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Showing posts from May, 2009

Two Worlds Colliding

Since returning home from Zambia, it's a challenge to keep Serenje "alive" and part of my world back here in Bracknell. In many ways our worlds are so different and yet in many ways they are the same. The space between us is so huge, and yet at the same time we are so near each other.The reality is that if I was sitting on a plane at Heathrow right now, I could be in Zambia, and even in rural Serenje before nightfall today.
There's a saying that, after a trip to Africa you are "ruined for the ordinary" and that's not necessarily a negative thing, but I know that it is something that carries a responsibility. It has to make a difference!
Having been to Zambia, seeing what we saw and knowing what we know. Realising and remembering that that "parallel life" is going on at the same time, alongside my life back here. All those things influence the many small daily decisions I make about how I spend my time, resources, money and love.
So I'm promis…

"I had it in My heart to carry out a work in Serenje"

Well, God did it again! Seeing the short film last night about our trip to Serenje reminded me, re-awakened me and warmed my heart again for the people we are partnering with in Zambia. Seeing and hearing Alex being interviewed, and seeing footage of our meeting with the Mwansakano community brought it all back. Since being back in Bracknell, I'm talking and thinking Serenje all the time - and yet I'd forgotten quite what it was like. Quite the welcome we received; quite the dancing and singing; quite the integrity and earnestness of Alex Ilunga; quite the love and service shown by the 66 female volunteers that go out into the villages to support those with HIV.The picture above is of Mary and her children - the Volunteer who was interviewed.We saw Mary at every meeting we went to - front row, child on back, others at her feet. What touches and challenges me is that these women aren't serving from a personal place of wealth and health and strength. Many of the volunteers h…

Letters from Serenje

Today I looked again at the letters that the women in Serenje had given me for you Kerith women. All set out neatly with a PO Box address. All introducing themselves. All asking for a prayer partner or a penpal.
We hastily wrote descriptions on the back of each letter, so that we could later match up the letters with the photos we took of the women - descriptions like "blue flowery top / baby on back" "smiley tall lady / plaited hair". We took photos of over 40 women who wrote letters!
Sitting in my kitchen at home in Bracknell, I opened the plastic folder containing the bundles of letters sorted into "Womens Training Day" "Friday Conference" and "Mwasakano" (the final village we visited, with the female Chief - and all the gifts).
As I opened the folder, my senses took me straight back to the Church building in Serenje. The smell of the village was still in the letters - the paper was thin and as I read them again I remembered the wom…

More Extraordinary Women

These are some of the women that we met on the Training day in Serenje Boma. They come from a variety of local Churches and are mostly the volunteers that go out into the communities to support the vulnerable families. They are the people on the ground. Many of them also live with very difficult situations - some are living with HIV; many care for orphans from their extended families; some are widows.All of them know what it is to work hard.
You'll see that some of the ladies are holding letters - Zoe and I were swamped by ladies with letters, all asking for pen pals from the UK!
What we want to do is for women from Kerith to write to these and other women, and link up primarily as Prayer Partners. The practical details are yet to be finalised -and I'm going to need someone else to head it up for me (please!)However, it's likely that we will send letters out from our community 4 times a year. The letters will be sent all together to the Serenje communities - with informatio…

Highlight 4: Extraordinary Women

Mrs Leah Mutala

Leah is a most extraordinary woman - the sort of woman you would go anywhere just to hang out with her - observe her, learn from her.
She works for The Evangelical fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) our partner in Zambia.She is the Programme manager for our project in Serenje, leading her team of Rita and Mumba. She coordinates what we are doing in Serenje - the Pastors fellowship and Alex (our worker on the ground)all report to her.
When Mrs Mutala goes into each community she has a God-given gift of absolutely knowing where they are,who they are and what they need from her in terms of leadership. She can be stern, directional, funny - she relates to the women, to the men, to he youth. She is called "Mum" in the communities and is held in very high regard everywhere she goes - whether Government officials or Village farmers. In short - they ALL LOVE HER! Watching her is an inspiration and I've already learnt so much from her. I wish I could spend longer with her …

Highlight 3: School Links

When we visited Serenje in 2007 we spent 3 days living with families in the villages. It was an incredible experience, and Simon and I stayed with a Grandmother called Jean.She generously shared her home, food and time with us. Simon and Ben planted maize in the fields with her. Meanwhile, I asked whether I could visit a local school. So 45 minutes of walking through the paths and fields later, we arrived at Kankoso Basic School.
There 92 Basic (Primary) Schools in the Serenje region - most of them are in very rural locations. They serve the educational needs of the surrounding small villages(most village communities seem to be clusters of between 3 and 20 individual family huts). Some Basic schools are in the Serenje Town (The Boma) and that is also where the 3 Secondary schools are, as well as the Teacher Training College.
I met the Head Teacher Mrs Nsululu and she was so generous with her time, showing me around the school and introducing me to staff and pupils. After time in the cla…

Womens Training day in Serenje

Highlight 2: The Women's Training Day that Zoe and I led.
We walked down the dusty road to our venue for the Women's Training day - and as we turned around we saw a mass of women walking towards us. Some with babies on their backs. All looking eager. Zoe and I looked at each other and shot up some emergency prayers , asking God to help us to communicate with these precious women. We needed His words for them, and asked Him to help us teach what we'd prepared (and to leave out the things that wouldn't work culturally!)
So, with some trepidation we began! Initially we shared the building with Lee and Sarah who were giving the Sunday school teachers some training - we both had interpreters too, so between us we were struggling to communicate clearly. The Sunday school teachers moved outside for a wide-game (yes, really! - it was hilarious seeing them run around searching for items!) and then settled for the rest of the day under a shelter outside.
We began with telling our…

Serenje Highlights

Now we're back home we have the challenge of processing and communicating all the information and experiences we had in Zambia, whilst at the same time getting back into our "normal" lives here with family, friends, Church and work. It's a challenge! It's also a responsibility.
As the trip was ending I felt God impress on me that I was to "leak" Serenje everywhere I went.To talk about the farmers and orphans; to tell the stories and remind us of their lives, running alongside ours - a "world away" but only a day's travel away.
So I'm going to start with some highlights.
Today's highlight is our visit to Mwansankano village.Their generosity towards us was just incredible. They welcomed us with singing and dancing. We sat on red settees adorned with lace. Lace tablecloths hung from the trees above our heads. There were flowers and plants. The villagers took their places on the ground and told us of their progress. the seeds (beans / sw…

Breakfast and drive

We are leaving Serenje this morning after 3 action packed days! Highlights include the beautiful welcome we've received each time we arrived at one of the Projects. Wonderful singing they truely know hospitality, generosity and thankfulness. It is just incredibly humbling and I wish you could hear see and smell it.

We have film and photos to show you when we are home. Be ready to write more letters to women as I am bringing back lots of letters from women who want a friend to write to!

It's another hot day today and we're off to breakfast ( usually rolls and hard boiled or fried eggs and a hot drink) then in the vehicles for a four hour drive to Ndola. Thank you for your prayers for us and the women of Serenje.

Catrina xxxx