“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
This is a story about friends helping a friend – a friend they will never meet.
About one month ago we met Christine Namwinga, a remarkable 95-year-old woman. Brother Stephen Kanta, a stalwart member of our small branch in Luanshya, Zambia, introduced us.
Christine, a retired nurse/midwife, is the mother of 10 children. Unfortunately, they all passed away in tragic ways. Five of them were drowned in a flash flood while hiding under a bridge on their way home from school. Three of them died of malaria. One son died of a heart attack on his wedding day, and the last daughter died giving birth to her first child. Her beloved husband passed away in 1992, leaving her alone.
Christine experienced these trials and much suffering before miraculously finding the Luanshya branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was baptized in 2014.
Two senior sister missionaries serving in Luanshya grew to love sister Christine. When they discovered she was living in a crudely made shelter under a mango tree 50 kilometers from Luanshya, they took action. In 2016 they raised funds and purchased all the supplies needed to build her a small house on her isolated farm property. However, the hired workers took short cuts in the construction and sold off the gravel for the concrete. As a result, termites attacked everything they could eat through, including the floor and wood furniture. When we met Christine in April, the house was uninhabitable.
Brother Kanta formed a plan and with the help of the elders quorum president and a recently baptized member they went to work. All they needed were the funds to complete the project.
As people living in a developing country Zambians have plenty of love, but limited capital. Jobs are difficult to come by, the pay is extremely low, and public assistance is rare. It is similar to life in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
We shared Christine’s story with our family and dear friends and sought their financial assistance. Within a few days, the generous contributions of their hearts poured in.
Last week, nine of our missionaries made the 50-kilometer, 11/2-hour drive from Luanshya to the remote village of Kampelemwe. Brother Kanta’s crew of five had been working for the previous three days. In a matter of six hours, these diligent missionaries completed these tasks:
• Carved a road, one-third of a mile in length
• Removed the brush and weeds from a 35-foot termite hill and built stepping stairs to the top. Ninety-five-year old Christine must climb this hill for cell phone service.
• Retrieved and transported water from a deep well to make concrete for the new floor
• Hauled water, rocks, sand, and cement for the floor
• Unloaded between 350 to 400 large bricks from the utility truck
Thanks to everyone’s efforts, Sister Christine will soon move into her comfortable home to spend the final years of an incredible life.
All these children of God emulate the Savior’s words, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Charlie Roberts and his wife Janna are currently serving in the Zambia Lusaka Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.