Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Heavenly Echoes

Heavenly Echoes is certainly an appropriate name for the George Benson College Choir. As with the secondary choir, this one is student-led.

Secondary Choir

This is the group of eleventh and twelfth grade students from the secondary school who recorded on Saturday. They are directed by twelfth grader Prince, the young man in the middle who is not wearing a blue shirt. It is amazing to watch him in action. He does all of the arrangements of the music and directs the choir better than many professionally trained adults I have seen. The other students follow his instructions without question. As if that weren't enough, Prince has the most gorgeous voice you can imagine!

Fast Food

On Saturday our singing groups ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches served from the tailgate for lunch. We mixed orange drink in a big bucket to serve as our beverage. No one complained!

Road Trip

The big yellow bus attracts lots of attention in Zambia. David and I were following in our vehicle and enjoyed watching the reaction of people as they saw the bus. Americans were especially impressed and would wave and shout as the bus went by. This bus was shipped over from the US several years ago. It is put to good use all year round by the school and is indispensable on the medical mission.

The inside shot shows our group ready to take off on the CD adventure.

The CD Adventure

David and I often look at each other and say, “It’s another adventure!” We had plenty of opportunities for that remark this weekend as we took Namwianga singing groups to Lusaka to record CDs.

Our total entourage included three singing groups: the secondary choir composed of twenty eleventh and twelfth grade students; the Heavenly Echoes choir composed of nineteen college students and one faculty member; and the Timothy Brothers, a small group of four college students and two faculty members. The singing groups and their luggage traveled on the big yellow Namwianga Mission bus, while David and I followed in our vehicle with sleeping mats, food, water, and other supplies.

We left Namwianga on Friday at 2:00 and pulled into Lusaka just at dusk. We were met by Austin Siabeenzu, the man who coordinated most of our weekend events. Austin has many ties to Namwianga through serving on the medical mission and working with various faculty members in his role as a church leader. He is also a well-known radio personality in Lusaka where he is a cast member of a drama show.

After a quick stop for some extra diesel, Austin directed us off the main streets and we entered the huge Mutendere compound where we were to meet with the local congregation and spend the night. The streets were one-lane, unpaved, and full of huge potholes, so we had to move slowly. Vendors lined both sides, their makeshift booths lit with candles or small lanterns. Pedestrians streamed by within inches of the vehicle on both the right and left. The yellow bus drew lots of attention as people stared, pointed, and yelled. Soon some young boys decided to join our procession and walked along pounding on the truck and shouting. We navigated like this through the area for over 30 minutes before we finally reached the Mutendere building and were welcomed in the traditional Zambian way by a delegation of women singing and clapping.

Cooking fires glowed just outside the building where these same women had prepared a delicious nshima and chicken meal for us. At 9:00 the evening program began. The Mutendere group had invited the Lusaka Central congregation to join us for an evening assembly. After some spirited congregational singing and a talk by David, various singing groups presented their programs. In addition to our three choirs, the Mutendere and Lusaka congregations also had singing groups. I think the best term to describe this part of the evening might be “rocking.” I checked the rafters a few times to make sure the roof was still intact. These people love to sing and they sang with all their hearts.

Our students were exhausted after a long day, so at midnight our group was dismissed to get some sleep. The students went to a nearby school where they slept on the floor. David and I spent the night with Austin’s family. Austin dropped us off at his house and then went back to the church building. The Mutendere and Lusaka congregations stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG singing, preaching, and fellowshipping.

At 7:00 the next morning we headed for the recording studio. By daylight we could see even more of the potholes in the compound’s streets. One corner had a pothole that was over two feet deep. The bus had had a terrible time the night before at this corner, so this time the driver and Austin got out and studied the situation carefully before making the turn. The vendors on all sides of the corner had to move their wares off the street and slide their booths back to make enough room for the bus to pass. Even then the bus had to inch its way around and through the area. The entire process took over thirty nerve-wracking minutes. Since the street had only one lane, traffic was stopped from going in or out during this entire time. All of us began to have second thoughts about taking the bus back into the compound again on Saturday night.

The taping at the studio went pretty well. It was my first time to have anything to do with this type of project, so I learned a great deal, as did our students. For the most part, the groups were well rehearsed and we were able to tape one song after another. The sound engineer who worked with us was pleased and assured me that when he completed his work we would have a finished product that we could be proud of.

Since the taping went quickly and we hesitated to return to Mutendere compound because of the streets, we made the call to head back to Namwianga on Saturday rather than spend another night. We left Lusaka at 4:30 and pulled into Namwianga around 10:00 Saturday night.

David and I have taken many youth groups on trips in the US. This was a very different experience. This time we took 44 high school and college kids on a two-day outing. The students ate whatever was served them. They slept on mats on a concrete floor in a building with no electricity, no running water, and no indoor toilets. They waited for hours while other groups were taping. Number of complaints we heard: zero. Number of times we had to listen to whining: zero. Number of times any adult had to get on to any student for any reason: zero.

