Charlie Chikankata has a lot to answer for! Here I am in the heart of rural Zambia, working for The Salvation Army as the Manager/Hospital Administrator of Chikankata Health Services. Not so much an intellectuall reflection rather a kind of journal of the unexpected.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Graduation Day 2008
What a great day! Despite all the hassles and pressures building up to this special day, it is always one of the best days at Chik. This year was no excpetion. Here are a few highlights...

In the morning there is a dedication service in the hospital chapel. Then after the service, the current students meet the graduants. It's a very touching moment.

The Lecturers from the College of Nursing and the College of Biomedical Sciences, includign Heidie, prepare to enter the High School Hall behind the flag of Zambia and the flag of the Salvation Army.

As is the African way, the nurses don't just march in, they dance in!

Then great fellowship in the evening as all the Nursing School staff and Managers gather for a braii (BBQ). The entertainment was led by MC Chiyota. And was very entertaining.

Apart from one thing. Zambia humour. I just don't get it. Here's joke from Issac Mweetwa that had everyone apart from me and Heidie in stitches;

IM:"A woman has 5 children. Two and half of them are boys, How many are girls?"

RB and others after a few suggestions (like two and a half): "I don't know how many are girls?"

IM: "It's not possible"

Cue: Loud laughter.

Can anyone explain to me how that is funny!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Because I can!

I am writing this post not because I have anything really interesting to say but because this is the first time in almost two weeks that we have had electricity in the evening. I wanted to post this photo, which is one of my favourites. It epitomises what Chikankata stands for and recognises that people who visit our hospital have a range of needs that require our care. We are not a one-dimensional institution. One of my favourite books at the moment is Authentic Christianity, which is excerps from the writings of John Stott;
"In the ministry of Jesus words and works, gospel preaching and compassionate service went hand in hand. His works expressed his words and his words explained his works. It should be the same for us. Words are abstract they need to be embodied in deeds of love. Work are ambiguous, they need to be interpreted by the proclamation of the gospel. Keep words and works together in the service of the church."
Getting back to where I started, I do not know what is going on with the Zambian Electricity Supply Company (ZESCO) but quite frankly I would like to.... anyway best stop there in case my mum reads this! Needless to say having only a few hours of electricity has put a huge strain on the hospital. Last month we had to pay out almost $10,000 on generator fuel alone. We had not budgeted for this and are struggling to keep on top of things. However, my experience continues to be that God is faithful and that this hospital survives and thrives by His grace. It's a miracle really and I for one am persuaded.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


In this period in the UK and the western world, many of the churches are focusing on Harvest Festival. I have been reading and listening to various excerpts on Leviticus 19 (and in particular v9&10). It seems that the Old T. Law made it clear in this passage that we are to give a portion of the harvest, (whether good or bad) to the poor. The margins of our fields as supposed to be left for the poor to harvest each year. I have thought about the times in my life where I have not left any room in my fields or my finances for giving a portion to the poor. This is not because I can’t, it is because I chose other options instead. I do not leave any room in my finances to leave money to the poor

From my experiences, the poor are some of the hardest working people in the world –they have to be in order to eat or send their children to school. I am working less and earning more but not showing how blessed I am by giving a portion back to those in need. I choose an extra CD or a book or a meal out, when often they are things I don’t really need. The marginal things; things that make the margins of my field smaller for the poor to harvest. I am rethinking this as a result.

I also think about the times I just give money or things to people. Without sounding self-righteous, I have always believed that giving money means nothing, if the poor people in our area, in our community, in our church don’t even know who we are. A sacrificial offering, which as a Christian I am supposed to give is something I have to invest time and effort in, a donation I just give without thinking or getting involved. Paul Scanlon wrote that “Christian are God’s compensation for the poor in the world we live in”. What kind of compensation I am?

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above
So thank the Lord, thank the Lord
For all his love.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Today was Luke's birthday. He is the greatest gift I have ever been given and I love him to bits.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

One of my favourite days of the year!!

Each year the hospital holds a camp for Orphans and Vulnerable Children high in the hills of Mabetubwa. It's such an fantastic experience. I wish I could take all my friends there to see this beautiful place. The setting is beautiful, the staff are beautiful, the children are beautiful and the purpose is beautiful.It's a place when children are valued. It's a place where children get 3 hot meals a day. It's place where children are shown a bit of love and attention. It's a place where children can share their grief and problems. It's a place where children can have fun. It's a place where children can be, well children.

