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Umuntu ni Lungu

Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church - Outreach - Blogs - TEEZing Out The Roots

What a man this Lungu. That's the basic translation of "Umuntu ni Lungu," the ubiquitous slogan that has been plastered all over Zambia the past several months. Apparently it is a slogan that works. Edgar Chagwa Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) party, the incumbent president, has been declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election after an exhausting and nailbiting five days of counting.
 
As soon as it was announced this afternoon, the streets exploded with dancing and the PF campaign song that I fear will be stuck in my head for years to come (Dununa Reverse by JK if you want it in your head as well!). Sorry for the strange orientation of the photo!
 
 
 
It has been a particularly passionate and fraught election season for the country. Edgar Lungu became president last January after a special election to replace President Michael Sata, who died in office. Michael Sata has achieved almost saint-like status here for running the country with integrity and charisma, knowing the plight of people of all areas and all walks of life, and battling corruption. So, for many people, a vote for Lungu this time around was a vote to honor the legacy of Sata and the party he founded.
 
On the other side was Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND). A perennial candidate, he came within around 20,000 votes of beating Lungu in last year's special election. He continues to have a massive following, with his strongholds amongst the Tongas in Southern Province and the Lozis in Western Province. He has defied accusations of tribalism, evidenced by his surprisingly broad support amongst many though not a majority of Bembas and related tribes. For many people a vote for Hakainde Hichilema...or HH as he is most well known...was a vote for change after a very difficult year in terms of the economy.
 
Seven other candidates ran for president, including the third-place Edith Nawakwi, who in my opinion would have been best for the country. This election was the first in Zambian history to require a 50% + 1 vote majority to win the presidency, and many of us are shocked that this happened on the first vote (50.35%). Usually the winner in this multi-party democracy only garners between 40 and 48 percent. On this front, I am sure there will be legal challenges and calls for recounts. An actual recount, however, seems unlikely.
 
Edith Nawakwi wowed me with her speech at a recent event
Another major change this election was the addition of running mates on the ballots who will become part of the succession (much like the vice presidency in the U.S.). The last two regularly elected presidents--and wildly populary presidents I might add--both died in office, leading to poorly attended by-elections and therefore murky mandates for their replacements. The addition of running mates is meant to prevent such a situation. Inonge Wina, the first woman vice president of Zambia, is now the first popularly elected vice president of Zambia.
 
Perhaps the most important outcome of this election, and the least talked about, will be the yet-to-be released result on a referendum to add a bill of rights to the Zambian constitution. This measure has been controversial on multiple fronts. Since it was pushed heavily by the ruling part and opposed mightily by the opposition, there is a concern that people are voting based on the popularity of ther respective presidential candidates rather than the actual content of the referendum. Further, the broad consensus is that most people simply don't know the content. It is difficult to find the actual document, and most people do not have access to it. Therefore they are voting on something that they know little about (I know we do this all the time, but it is still disconcerting). I have read the thing and am certainly not thrilled about certain measures therein, but it could be worse. Finally and most bizarrely, the symbols for voting on the referendum were an eye for yes and an ear for no. How the heck do those to body parts represent yes and no? The issue here is that many people associated the eye with the freemasons and therefore with satanism. The things we need to think about when it comes to true enfranchisement!
 
In conclusion, there will be many people upset. There will be many people overjoyed. There will be challenges to the results. There will be failed candidates agonizing over what they could and should have done differently. There will be drunken fistfights and unfortunately probably some deaths due to the toxic mixture of over celebrating and driving. There will be confusion. There will be calls for peace.
 
But, no matter what, there will be dancing.
 
Posted August 15, 2016

 

Halle Halle Halle lu lu lah!

Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church - Outreach - Blogs - TEEZing Out The Roots

These past couple of weeks the reality that I will be leaving Zambia very very soon has begun to settle like a 50 kg bag of mealie meal onto my shoulders. I don’t do well with farewells, which is compounded by the fact that I have no idea when I will see again so many people who have touched me, impacted me, and become my family. I feel as though I am once again on the precipice of everything about my life drastically changing. As such, I have been walking through these past several days especially in what I will describe as a fog within a whirlwind. I am constantly with people whose lives have intermingled with mine, going from place to place and receiving visitor after visitor to share in these closing moments. At the same time my vision and emotions are muddled and befuddled by this heavy fog of anticipatory grief.