On Monday a group of the secondary students visited one of the administrators and asked him to convey to us their gratitude for the wonderful time they had in Lusaka. It’s no wonder we love these kids! And they can sing, too!

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the CD. Thanks for your prayers this weekend.

Friday, March 24, 2006

It's Too Quiet!

On Wednesday we drove to Lusaka to take the visiting doctors, Meg and Christy, to the airport. They flew to South Luangua Game Park for a well-deserved rest after spending three weeks with us. Then they'll spend a couple of days in Cape Town before flying back to Vanderbilt in Nashville.

We came home to a house that seems too quiet. Meg and Christy blessed us with their visit, and we miss their laughter, their stories about their work, and our shared discussions about Zambia and its people. We hope that they will be back some day and bring others with them!

Today (Friday) we are off to Lusaka with the students who are taping a CD. I guess I should say CDs, because the project has grown. We are now planning to have one CD of the high school and college choirs and a separate one of the Timothy Brothers singing group. We will tape all day on Saturday, spend Saturday night in Lusaka, and return on Sunday afternoon. Please keep us in your prayers this weekend.

I've already begun receiving requests for copies of the CD when it comes out. What a joy it will be to share the songs of Namwianga with friends, family, and supporters in the US!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What a Saturday!

Outreaches come in all shapes and sizes. When Ruhtt Mbomwae plans one, you can count on something big! Ruhtt asked me to come with her last Saturday to do teacher training at Katundu where she supervises a community school. She also requested that I put together a team of sponsored students to do a children’s Bible class while I was teaching. I found four girls who were willing to go on the outreach, and we were all set.

When Ruhtt pulled up in front of our house in a 24-passenger bus, I knew there must be some even bigger plans in the works. I climbed in and joined a full crew of sponsored students from the college, most of them guys. We picked up a few more along the way and then headed up the Kabanga Road to Katundu.

We pulled off the main road and wove through the path to the village. As we broke through the last of the tall grass into the clearing around the school, we saw a huge crowd of children already gathered and waiting for us.

Ruhtt began by showing me around the school. There are currently two classroom buildings with another under construction. I asked her where the money came from to build the structures. She told me that the people in the community worked together to make the bricks and put up the walls. She got the money for the roof and doorframes by requiring each family with a child in the school to bring one chicken. She took the chickens into Kalomo and sold them to generate enough cash to finish the building project!

Ruhtt busily organized the morning’s activities. She set me up in a classroom with 10 teachers from two different community schools for a training session. She divided the huge group of children into two age groups and appointed two teaching teams. I knew she had some plans for adult Bible teaching as well, but the adults were slow in arriving. Later, when I finished my two-hour training session, I found that there were groups of 30 to 50 adults under every shade tree. Each group had a college student conducting a Bible lesson.

“Since you’re finished with teacher training, how about doing a ladies’ class next?” Ruhtt asked. Next thing I knew there were 75 ladies in front of me and I had a translator helping me teach a lesson on Jonah.

At 1:00 all the adults were gathered in one spot for a final sermon. A fiery preacher from a nearby congregation kept their attention. Several responded for baptism, so we all formed a line as we walked through the tall grass down to the river.

When we returned after the baptisms, it was after 2:00 and I was sure Ruhtt must be ready to load up and head home, so I went over to stand in the shade near the bus. Soon I noticed the crowd forming lines and saw four college guys coming off of the bus carrying huge sacks. Ruhtt finished the day with a food distribution project—each family got a plastic bag full of beans.

We finally loaded the bus and started for home. As we bumped and rattled down the road, I marveled at all Ruhtt had managed to pack into one day! I estimated that there were at least 1,000 people there, with about equal numbers of adults and children. Ruhtt made sure they were trained, taught, and fed in a single outreach effort.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Exciting Plans

Regular readers know how much I love the Zambian singing, especially the sounds of the choruses from the secondary school and college. For months now I have dreamed of getting a CD made of their music.

Lord willing, that dream is becoming a reality. This weekend the secondary choir, the college choir, and the Timothy Brothers singing group will travel to Lusaka to record a CD. Each group has been rehearsing nightly to prepare five to seven songs--some in English and some in Tonga--that will be included on the final product.

The schedule calls for the 48 singers to leave Namwianga in one of the big yellow buses at 1:00 on Friday afternoon to make the five hour trip. David and I will follow along in our vehicle with luggage and other supplies. On Friday evening we will be hosted by a congregation in Lusaka and will do a program of preaching and singing for them. The guys will spend the night in the church building, and the ladies will be staying in a member’s home. We have a studio reserved for Saturday for the recording. The rest of the weekend’s schedule depends on how quickly the recording goes. If we finish by early afternoon, we will head back to Namwianga. If we don’t finish in time to be home before dark, we will spend another night with the church in Lusaka and come home Sunday after church services.