The general pattern is that in the morning there is some sort of exercise, which is the aimed at getting the children to open up about their experiences and processing some of their thoughts and feelings. This is followed by a fun activity in the afternoon. Heidie had a go at the Trust game that the children were doing the day we were there.

"I tell you whatever you did for one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did for me" Jesus

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What a place!
We have been back in Chik for one week and I have been reminded of the unpredictability and variety of life in Zambia. Here are some highlights from the week.....
Saturday - arrived back and felt very cold and very very homesick.
Sunday - we went to the morning meeting at Chikankata. It lasted 4 hours and 40 mins!
Monday - kind of went to a wedding. The wedding started it 9.30, according to the programme. We arrived at 10.40 and nothing had started. We sat until 12.15 waiting for the service to begin, by which time Luke was beginning to get a bit hungry (not to mention his dad!) so we decided to call it quits. I'm led to believe it all kicked off around 1pm.
Tuesday - back in the office properly. One of the first callers was one of our nurses, who wanted to tell me that she had tested positive for HIV. We prayed together in my office for a while and I felt truly humbled and priviledged to be in such a place where prayer in an option for dealing with a problem.
Wednesday - Had to make arrangements for the tractor to be lifted out the Chifwankala Stream after in came off the bridge and over turned. Also, by this time I was also feeling overwhelmed by people's warmth towards us and it was great to see everyone again.
Thursday - went to Lusaka for a meeting with the contractor who supposed to be working on our water treatment plant but basically ran away from the job with equipment and some money. However, things could reach some sort of resolution. Still have no water in the house and missing showering every day and flushing the toilet every time
Friday - I attended the funeral of Dr. Simon Mphuka, the Executive Director of the Churches Health Association of Zambia. A really good decent bloke, a true Chirstina, who loved to laugh. I was deeply moved at his funeral and considered my own faith for quite some time. It was particularly beautiful to hear the harmonious Zambians singing these beautiful words:
There's a land that is fairer than day
And by faith we can see it afar
For the the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.
To our bountiful Father above
We will offer the tribute of praise
For the glorious gift of his love
And the blessings that hallow our days.
In the sweet by-and-by
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.
I want to live my life with that hope and promise!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I have been back in the UK for a month and so much has happened. We have had a great time so far and have been flying all over the place. It has been great to spend time with family and friends and spend time reflecting on our experience and what the future holds. Here are a few random thoughts.

1. Two worlds – that’s what I am living in. At the moment there is just no point in trying to compare or get my head round things, so I haven’t even bothered. Not sure if this is right or not but it’s the only way for me at the moment.

2. Back in the UK, the words ‘broken society’ are now used with worrying regularity in the media and politics. Knifes, crime and immigration seem to be being offered as the catalyst. However it must be that all the people involved in these activities are looking for something and it worries me that some places and things will give people more love and excitement than a church or Army corps will. The problem is theirs but the problem is also ours.

3. I recently listened to a study on Exodus on the iPod and couldn’t help compare Egypt to modern Western Society. It highlighted that sin on a personal and relationship level had become so embedded in society that it had become systemic. It also seems that when people only care about their own situation, injustice becomes systemic too. Has sin, discrimination and injustice in our society become systemic? I don’t really think so but the alert signs are there.

4. I am working in Chikankata Hospital not because I want to save the world but because I want to save myself. Saving myself from indifference, from complacency and from being part of the injustices in the world. I am doing this because I don’t want my attitudes and my soul to become hard and selfish. I am doing this because I want to help. I am doing this because I can! A defining moment in my life happened at Chikankata, when I was at my lowest, a Christian doctor and his wife, who had worked in Africa for many years took me and Heidie away as they were worried about. At one point, I said to Eunice why I am I doing this. Without hesitating she said to me – “Because you love Jesus!”. That’s why I am doing this.

5. It is extremely paradoxical to me that many of the people in Zambia aspire to live in a country based on western society and values when they got it right in terms of living in true community. Admist all their suffering, there is a sense of joy and contentment that is sadly missing in modern UK society.

