Monday, June 26, 2006

Filling Station

When the filling station in Kalomo closed its pumps, our nearest source for diesel was a 30-minute drive away in Choma. With the medical mission approaching, we had to find a better way to fuel all the vehicles that will be needed to transport 200 people into the bush for the clinics. We now have these two 2500-liter tanks across the road from our house.

The tanker truck shown above arrived early on Saturday morning to fill the tanks for the first time. Unfortunately, the drivers didn't have a pump to get the diesel from their tanks into ours. The two guys had to sit around all day while they waited for a pump to be sent from Lusaka. Around 5:00 in the afternoon they finally finished their task and went on their way.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Everyday Heroes - John and Webster

John (left) and Webster are standing with their brand new bikes. They will use these every weekend for their trips to preach at Msasa and Kemcas congregations. John and Webster have been going out every week for several months now, but they've had to borrow bicycles. Having their own wheels should make their lives a little easier. They earn the distinction of "everyday heroes" because it's a three-hour journey that they make every Sunday morning--one way.

Sandy, a doctor in Abilene, is another hero in this story. She contacted a large discount store and managed to get these bicycles and several more donated.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

One Year!

One year ago we moved to Namwianga. It doesn't seem possible that the time has gone so fast, and yet in other ways our life in the US seems long ago and far away.

We have grown and changed as we have learned to live in a different culture. The fears that haunted our first few weeks have disappeared, replaced by the confidence that comes with learning new customs and routines. Although we miss our family and friends from home so much that we ache for them, we have made wonderful new friends who love us and care about us.

Our faith has been tested, our patience stretched, our courage summoned. Through all our new trials and adventures, we have had an overwhelming, God-given assurance that we are where we should be, doing what we need to do. We have felt the support of our faithful friends and even people we have never met who regularly assure us of their prayers on our behalf. Our sponsoring congregation at Brentwood Oaks has been incredible in their care for us and their generosity in meeting our needs.

It hasn't all been easy, and we certainly haven't enjoyed every experience, but we do admit that we're really having a good time. I guess David says it best when he signs off on his e-mails with the phrase "Having fun in Africa." We're looking forward to the years ahead.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Medical Mission News

The second container arrived last week, to everyone's great relief. Ellie Hamby and Wil and Jenny Pippin are also here now, and preparations for the medical mission are well under way. Thank you for your prayers.

Kids with Heart

These girls are students at Brentwood Christian School in Austin where I taught for 17 years. BCS sponsored a Money for Medicines drive to raise funds to purchase drugs for the Zambia Medical Mission pharmacy. They distributed pill bottles full of M and M's (Money for Medicines). Students were asked to eat the candy and return the bottle filled with money. The 700 students in preschool through 12th grade raised over $9,000! As you can see in the picture, much of that amount came in the form of nickels, dimes, and pennies. The shape of Zambia in the middle of the "continent" is formed from some of the leftover pill bottles.

Friday, June 16, 2006

This Is a GOOD Family

“This is a GOOD family.” My father made this announcement with pride when all of us gathered for meals. He would wait for the designated pray-er’s final “amen” after the blessing. Then his face would beam as his voice boomed the words that reminded us that our family was special.

I have thought about my dad’s words these past few days. My older sister reminded me that she is the only one of the four siblings in the United States this week. My brother is directing a medical mission in El Salvador and my other sister is there working on his mission team. A nephew and two nieces are also there helping in this effort.

Mary, the one who remains in the US, has done her part by collecting supplies for both El Salvadoran and African mission work. Our daughter Sara will be here with us in just a few weeks to participate in Zambia Medical Mission. Aunts and cousins are helping to sponsor needy students here at Namwianga.

My father died in a farming accident in 1973. I’m sure he had no idea that one day his children would be spread around the world doing mission work. But he planted in us the conviction that we were supposed to be working for the Lord and making a difference. You can’t leave a better heritage than that. I’m very blessed to be part of his “GOOD family.”

El Salvador Medical Mission

Click on the above title if you are interested in reading about the medical mission that my brother, Ralph McClurg, is directing in La Palma, El Salvador.

What Would Martha Stewart Do?

We love having visitors from the US here at Namwianga, so we were looking forward to having a group associated Mapepe Bible School in Lusaka visit us last Sunday. Our good friends David and Lorie French were bringing their two daughters and a group of eight Americans from their sponsoring congregation. They planned to stay overnight on their way to do some sightseeing in Livingstone. Wil and Jenny Pippin and their son had arrived at Namwianga on Thursday, so we had invited them to come eat with this group on Sunday night. David had left on Saturday for his weekend outreach, but I thought he would be back by mid-afternoon on Sunday when the visitors were scheduled to arrive.

I got up early on Sunday morning to get started on preparations for the Sunday night meal. I baked a couple of cakes and made egg noodles before I left for church. When I came home and turned on the water tap in the kitchen, nothing happened. I tried all the other taps in the house—no water. Our tank was empty. I called around and found out that the rest of the mission had been without water for the entire weekend. At least I had had enough in the storage tank to make it until Sunday.

