Zambia Mission Trip 2011/2012 – Toby Düssel

Für alle die Toby’s Berichte über seine Reise in Sambia, zwischen Oktober 2011 und März 2012, lessen wollen hier sind alle auf einem Blick.

November 10, 2011

Dear family and friends,

The past month has been full of new impressions and experiences. So much has happened already that it is hard to summarize it all in a letter but I will try my best.

Maybe I can start by saying I am doing well and enjoying my work here very much.

The two girls (Jessy& Elli), that I came to Kalomo, Zambia with and I, are working at “Good Hope Basic Christian School”. The original idea was that we would do remedial work with the children, especially in math and english, since that is where the children have the most trouble and those are the most basic and important subjects.

“Good Hope” is probably the best school in the whole district but even here there are children in 6th grade that can’t read and write at all. You can see one big problem is that the levels between learners in the same grade are often very different which makes it difficult to teach. That some students can’t read and hardly understand english, doesn’t make the task of teaching any easier.

I started working in 3rd grade (which by now I love the children) and soon was teaching 7th grade math in the afternoon while teaching in 3rd grade in the morning. Due to a lot of disorganization (sadly a extremely common problem in Africa) and also laziness of the teachers it only took a few days till the girls and I were fulltime teachers, meaning we taught everything from math, english, science to social studys… alone.  I taught 6th grade for a week with no preparation time and was a bit frustrated and overwhelmed at first but came to the conclusion: If God led me to it- he will lead me through it. And what do you know, it turned out just fine, the kids and I had a good connection from the beginning and I teaching went just fine.

Before school starts in the morning we have chapel for the whole school (about 300 students plus about 12 teachers) twice a week, in which I have gotten involved. Also once a week we have a class called “changes” in which the children are taught about basic things such as hygiene and puberty (it is devastating how little they know!) but also just about any topic that is important and interesting to them. The boys and girls are split up for this and I lead the 7th-9th-grade boys. This has become a very interesting and valuable time to me because the boys ask very good questions about love, friendship, God and life in general. We have had some very good discussions and I believe this is a good opportunity to talk to the older boys more personally about life and faith especially as they seem very interested.

Apart from school we have church service every Sunday and bible study on Wednesdays, which I am now becoming more involved in. It took a while to adjust to the African english spoken here and my english is also adjusting so it is now becoming easier to communicate with the local people and understand each other. Also I am slowly learning about how the people here live and think which makes a big difference concerning communication, getting along and spreading God’s word.

One other thing that I have been enjoying a lot is playing soccer almost everyday with the people living on the farm and even coaching them sometimes. The temperature is usually around 37C (high 90 F) but I am adjusting to the climate and most of the time can keep up with the kids here ;)

Not only is it fun to play soccer but also, it is a great way to get more involved in the peoples lives and to get to know them better and close practice with a prayer.

I very much enjoy spending time with the children and get along with them very well. I feel that I have now become a part of life here and can really get involved more.

All in all I see how many problems are still present and how much help these people need not only in their physical need but especially in the way they think. The work is not always easy with barriers such as language and even skin color but it is definitely work I enjoy very much and am glad I can serve here. Thank you again to all of you that made this trip possible! If it weren’t for your help I couldn’t have come to Zambia.

I still have many ideas as to what I would like to do, such as start a reading group, using very simple english bibles (which actually I’ve already started with only a few children) and many more. I believe they are not only my ideas but part of God’s plan for my work here but I have also learned to be prepared for anything and trust fully that whatever happens it is good and God is in control.

I hope you are all doing well and I continue to ask for your prayers for the work done, but also for the Zambian people living here, for open minds and hearts and willingness to learn and listen.

God bless you,

Toby

                                                                                                          25. December 2011

Dear friends and family,

First of all let me start with a Merry Christmas to all of you! J I hope you are enjoying your holidays. I never had much of the Christmas spirit this year, mostly because it’s still around 30 C (90 F) and that just doesn’t feel very Christmas like but we are still enjoying our time off together very much.

