Our Zambian Encounter
Our Zambian Encounter
(The Olfords’ Diary of a Return Visit to a Zambian Orphanage)
Monday 7th March 2005
The “encountering” started on the very last day of our first trip to South Africa, which had culminated in a spectacular trip to Victoria Falls. We were about to fly home but were determined to visit to a local orphanage supported by our Tour Manager. We took with us our gift of $200, which was the Hotel’s compensation for the theft of our camera. There, we met the tiny Sri Lankan powerhouse who manages the project, Mrs. Ranji Chara.
She explained that the project had started four years earlier with a programme of feeding streetkids in the town of Livingstone, fifteen minutes from the Falls. Along with her family and a Swedish friend, Kerstin Carlsson, she ministered love, food and hope to those who existed in desperate conditions. In a short amount of time, Ebenezer Childcare Project had grown to the point where fifty orphans were cared for by houseparents in four houses. Her words, forever imprinted on our hearts and minds, stated
“I believe that every child deserves a place to call home and someone to call mother.”
Her vision, however, was still expanding. Her next project, just underway, was to rent and transform a drab warehouse, which was in a state of disrepair, into a school where up to three hundred and fifty orphans and local children living in dysfunctional families and awful conditions could come on a daily basis. There they would receive a daily meal, clothes, a Christian education and medical treatment.
On our bumpy journey into the orphanage that morning, I had experienced a very strong impression, which I voiced instantly to my husband, Keith, that “I believe that we are the answer to somebody’s prayer today.” We were later to remember those words.
Ranji told us that repairs to the warehouse had been started but had come to a halt due to lack of money for paint for which they had been praying. We just looked at each other, and then enquired as to the cost of the paint. We doubled the compensation money which we had planned to give anyway and Ranji’s prayers were answered.
After hugs and tears, through which a new bond was formed, we disappeared to catch our flight home. We had been there no longer than twenty minutes. I suppose we felt pleased that we had been able to make a small difference and, although we looked forward to seeing the promised Email pictures of the proposed school building, we thought that was an end to our involvement. How wrong could we be?
Thursday 24th March
Before and after pictures of the warehouse arrived via e mail. The painting was complete.
Sunday 3rd April
We had received a request for urgent help from Ranji, because the owner of the warehouse had decided to sell the building. He wanted $40,000 for it, but would sell it to the Ebenezer project for $30,000, if they could do the deal by the end of the month. This seemed impossible to Ranji who had only ever rented property up until then and the Ebenezer team had no money. What could they do, apart from pray?
Keith felt strongly moved to kick-start the possible purchase of this building. We e-mailed Ranji stating that he would give $10,000 for this purpose. A swift and joyous reply came, with the added news that Kerstin and her Swedish fundraising board would match the $10,000. The rest could be paid for through a mortgage, which would have to be cleared by the end of the year. The warehouse/school was saved!
Tuesday 14th June – Saturday 18th June
We experienced a fascinating journey from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, south to Livingstone, staying for a while by Lake Kariba, where we were forbidden to swim because of the crocs and hippos!!
On the Saturday, Ranji met us and invited us to the orphans’ Church Service to be held in the largest of their homes on the following day.
Sunday 19th June
At 7.30am we shivered over our scrambled eggs in the cool Zambian Winter morning. The temperature would rise to 30C by midday and plummet again to 5C in the evening. As promised, transport arrived just after 9am and we were driven to a very ‘unique’ service, where we were made to sit at the front as honoured guests. Ranji introduced us to the children and, much to our embarrassment, loud clapping broke out and the children sang us a welcome song which had been composed specially by the older children. We could barely hold back the tears. These children who had nothing were asking God to bless us who have so much. This service was a humbling experience which we shall never forget. The children, and the adults who care for them, sang from their hearts with joyous and natural harmonies which blew our minds.
Monday 20th June
Today was the day when we would be able to assess whether our financial and emotional commitment to the Ebenezer School Project was all we had hoped it would be. We were not disappointed. As Ranji drove us through the security gates, we were so excited as our first sight of the transformed building came into view. Oh, the thrill of helping to make this happen!
The brightly-painted structure was sound and much larger than we had imagined, and, until the completion of the plumbing, (they were now on plumber number three!) only one hundred children were allowed to attend. It was wonderful to see these children being taught at the newly-opened school.