I did some math in my head. We had an extra Zambian houseguest, so I was expecting 18 people for dinner. Nine of those were to stay overnight at our house—and we had no water. I also had no vehicle since David was gone. It was time for creative thinking. I had the keys to Ellie Hamby’s house because some of the guests were going to sleep there Sunday night. Since no one had been staying there this week, I hoped that her tank might still have water. I got the wheelbarrow out and headed down the road. I filled up a 5-gallon Igloo at Ellie’s and brought it back to my house in the wheelbarrow.

The group arrived at 3:00. David and Lorie have water problems at their house, too, so the guests were very understanding as I pulled out wet wipes for hand washing. With the extra drinking water I had stored earlier and the five gallons from Ellie’s house, I managed to get dinner ready. We had a delightful time enjoying our meal together--but without David. He called at 7:00 saying he was still at least two hours out in the bush. The water finally came back on, to everyone's relief. We still had no hot water, because the water heater forms an air lock whenever it gets empty and refuses to work until the plumber comes to fix it. Lorie French pitched in and the two of us managed to heat water and get the dishes done. We got everyone situated for the night before David finally got in at 9:30.

Monday morning I heated water on top of the stove so people could have hot water for taking baths. We had another enjoyable time together at breakfast, and then the group took off for their day’s adventures. I breathed a sigh of relief—at least the electricity hadn’t gone off!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Chiili Church Planting

David returned from Chiili at 9:30 Sunday night with stories to tell! This photo shows some of the 300 adults and 111 children who attended the first meeting of the church at Chiili. The people were very receptive and enthused about a congregation being established here. There were four baptisms and nine restorations. From now on, Daniel Mweemba will ride his bicycle to Chiili twice a month to help develop the leaders and to assist the church in its infancy. It's a 37-mile trip from his home--one way. Please pray for Daniel, the new Christians, and the new church planted in this area.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Weekend Outreaches

Last weekend two groups of students spent the entire weekend teaching and spreading the good news. The Helping Hands Club from the secondary school sent a group of 26 to Sandy Hill and the Heavenly Echoes Choir had 17 who went to Nazilongo. Both groups camped out Friday through Sunday, cooking their food over open fires. The Nazilongo group slept in a church building. Sandy Hill has no building, but the villagers built a grass fence with two areas, one for the men and one for the women. Each fence was three-sided, and on the open side each group had a big fire blazing to provide warmth. It was a COLD weekend, so they needed those fires while they slept under the stars!

The Nazilongo students went door to door in the area around the church building and invited people to come meet with them. They had preaching and teaching sessions on Friday and Saturday nights and on Sunday morning. The Sandy Hill group had preaching on Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, and Sunday morning. They also taught children's classes.

There were six baptisms and 37 restorations as a result of the weekend efforts. Both Nazilongo and Sandy Hill congregations begged for another camp meeting. Roughing it in the cold didn't seem to bother the students, as they all agreed that the weekend was a great experience and asked when they can go on another weekend outreach.

They won't have long to wait. Three camp meetings are scheduled for the last weekend in June. Please keep these efforts in your prayers.

Weather News and Notes

It's been COLD this week! We had several days when the morning temperatures were near 50 degrees. Our house, like all the others in the area, has only a fireplace for heating, and these concrete floors and walls stay cold. I've been wearing long underwear and sweaters to stay warm during the day, and David has been building fires in the fireplace on cold evenings.

One evening we stepped outside for a walk around the campus and heard the crackle of a fire. We could see the flames leaping 20 feet into the sky just a block or so away from us. We didn't see anyone running in panic, but we headed down the road to check out the blaze. Two houses in that area have thatched roofs, and we were also concerned about Sheri Sears's house. When we rounded the bend, we saw two men supervising the fire in a harvested cornfield behind Sheri's house. They had obviously set the fire and were watching it burn with no alarm.

The people in this area often harvest the corn, then cut down the dried stalks, pile them up, and burn them. We stopped to ask these guys why they were doing this at night. They told us that they wait for nightfall so that there is no wind and so they can see exactly where the fire is burning.

We continued our walk around the campus. Within 20 minutes the fire was reduced to embers.

Church Planting

Day Mweemba, son of Daniel Mweemba and brother of Victor, arrived at our house yesterday morning at 7:00. He had left his home in Kauwe at 1:00 a.m. and ridden seven hours through the night to deliver a letter from the headmaster of Chiili Basic School. Here’s what the letter said.

"The above mentioned man of God (Daniel Mweemba) visited this school over planting the church of Christ at this school. The meeting was well attended, because the school has (serves) 15 villages, and out of 15, 11 villages attended the meeting. This was a great achievement because the addressed congregation cried before him to plant one church at this school so that the lost sheep of God can be brought back. He also told the community members that on 10th June, 2006, you will be with us here. The people of Chiili are most welcoming you and very willing to see you on that day."

