Saturday, June 25, 2005

Arrival at Namwianga

Sorry this post is so long, but we have limited access to the internet. This will be all we can post for the next few days.

We have finally arrived in Zambia! We left the USA on Monday evening, June 20, after one of the most hectic days of our lives. All our planning and numerous to-do lists were not enough to avoid hundreds of last-minute details. Friends arrived to take us to the airport and helped us finish packing and disposing of the remnants that we left behind.

Our son John also went along to the airport. We managed to arrive in plenty of time to check in and then sit around to wait for our flight. Other friends also arrived and we were able to visit for awhile. Finally it was time to leave. We had dreaded this for many weeks, but were still unprepared for the wrenching feeling of leaving behind our children, our friends, and, in some ways, a part of ourselves. We were able to do it by knowing that we were moving ahead into a new adventure for the Lord.

The trip to Africa was eventful in all the right ways. On the flight to Johannesburg we were blessed to meet a couple that have been missionaries in Zambia for 30 years. They gave us helpful advice and encouragement, assuring us that we would find our work tremendously challenging and fulfilling.

We arrived in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, late Wednesday evening. We were met at the airport by Robby Banda and Simeon Siachobe, representatives of George Benson Christian College, and by the mission superintendent, Kelly Hamby, and his wife, Ellie. We spent the night in Lusaka and then were busy all day on Thursday running errands. We had to get new tires put on the Land Rover (more later), get our work permits at the immigration office, and do some shopping. By the time we left Lusaka, it was almost dark and we faced a five-hour trip back to Namwianga.

Journey to Namwianga

One of the first pieces of advice we had received from former missionaries was “Don’t drive at night!” They warned us that the roads were often treacherous, that the trucks on the roads might have bad brakes and no lights, and that pedestrians were a constant hazard. Just to make things more exciting, David was driving the Land Rover for the first time AND driving on the wrong side of the road (Zambians drive on the left) AND shifting gears with his left hand. I was sitting behind him in the back seat and decided my role on this journey was to pray for angels to watch over us. We managed to make the trip safely, and even enjoyed many parts of it. Our Zambian friends, Robby and Simeon, sang with us for much of the trip. They also gave us valuable insight about our work and life in Zambia. It was midnight when we finally arrived back at Namwianga, exhausted but relieved and thankful for God’s traveling mercies.

The Land Rover

Our vehicle of choice is a dark green Land Rover Defender. Kelly Hamby found it and another one for sale in Lusaka some months ago. Kelly bought one and suggested we consider this one. David researched Land Rovers on the internet and decided to go for it. The Land Rover is a 1991 diesel that seats 12 and gets over 20 miles per gallon. The latter detail is important when diesel sells for over $4.00 per gallon! The body is in good shape, but has enough dents and scratches that we won’t have to worry about breaking it in. Land Rovers are noted for dependability, especially in the rough terrains and situations of Africa. Another plus is that the engine is relatively simple, and Kelly assures us that in any village we can find someone who knows how to repair a Land Rover. We’ve had to do some adjusting as we drive--the steering wheel and gearshift are on the right side instead of the left!

Our House

The house being built for us at Namwianga is far from finished. We were not particularly surprised at this and are glad to settle in at the guest house for now. On Friday we were able to meet with Andrew, the man in charge of building our house, and he was quite willing to make some minor modifications that we requested. It’s also nice that we’ll be here to make some decisions about finishing touches. If all goes as scheduled we hope to move in during the early part of August.

Closing Notes

We won’t be able to get our official internet service up and running until the house is finished. Until then we’ll have to go to another missionary’s house (a mile away) to read and send e-mails. We hope to keep posting at least weekly on our blog.

We are thankful for the many prayers you have offered up for us. Our transition here has been relatively simple and pleasant, and we are confident that God’s hand is at work in all that has happened.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Sunday Sacrifice

I'm sharing more from Ellie Hamby as she writes about the Christians at Namwianga. We are privileged to be able to go and work with these dedicated Christians!

