Selling Bibles in ZambiaChurk-churk-trlllll. A raucous bird call from the tree just over our tent roused me from sleep. I open one eye and notice a faint glow of early dawn on the walls of our tent. As I become more wide awake, the cacophony of many bird calls increases. Some are sweet, thrush-like notes, others more nearly resemble noises of road machinery. And there are very many songs---a new day on the banks of the great Zambezi River in Zambia. It was a privilege for my wife and me to travel to Zambia during parts of July and August 2013 to help the Bible distribution team of "Bibles 4 the Nations," a project pioneered and continued for sixteen years by HIM missionaries Pieter and Hester Marais.
Our flight arrived at Johannesburg rather early in the morning where Glenn and Stephanie Gault and their two little girls met us. By 9:00 A. M. we were on our way north through scenic South Africa where winter had given way sufficiently for peach orchards to begin to bloom.
We did a lot of traveling in Glenn's van with the small trailer following. Through South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia, and a return that included a little of Namibia also, a journey of 5550 kilometers, a distance equal to going from Vancouver, WA to Miami, FL! In the van rode four adults, two small happy travelers, snacks, water bottles, and about thirteen suitcases, satchels, tubs, and a well-equipped tool box. In the covered trailer there were two tents, six folding chairs or stools, a folding table, a cooking utensil box, and large food box, a container of emergency repair supplies, twenty liters of clean water, and eighty liters of extra diesel fuel---everything needed for a month in the "bush." Most of our traveling days began at earliest dawn and ended after nightfall where we set up camp, cooked, and ate by the light of LED headlamps. At the end of the fourth long day we arrived at Chipata in eastern Zambia where we met Marais and their three other team members.
We had English and Chewa/Nyanja Bibles to sell. (The nation of Zambia has twenty-seven major language groups and seventy-three dialects!) The Bibles are sold (not free) for two reasons: People place value on goods that cost them something, and, most importantly, the missionaries must pay for the Bibles with limited funds. The price charged for a Bible is roughly equal to $6.00. This is a price subsidized by your gifts. The same Bible purchased at an African bookstore would cost up to three times more.
We parked beside a busy main street in the city, set up our folding table, displayed our Bibles with a sign hand-lettered on the bottom of an empty Bible case reading "Bibles K30" (30 Kwachas of Zambian money). I counted 128 pedestrians and bicycles passing our stand in one period of ten minutes. Sometimes sales would lag for many minutes at a stretch; other times people would be lined up to see and buy a Bible. Team members manned two stands in different parts of the city while others took a backpack of Bibles and walked through the markets and streets. On our best day more than 600 Bibles sold and probably 400 more could have been sold if we had not run out of the two versions most in demand.
After we sold nearly all our stock at Chipata, we returned to Choma in southern Zambia where we again met Marais with a new shipment of more Bibles including Tonga Bibles, a language used around Choma.
Soon these Bibles, too, were sold out. Our teams moved to a camping place on the bank of the Zambezi River to await a shipment coming by truck from far away Cape Town. Before that shipment arrived we had to return to catch our flight back to United States. The rest of the team stayed on. On our return we spent half a day touring Victoria Falls. It easily deserves its rating as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. We also spent a full day at Chobe Game Park. Although not so well known, Chobe rivals Africa's most famed game parks. At Chobe and along the regular highways we saw enormous numbers of elephants, giraffes, Cape buffalo, impala, hippopotami, baboons, as well as many kudu, crocodiles, zebra, warthogs, waterbucks, steenbok, and even a few rare sables. Our camping places were visited by bush babies, mongooses, and vervet monkeys as well as numerous species of interesting or beautiful birds.
After thirty-one days of sleeping on the ground on sleeping pads and cooking with charcoal, we finally slept on a thing called a "bed." We count our expedition to Zambia as one of the greatest privileges of our lifetimes.
Please pray for Bibles and funds to continue this ongoing work, and that the Bibles distributed will bear heavenly fruit.
--Ralph and Eunice Gault