Life in Lundazi: A Glimpse

Saturday in Zambia is like any other work day, especially for farmers. Those of you following our work on Facebook might recall the borehole, which serves the farm at Chasefu, has been giving us problems since mid-November. We thought the arrival of rainy season in early December had raised the water table sufficiently to delay repairs to the pump, but during a two-week period without rains, the problem of no water returned. It proved damaging to our recently transplanted onion seedlings, but also created problems for those living in Chasefu, who depend on the borehole for their drinking water. Yes, there are two other boreholes where they can draw water, but they are further from the village. Water weights 8.36 pounds per gallon, so if women and children are carrying containers, which are approximately 5 gallons, on their heads-well, you can do the math. 

After many conversations with various people, we finally found someone to help diagnose the problem of the farm borehole; this morning at 7:30, Melissa and I met Mr. Christopher Sayopa at Barclays Bank.  As we were about to leave for Lundazi, I received a call from Rev. Mapopa Nyirongo asking if I could go by a local butchery to purchase some nyama ya ng’ombe (beef) for next week’s Community Health Evangelism training, and drop it off in Emusa as we passed through. Sure, no problem. And it would give us an opportunity to greet Rev. Lazarus Chilenje’s wife, Shera, and their children, in Emusa. 

As it turns out, Mr. Sayopa actually installed the pump at the farm last year, so that was a big help which we didn’t anticipate. When we arrived at the borehole, he tried the pump, we described the symptoms, and he recommended a solution.  We’re fortunate to have some of the necessary materials on hand at Chasefu (pipe), which will save us quite a bit of money. But the other materials will cost K750 ($74.85 at the current exchange rate), which we needed to advance to Mr. Sayopa.  He will purchase the materials, rods and rubber seals, and we will return to Chasefu on Monday morning to complete the repairs,  which will include dropping the depth of the pump by additional twelve meters, well below the water table.

Mr. Sayopa and his associate check out the Chasefu Model Farm pump


While we were at Chasefu, we were able to greet the seminary students who are now beginning to return from their Christmas holiday break. It was good to see them and laugh with them. They were pleased with the progress they saw at the farm. I asked one of the students, Absalom Banda, if he had a good break, and he responded, “Much work.” You see, most of the students have families back home, and their break was spent doing the same farm work we’ve been doing at Chaseu, to ensure their families will have food in the coming year.   

When we were finished with our work at Chasefu, I called Chasefu Model Farm manager, Rev. Nyirongo, in nearby Egichikeni. Rev. Nyirongo couldn’t join us at Chasefu because of a presbytery meeting there, so I shared the information from Mr. Sayopa regarding the pump.  We decided to return to Lundazi via Egichikeni, to get the necessary funds from Rev. Nyirongo to purchase of the needed materials, so we can finish the repairs on Monday. 

When we arrived in Egichikeni, we went to the manse, where we found Rev. Nyirongo and his wife (I preached there on New Year’s Day), Rev. Chipeta and his wife, from Chasefu (I preached there last Sunday) and many of the people we met at both churches. As we entered the manse, I recognized one of the young men from the Chasefu choir.  After greeting folks inside the manse, I went back outside and showed all those gathered on the porch the video of the choir, which I had posted on Facebook and I even danced the same moves as the choir leader, Laxson Zimba, while they held the phone, watching the video. Laughter ensued.  If you didn’t see the video of the choir, you can watch it here:  Chasefu Choir.  Now imagine me dancing on the front porch of Rev. Nyirongo’s manse, like Laxson, but without any rhythm or skills.  

​​After the laughter died down, we got back to business regarding the pump repairs. Mr. Sayopa explained the problem and the solution, and Rev. Nyirongo advanced funds to cover the cost of materials. Our business completed, we said, tawonga chomene (thank you) and taluta (we’re going) and took off for Lundazi. But we had one more stop. You see, the borehole at the clinic in Egichikeni is also having problems, and since we were there, we stopped to take a look. A different problem, a different solution. And an impact on the availability of clean water for the people there. 

Finished at the clinic, we took off for Lundazi again, this time for real. As we drove, Mr. Sayopa asked us our impressions of Zambia, and then he asked us about America.  He told us he imagines America to be like heaven.  We simply responded by saying America has its problems, too.