It is so easy for us to go to worship each Sunday in the states. I wonder how many of us would be like the following people who live around our house at Namwianga:

1. Simeon Siachobe, his wife, and 5 children, left to walk 7 miles for church service at Kalomo Secondary School. Simeon's wife was one that helped start this new congregation. They also had 7 miles to walk back to their home.

2. Kadonsi, a teacher at Namwianga, left on his bike to preach at Goodhope Church. He had about a 15 mile round trip.

3. Andrew Sichimwa, who had spent the night guarding the medicine and supplies, left on his bike to attend church at Kasibi. He had about a 30 mile round trip.

I know there were others at the mission going out, but these were ones we saw leaving when we stepped out of our house that morning. It makes one wonder how many of us in the states would be that committed to attend church if we had to walk or even ride a bike for a long distance.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Today's the Day

We have dreamed of and prayed for this day for so long. It's hard to believe that today we leave to begin our new work in Africa!

Yesterday our congregation at Brentwood Oaks held a commissioning service for us. There were many scriptures, songs, and prayers dedicating us to the work in Zambia and committing our church family to support us. We were called to the front to affirm our commitment to this call. As we stood there, David whispered, "Just look out there." The many faces of those we have loved and served with for twenty years reminded us of how blessed we are to have these dear brothers and sisters to send us out, pray for us, and give us their support.

David was invited to make some remarks. He quoted John Piper's words: Endings are for thanksgiving; beginnings are for faith. As we end twenty wonderful years here in Austin, we give thanks for all God has done in our lives and in the life of Brentwood Oaks. As we begin our new adventure in the mission field, we step out in faith knowing He is with us every step of the way.

Then we were presented with a beautiful quilt! Each family had been invited to write a message on a quilt square. Our dear friend Suzie Berry then pieced the squares together. As if that weren't enough, she made ANOTHER quilt design on the other side featuring the BOCC logo in a log cabin design. The result is breathtaking. As my mother would have said, there is a little love in every stitch. Not only that, but Suzie assured me that she put the quilt together with constant prayers for us. What a blessing to have this lovely reminder of our church family and their love for us.

Last night there was a reception in the courtyard as a final farewell. We said our goodbyes and shared hundreds of hugs. We will treasure these sweet memories as we face the days ahead.

Today will be a hectic rush to finish packing and make our final preparations. Our plane leaves Austin at 6:25 this evening. We will spend the night in Atlanta before our 10:30 a.m. flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. We'll arrive there on Wednesday morning (after a 16-hour flight and a seven-hour time change), have a layover of several hours, and then fly on to Lusaka in Zambia, arriving at 8:10 Wednesday evening. We'll spend the night in Lusaka, pick up our visas and our Land Rover, and head for Namwianga on Thursday evening.

I want to thank those of you who have been constantly lifting us up in prayer. We feel the strength that only God provides, and we appreciate the way you have been bringing our needs before the Father.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Packing Up

We are now less than 48 hours away from leaving for Zambia! Our house is a mess, as we have duffel bags and suitcases everywhere. We have sorted through countless drawers, boxes, and piles of stuff. I describe myself as being on "decision overload." Everything around us has to be evaluated--do we take it, store it, give it away, or throw it away? It's exhausting after awhile!

Will David be next?

Kelly Hamby is Superintendent of Namwianga Mission. He and his wife, Ellie, are co-directors of the Zambia Medical Mission. Ellie shared this news of Kelly's latest adventure in Livingstone, about two hours away from Namwianga. Cell phone users, beware! Here's what Ellie wrote:

Zambia has passed a new law making it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving. Kelly went to Livingstone today to take Sheri and Lois Sears to the airport for their flight to Cape Town. I called Kelly and he answered the phone. Unfortunately, he was driving right by a standing police when he answered. He was stopped and sent to the police station. He called me from the police station with his sad story, and being the considerate wife I am, I told him not to worry-- I would bring food to his jail cell tonight. He called me back about an hour later saying that since this was his first offense and since they knew Mr. Merritt and Namwianga, they decided they would let him go. He called me from a restaurant in Livingstone where he was celebrating his release by having a nice steak dinner! It would have been cheaper for him to have spent the night in jail!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Feeding the Crew

