Kellers in Africa

our life in Zambia

Category: C23 (page 1 of 2)

Give me liberty or give me a handout!

TKK_7680Yesterday was “Africa Freedom Day” in Zambia.  Some of our holidays here are nebulous at best (Youth Day and Unity Day are at the top of my ???? list).  But I actually like this one.  I’ll admit there’s a side of me that does a real eye-roll, though.  After living in Africa for 8 years I can tell you that there is still a LOT of work to be done before real freedom is achieved, especially in the political, police, and military corruption sectors.  That being said…. Zambians have come a long way since achieving their independence from Britain in 1964.

First accolades would have to go to LOCAL GOVERNMENT.  They are no longer ruled by a foreign power in an entirely different hemisphere.  While I appreciate a lot of what Britain did with infrastructure and development in Zambia, I do not believe that you can understand a country and her people from thousands of miles away.  The Zambians really own their government now.  They have taken control of their country and they truly want to be a great and prosperous people.  (Unfortunately, many of the government officials have zeroed in on the “prosperous” bit…).

More freedom and poorer education.  The plight of Zambians in 2014.

More freedom and poorer education. The plight of Zambians in 2014.

I also love how Zambia as a country is working to empower women.  This is still a very real issue in Africa.  Women are grossly under-educated and badly mistreated.  I can tell you from personal experience that the average grade achievement for women is grade 7 in the towns and grade 3- THREE- in the rural areas.  And this is African grades 7 & 3, not equivalent to what we see in Westernized nations.  In the bush women are still chattel, sexual merchandise, and slave labor.  I love that Zambia has so many programs to improve the lives of her women.

But I think it would be a mistake to spend the day celebrating Africa’s “Freedom” without contemplating a few things that have gone wrong- and I mean really, really WRONG since Zambia’s independence nearly 50 years ago.

Dependence- While the theme of the holiday might be liberty, the unofficial motto of the government is something like “Trust in me…. only me……”  Political candidates here secure votes by passing out mealie meal (grain for porridge) and promising schools, houses, cars, etc to people in poorer districts.  The medical clinics and government schools are free to extremely cheap.  The care and instruction are less than abysmal but most of the local people don’t know any better and the officials take great care to make sure everyone feels privileged to receive anything at all.  The maize prices are set at a rate that keeps the farmers at a subsistence level (which means they need government loans and subsidies every year) and gives the people cheap staples.  This perpetuates dependency because there is fear of independent farming and selling- the “cheap maize” would go away.  Zambians depend almost entirely on their government for food, education, and care.  They have few options since they are not taught to seek anything else.

Education- I have noticed that many of the older Zambians can read and write in 2 or 3 languages.  They achieved British equivalent certificates in school and could have transferred to British or European universities.  That is no longer possible.  I know a guy here who nearly finished his degree in architecture and wanted to transfer to a university in the UK.  He barely, BARELY passed the entrance exam for Year 1 at a British university.  He was shocked and dismayed at these results.  Then he started the course and was utterly horrified.  The uni was generous to let him in at all.  The education he received in Africa was woefully deficient.

The clinics lack the most basic first aid supplies, have serious structural problems, and often do not have trained or experienced staff available to see the patients.  The situation is dire.

The clinics lack the most basic first aid supplies, have serious structural problems, and often do not have trained or experienced staff available to see the patients. The situation is dire.

Corruption- there is no longer a strong system of accountability for the Zambian government officials.  No “checks and balances”.  No auditing.  Nothing to stop those with power from exploiting those beneath them.  It’s bad.  You can’t get anything done without “making a contribution toward expenses” or “helping” things along.  We don’t participate in that method which means our applications and permits move a lot slower than if we “helped” the department out.

Medical care- look this up online and you will find a wide array of opinions.  Sure, there are more rural clinics.  But believe me when I say that for the most part they do more harm than good.  The hospitals are FILTHY.  I was privileged to save a baby at a local hospital… he nearly died of dehydration from diarrhea.  They refused to put in an iv.  Best I can figure, the mom couldn’t afford the “fee” (bribe) required by someone on the hospital paperwork chain.  The medical situation is BAD.

Africa Freedom Day.  There is indeed more freedom.  But it came at a very real cost to the generations that followed.  Zambia’s hope lies in God’s grace and in the determination of her people to keep going and their ability to look on the bright side.

Thank you, God, for the freedom that you’ve brought to Zambia.  Thank you that you have brought them closer to “a hope and a future”.  Please guide these amazing people into your embrace- into a walk that honors you and in turn creates a culture of Christ, a culture of humility, honesty, and hope.



Undressing Missions

Recently there has been a lot of talk around the internet and blog-osphere about MISSIONS.  Mostly I’ve seen people hashing out the million ways it’s being done wrong: wrecking culture, producing dependency, maligning the name of Christ, etc.  Really bad stuff- and really going on in some places.

Naturally, I find the whole discussion fascinating.

In Missions there are as many opinions as there are methods.
Wait… I think there are actually more opinions… (for better or worse)

There is certainly and undeniably a reason why the Church at large is having a second look at missions.  And this is possibly one of the most positive aspects of the whole discussion- people are looking at missions.  I’m hoping this has the same effect that a movie production does for book sales.  Let’s face it, few of us read the classics until the movie comes out.  Maybe this spotlight on missions will propel a new wave of missionaries into the world.  As people have the opportunity to consider and critique world missions, maybe they’ll feel compelled to head out here themselves.

