Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Still Running

Jack Bayles stands proudly by the Toyota pickup he bought in 1987 when he and his wife lived here at Namwianga. The current owner was proud to show Jack that it is still running after 20 years of rough riding in the bush.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

News from the Chicken House

Believe it or not, I actually have people who e-mail me about the chickens. For those who are interested, here's the latest coop news.

The White Hen finally gave up on her empty nest and rejoined the real world. Citronella, the hen who sat on eggs for five weeks but hatched no chicks, has redirected her mothering instincts toward Petronella's four chicks. One night I was outside checking on something and happened to shine my flashlight onto the chicken roost. There was Petronella sitting by herself. Next to her, Citronella had her wings spread over the four baby chicks, their yellow heads peeking out under Citronella's feathers.

I suppose that Petronella's newfound freedom was bound to change her behavior. She's become quite the escape artist, finding all sorts of ways to get out of the chicken pen and scratch around in the yard. She's even started laying eggs in one of the flower beds. Usually we manage to get her back into the pen at night, but a couple of times she eluded us and flew high up on the roof of the chicken pen to roost.

The chicken house population keeps growing. We've now been given two red hens as thank you gifts. Our Zambian friends keep telling us that we are REAL chicken farmers. The adventures in raising chickens continue. . .

The Meagan-Mobile

Meagan Hawley works with the thirteen toddlers at Eric's House every morning. Each afternoon she brings two of the little ones home with her to give them some extra attention. She had been pushing a stroller for the mile-long trip, but now Jack Bayles has made this nifty bike trailer for her to use. Meagan reports that the bike is much easier to navigate through the deep sand. Best of all, the toddlers love the ride.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bible School Outreach

The Saturday afternoon outreach to Sandy Hill Farm turned out great! Five college students had signed up to go with me, but eight were ready and waiting when I pulled up in front of the dorm. We filled the cab and crammed the rest into the back and took off.

Rodgers had suggested that I teach a ladies' class while the students did the Bible school, but we decided to just do the children's class and let the ladies come watch with their children. That worked out well, as we had 10 women and 50 children who came. It was hard to decide who showed more interest--the moms or the kids.

I hadn't been to Sandy Hill for several months, but some of the kids obviously remembered me. Five-year-old Lillian came running when she saw me and climbed up in my lap.

The college students did a fantastic job of teaching. I was amazed at how well they related to the children. The three guys who were with us didn't hesitate a bit to pick up the crying babies and settle them down. (These babies don't wear diapers, so there's some risk involved!) The college girls also jumped in and taught with enthusiasm.

As we packed up to leave, Jodrin (bottom photo on the right) said, "Madam, when we do these classes, we must always invite the parents so they will learn how to teach their children." Sounds like a great idea to me!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

News and Notes - May 19, 2007

The second term began this week, and we were glad to welcome the first year students back. After a month of a still and quiet campus, we enjoy having the activity and noise of the students again.

Our current houseguest is Jack Bayles from Stillwater, Oklahoma. Jack has a long history with Namwianga. He and his wife first came in 1987 when Joann served as the school nurse. They lived here for several months, and Jack has come back regularly since then to help with water issues. He is exploring various water purifying projects and is testing the water in wells around the campus, so we have experiments and test kits all over the place. He showed us buckets of murky lake water and then treated one with less than a teaspoon of alum. In that bucket the mud and dirt immediately settled to a small circle on the bottom of the bucket, leaving clear, clean water at the top. He is using a black light and marker tablets to test for contamination in certain wells and has culture kits growing to check for e coli in other wells. The good news is that our well water once again tests pure, and even the lake water tap that we use for watering plants is turning out pretty clean stuff.

Jack also builds trailers for bicycles and made one for Meagan to use when she takes toddlers back and forth from the Merritts’ orphanage. Meagan tries to bring one or two little ones home with her each afternoon so that she can give them some one-on-one attention. She had been pushing a double stroller for the long walk, but now she can put them in the trailer behind her bike and have a much shorter, easier trip.

