This week has certainly been a whirlwind of activity and emotion for our family.  We thank you so much for praying for us at this time.

Jill’s mother, Mary, passed away on Tuesday after suffering a stroke on the previous Friday night.  Mary’s burial was this Friday.  The service was live-streamed so we were able to watch.  It was a blessing and comfort to us. Mary’s 78th birthday would have been today.  

Later we received another phone call from the US informing us that Jill’s Aunt Carol, Mary’s younger sister, had passed away on Friday, the day of Mary’s burial.  Carol had been in hospice for about a year, but still the news was a surprise to us.

Within a space 4 days both Mary and Carol entered into the arms of their Savior. 

At this time we ask for your continued prayers for our family and especially for Carol’s children and grandchildren.  Jill’s brother and sister hope to travel to Colorado for the funeral service which will take place this Thursday.

Many of you have emailed us with your expressions of condolence and inquiring how Jill is holding up.  Thank you very much for your concern and for your prayers.  Jill is doing well.  Of course, it is never easy to lose a parent.  For decades we have taught our Zambian brothers and sisters that the Word of God teaches that a believer in Christ mourns differently than a non-believer and this has been a great opportunity to again demonstrate this principle personally. 

One aspect of this Coronavirus pandemic that some are not considering is the effect on the elderly with dementia who, because of isolation protocols, are no longer allowed to be visited by their families.  Our niece’s grandfather passed away the week before last.  He was in a nursing home with dementia and because of restrictions his wife was unable to make her daily visits to comfort and calm him as was her practice.  He fell into depression, stopped eating, and sadly passed away alone.  Aunt Carol also was used to daily visits by her daughter (our cousin) and once those visits were curtailed Carol’s condition deteriorated rapidly.  In the case of our niece’s grandfather the cause of death on his death certificate was COVID19, although he had no respiratory problems.  I wonder how many other deaths are being recorded as COVID19 for people who clinically did not have the illness?  One way or another it seems that our elderly are being greatly effected by this illness; either directly or through the policy of politicians.  Jill observed in the case of our niece’s grandfather – he likely died of a broken heart.

Things here in Zambia are very tentative.  Zambians are cautiously watching what is going on in the rest of the world and wondering if it is going to come here as well.  The confirmed cases within Zambia (population ~15,000,000) are very low for now, but some speculate this is because of the limited number of testing that is taking place, or incomplete data.  Some neighboring countries are in lockdown conditions (some bordering on brutal) and other countries seem to be having a more relaxed approach to the illness.

As time passes I am seeing more worry and concern on the faces of our church members and Zambians in general as they start to realize the lengthy impact this could have on Zambia’s economy, their health and their future.

I try to keep in contact with our church members, sometimes dropping off food, clothing or Bibles when needed.  At some visits I stay in my van, other places I get out and speak with them in their yard.  I am cautious and we keep a good distance as we fellowship.  It is refreshing to see their bright smiles when we greet one another and to be able to interact with the children. Yesterday as I visited our church members at their homes there were a lot of questions.  At one location as I pulled up to the house under construction, it seemed like there was no one at home.  I got out of my van and then saw our church member and her two children running up the overgrown red dirt road to greet me – big smiles on their faces.  I delivered the church bulletins containing the Sunday School lesson, the sermon, the announcements, prayer requests and a crossword puzzle.  This family has extended family members living with them in their house that is partially completed with no running water or electricity.  This single mother has a good job working for the local electricity company.  Her smartphone stopped working a few months ago so basically they are isolated from the world. She owns a small car that she hires out as a taxi to make extra money.  After our greetings were finished she inquired about Jill and expressed her condolences and then started asking me about what is going on “in the world”.  Will COVID come here, are my children safe, what is going to happen, were some of her sincere questions.  These are all hard questions to answer without speculation.  I reassured her as best I could.  Please pray for Jill and me as we continue to minister here in Zambia.  Personally, I believe that Zambia is running about 2 to 3 weeks behind the rest of the world in the pattern this pandemic is following.  If so, the next few weeks could be quite alarming to many of our people.  Please keep Zambia in your prayers.

This week Jill and I had planned to travel to the United States to see our daughter, Andrea, graduate from college.  Andrea is graduating from Pensacola Christian College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree.  Pensacola Christian College ranks in the top 10 of all the public or private universities in the state of Florida that have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program.  Andrea has done very well and we are proud of her achievement.

Of course, with the current events, the graduation has been cancelled. The airport in South Africa (which is the hub for the majority of flights into and out of southern Africa) has been shut down, and our flights have been cancelled.  So we will have to congratulate her from here.  We were really looking forward to seeing the girls and celebrating this milestone achievement with them.  

Not only will Andrea be graduated from her college, but Allison will also be graduated from her course of study.  She has completed her associate degree in Business Administration through Maranatha Baptist University.  We congratulate both Andrea and Allison on their hard work and achievements.  Since we have been  on the other side of the earth in Zambia during their college life we were excited to be able to be there with them during this important time to assist them in their transition from the dormitory and into a “regular” non-college independent atmosphere, like most parents are able to do.  Please pray with us for them as they begin making applications for employment and transition into the next phase of adulthood.

Thank you for your continued partnership with Jill and me as we serve here in Zambia.  Our prayer is that the Lord will use us in a great way as we lead our church folk during this time of uncertainty.  Please pray that we will be the source of light that the Lord asks us to be, especially during this time of fear and darkness.  Your prayers and your emails and messages of encouragement are a source of genuine blessing to us.  Thank you.