Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Update - January 30

The rains keep coming. It has rained every day for two weeks now. We are slogging through mud to get to our classes, and we don't leave the house without an umbrella or rain jacket. The roads are slick with the layer of gooey mud, but there is little room between potholes to work up enough speed for any sliding around.

The classroom I teach in has a metal roof and no ceiling. When the downpours come, the noise of the rain on the roof is deafening. No matter how loud I talk, the students can't hear me. I have to resort to writing instructions on the board as we wait for the rain to let up. Last week I had English classes at 3:00 and 5:00. Then I was scheduled to teach the college women's Bible class at 7:00. At 3:00 a huge thunderstorm came through and I had only about 15 minutes of class time when the students could hear me. By the time class ended, the sun had come out and the skies were clear. At 5:15 another storm blew in and that class also had to sit and read from the board until the rain stopped a half hour later. I was all set to walk out the door for the evening Bible class when the power went off. By this time the campus was darkened, so no electricity meant no class. It was just one of those days!

We have enjoyed a quick visit from Christopher Harmon and his mother Belinda. Christopher works with a foundation that is drilling water wells in the area. Belinda spent Monday with the well drilling team visiting job sites. Then on Tuesday I took her on a campus tour and we visited the market in Kalomo. Both Christopher and Belinda are delightful guests and we have enjoyed their time with us.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

News and Notes - January 23

During our furlough I was amazed at how many people told me that they read the blog, especially the ones who say they check it every day. To those devoted readers I can only offer my apologies for not writing much lately. We have been extremely busy trying to catch up from being gone six weeks and at the same time getting a new school year started.

We had been concerned about the lack of rainfall during November. While we were in the US, we heard reports that the rainfall was sketchy in this area, and we wondered if this would be one of the years of drought and famine.

Then the rains came! It has rained almost every day since we got back, and many of those rains have been downpours. Our back yard resembled a swamp for most of the weekend. Our water cisterns for storing rainwater have filled over and over again. The native farmers assure us that although the rains came late the crops will do well with this much moisture. We are thankful.

The rains have also brought out the critters. We have gotten used to sleeping through roosters crowing and donkeys braying, but the croaking of frogs and the cacophony of crickets is about to send us over the edge. The other night we forgot and left our sneakers outside on the veranda. When I started putting mine on the next day, one of those noisy frogs jumped out and hopped away. My days are full of surprises of one kind or another!

Appreciation Dinner

Friday night we began a series of appreciation dinners to honor the faculty and staff at Namwianga Mission. Our first group to attend included the teachers at the secondary school. We are always amazed at how quickly news travels at Namwianga. We distributed invitations on the Monday, and within hours the campus was buzzing with talk about this big event. Before long we began getting inquiries about whether or not other employees could to be invited. We explained that we would host everyone at some point, but that we could only do a group at a time because of space limitations. That seemed to please everyone.

We set up tables and chairs on our veranda and decorated with tablecloths from the US and flowers from our yard. It always takes a little “zam-genuity” to pull things off in Zambia. The tablecloths kept blowing away, so we tied them in knots underneath the tables to hold them in place. We only had two real vases, so we improvised with glass jars and tied red bandanas around the screw tops. We were pleased with the results and declared it a “Martha Stewart” moment for us.

The dinner was to begin at 6:00. At 3:00 a huge thunderstorm with torrential rains blew in. We moved all the tables back toward the wall of the house and out of the rain. When the rain let up, we had to sweep out the water that had flooded the veranda floor, mop it up as best we could, and hope for the best. A light rain continued to fall as our guests arrived with umbrellas in hand. David took our vehicle and drove around to the far corners of the mission to pick up some of the teachers. In true Zambian style it was after 7:00 before we could begin the meal.

We had debated about what to serve at a dinner like this: should we serve Zambian traditional foods or American-style dishes? The Zambians we consulted thought that our guests would appreciate and enjoy American food, so the menu was chicken and rice casserole, cooked carrots, cole slaw, rolls, and cake. Most of the guests seemed to like the food and several went back for seconds.

The rain cleared while we ate. After the dinner, David presented a message to the teachers about the importance of their work. The headmaster also spoke words of encouragement. Apparently the teachers have not had many evenings like this, and all expressed their gratitude as they headed for home.

Now that we have the decorating, menu, and program figured out, we're planning dinners for the next three Friday nights to make sure that every mission employee is included.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Heat Wave and Other News

Many of our friends and family members have e-mailed us about the ice storm and have sent us pictures of the winter wonderland blanketing the middle section of the US. Meanwhile, we are sweltering in the heat! Long-term missionary Sheri Sears says she can't remember a January this hot. Unlike the dry October heat, these high temperatures are accompanied by humidity since this is the rainy season. Thankfully we have had afternoon thunderstorms to cool off the evenings.

