Sunday, October 28, 2007

HIZ Outreach

One of the many joys of having the Harding students on campus is that they have joined us on many outreaches. The group shown above braved a rugged two-hour ride with David and Rodgers to see a congregation install its first elders. Jonathan delivered the message that day with Rodgers as his translator.


Friday was graduation day for the college. The graduates finished their coursework in 2006 but had to wait for the results to be finalized before receiving their diplomas. Since we hadn't seen them since last year, it was exciting to see them again and to hear of their activities. Most of the sponsored students were able to get jobs even without diplomas and are already teaching. Several are in mission areas of Western and Luapula Province where they are planting churches and encouraging new congregations.

The college choir sang for the occasion. Some of the Harding students have joined this group, and it is a joy to see and hear them mixed in with their Zambian peers.

The guest speaker was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zambia. He raved about the beautiful singing and even requested an additional song after the official program had ended. As he made his final remarks, he said, "I don't want to leave. I'd like to just sit here and listen to more of this beautiful singing from the choir."

We made sure he received a CD to take with him so that he can continue to remember the George Benson Christian College choir.

85 Reasons I Haven't Been Blogging

The 85 reasons I haven't been blogging are the 85 research papers my students turned in for me to grade. I have been marking papers every spare minute for three weeks now. I am drowning in a sea of red ink (and self-pity). I am nearing the end at last and hope to resume normal life soon.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fowl Play

Since we don't have a TV, we have come up with our own creative forms of entertainment. Many of these involve--no surprise here--the chickens.

For instance, we have discovered that the chickens will jump for bits of food. We simply poke a piece of stale bread through the wire mesh and watch the fun begin. One of the good jumpers will go high and grab the food, then hit the ground and run while the other less athletic birds chase after him and try to steal the treat.

Certain chickens definitely have more spring in their steps than others. The rooster Justafella has the advantage of superior height, but Petronella, Citronella, and one of the younger hens can just about match him. My favorite, though, is one of the young roosters who can't seem to get enough of jumping. He starts flying at the fence as soon as he sees me heading toward the coop. He leaps high and hard time after time.

I think I picked an appropriate name for him: Larry Bird.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Foster Hen

The drama in the chicken coop continues! One of the hens (now dubbed Cruella for soon-to-be-obvious reasons) seems to be suffering from a severe lack of motherly instincts. She has been sitting on her nest for weeks now. Her eggs began hatching last week, but she pushed the chicks out of the nest and refused to come down with them. In the chicken-eat-chick world, the other chickens attacked the babies and killed four of them before I figured out what was happening and began my rescue operation. I started checking the pen every few hours and managed to save three of the balls of fluff before they had too many injuries. I have them safely ensconced in a cardboard box in my pantry where they are doing just fine under my foster care.

Then on Wednesday Cruella came down off her perch with two new baby chicks and started acting like a mother hen should. I thought she had finally come to her senses and might manage to avoid becoming our dinner in the near future. The following day Citronella, one of our original hens, hatched out just one tiny chick. Citronella and Cruella strutted around the yard with their chicks and all was well in the chicken world—at least until dusk. I went out to check on them and found Cruella back up on her high nest with her babies running around frantically below her. I figured I might as well add them to the box in the pantry and started to go in the pen. Just then Citronella came swooping over from her corner and engulfed the two lost chicks under her wings with her own baby. She stared at me with her beady-eyes and dared me to take another step. I watched her for a few minutes as she got settled for the night and left her alone.

Cruella came down for a few hours the next day and took over her chicks, but by mid-afternoon she was back on her nest and hasn’t been down since. Citronella and the three little ones seem perfectly happy without her. I asked my neighbor Mrs. Moono what she thought about Cruella. "Some chickens are not good mothers," she told me. "You should eat that one!"

Maybe we will. Citronella, however, is now in the running for Mother of the Year.

