International Conference

There was no fancy building, no running water, and no electricity (except for a small generator which powered a microphone and keyboard); but that was the beauty of it to me. We don’t need all these “excess” things to have a wonderfully enjoyable and powerful conference…and it truly was just that.

Upon hearing my parents would be speaking at an upcoming international conference with our dear friend’s church in Kapiri Mposhi (about a 2 hour drive), I didn’t exactly know what to expect. To be perfectly honest, I thought it would be ultra-boring and I was hoping I didn’t have to go.

I thank God that we did go because I had SO MUCH FUN!! When we arrived, I saw no real building structure except for a small cottage off to the side, but instead I saw six-foot high thatched walls. To my left, there were numerous rooms (all enclosed by the thatched walls) for the girls and the kitchen. Directly in front of me, was another girls’ room and then the conference room. To my right was the boys’ side modeled the same way.

None of these structures had a roof excepting the beautiful sky (besides the conference room which had a tarp over a portion of it), but oh how warm and loving the environment felt! The beautiful sense of community was displayed as they all worked, laughed, cooked, and LIVED together.

Greetings and Tours

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When our family arrived Thursday evening, we were greeted with many warm hugs and handshakes. We knew a small fraction of the maybe 300 people who were there, and that fraction of people made sure we felt welcome! A woman I know named Naomi took me on a tour of all the ladies’ rooms. She excitedly grabbed me by the hand and led me over to the first room while carrying her sweet baby on her back. As we entered the first room, I looked around and saw numerous women and girls resting on blankets, laying clothes over the wall to dry, sipping cups of tea, etc. Naomi told me that most of the women I saw were pastor’s wives. So we went over to each of them and knelt down to greet them.

In each of the rooms (I believe there were four), my Bemba skills were tested. 😉 Someone would greet me and wait to hear if I could reply and when I did they would proceed to say and ask me numerous other things! I understood and was able to answer some things, but not others. They laughed and smiled and were quick to help me with what I didn’t understand. =) One woman attempted to greet me in Nyanja. I seriously know like 3 words in Nyanja, so I stuttered and said… “uhhh…bwino bwanji” very unsure of myself (and also not entirely sure of my spelling just now.. 😉 ) the woman laughed and clapped and went on in Nyanja before I had to tell her I didn’t understand any Nyanja and what I just said was the extent of my knowledge. Haha…She smiled and laughed some more and switched to Bemba.

Our dear friend Pastor Aaron also found me quickly and led me off to the kitchen. He insists on calling all kitchens “my office” because I can constantly be found in them. 😉 As we entered the kitchen, again a large thatched-wall, open roofed room, I saw 3-5 different fires going with large pots placed on them each containing something a bit different. I saw a handful of women sitting in one corner on logs and bricks cutting away at different vegetables. I saw a large table containing numerous plates and bowls and women washing them in buckets on the ground below.

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Everyone looked up at us as Pastor Aaron led me into the room. I don’t remember recognizing anyone in the room (except one woman who I’ve seen once), so they were all probably a bit surprised to see a musungu randomly appearing in the kitchen! Pastor Aaron quickly explained what is what and told the ladies in the kitchen that he calls kitchens my office because I like to cook and if they needed help to ask me. Hahaha

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After leaving the kitchen, I was directed to where I could find my dear friend Victoria. When I saw her, she ran and gave me the biggest hug. She took over being my guide after that, introduced me to different people, and helped me find people I knew and hadn’t seen yet.

When The Sun Goes Down

It became dark rather quickly, but after a couple days, I decided that after dark it was the most fun! Why? Because everyone starts jamming out on the drums and breaking off into groups to sing after dark! As I sat eating with my family and a dear sweet couple, Bishop Chisupa (the elder of their denomination in Zambia) and his wife, I could hear the sounds of African drums being played to an African beat just over the wall. What was even more fascinating to me is that most of the times, the drums were being played by kids (mainly boys) younger than myself! Two or three of them could be playing on 2 or 3 different drums and still manage to play together in perfect rhythm.