When we arrived back in Lundazi, we dropped Mr. Sayopa at his home and made plans to meet at his office on Monday morning at 8:00 am. When we stopped at the butchery before leaving Lundazi earlier, we had seen ladies selling the beautful, brightly colored, wild mushrooms which grow here during the rainy season, so Melissa and I decided to go back and buy some. 

Wild mushrooms

When we arrived, we realized neither of us had any small bills, so we drove to Mini-Mart to purchase a Zero Coke and break a bill. Mini-Mart is Lundazi’s version of the Pearsall Dairy Queen, and there’s no telling who you’ll run into there. Since I’ve been spending so much time in Chasefu, it’s been a while since I’ve stopped there; I was able to catch up with our friends who work there, and ask why Casey wasn’t working today.   

Lundazi’s Mini-Mart

When we walked outside to get back in our car, I heard someone yell, “Johnson”, and when I looked, I saw Mr. Njovu. the manager of Eastern Water and Sewerage Company, the local water company.  Mr. Njovu is the person who put me in touch with Mr. Sayopa. I shared what we had learned about the borehole and the needed repairs, and of course, I had to complain about my water bill. And then Mrs. Sakala, our landlord, drove up, so we greeted her. And while we were visiting with her, our friend, Frank Mwale, who is the children’s choir director at our church in Lundazi walked up. Remember, we’d been visiting other churches recently, so we hadn’t seen Frank in a while. We greeted each other, big smiles, joking about my dancing, and I asked about the children. Frank told us that a little girl in the choir, Hope, died of malaria last week.   

As I thought about the events of this morning, it occurred to me-this is our life in Lundazi. It is real, it is joyful and sometimes it is sad. There are many challenges, but there are also many people who are working together to find solutions. Our partner church and the people we work with here are amazing, and they are our friends. We laugh with them and occasionally, we mourn with them. We are bound togther by our common faith. Melissa and I have already discussed how much we will miss them when return to the U.S. for several months beginning next June.  

Please pray for us, for our work, for our friends, for our partner church, and especially for Hope’s family as they mourn her death.

Interpretive Assignment 
As referenced above, Melissa and I will be returning to the U.S. on June 13, for Interpretive Assignment, before returning home to Lundazi on November 6.  Yes, we will be sharing about our work, but just as importantly, we will be sharing about our partner church, The Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian Synod of Zambia, and our many friends here.  If your church would like to host us for a presentation, please contact  Charles or  Melissa to discuss a visit.  

Football and Politics


Nearly immediately upon our arrival in Zambia last March, Melissa and I were asked about Donald Trump (or in some cases, Donald Trumpet).  What did we think of him?  Would he be elected?  With a little embarrassment, we each tried to answer these questions delicately and honestly for our new friends here.  As we did, we both wondered if the Zambian people, who have been so warm and welcoming to us here in our new country, would be welcomed in the same way in the U.S. by those who do support Trump’s campaign, given their comments directed towards immigrants.

A few days ago, a very dear friend sent me a message on Facebook, asking if my account had been hacked.  The reason for his query stemmed from my posts about Trump, which for the most part consisted of sharing critical articles, and my posts about the University of Texas football team (my friend matriculated at UT).  I’ll address the Longhorns first; I know I can sometimes take ribbing directed towards my UT friends too far, so my apologies for doing so.  Please, please don’t lose to Iowa State tomorrow; I don’t need another temptation.

But if anyone is expecting me to apologize for my opinion about Trump’s fitness for serving as a president of the United States, don’t hold your breath-it isn’t happening.  As I mentioned above, Melissa and I have been welcomed, embraced and loved by everyone we’ve met here.  Yes, we are muzungu, and will never be completely Zambian, but that doesn’t seem to matter to them, or us.  We are bound together by our faith in Christ.

It makes me sad that our country, the U.S., is so divided, and that much of that division comes from fear and hateful rhetoric, directed at immigrants, minorities, the impoverished and the marginalized-the very people Jesus sought out during his life on earth, and in fact, what Melissa and I are in Zambia.  Not only did Jesus minister to these folks, but he also spoke out for social justice on their behalf.


Regardless of the outcome of the U.S. election, our country is in dire need of healing.  I hope with that healing comes a renewed focus on what it means to love our neighbor.  A good example might be the way Melissa and I have been welcomed and shown love here in Zambia.

