Sunday, December 30, 2007

Everyday Heroes - Roy and Kathi Merritt

In the busy-ness of last year, I stopped featuring the "Everyday Heroes" that we work with. Starting with today's blog, I hope to do a better job of describing some of the incredible people who are making a difference for the Lord in Zambia.

Roy Merritt grew up in Zambia as the child of missionaries. He returned to Namwianga after attending Harding College and has been here most of the last thirty-plus years. Roy and his wife Kathi oversee the orphanages at Namwianga. Roy also works with the Northreach program which sends GBCC students and graduates into northern Zambia to plant and nurture congregations. I received Roy's end-of-year e-mail and wanted to share excerpts from it to let you know how God is using these Everyday Heroes in the kingdom.

From Roy Merritt:

Namwianga Mission has been involved in Christian Education for 75 years. In 1966 the mission added a high school. Lamech Nsende was in that first class.

He became a teacher in 1971 and served the government 35 years. All that time he worked with the church wherever the Ministry of Education posted him. Now he has retired to a farm he bought in Mapanza area. The village he lives in does not have a church, so he is working on that.

Lamech is an example of what Namwianga is all about--developing self-supporting church leaders.

As you know, Namwianga Mission now has a teachers' college. Students who come here under Northreach Sponsorship sign a contract that they will work in mission areas of the country for at least three years after they graduate. I do not know the exact number of the new churches started by GBCC graduates since 1999. I lost count at 150. The number is around 200.

We are getting ready to send 33 George Benson Christian College graduates to mission areas of the country. Departure date and time is 3:00 am January 3. Three vehicles will travel a week to deliver them all--longer if rains mess up the roads. After this exercise, GBCC will have 88 graduates at work around the country in places where the church is weak or nonexistent.

Closer to home, the orphan/street kid program continues to grow--whether we have room for new ones or not. We average 75 youngsters in Eric's, Eleanor's, and Kelly's houses. Right now all of them but five have a USA sponsor.

We hope to break ground on yet another baby house January 1.

We deal with AIDS daily. Several babies have come to us with syphilis and HIV. We have lost several this year, two just in the last month. All AIDS-related deaths. That bad news must not overshadow the good news--that 95% of our children are in fine health. Without the Haven, nearly all these noisy survivors would have died a week or two after their birth.

May God bless Roy and Kathi in their quiet but heroic efforts to make a difference.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Kariba Sunset

This is one of the beautiful sunsets we viewed from our lodge on Lake Kariba. This particular evening the sky included every color of the rainbow at some point.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lake Kariba

Last weekend we went with Don and Laura Oldenburg to Lake Kariba on the southern border of Zambia. They were celebrating their 39th anniversary and asked us to go along. We stayed at a gorgeous lodge right on the lake and enjoyed watching spectacular sunsets each evening of our stay there.

On Saturday we visited the dam at Lake Kariba and found out more about the lake, the dam, and its construction. Lake Kariba is the largest man-made lake in the world, which is amazing enough, but its construction is even more remarkable. The dam was built from start to finish in five years (1955 – 1960), even with severe floods and other setbacks. Having at least a little bit of experience in trying to get things done here in Africa, I am thoroughly impressed that a project of this size was completed so quickly.

The new lake displaced over 60,000 people who were relocated to other parts of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Wildlife also had to be moved out of the area. David remembers watching Marlon Perkins on the “Wild Kingdom” TV show as he documented the efforts to get the animals safely onto high ground before the floodgates were opened.

Now the lake provides hydro-electric power to Zambia and Zimbabwe and is a huge tourism resource for both countries.

Christmas 2007

Here is the group that gathered at our house for Christmas dinner. Front row: Lois Sears, Marie Banda, John Phiri, Nathan Banda, and Tamara Banda. Back row: Robby Banda, Sarah Sears, Don and Laura Oldenburg, David, and me. Lois and Sarah are Sheri’s daughters. Tamara, Marie, and Nathan are Robby’s children, and John is Robby’s nephew. We managed a pretty traditional American dinner with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole (made with homemade onion rings by Sheri), rolls, salad, and pumpkin, pecan, and chocolate pies. The cranberry sauce and pumpkin were brought to us by the Ganuses who visited in November. My sister sent us the pecans.

