Mbabala is a long, thin island in Lake Bangweulu. It has a population of approximately 5000 people. Last year a strong storm blew the roof off one of the school buildings. Hearing the news, friends of SCCP donated money for a replacement and a paint job. We traveled to the island to finish the painting and document the project’s completion. In addition, Books for Africa donated a large container of books for this area and we were delivering a portion of the books to this school.
We made the journey in two teams. Julie and Mark traveled in an aluminum dinghy powered by an 18hp motor and arrived at Mbabala in an hour. This gave them time to do some serious painting before Carmen and I arrived with the children. We rode the ferry which putted along and delivered us to the island in three hours! It was slow, but educational. The ferry is a lifeline to the island. It makes the trip twice a week and transports everything from vehicles, to charcoal, to seed, to Fanta, and of course people. Passengers included business men and women, teachers, and others who had traveled to Samfya for one reason or another. After an uneventful journey, and without a formal dock to moor at, the ferry just pulled up to shore and prepared to disgorge it passengers. Since it was high tide, the crew lowered a gangplank onto the end of a canoe which was beached on the sand. Single file, we stepped out, hoping to avoid capsizing. We were greeted by a crowd of people including students in uniform there to collect their books. One by one they brought the boxes off the boat and carried them to the school. The girls bore the heavy loads on their heads!
It wasn’t until we arrived at the school that I realized what this gift of books means for these students. I just assume that if you have an elementary school then you have all of the accoutrements that go along with it: teachers, posters, rubrics, manipulatives, markers, crayons, paper, and of course books, lots of books. This school had few of these things and no books at all that we could see! In the west, books are one of those resources we take for granted. We all have them and are trained to use them from an early age. In our home “thou shalt not destroy books” is the eleventh commandment. Stepping on, writing in, or tearing the pages of a book are acts worthy of deuteronomic consequences. Want to have your name blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life? Deface a book! Maybe you are not an avid reader, but if you think about it, so much of what we learn in the west comes through books. The invention of the alphabet and the spread of literacy in ancient times was one of the most revolutionary developments in history! Needless to say, the Bible is a book. Isn’t it fascinating that one of the ways God chose to reveal himself is through words, words that can be written down, translated, printed and passed out in books.
In addition to elementary school books, spiritually edifying books are in short supply in this area. Think of all the spiritual resources you have access to because you speak English. Think of the libraries stocked full of trustworthy Christian books available to you. Students at the Samfya Bible School, by virtue of the fact that they don’t speak English very well, do not have access to those books. Furthermore, few good resources have been translated into Ichibemba, the local language. There is already a Bible in Ichibemba, what we need now are men and women who are willing to fund the translation of strategic books that Zambian’s can use. In addition, we need people who are willing to come here and teach English and literacy. If you’re in a TESOL program, be encouraged. This is a fertile field!