Another Sponsored Student Success Story

I was delighted to see Japhet Nawa visiting the campus this week. Japhet was sponsored through high school here at Namwianga and in 2005 was the first person in his family to graduate from high school. Last year he earned a diploma in business and computer studies at George Benson. Japhet proudly told me that he now works the front desk computer at the highly rated Tongabezi Lodge in Livingstone. I'm very proud of Japhet and thankful for the sponsors who made it possible for him to achieve this.

Update - October 14, 2007

It's been a quiet and busy week here. The Harding students were gone on a nine-day camping trip to northern Zambia, so the campus seemed empty without them. They arrived this (Sunday) afternoon with stories to tell, and we look forward to hearing about their adventures with windblown tents, rainstorms, and much more.

The first stop for many of them after getting off the bus was to grab their laptops and go online. They were able to do it because we finally have the new internet system up and working again. The new server had to be shipped from the US, cleared through customs, flown to Livingstone for checking, and finally brought out here to be installed on Thursday.

Courtney Elder, one of the Harding students, has been staying with us since Wednesday. Courtney's father died suddenly in September, and Courtney flew home to be with her family for a couple of weeks. The plan was for her to fly into Lusaka on Monday and meet up with the Harding group on Monday or Tuesday to finish out the trip with them. However, South African Airways made a series of blunders, and by the time Courtney got into Lusaka on Tuesday, the Harding group was too far north for her to join them. I know this was a terrible blow for her, but she has been an absolute trooper about everything, and we feel blessed that we have gotten to know her this week. The Oldenburgs took her to Livingstone yesterday, so at least she got to see Victoria Falls and do some curio shopping.

October is the hottest month of the year here, and the first part of this week was miserable as we endured baking, energy-sapping heat. On Thursday the first big rain of the season washed over us and left the air fresher and cooler.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

On a Mission Update--Agness

On Tuesday I blogged about my mission in Lusaka to get the chemotherapy drugs for Agness. I managed to find a person who could contact her parents in their remote village. It took a few days, but on Friday, Agness's mother came to get her medicine. She says Agness is doing fine.

Formula for Happy Babies

The Kiwanis Club of Abilene donated money to purchase formula for babies at The Haven. Shown here are some of the precious little ones who will benefit from their generosity.

If you are part of a group that needs a service project, consider contributing to the Milk Fund at Namwianga. In addition to feeding the babies who live at The Haven, the Milk Fund also provides formula for orphan babies in the villages who are being cared for by aunts, grandmothers, sisters, or cousins.

Sponsored Student Success Story

Nippah Moonga was a sponsored student during his time at George Benson Christian College. He was active in outreaches and often went with David to teach at the Sandy Hill Farm's campfire Bible studies. When Nippah finished his teacher preparation course in 2006, we encouraged him to attend Mapepe Bible College for additional training.

Nippah came by the other day to show us his diploma from Mapepe and the award he received for being first in his class there. He's now been hired to be on the staff of Mapepe and assist them with their outreach and training efforts. We are very proud of Nippah and thankful for the sponsors who enabled him to go to school.

Bicycle Evangelism

Back in mid-September, the Church Development Program at Namwianga hosted a seminar for all the bicycle evangelists--the men who have been given bicycles to use as they plant churches and encourage existing congregations. For three days these 18 men participated in classes covering textual studies, leadership, evangelism, and practical application of Bible knowledge. They were challenged to continue their good work and to do even more to spread the gospel in Southern Province.

They took the challenge seriously. This week, without any prompting from the Church Development Program, the bicycle evangelists met again. They targeted an area where there are no strong congregations and committed to spend the week of October 16-22 there. They will camp in various places to preach, teach, and plant churches. They also agreed to contribute their own money to pay for part of the expenses for this effort.

We are humbled and amazed by their zeal and enthusiasm. To God be the glory.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On a Mission

We took a much-needed weekend off and headed for Lusaka on Friday afternoon. We booked a room at a missionary guesthouse and planned to just relax and do nothing related to our jobs for a couple of days.

Except for one little thing. Agness, a 12-year-old girl who lives far out in the bush, was diagnosed with cancer last July. Her parents took her to Lusaka to a cancer specialist, and she began taking chemotherapy drugs. Her father came to me in early September and asked for help to get her prescription refilled before she ran out of meds on September 30.