Tweezing the Turkey- A Christmas Tale

We wanted turkey for Christmas dinner this year. Enough of grilled chicken, cornflake chicken, and roasted chicken. It was Christmas and we wanted turkey.

Way back in November, Don Oldenburg made a special request to the manager of the supermarket in Choma to get us some turkeys. Last week the call came that turkeys were in, so Don drove to Choma to claim two rare, prized, and expensive birds for our holiday dinner. Because Namwianga is such a great customer of the store, the manager graciously gave us one turkey free. (Otherwise Don might have had to float a loan to pay for them.)

Don and Laura took one turkey to cook at their house, and I kept one. On Christmas Day I took my turkey out of its plastic bag and made a grim discovery: this was not a Butterball. No smooth, white skin on this bird. No nifty little pop-up timer. No legs banded together neatly with a specially designed leg wire. No neat little packet of giblets tucked under the skin. This bony, blotched hunk had a breastbone that resembled a craggy mountain peak, and I double-checked to make sure that there was indeed some meat under the sagging skin. Even worse, this turkey was not well dressed, and I don’t mean poor fashion sense. There were black pin feathers over much of the skin and gross stuff still hanging from the inner cavities. I cleaned up the stuff as best I could and then tackled the pin feathers.

I grew up on a farm where we raised chickens and turkeys, so I thought I knew what to do. I got a candle and held the flame on the feathers to singe them off. This worked marginally well. I was doing this outside on the back veranda, so the wind kept blowing out the flame. Then the sheer magnitude of the job caused another problem: the flames were starting to cook the skin in places. Plus the candle dripped wax onto the bird, and that didn’t seem too appetizing either.

My next brainstorm came from my extensive life knowledge—not of poultry, but of plucking. I got my eyebrow tweezers and started to work on the turkey. With a little wrist action and determination, this technique was quite successful, I must say, and before long the turkey was sufficiently clean-skinned for the roaster pan.

In spite of its poor initial impression and the paltry portions of actual meat, the turkey turned out to be tender and quite tasty. Or maybe the sheer effort of getting a turkey cooked in Zambia would have made anything taste delicious. I’m not sure. But next year I’m pretty sure we’ll go back to grilled chicken for Christmas dinner.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


My trip to town this morning turned into quite an adventure. It rained during the night and continued all day today. The roads are inches deep in mud--slimy, slippery, sloppy mud. I thought I was being cautious as I traveled in second gear and navigated around the ravines and pot holes. I wasn't quite cautious enough, though, as I hit a particularly slippery patch and spun a complete circle in the middle of the road! The rest of the trip was in first gear.

Lunch Bunch

Now that classes are over, I've had more time to spend with my little guys from the orphanage. I went there this morning just as they were finishing their bath time and helped get them dressed. I planned to take three of them--George, Bernard, and Jason--but Brandon got his shoes on and followed me the door waving goodbye to the caregivers. What could I do? I loaded him up and took him along.


This is the season for plowing and planting in Zambia. When I asked my students what they would be doing during the term break, most of them said that they would be working in the fields to plant the maize.

I guess it's only natural that the Zambians would expect us to join in on this activity. We gave it a valiant try during our first year and went in on shares with two other families on a large maize field. The rains were good and the crop was plentiful--but we still didn't make any money. Last year we had a great excuse not to plant because we were in the US on furlough in December. This year I hoped that my chickens and David's huge garden would be enough farming. We also thought we could get away with not planting since we'll be in the US on furlough in April during the harvest.

It was not to be. Our good (and outspoken) friend Mrs. Jope decided that we were going to have a groundnut (peanut) field behind our house. She stopped by on Monday and announced that she had hired a team of oxen to come the next day to plow our field (at our expense, of course) and that she was providing the seeds for us.

The next morning the yoke of oxen arrived along with their handlers and plowed the field. The young girl in the photo is leading the team, one of the guys is prodding the oxen along, and Obrien on the far right is guiding the plow.