The headmaster and the chairman of the PTA had signed the letter.

So now it’s Saturday morning and David just pulled out of the driveway. The pickup is loaded with camping gear, Bibles, communion supplies, and a large container of water. He and Rodgers Namuswa will head north to pick up Daniel and another worker before heading even farther north into the bush to the village of Chiili. Tonight and tomorrow they will meet with the villagers for preaching and teaching about the message of the gospel and the establishment of a new congregation.

I can’t help but marvel at the letter. I wonder how many school principals and PTA chairpersons in the US would issue such an invitation? Truly “the fields are white unto harvest” in this part of Zambia.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

AIDS in Africa - AIDS Toll May Reach 100 Million in Africa - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

Click on the title to read an article about the "deadliest epidemic in history." We see the devastation of AIDS all around us here. Some of our very good friends are HIV positive. Many of the sponsored students are orphans, with AIDS as a probable cause of many of the parental deaths. There is not a family in our community that has not lost someone to the disease. The gospel has an additional urgency in a culture where death is a constant presence.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Containers, Part 4

We felt like we were at the tower of Babel as guys speaking Chitona, Bemba, and Lozi all offered advice for getting this electric cart unloaded off the container. Finally it was agreed that the farm tractor should back a trailer up to the container. Then lots of manpower lowered the cart gently onto the bed of the trailer.

Containers, Part 3

David surveys the stacks of supplies that came off the container. The white bags in the foreground hold sleeping bags; the bags in the background hold clothing. The bags of clothing are used to fill in the cracks between boxes and other items so that no space is wasted. The new bicycles will be used by church planters who fan out from Namwianga each weekend to teach and preach.

Containers, Part 2

Robby Banda (left), David, and Leonard Sichimwa pose in front of Container 2 right after its arrival on Friday morning. Robby and David spent hours on the internet and cell phones getting the container cleared. Robby even made a one-day trip to Lusaka to deliver the paperwork so that there would be no delay at the border. Leonard Sichimwa is the chief cook for the medical mission and is in charge of getting all the contents of the container put into the right places.

Containers, Part 1

Containers shipped from the US provide many of the supplies that are critical to ministries at Namwianga. These containers are the size of railroad boxcars. At least one is shipped from Abilene to supply the medicines and foodstuffs for the annual medical mission. Usually another one or two containers come over in the course of a year filled with other supplies for the clinic, schools, and other departments.

Each container moves by truck from Abilene to a port on the Gulf of Mexico. Then it sails by ship to a port in either South Africa or Tanzania. There the container must clear customs and then be loaded onto a truck for its final journey to Namwianga. Every border crossing requires another customs clearance. This odyssey usually takes about two months and is often filled with bureaucratic red tape and complications.

That was certainly the case this year. The container (hereafter referred to as Container 1) for the medical mission was shipped out of Abilene in January bound for the port of Durban in South Africa. A second container (Container 2) with miscellaneous items was shipped a month later and scheduled to enter Africa at the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam.

When neither container had arrived by May, the quest to locate and get them moving began. Ellie Hamby in Abilene, an agent in Houston, and mission superintendent George Phiri all began sending e-mails and making phone calls. Of special importance was Container 1 since it held the supplies for the medical mission in July. It also had most of the food that was to be used for a separate effort, the Northreach Medical Mission scheduled for June 1-12. Eventually the container was found to be sitting in a shipyard in Durban where it had been since mid-March awaiting clearance by customs. Containers are allowed only a few days for this process, so now a fee of $2000 in storage charges was levied. The Mission was not technically responsible for the delay, but there was no way to get the container moving without making the payment, so the money was sent. Still the container sat.

Northreach Medical Mission gave up on the container arriving in time for them and began buying up other foodstuffs and making alternate plans. Phone calls and e-mails kept flying with repeated assurances coming from an agent in Lusaka that the container was about to move. Each time the claims turned out to be false.

On Sunday night, the directors of the Zambia Medical Mission met to formulate Plan B. They decided that if Container 1 does not arrive by June 19, the medicines for the mission will have to be purchased in the US and shipped by air to Zambia at a cost of over $50,000. They put out a plea for everyone to pray for Container 1 to get moving. Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic we had already been praying about the issue. David and Robby Banda, the Mission’s financial officer, had started to work on the containers. They began using the internet to locate officials and offices in the chain of responsibility, and they started making phone calls. They were working on both containers: trying to locate Container 1 and get it moving and also making sure that Container 2 was able to clear customs in Dar es Salaam and at the Zambian border.

The logjam seemed to break loose this week as both containers cleared customs in their respective ports and began the journey by truck to Namwianga.

Container 2 has now arrived, pulling into Namwianga on Friday morning at 10:00--one down, one to go. Although we feel very hopeful at this point about Container 1, we won’t be able to celebrate until it arrives and we have the medicines we need here at Namwianga. Please keep this in your prayers!