Friday Morning in Mazabuka

There is a relief in finishing a revival. Not an, I’m glad its over relief, but a physical relaxation upon finishing a energy consuming task. So that Friday morning I was feeling relaxed and pleased with myself. I was looking forward to tonight’s meeting in Monze. Pastor Oliver always treats us good and his wife makes the best Zimbabwean meals this side of Zimbabwe. Going to church that morning with some meetings with the school staff and students that morning didn’t turn out as expected. I couldn’t get the van into reverse. Nashim insisted that I take her car (I filled it with gas). So I went down to the church and 5 guys accompanied me back to the Dowodgeee’s. We pushed the van up the hill, outside the gate, to the road where I could get it into first gear. I drove it to my favorite Mazabuka mechanic, Mr. Phiri.

Zambia up to very recently was a mechanics paradise, because everyone needed cars to be repaired without proper parts, so improvising was the mother of necessity. When we finally loaded all of our worldly goods, before our container arrived, left Lusaka for Mazabuka, our vehicle broke down as we were crossing the Kafue river. As darkness approached we got towed back to a BP station in Kafue owned by one of the best mechanics in the nation, Guffer. Timothy Zulu’s father had worked for Guffer at one time. Guffer rightfully prided himself on his teaching ability to his stable of mechanics. We would have great conversations over the years and he even lent me a book to perk an interest in understanding engines, I failed the test. As we were leaving Zambia, Guffer had imported used garbage trucks from the US and was operating one of the few trash services in Lusaka. Enterprising, is a word that does not quite do him justice. It turns out the vehicle had all the wrong size belts, that had worked up to a point, but as they stretched they came off. He replaced the belts (3 of his 4 were the proper ones) and off we went to start our new life in Mazabuka.

So I drive up to Phiri’s garage. Garage might bring a vision of garage with a roof and everything, but this garage was a oil stained concrete slab with a small shed to store tools. Phiri’s mechanicing has always reminded me of the witchdoctor in action. He always has several junior mechanics that are desiring to learn from the master, but the secrets of the trade are not easily passed on to the uninitiated. Whereas, Guffer took every repair job to show and explain to a crowd of eager learners, Phiri knows the value of his knowledge and realizes that diffusing that knowledge among the young disciples will only make his portion of the pie of business smaller. So Phiri works his engine cures without explanation and audience. His guys are allowed to do the simple things, but the final touch of the master can only come from his hands. I have been sent to get transmission fluid, where I talk with Cornelius, one of the musicians from the film, who is working at CALTEC. I am proud that he is working a simple job, and know that God will reward his faithfulness, as he is capable of so much more. Phiri disappears under the vehicle and is manually moving the transmission through its gears. My guess is that something is floating around in there, and he has unjammed it, letting me go without requesting pay. I thank him and hurry home to get Joan to visit the school.

We allowed folks from church to start Life Plan High School at the church. We had several motivations. The first is that our 99 year lease on our property was given to us for free with the written understanding that we would build educational facilities on the property as well as a church. Its a throwback from the Catholic influence upon Zambia, where all of the best high schools used to be or still are operated by Catholic orders of one kind or another. The second reason was that educational opportunities are few and limited. Most of our church kids went to what are called extensions. That is a school that is run by the teachers from the main schools in town. They are getting their pay as teachers, but they get more pay by taking in the students who can’t get into the better schools, for lack of grades or money, into their private schools. They teach full time and usually have a prefect, a # 1 student, write the notes on the chalkboard and school mainly consists of copying and memorizing those notes. I saw this first hand as I would attend “class” with my church guys. The third reason, was that I had a church full of bright people, who had been fed on a healthy diet of gospel preaching and American Icanisms who were without jobs and I felt that their efforts in really serving students would far outshine the hireling efforts I saw in the extensions.

So here we were revisiting the school we started 5 years ago. We started with 2 10th grade classes of about 25 each. We had all teachers from the church, with Joan teaching English and I was teaching English Composition, usually a weekly study of a “Chicken Soup” story that we worked through defining words, discussing and finally writing there own essay about it by the end of the week. Most of our students were not the children of the people paying their school fees but were the relatives dispatched to their job-having uncle in Mazabuka with the hope that he would pay to get them educated. The school has quite the success story, those original grade 10 students did unusually well on their grade 12 exams. Now the school has over a 100 students and the grades are up to grade 12. Success is not enough in Zambia, there are a myriad of rules that are not being followed, as well as facilities that are not up to standards. They submitted a plan, it has to be a plan drawn up by someone in the department of education. When it is all said and done a little money moving their way will allow the school to continue on, because they all know that the tens of thousands of dollars being required to meet the requirements will never be produced by the students attending the school. These problems are related to Joan and I by the new head master and his staff. The only staff member that still is from the church is Aucride, Fred in the film. I am really proud of him for sticking it out and keeping that influence upon the students and the school. I find out later from Pastor Tembo that he was asked to work at Sugar’s private school. This would be quite the promotion, but after talking with Pastor Tembo he decided to stay, not for the money, but for a belief that this is where God wants him now. He is married with a son and he is one of the many that I am so proud of.

Addressing students in Zambia is the same as preaching a sermon. They are familiar with gospel lingo and they flow without any sense that anything is out of place. I use a theme from Habakkuk: "Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.” The importance of a vision, dream, the ability to write down the elements of that dream, vision or plan; so that people can read it and understand it and get involved. It is a wonderful morning as the vehicle is working and the pleasantness of the school, facing problems I can’t solve, can only be resolved at this time by trusting God.


About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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