After finishing supper, Victoria led me into the conference room area where my friend Blessing was playing keyboard and singing with a group of people including other friends of mine and a couple ‘soon-to-be’ friends 😉. I grabbed my guitar and joined them for just a few minutes before mom said we were leaving. I had absolutely NO desire to leave! I was having tons of fun with them…but there was always the next day… 😉

Friday Morning

We spent the night at a lodge in town and came back Friday morning around 7:30. Throughout the day, I made two really great, new friends named Martha and Jane. I also was able to spend time with my sweet friend Joy (twin sister to Blessing)!

When I first arrived, I helped Victoria serve breakfast to the kids and then ate with her. Then, I went in the kitchen and helped Joy and a few other ladies cut rape (kale) for lunch. Of the ladies I was with, only Joy spoke fluent English and my Bemba is still far from fluent, so it made for interesting discussions. 😉

Meeting Jane and Martha

This morning during the conference, my mom was speaking to the women in one area while my dad spoke to the men in another. I entered the conference room as it was about to begin and Jane offered to let me sit beside her. This was my first time getting to talk to her. As we sang songs in Bemba, she explained any meanings I didn’t understand, and as my mom had us interact with one another by saying things to our neighbor, Jane was always my partner.

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Then, my mom asked us all to find a prayer partner and ask that girl/woman how we could be praying for her and pray together. Jane and I naturally partnered with each other and had a wonderful time sharing and praying together! We finished before many of the others, and so had some time to get to know each other.

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After this first session, Jane took me to where she sleeps in her room and that’s where I met Martha! Both girls were wanting to go bathe in the river, but they couldn’t find a bucket. They knew Rejoice (whom I also got to know pretty well over the weekend, and younger brother to my friend Joy) had a bucket so we went on a search to find him. We walked the relatively short distance to the well, but he wasn’t there, so we circled back around and came up to the girls’ rooms the back way. It made for a pretty good walk, and we had some great, fun conversation during that time. It was quite funny when we arrived back at the main area and discovered there were buckets in the kitchen meaning our whole walk could’ve been avoided. 😉

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Before the girls headed to bathe, Jane and I were volunteered to clear off the Bishop’s table. My dad saw me and said, “How do you always find jobs to do?” My response: “Basically, I volunteer to help once or twice, then word gets around that I like to help and I just get volunteered.” 😉

Afternoon Session and Gloria

After the girls went to bathe, I helped Victoria serve the kids before the afternoon ladies’ session began. I sat beside a group of girls in the back. At one point, this little boy (no more than 2) comes running in the room pushing a stick across the dirt and making noises like a car. He comes running down our row going “vroom vroom” and each time he neared someone’s feet, he went “beep beep!” never looking up, just waiting for us to move our feet, and then go on. Then, the bench in front of ours broke with about 15 ladies sitting on it. This same thing happened, benches breaking, like 5 times just that I observed…hahaha…

A little girl named Gloria found her way to my lap and she ended up falling asleep. Victoria took her and laid her down in one of the rooms, but when she woke up an hour or so later, she came immediately back to me. This sweet girl was my shadow the whole day!

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Music!!

After supper time, it was dark and different people were in groups singing. I went and joined Martha, Rejoice, and two other girls who I didn’t know and couldn’t really tell who they were anyway because it was dark… =P (I kind of feel bad about that… =P) They were singing so loudly and beautifully before I joined them, that I could hear them from 100yards away over the noise of the drums. We sang four or five Bemba songs I knew. Rejoice had a sore throat, but was still able to rock that tenor harmony. The girl to my right was belting the alto line. Martha and I switched off singing lead (singing in Zambia is a lot of call and echo) and singing the melody. And the last girl sometimes sang the melody and sometimes picked up a different harmony. We really got into our songs and were singing SO loud and dancing our hearts out laughing and smiling away! There were a handful of people around watching us, but I didn’t actually notice that until the end. HAHA! Oh how close to the Lord I feel in these moments as we sing beautiful worship songs to Him in beautiful Bemba while we dance to worship Him! That was definitely a highlight of my time there! But then again, isn’t the music always one of my highlights? 😉

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~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday morning, I was full of mixed emotions. I was sad because I would be leaving in just a few short hours, but I was determined to make the most of the time I had. I spent a great deal of time talking to all my friends: Victoria, Joy, Jane, Martha, Rejoice, Blessing, Sibo (I’ll get to him in a minute), and others.

