An Exploration trip to Barotseland

We managed to find a gap in our busy schedule to take an exploration trip to Mongu and the Barotseland floodplains. This is our first vision trip to the Western Province of Zambia since joining SIM. Our objective on this trip was to explore this area to confirm whether or not this is where we will be able to serve the Lord and His people.

Our Barotseland Vision Trip in a Nutshell

We began our journey from Lusaka at 14:00 on Thursday afternoon 9 May. We drove West towards the sunset and spent a restful night at the beautiful Roy’s Camp within the Kafue National Park. The next day we drove on rough roads before arriving in Mongu. The closer we got to Mongu, the more I felt like we were getting closer to the place God has called us to work. Renée was not yet convinced – but I prayed that she would be. (See her blog: Do we really want to go to Mongu?)

Over the period of one week we explored Mongu town, the Mongu Youth Centre, the Barotse Bible Campus, the Hope Village and Zambia Project, and also got to explore a bit of the floodplains as we drove out towards Kalabo to the Zambezi River bridge. We had a wonderful and eye-opening week of exploring the area and ministries in Mongu.

What follows here is our travel journal (of sorts) of our Exploration Trip to Barotseland.

The journey from Lusaka to Roy’s Camp

We left Lusaka city behind us and headed for our first night stopover at Roy’s Camp on the Kafue River. The road was fairly good in most places – except for one or two spots where there are some potholes.

Long straight road

This man is pushing his bicycle loaded with ‘malasha’ (charcoal). Each bag weighs about 50kg. This is a common sight along the road despite there now being a ban in Zambia on production, sale or purchase of charcoal due to the deforestation and how it is affecting the rainfall.

Road getting rough

Generally speaking the road is quite good all the way to the Kafue River. Every now and again we are surprised by a pothole or two.

But then, the road just starts getting progressively worse.

Overloaded car on potholed road

As the sun started setting, the views became magical!

Small house next to field
Small village shop
Riding into the sunset

Wow! It’s just magical! We really enjoyed driving through this beautiful part of Zambia – especially at sunset. The cherry on top was the wildlife we saw along the road.

Puku in the sunset
Elephant being photographed by Michael.

We were blessed to see some elephants crossing the road. Notice how the grass has recently been burned.

Elephants on the road to Mongu

Looks like the elephants think the grass is greener on the other side of the road… In this case, it actually is!

Roy’s Camp

Arriving at Roy’s Camp

This signpost is about 100m before the Kafue River bridge (know as Hook Bridge). Roy’s Camp is about 2km further on a dirt road. They had a tent set up for us with a queen bed in it. We had a lovely evening around the camp fire listening to the hippos grunting along with all the other night sounds.

The bed at Roy’s Camp
Campfire at Roy’s Camp
Morning at Roy’s Camp

We were woken the following morning with the sounds of roaring lions very close to camp. A few minutes later a game drive vehicle came through our camp to look for the lions that apparently moved through our camp that morning while we were still asleep. Scary but exciting!

Hippos relaxing in the Kafue River
Hippos sheltering from the sun in the shade of the trees
Hippo footprints at Roy’s Camp
Puku in field

Roy’s Camp to Mongu

After a surprisingly good night’s rest at Roy’s Camp and a lazy start to the day, we set off on the next leg of our journey to Mongu. This section of road was super rough! Often we found it best to drive next to the road because the tar was so bad.

Slow down – rough busy road

This warning sign was confusing. The road before this sign (behind us) was so bumpy we could hardly exceed 20km/h. If we drove any slower, we’d be stopping!

Rough road to Mongu
Hardly a tar road

Yeah, sometimes it is just better to drive next to the road. Rather than trying to miss all the potholes in the road, just miss the entire road!

Gravel road to Mongu
Water transport drum rolling

Life is hard in these rural areas. Here’s a very ingenious idea to transport larger amounts of water.

Charcoal for sale on the roadside

There is a lot of charcoal being produced and sold in this area. All along the road, for kilometres on end, there are bags lined up along the road waiting to be sold. However, since 14 April 2024 there is now a ban on producing, selling or purchasing charcoal in Zambia unless you have a permit. Evidently this ban isn’t being fully enforced everywhere. I am not sure how these poor people are going to survive the famine if they can’t sell their charcoal.

Our arrival in Mongu

We finally arrived in Mongu after two days on the road. Technically, the journey could be done in one day since it takes about 11 hours from Lusaka to Mongu. However, we started out late from Lusaka and took the opportunity to enjoy the refreshing evening at Roy’s Camp on the Kafue River.

Michael and Renee at Mongu colourful wall

Mongu is a small town on the edge of the Zambezi River floodplains. From the hill upon which Mongu is built you can see far out to the horizon.

View over the floodplain from Mongu

When we arrived in Mongu we were warmly welcomed by Cindylou who is a SIM worker serving in a ministry of trauma healing. She welcomed us to her home with a traditional Lozi meal and a gathering of her friends and co-workers. It was a great start to our visit.

A warm Lozi welcome dinner at Cindylou’s home

Exploring the Barotse Floodplains

Michael and Renee on floodplains

On Saturday morning we decided to take an exploratory drive out to see the town of Mongu. Cindylou was our guide and before we knew it we were driving out across the plains to see the bridge over the Zambezi river. It was a beautiful drive and a great way to see the expanse of the Barotse flood plains near Mongu. We stopped to take pictures and chat with some people along the way.

