The Final stages
At the end of May Jim set off for Lusaka taking the football with him, and early in June he was able to pass the ball to my friend Jennipher.
Jim was meeting with Jennipher to provide her support groups with another bicycle ambulance – the last having been such a success.
I first met Jennipher in 2004. She was one of the first people to receive ARVs (Anti-Retroviral Drugs) for AIDS. She has since become a tremendous campaigner for those with HIV/AIDS - telling her story so that others will also have the courage to disclose their status and fight against the stigma still experienced. She has established more than 60 support groups in her area about 35 kilometres from Monze and encouraged countless people to get tested and, if necessary, start treatment on ARVs. I have seen many people whose lives have been transformed by such treatment – people who were confined to bed are now able to work in the fields providing food for their famillies. Jennipher has taken in children from her brothers and sisters over the years as well as from clients and treats them all as her own. I have come to know the children Soloman, Sandra, Mike, Selina, Maggie and Obadia over the years and it is a delight to see them doing well.You can find out more about Jennipher's story on the Hands Around the World website at www.hatw.org.uk.
After persuading Soloman – her eldest – that the ball wasn't intended for his football team, Jennipher passed the ball to Fr. Kenan.
I met Fr. Kenan in 2007 in London. Diliwe, a Zambian friend who used to live in Cheltenham, introduced us to each other. When Fr. Kenan returned to Zambia, from his course in England, later in the year, I was already in Monze. He was appointed as the chaplain to Monze Mission Hospital where I was working at the time – the world is not so big after all!
Fr. Kenan is now parish priest of the cathedral church in Monze and very generously provided me with accommodation and looked after me very well last year. He took me to Livingstone at the end of last year's trip together with my wife Dilys, grandaughter Amy and Jennipher.
When the ball arrived with Fr. Kenan the priest in charge of Our Lady of the Wayside church was away, but I have now received word from Fr. Raphael that he has the football and the children for whom it is intended will be able to enjoy it. (hopefully pictures will follow.)
At the end of 2004 I talked to one of the priests in Monze. I had been attending the Catholic church in town during my 4 month stay and the previous short trip in 2003. I am reasonably active in my own church in Cheltenham and was keen to see if there was a way of becoming involved with the church in Monze. Initial support for a Small Christian Community in the parish evolved into the idea of forging links between the churches of St. Gregory's and St. Thomas More in Cheltenham and Our Lady of the Wayside in Monze.
Over the years we have linked the churches via the Internet with video sessions – with some success, despite many challenges! We have tried to share some information about the different lives we lead and some of the things that unite us. There has been some contact between different groups within the churches with letters being exchanged. At St. Gregory's our youth have raised money to repair the church roof in Monze and we have been able to support students through their education, including one student who is about to embark on a law degree. For their part, as mentioned above, the church in Monze provided me with full board and lodging last year, took myself, Dilys and Amy on outings and gave us presents to bring back to Cheltenham.
I hope that the relationship we have between the churches will develop over the years and more people from each community will get the opportunity to meet. We have a lot to share and we can all benefit from getting to know and understand people of a different culture better.
The football has linked the parishes in a tangible way. Being passed from hand to hand between people, all doing their bit in creating a better understanding between peoples of the world and making our world a fairer and better place.
With love and prayers