As with many countries around the world, Zambia's already fragile economy suffered a blow as the Coronavirus pandemic halted tourism and constricted exports for Africa's number two copper producer, plummeting copper prices to an all-time low.
With 54% of the its population already living under the poverty line (CIA World Factbook, 2015 estimate), Zambia's situation remains precarious.
When economies falter, the first to suffer are the poor.
“The virus has contributed to high prices of basic foods which has also affected the vulnerable people, they cannot meet basic needs because of how things have skyrocketed,” explains Anne Siame, an officer from the Ministry of Community and Child Development. The MCCD is a government department that works directly with the vulnerable in Zambian society.
Under our Project Joseph initiative, we partnered Excellence Christian Academy with resources made available through the sacrifice of ITMI supporters so they could help meet needs and share the Gospel.
Project Joseph is an initiative meant to utilize the partnerships and relationships ITMI already has in place to advance the Gospel and save lives during the Coronavirus pandemic through storing and distributing food, like Joseph did in his day.
The cargo truck’s black bed was piled four deep with large, white, pillow-sized bags when it rolled to a stop in the reddish dirt in front of Excellence Christian Academy in Kabwe, Zambia.
Each bag was labeled with the words “breakfast meal” in blue, capital letters.
Overhead, the school’s Zambian flag fluttered in the mild breeze as the bags were balanced two at a time atop the heads of several young men.
The carefully balanced sacks were carried through the open gate in the school’s red, wrought-iron fence and into one of the school buildings.
Inside, bright blue grocery-store sized bags, already half-filled with smaller supply items, covered two large tables positioned together in the center of the room.
Mask-clad volunteers were diligently adding to the food packages.
Meanwhile, a grey-haired man with a shapeless white baseball cap sat at a sewing machine, stitching locally bought “chitenge” cloth into face masks. Scraps of cloth piled in the dirt next to his chair.
Two other men joined him in the small porch-like space, enclosed by the red wrought-iron fence. They, too, were working on the masks.
Volunteers sew masks from local "chitenge" cloth.
Finally, all the supplies were loaded into the various vehicles that were available to transport the supplies to the distribution sites.
ECA’s dedicated teachers and board members were joined by officers from the Ministry of Community and Child Development, to distribute the food packages.
Although this outreach was focused on the vulnerable families in need of food, don’t miss that it was also an opportunity for these Zambian believers to be a powerful testimony to the government officers as they worked alongside one another to bless others.
Distribution took place at seven locations. Five of them were informal settlements or shanty-towns. All together, 150 families received food packages. ECA estimates that is about 600 people.
After receiving masks, those being blessed with the food packages washed their hands at simple but effective, portable hand-washing stations.
The clever hand-washing stations were held up by simple painted rebar. The rebar encircled and held up a bucket of water with a tap three quarters of the way to the bottom for releasing water.
Below the clear stream of water that fell from the tap was another basin held just off the ground by another circle of rebar, keeping the dirt around the station from becoming too muddy.
Washing hands at the portable hand-washing stations.
Seated either in a building being used for the distribution or in chairs spread out in an open area, depending on the distribution site - the recipients couldn’t hold their applause as one of the volunteers listed out loud what they’d be receiving.
After their applaus petered out, he went on to explain why they were receiving it: because Jesus cares about you and wants to be your Savior and Lord!
As bags of food were handed to them, they couldn’t hide the gratitude in their eyes. And though they were masked, the masks couldn’t hide the smiles of relief that came from knowing they’d be alright for the weeks ahead.
Or the joy triggered by being remembered and cared for.
As bags of food were handed to them, they couldn’t hide the gratitude in their eyes.
An elderly food package recipient delivers an impassioned mini-speech of gratitude.
At one site, an elderly lady delivered an impassioned mini-speech emphasizing how grateful she - and the other elderly women who stood behind her nodding their heads - were to have their needs cared about and remembered.
“You have no idea how humbled I am and how blessed Kabwe is because of the great work done through the feeding program undertaken,” remarked Praise Kalunga, the son of our long-time partner, Eugene Kalunga.
Kabwe - and many other places - have been blessed by those who’ve joined the cause of Project Joseph, declaring the Good News to people who are in a unique place of readiness to listen.
It’s not too late to join in. In fact, we’re just getting started. This unprecedented situation is opening hearts to the Lord in a new way.
We don’t know how long this particular window to share Jesus will be open, but we do know we want to be found faithful - and to offer you the opportunity to do the same - while it is.