I enlisted help from Louisa Duke, our wonderful physician’s assistant and missionary. Louisa took the prescription to Lusaka two weeks ago and tried to get it filled at the Link pharmacy in the really nice shopping plaza. They had one of the two drugs the girl needs, so Louisa asked them to order the other one and she went ahead and paid for it.

I planned to do just one official errand Saturday and pick up that girl’s prescription at Link. At 9:30 I walked in and told them what I was there for. There were some hesitant glances and consultation among the staff. They weren’t sure if the medicine was in and would need to talk to the manager. I agreed to come back in a few minutes.

At 10:00 I returned to the store. The pharmacist appeared uncomfortable as he broke the news to me: the medication was out of stock and unavailable from their source in South Africa.

I stared at them in disbelief. “What am I supposed to do?” I asked. “This little girl is out of her chemo drugs on Monday. What am I going to tell her?”

The pharmacist and his assistant looked helpless. Finally, one said, “You will need to go to the University Teaching Hospital. Talk to the doctor who issued the prescription and see if he has the drug or if he can give her something else."

Again I stared in disbelief. With as much calm as I could muster, I told them, “I cannot even read the doctor’s name on this prescription. I am not a medical person. I don’t know a thing about the University Teaching Hospital, and it is Saturday, so the doctor probably is not available anyway.”

The two workers looked at each other. After some hesitation, they agreed to call the hospital and try to find the doctor. I told them I would be back in a few minutes.

Thirty minutes later I was at the counter again. I could tell they were not going to give me good news. “We found the doctor. The hospital is out of this medicine, and they use us as their supplier. They don’t have any other drug that they can substitute. We can try to get the prescription from the UK, but we don’t know how long it will take to get here and it will be very expensive.”

At this point, all the frustrations of living in Zambia came crashing down on me at once. I was also flooded with my own memory from many years ago of having a terminally ill child. Now this sick little girl had only the slimmest chance of surviving a deadly disease in a harsh land, and that one chance might be weeks away—or too late. I had an almost uncontrollable urge to jump across the counter and strangle the pharmacist. “This little girl needs this medicine, and she needs it now,” I hissed through clenched teeth. “Can you please call around to some other pharmacies and see if someone else might have it?”

Their eyes widened a bit as they realized I was not going to just go away. There was a slight hesitation, and then the pharmacist gulped and nodded. “We will try.”

A few minutes of walking around the shopping center calmed me down, and I walked back in with an optimistic smile. This time there was no hesitation as the pharmacist told me, “I am trying, madam. Unfortunately the phone service is down and we cannot make any calls. But I will keep trying. Please come back in a few minutes.”

This time I almost laughed at the absurdity of the situation: Lusaka, a city of hundreds of thousands of people, and the phone network is down. I assured them I would be back.

At 11:30 I was in the store again, this time to hear that another pharmacy did have the drug in stock. That was the good news. The bad news was that the other pharmacy was closing in an hour, so I had to get there quickly.

I found David and we headed for Freedom Way, the part of town that sane people who value their belongings tend to avoid. It’s known as a haven for pickpockets and thieves, and on this Saturday, Freedom Way was teeming with people and vehicles. We inched our way down the street dodging taxis, buses, and pedestrians until we found the store—but no parking. We ended up finding a place to park around the corner. Since we couldn’t keep an eye on the vehicle and leaving it unattended was not safe, we decided one of us would have to stay in the car. I opted for getting the prescription and David agreed to do guard duty.

I stuffed an envelope with the prescription money in my pocket and headed down the sidewalk with a “Don’t mess with me” look on my face. The store was crowded with lines of people, but as soon as I explained my mission, the pharmacist stopped what he was doing, got the box of pills, and had me out the door in less than 10 minutes. He had only a month’s supply but agreed to order more.

Mission accomplished. Almost. The father of the little girl has not yet come to get the drugs. Pray for Agness and that somehow we can get her the medicine she needs.