Getting 50 people transported, fed, and housed has been quite a logistical challenge. As wet set out on this adventure, we ask for your prayers that we will be kept safe and that our efforts will produce a recording that will glorify God and share the message of Namwianga with many others.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dish Drainer

Near most huts or kitchens will be a dish drainer like the one shown. The drainer is made of poles lashed together to make a platform that provides a place for dishes to be dried and stored.

You can also notice the corn field in the background. Corn or maize is the staple of the Zambian diet, and every suitable plot of ground is utilized to grow it. Most houses have corn planted right up to the walls.


In the villages, cooking is done outdoors in kitchen enclosures like the one pictured. A fire is built in the center. The thatched roof keeps out the rain. Notice that grain sacks are fastened to the poles along the back and sides to provide protection from the wind.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

School Fees the Hard Way

Last Saturday was a work day for all sponsored students. The high school guys shown in the lower photo dug a hole for a pit latrine behind the guys' dorm. Mary (top) and the other sponsored college students dug dirt from the roadsides and used it to fill potholes on the road from Kalomo to Namwianga.

October Fun in March

The last two pumpkins from the harvest provided some great fun, even in the middle of March. Shown are Stacy Bruington (far left) with her children True, Lane, and Savannah. In the back with me are Christy Keyes (left) and Meg Jack, our visiting American doctors.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fantastic Pharmacy

Meg and Christy (see Doctors' Visit) sent out a plea to friends, family, and co-workers asking for monetary contributions to help stock the pharmacy at Namwianga. The response was immediate and generous. Dr. Sid Tate, who arrived last week from Searcy, also brought money for drugs. He took the combined funds to Lusaka on Thursday and returned with the medicines and supplies in the photo. Thousands of Zambians will benefit.

Doctors' Visit

One great blessing of our work here is the wonderful visitors who grace our lives. Dr. Christy Keyes (top photo) and Dr. Meg Jack are our latest blessings. Meg and Christy are residents in emergency medicine at Vanderbilt and are fulfilling an elective requirement by working here at the Namwianga clinic this month. They arrived last Friday, and we have been having fun ever since!

These two are up for any adventure and willing to serve any need. We wait expectantly every day for our lunch and dinner updates on their latest cases, diagnoses, and insights. It has been interesting to see Namwianga through their eyes and to compare our experiences and impressions.

Meg and Christy have quickly endeared themselves to everyone here with their cheerful attitudes and servant hearts. We hope this visit will be the first of many!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Back in Touch

David worked and worked and worked to get our e-mail account fixed. He succeeded this morning, so we are back in touch.

Pumpkin Processing

Saturday mornings are busy times at our house, because that's when some of our students come to work for their school fees. Susan (left) and Brenda were put to work helping me get pumpkins ready to process and freeze. We had to cut the pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds and pulp, cut the halves into smaller sections, peel off the outer rind, and cut the sections into cubes. We ended up with a huge stock pot of pumpkin pieces that I cooked, drained, mashed, and put into freezer bags.

Brenda and Susan are on my list of most-admired people. Both are orphans, and both are 22 years old. Susan had outstanding scores on her grade nine exams, but couldn't go on to high school because she had no money. She stayed at home with her grandmother for five years. Two years ago her brother provided her with funds to go back and do grades ten and eleven. Then last November her brother died. Susan came in January to ask us for help to finish grade twelve. One of the teachers at the college is an elder in the church that Susan attends, and he highly recommended her. My sister's Sunday School class had just sent some money to us to use as needed, and those funds are enabling Susan to finish high school this year.

Brenda's parents died nine years ago. An uncle cared for Brenda and her two younger siblings for a few years, but now Brenda is the head of the family and caretaker for the children. She goes to high school in the afternoons and manages to make excellent grades. I have told her that she doesn't have to come work on Saturdays if she is needed at home, but she comes anyway in appreciation for being able to continue in school.

Susan and Brenda cheerfully and willingly did their tasks this morning and sang in beautiful harmony as they worked. It is a joy to know such outstanding young ladies, and it is a privilege to help them finish their education.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

On the Line

The rainy season means that we have to do some creative drying. Yesterday the laundry was already hung outside when a thunderstorm hit. The veranda was the only dry place to finish the job.

Lost Our E-Mail

As of 10 p.m. last night our e-mail quit sending messages. We are not sure what the problem is and our efforts to contact the provider have been fruitless so far. The really sad part is that I had worked all evening to get our newsletter ready to go out--and then we couldn't send it! We're not sure how long we will be out of touch. We can still receive messages, but don't expect a quick reply.