P.S.  By the way, it gives us great joy to learn that our church in the U.S., Northwood Presbyterian, has just received two new members from Zambia.

Switching Gears, Sort Of

It’s hard to believe we’ll have been in Zambia for six months next week.  It seems like only yesterday when we stood on the front porch of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, hugging our kids and grandkids, all wiping our eyes, and getting on the plane to a new place, and a new beginning.  Time and time again, our decision to follow God’s call in our lives to this place, at this time, has been reaffirmed.  And sometimes I wonder why we didn’t  act earlier to respond to that call.  But then I remember life’s a journey, and we just hadn’t reached that stage of the journey yet.

With Labor Day coming and going, Melissa and I now begin the real work we were called here to do.  My teaching duties will start later this month, and I’m putting the final touches on my preparation for Agricultural Science I.  Because the faculty at Chasefu Theological College and Model Farm is composed of visiting lecturers, each course is taught in a one week block, from can until can’t, as my dad used to say.  I’ve prepared my syllabus/course outline, and we will begin class each day at 7:30 AM, and continue until late afternoon.  After dinner each night, I will meet with the seminary students at their hostel, watch a film and have a discussion on a pertinent agricultural topic.


I met this young man during a recent visit to Kasisi Agricultural Training Center, where it’s clear they hire only the brightest and best.

The drive from Lundazi to Chasefu is only 28 miles, but the road is pretty rough; in fact, it compares to some we’ve traveled on in Congo.  Because of that, I’ll stay at the almost-completed lecturer’s house.  It is nice, but no electricity, and water must be carried from the borehole, about 50 yards away.  But I’m looking forward to my stays, as Chasefu is a beautiful, peaceful place.


During a recent visit to Chasefu Theological College, we were fortunate to meet some of the seminary students who will be taking my course, Agricultural Science I.

During the recent biennial CCAP Zambia Synod Meeting in Lusaka, Melissa’s position as Administrator-Health Education Programs, was formalized and approved.  I won’t steal her thunder by going into great detail, but in short, she will be working in the CCAP Zambia Health Department, working to build capacity, and coordinating training programs.  You know how hard she works at something when she puts her mind to it, and I know she will do a great job.


Melissa tells attendees at the recent Synod Meeting about the fundraising efforts of one of our supporting churches, Liverpool (NY) First Presbyterian Church, to provide three villages with clean water through the work of the CCAP Zambia Shallow Wells Department.

Melissa and I enjoyed attending our first Synod Meeting, and we were reminded of the close connection among all Presbyterians, wherever they may be.  Nothing brought this home more than when the new moderator, Reverend Abel Banda proclaimed, “We are Presbyterian, we must vote!”, to begin the process of electing the new General Secretary of the Synod.


Outgoing CCAP Zambia General Secretary, Rev. Maleka Kabandama (standing), and Rev. Abel Banda, the new Moderator (seated), preside over the recent Synod Meeting in Lusaka.

In between our regular duties, we will continue to work on our mastery of Chitumbuka, with the hope that one day soon, we’ll have the proficiency of a first grader.  I believe we are approaching that of a three-year old as of this writing.  We look forward to our time learning with our teacher, Judith Mwanza, who has become a good friend.


Not only is our friend, Judith Mwanza, an exceptional language teacher, but she’s also a leader in our church, in the Christian Women’s Guild.  She’s pictured here, making a point during one of the many discussions held at the recent Synod Meeting in Lusaka.

Our induction service, which was originally scheduled for early July, will now be held on Sunday, October 30.  We look forward to that day, when we are formally inducted as mission co-workers by CCAP Zambia.  And then, only two weeks later, on November 13, our friends back in Texas, in Mission Presbytery, are sponsoring Mission Co-worker Sunday, in support of our work here.  Even though it is directed towards congregations in Mission Presbytery, it certainly isn’t limited to those churches.  If you would like to join in to support our work, please contact Tom O’Meara whose email address is found on this flyer:


Contact Tom O’Meara to learn more about Mission Co-worker Sunday.

