For such a time as this
by Suzi Woodruff Lacey –
In the clear, crisp Zambian dawn a man named Dream jumps on his motor scooter and roars out of The Salvation Army’s Chikankata Mission, heading to a village miles away. Dream Crownwell is part of a Community Based Care (CBC) team, a Salvation Army community health and development concept that is sweeping across Africa because it works. The teams work with village leaders—the stakeholders—to decide what is needed to improve living conditions and increase skills. Rather than “us” helping “them,” the community realizes its own capacity in health care, education and productivity.
Today, our mission team from Western Territorial Headquarters joins Dream to see the profound results of this Dream Team’s work. We have been advised to bring new eyes and new ears to this mission and to realize that we are here to learn. We are already amazed at the scope of Chikankata, the largest and most comprehensive Salvation Army social service center in the world. Its curriculum for HIV/AIDS is considered one of the most advanced in Africa and a focal point for training. We have toured the hospital and health clinics, nursing school, visited the 750-pupil secondary school and the corps. Now we are going to learn about community-based health care providing education and treatment; community development programs for literacy, leadership, support, counseling; and income-generating projects.
The villagers have already gathered in a giant circle when we arrive and are pleased to share with us the income-generating projects they have created in partnership with The Salvation Army. Clementina Choonya has made beautiful clay cooking pots that her village can sell. Angela Mweene is sewing clothing for village children. One family purchased a maize-grinding machine and has been able to exchange some of the maize for cattle. The milk from one of the cows is helping fortify children affected by HIV/AIDS.
The HIV/AIDS presence
The reality of HIV/AIDS touches everyone here. There are so many orphans and vulnerable children. Traditionally there are no orphanages in Zambia because someone in the extended family will always take orphans in; therefore, the village needs means to provide for these children. The Salvation Army provides anti-retroviral treatment (ART) and fortified corn meal, called mealie-meal; nutrition is essential for ART to work. With its Salvation Army partnership, the village is generating income to support the caregivers.
As our team looks over the sea of faces, it is impossible to know how many of the children are already infected with the virus. Sometimes, at the high school, a boarder will confide in a teacher. When a teen finds out he or she has HIV, life can seem to lose all meaning. Or a student may find that a friend has the virus. Or a parent. The anguish of HIV/AIDS seems endless.
Music and English teacher Jericho Bravy Milambo and his wife, Rose, are always searching for ways to support and strengthen the young. Milambo has created a morning prayer wakeup call, Wednesday Bible study, Sunday youth fellowship and performing music groups. Along with Macdonald Chaava, Milambo came up with a way to help his students find their spiritual strength and their unique relationship with Jesus. They created a camp on top of a mountain called Mabwetuba, the Place of the White Rocks.
Students and leaders hike for nearly five hours to get to the camp, carrying food, water, bags, mattresses and cooking supplies. Each of the next four days begins with an hour of individual prayer time and devotions before breakfast. The day consists of praise and worship, Bible study, fellowship and food around a campfire. The last day, the campers must go off alone to commune with the Lord and ask to be shown their purpose in life. For these young people, living with the reality of HIV/AIDS in their world, this camp has been life changing. Sonniley Michelo said, “This is the place where you are closed up with your God. You can soak your life in his glory up there. I have been to Mabwetuba and I will never be the same again.”
I don’t think any of us who went on the mission trip will ever be the same again either. We took our new eyes and new ears and witnessed a faith so pure and strong it is moving mountains. As Thebisa Chaava, SAWSO Program Officer on HIV/AIDS, said, “Our God is a strategic God. We have been brought together in Zambia for such a time as this.”
Our sisters and brothers in Africa need all of us “for such a time as this.”