Last weekend we spoke at a marriage seminar in Chilesha. The response from our audience was excellent. The Zambians have very different ways of dealing with issues in public. During our question and answer session, a woman asked what a wife should do if her husband attends a different church than she does. We gave our best advice, and as we finished, a man seated on the opposite side of the building from woman who asked the question raised his hand. “I am the husband,” he said. “I like what you have said here today. I am going to start going to church with my wife from now on.”

Today I am taking a group of college students to Sandy Hill. My plan was to do a children’s Bible school class. Communication, as always, was a problem. I asked Rodgers to go out yesterday on his motorbike and arrange a time for the class. He came back in the afternoon giving me a list of ladies who would gather the WOMEN for my class. “Rodgers, I was planning to teach the children, not the women,” I told him.

Rodgers thought for just a moment. “No problem, Ba Linda,” he said. You can teach the women, and the college girls can teach the children. You can do two things at once.” I guess that’s the story of my life over here!

I just got interrupted for at least the fifth time since I started writing this blog entry. I guess that tells me I need to wrap it up. As always, thank you to those who remember us in prayer as we labor on the edges of the kingdom.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Thoughts on Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is sometimes a bittersweet day for me. I love the sentiments and gifts from my children and husband, but there is also sadness when I remember my first child and my mother who are no longer with us.

This Mother’s Day brought a different kind of sadness. We arrived for the Namwianga campus church’s Sunday morning services just as Kathi Merritt pulled up with a busload of toddlers and teenage boys from the Eric’s House orphanage. I held out my arms to the little ones. Phillip, a handsome and very sober two-year-old, ran to me and let me carry him into the auditorium. We sat down behind a row of boys. One was a secondary student who is in the sponsorship program. Three others were teenagers from Eric’s House, and two of them were holding toddler boys, also from the Eric’s House. In a few minutes Meagan Hawley and Louisa Duke joined us, with Meagan holding another of the toddlers.

It dawned on me that all of the boys and toddlers around me are orphans. Not one has a biological mother still alive. I looked down at precious Phillip on my lap and mourned for the mother who cannot trace his little fingers with her own, who cannot cuddle him on her shoulder, who cannot kiss him on his shiny forehead. I looked at the handsome young men in front of me and thought of what their mothers have missed in not getting to watch their boys grow up. And I looked around me at the auditorium full of young people and wondered how many of them have no mothers. My best guess is that at least one out of four or five is motherless.

I fought back tears, overwhelmed with the sadness of knowing that so many children have no mothers. May God help us at Namwianga as we seek to care for and educate these precious orphans. May he bless those of you who so generously give to make it possible. May we never take the blessings of motherhood for granted.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Overcoming Evil

Witch doctors, curses, and witchcraft are very real in Zambia, especially in the rural areas. These traditional religious practices and beliefs are as much a part of the Zambian culture as independence and materialism are to our own American lifestyle. Even long-time Christians have a difficult time resisting the pressure to turn to witchcraft.

On Monday one of the high school sponsored students came to see me. Prize is a very intelligent young man and a hard worker. I had been surprised when his grades for the first term showed he was failing several courses. Now he looked at me with hollow eyes and said simply, “Madam, I cannot come back to school this term.”

“Are you sick?” I asked.

“Yes, Madam. I fall asleep in class and I can’t study. My sleep is disturbed at night.”

“Have you been to the clinic? Do you have medicine?”

“The clinic cannot help me, Madam.” I knew immediately what was coming next, and I dreaded to hear it.

“Prize, you don’t think you are cursed, do you?”

“Yes, Madam. At night I see a woman coming to me and holding me down by my arms. I am paralyzed.” He went on describing other ways he was being “witched.”

By this time David had joined us, and together we pulled out the Bible and read passages to Prize about the power of Jesus Christ to overcome the power of Satan. We tried our best to convince him that evil could not control him because he was a child of God. He just stared at us, his shoulders sagging. We were not getting through.

Prize has no parents and has had many difficulties in life, so my Western mind jumped to mental illness as a cause of his problems. I began to explain depression and ask him about feelings of overwhelming sadness. He steadfastly insisted that he was not depressed. He was convinced that he was under a curse and could not come back to school. He wanted to go live with his brother in Kalomo.

