Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sorry, There's No Room for the Goat

One stop on my way into Kalomo town usually fills up my vehicle with riders. Last week this group hopped in. You can see part of the chicken coop in the middle, wrapped in chitenge fabric. Other baggage included charcoal, empty water containers, buckets, and a plastic washtub. I had to turn down one hopeful passenger--there was no room for the goat.

Dinner on the Veranda

It's so hot that we've been eating our evening meals outside on the veranda. Our group on Wednesday night included (left to right): David, Lauren, Meagan Hawley, Louisa Duke, and Dr. Sid Tate. Meagan and Louisa have been living with us for the past three weeks but will soon be moving to one of the guesthouses for the rest of their stay here at Namwianga. Dr. Tate was at the mission for most of the month of October. He lived and worked at Namwianga for three years from 2002-2005. He returned this year to get an x-ray machine installed and operating at the clinic. That task accomplished, Dr. Tate headed home to Searcy, Arkansas, on Thursday.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

New Wheels

Meagan Hawley shows off her new set of wheels--an authentic African bike complete with a generator that powers the headlight. Meagan's bike will take her to and from her job at Eric's House where she helps Kathi Merritt. In the mornings Meagan takes care of the ten (yes, TEN) toddlers at the orphanage. She goes back in the afternoons and serves as recreation coordinator for the teenage boys who live there. Her lunch and dinner time stories are quite entertaining as she tells about singing with the little ones and playing baseball and football with the guys.

Flowers and Aliens

Water is a scarce commodity in southern Zambia. We try not to waste a drop. When I finish washing and chopping fresh vegetables, I toss the leftover water onto the flowerbed by the back veranda. This routine apparently spread some tomato seeds. A lone tomato plant sprouted and began to flourish among the flowers.

I’ve watched this growth with interest. The tomato plant looks out of place—an alien mixed with the yellow coreopsis blooms. But it is a sturdy volunteer. The vine grew quickly and has even produced a few small fruits.

I feel a kinship with this misplaced tomato plant. I, too, am trying to grow in an alien environment. Like my tomato vine, I look very out of place in my surroundings. I struggle sometimes to fit in and find my place. My brave tomato plant is content to grow and produce fruit. I can have no higher goal.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Independence Day

October 24 is Independence Day in Zambia. Like the United States, Zambia was originally a British colony (Northern Rhodesia). The country earned its independence peacefully in 1964.

In observation of the holiday there were no classes here on campus and most students filled the day by with sporting events.

It was the hottest day we’ve had this year. The outdoor thermometer registered 112 degrees at 2:00. The humidity was very low, thankfully, so it didn’t seem that extreme. Our house stayed relatively comfortable with the windows open and ceiling fans whirring.

David grilled chicken and we ate our dinner on the back veranda with the sound of the crickets as our background music.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Goodbye to Baby Sarah

Baby Sarah touched all of us who knew her. There was something irresistible about her dainty features and her searching eyes. Maybe it was a fascination that one so tiny and frail could even exist in such a harsh land. Maybe it was knowing that her young mother had died and she had no family who wanted to keep her. Maybe it was just a feeling that this baby was extra special.

Whatever the reason, many of us here at Namwianga and many blog readers fell in love with this five-pound sweetheart. We joined Lauren on the "Sarah roller coaster" and lived the highs and lows of her struggle to survive.

Thursday Sarah took a sudden turn for the worse, and Thursday evening her struggle finally ended. Here at our house, Lauren held Sarah and loved her as Meagan, Louisa, and I surrounded the two of them and watched Sarah take her final breaths. Friday morning a handful of the "aunties" who care for the Haven babies joined all of us and Kathi Merritt to bury sweet Sarah.

There is an ache in our hearts. We grieve for Lauren who loved and nurtured and fought for Sarah so valiantly. We grieve for Sarah. In some ways she was a symbol for our hopes for this land--surely one who fought so hard against the odds could make it. And so we grieve for a land where babies like Sarah die every day.