The thoughts expressed by interested bloggers have been really interesting.  MORE interesting have been the comments these posts have generated.  Everyone has an opinion about how Missions should be done- and this is (usually) a great thing.  HOWEVER, one observation I’d like to throw out into cyberspace (let’s go ahead and call it my “two cents”):

It’s no more possible to generalize Missions than it is to delineate parenting and project the definite outcome.  Or the future.  Or war.  Or the working out of our faith in Christ.  Because those things make up missions.  And adding the aspect of cross-cultural to Missions means increasing the variables and uncertainty.

Let’s absolutely dialogue about Missions and how to do it better.  But let’s bear in mind that Missions is about people and people don’t fit well into absolute formulas.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
Proverbs 16:3

I challenge you to look- really look at world missions. Look at what is being done poorly. Look at what is being done well. Then ask the hard question:
“God, how should I be involved?”

Elections in Zambia

Tomorrow is Election Day in Zambia. There are about 12 candidates for president and, from what I’ve heard, over 300 for MP (Member of Parliament). Elections in Africa are notorious for getting out of hand. Zambia is much safer than her neighbors, as the nationals here are generally easy going people. So far local rioting has been limited to drunk young men from the communist party bashing whiskey bottles on car hoods. Not so bad when you compare it to South Africa’s necklacing (burning people in stacks of tires), Zimbabwe’s gun point voting stations (didn’t you ever wonder how Mugabe gets re-elected?), or Sudan’s lip and ear removals. In some of the hotter political areas (such as the towns and villages where the candidates live or come from) there will be much more violent rioting and outbursts. However, in Kabwe I think the worst we have to worry about (and we’re hoping for it) is disappointed communist party members egging our gate (that result will be worth a sticky gate).

Social negotiation in Africa can be a rather violent process

By far the most interesting aspect of African elections is the means employed to coax individuals to vote for a particular candidate. It’s truly an incredible thing to listen to the Zambians debate who they will vote for. Here is a little something overheard at the building site next door:
Person A: We should really vote for Sata. He’s been to Kabwe FOUR TIMES!
Person B: Yes, but he hasn’t given us anything. At least Banda brought t-shirts and hats!
Person C: Yes, but Sata has promised to build schools for everyone.
Westerner: Where will he get the money?
Persons A, B, & C: Huh?
Westerner: Where will Sata get the money to build schools?
Person C: He will get it from America.

The Village Forum

It’s truly sad to see how so many African people are educated just enough to get by, but never enough to think for themselves or to apply logic and problem solving. It is times like this that make me glad to be involved in education and leadership training here. These amazing people have SO MUCH potential. They have so much enthusiasm and so much love to give. It will be exciting to watch them develop and grow as a nation as their abilities to think are brought to the level of their ability to befriend.

God bless Zambia.

Diagnosing Tim, part 1

It’s been a difficult few weeks as we’ve learned much about Timothy’s health problems. I’m sorry I haven’t been better at keeping this up to date. I’ve had a lot of phone calls from concerned friends asking me to do so. To ALL of you: thank you so much for your prayers and support. I hope to get all the details up in a series of posts over the coming week. Trying to do it all at once is hopeless with two little ones, many doctor appointments, and all the other aspects of CRAZY life.

One of our goals during our time in the States was to find a diagnosis for Timothy’s multiple and complicated health problems. Over the last few years we’ve had blood labs taken during 105 degree fevers, visits with MDs, DOs, and homeopaths, chiropractic care, vitamin therapy, detoxes, and extensive antibiotic treatments. However, none of these eliminated any of his chronic and sometimes debilitating health problems (chronic fatigue, migraines, increasing allergies, etc). Being a guy (to the very CORE of his being), Timothy kept pushing through a lot of the pain in order to continue our work in Africa. However, his ability to concentrate and focus continued to deteriorate because of the fatigue and migraines (not to mention multiple GI infections and malaria experiences).

In spite of his chronic health problems, Timothy continued trying to do his best work in Zambia.

The day after he arrived in Arizona I had an appointment for him with a much-lauded infectious/tropical disease specialist facility in Tucson. This was supposed to be THE place to take someone with difficult to diagnose health problems. With much anticipation, Timothy submitted to almost two hours of interview with three doctors and an extensive panel of lab tests (blood, stool, urine… you get the idea). We were a little disappointed with the course the doctors questions took, especially after the extensive history we were able to give of Timothy’s illnesses, diseases, and parasitic infections. After several weeks we still hadn’t heard anything about the lab tests. I chased the doc down on the phone and was told that Timothy’s tests had all come back “clean”. I was shocked, and asked what the next step was. More tests? Better tests? Additional parasite tests? What? I was told, “Quite frankly, I’m not willing to further pursue the matter until your husband has seen a psychiatrist and considered depression.” ?????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was clear that Timothy had actual physical health problems that extended beyond depression (who wouldn’t be depressed after having chronic fatigue for several years?) But we were at a total dead end. One of the best diagnostic hospitals in the State didn’t know what was wrong. We had no idea what to do next.

By God’s grace, as that door closed, another opened.

Meet up with the Kellers

Timothy will be speaking in various homes and churches around the US including in Washington DC; Albany, NY; Harrisburg, PA; Dayton, TN; Phoenix, AZ; Tucson, AZ; and Green Valley, AZ. We will also be in Southern California in early November, and we’d love to do meetings there as well. Pagosa Springs, CO and Dallas, TX are also looking like possibilities.

Distributing Bibles and Textbooks in Zambia

Timothy will be showing pictures of our ongoing projects in Africa, talking about the exciting things God has been doing with us as a family, and updating everyone on our adventures over the last year.

Enjoying sugarcane after a long day in Chongwe

If you would like to meet Tim or hear him speak at any of these locations, please email me through our website:

Hope to see you soon!

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