Saturday, February 23, 2008

Kalomo Hospital Outreach

Every Thursday afternoon Rodgers Namuswa visits the Kalomo Hospital. First he goes into the wards to pray with the patients, and then he goes to the Family Shelter and facilitates a Bible study with the women there. Recently he recruited me to teach the Bible study, and I recruited three of the college girls to go along and sing. We now try to go every other week.

The Family Shelter is the place where relatives of the patients stay while their loved ones are hospitalized. The concept is similar to our Ronald McDonald House, but there the similarity ends.

The Kalomo Family Center is a bleak concrete structure that includes two large rooms, a small shop, and a toilet. The rooms have windows and concrete floors, but no furniture. The women spread out mats on the floor for seating and sleeping. They bring all their own cooking gear and food for cooking outdoors on open fires. Their blankets, clothes, and other belongings are piled against the walls of the room.

When I arrive to teach the class, around 25 ladies are already seated Zambian style with their legs straight out in front of them. We sing a few songs and then I teach my lesson with the help of an interpreter.

As I teach, the toddlers crawl over and around their mothers, and occasionally an infant or two will fuss and cry. Flies are everywhere, and I find myself swishing them away from my face as I teach. The women’s faces are tired and strained from stress and worry. I teach something that will encourage them—a message of hope and assurance that God cares. After the lesson, the college girls sing to the ladies. The girls sing in beautiful harmony, their hearts poured into the melody and the words, and I have to choke back the tears as I watch the ladies in the room. Some close their eyes in contemplation. Others mouth the words or join in on familiar songs. A few just listen.

When we can, we bring food to pass out after the lesson. Bernard, a local evangelist, handles this. The ladies bring their plates, bowls, or plastic bags and line up. Bernard uses the tailgate as his table and scoops mealie meal (cornmeal) or dehydrated food powder into their containers.

A message of hope, the blessing of songs, and nourishment for the body. These are the small gifts we offer to the women who wait and watch.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Brandon Goes Home

Brandon is one of the Haven orphans who quickly found a place in my heart. He is handsome, smart, and full of mischief. He kept everything hopping when he was around.

I have two favorite Brandon stories. When Sara was working with the toddlers at the orphanage last summer, Brandon had just figured out how to take off his cloth diaper. Jason came running in from the dining room one day holding up Brandon's diaper with a shocked look that seemed to say, "Look what Brandon did!" Sure enough, Brandon was not far behind him--naked and quite proud of himself.

A more recent Brandon story happened in December. I had gone to The Haven to get Bernard and Jason to come to my house for lunch and naps. As I was getting them ready to leave with me, Brandon ran to his room and put on his shoes. Before I knew what was happening, he grabbed my hand and headed for the door. Then he turned to all the others who were watching and waved goodbye. And of course I took him home.

At one time, we all thought Brandon would grow up at The Haven. He has sickle cell anemia and will always need some special medical care and attention. But two weeks ago his grandmother arrived, determined to take him home with her. She speaks English well and was able to articulate her plans for Brandon. She convinced Kathi Merritt and others in charge that she is quite capable of taking care of him. She has nine other grandchildren and orphans who live with her, so Brandon will have lots of company. She also lives in a village that is relatively close and easy to get to, which means that someone from Namwianga can check on Brandon every now and then.

On Tuesday Brandon and his grandmother were ready to leave The Haven. They had just gotten past the veranda gate when one of the caregivers tried to take Brandon back in the house to get one more hug. Brandon threw a fit and absolutely refused to leave the arms of his grandmother. Everyone was thrilled to see him so obviously bonded, so they happily sent him on with her.

I love happy endings. . . and happy beginnings.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Shopping Spree

Recently I got to go shopping for The Haven. Marge Kagels, a loyal medical mission volunteer, had given me some money to spend on the babies. After consulting with Kathi Merritt about what was most needed, I headed for the shopping center in Lusaka and had a most enjoyable shopping spree.

Pictured above are the purchases. The five bouncer seats are for the infants to sit in. Any movement by the baby makes the seat move a little, so that encourages activity. Plus, the baby can sit up and see what's going on in the world. I also bought nine receiving blankets, 36 infant size cloth diapers, 24 larger size cloth diapers, plus three pairs of toddler sandals just for fun. Later I bought 40 sets of diaper pins to finish off the purchase.

The day I delivered all this to the orphanage was like Christmas. Cecilia, the housemother, was dancing around, the aunties (caregivers) were clapping, and everyone was grabbing babies to put them in the bouncer seats! Thanks, Marge, for making life brighter in our corner of the world.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Everyday Hero

We met Obert on Sunday when we took a group of college guys on an outreach to a small congregation at Dube Farm. Laura Oldenburg and I taught the children, and Obert was in our class. After the lesson we spent a few minutes talking to the kids and asking them about school. We found out that Obert walks into Kalomo every day to go to school. He leaves at 5:00 in the morning and arrives at school between 7:00 and 8:00. He walks home in the afternoon and gets in around 4:00.

We checked the distance with our odometer on the way back to the Mission. Obert walks over nine kilometers one way to get to school.

Obert and kids like him all over Zambia are heroes in my book.

Ellie’s Lusaka Photography Show

In addition to all the work Ellie Hamby does for Zambia Medical Mission and for Namwianga, Ellie is also an excellent photographer. A special exhibit of her work is now on display in Lusaka at the Visual Arts Center. Last Friday night was the opening celebration, and several of us took the opportunity to get away for a couple of days and enjoy the event with her.