On Monday I decided to keep track of how many times someone knocked on our door. Everyone in the household got into the project as we tallied our visitors on a large post-it note. The final count at the end of the day was 26, and for part of the afternoon we had posted a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door!

Our new houseguest is Elizabeth Woodruff from Searcy, Arkansas. She is here at Namwianga for a couple of months. Elizabeth spends her days working at The Haven and helping with the sports program at NCSS. She's already been initiated into the joys and frustrations of life here in Africa--her luggage went to Nairobi, Kenya, instead of Zambia. She finally got it five days after her arrival at Namwianga.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Brentwood Oaks, our sponsoring congregation in Austin, knows how to treat missionaries! Every step of our experience in Zambia has been blessed, prayed for, and supported by the generous and loving members at Brentwood.

We had daily opportunities to enjoy this blessing during our furlough as we were hosted for meals time and time again. We were repeatedly assured that our friends pray for us. Many admit to being avid blog readers who share our joys and disappointments through the internet. Others committed their resources to helping the orphans and needy at Namwianga Mission. There were countless hugs and words of encouragement at every turn.

We thought it couldn’t get any better. But we were wrong.

Last Sunday night the congregation had its monthly Sunday night singing devotional. They had announced that there would be a reception for us following the evening service, and we looked forward to that opportunity for one last time with them before we left to return to Zambia on Tuesday.

What they didn’t tell us was that the congregation had secretly learned to sing “Wabota Munzi Waba Jesu,” our favorite Tonga song (and the first one on the Namwianga Sings! CD). Michele Broadway had written out the music and the phonetic pronunciation of the words. She provided each Care Group leader with copies of the music and words, as well as a recording of the Namwianga choir singing the song. The Care Groups learned the song at their meetings and then the congregation practiced singing it together on a Wednesday night while we were away traveling.

At the end of Sunday evening’s devotional, one of the elders called us up to the front and had us stand as he led the congregation in singing a beautiful, stirring rendition of the song—in perfect Tonga! We stood there and watched even little children singing the words with confidence, and we were touched to the heart.

As it was when we first left for Zambia in 2005, leaving our loved ones behind to return was a wrenching experience. We are comforted and strengthened as we see a description of our brothers and sisters at Brentwood expressed in Philemon 1:7 – Your love has given us great joy and encouragement, because you have refreshed the hearts of the saints.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Creature Comforts

Here are the top five creature comforts we enjoyed in the US (in no particular order).
1. Mexican food
2. Paved roads
3. Padded pews
4. Not having to sleep under a mosquito net
5. Public restrooms equipped with toilet paper, warm water, soap, and a way to dry hands. We spent five weeks in the US and never failed to find public restrooms with all of the above.

Home at Last

We are bleary-eyed, jet-lagged, and bone-weary, but we are home in Zambia at last. The journey included eight hours in a car, 18 hours in the air on two different flights, three hours of standing in line, one hour in a bus switching airports in London, and 15 hours waiting around in airports. We left Austin early Tuesday morning and arrived back at Namwianga Thursday afternoon.

When we left Zambia in late November, the rains had just begun and the countryside was still dry and brown. We arrived today to find everything lush, green, and beautiful.

Tonight (Thursday) we are unpacking and putting away the many items that were given to us or that we purchased on our trip. We're also packing away the winter sweaters and fleece jackets we wore in the US--we won't need them here until June.

I'll blog more about our last few days in the States when I've had some sleep!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Update - January 6

We are back in Austin after a week on the road visiting my family and friends. We drove to Missouri on the 27th and stayed until the 31st. Sara drove up with us and John flew in on Friday the 29th. That night we had a gathering of my nieces and nephews--an outstanding bunch I am extremely proud of! Some spirited game-playing brought out my competitive streak (my team won) and revealed a possible inherited tendency toward competitiveness in the relatives, as well as a tendency for my nieces to marry really smart guys who also like to win (I was on their team).

Saturday the 30th we had our official family gathering and managed to have all the immediate family there--but not all at the same time. A stomach bug swept through the ranks causing some to leave early and others to arrive late. Oh well--we almost had the whole group there for the photos.

David preached at Mt. Vernon on Sunday. This is the congregation where I grew up, and it is always a nostalgic and joyful experience to visit there. The Sunday School teacher who inspired me is now frail--but still smiling and beautiful. I reminded her of the many great times we had with her and her husband. They took our group of giggly junior high girls to the lake and taught us to water ski on Table Rock Lake. Barbara also encouraged us to memorize scriptures, and the verses I learned then are still with me. Through the years I have often thought of her and hoped that I have been able to influence students in my classes the way she influenced me.

We stayed in Tulsa with Sara Sunday night and then drove on by ourselves to Searcy for another visit with David's parents. We made it back to Austin on Thursday and are now busy making our last minute preparations before we leave to return to Zambia on Tuesday.