We are also quickly approaching the end of the year from a fundraising standpoint.  Many of you have supported our work financially, but we need more help.  Maybe you’ve thought about making a contribution, and then gotten busy and forgotten.  Melissa and I would be most grateful to receive a donation from any and all of you before the end of the year.  The Presbyterian World Mission website has been getting a makeover, and while it is a big improvement over the old site, it still has some glitches which are being corrected (we hope).  One page which has caused some confusion is our giving page.  For any of you who would like to make a donation, perhaps this image will help avoid that confusion.  Or you can go straight to our donation page by clicking on the link shown in the caption, below the photo.



Melissa and I enjoy a beautiful Zambian sunset at South Luangwa National Park, where we met a mission team from Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church (Austin, Texas) in late June.

Melissa and I want to thank each and every one of you who support us, in whatever way you are called to do, be it in prayer, financially or both.  Without your partnership, we would be unable to do the work we are called by God to do in Zambia.  And if you have any prayer needs, please let us know, so we can support you in that manner.

May the peace of Christ be with you,




Sweeping Dirt

Soon after moving into our house in Lundazi, we began hearing visitors knocking at our gate each morning, around 0700 hours (we’re on military time here in Zambia-that’s 7:00 a.m. for those who are unaccustomed).  The first time we heard someone banging on the metal gate that early, we had no idea who it was, or what they wanted.  But to our pleasant surprise, we had village ladies with various types of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale, and we now look forward to their daily visits.

Another woman came to our gate back then, looking for work.  As it turned out, she lives just a few houses away from us, and she wanted to know if we were looking for someone to work around the house.  Melissa and I were on the fence about hiring someone.  On one hand, we didn’t know if we needed a housekeeper; we didn’t have one in San Antonio.  On the other hand, hiring workers here provides much needed jobs for folks in Lundazi.  We discussed the idea of hiring someone with Reverend Chiboboka, and we learned he had already begun taking applications from some women, so we told our neighbor, Charity, she could go to the CCAP Mission Station to apply.  After gathering several candidates, he led the interview and selection process, with a three-person panel comprised of church folks.  Melissa sat in and observed, but didn’t participate.  When the dust settled, the panel favored the person who Melissa hoped would be selected, our neighbor, Charity.

It’s now been about a month since Charity began working for us.  She arrives each day with a smile on her face, and goes to work.  She’s shown Melissa how to make nshima, and Melissa’s shown her how to make cornbread.  She is also a resource when we are stumped, searching for a Tumbuka word.  Charity shows great pride in her work and does a great job.

One evening, about the same time Charity began working for us, we came home from visiting the Petro family (they are Baptist missionary friends who’ve been in Lundazi just over three years).  As Melissa walked up to the gate to open it, she saw a small snake (njoka) slithering away.  We told ourselves it was some sort of non-venomous grass snake, but the next day I bought a hoe (jembe), with an extra long handle at our neighbor, Chiza Banda’s hardware store.

Picture1 copy

Melissa visits with our friends and neighbors, Chiza and Lukwesa Banda, at their hardware store.


Charles’ jembe, with a custom, extra long, handle.

Over the past few years, when we’ve traveled to Congo, I’ve noticed women bent over at the waist, sweeping the the dirt around their houses with a short, handmade broom (chitanyero), and we’ve noticed women doing it here, too.


Charity sweeping with her chitanyero.

If you look at the ground afterwards, you’ll see a series of sweeping arches in the dirt, forming a neat, pretty pattern.  I always thought it was odd for the ladies to sweep the dirt like that, but then someone told me they do it so they can see if a snake has slithered across the swept patterns on the ground, near their house.

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it makes perfect sense to me, and we were glad to see Charity incorporate that activity into her daily routine.  We also take some comfort in the fact that growing up in South Texas has taught us to keep a close eye on the ground when walking.

Swept patterns in the dirt surrounding our house in Lundazi.

One morning I walked outside and asked Charity if she’d seen any evidence of njoka and she replied, “No.”  Knowing she had lived nearby for several years, I asked her if she’d ever seen any snakes here, and she told me she found a spitting cobra in her house about three months earlier.


A spitting cobra from Mozambique.

I asked her what she did, and she said she killed it with a stick, but not before she spit at the cobra first.  I believe we found the right person for the job! 


Melissa and Charity

With each passing day, we become more settled here.  Now when we walk to town, people call our names and waive at us – we’re making new friends everywhere we go.  Our language studies are progressing well, too, and we are confident in our calling from God to be here with the people of Lundazi and Eastern Zambia.

