In September 2007, our minister, Rev Christine Sime, and six members of the linked congregations of Dunscore, Moniaive and Glencairn, visited Lubuto, Zambia, to explore the possibility of a Twinning. After visits and discussions, a Twinning Agreement was signed in 2008. In 2018, as the original 10 year term was coming to an end, we held a meeting to decide whether to renew the Twinning. There was unanimous support for this, despite the difficulties, as we felt that there had been such benefit to our congregations. The new minister in Lubuto, the Rev Simukonda, was very keen to learn about the Twinning and to be involved. It was agreed that another visit from Scotland was needed to revive the twinning.
We were met at the airport in Ndola by the minister and members the congregation who were all wearing t-shirts on which photos of our faces had been printed, which was quite surreal!
We were both to be staying with Joyce Chishimba who had visited us in 2014. Joyce was a widow living with an extended family of children and grandchildren. We witnessed at first hand what everyday family life was like – how the chores were done, how the food was prepared and cooked, how the piped water supply ran out around noon so that buckets and bowls were filled every morning to use later in the day. Joyce was quite comfortably off by Zambian standards but still had to work hard running a couple of businesses to stay afloat, such as loaning out chairs and cooking pans for events. She was often tired in the evenings and we relaxed together by watching TV – usually Mexican soaps dubbed into English. Often when we had some free time at home, people would come by Joyce’s house especially to visit us. The hospitality was humbling, as everybody was so pleased to welcome us as their guests.
We were given a full programme of activities by the church. We were scheduled to meet all the church groups – the Womens’ and Men’s’ Christian Fellowships, Boys and Girls Brigades, Church Executive, School Board and the Sunday School. We also had a tour of the various church projects (school, ablution blocks, maize mill and new admin block). One day, we were taken by the minister to Kitwe to tour the theological college and two meet the bishop.
We were also able in our free time to renew relationships made on previous visits. This really brought home to me how strong and lasting relationships can be fostered in a short time even between people who live many miles apart.
Very early in our visit, Rev Simukonda spoke to us about the changes we might see when attending church services. He explained that there had been a move towards a more charismatic style of worship. This had stemmed in part from a need to keep more of the younger members, who preferred this type of worship and had been leaving UCZ to attend other more evangelical churches. We noticed that instead of the minister speaking the prayers and the congregation saying “Amen” at the end, the minister gave the congregation an idea of what they should be praying to Jesus about and then they all spoke their prayers out loud, individually, at the same time. For members of a quiet Scottish congregation, this took some getting used to, but I came to like it. Closing my eyes, I could hear the prayers like the buzzing in a loud hive, and imagine the power of them reaching the ears of God.
One of the main objectives of our visit to Lubuto was to renew the Twinning Agreement. On Easter Sunday, after the main worship, there was a special Twinning Service. The church was full, with about 800 people attending. At the end of the service, we assembled on the porch, where we, Moses and the Reverend Simukonda all signed the Twinning Agreement for a further 10 years and then, while holding hands, repeated the promises together before cutting the ribbon and revealing the plaque. It was a joyous moment and everybody wanted to take photographs and selfies with us! This showed to me how much the congregation really valued the twinning.
On the morning of our departure, I was hanging about outside the house looking for something to photograph, when Joyce’s 12-year-old granddaughter Sanka came by and asked if I would like to go for a walk. She wanted to take me to look at the community library which was built last year and Sanka had never been inside. I knew that she liked reading as she had asked me soon after our arrival if I had any novels which I might give to her. She said she had recently read “Wuthering Heights” at school. I had just started “Rebecca” which I promised to give her when we left. In the library, it was rather a shock to see a beautiful new interior with some people studying at the tables, but not a single book in sight! I asked the librarian if I could photograph her at her desk and she showed us into her office, where there was a locked cabinet full of children’s books, which had come from the charity BookAid. Sanka’s eyes lit up and she started to take down books from the shelves to look at them. The librarian explained that she couldn’t lend out the books because they had no system yet which ensured that they would be returned. However, because Sanka lived nearby and the librarian knew Joyce, she said that Sanka could take a book home and she would pick it up personally in a few days’ time. I will never forget how happy Sanka looked, holding her copy of “The Little Princess” as she walked home.
The primary purpose of our visit had been to renew the Twinning and to re-establish relationships and good communication between the congregations at home and at Lubuto. In this respect, I consider that our visit was a success. The hospitality we received was truly humbling. We agreed wholeheartedly with the Rev Simukonda’s wish to change the Twinning motto from “TuliPamo” (“We are Together”) to “Tuli Umo Muli Christu” (We are One in Christ”). We enjoyed participating in a style of worship which was different from our own. – the music and dancing were wonderful. The charismatic prayers were a new experience which took us out of our comfort zone and led us to pray from our hearts. It made me re-examine my own faith and my relationship with God and the church.
We had also wanted to see how the church projects were progressing. While it was disappointing to see the school in disrepair and the pupil roll so low, it was cheering to receive the report which detailed what was needed for its rehabilitation and, most importantly, a plan for the way forward with the aim of fundraising for the necessary funds.
It was very touching (and surprising to us) to realise how highly the twinning was valued by people in Lubuto. This was made evident by the speech given by the Congregational Secretary at the twinning service and by the welcome we received.