The "Queen Latifa" of Africa.
The first time I ever visited Zambia was in 2006. I was fresh out of college and a rookie in just about everything in life. Through my work as a photographer I met a woman by the name of Mrs. Tembo. She ran a community School, Greenhill, and had about 30 teenage orphans who lived with her and Mr. Tembo.
When you met Mrs. Tembo you quickly knew a few things. First, this lady meant business. She was tall and had a presence wherever she went. Without speaking any words, she demanded respect and you knew you shouldn't mess with Mrs. Tembo. Our Arise Africa staff nicknamed her "The Zambian Queen Latifa" for this reason. Mrs. Tembo was a "go getter" and worked hard. She didn't let poverty or anything else slow her down. She was determined to get the best educations and resources for the kids she had in her school. She was a creative thinker and an excellent farmer. She wasn't looking for handouts, but for resources to become self sustaining.
The early years of my time in Zambia I leaned on Mrs. Tembo for advice. She encouraged me and taught me how to help others for the long term. When Arise Africa started it was only fitting that our first mission trip and project was for Greenhill School. I somehow tricked 15 of my friends to go to Zambia with me to help build them some classrooms. Looking back, we had no clue what we were doing but the Tembos help us manage it all!
When we finished building the classrooms Mrs. Tembo couldn't thank us enough.
As Arise Africa grew we always kept up with Greenhill and helped out whenever we could. We held a vacation Bible School at Greenhill one summer and had a blast. We donated school supplies and desks and anything else to help the school. Mr. And Mrs. Tembo were loyal supporters and encouraged me and the Arise Africa staff. One time Mrs. Tembo fought an angry monkey off of one of our Americans with her bare hands, no joke.
One thing I loved about Mrs. Tembo is that whenever I saw her she would give me the biggest hug and wrap me up in her arms. She was tall and I am not. I literally got lost with her arms wrapped around me.
Greenhill School is about a ten minute drive from the busy city. The house and school are situated on a hill where you can see incredible sunsets overlooking their farm fields. There have been many days that I have been in Zambia that were hard and discouraging and I knew I could always head out to Greenhill for the evening and watch the sunset. I knew I could sit on the Tembo's porch with a random chicken walking around, kids everywhere, and be encouraged by Mr. and Mrs. Tembo. I knew I would be offered whatever they had made for dinner, no matter if they had enough food to feed themselves or not.
This past Saturday we learned that Mrs. Tembo had passed away. She was a legend. She was a Zambian woman who changed that country for the better. She showed so many people the Lord's love. And boy did she ever fight the good fight. Mrs. Tembo, thank you for teaching me how to love and serve others. Thank you for believing in me even when I messed up or didn't help you well. Thank you for teaching all of us that you can get out of poverty, and that you can achieve amazing things no matter what is against you. It is time to carry on her legacy, let's fight for these kids, Zambia, and ultimately Jesus. We got work to do in her name!