Wallingford Christian Assembly

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Zambia News - Crocodile tales, Diviners and More! (13/01/2016)

River Zambezi –peaceful or not so peaceful?!

It is a hot, humid evening at the end of a busy day at the hospital with a huge clinic – only with the Lord’s help and everyone working at maximum capacity did we manage to complete it before 5pm.  It has been unseasonably dry - we have had very little rain for the past week or so.  There are concerns about crops and food shortages later in the year.  For us the swimming pool has been a very attractive option in the early evening .

We have been conscious of the power of darkness over past days. The peaceful river scene above (taken from the plane) is deceptive; more than merely physical danger lurks.   Just before I left Chitokoloki  in early September, there was a young cowboy taken by a crocodile down at the river at Chambula, the next village to Chit.  Since then killings have continued at intervals.  Before I returned another school boy was taken.  Approximately every 6 weeks there is a fresh killing: these deaths are keenly felt by the community. The locals have a great fear of the crocodile (and rightly so!); these fears are enhanced by local traditions. Diviners embroider the traditions with all sorts of evil, increasing fear and entrenchment.  Even some of the professing Christians who attend the assembly meetings are inculcated by such beliefs , especially at times when all the village is following them and it costs to take a stand.   Such was the fear locally that a notable diviner was called from some distance away at the handsome cost of Kw 2400 (approx. £160).  He ‘identified the person responsible for the croc killings’ as one of the guards at the hospital – there was talk of the crocodile being magical, and inhabited by a human being who was doing the killing.  All sorts of stories were spreading about the poor man so that even his most innocent behaviour was perceived as odd.  There was a level  of mass hysteria on the Tuesday night, when an angry mob arrived at the hospital in the late evening, shouting, throwing stones and seeking vengeance for the crocodile killings – just when Dorothy Woodside (US missionary) arrived at the hospital with a car load of patients from the villages.  Dorothy is an indomitable lady who has been out here for many years.  She positioned herself between the mob and the hospital and called the mission menfolk for support.  Once they arrived with vehicles, the crowd quickly dispersed.  As is usual in these things there were a few ringleaders who stirred up the much larger number of ‘hangers on’.  It was the Lord’s protection that prevented even a minor injury, although a window in the men’s ward was broken.  Please pray for wisdom for those who have to meet with the village headmen to discuss any repercussions from this incident. Pray too that the light of the Gospel will penetrate the darkness and that these dear folk will be delivered from Satan’s power.

That being over, there was another killing by the croc last Sunday afternoon. This time it was a lady from the village of Nyakenenga which we visit with the Gospel regularly on a Sunday afternoon with Shawn Markle.  She was down at the river bathing when the croc came and took her.   She was well known to the mission workers here, having worked on the feeding programme for the HIV patients. Julie-Rachel Elwood (N Ireland) has been quite closely involved with her family too. Sadly we do not know if she was saved – a lesson to the local community that not one of us knows what a day will hold, and of the need to be ready for eternity  by trusting Christ for salvation.   Joey Speichinger and Julie –Rachel went out on the river in the mission boat to try and find the body, while the Markles stayed on the bank with the local villagers. Nothing was found until the following day when the locals reported seeing the croc again with the body but their noise had driven it off.  Shawn and Joey went down to the riverand decided to leave the remains in the water to attract the croc back for a further ‘meal’.  Meanwhile Shawn ensconced himself in a nearby tree with his gun poised and ready for the creature’s return.  No sightings occurred during the day and folk were in great fear, saying that there would be another killing (a fairly obvious conclusion if the croc remained alive and folk continued to use the river for water and bathing – nothing magical about that).  The end of the story was that Joey shot the croc during the Monday evening croc hunt – a huge beast, too large to be towed ashore at the time, though it would need to be brought if the locals were to be convinced that the source of the trouble was gone.  Crocs are very territorial and stay in the same portion of the river; this one had clearly been around for a long time and his size meant that he could – and did – take adults as well as children.   

The night of the ‘Chit riot’ we were all at the other end of town, so far from the hospital that the noise did not reach us, at a birthday supper for Boston Mbilikita, a local brother in the assembly and also involved at the hospital.  The first we knew was when Joey Speichinger and Chris Brundage the pilot were called away to help deal with the mob.  We thank the LORD  that they quickly dispersed with no injury to any.

I have just discharged home my one in-patient in the cerebral palsy therapy programme which means that my afternoons will be quieter (not filled with therapy in a hot clinic room where the drip factor is high).  We have also tried to refurbish Eddie’s chair – Eddie is the village lad with CP who comes to the Lord’s Day meetings regularly. It was much more involved than we first thought. We found a hoist sling to serve as an outer covering, but as his seat insert was well past its useful date we had to scrap it a start afresh.  We used cushions – at our first attempt, Eddie was almost suspended in a kind of hammock, holding on to the frame in case his movements thrust him out of the chair. Next attempt,  the cushion at his back was too thick so that he was uncomfortable and has an odd seating posture – at least he was not a risk of falling out of the chair altogether.  Yesterday afternoon I could be seen heading out to Eddie’s village on Ken Wilkin’s bicycle, with needle, cotton and scissors.  I unpicked the cushion, removed a portion of the stuffing and put the whole thing together again.  What joy when it worked! The seat was comfortable and his brother could push the chair round the village without fear of Eddie falling out. I went home feeling satisfied with a job well done. It is however only a temporary solution and I must look at purchasing a while new chair when I am next in Lusaka.