My sister pointed out to me last week that I seldom ever post photos on the blog of David and me together. The reason, of course, is that one of us is usually taking the pictures. But this weekend we enlisted the help of Meagan and Louisa to make sure that there are, indeed, photographic records showing that David and I do go places together (see above photo of us at the exhibit opening).

The other photo shows the wonderful missionaries we work with at Namwianga: Don and Laura Oldenburg, Meagan Hawley, Louisa Duke, and on the far right, Sheri Sears. We had a great time at the exhibit opening, eating Chinese food afterward, and doing lots of shopping in Lusaka on Friday and Saturday.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Bog Revisited

I ventured out on the roads today to do an outreach at Kalomo Hospital. We have had five days of sunshine now, so the roads are beginning to dry out.

The top photo shows a full view of The Bog, notorious for trapping vehicles in its mire last week. The left side is much improved, thanks to the work of Art Nine and the maintenance crew. They filled low areas with sandbags and then spread a layer of gravel on top.

The second photo is a close-up of the non-improved right side of The Bog—still intimidating with its tire-sucking mud. On the far right you can see the detour that was created around The Bog during the worst of the road woes.

If the sunshine holds, we can send the students for outreaches this Sunday. But our road experts tell us that any major rains will make The Bog impassable for our buses and maroon us once again. Let’s pray for more sunshine.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

New Duds

One of our American visitors last week was Curt Buchholz, a pathologist from Alaska who was making his first trip to Namwianga. Curt’s wife, Carole, has come on the last two medical missions. She sponsors one of our secondary students and knows the needs of the young people here.

Carole went shopping for new clothes for the sponsored guys. She found a store in her town that had a clearance sale in progress. When Carole told the manager what she was shopping for, the manager lowered the prices even more.

So Carole sent Curt to Namwianga with one suitcase full of brand new men’s clothing for the sponsored high school students. And I had the fun of distributing it to them!

On Friday I called all the sponsored high school boys to a meeting. I told them about the new clothes, and each one drew a number to determine when he would get to choose his clothing items. Then we all headed for the veranda at my house where Valerie England, another visitor from the US, was waiting to help us.

I had the new clothes laid out on tables by size and style. We also had some other items to give away on a separate table. Valerie had brought some T-shirts and ball caps, and I had a collection of neckties to give away.

Each of the 28 boys got to choose a new item of clothing (shirt, shoes, or shorts) from the "new" table plus a necktie and either a T-shirt or ball cap from the other table.

The boys had a great time making their selections and posing for photos afterward. I'm sure that for many of them this "shopping" was a rare experience. To Carole, Curt, and the store manager, the boys and I say a hearty “Twalumba Meninge!” (Thank you VERY much.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Bog

Roy Merritt sent out an e-mail today telling about his wife Kathi's recent adventure in The Bog. He writes:

Rain has swished over us almost daily the last two months. Zambia is about to sink!

I got this giggly phone call from Meagan Hawley, "Uh, um...(tee hee hee). We're stuck in the middle of the road just past the hospital. (twitter)"

How can Kathi get stuck right in the middle of the main road????

Of course, I leaped into my trusty 4X4 steed and charged forth to rescue damsels in distress.

Not far, a hint of road conditions ahead...

I'm sorry, I didn't take my camera along to record her buried wheels or her muddy feet. I didn't realize that the place would get worse and worse, and figured it was a one-time woman driver thing.


After she "opened" the ground, several dozen cars have suffered that same sloppy fate. This morning Kathi's mud-arena looked like this:

6-8 rainy weeks still lie ahead.

Usually we beg the Lord for rain. Now we'd (gulp!) like a bit less. We feel like those Israelites who grumbled for meat, then guzzled so many quail they got sick!


Bernard and Jason

Bernard and Jason have become my special little guys from the orphanage. About once a week they come home with me for the day. I think the extra attention is good for them, but the truth is that I have the most fun! Bernard has figured out the routine now, so when I arrived at the orphanage last week he grabbed my hand, looked up at me with those BIG eyes and said, “Bye, Bye?”

A couple of weeks ago we had a Sunday outreach planned with John and Beth Reese who were visiting at Namwianga. They are from Austin and work with World Bible School. I decided this would be a good chance to take my little guys on an outing and let them experience a trip to the bush with us.

I picked them up early on Sunday so we had time to read (see photo) and play a bit before we left. They did well on the bumpy ride to Kanyaya, with Bernard sleeping most of the way. As it turns out, Bernard was running a fever and slept most of the day. Jason was content to sit on Beth’s lap and enjoy the scenery.

We arrived at the Kanyaya church building and were greeted by the members. Jason clung to my skirt, not sure what to think of all the new people. We went in and sat on the low wooden plank benches and the service began. Bernard fell back to sleep on Beth’s lap. Jason looked all around at the small thatched building, the rows of people, and especially at the other little children. It occurred to me that Jason has only seen a handful of houses, the Namwianga church building, and the Namwianga clinic in his two and a half years. Slowly his eyes began to register how overwhelmed he was with all these new sights, smells, and sounds. Big tears started rolling down his cheeks. I held him close and hoped for the best, but in a few minutes he lost his composure and began to wail. I carried him outside and got him calmed down after a few minutes.

Then Beth came out with Bernard because he had fallen apart when he saw Beth’s face and not mine. I sent Beth back inside and put both boys in the back seat of our vehicle. Bernard fell back asleep and Jason and I spent a pleasant half hour or so just sitting together. Later the boys ate the nshima and chicken that the ladies had cooked for us.

We bumped and jolted home. The boys had a long nap before I took them back to The Haven. There is a good chance that both Bernard and Jason will be leaving the orphanage soon to go live with family members. I hope our outing helped them get a little preparation for the big world out there.