So, in last night's installment we had reached Mufilira. We got there on Tuesday evening, claimed our rooms and got settled in. We ended up having the 5 girls all sleep together in one room. Boy was that a GROSS room by the end of the week, but they all had fun. We had dinner that evening, team meeting, enjoyed the stars and went to bed.
The conference started Wed morning and we began our day camp Wed afternoon. The conference was held in the church and about 200 people attended. We mostly did the day camp outside. We used two of the orphan care classrooms for crafts. I think we had 200-300 kids the first day. We found that pretty hard to manage actually. We had my partner and I as the permanent adults and 9 kids. Greg, my partner's husband and another team member helped out alot, but were also needed in the conference at times. We did have some Zambian teens and some of the orphan care center people helping out, too, but they also came and went without any predicability. (Most of the Zambians also wanted to be in the conference). I should tell you that almost every Zambian we talked to spoke some amount of English, but we still had interpreters everywhere we went. Also, every street sign and store sign was in English.
There were many subjects taught in the conference...parenting, servanthood (Greg did that one), children's ministries, how to study the Bible, marriage, HIV/AIDS (I did the "how to talk to your kids about sex part of that) and several others. For the day camp, we started each session with everyone gathered together. We sang several songs with the orphans (and they taught us some, too), did a drama each day and gave a Bible talk. Then we sent them in groups to the various activity stations. We had frisbee, volleyball, music, parachute, jumprope/bubbles/balls, coloring, crafts and dodgeball. Each day our kids picked a station to work at and stayed there the whole time. We gave the kids about 15-20 mins at each station. They didn't know how to use a parachute, so we taught them and that was a HUGE hit. They hadn't done frisbees before, so Kyle taught them and that became pretty popular, too. They LOVE coloring and took lots of time making beautiful pictures and hated to leave when the time was up. Music was also a big hit with them. We had shakers, maracas, rhythm sticks, tambourines, etc and they had a blast with that. So, in my mind's eye I see those days as blue skies, sun shining down, kids running and playing and us all tangled up with the orphans, laughing and smiling and loving on them. It was chaotic and wonderful at the same time. The second and third day we had less kids as we limited the kids who could come to the orphans involved in the orphan care center. It made things much easier, but it was hard 'cause the village kids would line up behind the barbed wire fence and watch us. In between groups of kids, our kids would sing to the village kids or talk to them or do a little drama. It was awesome watching our kids open their hearts and souls to these African kids. In the evenings, the Zambian kids would hang around the wall and front gate and our kids would go over and chat with them. These kids gave letters and gifts to our kids constantly.
The way the Orphan Care Center is run is that the orphans go there for school and 2 meals a day and then go back to live with various families in the village. This is the way Dan has set it up-homes for the orphans without a huge burden on the people willing to help out. We got to help pass out food and hot sweet tea to the kids the second day we were there. This was a treat for them that we had arranged. It was great to be able to do that!
In Zambian culture women and children aren't considered equal to men. Especially children and I think it's worse for the orphans. Women's issues were one of the subjects for the conference and respect and good treatment of women is definitely talked about in these conferences. That was one of the reasons they wanted families to go on this trip, so the Zambians could see husbands and wives serving side by side equally. We (the day camp people) had two cool opportunities to show off children during the conference. During the session on children's ministries, we brought the kids in and had them do one of their dramas to show how children can be part of the church and ministry even at young ages. The second thing we got to do was to have the orphan kids sing for the conference. The did 2 songs including one they taught us that we love. It was a great experience for them and showed them that we value them. I think that was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.
The HIV/AIDS/sex talk went over well. I presented with another woman from the team. She did the HIV/AIDS part. I was pretty nervous, but other than an incredibly dry mouth while I was talking I think I did ok. Sharon and I had been concerned about some of the things we were going to say. We didn't want to offend and Zambians are culturally shy about the topic of sex. We asked Dan's father, Carl, to review our info and also Israel who was the conference organizer. They basically told us to preach it, so we did. Israel has said that every conference will have an HIV/AIDS component to it because it's such a huge issue there.
Friday afternoon we had the closing ceremonies for the conference. Our group did a song for the attendees. This is a Newsboys song called He Reigns. We'd been wanting to do this song since we all decided to go to Africa. One of the lines is "It's the song of the redeemed rising from the African plain". The whole is about how everyone in every culture can worship the same God and be one in that. We used the music track and sang for them. One of the men in the group put the words on power point with background pictures from the day camp and conference. It was AWESOME and they loved it!!! Think women trilling and people joining us in singing. That was another highlight of the trip.
We were once again treated as the most honored celebrity guests. We were called up front and presented with a gift per family. This was done after 3 people got up and gave testimonies to what the conference had meant to them. Gift giving is done ceremoniously. There were 5 women holding wrapped gifts who slowly sway-danced up to the front to present the gifts. (Wrapping paper was inside out, so the shiny side, of potato chip bags). Our gifts were a carved wood bowl, 2 goblets and a sugar bowl. All wood and all carved. They also presented our church with a huge plaque depicting partnership between ALARM and Calvary. The whole thing was really emotional for us. (There were many, many emotional moments while we were there).
Well, that is it for today's installment. I keep thinking of more stuff to write so tomorrow's will be a hodge-podge of forgotten stuff. You could all also read Kyle's zanga. Here's the address for photos: Zambia.gmartin.org then click on zambia photos on the left.