Updated: Oct 31
The air was cool and the birds were chirping. I walked into the banquet hall at the Royal Kutachika Lodge in Zambezi, the site of our conference, and on one side a group of kids were chatting and laughing, and on the other, a group had already started playing a rousing game of UNO. Slowly, more and more kids trickled in. Many walked very far to come.
We were all excited to gather together again. We were five Board members: Pastor Bernard from Lusaka (Zambia's capital city), Rolanda from Alabama, and Dave, Barbara, and I from Washington, D.C. Plus, about forty kids and former LMO staff joined us. Last year our conference theme was “I Have a Dream." As the five of us organized and began to brainstorm our sessions for this year (and the fact that Rolanda had brought mini-lights for every child), we all agreed the theme should be “Be the Light.”
On Tuesday, August 22, 2023, Dave kicked off the two-day conference, welcoming everyone and sharing the theme. Pastor Bernard then led us with a Bible lesson and spoke about the importance of education. Rolanda then began her session. Each person received a battery-operated light. We all talked about how we can be a light to others. Each person then turned on their light and, because the only light in the room came from a few doors, the candles shone brightly. It was a powerful symbol to remember that we all have a light and we can all find ways to be a light to others and in our community.
After a delicious lunch, Barbara led the group in a drawing session, encouraging the kids to draw pictures depicting acts of being a light. Several of the kids shared their drawings. There are many artists in the group!
Rolanda then led the group in singing and dancing. "YMCA" was a perennial favorite. In a session on teaching the kids to take good care of themselves physically, she encouraged them to drink enough water, get exercise (even if it is just 10 minutes of dancing), and eat well. She gave each child their very own water bottle, which the kids loved!
At the end of the day, we walked to the fields at a local school where several kids played soccer and others played baseball. Everyone was exhausted.
As everyone gathered the morning of the next day, Barbara led the group in writing thank-you notes to our supporters. We are so thankful for all of those who have supported the LMO Education Foundation and the conference with gifts and prayers.
After the note-writing session, Dave led the group with dancing, and then I led a session on friendship. We talked about how friendships are hard and what are the qualities of a good friend, and we shared ways in which we could be a light to others. I then shared that a group of kids at Capitol Hill UMC in D.C. had made friendship bracelets for them and that the conference attendees were welcome to make a bracelet to share with the CHUMC kids back in D.C. I reminded them that they have people on the other side of the world who are thinking about them and are friends with them.
Dave then led a Bible lesson on Jacob and Esau, and some kids got up and shared what they heard from the lesson.
After that, several graduates from the orphanage spoke about being a light after grade 12. Anna shared that she had started a program at an agricultural school and that she was enjoying learning about how and what crops to plant. Hannel, David, and Brudas talked about being serious in studies, taking account of one's actions, and reminding everyone that we have each other to lean on and give support. The graduates were inspirational and we are so happy that both Hannel and David are teachers and Brudas is a physiotherapist.
Rolanda and Bernard got in on the fun.
After lunch, we wrapped up the conference with a fun pool party. Rolanda brought lots of fun pool toys, and you could hear the laughter from across the lodge.
We are so thankful that we had another wonderful conference this year. Over 45 attendees enjoyed fellowship and learning from each other. Pastor Bernard, Rolanda, Dave, Barbara, and I loved seeing the kids and how they have grown in the past year.