6. I love The Salvation Army. At its best, I have seen in Chikankata the kind of church that Jesus had in mind – living, suffering and celebrating together. We have seen the damage that division and hatred cause within church and a small community. Whatever, community has been at the heart of all that takes place in Chikankata. Much comes down to a sense of responsibility, hearing the cry of those in need and answering the call.

7. God continues to be faithful - I guess he always has been and always will be. It’s up to us to continue to trust.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Saturday night at the Wheel House in Falkirk

We have been having a great time in the UK visiting friends and family. So far we have been to Southampton, Aalborg (Denmark) Chelmsford, Exeter, Dorchester, London and Dennyloanhead (Scotland). It's been so great to catch up with friends and family. Luke is loving his travels and doing really well with all the adjustments (and teething at the same time too!)
Thanks to babysitter Emma, last night the Johnstons and the Bradburys were able to enjoy a lovely meal near the Falkirk Wheel. Here are some of the photos.
Starter was the best ever Black Pudding I have ever tasted. It was served with poached egg, sauteed mushrooms and balsamic vinegar. Beautiful! Apparently it was from Stornoway.

This was followed by Aberdeen Angus Burger and Chunky Chips and Onion Rings. It was beautiful. The girls had some chicken dish (far too healthy for Scotland!).

Here'a picture of me and the love of my life. Heidie is in the picture too.

And finally a picture of the four of us at the end of a great evening

Finally Finally Congratulations to Emma (Luke's Godmother) who graduated with a Law Degree (with Honours) from Glasgow. Here she is with her wee brother Mark. We are proud of you!

Monday, June 16, 2008

So we are now on Homeland Furlough or Holiday as normal people call it. Having completed our 3 year contract we have two months at home before going back for one more year. We are having a great time and have been all over the place already. Here's some of the highlights so far......
On the plane and ready to go. Still at least Luke had a little cot to himself so he'd be able to sleep......

Maybe not!!! Then we went to Southampton and saw Grandma and Grandad and Uncle Adrian and Auntie Clare. Luke also saw the sea for the first time at Portsmouth

We went to IHQ and did some sightseeing around London.

Then came the dedication of Luke at Chelmsford on the 8th June 2008. Lots of people came from all over the place. It was a great day and we were so grateful that people took the time to share with us and gave Luke so many gifts. We spent the day before the dedication with the Johnston family in Cambridge. They had travelled all the way down from Scotland. We also met up with some other people who had given birth at Chikankata and their children. These included the Hachitapikas, the du Plessis and of course the Bradburys.

Then it was off to Denmark with the two families for a great weeks holiday. Here we are all at Skagen, the most northerly point of mainland Denmark after our fish and chips, eaten in Gale Force Nine winds.Luke has grown so much in the last few weeks and now has his first tooth. He has also grown at lot more hair as the photo below shows. We are, though enjoying a restful and happy time together. Fnally for anyone who is missed it or is vaguely interested. Here are a couple of photographs of the crocodile that lived in the Chikankata dam. The rumours that she lived there were around but I have to admit I didn't really believe them until this 2.75 big thing surfaced. The Zambian Widlife Authority came and dealt with the matter at hand. I will resist any jokes about making it snappy because from my experience nothing in Zambia is particularly snappy!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I am in reflective, thoughtful mood, something I have not done for a number of weeks due to general busyness.

My office is situated in a real paradoxical place. It has two windows. Through one window you regularly hear the first cries of a newborn baby and the joys of the family. Through the other window you view the body of those who have just passed away been wheeled down to the mortuary, followed by a procession of grieving and wailing women.

As we near the end of a three year contract (it seems we are coming back for another year) I have been reflecting on some of the moments that have shaped our stay here and many of them revolve around the loss of friends and their relatives;

