The annual Self-Denial Partners in Mission resource trip provides The Salvation Army with an opportunity to highlight the work being done around the globe. As we collect photos, videos and stories of those being helped, we see the work of the Army first-hand.
While on a two-week trip to Zambia, we travelled to different provinces, visited various ministries and interviewed beneficiaries from all walks of life. On the last leg of our trip, we visited the Copperbelt region, Ndola, to visit The Salvation Army Mitanda Home for the Aged. As we drove through the compound gates, I knew that I was in the presence of important and transformational ministry.
In partnership with the Republic of Zambia, the Mitanda Home for the Aged has been a refuge for Zambia’s impoverished, abandoned and vulnerable seniors for more than 70 years.
“The elderly we care for come from different backgrounds,” says Lt-Colonel Frazer Chalwe, the home’s manager. “Some were rejected by their children and community, while others didn’t have any family to turn to.”
When we first arrived at the home, we were brought to a meeting room where Lt-Colonel Chalwe leads morning devotions. I sat with the seniors and caretakers as they listened to his sermon and said their morning prayers. Seated in the front row was Vivienne, one of the home’s long-term residents.
Vivienne had been living at the home for more than 20 years. She came to Mitanda carrying years of trauma. After being emotionally, psychologically and physically abused by her husband, she was abandoned on the street and left with nothing but the clothes on her back.
“My husband didn’t treat me well,” she says. “The sisters in the convent found me and brought me here.”
After the Catholic church found her isolated on the street, they approached The Salvation Army seeking desperate assistance. Soon after, Vivienne was admitted to the Mitanda Home for the Aged and has been living there ever since.
At Mitanda, Vivienne and other residents receive shelter and protection; clean water and well-balanced meals; health care through the facility’s on-site clinic, and spiritual and pastoral support.
One of Vivienne’s favourite parts about living at this home is the spiritual support she receives. Each day, there is a morning devotion and an afternoon spiritual meeting where residents receive pastoral care.
“The Salvation Army breathed new life into me,” she says. “I love to hear the singing and the music; I love hearing the colonel preach about love, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.”
Many of the residents come to know Jesus for the first time, and this faith is what carries them throughout their days at Mitanda.
“Without The Salvation Army, some of the residents wouldn’t have made it much longer. They arrive with many doubts and mistrust; they think it’s a place where they’ve come to die,” says Lt-Colonel Chalwe. “But I always tell them that Mitanda is not the end—Mitanda is merely the starting point to heaven, and you are closer to God. This gives them hope, and I’ve personally seen this renewed hope prolong their lives.”
Many of the residents come to know Jesus for the first time.
Sharing the Love of Jesus Christ
While working with the Army for the last two years, I have often heard our mission statement repeated: “The Salvation Army exists to share the love of Jesus Christ.”
After speaking with Vivienne, I am comforted knowing that The Salvation Army in Zambia is achieving this mission through the ministry at Mitanda. “This home has shown me the love that God has for me,” she says.Vivienne, like many of the residents, came to this home with severe trauma, fear and hopelessness. With the loving care she’s received from officers, staff, caretakers and fellow residents for the past 24 years, she has renewed hope, strength and, most of all, faith.
“Many times, because of her trauma, Vivienne has come up to me and asked, ‘Are you going to chase me out of here?’ ”says Lt-Colonel Chalwe. “And to that, I say, ‘No, ma’am. This is your home and I won’t leave you.’ ”
Around the world, Salvation Army seniors’ homes such as Mitanda allow vulnerable people to live out their final days with peace, dignity and spiritual care. Vivienne has already chosen her burial site at a cemetery located across from the home—her home. When she’s ready to go to her eternal home, she knows she won’t be alone. She’ll be wrapped in love, clothed with strength and dignity, and she will have The Salvation Army by her side.