Maize harvest is underway in the Lundazi area.  We are well into the dry season, or chihanya, and our friends and neighbors are already preparing for zinja, the hunger season, by storing bags of maize in their homes.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the effects of malaria are real in Lundazi, and we continually see friends who are recovering from the impact of this disease.  Please pray for the people of Lundazi and Zambia.

We also ask that you please continue to support our work, with your prayers, and with your donations; both are needed.  If you would like to contribute, please visit either,, or if you would prefer, donate through Crowdrise, visit

May the peace of Christ be with each of you.

Checking in from Chipata


I found a new hat in Luanga; after a little work, it was ready for business.

Wow!  The last three weeks have been intense, as we arrived in Lusaka a day later than expected due to a missed connection in Johannesburg, then dove straight into our orientation with CCAP/Zambia, which included the busy time leading up to Easter.  After two weeks in and around Lusaka, we left for Lundazi last Tuesday, spending a night in Chipata along the way.
We had intended to do shopping for household essentials while in Chipata, but we spent virtually all of our time registering our Land Cruiser.  After an entire afternoon and morning, we finally got it registered, but they didn’t have any number plates (license plates) so we went on to Lundazi last Wednesday, where we resumed our orientation.

The more we learn about the holistic ministry of CCAP/Zambia, the more impressed we are with its work in community development.  For example, we learned that the Shallow Wells Department has dug 4,500 shallow water wells in villages here.  The model is this; a village requests that a well be dug, and they partner with CCAP/Zambia.  Villagers provide sweat equity, digging, making bricks, and other such work.  Meanwhile, the Shallow Wells Demarment, working with Marion Medical Missions, provides equipment and supervision.  I asked how the well was maintained after it was in place, hoping to hear exactly what I was told; the villagers pay a token monthly amount to have access to safe, clean water, and the funds paid in are available to ensure the well and pump are maintained.  This is text book community development work.


It looks a little like South Texas here.

On Sunday, we were welcomed into the David McConarghy Congregation at the Lundazid CCAP Mission Station.  During the service, we were handed over to them, by Dr. Chilenge; he and the rest of our traveling party (Rev. Kabendama, Nancy Collens, and her sister Deb and Deb’s husband, Rich) then departed, during worship.  We are home!


Rev. David Chiboboka (L) and Rev. Dr. Chilenge, welcome us to the David McConarghy Congregation in Lundazi

We returned to Chipata yesterday, to get our number plates, and do the shopping we weren’t able to do last week.  This afternoon, we will return to Lundazi, move into our house, and set up shop.  Later this week, we will begin working with Mrs. Mwanza, our language helper.  As we settle into our new routine, I will begin to share experiences, and other stories of the people we meet, and things we are learning.  Please keep us in your prayers and stay tuned.


Rev. Dr. Victor Chilenge shares his vision for Chasefu Theological College and Model Farm. He’s one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met.

In Christ,

Chas & Melissa

We Are Finally in Zambia: First Thoughts

As we prepared to leave for Zambia last week, we experienced a wide range of emotions.  Our son, Brien, came to Atlanta, where we could spend time together as a family.  On Saturday evening, our daughter, Meagan hosted dinner for us, our family, and our dear friends, Jimmy, Jan and Cobi Shafe.  It was very special to be surrounded by loved ones.


Dinner with friends and family

On Sunday morning, we were able to attend worship at our daughter’s family’s church, and witness the dedication of our new grandson, Max.  Following lunch, it was time to head to the airport with our twenty bags, where we said our tearful goodbyes to Brien, Meagan, Eric, Lucy and Max in front of the Atlanta-Hartsfield International terminal.  Our bag check-in (20) went surprisingly well, and we were finally on our way.  Or so we thought.


With those we love at Atlanta -Hartsfied Airport

After boarding, we sat on the plane, at the gate, for nearly four hours, while the crew dealt with a mechanical issue.  This delay caused us to miss our connection in Johannesburg, South Africa on Monday.  Fortunately, Delta covered the cost of our overnight stay at the Protea transit hotel, located in the terminal.  A good night’s sleep, and no bags to check on Tuesday morning.