1) I will never ever forget one of our midwives who lives just behind me, walking to the hospital, screaming. She was followed by her garden boy who was struggling to carry her only daughter. She was lifeless, flopping aound as she had just passed away. She supposedly died of chicken pox.
2) Attending the Chief’s funeral. The “old man” was very supportive to us when he arrived. Heidie and I were given special seats at the funeral / burial, as the only white people in a crowd that must have numbered thousands. Shots being fired into the air, goats being killed and the burial of the Chief in a seated position facing East. It was a remarkable occasion in many ways and a real celebration of life.
3) The death of Colonel Bo Brekke and one of our nearby friends, a commercial farmer, made me realize how vulnerable people our in the developing world to attack from disgruntled staff and how the justice system lets everyone down.
4) Speaking at Nathan’s funeral. A man who had mental health problems but the community came together to ensure they managed him the best they could with the resources they had. At his funeral there were over 700 people and I was so proud to belong to and represent the Chikankata community that day. The family fed every single person that attend Nathan's funeral, even though they were living in extreme poverty.
5) Sitting in outside many funeral houses with the men, particularly in the first year here. I learnt alot about the ministry of just sitting around. When someone dies friends and family go to the funeral house and just take time to support the person by sitting and singing. For me this has been a revelation and shows the difference between a rich and poor culture. In these precious moments I was able simply to enter into the reality of people by releasing myself from the compulsion to do or to fix things in order to take time just to be. These have been very special and profound moments.
6) This week I dropped Liz off at a funeral house. I asked Liz if the person who had died was old. She said “Yes but not really”. I knew what she meant. When we arrived here, I attended a meeting for the newly arrived nursing students. The Major who was addressing this group, most of whom would have been aged between 18-22 started a sentence with the assertion that “during the next 20 years or so of their time on this earth…”. Old by Zambian standards is young by Western standards.

I could mention numerous other occasions and incidents such as these. I guess what I am trying to say is that when you truly give yourself emotionally to a community marked by poverty and ridden with disease you will have to constantly deal with loss and grief in one form or another. However I wholeheartedly concur with Scott Bessenecker who wrote recently that many of those who are victims of poverty share a hope that they have gone to a place “where they will no longer be searching for love and justice, but where they will find all those things in all their fullness.” The times of grief and loss have illustrated for me that most people in Chikankata have reached beyond a “my” mentality and have discovered an “our” philosophy that embraces hardship, celebration, possessions and living space.

Sharing in poverty, suffering and friendship has been my privilege and has deeply enriched my life and my faith and has given me a new perspective on Christian community.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still if thou abide with me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Quick update

It has been so busy here at Chikankata, I have hardly had time to think. Since the last time....

The electricity has got worse but now have a portable camping gas cooker thanks to some friends from IHQ.

We had an informal but high security visit from the US Ambassador to Zambia, which I had to plan with military precision. We even had low flying airforce jets flying over the Hospital. God bless America.
Nick and Lisa left to retun to the UK after three weeks. There being here reminded of us of how much we miss them and all our other friends

We Had a four day visit from representatives from IHQ (Major Dean Pallant) and SAWSO (Bram Bailey) to help them deisgn a tool to look at the Hospital Redevelopment Strategy across the world. We discovered the following things for Chik. Including all the government contribution, the whole operation for the hospital, nursing schools, college, community outreach programmes, outreach and training and the conference centre cost almost $4m last year. The team even reckoned that was even a wee bit understated. We had a good time together but man, did they make us work. On the final day we spent the day at Liliya Lodge and as a result I spent my first night away from my boy, who is now coming in at a towering 77cm after 7 months.

He is just the best and I love him to bits.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Friday we thought about Malaria as it was World Malaria Day. This is a disease that kills in 1 in 5 children under the age of 5 in Zambia. It is completely preventable if the right resources were available.

Due to a number of projects we have going in this area like the Child Survival Project and the Zambian Integrated Malaria and Pheumonia Study, Chikankata Hospital is making major inroads into reducing the incidence of this disease in the area.

Heidie and I knew very little about Malaria until we arrive in Zambia. We have both fallen to the female pregnant mosquitoes fangs on a few occassions and have first hand experience of this illness.

I have not mentioned the SW Division Team who visited Zambia, largely because the electricity situation was awful when they were here and its obviously difficult to blog when there is no power. They were great and the blessings were ours from their ministry. The gave a substantial financial donation to the Hospital and also brought some band instruments for the florushing YP Band at Chikankata Corps. The YP Band were on duty at the world malaria day.

We are also enjoying the company of our great friends Lisa and Nick, along with their boys Joshua and Daniel. Last week we all accompanied our visitors from the SW Division to Livingstone. I did a microlight flight over the magnificant Victoria Falls.

Heidie, who had nagged me all day about whether it was safe to do, then decided she couldn't resist it herself!