David and I looked at each other, wondering what to do next. “Wilson!” David said.

I grabbed my cell phone and called Wilson, the headmaster at a nearby school. He is known for his strong faith and his equally strong stand against the powers of witchcraft. I explained the situation to him, and even though it was the first day of the new term, Wilson welcomed us to bring the young man by to talk with him.

David was headed for Choma that morning anyway, so he dropped Prize off at Wilson’s office on the way. A couple of hours later David stopped back by on his way home, just as Wilson and the school’s Bible teacher were finishing their counseling session with Prize.

A greater transformation can hardly be imagined. Gone were the sagging shoulders and hollow eyes. Instead of going back to his brother’s home in Kalomo, Prize insisted on returning to Namwianga to get registered for Term 2. “I am standing firm in Christ,” he said. “You have done good work today.”

Later that week Wilson called to check on Prize, so I tracked him down after chapel. His bright eyes and broad smile told me what I needed to know even before he could get the words out. “I am fine, Madam. Thank you. You have done good for me.”

I don’t know what Wilson said to him, but I plan to find out. Until then I will rejoice in the words of I John 4:4. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Another Chiili Trip

Communication and transportation are our constant challenges on the mission field. Seldom a day goes by when we don’t face a problem with one or the other. And then sometimes we end up in a huge snarl of communication and transportation problems that have to be sorted out. That’s exactly what happened last week when we were trying to get Brian Siakuba to his assigned school for student teaching practice.

Brian is one of our finest students. He smart, he’s spiritually minded, and he’s a hard worker. He came to us months ago and asked us to help him find a place to do his student teaching where he could also work with a local congregation. We immediately thought of Chiili, a remote village where David and Rodgers planted a congregation in May of 2006. We had promised the headmistress there that we would try to send her some student teachers this year. Brian, a math major, was willing to go, and he recruited another of our best students, Auditor, an English major, to go to Chiili with him.

In April as the two of them left for the break, we told them a little bit about Chiili. Until a few years ago, Chiili was part of the Kafue Game Park. It is a tiny village of a few houses, a school, and a handful of tiny shops. There are no motorized vehicles there, and the nearest public transportation—a flatbed truck—comes twice a week and stops at a village 10 kilometers away. To get to Chiili you have to walk the rest of the way. We told Brian and Auditor we would have to take them up there, along with bedding and all the food and supplies they would need for the three-month term. Since Brian and Auditor live in rural villages, we had no good way of communicating with them during the break. We went ahead and set May 3 as the date for making the four-hour trip from Namwianga to Chiili. We agreed that the two of them would meet us at Namwianga.

As the day drew near, I went shopping for the things they would need: two mattresses, four blankets, two kerosene lamps, 25 pounds of rice, a huge sack of dried fish, instant milk, 10 pounds of sugar, 5 gallons of cooking oil, 5 pounds of salt, coffee, and charcoal.

We found out on May 2 that there was no diesel for sale in Kalomo, so we postponed the trip until May 4 so we would have time to go to Choma for fuel. Brian called us, and we told him of the change in plans. He agreed to get in touch with Auditor. The next day was May 3, and we expected to see Auditor arrive. Brian continued to try to contact him with no success. Finally he asked around in Kalomo and found that Auditor’s father had died on May 1. Auditor would not be coming any time soon.

We left early on the morning of May 4 for the grueling trip to Chiili. Rodgers Namuswa served as our bio-GPS and navigated for us. It’s hard to describe how bad the roads are on the way to Chiili. Some sections are full of potholes. Some sections of the road have been washed away, and the vehicle must detour off on the side to get around. The last part of the journey was over pasture roads that sometimes had grass three-feet high in between the two tracks. After four hours of this torture we pulled into the school grounds of Chiili.

The surprises began. Jane, the headmistress we knew and loved, had been transferred to another school. The new headmaster was in Livingstone. The deputy headmastser was in Livingstone. Cliff, the young teacher we knew, was in Livingstone. We had arrived on Friday, and they were expected to return to Chiili on Sunday. No other teachers were around. Our greeters were three teachers’ wives and a dozen or so children.