Lauren has written a beautiful account of Sarah's life and death. Click on the title to link to her blog entry.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Around the Bend

David had a close call on Sunday as he came back from an outreach. Here's his story.

I left on Friday with three Zambian evangelists, Rogers, Daniel, and Pastor, for a weekend outreach. Chief Nyawa invited us to come preach at a fish camp on the Sichifulo River 90 miles into the bush northwest of Kalomo. This river flows west and empties into the great Zambezi River. October is the driest, hottest month so the water flow on this river drops dramatically, leaving large pools of water throughout the river bed. People flock here by the hundreds to fish. During the day they swim out to stands they have built in the middle of the river pools and spear barbol (similar to American catfish). Around 5:00 pm they head back to their campsites where they clean the fish and either smoke them over campfires or hang them to dry in the hot sun. There is no salt for perserving, and the odor is ....whew! After a few days they bundle up their dried or smoked fish and take them to their village or to the market.

We preached at this fish camp Saturday and Sunday and had a captive audience of 250. What a wonderful experience! On Sunday morning we held two worship services. At 8:00 we preached at the village of Gooda (Goo-dah). This is a new congregation that was started just a few months ago by some Christians who recently moved into the area. Eight people were baptized after that service. Then we headed 30 minutes down the road to the fish camp where the group of 250 had gathered in the shade. Just before noon we loaded up and headed back toward Namwianga.

The bush is beginning to turn green even though there has been no rain since April. On the trip home I experienced how dangerous this greening of the trees in the bush is. We traveled slowly along sandy "roads," never getting above third gear. These single lane "roads" in long sections have trees and bushes growing right up to the edge of the road. On a straight section this is okay. But on curves you don't ever know if a car, truck, cyclist, cow, goat, or person on foot is around the blind side of the curve.

Around 3:30 we were traveling at about 20 miles an hour on a rare, smooth, straight section of the road that winds through a cornfield. A curved section was coming up with thick, tall, bush bordering each side of the curve. About 20 yards before I reached the curve, a Toyota Land Cruiser truck came roaring down the road around the curve and straight at us. I quickly swerved to the right and into the corn field, avoiding a deadly head-on collision. I managed to stop the truck just before hitting the trees and bushes bordering the curve. Miraculously, no one was hurt and the truck was not damaged. With the truck in 4-wheel drive, I was able get us out of the field and back on the road. I had some words with the Zambian driving the Land Cruiser: "Sir, but by the grace of God go we. Please drive slower." We were very thankful to God that we were at a place in the road where we could avoid a head-on collision. Five seconds made the difference this time. I appreciated once again the prayers rising up for us.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Laughter and Rain

Two major events occurred in the past two days. On Monday, baby Sarah laughed for the first time. Just weeks ago she was fighting for her life and was so thin and frail that I could hardly bear to see her. Now she has bounced back and is getting more lively every day. Her first laugh is a cause for celebration. You can read more about it by clicking on the title which will link you to Lauren's blog site.

Then yesterday afternoon we had the first rain of the season. The air had held the smell and promise of rain for a couple of days, but we were still surprised when the first drops hit the ground. After six months of dryness it's hard to even remember what rain is like. The familiar routines soon kicked in, however. We unplugged the appliances when the thunder and lightning started. The electricity went off half an hour after the storm began, so David grilled the chicken I had planned to bake. We sat on the veranda with Lauren, Meagan, and Louisa sharing stories of rain before enjoying a candlelight dinner. The lights came back on around 8:00.

Today the air is crisp and clean again. The sandy paths are smoothed and void of their usual animal footprints. A few puddles can be found, but most of yesterday's rain soaked into the parched earth. Now we wait for the invasion of the flying ants that follows the first rains. Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Children's Ministry Expands

Ivy and Gertrude came by asking to borrow materials for teaching Sunday School. A few months ago, I began loaning out flip charts and crafts to the college student who teaches the children at the Namwianga congregation. These students saw her resources and asked if they could also borrow supplies for their ministry in another village.