Well the work at the school didn’t change much the last month. I taught grade 6 for quite a while because the teacher was busy with final exams for grade 9. It was a good experience to work with older children since I had been mainly busy in grade 3 before. I also introduced some games at school and on the farm to make learning a bit more fun. Hangman (the one where you have to guess letters to find the word) became a school hit and the children loved playing UNO. Most children have never played a card or board game before so it was fun to teach them. Beside that, I also got to learn some of their games mainly played with bottle caps, lines in the sand and rocks. The last week before the trimester ended on 2nd December I went back to teaching grade 3 and wrote their final exams with them. Theoretically half the grade would have to repeat but off course that’s impossible so there you see one more problem in the education system.

Unbelievable for most children I know, but actually a lot of children here were rather sad that school was over because when they go home they will have to do a lot of chores and going on vacation is something extremely seldom here and probably even widely unknown.

I also continued my reading group with 4-5 boys between ages 13- 21. We used a very simple children’s bible and read almost every evening after playing soccer or other games with the kids from the farm. I was very surprised how enthusiastic the boys were, as I never had to ask them to come read but they would always ask if we could read again today and read some more that night. All of these boys were very poor readers (maybe even illiterate) but after some weeks I could tell they were making progress! We often closed reading with a prayer (me in English and them in Tonga) which started off very giggly but they got used to it.

I preached one Sunday at the farm church (about 40 + people) and am scheduled again in January. Also I lead a few more morning chapels at the school and the “changes” group I talked about in my last letter had some very good conversations and questions about faith life and other things.

Close by there is a SDA (Seventh Day Adventists) church that I visited twice and have come in contact with and had a few good talks with some of the people there.

The last two weeks before Christmas Jessy, Elli and I went on a very spontaneous and very adventures trip to Tansania and Zanzibar. Very interesting cultures (mainly Muslim), friendly people, great food and off course beautiful beaches and ocean. The trip, rather unexpectedly, also taught me how important it is to trust God whether in big or small things and how important and what a privilege it is to come to God in prayer!

Prayer request:

Visiting the Immigration office (which we have to do every 30 days) here is always the worst day of the month but now in January it will become even more complicated and might be quite the hassle to make it possible to stay 3 more months. So if you could please pray that they give us another Visa and we can continue our work here that would be very important to me.

School will start back on January 11th for another trimester.

I am also hopping to start having regular devotions with the kids after soccer, but anything regular and organized is difficult here.

Above all I am learning to appreciate many things that I didn’t even notice before and am also missing a lot of things more and more, but most of all I see how valuable it is to have friends, family and church near by. I think for the time it’s a healthy missing and learning to appreciate.

I thank you very much for your support and responding letters; it’s always good to hear from you even if I can’t always respond.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

God bless you,

Toby

January

Dear friends and family,

The last month has been great! The contact to the children and locals is constantly growing and becoming more personal and relationships are deepening. Thank you for your prayers concerning immigration, even though it was quite a hassle I am now able to stay till April as it was planned and continue my work.

Also Jessy and Elli have now gone back to Germany and after 4 months of together I know I will miss them.

Well, since school started back in January, I have been very busy both at Good Hope Basic Christian School and on the farm. Let me begin with the school:

For this term, lasting till April (and the length of my stay), I have been given Grade 5 to teach. The great thing about this term is that I basically have my own class and am not just helping out in several grades. Therefore I am now able to realize some ideas and I am able to focus and prepare much more because I know I will be in the same grade the next day and week. Since most children don’t know the multiplication table I’ve started practicing it with them every day, testing them regularly and rewarding the best at the end of the month with things like pens, pencils and other school supplies which all the children here lack. I did the same for spelling giving them a list of English words to practice every week. Other than that I am mainly teaching English, Math and Science. My class has 38 students which is for sure to big to meet all their various needs but it’s a relatively normal sized class at the school I am at, whereas other schools in Zambia sometimes even have classes with up to 70 students!

We have also introduced Bible class as a subject in Grade 5, which I am teaching. I encouraged them to ask questions and after talking about creation the first one asked was: “If God created the world, who created God?”. Not exactly an easy one but I was glad that they were participating.