The deputy headmaster’s wife produced a key to the living quarters where Brian would be staying. The tiny room was only about six feet wide and ten feet long and was stacked from floor to ceiling with metal beds and mattresses for the boarding students. The women and children pitched in with us and quickly helped move the beds and mattresses next door into the boarding room. As we talked with them, we found out that the congregation had scheduled a three-day meeting to begin that night, and they were expecting us to stay and be the featured speakers. We had not even informed anyone we were coming, so we aren’t sure how that rumor got started.

Then they began asking about the medical mission. It seems they thought that Chiili was one of the sites for a clinic in July. Each of the three times we have visited Chiili in the past we have explained to them that we do not choose sites for the clinics. We have also told them that their roads are too bad for the medical mission vehicles. We had even told them that the sites for 2007 had already been selected many months ago. They had obviously not gotten the message and were disappointed when we told them we were returning to Namwianga that day and that there would be no medical mission in Chiili this year.

We got Brian’s few possessions unloaded into his tiny room. I can only imagine the thoughts going through his head as we prepared to leave him alone in this remote village. We assured him that we would send Auditor to join him if we were able to contact him and that we would return at the end of the term to take him home. We gathered everyone for a prayer of blessing for Brian and his time in Chiili. And then we headed back to Namwianga, marveling once again at the challenges of transportation and communication in the African bush.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Yet Another Chicken House Story

Some readers tell me they like my chicken stories and even find them helpful. The rest of you will just have to bear with me as I give the next installment of news from the coop. After six weeks of faithfully sitting on a dozen guinea fowl eggs, Citronella still had no chicks to show for her work. Apparently the eggs were duds, and we had to discard them. She and I went through post-partum depression together and have now recovered. She seems happy to be back to the old routines of scratching in the dirt.

We had a tragedy last week when a stray dog ate one of the little chicks. The remaining four are growing quickly. Their yellow fluff is quickly turning to brown and black feathers. All of them can find their way back into the pen on their own now and can fly up to the roost. They still like to hide under Petronella's sheltering wings at times.

Our young (and huge) white hen (dubbed The White Hen) finally began laying eggs. Ten days later her God-given instincts told her it was time to nest, and she settled in next to Citronella and began sitting--on nothing! We had gathered her eggs daily so she had no eggs in the nest. Nevertheless, she refused to leave or even let any other hen sit there. Today one of the Zambians put bricks in the nest to keep her off of it. The White Hen just hopped over into the next nest (Citronella's old one) and settled in again. I admire her tenacity but question her judgment. Reminds me of some people I know who hang on to ideas and habits when sound judgment and clear thinking would say, "Let it go." I hope I'll remember The White Hen when I'm tempted to dig in on issues and situations that aren't really there--or at least those that are not worthy of my nesting on them.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Clean Birthing Kits

I usually don't use the blog to ask for things, but this particular need seems blog-worthy. Even those who are not interested in participating may enjoy hearing about this effort.

The doctors and nurses who work with Zambia Medical Mission plan to give birthing kits to expectant mothers who do not have access to a hospital or rural clinic for delivery. The kit will include the following items:

Bar of soap
Square meter of plastic sheeting
Razor blade (single edge)
String for umbilical cord
Pictorial instruction sheet for clean delivery
Sealed bag for packaging
Length of cotton cloth
Pair of latex examination gloves

This all seems so simple, but a woman who uses this kit is 13 times more likely to survive her labor. The average woman in Zambia delivers six children. Sadly, the infant mortality rate in Zambia is so high that only three of those children are likely to survive. Three out of four women never make it to the hospital, giving birth on the dusty ground or on the road, many using saw grass to cut their baby's umbilical cord.

We are encouraging those who are interested in this effort to give a donation for this project as a Mother’s Day gift. It costs just $10 to provide seven kits to expectant mothers. What better gift is there to give on Mother’s Day than one that will give an expectant mother in Zambia a better chance to survive delivery and have a healthy baby.

If you are interested in doing this, please make checks to Zambia Mission and send it to the following address: Zambia Mission, 658 E.N. 21st St., Abilene, TX 79601. Please also include your mother’s name and address, as a card will be sent to your mother informing her of your gift.