Chavuma Exploratory Mission

The Call

In September-October of 2020 I experienced a clear call to missions from God. I believe that God has clearly led me through prayerful study of His Word to accept John Leach’s request for me to come to Chavuma, Zambia to take over the work that he has started there as he plans on some sort of retirement in the next two years. John is the founder of Waymakers Mission Africa (https://www.waymakers.org.za) and has been based in Chavuma permanently since 2012.

In June/July 2021 Renee and I had the privilege of going on a short-term mission to Chavuma in Zambia. We are grateful to our church, Tokai Community Church, and to the church council for sending us on this exploratory mission trip. I call it an exploratory mission trip because that’s exactly what it was.

We went to explore the place where we believe that God has called us to work as missionaries starting in January next year.

The Purpose

The main purpose for our mission trip was to discover what we are getting ourselves into: to meet the people we will be serving, to become acquainted with the various ministries we will be taking over, to see where we will be living and to prepare for our living arrangements.

This article will cover the above purpose:

Mission Overview

We were away for almost 6 weeks. We flew to Zambia on 14 June (a cost generously covered by TCC); we arrived back in Cape Town on 24 July after driving for 6 days from Chavuma, Zambia (this cost was covered by Waymakers).

Our Activities

Whilst in Chavuma we helped with various practical needs such as electrical, plumbing, and mechanical repairs, sewing COVID masks for the nearby mission hospital, sorting out boxes of second-hand clothes for distribution, and cooking meals for over-worked missionaries. We also visited many of the various ministry sites on the flood plains which involved 4 excursions out to the flood plains where we overnighted under the stars. Two of these trips were by boat and two by 4×4. On these trips I was introduced to many of the village headmen who have become good friends with John Leach over the years. It was a privilege to meet them and begin a relationship of my own with them which I hope to nurture in the years to come. We also met the overseers of the 4 major church groups that John is working with in Chavuma. Again these were precious moments of building relationship with men who love the Lord and are passionate about extending His kingdom. We also attended a training session with some of the local pastors who are being trained.

Covid Complications

Our team contracted the COVID-19 virus with the first positive test result on 5 July. This was a massive blow to our plans for interacting with the people and visiting some of the ministries as we had to isolate ourselves on the mission base.

With this brief overview, let me proceed to give you some details about the place, the people, and the ministries that we will be getting involved in.

The Place

Let me start by introducing you to the place. We have been called to work in Zambia in the very remote town of Chavuma which is right next to the Zambezi River which flows southwards into Zambia from nearby Angola in the North.

Chavuma is in the Northwest province of Zambia. The The Zambezi River creates a physical boundary between the people living on the East side of the River and those on the West.

The mission base is on the East side of the River, but most of our work is focused on the people living on the West side of the River.

The Mission Base

The mission base consists of: the main mission house, a small office, a ‘lodge’, and a campsite.

The mission house is right next to the river and has very beautiful views of the river and provides front row seats to the daily spectacular sunsets.

Chavuma Mission Base on the Zambezi River

The mission house has been recently rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire in July 2019. The fairly large design of the house is intended for hosting teams. Besides the main bedroom (John and Lesley’s room), there are two guestrooms with en-suite bathrooms and a self-contained flat attached at the rear. The large open-plan lounge-kitchen-dining room is well-suited for fellowship.

Water has been piped to the mission house from Chavuma. This needs to be filtered as it isn’t safe to drink. The electricity needs of the mission base are supplied by a powerful solar system. Cooking is done by gas.

Our Accommodations

Renee and I will be housed in the small flat attached to the back of the main house. The kitchen has a fridge, freezer, and gas stove. Although there is a queen size bed, it’s not the most comfortable, but it does have a vital mosquito net covering it. The bathroom is rudimentary. The dining area has a rickety table and four chairs. There are no other furnishings.

Other Structures

The ‘lodge’ has been unused for a number of years and is in need of maintenance and repair. It is on the verge of being uninhabitable (for many in Cape Town it will have already achieved this rating).

The campsite is has prime location (like the mission house) right on the riverbank. The sites themselves are private spaces cleared out among the bush that have ample space for setting out tents. Some of the sites even are suitable for vehicles with roof-top tents. Unfortunately, the ablution block is not yet finished (due to the focus on rebuilding the mission house).

Chavuma Mission Campsite with unfinished ablutions.

The People

The Luvale people are very friendly and welcoming. They are hard-working subsistence farmers who rely on the cycle of the seasons for their daily bread. Their way of life and economic needs are so different from what we are used to. On the East bank there is a market place where goods and produce are sold. There are also other small shops where dry goods and some meager hardware supplies may be purchased. There are no such shops on the West bank. The economic stability of those living on the East bank, though very basic, is vastly more robust than those who live on the West bank.