Richard and Joshua had their Danagerous Day Out - see Facebook for more pictures.

This weekend we are at Chisamba Lodge for Daniel's Birthday. On his very first birthday he rode an elephant to celebrate

It's been a good few weeks and we are so grateful to all who continue to support and encourage us in so many ways. We will try and keep you posted over our future as things seem still uncertain. However of this we remain very certain - GOD IS FAITHFUL!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Easter Sunday

It's a bit late I know but I am taking advantage of the longest spell of electricity for quite some time. Here are a few pics from the Sunrise Service on Easter Hill at Chikankata.

Ulapona, Ulapona, Ndilazyiba ulapona.

I know that my redeemer lives but I am definitely not sure what I think about this picture of the Headmaster's son...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Zambian Electricity Supply Company (ZESCO)

I have not blogged for quite some time. This is because I am working on my new campaign; to rename the above company ZECO. Basically to claim you are supplying electricity would centainly be contrary to the trade descriptions act back home. So since last Monday we have been off power from 5.30 - 9am every morning and then again from 6-9pm every evening. Minimum! These are my blogging times. On one occassion we have been without power for almost 48 hours.

Now, I realise that Zambia is a developing country, the infastructure is not good and there is not enough electricity to go round at peak times. However most people could cope with 'loadshedding' if it was done in a systematic way. It seems if you live in a rural area you are far more likely to be taken off supply so that those in the the urban areas can have electricity. Even amongst the poor there is a hierarchy it seems.

Last week I met with 2 directors from ZECO with some of the local commercial farmers. Since that meeting things have become 20 times worse. Even more depressing is that the generator we have here is old and very expensive to run. So far this year we have spent near 6000 pounds in generator diesel alone. That's a lot of money for us.

That said, I am constantly reminded that for most of the people around us, electricity is indeed a luxury. My feeling is that the failure to invest in the electricity infastructure on the part of Zambia mirrors the general attitudes in developing countries. Long term thinking, investment and planning runs against the grain of a lifestyle so rooted in the present. Why worry about tomorrow, when there is enought to worry about today? Proverbs 15v15 says this about the poor, "Their future is so uncertain and the need in the present is so pressing." It seems the idea of investment or saving has until now been so far away and obscure for the poor that it probably feels like a complete waste of a precious resource.

Maybe I shouldn't be too hard on ZESCO!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


This weekend past, we traveled to Lusaka again, this time for the welcome to our new TC’s Colonel John and Dorita Wainwright from the UK Territory. It is the third territorial meeting I have sat through in 4 weeks and the 3 meetings have last a cumulative time of 15 hours and 45 mins. It's good though that there is not the same rush to get away from church to get on with other things.

However, once again it was a great occasion and once again the Junior Soldiers stole the show with some great singing.

In Zambia you see some of the worth of The Salvation Army uniform. Back home it is considered outdated. However here you see why it is so important. In a land that has such a high level of poverty, it becomes difficult to distinguish between the rich and poor. It’s a great leveler and really adds to the sense of unity within the church. Also, there is a pride attached to wearing the uniform. Proud to belong to the Army, proud to be considered a soldier of the Lord. In fact many of the other churches have opted to invent their own uniform in Zambia.

At the same time, people don’t get so worked up about the style as long as the uniform identifies you as a soldier. This raised a chuckle for me on Sunday.

I think the gangster shoes should be made uniform regulation across the world - they are much more interesting!

On Friday, Luke went to Maternal and Child Health Centre within the Hospital to get weighed. He is now 73cm and weighs 8.5kg. Luke is five months.

On Friday, a child was brought to the Hospital. He was 4 years old. He weighed the same as Luke (8.5kg). Unfortunately he passed away on Friday night.

HIV/AIDS is a horrible disease, which destroys the lives of innocent victims.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

THERE IS POWER...... (Not here)
I really hope Scotland and Denmark qualify for the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 because right now it’s getting some of the blame from the Zambia government for the ongoing electricity problems. Currently we have about one or two hours of electricity per day. As you can imagine trying to run a hospital without electricity (and as a result, water) is pretty interesting. Fortunately we do have a generator. Unfortunately, it’s very old and very expensive. However we are doing the best we can, having been reminded that there are people in the world worse off than us. We have become pretty good at cooking on charcoals too. My specialty is bacon and eggs, Heidie can somehow manage to cook the sauce and the pasta in the same pan at the same time.