We will be going out with the medical mission in July. There will be 130 Americans and over 80 Zambians going out in the bush to set up clinics. We'll be camping in tents during this time. The cooking for this huge crew will be directed by Leonard Sichimwa. Ellie Hamby, one of the medical mission directors, sent out the following information on all the preparations and food that will be needed for this huge project. We thought you might find it interesting. Ellie writes:

1. I ordered 170 kg (374 lbs) of mince (ground beef in the USA). The cattle are being butchered now and the mince should be ready shortly.

2. I ordered 100 chickens and they are growing right now and should be ready to butcher in about a week.

3. I ordered 20 kg (44 lbs) of game meat (kudu, eland, and impala). A wildlife farm has these animals and they butcher and sell the meat.

4. I ordered 5000 bottles of water, 1500 small juice boxes, and 1500 small bags of assorted potato chips from the warehouses in Lusaka. A truck is going there today to bring them back to Namwianga.

5. I ordered 50 kg (110 lbs) of Gouda Cheese from a cheese factory in Lusaka. We have it now and it is in the freezer.

6. I ordered 50 kg (110 lbs) of sliced ham from a meat packing supplier in Lusaka and it will be ready to pick up when we go to Lusaka to pick up the Gregersens on the 22nd June.

7. The following vegetables are in the field growing right now: 50 heads of cabbage, 90 kgs (198 lbs) of carrots, 40 kgs (88 lbs) of onions, and 90 kgs (198 lbs) of tomatoes. I am counting on all the suppliers having the veggies ready when we need them.

8. I ordered several cases of apples, pears, and bananas. This fruit will all come by truck from South Africa.

9. The ladies at Namwianga will be making 6000 buns to be delivered to our house at different times and I have ordered from the local bakery supplier in Kalomo 200 loaves of bread.

10. Leonard Sichimwa is busy making cookies and cakes for all of you who have a sweet tooth.

11. Last, but not least, we will be buying 100 kgs (220 lbs) of mealie meal for all you "Nshima Lovers"!

You can see that it takes a lot to feed a group as big as ours!

The Farewell Tour

David and I have joked that we should have had T-shirts made for the Gregersen Farewell Tour. Last week we traveled through Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri saying goodbye to our family and friends there. This week we left on Sunday and went in different directions. I spent a few days at the beach with girlfriends while David and one of his good friends went to New Mexico. My group of eight women enjoyed our 12th annual trip to Port Aransas. We all raised our children together at Brentwood Oaks (25 children in all!) and share a deep bond of friendship. Since 1999 these dear women have planned the beach trip around my summer trips to Africa. This year will be my last trip for awhile, so last night they gathered around me and gave a tearful farewell blessing. I know the love and concern of these friends will be a strength to sustain me in the months and years ahead.

After touring some Native American historical sites, David was able to stop by Camp Blue Haven in Las Vegas, New Mexico. This place is near and dear to our family. Sara and John were campers there from the time they were 10, and we were Bible teachers for many years. David has enjoyed connecting with many of our old friends there.

The farewell tours are ending and the last minute rush to finish getting ready is on. We savor the sweet memories and look ahead for new adventures.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Details, Details!

We are drowning in a sea of last-minute details! We've changed our retirement funds, set up accounts for handling our working fund, canceled some accounts, opened up new ones, made sure our life insurance is good overseas, set up car insurance for our son, and on and on. The current hurdle is health insurance. We investigated insurance for missionaries months ago and located two plans. We had an insurance person look at both of them and make a recommendation. Then we had to wait, because you can't apply for international coverage until 30 days before you leave. So, we applied to our chosen company on May 21--and were denied. Seems that although we think we are very healthy, we have pre-existing conditions that this company didn't want to cover. On to plan B. We were accepted for this one, but no coverage for pre-existing conditions for two years, then a limited coverage per year. They also provided a long list of conditions for which there is no coverage for the first six months on the policy. We started looking for plan C. The C company has had our application for over a week. They want doctor's statements before they decide what they will and won't cover. Just in case, I'm looking for plan D. We can also Cobra our current policy if all else fails. It all seemed so simple a few months ago!