Our wonderful friends at Brentwood Oaks have made a supply of flip charts, and the medical mission children's ministry leaves all the leftover craft projects with me to use during the year. It's a blessing to be able to share with these eager teachers!

I'm planning to make up some more flip charts when we go back for our first furlough. If any of you blog readers would like to make some, just let me know. I can promise that they will be put to good use!

New Faces at Namwianga

We had these three ladies with us this week. Janice Bingham, left, is a nursing instructor at Harding University. She has experience working in African mission hospitals and was here for a week to do some fact-finding work for Harding. Meagan Hawley and Louisa Duke have plans to stay for at least a year or two. Meagan was a middle school English teacher in the US and is now working with the boys at Eric's House. Louisa recently finished her training as a physician's assistant and plans to work at Namwianga's health clinic.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Update on Baby Sarah

Those of you who are, as Lauren puts it, "riding the Sarah roller coaster" will be glad to hear that this has been a high week for her. The antibiotic seems to have knocked out her infection. She's been eating well, looking bright-eyed, and even had the energy to be fussy one morning. Best of all, she SMILED yesterday--for the first time in weeks! Lauren and her Haven co-worker, Rejoice, both broke down and cried with joy and relief.

Sarah is shown here in a new preemie size outfit that Lauren's mother sent over for her. Look at those tiny feet!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Going High Tech

What you see behind me on the screen in this picture is a powerpoint slide! We taught for the first eight months here with chalk as our only visual aid. In May I added a roll of brown butcher paper and markers to our supplies. Allen Neese, one of the doctors on the medical mission, saw our need and gave us a multi-media projector. What a blessing this has been! We don't have to spend precious class time writing on the board. My classes have been learning how to do research papers, so I was able to project sample papers for them to look at. David has incorporated pictures of the temple and other biblical sites into his lessons.

The logistics are still a bit daunting. The first task was getting the electricity working in all three of the classrooms we use. Now that we have outlets, all we have to do is lug the screen, projector, laptop, and converter from our house to the classroom and set them all up for each class. The work is worth it when we see how much more effective our lessons are with some visuals added. We still pack our chalk, though, because when the electricity goes out . . .

I was writing this blog and had just started the last sentence when the electricity DID go out. I have a two-hour class planned for this morning, and I've got wonderful powerpoint slides prepared. Guess I'll get my chalk and start on Plan B.

Friday, October 06, 2006

News and Notes-October 6

This afternoon three student groups left for weekend outreaches. There is always a flurry of activity to get diesel in the vehicles, load the supplies and luggage, and then get everyone onto the buses. We'll look forward to hearing their stories when they arrive back on Sunday afternoon.

Incumbent Levy Mwanawasa has been officially declared the winner of last week's presidential election. There are still reports of rioting and unrest in Lusaka, but everything is calm out here in the bush.

Baby Sarah has had a rough week. Lauren and Kathi Merritt took her back to Livingstone today to see the doctor there. Her white blood cell count is very high, indicating an infection of some kind. She is getting heavy doses of antibiotics for the next three days. Her weight continues to drop--she is now below five pounds.

It's summertime here, and the daytime temperatures are soaring. The mornings and nights are cool and pleasant, however. Several times we thought we smelled rain in the air, and a few droplets fell last Sunday. The rainy season usually begins in late October or early November.

Since this is the beginning of the month, the bicycle outreach evangelists are bringing their monthly reports to David. It is exciting to read about the congregations that have been visited and the plans for the coming weeks.

Arch of Beauty

The jacaranda trees in bloom form a gorgeous purple archway over the road to the Merritt's. This is definitely on my top ten list of the most beautiful sights in Zambia!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Election Update

Times of Zambia
The election results are now showing a slight edge to incumbent President Levy Mwanawasa rather than his opponent. The uncertainty is fueling riots in Lusaka as voters anxiously await the final announcement by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. President Mwanawasa is advising Zambians to avoid violence and seek solutions through the court system. So far we have no word of hanging chads and butterfly ballots . . .