So now we are reluctant peanut farmers. Obrien assures us that he will handle the harvesting for us in April while we're in the US. Let's hope it's a good harvest, because I'm thinking it will take a lot of peanuts to cover the $25 it cost us for the plowing. Adventures in farming--Zambian style.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chicken Update for Courtney and Kelsey

In October HIZ students Courtney and Kelsey became the caregivers for the three orphan chicks that Cruella abandoned. They named them Harold, Larry, and Autumn and gave them lots of TLC. The photo shows them with Harold just before they left to go home. The chicks came back to us, and we gradually integrated them back into the coop with the others. For the first week, we kept them in their small pen at night and let them out in the yard during the day. These chicks were used to human company, and we had a challenge keeping them out of the house. They would just wander in the back door and make themselves at home.

After a week the chicks went into the big pen. At first the three of them huddled together away from the others, but gradually Autumn ventured away on her own part of the time. Larry also began spending more time with the other chickens. Harold semed to have the hardest time socializing and tended to stay with Larry or be on his own. Harold would always let me get close to him, and would even come over to the side of the pen and let me pet his head.

Sadly, a couple of weeks ago Autumn got sick and died suddenly, as did two other chickens in the pen. We quickly gave the rest of the flock some antibiotics to stop the spread of the disease.

Then last week Harold developed an eye problem. He has a severe infection in one eye and has probably lost his sight in that eye. He seems to be healthy otherwise, but we have him isolated in the small pen on the back porch so we can watch him carefully.

That leaves Larry as the only one still in the big pen. As you can from the photo above, Larry has grown quickly and seems to be doing great. And we think a name change is in order, because it sure looks like Larry is a Laura. We'll keep you posted.

So Courtney and Kelsey, I'm so sorry about losing Autumn and Harold's eye infection, but we're doing what we can. Thanks for being such good chicken farmers during your time here!

A letter for the HIZ Students

Dear HIZ Students,

Some of you told me that you would read my blog every day. You've been very disappointed, I'm sure! We were incredibly busy in November, and then for the past two weeks we've had all kinds of power outages and internet woes. Here's my attempt to catch you up on the Mission happenings.

As you can see by the photos above, the rains have turned everything lush and green. We have flowers everywhere in our yard, and the grass needs cut about twice a week. We've had torrential downpours and wild thunderstorms as well as gentle showers. Until this past week, a good rain also meant a power outage. We have gotten very skilled at locating candles and flashlights in the dark when the electricity goes off! The road to town is hard to describe--there are new holes, ridges, ditches, and puddles everywhere as a result of the rainwater runoff. A trip to town is even more of a rock and roll experience than when you were here.

The year one and year two college students went home at the end of November after their finals. The third year students stayed on until Monday when they finished the last of their exams. The business students were the last to leave on Thursday. The campus is deserted and much too quiet.

Today Mr. Phiri's secretary handed me a stack of letters and post office notices for five packages. I'll mail the letters to Dr. Rackley or Miss Bingham to distribute to you. Joshua, Katie Pagett, Kelsey, Matthew, and Courtney need to tell me what to do with your packages--assuming the post office will allow me to pick them up. We'll have visitors in January, so I could send them back to the US then, but you would need to provide addresses and postage.

Mildred, Ian, Harold, and Leonard are all still working around the Mission and doing fine. They have kept busy with visitors in the Mann House. We had a group of Peace Corps volunteers here for Thanksgiving and another group here last week for a boys' leadership camp. Mildred's daughter graduated from ninth grade in November and was the top girl in her class. Mildred is very proud of her.

We had a college faculty meeting on Wednesday morning. One of our topics was the Harding program. I wish you could have heard all the good things that were said about you. Everyone this side agrees that you were a blessing to Namwianga! Mr. Siaziyu pointed out how well you interacted with people of all ages as you encountered them. You have left some wonderful memories with the Zambians here.

Linda and David

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Update - 13 December

Now we are hearing about the ice storm in the midwest and about how many people are without power. We, on the other hand, have had power almost without interruption since last Saturday. One major difference in the circumstances is the temperature--we don't have to worry about freezing to death when our power is out!

We have also had drier weather this week. The last big rain was on Saturday. By comparison, in the previous week we had major thunderstorms every day.

The Africonnect internet system is still down (since last Friday). The company sent a new router which David installed, but the system still isn't working, and the company still won't send anyone out to work on it.