We finally arrived in Lusaka, just after noon on Tuesday, where we were met by our supervisor, Nancy Collins, Rev. Dr. Victor Chilenge, who is Moderator of CCAP/Zambia, and heads the Projects and Development Department, and Rev. Gerald Phiri, who heads the HIV/AIDS program for CCAP/Zambia.  But, only 9 of our 20 bags arrived (since then, another 10 have arrived, with only one remaining lost).  Melissa went with Nancy, while I went with Rev. Phiri to the immigration office to pick up my work permit.  The next day was spent at the customs office, working to have our vehicle cleared at the border (we hope we will be able to get it early next week).  We’ve also been doing other various housekeeping chores, and shopping for some essentials, and on Thursday, we met with the leaders of the Synod of CCAP/Zambia, where we were welcomed, and learned more about the work of our partner church and how we will fit into that work.


Melissa purchasing a SIM card with a Zambian cell number.

As many of you know, Melissa and I waited for sixteen months for word of our invitation to serve as Presbyterian mission co-workers in Zambia.  Yesterday, we learned that our partners had been waiting since 2011 to fill the position I was hired for, working as a development specialist.  In remarks by Rev. Phiri, I fought back tears as he welcomed us.  And he shared an African proverb, which I wish I had known when we applied in February of 2014:  Walking slowly does not prevent a person from arriving.

So what are our initial thoughts after being here five days?  First, we are finally where we are meant to be.  We have been surrounded by love from the moment we stepped off the plane.  And we are excited about the work we will be doing here.  Second, Lusaka is a beautiful, modern city.  Third, we are also excited about experiencing our first Easter in Zambia.  Fourth, we are looking forward to arriving in Lundazi, where we will make our new home.  Now if South African Airlines can just find the one lost sheep/duffel bag with all of Melissa’s clothes in it we’ll be in business.

Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to settle into our new life as mission co-workers in Zambia.

Grace, peace and love,

Charles & Melissa

Thinking Outside the Box

One thing Melissa and I have been doing is working to expand the footprint of our fundraising efforts to support our work in Zambia.  Of course we’ve been putting in work, in the traditional manner, scheduling trips throughout the U.S., since beginning our sending interpretive assignment last November.


Places We’ve Spoken

But we recently began using some other tools.  No, we don’t want to replace the tried and true method of meeting folks face to face, where they are.  But we do want to reach others who we can’t connect with by other means.

Recently, after some discussion, we were given the green light to use Crowdrise, an online crowdfunding platform, in our fundraising efforts.  Melissa and I have both used Crowdrise previously in other fundraising, with good success.  Crowdrise has a global reach, and even if a person chooses not to donate after reading about our work, he or she has still learned about our work, and the work of Presbyterian World Mission, in Zambia.

If you would like to visit our Crowdrise fundraising page to learn more, click this image.



We are also incorporating the use of Thunderclap to spread the news of our Crowdrise fundraiser.  If we can have a 250 or more visit and share our Thunderclap site by March 24, 2016, our message about our Crowdrise fundraiser will be shared over the internet, via social media, to a massive number of folks.  But we really need your help.  Please click on the Thunderclap link below, then click on the tabs to share on Facebook, Twitter and Tumbler.  We only have a couple of weeks remaining to get to the 250 needed.


Please help us share the message, by sharing the link to our Crowdrise fundraiser, and by sharing our Thunderclap.

Thank you.

Peace and grace,

Charles & Melissa



Being Between People

As most of you know, during the past six months, Melissa and I sold our stuff, attended orientation for new Presbyterian mission co-workers, and began traveling, visiting churches and other groups, doing our sending interpretive assignment.  We left our home, our church and our old friends, setting out to share our work with individuals, groups and churches.  We’ve been working our tails off, raising support.  And we’ve been making lots of new friends.

One of our stops along the way was in Union Mills, North Carolina, during the last two weeks of January, where we attended a Second Language Acquisition course.


Our new friends and classmates at our Second Language Acquisition course

One topic we read about and discussed, was the assertion that missionaries are between people.  One of the assigned readings for our course was Am I Still Me?  Changing the Core Self to Fit a New Cultural Context, by Lois A. Dodds and Lawrence E. Dodds, who served over 20 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Summer Institute of Linguistics, before founding Heartstream Ministries, which serves the needs of missionaries and other cross-cultural workers, worldwide.  Looking back to their first day of linguistic training, the authors wrote, On our first day of linguistic training, Dr. Cal Rensch of SIL told us, “Starting today you will never fully belong to the people you are going to work with or belong fully to the people you are leaving.  You will be people between”.  During orientation, we also touched on this subject, although I’m not sure I understood the implications until we began living out of our suitcases for several months, staying in a different place every night at times.


