We’re on a mission from God

Steve Chapman

A young villager in the Zambian bush rejoices over water provided by a newly dug well.

David Gregersen, Linda Gregersen, Bobbie Gilbert and Wilbur Swearingin holding up some of the quilts which have been made for children in Zambia.

Mt. Vernon residents make quilts, clean water part of mission outreach
When David and Linda Gregersen and Wilbur Swearingin, all of Mt. Vernon, traveled to the Namwianga Mission in Kalomo, Zambia on a mission trip in June, they took with them 40 handmade quilts which were given to expectant mothers at the Namwianga Women’s Hospital Shelter. In delivering the quilts, they continued work that started about nine years ago.

Beverly Swearingin started making quilts for orphans in Zambia
The quilts are part of a ministry that are made through a ministry that is supported by the Mt. Vernon Church of Christ, of which the Gregersens and Swearingin are members. Swearingin said he and his now late wife, Beverly Swearingin (Beverly died in November of 2020), went to Zambia on a vacation in 2013, and while they were there, they visited an orphanage called the Haven. At the time, many women giving birth in and around Kalomo lacked medical care and would die giving birth, and the orphaned babies would be sent to the Haven.
Swearingin said Beverly was an avid quilter, and when she found out that there was a lack of blankets or other coverings for the children at the orphanage, she resolved to do something about it.
“When we were there in 2013, (a lady named) Megan Holly, who was worker at the orphanage, told Beverly, ‘The biggest problem I have is I don't have blankets or quilts to keep these babies warm.’ Beverly said, ‘Your problem is solved,’ and she came home and started making quilts to send to Africa.”
When they returned, Swearingin said, Beverly began making quilts for the orphans with the help of a number of other women, including Bobbie Gilbert. Before Beverly died, she and the women had made over 1,000 quilts to send to the Haven. After Beverly’s passing, Gilbert took over leading the team of women making the quilts; currently,10 women at the church and four others located elsewhere in Missouri are sewing them together. According to Swearingin, they have made about 400 quilts over the past 21 months.
There are fewer orphans now, thanks to the presence of the hospital in Kalomo, so the quilts now are also being given to expectant mothers at the hospital shelter.

Church also raising money to dig wells for clean water
Quilts are not the only ministry the Mt. Vernon Church of Christ is supporting. The church recently raised enough money to pay to have a well dug near Kalomo, and they are currently raising money for a second one. While water is a necessity for all living things, it is hard to come by outside of the rainy season in Zambia, and in many of the rural areas, villagers have to dig in dried-up river beds to collect groundwater, a job that usually falls to the women.
David Gregersen said that the women will gather the water in five-gallon buckets that, when full, weigh about 40 pounds. After they fill their buckets, they will carry them home, usually on their heads.
“They will drink that water without boiling it,” he said. “They will cook with it and if they have enough buckets, they may even take … a sponge bath.”
However, while the water is necessary to live, it is also usually contaminated, and those who drink it often get sick.
“They tell us that the children constantly have diarrhea from bad water, miss a lot of school, lot of gastrointestinal upsets, and just health problems from drinking contaminated water,” Swearingen said.
For that reason, Gregersen said, the church is raising money to dig the wells in villages. Not only will it give the villagers access to clean water, but it will also allow them to have a source of water closer to home, eliminating the long walks many villagers make to collect water each day.
The wells are dug in October when the water table is lowest, ensuring that the wells will not run dry outside of the rainy season. Each well costs $6,000 to dig. Linda Gregersen said the church is “$1,200 short” of having the funds to dig a second well.

Other support
Linda Gregersen also detailed other support provided to the church for their mission work in Zambia. The late Gary Emerson donated 22 iPads to their ministry in 2018 after the iPads could no longer update and couldn’t be used in county elections any longer. Also, when the Mt. Vernon School District had the old rock building at the middle school demolished, they offered the church the old desks stored inside. Linda Gregersen said the church sent “100 of the desks to Zambia,” while the rest of them went to another mission in El Salvador.
Finally, Linda said, Mobility Worldwide, while they still had their location in Mt. Vernon, donated about 21 hand-cranked carts to be used as wheelchairs for those who have mobility issues.

For more information about mission work in Zambia, go online to www.zambiamission.org. Those interested in contributing can do so online, or can mail their donations to: Zambia Mission Fund, Box 3393, Abilene, TX, 79604.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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