On the plus side, I am reading more than ever before and this week I have read a biography on Mugabe. I have very mixed feelings about that whole situation. This weekend Zimbabwe becomes the largest SA territory in the world as a result of the move to split Kenya from one to two territories. Last week we said farewell to our TC here who will take up the reigns there. I sat through two farewell meetings in Mazabuka and Lusaka, which lasted for a combined time of ten and a half hours!

Luke is now eating solid foods and loves prunes and bannanas. It is making life very interesting!

I have spent the weekend in Livingstone. I had a meeting at the Provincial Health Office on Friday and decided to stay until Sunday, mainly so we can get a flaming shower with some decent water. Once again we had a great time. The Victoria Falls never cease to amaze me. The great thing about the Falls it is quite unspoilt. It would be possible to drive past the entrance if you didn’t know where you were going, as it is really under commercialized. People from the West would have an absolute fit about the health and safety issues. But it’s rawness appeals to me and I am always reminded that Zambian country is rich in the beauty of it’s people, landscape and wildlife. Luke enjoyed morning coffee at the 5 star Royal Livingstone - I am bit worried he is getting a taste for the high living, which will of course please his Uncle Kevin!

Finally Happy Mother’s Day to my mum and my wife (I am actually typing it is Mother’s Day – although I am typing by candlelight but probably won’t be able to post for sometime given the issues mentioned above). Heidie is just doing brilliant. I am really proud of her. It is not easy to bring up a child with a number of obstacles including no water and frequent interruptions of electricity (this morning she got up at 4.30am just to prepare food and wash bottles etc), but she is just the best.

Monday, February 18, 2008

We had a great weekend at Chisamba Safari Lodge with Elsa and Lars and their children. Luke tried swimming for the first time and Richard held a snake for the first time. It was good to get aware and good to spend time outside of the Mission with our friends.

Lars is a teacher at the High School and is a great guy. Elsa is the children's doctor at the hospital and is a remarkable lady. Chikankata are very blessed to have them here I wrote an article about 3 women as part of a series of article of Women of Faith involved in women's ministries within the Salvation Army. It has now been published in 3 different SA periodicals now. Here is the extract on Elsa....

When Dr. Elsa is on call at The Salvation Army’s Chikankata Hospital—where Catherine works on the administrative staff—she often races to the rambling white building at 3 AM to deal with an emergency.

It may be a mother from a nearby village with serious complications who requires an immediate Caesarian section to deliver her baby. Dr. Elsa, trained and ready, focuses on the problem in the operating room and sees it solved before returning home for a couple of hours of sleep before she begins her first ward rounds at 7:30 AM. Being a doctor at a Salvation Army hospital is no ordinary job, but then Dr. Elsa is no ordinary doctor.

Elsa Bjorkqvist left her home in Sweden to work at the Chikankata Mission Hospital in July 2006. Deep in rural Zambia, Chikankata is virtually a million miles from the practice and lifestyle she left behind in northern Scandinavia. Her journey took her from one of the best healthcare systems in the world to one of the worst, if World Health Organization statistics are accurate. According to Dr. Elsa, however, this is what she wanted to do since she was a teenager. “I’ve always had a calling to work with those in poverty and the marginalized, especially women and children,” she says.

With a 200-bed general hospital, six rural health centers and daily mobile clinics for children and HIV/AIDS patients, Chikankata Hospital has provided both facility and community-based healthcare to people of all ages for over 60 years. As one of only three doctors serving a catchment area population of over 80,000 people, Dr. Elsa shoulders responsibility for care of women and children in the hospital and surrounding communities. This means balancing the demands of mothering her own three children with serving as hospital doctor in a land where almost 20% of the people are HIV positive, and one in five children die before age five.

Dr. Elsa is called upon to do anything and everything. She can be found in the operating room, the outpatient department or the HIV/AIDS Center. She travels out with the mobile clinics and accompanies the League of Mercy members on home-based care visits each month.

Dr. Elsa daily sees mothers of young children who need health education, plus emotional and spiritual support. Add this to the pediatric and maternity wards plus with malaria patients and malnourished children. Clearly her ministry represents a holistic approach that most of us talk about but never see. The women in the region know Dr. Elsa and are well aware of her care, commitment and compassion for them.

