of the day.  We came back to our lodge very tired, but filled with many thoughts of the experiences of the day.  
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2019-07-19