On his last night in town, Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda stood once again in a receiving line, shaking hands with friends and strangers. But this receiving line was a little different--it wasn't at an embassy or elegant hotel, but in a crowded office on Connecticut Avenue.

"People came from Rochester, New York. From Michigan. From as far away as California just for tonight," said John T. Walker, bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Washington and chairman of the board of Africare, a private, nonprofit organization.

Africare, created in 1971 to improve health standards in rural Africa, played host last night to Kaunda, honorary chairman of the organization. The reception's guest list was made up of various local religious groups, charitable organizations and local residents.

"His visit here is most important," said Walker. "A lot of people never get to meet a head of state."

But meeting Kaunda was all guests were allowed to do. After his appearance in the receiving line, Kaunda was quickly escorted into a small room at the end of one hallway.

"He's very, very tired," said several Africare staffers who stood in front of security guards, who stood in front of the door behind which Kaunda rested. Kaunda, who arrived here Tuesday, is scheduled to leave today.

"His voice on South Africa is very important," said Roger Carlson, director for southern Africa affairs at the Agency for International Development. "And I hope the U.S. listens to him."

Nicholas Platt, ambassador to Zambia, felt the Reagan administration had heard Kaunda.

"The way you judge consultations of this sort is how much time is spent," Platt said. "The secretary of state spent four or five hours in meetings. President, two hours. Vice president, dinner.

"There's been a strong and successful effort on the part of this administration to hear Zambia's views and on President Kaunda's part to hear U.S. views."