Small dugout canoe (Makoro) on floodplains
Makoro on the floodplains
Small house on floodplains
A Lozi woman and her baby
Bridge at Zambezi River
Renee inspecting the water level
Notice the water level marks on the bridge
Michael and Renee walking on bridge at Zambezi River
View from bridge over the Zambezi river
House on the water at floodplains
Zambezi River floodplain
Heading back to Mongu from floodplains

Sunday at Mongu Evangelical Church

On Sunday we had a hard time deciding what church to visit for our Sunday worship service. We settled on attending the Mongu Evangelical Church and had a wonderful time of fellowship there. We also met Alick Kalonga, the regional bishop of the Evangelical Church in Zambia (ECZ) who happens to also be the pastor of the church where we attended. He was excited to hear of our burden for the less-reached churches on the Barotse floodplains. He encouraged us to come and shared how he himself was about to leave on a long journey to the floodplains that very week to meet up with some pastors to do training with them. This intensive journey would require that he use canoes and oxcarts to get where he needed to be. I was even invited to join him on his next trip to those far-out places. What a great opportunity!

Congregation at MEC
Meeting with Bishop Alick Kalonga

Exploring the Barotse Bible Campus

Barotse Bible Campus sign

On Tuesday Morning we visited the Barotse Campus of the Evangelical Bible College. This Bible college is for the people in the Western Province. They have a program specially formulated to cater for the needs of those students coming from the rural villages on the floodplains. We had a lovely meeting with Rev. Patrick Sikwela, the principal of the college. He showed us around the campus and introduced us to the students. The campus has accommodation for more than 20 students with potential for more in the future. The principal showed us what they are planning to build in the near future. Their dreams are big and the land has potential. We are excited to see what lies ahead for this college.

Principal and treasurer at BBC
Library at BBC
Michael speaking to students at BBC
Renee talking to students at BBC
Barotse Bible Campus students and faculty 2024
Getting a tour of the BBC compound
BBC student accommodation

Exploring the Mongu Youth Centre

MYC sign and fence

Our visit to the colourfully painted Youth Centre was also very encouraging to see. The Mongu Youth Centre was started by SIM workers and is now primarily directed by Pastor Moses Kalenga, a local Zambian who is doing a wonderful job. The centre is spacious with loads of potential and the team there are doing a great job of creating a safe space where the youth can come to play and learn about Jesus.

Fence and field around the MYC
Colourful wall at the MYC
MYC inside hall
Exploring the MYC compound with Moses

Renee and I both had wonderful opportunities to share with the youth in the afternoon program on Tuesday and Wednesday. I even used some of my ‘magic’ tricks to get their attention and create some fun. Language seemed to be a bit of a barrier because despite many of them understanding English, they struggled to understand and answer questions. Kenneth Wado ended up stepping in to translate for us and that was very helpful. It became evident that learning Lozi would be a great advantage to us when we come to Mongu to serve.

Michael speaking to youth at MYC
Renee talking to youth at MYC
Sandy streets in Mongu

Exploring the Zambia Project and Village of Hope

Village of Hope gate

On our way back from visiting the Barotse Bible College, we came across a signpost to the Village of Hope and Mutoya Campsite. We had some time and decided to explore. Our initial pop-in visit could only scratch the surface but after meeting some South Africans we knew we needed to spend more time here. Also they told us that they have good coffee so we made an appointment for a full tour and a visit over coffee.

The full tour was so encouraging and we were amazed to see what God has been doing through the Zambia Project. They have a village for vulnerable children (Village of Hope) which includes homes for vulnerable children, a clinic, a school, a farming project and a training/discipleship centre. At the Mutoya campsite they are open to the public for camping if they are not fully booked while hosting bible translation teams or church planting mission teams. We were really excited to have some South African community in the area.

Colourful wall at Hope Village
Meeting a Bible translator in Mongu

I had a great time of fellowship with Tumone who is one of the Bible translators here at the Zambia Project. He is working on translating the Old Testament into the Mashi language. Wow! I was really encouraged by meeting this dear brother. I hope one day I could help in some way.

Tumone told me about the methodology they use in translation – it’s quite a detailed process. They regularly receive groups of translation consultants from the UK, the USA, South Africa, (and other countries) to come check their work. One of the consultants who comes to work with Tumone is Diane Lovell from George Whitefield College whom I got to know during my studies there. Her husband, Dr. Nathan Lovell, was one of my favourite professors. Small world!

Back to Busy Lusaka City

It came time for us to head back to the busy Lusaka City. Our time in Mongu gave us much to think about. The long drive also gave us time to chat and process our feelings about everything we had seen.

Roy’s Camp Again

We decided to break our return trip up again to sleep over a night at Roy’s Camp. This would give us more time to process and transition well back to the busy Lusaka City.

Sunset over the Kafue at Roy’s Camp
Hippos chilling under the water
Sunset over the Kafue River at Roy’s Camp

Back in Lusaka

Once back in Lusaka we quickly fell back into our crazy busy rhythm of ministry with Christ Church Lusaka. Our hearts are still burning for the need and the call of the Floodplains of Barotseland. Read more about Renee’s wrestles during our visit to Mongu on the blog she wrote: Do I really want to go to Mongu?

Busy streets of Lusaka

Help needed

This vision trip to Mongu and back cost us US$680 (ZAR12 600). Please would you pray about helping us recover some of this cost. If you feel the Lord leading you to do so, please use reference: 55045/Ministry. You can find bank details on our support page.

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