Friday night I had a long phone conversation with my roommate from college. She and her husband have been missionaries in Cameroun for 30 years. We commiserated about health insurance, leaving our kids behind, and other missionary issues. I also talked to her husband a few minutes. I mentioned to him that someone needs to write a book about how to get ready to go to the mission field. He laughingly replied that his wife forbids him to write such a book. She tells him that if he did, no one would ever want to go.

David found a wonderful saying years ago that keeps us calm and grounded in these days of dealing with details: Focus on the goal, not the price. We choose to think about the wonderful opportunities God has laid out before us in Zambia, not on the bothersome details of the next few days.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Using Your Head

We Americans are amazed at the way the Zambian women can carry things on their heads. They move with such grace and balance! Notice that this young lady in her school uniform is carrying a double load of water AND sticks. She has wrapped her chitenge (2-meter length of cloth) around her head as a base for the load. This is a common sight everywhere we go. Even very young girls seem to carry objects effortlessly. And in case you're wondering, I've tried it and I can't do it!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Namwianga Mission

As we have traveled this past week, I have come up with another round of frequently asked questions. Many haved asked us about Namwianga Mission.

Namwianga Mission sits on over 7,000 acres four miles from the city of Kalomo in the Southern Province of Zambia. The mission has a farm, a rural health center, a vocational center, two home-based orphan care facilities, a Church Development Center, and schools. The schools on the Namwianga site include a Basic (elementary) school, a Secondary school, and George Benson Christian College. The college trains secondary teachers in the areas of religious education, math, and English. This is where we will be teaching. Namwianga also has other schools under its oversight. These include one other high school, five elementary schools, and four junior high schools. Bible is taught in all of the schools, and students are trained to become church planters. Many leaders in the country of Zambia were educated at one of the Namwianga Mission schools.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Child's Play

Posted by: dgregersen53
Child's Play
Mancala is a game that involves counting rocks and placing them in hollowed out spaces on a gameboard. I have a wooden Mancala board I purchased in the States, so I was fascinated to see these students at Simpweze Christian School with their Mancala "board" in the sand. By the way, I passed our Mancala board on to our daughter. She uses it with her middle school math students and says they love to play. Kids are kids, wherever they live!

Sunday, June 05, 2005


We are traveling this week. Today (Saturday) and Sunday we are visiting our daughter in Tulsa. Sunday afternoon we will head for Searcy to see David's parents. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday we're going to southwest Missouri to spend some time with my sister and with friends in Mt. Vernon and Monett.

We got word yesterday that the two containers on which we had sent our household goods and teaching supplies have now arrived at Namwianga Mission. This was a great relief to us, since one of the containers (think 40-feet long box car) had been "lost" somewhere on the continent of Africa for awhile. Our things were only a small part of the contents of these containers, as they were primarily filled with supplies for this summer's medical mission.

Several have asked just what we did send on ahead. We sent mattresses, kitchen stuff, linens, books and teaching supplies, a generator, and a few pieces of furniture--the kind that comes in a box and can be put together with a screwdriver and several hours of patience. The containers were loaded in January and February, so when we finally get to open them, I'm sure it will seem like Christmas!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Hard Times

Our date to depart for Africa is June 20. David completed his official duties as education minister on Tuesday, and I finished my job as a teacher at Brentwood Christian School last Friday. After twenty years of serving as the elementary department Bible school supervisor, I've turned that volunteer job over to someone else. Now we're in between our past roles and our future work, and we are finding that a hard place to be. It's hard to let go of ministries into which we have poured our lives for so long. It's hard to wait for the beginning of our new work.

I have claimed the words of Paul to help me through these times in between: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal (Philippians 3:13). Pray for us as we "press on" during these next few days.