My Column in The Columban September
I am writing this in seat 22H, just about to cross the equator 6,100 miles from the UK, alongside nine amazing parishioners who are returning from a terrific adventure as described on pages 14 and
15 in this edition of The Columban.
The trip to Zambia was spent building relationships and witnessing the work of the Northern Zambian Anglican Church. As a team, we laughed together, cried together, worked hard and asked some of the toughest questions...in terms of suffering and the Christian response, wealth and poverty, and met some of the world’s most vulnerable and poorest people. We also met some modern day saints, people who are caring for the sick, making an impact on young and old, giving them hope and a future.
It certainly will take a long time to unpick the lessons learnt on this trip and I really believe that the question which has been with our team right from the beginning, namely ‘What can we do?’, is a truly pertinent one.
As a parish, it is a question which I hope we will be able to talk about over the next few months. I know, as a team, we feel a responsibility to do something about all that we have seen. I look forward to discussing this with groups and individuals as we discover together what God is calling us to, in terms of a longer term link between St. Columba’s and Northern Zambia.
The Writeup about Zambia which again appeared in September's Columban
After months of fundraising, training and preparation, the Ipalo Team have visited Zambia
and returned home again, safe and well. In this extended article for The Columban, Team
Leader, Robert, our Curate, reports on some of their daily experiences.
ZAMBIA IPALO TEAM REPORT
Ten members of our parish headed to Zambia for 14 days, invited by the Archbishop of
Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama. An intensive programme was organized
for the ten days to be spent in Northern Zambia, examining many different aspects of
church and community life. There were many highlights and these are simply a few…
We arrived in Lusaka on Saturday, 28th July, and were transported to Kitwe (a 4½ hour
bus journey) after which we were given an extremely warm welcome at the Cathedral
by Mothers’ Union and the Dean of the Cathedral, with singing and cold drinks. During
the team introductions, Helen mentioned that she was a choir member who carried
the Cross in church, so she was invited to carry the Cross in the Cathedral the following
day. The team then moved into accommodation on an ecumenical foundation campus,
where beds and food were sorted out and preparations made.
Sunday, 29th July: The team headed to the Cathedral where we took part in worship,
a creative mix of Anglo Catholic praise and worship, evangelical and traditional, which
is the real strength of Zambian worship, combining the best of all strands. There
were traditional hymns and lots of dancing and actions. As visitors, we were asked
to introduce ourselves and received a warm round of applause. After the service, the
team was treated to a wonderful cake and Zambian hospitality.
Monday, 30th July: We were invited by the Archbishop to meet him and his team.
Archbishop Chama is the most wonderful man – so humble, so visionary and
hospitable. The parishioners spoke so very highly of him. He is responsible for the
Anglican Church in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi, as well as his own
diocese! He then introduced us to two of his team – Mrs. Tembo and Esther Piri, both
of whom are working on life changing projects – Mrs. Tembo with HIV / Malaria, and
Esther with Home Based Care. In the afternoon, we took a tour around Kitwe which
was an eye opener for our team. Extreme poverty and wealth dwelling side by side was
something we had heard about, but it was truly shocking to see at first hand.
Tuesday, 31st July: Today’s theme was educational and we were taken to Chambishi,
a mining township north of Kitwe. We were welcomed by the Headmistress of the
local high school. This was a real eye opener. She explained that there were over 1,000
pupils in the school barely large enough for 500. There were only 19 classrooms and
44 members of staff, many of whom are past pupils. She also told us that roughly one
in ten pupils were “vulnerable”, meaning double orphaned due to AIDS. Despite these
difficulties, the school’s football team were provincial champions and made a good
showing at the regionals. Our team was amazed at how happy they were with so little.
We left gifts of a large globe and sports equipment, and offered them smaller presents
to which the headmistress responded, “no gift is small”.
Before leaving Chambishi, we visited a local Anglican church, St. Anne’s, which is home
to a handful of parishioners…just a thatched, mud bricked building. The afternoon was
spent thinking about theological education at the seminary, where we met members
of staff who encouraged us to reflect on our own role in the world Church.
Wednesday, 1st August: This was a day of strong and mixed emotions. We were invited
to participate with Esther in the Home Based Care programme, delivering essential
supplies to the most vulnerable in the community. We also met AIDS sufferers in their
own homes, who were extremely appreciative of the diocese’s help and support. It was
dreadful to observe at first hand the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, but also awe
inspiring to realize the tremendous effort people of the Church are making to reach
out and care for those who are so desperately ill.
Thursday, 2nd August: Today was meant to have been a very practical work day,
making blocks with a new machine which the diocese had purchased. Unfortunately,
however, due to unforeseen problems the machine had not arrived. The team was
brought to a different site where another church had been using a similar machine,
and it was brilliant! It was a site for housing widows and orphans. The team also took
the opportunity to use the sports equipment purchased by our Doves, Brownies,
Mums & Tots and Sunday School as we played cricket, parachute and football with the
In the afternoon, we met with the project committee of the new School and Skills
Centre which the diocese is building. It is a breath taking vision and one about which
I will write in the October edition of The Columban. We visited the site and were most
excited about its potential.
Friday, 3rd August: The team travelled to Chingola, a town further north, where we
met with an HIV/AIDS and Malaria Support Group, witnessing at first hand the work
of people who are “living positively” (their term), trying to break the stigma of the label
of the disease. We also met the Diocesan Youth Executive who presented us with their
comprehensive vision of youth ministry in the diocese. The day ended with a visit to
a local parish, who were also building for the future by means of a nursery school on
their small plot of land.
Saturday, 4th August: By now, we realised that our team were adept at ‘flexibility’
and ready for anything! We started by visiting Mothers’ Union and hearing from their
President, Judith, about their work in reaching out and helping those in desperate
circumstances. We were then due to visit a parish to find out about the work of the BB
and GB. However, when we arrived a wedding was in full swing ... to which we were
invited! In the middle of the wedding, after the giving and receiving of the rings, the
local Rector invited the team to stand up and introduce themselves.
Sunday, 5th August: The team divided itself up in order to visit three separate parishes,
where we were all welcomed, introduced ourselves and participated in their Bemba/
English services, each one lasting between 3½ and 4½ hours!
Monday, 6th August: We visited a rural community parish who have a church with no
doors and little furniture, but who are building as they can afford it. There are many
stories to tell about this church.
Tuesday, 7th August: The team made an emotional farewell to their newly found
friends of the past ten days and presented the Archbishop with gifts from the parish to
the church in Northern Zambia, before setting off for the capital, Lusaka.
Wednesday, 8th August: We travelled to Livingstone, home of the Victoria Falls, and
spent two days working through the many things we had seen and experienced, as
well as enjoying some of Africa’s natural wonders before travelling home. Having set
off into the unknown only a short two weeks ago, the team returned brimming
with determination to do even more to try and support the wonderful people of
this beautiful country.