Student missionary handles measles, race relations during time

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Editor's note: Cape Girardeau resident Stratton Tingle is writing letters for the Southeast Missourian on a periodic basis describing his mission trip while in Africa.

Hello Southeast Missouri,

We've been very, very busy lately with odd jobs around the place. The World Food Program didn't have any maize to give in November, so, after finishing up the paperwork, I didn't have much to do as far as maize distribution goes, but the student missionary coordinators found work for us.

I've been doing hard labor -- loading trucks with 10 tons of rocks, building roofs for churches and shoveling sand for concrete. The majority of my time was spent with the clinic, though. There was an outbreak of measles in the villages all around, so, for about a week, I went out every day with the clinic giving shots to children from the age of toddler to 15. Since there was always a qualified nurse with me, I didn't actually give the shots, but I filled syringes and handed out vitamin A tablets along with parasite medication. I don't think I've ever experienced such ear-piercing loudness as the screams that came out of those babies' mouths (and I've been to a lot of concerts). But it was a nice break from trying to deal with mobs of starving people who are mad because you didn't give them enough maize.

Zambians have turned out to be some of the nicest people I've ever met. As a whole, they're more hospitable than the people of any culture I've ever been in. While I was out there in the bush every day, they never hesitated to cook for me, no matter how little food they actually had for themselves. These people never know if they're going to have a meal the next day, but they still went through the trouble of giving me the best of what they had. They always smile when you pass them on the road, say "Muli buti?" which is translated as "How are you?" and give a wave. When you come to their houses, no matter what you're there for, they bring out the chairs for you to sit down.

They are also very anxious to teach you their language, if you express an interest in learning. I have learned quite a bit of Tonga, but I deal with people all over the Southern Province, which includes about five different languages (Nyanga, Sole, Bemba, etc.), which can make it a bit difficult.

The only thing that I found to be a bit frustrating stems from the 50 or so years of British rule here. Basically, if you're white, you get treated like a king, which is nice most of the time. It gets irritating, however, when they put you in a different room to eat or go try to buy you something expensive to eat, despite the fact that it takes almost a week's wages. Also, when I'm camping out with the locals, they never want to sleep in the same room as me or really be in my presence. They think that I don't want to be in their company because that's how the British treated them most of the time, and they don't understand that I am here to try to learn about their culture and become one of them.

I appreciate all of the letters and e-mails I've received, and encourage everyone to read Proverbs 25:25, and take a few minutes out of your day to write to a student missionary halfway across the world.

God bless,

Stratton

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