When all is lost and the way forward is uncertain, what do you do? The inspiring story of Chitalu Chishimba – Zambia project partner of charity Mission Direct – tells us that surrendering it all to Jesus is the best way forward.
With a broken marriage and two young daughters depending on her, Chitalu faced isolation from her family and the possibility of life on the streets of Lusaka, Zambia. In that moment, she looked to God to pave the way and her calling to rescue street girls began to unfold.
“I had worked for two months without pay and so that morning I had decided to resign,” says Chitalu, “On my way back home I met a woman I used to go to church with and she offered me a lift.” As they got out, Chitalu was confronted with the bustle of boys, girls and street mission workers and realised this woman was working with street children.
“I didn’t know anyone or what was going on,” Chitalu said, “and shortly after arriving, my friend was called away on an emergency, leaving me there. “ As support was needed and the reality of life on the streets was all too familiar, Chitalu was quickly put to use, working with a group of 13-17 year old boys.
Assuming Chitalu was also an employee, it took until lunchtime for Chitalu to explain her true identity, but by then her skill and compassion had won the team over and she was recruited as part of the team. As the department grew and the work of the outreach team increased, Chitalu’s opportunity to change the lives of young women developed.
Given permission to think of new incentives, she presented the idea of a sanitary-wear service for the women she had encountered. Many children in the villages of Lusaka are unable to afford underwear or sanitary products. Many are left using thick rags to try and control their bleeding. “What happens to a girl on the streets when she is bleeding is very depressing. She will stand up at some points and just rotate her skirt, sit, and then you can see the fidgeting because she has no underwear. These children are often sexually abused.” Explains Chitalu. This reality for young girls is sadly nothing new to her.
Chitalu was given the go ahead and spent two days a week on the outreach team and two days running the new girls’ programme. It was no shock that her work was widely known, and a year later, Chitalu was headhunted by the government to take part in another programme.
It was here that Chitalu’s dream came under attack. She stood facing the department’s new supervisor who told her she would have to sleep with him for her projects to continue.
Chitalu refused and left. Fortunately, her work with the additional government programme meant that she could just scrape by, but not without difficulty, “I had two daughters to look after, a small house that I was renting, and a helper at home I needed to pay. My sister and her husband died and left two boys as orphans whom I was also taking care of.” But Chitalu was confident of God’s plan and provision.
After working solely within the government programme for 9 months, Chitalu continued doing outreach in her own capacity, but this time she had connections.
“Little did I know I was building my team on the ground!”. With resources wearing thin, it was these connections that would keep her going.
One of these connections was a lady whose husband was working for a mining company, and she had her sights set on Chitalu’s work and offered to help. The two women together provided what they could for 3 months until, in 2009, Chitalu was introduced to the CEO of the mining company, who was known for leaving something to the community in every country he worked in. “He came to visit, we had dinner and he just told me to ‘find a place!’. For the first few months he was paying rent for us in a vacant house.”
Having received building provisions, the favour did not stop there. It seemed that each time she picked up the phone, there was a blessing at the other end. A distant relative offered to invest money from her business into the work for a year – and profits inevitably grew. “She just popped up! God just sent her! My children never stopped going to school, I was able to pay rent and we managed to run this facility just on God’s grace.” Then, in 2011 somebody came to buy them a piece of land as a gift. “There was a purpose for the rejection in that outreach team. If I was not rejected, I would not have got connected to these people and we wouldn’t have this facility on this land now” – the facility she founded, Vision of Hope – a safe house for street girls.
Mission Direct, UK-based volunteering charity, visited the site in 2014 and, on seeing the bare land, quickly set out to build a home to support Lusaka’s young street girls. For the next two years self-funding volunteers travelled to Lusaka to support the build of a new facility, combined with the generosity of donors through the charity – and in 2016 the home was opened. Now, with over 40 girls, Vision of Hope is filled with life and love.
“When I see these girls, I see and think of my daughters,” says Chitalu.
From the time God spoke to me, I would say to God: ‘I am just your servant – these children, whatever they lack, you are the provider. I’m just the servant, so make your way.
Chitalu is already seeing the fruits of her decision to follow God’s calling with girls graduating school and embarking on successful careers – such as Maggie, now 19 and a qualified Lawyer. Last year Chitalu was awarded last year by the Egmont Trust in the UK as ‘Most Inspirational Woman of the Year 2018’.
If you would like to find out more about a 2-week trip to work with partners like Chitalu and Vision of Hope – or to support them financially, visit missiondirect.org