We have had a Peace Corps group on campus this week: Camp BLUE (Boys Learning, Understanding, and Experiencing). The Peace Corps volunteers in our area chose boys from their villages to attend this four-day leadership camp. We hosted the entire group of campers and volunteers on Tuesday night for dinner and a movie.

The last group of college students went home today. Now we'll have three weeks of very little activity on campus.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


On Thursday afternoon we finally got electricity again after three days of no power. I have decided that the whirring of an electric fan is definitely one of my favorite kinds of music.

As I mentioned in the last update, our frozen food thawed and had to be eaten. For lunch on Thursday I cooked four pounds of ground beef on the propane burner while David grilled a pork loin and a chicken. A Zambian worker made a huge pot of nshima, and we had lunch in our outdoor kitchen with eight other friends and workers.

We finally got the new AfriConnect internet system up and running on November 30. It lasted one week and went down again yesterday. Our faithful Coppernet system is painfully slow and won't allow me to post photos on the blog, but at least it is dependable and keeps us in touch with the world.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Update - December 5

I'm sitting at an internet cafe in Choma, the nearest town to Namwianga that still has electricity. On Monday we had a storm and the power went out. It was still out yesterday when we had another horrific storm. The lightning struck and killed over 30 goats on the Mission farm. The storm also knocked down several poles that held electric wires. We have been without power now since Monday night, and the electric company says it may be Friday before we have power again. And it's still raining!

My neighbors sell broilers and had butchered 40 chickens yesterday. Now they have nowhere to keep them frozen. All of us are dealing with thawed food in our freezers, so tonight we are planning to cook everything we can (over propane burners or charcoal fires) and have quite a feast.

Water is also a problem for those without storage tanks because the pumps are electric. We have a rainwater collection system and are sharing with anyone who needs water. We've had a steady line of people gathering water from our tanks all day.

My cell phone ran out of battery, as did the computer. We decided to make the trip to Choma to get our e-mails, charge up the computer and cell phone, and do banking. Henry Melton left us an inverter, so we were able to get the computer partially charged on the one-hour drive. Unfortunately, our laptop will not connect at the internet cafe, and for some reason we cannot get to our website to check e-mails. So, for those of you who wonder what has happened to us, we are experiencing life in Africa. Hopefully we'll be back in touch by the weekend.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Lots of Love

Peace Corps Volunteers Angela, Jalle, and Karen went with me to visit The Haven on Friday after Thanksgiving. As soon as we walked onto the veranda we had little arms reaching up to us wanting to be held. Angela just sat down and gathered a lapful of toddlers who enjoyed her care and attention for the next hour or so. Bernard is one of my special little guys and is shown with me in the middle photo. Jason and Brandon (lower photo) posed while waiting eagerly for bath time. Jason (left) is a big eater and has figured out that bath time is followed by lunch time, so he is usually at the front of the line for batheing so he can be first to the lunch table!

Thanksgiving Photo

Here is a belated photo of our Thanksgiving gathering--I couldn't get the blog to post photos until now. We had seven Peace Corps volunteers from Southern and Lusaka Provinces, Don and Laura Oldenburg, Sheri Sears, and Richard and Sue Krogsgaard. It was a delightful group.

Connected At Last!

I have been trying to blog for several days now, but the weather, the power company, and the internet providers would not cooperate. The Harding AfriConnect system at our house has been down since November 5, but we were managing by using our old Coppernet account or by going to one of the other houses that still had AfriConnect service. That worked--if the electricity was on. We have had power outages for parts of most days and all of some days. It's been interesting. The entire AfriConnect system went down early this week. I tried repeatedly to post from our Coppernet account, but couldn't get it to work--probably due to cloud cover.

The good news is that the AfriConnect engineers FINALLY came out and got the system working again. Now we hold our breath and hope that this time we can keep it going for more than two weeks (our current record is 13 days) without going down.

One other tidbit of internet news: The server for the AfriConnect system is in a small brick room adjacent to one of the offices. David has to make repeated trips down there to adjust the system, turn on the air conditioner, and try to keep everything working. He's usually the only one in there--but last week he opened the door and found a two-foot long green snake stretched out on the window sill. He very carefully opened the window and let the visitor slither out.