Livingstone Trip, Continued

We continued Lauren's birthday celebration with high tea at The Royal Livingstone Hotel, another delightful and relaxing experience, and then returned to Chanter's for dinner.

As we were eating, Lauren got a call from The Haven that baby Sarah had stopped breathing earlier in the day and was having a rough time. Harriet, the housemother's daughter, was taking care of her and was going to stay up all night with her. We ended our day by praying together for Sarah and for Lauren. As Kathi Merritt has warned us, taking care of babies like Sarah is a roller coaster of highs and lows. The next morning Harriet called to say that Sarah was doing better. We heaved a sigh of relief.

Saturday morning we investigated two new medical facilities in Livingstone. Our primary purpose was to find a source of oxygen for babies like Sarah when they are having trouble breathing. So far the hospital at Maacha, three hours away, was the closest source we could find.

The first facility is an emergency/ambulance service that caters to tourists and ex-patriots. Ihanda, the wife of the manager, was extremely helpful in explaining what they have available and said they do have oxygen. She also referred us to a new clinic in town. We visited there as well and were very impressed with the equipment and services offered. We now feel that we have two new resources to tap when we have emergencies at Namwianga. Livingstone is only an hour an a half away as compared to the three-hour trip to Maacha.

We ended our time in Livingstone by picking up Dr. Sid Tate at the airport. He is returning to Namwianga to finish getting the X-ray machine in operation at the clinic. A technician is flying in from Kenya on Monday to do the final set-up and adjustments.

When we arrived back at Namwianga, Lauren found that Sarah has bounced back once again and is doing better. Her weight is now below five pounds, though, so she doesn't have much to fight with. It's a day to day struggle for her. We'll keep you posted.

Chanter's Lodge

After our adventure at the Zambezi Gorge, we checked in at a delightful place called Chanter's Lodge. You can click on the title above to see more photos and information. Richard, the owner, was a great host. He has his own blog for the lodge and has posted our blog address as well as photos of baby Sarah and Lauren.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Zambezi Swing

Lauren's 25th birthday was Friday, so we had a good excuse to go for an adrenaline-pumping, heart-pounding adventure swinging over the Zambezi Gorge. We got up early and went by The Haven to check on baby Sarah before heading to Livingstone. We made a quick stop in town for Lauren's annual Birthday Doughnut (she only eats doughnuts on her birthday) and then went on the Batoka Gorge.

Abseiling, or rappelling as we call it in the US, was the first challenge. We were harnessed into our gear, fastened to a line, and slowly lowered over the edge of the abyss--gorge, that is. This one was fun and not too scary, so we were ready for more.

We had a 20-minute or so hike back up to the top where we did the Fox Run. For this high wire activity, we were put into a harness and hooked to a zip line over the gorge. A quick running start and a giant leap sends you flying Superman-style into the air. I loved this, as you can tell from the picture on the left! It was exhilarating to look down and see the Zambezi flowing in the distance as you fly straight at the rocky crag on the opposite side of the gorge. We each got to do this twice.

The final test of stupidity or bravery, however you choose to look at it, was the Gorge Swing. Lauren and I decided to do this one in tandem, so our harnesses were clipped together. Then we were led up to the edge of the platform. We were going over backwards, so we backed up until our heels hung over the edge. Our guide didn't give us time to think too long about what we were doing as he fired off the instructions: bend your knees, tuck your head down, and LEAN BACK! Then there were about three seconds of pure free fall (and intense screaming) until the rope extended all the way and we began to swing back and forth across the gorge. At that point our screams turned into raucous laughter--probably from the joy of still being alive and still having the use of our limbs. All I could think about at that point was how many times I have lectured my students about the dangers of peer pressure by saying, "If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?" Well, we did it and lived to tell about it!

David jumped by himself (see photo) and Lauren had enough guts for a second solo jump as well. We all agreed that we'd had an awesome experience that will give us stories to tell for many months! You can read more about the gorge swing at