For Dr. Elsa, working at Chikankata is much more than a medical practitioner’s job; it’s a ministry. She says she feels free and liberated to be working in an Army hospital, for she can minister to each patient every day during her rounds. “I always try to spend some time with the women, to pray with them and just be a presence,” she says. “I want them to see that I love them, but more important, that God loves them.”

Zambian rural culture means that polygamy, plus other demeaning and risky sexual rituals are widely practiced. The role of women is usually subordinate to men; they are often treated as second class citizens. Dr. Elsa says, “One of the most important aspects of my ministry is to encourage women and point out the positive things they do as mothers.”

While the medical side of her job is important, Dr Elsa believes it is only one part of her holistic approach to working with women. “I want the women in our area,” she declares, “to know they are valued and special to God.”

Walking away from the hospital, Dr. Elsa is stopped by a woman, a widow whose six-year-old son is ill with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. He’s a patient in the hospital. The woman thanks the smiling doctor for all she has done for her child; then she places a bag of groundnuts from her own garden into Dr. Elsa’s hands.Then stepping close so she can hug the doctor, the woman says she is a Christian and her faith has grown stronger because of Dr. Elsa’s work and ministry at the hospital.

It seems Jesus always has time for the women of our world, thereby demonstrating their value to Him, and in Zambia Catherine and Elsa obviously have time, profitable, well-spent time, for them, too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


What I actually said to the newspaper reporter:

"I can confirm that a meeting took place between myself, a doctor and the HRH Chieftainess Mwenda regarding the matter you are referring to. All other questions will need to be directed to the District Director of Health."

What appear in two national newspapers this weekend:

"Chikankata Hospital Authorities worried over increased cases of defilement

Mazabuka, 09 February,2008 ZANIS......Authorities at Chikankata Mission Hospital in Mazabuka have expressed worry at the increased cases of defilement being attended too by medical staff at the health institution.

Hospital Administrator, Mr Richard Bradbury told ZANIS in Mazabuka today that most children admitted to the Children's ward where victims of sexual assault.

Mr Bradbury said the hospital management has since sought the intervention of Chieftainess Mwenda to help sensitise communities on the dangers of defiling under aged children.

He said the rate at which girls are defiled in the area is worrying and called for the protection of under aged girls from sexual abuse.

And Chieftainess Mwenda has confirmed receiving a team of senior hospital staff led by administrator, Richard Bradbury.

She said the team complained that girls as young as 10 years were frequently being defiled and receive treatment at the hospital while suspected defilers are left scot free because of the absence of Police in the area.

Chieftainess said she will not allow the scourge to continue because it is ruining the lives of children."
Three points;

1. Amazing what you can get from one sentence.
2. Most children are admitted to the children's ward with Malaria, Pheumonia or Malnutrition
3. The increase is due to increased awareness amongst community members and now at least they are actually bringing the children to the hospital for treatment.

Friday, February 08, 2008

"My Friend, Bwana, Mr. Richard"
Today I was woken at 5.45am with someone at the door telling me that my friend Nathan had died. It made me very sad. Nathan used to always address me in a very loud voice, the same way every time he saw me; "My friend, Bwana, Mr. Richard" befor proceding to talk to me. Bwana means boss in Tonga. It will be one of those things we remember about Chikankata.
Nathan was a psychiatric patient but a man of great intelligence. Heidie and I 'look after' a number of waifs and strays one way or another, usually with food or soap or clothes. The services for patients with mental health problems in Zambia is poor so most are managed by local hospitals and community members as best they can. But Zambians are not so politically correct when it comes to such issues and he often got a hard time.
Nathan would come and sit outside our house and we would give him some food and he was always so grateful. Always dirty, always carrying bags, more oftent than not shouting, Nathan would make us laugh alot. One time I gave him a big bag of clothes including a pair of boxer shorts. The next day I see him wearing every single item of clothing I had given him and the boxers were over his trousers. He also talked alot about Major Young who had obviously had a great influence on him.
I have been so touched by how so many people have approached me this morning and have referred to Nathan as my friend. Nathan was my friend and I was proud to have known him. I went this morning in my car to pick his body and bring it to the hospital and I had a deep sense of sadness but a real feeling of joy that at least for this man he is now at peace and will be shouting and making the people upstairs laugh.
Rest in Peace, my friend.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Highlight of the week for me was on Saturday. Each month we have a shopping trip to Lusaka. Here we basically have to buy our groceries for the month (my worst nightmare). As we were driving home we drove over the bridge spanning the Kafue River. We saw huge herd of hippos. I thought to myself that I don't reckon that's going to happen as we drive home from Tescos or Sainsbury's when we are back in the UK in a few months.