Speaking to new friends at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Winston Salem, NC


“Road Warrior Lunch” – Sy Hughes, new friend from PCUSA World Mission Fund Development


With longtime (not old) friend, Rev. Debbie Parsons, following our presentation at Leesburg Presbyterian Church


Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, following a meeting with our new friend, Rev. Rebecca Kirkpatrick, Associate Pastor for Mission


Our map of Presbyterian Theological Seminary


With our new friend, Jean Jules, a student at PTS


With PTS students and new friends, during our presentation there.


Nate Stucky, Farminary Director, and wife Janel


Enjoying a potluck dinner with students at PTS


We made new friends at The Valley Forge Presbyterian Church in King of Prussia, PA


With old friends, Rev. Francois and Cyndi Lacroix, and new friend, Margaret McCaughin Kjelgaard at Wallingford Presbyterian Church


With our new friend, Dr. Sally Smith, at First Presbyterian Church of Tyler

grace presbytery

With new friends, Rev. Jan DeVries, and Rev. Princeton Abaraoha, following our presentation at Grace Presbytery

We will rely on our many friendships, both old and new, as we grapple with our new identity and home.  We know it won’t be easy, but we’ve got each other, and we have you.  Please pray for us as we navigate these changes in our lives.

Lunch with a Friend

Yesterday, Melissa and I traveled to visit Renew World Outreach, to see how they are developing technology for use in the mission field, to share the Good News; in particular, I wanted to learn more about a piece of a equipment called LightStream (see the links below). Renew World Outreach is located in Social Circle, Georgia, east of Atlanta, off of IH 20. When I found Social Circle on the map, I realized it wasn’t far from where our good friend, Freddie Davis, lives.

In November, Melissa and I began traveling, visiting churches, individuals and other groups, sharing our call story as we work to gain support for our mission in Zambia. Those of you who have heard our call story will remember my call first began about seven years ago, when I contacted Rivers of the World (ROW) through their website, to inquire about short-term mission. Freddie is the person who replied to my inquiry. But there’s a little more to the story.

When that thought of participating in some sort of short-term international mission crossed my mind, our disabled son, Holden, had been gone for about three years and I was a mess, still grieving his death. Melissa and I had been told that over ninety percent of marriages, which have a severely disabled child end, in divorce, and and ours had suffered, too. The night when I thought about short-term international mission for the first time, I was sitting alone in an apartment, where I’d been living since Melissa and I separated. During that time, it was as if I was living in a monastery; when I wasn’t at work, I was either reading or praying.

When I look back, I know that two-month period, which was the most difficult time of my life, was also the best thing that ever happened to me. God was walking with me every step of the way, in my struggles. That night when I was sitting alone in the apartment, and I asked Melissa by email if she knew any organizations involved in short-term mission, she might have ignored me, or she might not have known of any. But she told me about “hearing a guy, Ben Mathes, on KLOVE” and went on to tell me about ROW. I might have stopped there, and never reached out to ROW, but I followed through, and was contacted by a woman named Freddie Davis, who told me I might like to go to Vietnam with her and a small mission team. And I did, several months after Melissa and I got back together, and after I had come to terms with the anxiety and grief that had been affecting me, and as a result, my family.


Freddie Davis

On the way back from our visit to Renew World Outreach yesterday, Melissa and I met Freddie for lunch at O’Charlies, in Conyers, Georgia, and we shared about our mission in Zambia. And then, with tears in my eyes, I told Freddie how much her friendship meant to me, and how that initial contact with her, asking about going on a short-term mission somewhere, had led us to this point in our lives. I am amazed by the way God puts people in our lives just when we need them. And I’m thankful for friends like Freddie.

All good stories have a happy ending; here are a couple of photos from the following year, when Melissa and I traveled back to Vietnam, together, along with Freddie and some other friends.


From Left to Right:  Drew McIlvrey, Katie McIlvrey, Melissa, Charles, Freddie Davis, Jason Aldridge


Melissa and me at Ha Long Bay, before heading back home.


For more information about LightStream and other technology developed by Renew World Outreach, visit these links: