Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 5, 2007


Impressions that linger after a second trip to Africa


Four weeks in Zambia by no means qualifies me as an expert on that large nation in the southern half of Africa. But it was a beginning that left me with strong impressions of the land and its people.

Zambia is not a beautiful country. Much of what I saw was barren and rocky. Trees were scarce and much of the land is not cultivatable. Around Lusaka, the capitol city, hundreds of people spend all day in the fields chipping small pieces off of the granite embedded in the ground. They sell the chipped rock for a pittance. One woman said she made five dollars on a good day.

What is beautiful about Zambia is its people. Zambians are beautiful people. They are a peace-loving people. War has not scarred Zambia since it became an independent nation 43 years ago. A government official told me the country is becoming more and more stable. “In the last election,” he said, “the people gave the President a mandate. He is working hard to keep his promises.”

Missions comes alive when you can put a face on it. So let me describe some of the faces that motivate me to care about the work in Zambia.

There are the bright faces of our adopted son and daughter, Alfred and Muumbe Kalembo. Both were born in remote villages. Against all odds both obtained an education. Alfred is now working on a doctor of ministry degree – at age 47. They have five handsome children.

When Alfred and Muumbe (pronounced M00M-BAY) talk about their ministry to fellow Zambians, their faces light up with a holy joy. They are optimistic to the core and determined to rescue some of the underprivileged thousands all around them. HIV-AIDS has orphaned a million children in Zambia alone. One child at a time, the Kalembos are placing orphans in Christian homes where they will receive food, clothing, and the opportunity to attend school.

On a wider scale Alfred and Muumbe are in their second year of service as regional directors of the International Leadership Institute, a global ministry that is training Christian leaders on every continent. ILI’s goal is to train ten thousand leaders around the world this year, men and women who in turn agree to recruit and train others in the basic core values of the Christian faith. The Kalembos are doing their part by holding training conferences in Zambia and ten other nations. So far the response to their training has been incredibly positive.

When our team met with the Kalembo family recently in their home, Alfred introduced 14 people as “family” members. One was his sister Catherine who is responsible for the gardening on the land around the home. Catherine has very little education and does not understand English, though it is the official language of Zambia. But she is a diligent worker and oversees the care of vegetables needed to feed the large family.

Twenty large sacks of corn, harvested recently, are stored in the garage. Though it is now winter in Zambia, there were several rows of luscious tomatoes growing beside the house.  A picture of Catherine’s charming smile, as she stood beside the beautiful tomatoes, is a treasure I brought home last week. Catherine’s farm work is supported by a Sunday School Class at our church that has adopted Catherine.

Catherine has birthed eight children. Only one, Linda, has lived. The others were still-born. A couple in Alabama decided last year to help Linda get an education. This generous investment in Linda has paid off handsomely. She is now in the fourth grade and makes good marks. The expression on Linda’s face was different from a year ago. The difference was the hope and dignity now shining in her lovely eyes. She has a chance and she knows it.

          A little boy named Pasco was one of the 14 now eating at Alfred’s table. No one told me where the lad came from, only that his parents died of AIDS. He had never been to school. Our team got together some money so the Kalembos could enroll Pasco in school. Soon he will have a new uniform and begin going to school for the first time. Embraced by the Kalembos, he also has a chance – and a family as well.

          A family in Elmore County donated a water pump for the Kalembo home. One day Alfred called my attention to a water faucet in front of the house. “We put it there,” he said, “so our neighbors could share our water. Some of them walk half a mile to come get water here.” We took pictures of three young women who had come for water. Each smiled graciously and giggled while we marveled at their ability to balance a five-gallon container of fresh water on their heads.

          In Zambia we saw water buffaloes, giraffes, deer, wild hogs, baboons, and monkeys. Each had a face that was strangely different from human faces.  But what impressed me the most were the striking faces of the Zambian people – people needing help and people providing help. Those faces, some hauntingly unforgettable, linger in my mind, motivating me to do more than pray for them. Most prayers need hands and feet that God uses as he answers. + + +