 

Today, though, no matter how heavy that fog and bag of mealie meal were I couldn’t suppress a grin that kept surfacing. For, my heart kept playing a video of my little sister Isabelle belting out “Halle Halle Halle lu lu lah!” You see, today is the first anniversary of my ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. I must admit that on August 9, 2015, I was also in the midst of this very same foggy whirlwind. I was about to leave loved ones behind. I was on the precipice of radical change. There were so many people I needed to see and things I needed to do. Heck, I even agreed to preach at the Sunday morning service the same day as the ordination service. This was after a week that saw me fly from New York to Chicago, drive to Indianapolis, and be examined by the Whitewater Valley Presbytery. I was decidedly not doing a good job of breathing, let alone taking moments to bask in the beauty of what was happening.


This photo and all following photos are courtesy of Vimary Couvertier-Cruz

 

One year later, I can look back with a grin on my face and tears in my eyes. I can look back through the lens of a year’s experience of preaching, dancing, baptizing, inviting people to the table, teaching, playing soccer, learning, and praying—in short, worshipping—in Zambia. I can look back and see how truly wonderful that day was. From Rev. Ruth Chadwick Moore’s participation after marching with me through the CPM process to Ruling Elder Carolyn Statler’s holding my hand after holding me steady from the beginning when I first came under care of Session; from Isabelle’s singing to my grandma’s Scripture reading; from Sade’s beautifully devastating poetry to the devastatingly beautiful poetry of the Lord’s Supper; from the prayers of my Bible Study loves to the visions cast by my brotherly and sisterly loves; from Rev. Eun Joo noona’s ever-challenging and exquisite preaching to our shared scramble to find the words of institution; from Vima’s vesperanzic singing to Mina’s dandy reading; from D’Angelo’s call to worship to my own benediction; from the community of saints surrounding me and laying their hands upon me to Mama Spirit filling me up…IT WAS FULL OF WONDER. 

Rev. Ruth Chadwick Moore

Elder Carolyn Statler

The Lord's Supper with Rev. Eun Joo Ryo Noona!

And today I realized that I am still full of wonder. “Halle Halle Halle lu lu lah!” will always be with me, and that is no small thing. Even when I am not cognitively there, my soul will always rest in the knowledge that the most important people in my life were there to lift me up, and they continue to hold me. And when the wind seems to be whirling too rapidly and the fog settling too heavily, it is those hands on my shoulders that will always help to anchor me and bear my burden.


The family sharing their love

One of the hymns from my ordination, one of those songs that shines as a guiding light on my life’s journey, goes like this: 

Spirit, spirit of gentleness. 

Blow through the wilderness, calling and free. 

Spirit, spirit of restlessness. Stir me from placidness. 

Wind, wind on the sea. 

 

You moved on the waters, You called to the deep, 

Then You coaxed up the mountains. From the valley of sleep, 

And over the eons You called to each thing, 

"Awake from your slumbers and rise on your wings."

 

Spirit, spirit of gentleness. 

Blow through the wilderness, calling and free. 

Spirit, spirit of restlessness. Stir me from placidness. 

Wind, wind on the sea. 

 

You swept through the desert, You stung with the sand, 

And You gifted your people with a law and a land, 

And when they were blinded with their idols and lies, 

Then You spoke through Your prophets to open their eyes.

 

Spirit, spirit of gentleness. 

Blow through the wilderness, calling and free. 

Spirit, spirit of restlessness. Stir me from placidness. 

Wind, wind on the sea. 

 

You sang in a stable, You cried from a hill, 

Then You whispered in silence when the whole world was still, 

And down in the city You called once again 

When You blew through Your people on the rush of the wind.

 

Spirit, spirit of gentleness. 

Blow through the wilderness, calling and free. 

Spirit, spirit of restlessness. Stir me from placidness. 

Wind, wind on the sea. 

 

You call from tomorrow, You break ancient schemes, 

From the bondage of sorrow the captives dream dreams; 

Our women see visions, our men clear their eyes. 

With bold new decisions Your people arise. 

 

Spirit, spirit of gentleness. 

Blow through the wilderness, calling and free. 

Spirit, spirit of restlessness. Stir me from placidness. 

Wind, wind on the sea. —James K. Manley

 

This was the Spirit there at my ordination. This is the Wind that will carry me through the buffeting storm in which I find myself now. This is the Breath that will always give me life.

 

Halle Halle Halle lu lu lah!


Posted August 9, 2016

 

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Being planted in the rich soils of Zambia to inspire regrowth at home. “Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit” -Matthew 13:8