Tea and a New Friend

My first task at hand when I arrived was to help Victoria find a piece of paper. While searching through her bag, a dear sweet lady named Eunice (also known as Message) began talking to me in Bemba. We conversed for a bit, but when I was at the point of not understanding her, she quickly switched to fluent English. She introduced me to her children and then invited Victoria and I to have tea with her.

We reclined on the mat in her room and she kindly made us each a mug of tea. She apologized through laughs that she didn’t have a tea strainer. She said, “Ach, I just can’t manage to bring everything…no tea strainer, no knives, no what what. We just can’t manage!” I just loved her joyful attitude about it! She was simply happy to make do with what she had.

Our tea was quite nice and we had a WONDERFUL time! I laughed SO much and was able to know Message much better. She is a dear woman with an amazing testimony, and I’m sad that I may never see her again (on this earth anyway… 😉 ) She had buttered bread for us, and since I had already eaten (as had Victoria) we both didn’t eat very much.

When we insisted we were full, she said this, “Ladies, I could eat every piece of bread that is there!” (there was quite a lot…) “my stomach is quite large…I’ve had six children, so it’s quite large… And so I could eat EVERY bite! And even if I couldn’t quite eat it, it’s okay, there are plenty of toilets around because there is plenty of bush…So I am okay; and so are you ladies so eat!” Victoria was laughing harder than I’ve ever seen her laugh before! This dear sweet woman made my heart smile and laugh so much. I truly do miss her.

Morning Session and MORE MUSIC!!!

After this wonderful time, the morning program (again divided men and women) was about to begin. I sat between Jane and Martha and greatly enjoyed my time with them once again. =) We had a few minutes to visit with one another, and when my mom had everyone stand and hug 5 people, you can be sure these two girls were my first hugs! =)

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After lunch, I got my guitar out again and Blessing and I took turns playing while us and Sibo (also my friend and also a brother to Blessing. Just a recap: Joy, Blessing, Sibo, and Rejoice are all siblings.. 😉 haha..) sang. Once again, it was such a fun time! We sang “Lean on Me” and “How Great Thou Art”(in Bemba) which we’ve sang together before. They had to go, so I took my guitar and sat down on a log with Victoria and we sang together. I hadn’t played all the songs we sang before, so it was funny to work through wrong chords and not so great keys! Rejoice came and sat down with us for a bit. Victoria was called away after a minute, so then Rejoice and I visited and sang a bit.

We were quickly informed that the afternoon session was about to begin. This time, everyone was together, and my parents spoke to everyone. I ran and put my guitar away before heading inside and sat with Rejoice, Sibo, Joy, and Victoria.

Final Session Fun!

Now, the room was pretty much divided in half (we were in at the halfway point), boys/men on one side and girls/women on the other. My parents decided to shake things up a bit and Dad said, “We’ve been divided for two days now, so you probably haven’t seen your wife very much. So all you men, I want you to go find your wife and sit next to her.” The room erupted in action and shouts of excitement from the young/single people and from the married men and women. I could see the men’s smiles as they searched the other side of the room for their wives. Once everyone was seated, my dad said, “Now men, I want you to lift your arm and put it around your wife’s shoulders.” my parents were doing the same thing up in front, “Then, I want you to look at your wife and say, ‘I love you!’” This whole time the room was full of whistles, laughs, and shouts.

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The man who was translating for my dad obviously could not sit down by his wife, so his wife came dancing up to the front with a beautiful smile on her face, and gave her husband a huge hug! You can imagine how that got the crowd going!!

Goodbyes……

This session marked the end of our time. Thankfully, before the session was quite over, my parents had everyone hug 5 people again, so I was able to give all my friends a goodbye hug…But it was still so sad to be leaving them. It’s amazing how quickly friendships and close bonds can grow! Even after only two days, I was incredibly sad to be leaving these friends; particularly the ones I may never see again (Jane and Martha). As our time came to a close, we took a few selfies, and I headed to my car…

Whether we return next year or not, I know I will never ever forget that wonderful weekend and that wonderful place! Not to mention all the wonderful lessons I learned from my mom who is incredibly gifted in public speaking. And also the lessons I learned from my dad when he spoke that final afternoon. They both are wonderful examples to me of what I should be like as a Godly woman and mother and what I should look for in a future husband. I thank the Lord for giving them to me. I am sincerely blessed to have them for my parents!

Lesa musuma…ishita yonse (God is good….all the time)

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