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By B. Scott Mohr
When Perry Meridian junior Landon Peck expressed an interest in a missions trip to Zambia in southeastern Africa, the first things that came to his mother’s mind were wild animals and malaria.
“I was a little apprehensive at first,” Lisa Peck said, “but when I found out that he would be in good hands, those fears went away.”
Those hands belonged to Harrison Banda, a missionary to Zambia, and seven members of Thompson Road Baptist Church, of which Landon is a member and where his mom and dad, Matt, were married 32 years ago.
“It was an awesome trip, and I would absolutely do it again,” said Landon, who helped put a roof on a 30-by-100-foot church in the village of Makungwa, which has a population of nearly 13,000.
“The church was nothing but brick walls, and it was getting washed away by the rains. We had to buy the planks of wood and have them cut to size before hauling them to the church. We also welded frames for the windows. One of our workdays ended up being 14 hours. The villagers helped out when they could. They were so appreciative and excited about what we were doing for them.”
The only power to the church, which also serves as a community center, comes from a generator, and there is no running water. A school sits nearby.
Motorists share the streets with pedestrians and a host of animals, notably cows and goats. “If you don’t have a car, walking is the primary mode of transportation,” said Peck, who noted that many people share cars.
“The villagers don’t have a lot, but they take pride in what they own. They like to dress nice and look good all the time. Those who have cellphones are always on them because they want people to know that they own one. Although the people there are so different than us, everyone was so friendly and welcoming.”
Peck, whose mom serves as an aide at Homecroft Kindergarten Academy and whose dad retired from Rolls-Royce as a tool maker, said there was no language barrier because the natives learn to speak English when they are in the fifth grade.
As for the food, Peck was pleased to report that it was a lot better than what he thought it would be. “Nshima, similar to mashed potatoes but without any flavor, was served at most meals. People dipped their food in it. A lot of chicken was also served. Chickens were killed daily. American food and snacks are sold in grocery stores.”
While work on the church took up most of his time, Peck was able to visit a state park. “I was surprised that there were no rules on how close you could get to the animals. There are no fences; the animals are roaming everywhere.”
He and his fellow volunteers stayed at Banda’s home, which features modern conveniences.
Peck departed for Zambia – a country of rugged terrain and diverse wildlife – Oct. 31 and didn’t get there until more than 24 hours later, thanks to a 20-hour flight and layovers.
He received permission to miss a week of school and made up lost instruction time by working with his teachers upon returning to school.
The trip cost about $2,500, of which most was secured from family members and friends. “I send out a letter and everybody was really generous.”
But his trip wasn’t contingent on those contributions. He works about 25 hours a week at Taco Bell and is a good saver, putting money away for college and possibly another trip to Zambia. “I haven’t gotten sick of the food yet. I know my mom doesn’t have to cook as much, and I know she likes that,” he laughed.
“I knew he was serious about going when he said he would spend his money if he didn’t raise enough,” Mrs. Peck said.