Months have passed and much has happened at the New Life Center in Zambia. To name a few... Sandy’s mother (Sheila) was here for six weeks! We had a wonderful time and she can work! The English teachers training has started and is doing great. Over 200 PETs have been built and distributed since May. Sandy and her friends are still working with the village feeding program for the malnourished children in our area. Many different gatherings, seminars, and conferences have taken place here at NLC. The Mutenda sister church was completed and another church structure has been started at Kawama. A small mountain of materials have been printed at New Life Press, and there are other new areas of ministry happening all the time. However, of course, there is always something that will touch me personally more than others that I just have to tell you about in detail!
For years I've been trying to find a way to help our pastors, their families, and the church communities to make a good living. That's not an easy thing to do in Zambia. There really is so much poverty, disease and shortage of education and healthcare, not forgetting jobs. I've been trying to think of something new or something different that would really bring an income into their homes. I've spoken with our pastors and church leaders, close friends, and even different US work team members through the years that have a mind for this kind of brain-storming . The real challenge in all of this is not to do something that will create dependencies on anyone but themselves. Missionaries start programs all the time that end up leading into a deeper form of dependency that always ends up bringing more disappointment into people’s lives. This is always a big concern. And unfortunately for many, many years this is exactly what missionaries have been doing. Of course, Sandy and I are also guilty of that from time to time as well. It's an understandable problem because your heart goes out to people that seem to be struggling in so many ways.
However, we've just started a new ministry program that seemingly will be a great asset to our pastors and church communities. I believe we’ll call it “New Life Clotheza”. What I'm talking about is starting small local businesses. After many years of research with trial and error, it appears that we have come upon something that will work. With your help, we’ve been able to bring in a 40ft shipping container of used clothing. This clothing came from our good friends at Goodwill in Raleigh, North Carolina. There appears to be no shortage of used clothing from them, and this is business on their part as well because we are buying the clothing at a pound rate (no dependency). The clothing is shipped in 1000 pound bales. They are huge. Every Zambian that sees a bale cannot believe their eyes. I have heard at least three of our pastors say, “It’s a miracle from Heaven!”. Of course it also costs something to send a 40 foot shipping container to Zambia. I don’t want to tell you how much, it will break your heart. However, the good news is we can put over 30 bales in one container.
Now...what does this all mean in real business terms? As part of our research last year we brought over two bales for testing. We wanted to see if this program would really work. The two test bales were a great success. The New Life Center staff opened one of the bales and took the clothing to a local African market place and sold them to the local vendors that would in turn resell them. In other words...we sold wholesale. Within four days they sold the whole thousand pounds. They made more than double the cost. That is, at the very least, 100% profit on their money. Don’t you wish you could do that with your investments? So the big question was, how much would it cost to ship a 40 foot container filled with clothing to continue such a program? Also, would Zambians be able to come up with enough money per bale to replace them for the next container load? Will this really work?
Well...without us extending any credit (no dependency), more than half of the bales of clothing have already been taken. However, for me personally, the fun is just starting because the stories are now coming in. Stories of success! Stories that make me laugh and cry and rejoice. In some ways it’s a lot like Christmas because they never really know what they're going to get in one of these bales of clothing. Mostly they’re filled with children's clothing, which is a very good thing. But there are also blankets, suit coats for men (one bale had 63 suits), nice jackets, dresses, shirts, pants, AND my favorite to-date ... a wedding dress. I’m told that a dress like that here in Zambia would be valued at at least 3 million Kwacha ($600). The young pastor that got that bale and found the wedding dress inside asked his wife to put it on. He told his wife, “I want to get married all over again!!” I think he got a BIG KISS out of that deal! I asked him what they were going to do with the dress? Were they going to sell it? He said, “NO...We will rent it and make much more money than if we sold it”. I was told yesterday, that there have been five wedding dress found in all to date! No one has brought me a picture of someone getting married in one of these dresses yet so I used a pictures of Rev. Charles (the new Director of the New Life Center) & Barbra Mulemena who got married a little over a year ago.
This is getting long, but I wanted to share this good news and story... Thank you for supporting the New Life ministries. Words alone can’t be said to give the clear picture of all you are doing on this side of the world. You are making a difference in the quality of life and real spiritual growth of so many.
May God bless you...
Delbert & Sandy