Cape student missionary gets busier after leaving Zambia

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Stratton Tingle likely learned more about himself in the nine months he spent in the African bush than he did about anything else.

Living among people who suffer from hunger, disease and poverty, Tingle said the greatest lessons he learned were about greed and giving. The Cape Girardeau native spent most of the year in Kafue, Zambia, working with a missions team from the Seventh-day Adventist church.

He returned to the United States in May with dreadlocks and a new attitude about life. He promptly left for Arizona to shoot a movie for his college, where he is studying film production.

But there hasn't been much time to reflect on his days in Africa and how they've impacted his life. "It's been so busy and I had gotten used to the laid-back life," he said. "There hasn't been a break."

He still has to put together a presentation about his trip that he'll make at the churches who supported him during his time in Africa, and he wants to make a video about his experience.

During his nine months in Africa, he sent back periodic letters to the Southeast Missourian detailing some of his experiences in the villages or seeing the continent's wildlife.

Mostly he's been spending time telling stories since he returned. He said he is frequently asked about a time when he felt really scared. And his answer is always to recap a story from his New Year's holiday spent in Kenya when he and some friends happened upon a tribe and were nearly hunted down and killed.

He talks about running when planes flew overhead in war-torn Sudan because you were never sure if a bomb wouldn't be dropped from the sky.

"They weren't too precise, so you always were hoping that you ran in the right direction," he said.

Those are stories he can only tell his parents now that he's safe at home.

Some of the greatest moments were his times spent among the people preaching and telling stories.

"People were so interested because they have so little," he said. "It's hard to talk to people who feel that they don't need anything. They see you driving a car or wearing tennis shoes and wonder how they can get this stuff. Then they listen to everything you say."

Talking to people living in the cities about Christianity was more difficult than visiting with those in the rural areas. But much of what Tingle did was work through the World Food Program and construction projects.

He spent most of his time traveling across the Zambian nation delivering food.

"We got to know the Kafue district better than most Zambians," he said. "We had 20 different sites that we delivered for the World Food Program and we'd feed 1,000 different people every day for six days."

Driving around the region, he and his partner learned every foot path and road in the area.

While he was away, Tingle did keep up with world events. His mother e-mailed him bits of news and he listened to the BBC radio when he was driving to the villages.

But being abroad "made me realize that America is not the rest of the world," he said.

335-6611, extension 126

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