As we prepared to leave for Zambia last week, we experienced a wide range of emotions. Our son, Brien, came to Atlanta, where we could spend time together as a family. On Saturday evening, our daughter, Meagan hosted dinner for us, our family, and our dear friends, Jimmy, Jan and Cobi Shafe. It was very special to be surrounded by loved ones.
On Sunday morning, we were able to attend worship at our daughter’s family’s church, and witness the dedication of our new grandson, Max. Following lunch, it was time to head to the airport with our twenty bags, where we said our tearful goodbyes to Brien, Meagan, Eric, Lucy and Max in front of the Atlanta-Hartsfield International terminal. Our bag check-in (20) went surprisingly well, and we were finally on our way. Or so we thought.
After boarding, we sat on the plane, at the gate, for nearly four hours, while the crew dealt with a mechanical issue. This delay caused us to miss our connection in Johannesburg, South Africa on Monday. Fortunately, Delta covered the cost of our overnight stay at the Protea transit hotel, located in the terminal. A good night’s sleep, and no bags to check on Tuesday morning.
We finally arrived in Lusaka, just after noon on Tuesday, where we were met by our supervisor, Nancy Collins, Rev. Dr. Victor Chilenge, who is Moderator of CCAP/Zambia, and heads the Projects and Development Department, and Rev. Gerald Phiri, who heads the HIV/AIDS program for CCAP/Zambia. But, only 9 of our 20 bags arrived (since then, another 10 have arrived, with only one remaining lost). Melissa went with Nancy, while I went with Rev. Phiri to the immigration office to pick up my work permit. The next day was spent at the customs office, working to have our vehicle cleared at the border (we hope we will be able to get it early next week). We’ve also been doing other various housekeeping chores, and shopping for some essentials, and on Thursday, we met with the leaders of the Synod of CCAP/Zambia, where we were welcomed, and learned more about the work of our partner church and how we will fit into that work.
As many of you know, Melissa and I waited for sixteen months for word of our invitation to serve as Presbyterian mission co-workers in Zambia. Yesterday, we learned that our partners had been waiting since 2011 to fill the position I was hired for, working as a development specialist. In remarks by Rev. Phiri, I fought back tears as he welcomed us. And he shared an African proverb, which I wish I had known when we applied in February of 2014: Walking slowly does not prevent a person from arriving.
So what are our initial thoughts after being here five days? First, we are finally where we are meant to be. We have been surrounded by love from the moment we stepped off the plane. And we are excited about the work we will be doing here. Second, Lusaka is a beautiful, modern city. Third, we are also excited about experiencing our first Easter in Zambia. Fourth, we are looking forward to arriving in Lundazi, where we will make our new home. Now if South African Airlines can just find the one lost sheep/duffel bag with all of Melissa’s clothes in it we’ll be in business.
Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to settle into our new life as mission co-workers in Zambia.
Grace, peace and love,
Charles & Melissa