I work for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Belleville, Illinois in the USA. The Oblates are a Roman Catholic congregation of priests and brothers founded after the French Revolution by St. Eugene De Mazenod to work among the poor. Today there are nearly 4,000 missionaries working in more than 60 countries around the world.
Shangombo is a small village in far west Zambia on the border of Angola and inhabited marshland. There are a few small stores, some government buildings, huts and houses sprinkled around town. It gets electricity from small 14 kilo volt diesel powered generator that reaches out five miles in all directions. Hundreds of people from the area come to the Oblate church and use the grounds for assorted meetings, church related and otherwise. So of course, toilet facilities became an important factor for people that have walked from many miles around.
Originally the church used hut toilets, however that was a temporary solution. The grass huts have to continually be moved because they fall apart from usage and the weathering. Eventually the Oblates decided the best solution for this situation was to build a permanent structure with a proper underground drainage system for better sanitation. And now we are very near completion of this vitally important project.
Fr. Richard and the traveling team with Fr. Jim Chambers all pitched in to paint the new toilets for the church. The today they needed to put an undercoat on the building, then then in the day apply a final tan coat with black paint along the bottom border. The colors will match the church building.
As you can see, a lot of paint was splattered around during painting the toilets.
Today is Thursday and I am in Shangombo with Fr. Pius visiting a grandmother and her grandchildren. The parents of the children are both deceased so they live with their grandmother in this hut the Oblates built for her.
The hut is nicer than most because it has a tin roof rather than grass. The hut also needs a mud glaze added to it just before rainy season so that water doesn’t crumble or wash out sections of the walls.
This part of the trip was mostly uneventful….except when I was popped up in the air about a dozen times and getting knocked around in the back of the pick up truck on rough gravel roads. I now understand why the cost for travel and vehicles is so expensive here because they just get torn up from the rough roads they have to drive on these remote Oblate missions.
The total trip took us about seven hours. The first part of the trip was from Mongu to Sioma at 3 hrs. The second was another story from Sioma to Shamgombo…down seemingly unending stretches a rough roads. I felt like I was getting shot from a slingshot as the driver swung back and forth dodging holes and ruts knocking all of us to the ceiling slinging our dusty bodies back-and-forth over and over for 4 hours. Now imagine what that does to a vehicle driving over this road back-and-forth from Shangombo Week after week! However we made in fine from the steady driving of Fr. Pius. All I can say is thank you.
I spent Monday in Mongu, Zambia visiting the Oblate radio station “Radio Liseli”!This station reaches far into remote areas of western Zambia with many types of spiritual and community programs. During the day I met many wonderful people that are part of this amazing team.
One of the Oblate’s goals with Radio Liseli is to provide a reliable source of electricity to the station using solar power panels. This will allow them to stay on the air more consistently when the station experiences blackout or brownout of electric power.
My words here barely convey what I have witnessed here today from the ongoing work of the Missionary Oblates and Fr. Lazerous. To help share my experience I have posted many photos for now and will add videos later to this page.
Before the Oblates built this housing, people with leprosy had nowhere to go but the local hospital for a place to stay. This put the hospital in a difficult situation because there was no cure. When the Oblates built this special housing, it provided a lasting solution to for the hospital and local community. Today, leprosy has almost been eradicated and those afflicted with it are typically elderly. The Missionary Oblates care for them with love, respect and friendship! Here you can truly see God’s love in action.
Earlier in the day I danced with one lady with leprosy at church. At the end of mass, a lady named Gladys, who had lost both of her legs, crawled from the front pew all the way back down the aisle our of church and out the door. She attended mass with a huge smile on her face through the whole service!
In the above picture, you see Fr. Lazerous and Gladys visiting. She has a husband at the colony. I met their son there too, who is not afflicted.
In the picture above, Fr. Lazerous visits with the husband of Gladys at the leper colony.
Fr. Lazerous visits the inhabitants of the Oblates leper colony on a regular basis. Today we met about 8 people and had a wonderful visit with them.
Weaving baskets is how many people in the leper colonies have made made money. One lady was making this basket when we stopped by to visit.
These last 3 pictures show me and the lady I danced with at mass early this day. I was standing about 6 feet from her in church and she started dancing (which honestly is hard NOT to do). Then she motioned me to come out on the floor with her and we danced in front of the children’s section and they loved it! Later in the day Fr. Lazerous, Billy Fuller and I visited her home and here we go again!
My day in Zambia on Friday, July 8 started at 4:30. Our team plus Bill Fuller left Lusaka in a van at 5 am to go to Kaoma. Bill, who is coming back to Lukulu for the first time in 6 years, will also be working on a solar panel project in Mongu this week. The team planned to drop Billy Fuller and I off with a driver in Kaoma (part way to Mongu) who would take us on in to Lukulu.
As we were traveling through Lusaka our transmission was brutally attacked by a rock in the middle of the road. It punctured a hole in the transmission pan and had to be welded and repaired. However, we did not know the extent of the damage until we were about 45 minutes west of Lusaka. We noticed trouble with the transmission, pulled over and called back to the office for help. The team then waited for repairs while Billy and I caught a bus on to Kaoma ahead of them. Bill and I will catch back up with the team on Monday when we leave Lukulu and travel 6 hours to Mongu.
So back to the travel story…at this point we made it to Kaoma in about 2.5 hrs. We then met our driver and headed out for a 3 hour drive to Lukulu squashed in a Toyota pickup truck that unbeknownst to us had trouble with it’s headlights…so much that the lights would not work at all. Of course we discovered this problem as dusk settled in. With dark fast approaching, the driver tried to fix the headlights on the dirt road, but to no avail. So we continued to drive about 20 minutes toward Lukulu as our light progressively kept getting darker and darker. The light disappeared and I could barely see my hand in front on my face! Yet, our good driver made it though to deliver us to the Lukulu mission intact.
We arrived late at about 7 pm and very hungry only to find out no one was at the mission to greet us…we were locked out. We finally found someone to let us in. We grabbed some delicious food instead that had been prepared just for us sitting on a table in the dining area. We where then shortly greeted by Fr. Lazarous and had supper together. How cool is that! Eventually we settled in for the night, ready to begin the next day.
One last minor factoid; the city of Lukulu turns off the electricity at night, so at 11 pm the building went pitch dark and I had to grab a flashlight to find my way around. So it sorta forced me to get some sleep LOL!
BTW: You can see us in the truck leaving Kaoma on my Facebook page.
It’s Thursday July 7th and our Oblate team visited the nearby Mary Immaculate Parish. The kids there were enjoying a nice winter day outside on the playgrounds. We also visited an HIV hospice earlier in the day.
I also visited our on-site automobile garage repair shop that rebuilds engines and does complete body work! Additionally I visited our onsite graphic design and print shop. They print posters and books here for local customers.
When the Internet access is a little more stable I will be able to send more videos so you can see AND hear people take about our work in in Lusaka.