Multi-tasking in Zambia
June-2020

“You feel so rude when you stand back and greet from a distance. Thankfully there is another method of greeting that is accepted — you kind of curtsy and clap your hands to the one you’re greeting.”

Writing from Kasempa in rural Zambia, Dee Jones describes her work there, reporting that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country is still low, but that life has changed since she first arrived in 2015.

“Social distancing is a challenge in the African context. With so many people living hand to mouth, everyone must go into the market on a daily basis. Each shop has a hand-washing station outside which is good. But I still see too many handshakes,” she says. Most shops require you to wear a mask, with signs or guards at the door saying ‘no mask – no entry’.

“Mukinge Hospital is prepared for cases, with the local nursing school being set aside for isolation, and tents are set up for symptom screening at the entrance of the hospital. Visiting hours have been discontinued and only if a patient is unable to care for themselves are they allowed to have a bedside carer. The hospital seemed strangely quiet like the calm before the storm.”

In response to the epidemic, schools closed down two weeks early which means that the majority of Zambia’s children are failing to get any education while the COVID crisis lasts. Dee reports, “This year I started again at Kasempa Primary School with a new group of grade 6 children. We normally have between 20 and 30 children. On the last day of school before closing, I asked if any of them wanted to receive Christ and 15 of them responded. It was so encouraging, however there will be some follow-up to do once school gets started again.”

As in New Zealand, the epidemic has provided an opportunity to get on with essential around-house tasks, which in Dee’s case clearly do not intimidate her. “Once school finished, I went into overdrive to try and complete my village house, since it had been too wet to do any building during the rainy season. The weeds were well overgrown and it took a week or so to get them slashed down to manageable height. The floor of the house was sealed with 3 coats of melted candles and paraffin, and curtains are now in place… and I’m rebuilding the bathroom as my grass one came down in the rains.”

Normal church services were halted on March 28, after having previously been reduced in length, with compulsory-hand washing before entry. Now, only small groups can meet. On Easter Sunday Dee joined a family for a special service on a nearby hilltop, as the photograph shows.

One of Dee’s main activities is running Foundations For Farming, which combines good farming practices, nutrition advice, and evangelism.

In between teaching and house-building, farming and nutrition education, multi-tasking Dee has somehow found time for a business initiative which involves making soap with the group of ladies who were learning FfF. “I’ve been teaching business basics from some Tearfund resources. Five kilograms of soap costs 118 kwacha ($10) to make and we hope to sell it for K270. The goal is for the women to go to the clinics and teach about the importance of washing hands with soap and also to evangelise. They’ve named themselves Mama Hygiene, after Mama Soya who teaches on nutrition, and is a natural evangelist.”

Zambia is a landlocked country roughly three times the area of New Zealand. There is a high fertility rate and its population of 18 million is growing rapidly. Rich in copper, Zambia prospered for a while after independence, then fell into poverty after copper prices declined in the 1970s. Most people are subsistence farmers. There are 73 different ethnic groups, but mercifully the country has been largely free of tribal conflict.

The nation is officially Christian, but a wide variety of traditional religious practices blend with Christian beliefs. Dee writes that “many people still have a fear of witchcraft and that fear is often greater than fear or love of God, so this means that even though one may profess to be a Christian, they are still in bondage to witchcraft.” Fearing the spirits of those who have died can dictate the way in which funerals are conducted and how surviving family members are treated. Charms are also used to ward off evil spirits and worn around the waist or wrists and even sometimes buried on farmland. “Whenever we cultivate a new piece of land we first pray over it to remove any power Satan may have over it.”

David Blaker

Prayer requests from Dee Jones:

  • Please pray for wisdom and courage to lead and step outside of my comfort zones.
  • Pray for our trainers that they will see themselves as missionaries to bless those in their community.

Give to the project

Kasempa Foundations needs funds to build fences, get farm materials and to hold conferences. Please donate by going to sim.org.nz/donate/ and quoting project # 94650