It’s the eve of our departure – I am so not ready to leave. The last two weeks have been wonderful in so many ways. 

We woke up this morning, we already knew what the day would hold. There is always pressure to get things finished off on the last day…things that need our last-minute attention…it usually involves trips to the bank, meetings and visitors. 

This day was all those things, just as we expected. There was added stress that we had a tyre to get fixed and the bank machines wouldn’t give us cash – we had emptied every possible cash reserve including what Pastor Margie had in her own purse (don’t worry we have paid it all back) and just as we were contemplating an emergency trip to Kitwe, we had a brainwave. Nick transferred money online to Pastor Margie’s mobile phone (sounds easy except for whole morning we hadn’t been able to connect to the internet until Patrick arrived to save the day with some sim card swapping), Margie then called her mobile money agent who arrived at home with a satchel full of cash which he kindly handed over to us. All done. The bills have been paid, gifts given, tyre repaired after the previous nights drama, and we have enough left for a drink (and any possible police fines) for the journey to the airport tomorrow. 

Experience has taught us that on the last day we must always cater for the masses. We laid down a principle in our early days in Zambia, whoever is at Lunzuwa when there is a meal ready, eats with us. Over the years we have had so many wonderful people sit at our meal table for impromptu breakfast, lunch and dinner dates. 

Breakfast was us, Pastor Margie and Bana Keela – they are our usual companions over breakfast. Today we were joined by Charles, he is a new worker at Lunzuwa – he has been working on the front garden. Mr Muyembe is the security guard just coming off a night shift and Uncle Sylvester. 

Let me tell you about Uncle Sylvester…we began to look for property in Zambia back in 2003. On one of my trips to Zambia (without Nick) I was told there were some flats for sale. I wasn’t interested in flats so politely declined. My friend was persistent and so to keep the peace I said we would go and look. Except the flats weren’t flats, they were bungalows and as we arrived this gentleman, in his late fifties came to the gate. He showed us around, and as I tried to supress my excitement as to what was on offer, he quietly said to me “please buy these houses”. Uncle Sylvester (or as I call him “Ba Tata” – which means “My Father” – a sign of respect) had been the caretaker and night watchman for this property for 24 years. For many of those years the properties had been empty and lifeless. Now they were up for sale, once sold he would no longer be required. 

We did buy three of the houses and the large piece of land for the grand total of £12,000 (a whole different miracle story) and Uncle Sylvester remained with us until he recently retired. Uncle Sylvester was Grandad to our little boys – he watched them grow and cared for them like his own.  Today he asked after “his boys” and beamed with pride as I spoke of the two young men, he had helped us to nurture. Uncle Sylvester was our gentle quiet advisor, often in the background of any drama, but always with a wise word and counsel. We are so grateful that God gave us Uncle Sylvester and that this morning he was joining us again at our breakfast table has he had done every days for many years. Today he told me that his sight is becoming cloudy, he can see a blurred vision of me, but I’m not clear – he chuckled, told me he would leave everything in the hands of God and made his way home. 

There were 14 of us for lunch – Patrick and Rodgers came to say “goodbye”. There are six young men that are part of our family – they were our boys’ playmates when they were all children and our boys were home educated. They walked the town in a group, and we never really knew where they were. When it started to get dark, I would walk to the gate to look for them and there was always a passer-by who could tell me where they had seen them; in Kantashi Township, or at the swimming pool or in town centre.  I knew the boys were perfectly safe – they had a whole town who knew them and watched out for them and a group of friends who were good and safe to be around. We love these young men. 

Pastor Ruth came to say goodbye – it’s her birthday today. We didn’t pour water on her as is the tradition – mainly because it was raining outside and we were indoors, I didn’t fancy having to clear up the mess.  The house was hectic enough with people enjoying food and fellowship. Pastor Ruth told everyone, even the dogs how excited she was that it was her birthday. When I asked if she had celebrated, she just laughed and said “not really”. We sang to her and gave her a little gift and we hugged each other – we both wept a little bit as we said goodbye. Ruth is my treasure – we have laughed and cried together and faced so many very challenging situations together over 24 years – none of us can take life for granted, Zambia has taught us that – God willing we will see each other again soon. 

The afternoon was the hustle and bustle of visitors coming to bid us farewell – Pastor Jeff and Pastor Meekness, The Kaunda family, The newly married Mr and Mrs Chindobole, The Samatanga girls and their children and so many more.  

So that was that, that was our allocated two weeks and it has not been nearly enough – we haven’t left yet and I already feel bereft.  Early tomorrow morning we will start our journey back. Mufulira – Ndola – Lubumbashi – Nairobi – Paris – Heathrow – Surrey – Sheffield.  And when I get back, I will begin to plan when I can return home.