Otherwise chapel has also been great lately because the children from Twin Fountain Farm (were I am staying) and I have been learning some new songs like “I’ve got peace like a river” and singing them in chapel to liven things up a bit.

There has been a lot going on on the farm as well and I have been busy with the children almost every day and have gotten more involved in church work such as Sunday school and preaching.

Our football team is growing and we practice about twice a week and have had a few games against neighbouring farms. It’s a lot of fun to spend that time with the kids as they liven up even more than in school.

It does seems that nothing is ever really organized here, which at times can be frustrating, but at the same time I am amazed at how things work out anyways, at least most of the time….

When we have practice we sometimes meet afterwards to learn songs, have prayer or practice reading. The reading group, which I have talked about in previous letters, in fact has grown considerably and we even bought some new books. Again reading in the evening is a great opportunity to just spend time with the children, sing songs and talk with them.

Just a few days ago a 16 year old girl told me about how she was very sick as a young child and her parents took her to a witch doctor to be healed and how she believed one of her neighbours had bewitched her because they were jealous.

Things like that are still very strange and hard to understand for me but it makes for great talks.

Many things that were very new and strange to me in the beginning have now become part of daily life, so I hope I am still writing the letters in a way that is understandable to all of you. I am very much enjoying the simple life here and the time I am spending with the children whether at school or on the farm and it is becoming hard for me to imagine leaving.

Lastly I am writing these things to you because you have supported me in going to Zambia and I think it is only fair for me to give you an update on what is happening. But in the end it is not my work and I would not be able to do all these things if it were not for this:

“I can do all things, through God who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4: 13

“Whatever you do, do it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men.” – Colossians 3: 23

Blessings,

Toby

February/ March 2012

Dear friends and family,

The past two months have been such a blessing. And as I am very glad I was able to share them with the children here and the people on the farm, I am very sad to now have to leave them behind.

The work I did at the school mostly stayed the same only that it seemed to get more as I got more involved. I taught grade 5 to the end of the term that is ending on April 5th. I grew very close with the children in that class and many others during that time. Being a teacher involved a lot more than teaching subjects and lessons. Very often I was able to interact with the children and some teachers very personally. In the end, I hope to have helped some of the children become motivated to learn and to have visions for their future, as one problem is that many children finish school and then just go back in to the bush not knowing what else to do.

One more thing that I greatly enjoyed, was leading the athletics program and training the children for a competition. Running, (barefoot off course) on a makeshift track with more potholes, termite hills and cow dung than actual running track was quite fun!

I have learned to love this simple life very much, not always depending on good equipment and perfect conditions, but to use what you have and be satisfied. So often the things we think we need only cause more needs and problems.

As I have mentioned before, to have something regularly and organized is quite difficult here. For example most children have to do housework after school, most girls have to cook dinner and some just don’t show up…. Time is relative. So eventually football practice more or less died out, only to make room for even better things.

We actually had something like a youth group the last two months. At least every other day I would meet with between 10- 30 kids to sing songs together and do various activities. Eventually we had a program of songs we performed at our own church service a few times. One Sunday we fit about 25 children on the back of a pick up (yes that is African life) and I went with them to another Church close by to sing our songs. Some of which they had taught me in their local language, others which I had taught them like “Peace like a River” or “I’m gonna sing”. Other activities included preparing a play on David and Goliath (which they also performed in church), reading programs, sports and just spending time together. During this time I connected with both children and some adults on a very personal level, also making many close friends.

I really felt the Lord’s blessings working.

Finally I can say, that I see the work that is being done and can still be done faced with many challenges, but more importantly with so many opportunities. I will miss the children, the people and many friends I have made here tremendously and at the moment I don’t see this being my last visit to Africa.

As my time in Zambia has come to an end I am confident and I pray that many seeds were planted, especially in these young people and I pray that God let’s them continue to grow.

I greatly thank all of you again for your support for this trip that you helped make possible. I hope I was able to give you some insight on both the life in Africa and the work that was being done there and that maybe you can share in the one or the other lesson I learned during these very blessed 6 months.

God’s great blessings to you,

Toby

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