Sidles return from Zambia

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2007

Gary and Penney Sidle, global missionaries for the Church of the Nazarene, have been in Zambia, Africa, for the past 5-1/2 years.

They live in a walled compound for security reasons in Lusaka, Zambia, a city of about two million people.

“The compounds are like the suburbs,” Gary Sidle said.

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The native people’s houses are very small with two or three generations in one house and the health care system isn’t very good with the average life expectancy 35 to 40 years old, he said.

“We see 10 and 15 people living in those two rooms,” he said.

They have three children who have grown up in Africa, Lindsay, 12, Allissa, 9, and Josiah, 7.

“They were 2, 4 and 6, when we went,” Gary Sidle said. “The children adapted really easy because they were at that young age.”

In the area where they work, HIV, Aids and other health issues are prevalent.

“We see people with a simple infection that if they were treated, they could live,” Sidle said. “Obviously poverty is a big problem.”

The Church of the Nazarene has been in Africa since the 1950s and there were about 100 churches when the Sidle family moved there but now there are 350 to 400 churches now.

“Our official title is mission coordinators in Zambia and we oversee the various ministries of the church,” Sidle said. “We have compassionate ministries, education, growth and development ministries. Some of the ministries build buildings and my wife is the child sponsorship coordinator.”

She tries to get $25 each month for a child’s education to help buy uniforms and tuition. Some of the schools don’t have the tuition but they do require uniforms and supplies, he said.

“There are certain things the child has to buy and so the child can’t go if they don’t have the money,” he said. “From seventh grade on, those are fee-paid schools and that’s where the child sponsorship helps too. With the life expectancy, we have a lot of orphans and a lot of children who die young.”

There are quite a few orphanages and the Sidles try to support the orphan caregiver.

“When you go into a compound you may see a two-room house with 10 children and half of them are orphaned,” he said. “Some of the things we try to do is to empower that caregiver with an income. We have agricultural projects and sewing projects. That way they can keep those children in the family structure.”

The Zambia government has Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and a lot of the funding that helps with health care.

His children go to an international school with an American curriculum. Most of the youth speak English.

“It’s mandatory that they speak English,” Sidle said. “There’s 72 languages in Zambia and it can be quite difficult to communicate, so English is the common language.”

They are on home assignment now for 3-1/2 months traveling the country speaking at churches about their ministry. They have about 90 speaking engagements.

Also, he has finished a book called, “Lessons Learned from A to Z” about his experiences in Zambia.

“As long as the Lord wants us there, we’ll be there,” he said.

The Sidle family will be at a children’s rally in Wheelersburg on Saturday, at the Ironton First Church of the Nazarene on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and at the South Point Church of the Nazarene on Sunday at 6 p.m.