Most of the West bank gets flooded in the rain season. For the locals, oxcarts are the best means of transporting harvests/goods to and from the market on the East Bank. There is no bridge across the river, but there is a pontoon which operates from June to November (during the dry season). This pontoon only operates to transport vehicles. However, the locals do have the benefit of loading their produce on it (for free) when it carries a vehicle across. Since it is seldom that vehicles cross on the pontoon, the people use dug-out canoes most frequently.

The flood plains on the West bank separate the villages from each other. It takes about 6-8 hours for them to walk across these vast plains.

The Luvale people-group straddles the border with Angola with only around 40% of them living within Zambia. This does mean that we also have great opportunities for ministry in Angola. John Leach already has three pastors in Angola whom he is training and who are partnering with him in the work of growing God’s kingdom in Angola. Their names are Mtondo Masaha, Peter Mihova, and Peter Kasupa. We had the privilege of meeting Mtondo Masaha on this trip as he was able to come to Chavuma during our time there.

Headman of Ngonga Village
Little boy eating a dirty sweet potato.

The Ministries

There are three main needs that we will be helping with:

  • Boreholes for safe drinking water.
  • Training pastors of the village churches.
  • English literacy programs to help with English competency.

Boreholes

The normal way for the people to collect water is either at the river, where crocodiles are a constant danger, or in the swamps where pythons are a danger and the water is often stagnant and dirty, or by digging shallow wells where water is collected from a hole in the ground. All three of these methods result in water that is dirty and is a source of many sicknesses and diseases – especially among the children.

John (with the help of generous donors) has already installed 22 boreholes in the various villages. These boreholes not only help to provide safe drinking water for the people, but also are a means for initiating relationships with the people whereby we can get to know them and most importantly we can help them to know Jesus.

Village borehole on the West Bank floodplains

Training Pastors

This brings me to another way we will be helping. Currently John is training about 30 rural pastors who are currently pastoring churches. Many of these pastors do not have any formal theological training. I will be taking over this work and developing it further. The curriculum and material being used for this training is sourced from Harvesters Ministries (http://harvestersministries.com/en/home/). I have begun the 8 stage training program that is required to become a Licensed Trainer of this material.

We met with the key church leaders of the four denominations that we have the privilege to be working with.

  • Pastor Joseph is with the CMML (Christian Missionaries in Many Lands) church. He was our translator for our time traveling through the floodplains on the West Bank. He is a teacher by training.
  • Pastor Teddy is with the CCC (Christian Community Church). He is a gentle and wise man who loves the Lord and seeks to grow and disciple the leaders in his denomination.
  • Pastor Mtondo who is with the IEIA (Evangelical Church of the Brothers) Angola. He also has gentle but strong spirit and is burdened to help grow God’s kingdom in Angola and to help the rural people to access safe medical treatment – especially maternity.
  • Pastor Davy is with the Church of the Nazarene. He is a very jovial and energetic man who desires to see the power of the Gospel change the lives of his people on the West bank.

Evangelism and Discipleship Training

Over and above teaching pastors, we will also be teaching local evangelists to go into the surrounding villages to share the Gospel with the intention of leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Waymakers (and I) have an emphasis on seeing indigenous church folk doing the primary work of evangelism and discipleship. The particular tool that is being used for this training is the Heart of Man posters and booklets (https://angp-hb.co.za).

We will also be running discipleship training courses with the local church people and new converts using the SALT (Seven Areas of Life Training). Again the goal here is to train up the local believers to use this material to disciple new converts. I am not particularly familiar with this material, but will familiarize myself with it as soon as I get started in Chavuma next year.

Teaching English

An area of practical need has been identified in the education of children. Since English is the official language of Zambia, all education from secondary school upwards is taught in English. This is a particular challenge to kids living in rural areas because although they are ‘taught’ English at primary school level, they have no means to practice their English. And when it comes to the English Competency Test which is required to pass in order to enter secondary school, most of these kids do not pass and are therefore unable to continue with their education.

We will (with God’s help) establish literacy centers where English programs can be run for kids to practice their English and engage with English literature. We will aim to provide this service to the kids of Chavuma using explicitly Gospel oriented content where possible.

Other Practical Ministry

The running of the mission base will require someone with a diverse set of practical skills to maintain the property and equipment. I believe that God has gifted me with the necessary practical talents to fulfill this role also.

We will also seek to establish ‘forward bases’ in the flood plains to assist the pastors and evangelists (and of course ourselves) with a base from which to work from while out in the field. These bases require shelter, ablutions, and water access. Currently, John Leach has established two forward bases, though neither of them are yet complete.

Conclusion

Our six weeks in Zambia certainly was a valuable time for us to discover more details of what life and ministry is going to be like for us next year. We are thrilled for the opportunity to be involved in this mission work, to invest into lives of Christian leaders, and into the futures of rural children.

We see the potential to develop and expand the work that is currently being done by John Leach. I anticipate that a more formal Bible school may be established in the years to come. I also hope to include the Explore Course training to supplement the Harvesters material currently being used.

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