Luke (now generally known as Luka, as is the Tonga pronounciation) is getting longer by the day and is now beginning to sleep through the night till about 5am. Hallelujah, Praise the Lord. I have had two long sleeps this weekend

And then there's Ronaldo. I've noticed that it is a trend among some bloggers to list the books they've read during the previous year so I have decided to do something similar

Books Ronaldo has eaten during 2007

Imitations of Christ - Thomas a Kempis
Revelations - New King James Version
Never Admit to Biege - Jonathan Drape
Last 2 chapters of Revelation - New International Version
Others - Chick Yuill

Quite an impressive list, I'm sure you'll agree.
This week Ronaldo has also attended prayers twice, a talk on Home Based Care, a meeting about the future of our ART (HIV/AIDS) clinic and attended the Holiness meeting today. It's like she knows she belongs to me and feels like she can do whatever she likes and go wherever she wants. And everyone encourages her! She is such a great dog and Heidie is already thinking of ways to bring her back to UK in May.

Friday, February 01, 2008


2008 has not been so good on the blogging front. 1 post in one month is the worst ever yet. Sorry about that - Here are my excuses;

1) Electricity has been particularly bad this year. We have also had some rolling blackout across the country – a knock on from problems in South Africa. One evening it seems the whole of sub-Saharan Africa was blacked out. It does not bode well for the future.
2) Our e-mail servers have been hit by thunder and power surges. It is also raining a lot – too much! The e-mail system is severely interrupted during the rains and storms. We are so grateful for Kennedy “Mr. IT” Nakaanga. He does a brilliant job in very difficult circumstances.
3) We have had loads of visitors already this year. Always a great pleasure and blessing. So far they have been here from the UK, Norway, USA (x3), Denmark, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia.
4) A wee bout of malaria or man flu or something like that!
5) I have been a little bit distracted. We have spent a lot of time thinking and praying over our future (still!) This is tricky! We feel its right to come but as things stand we are worried about what will happen here when we go. I have spent a lot of time trying to sort out the finance for the year. It’s not looking good for 2008 but to be fair, it never does in January. This year will are going to have to raise about $300,000 outside current funding. It’s a big deal but God has been faithful in the past, it’s up to us to trust, pray and figure out a plan!
6) Just plain tired. My main ally and friend, Martin, has left for a new job in Lusaka. I am having to cover some of his tasks as well my own and others. Luke is teething so sleep is disrupted – bless him. Not a great time for resting. I am falling asleep earlier and therefore not writing or working late into the night as I used to.

So there’s my reasons – I will try to do better in February. However I have been inspired by friends John and Rochelle in Zimbabwe. Things there are not good there and the people need our prayers. Rochelle writes in a much more insightful way than me (see ) and gives some really great experiences of Christian living in a community and missional way. I have gone with their theme Bible verse for the year from Romans 12: 12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” It’s a kind of solidarity. I too hope than I can love this out.

Finally, HIV for Children in Zambia is awful, even more so when the treatment is there but the child is not able to access it due to the fears of the parents. Two weekends ago we lost so many children, among them many of the children we visited on Christmas Day and in the early days of 2008. I was so sad but felt so priviliedged so share with them on this special day. Please also pray for Dr. Elsa, who is in charge of the children’s ward. She is such a lovely Christian lady, who bring hope just by her presence. But it is an emotional and physical struggle for her. Below is a couple of pictures. One is with a child that was treated and discharged, one of the children who sadly passed away. It’s not right that the innocent die of this awful disease!

Finally, well done to the staff of Maternity, who for the first time for many years, maybe even ever, recorded a ZERO maternal mortality rate in their ward. That’s right a big fat O! So many reasons to be thankful.



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