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Launch Ceremony Will Start Just Now

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If you’ve traveled to Zambia, you know that time orientation in this country is quite different than our Western view. This being my 10th visit to Spark’s partners here, I have a much greater appreciation and understanding of these differences than on my first trip five years ago. Let me give you the picture…

In July 2006, I stayed in the home of John (Uncle J) and Lilian Mulando, who have since become my Zambian family. After a long day out and about, we arrived back at the house about 5pm and I asked Mama Lilian when we should be ready for dinner. She responded, “Oh…..just now.”

Understandably, I was confused when we sat down to eat about three hours later without any explanation about the delay. A conversation with Ba Charles, Hope Ministries’ Executive Director, the next day helped to clarify. In Zambia:

  Now = Sometime in the future, probably today
  Just Now = Fairly soon, probably within a few hours
  Now Now = Immediately (how Westerners understand “now”)

We have had many funny interactions about this, learning the Zambian definitions while helping our Zambian friends understand that in the U.S. when we say “now”, we mean “now now”.

So yesterday, I arrived at the farm around 8.30am with the camera crew (Zach, Sam and Paul). We worked on a video of a tour of the farm. (Watch for it next week!) Around 9:30am we began to set up the equipment in the building where the launch ceremony was to start at 10am. This building will be the storage room for all the farm supplies and equipment. The ceremony was starting in 30 minutes, but the building was empty. By empty I mean it was just cement walls us. I looked around the property, and I didn’t see any cars, not even the Board Chairman’s truck. At 9:45am I finally found Ba Charles and asked him if the launch ceremony was still beginning at 10am.

He said, “Oh yes….it will start just now.”

“I understand,” I said.

And I went back to our camera crew and told them to relax. Over the next 90 minutes, we sat and watched as about 100 plastic chairs arrived on a flatbed truck, were unloaded and were set up in the room. Some farm workers brought in two folding tables, which were then covered in nice African cloths by some women from the Hope Board. Someone brought in a small electronic keyboard and plugged it into an extension cord that mysteriously came through a space between the wall and the roofing sheets. Some of the older boys from Hope House, Hope’s orphanage, have been working construction on the farm during their month break from school, and they came in and started rehearsing some songs.

Paul Johnson, our photographer, says that the first guests arrived at 10:22am. The fact that he knows and remembers this is a perfect example of how differently we observe and experience time. The preparations continued at a leisurely pace, and by a little after 11am about 50 people had arrived, so the ceremony got started. It was short and very genuine, with participation from several of the orphaned children served by Hope Ministries. These kids and thousands more like them will benefit from the revenue generated by this social enterprise in the form of a chicken farm.

Community members and leaders at the farm dedication ceremony

By the end, probably 75 people were in the room and we all moved outside and down to the chicken house where they had decorated the door with balloons and a ribbon. Ba Charles raised his voice so the crowd could hear him and he dedicated the farm with powerful words:

We dedicate this farm to the alleviation of poverty.

We dedicate this farm to the production of affordable food.

We dedicate this farm to the provision of well paying jobs.

We dedicate this farm to education, empowerment and job skills.

We dedicate this farm to supporting the future of Zambia’s children.

And to that, everyone in the audience responded, “Yes. We dedicate this farm!”

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