Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas 2008

There were 48 of us who gathered for Christmas dinner on the veranda at the Calder's house. Rod and Sue Calder operate an orphanage on a farm adjoining Namwianga. We feasted on turkey, grilled chicken, fried chicken, lamb curry, and lots and lots of side dishes. Our multinational group included people from Canada, USA, Zambia, and South Africa.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Teacher Training

Last Saturday David and I did a leadership workshop at Mutala. Five congregations were represented. David taught classes on servant leadership and conflict resolution to the men, and I did teacher training for the women (shown above).

Iris Elder, daughter of early missionary Dow Merritt, grew up in Zambia and returned with her husband to work here for most of her adult life. Iris and Ken are now living in the US, but Iris still has a heart for the Zambian work. She translated my teacher training materials into Tonga, so now each congregation gets a complete set of instructions they can read and understand in their native language. I know Iris would love to see how excited the women are to see their Tonga materials!

I couldn't help but think about the timing of this event. In the United States, the Saturday before Christmas would not be considered an appropriate date for a workshop, but our Zambian friends were delighted to attend. Most of them walked long distances to get there, and several of the women carried babies on their backs. When the workshop ended, there was no rush to get home. The women stayed an extra 45 minutes for singing and fellowship. It was much more enjoyable than fighting the crowds at the mall . . .

Monday, December 22, 2008

Eggs Anyone?

The tiny one-inch egg came from our chicken pen. The first explanation we got from our Zambian friends was that a young rooster laid it! They told us that a young rooster will lay one egg as he arrives at maturity and then never lays another one. We were a bit incredulous, but we asked several other Zambians and they all agreed it was possible. We finally consulted an expert, our neighbor Mr. Moono who raises chickens and teaches agricultural science. He assured us that it is not possible for a rooster to lay an egg. The tiny egg is the product of one of our adolescent hens instead.

Mystery solved. Now I'm just debating boiled or fried.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Spirit

I'll admit it has been hard to work up much holiday cheer here in the bush. No crisp, frosty air to fill our lungs. No lawn displays of holiday lights, no evergreen trees, no Santas. Instead, we're having spring--muggy, warm days with rain showers almost every afternoon. We're slipping and sliding on mud, not ice. The zinnias, day lilies, and vincas are in full bloom, and it's the smell of orange blossoms instead of pine wafting through the open windows. Instead of Christmas baking, we've been freezing fresh vegetables from the garden.

But all that changed this week. We took a three-day jaunt to the capital city of Lusaka to get some work done on one of the Mission's vehicles. And as always on our trips to Lusaka, we hung out at the shopping centers Manda Hill and Arcades. There we had our fill of lights, decorations, Santas, nativity scenes, Christmas music, crowds, and horrendous traffic! In fact, after three days I was ready to leave the holiday hype and get back to the calmer, quieter life of the country.

We do have a few decorations up, as you can see in the photos above. And we're looking forward to a big Christmas dinner with friends. Happy Holidays!

The Grinch

You may remember that we have special friends at Mumena Mission in northwestern Zambia. Bryson and Noah Davis, the young sons of Brian and Sondra, have a special place in our hearts because of their great personalities and sweet dispositions. Brian sent this account of their recent Christmas challenge:

Last Sunday we had a break-in and several things stolen in our storage area. Of all things, our Christmas tree lights were taken. Noah, who gets particularly excited about decorating for Christmas, proclaimed that it would be a good Christmas anyway. Last night as we sat looking at the dark tree, Noah and Bryson began coming up with ideas. A power strip with 5 lights, a transformer with a light, two gift sacks with little blinking LED lights, a radio with 2 lights, a miniature fiber optic Christmas tree left with us by Troy McNatt, a former apprentice, and several glow in the dark stars tied to the tree, and voila… we had Christmas tree lights. Noah and Bryson sat with smiles of satisfaction while listening to Christmas carols with a twinkling glow in their eyes! Not bad for the bush… Jesus had to go all the way outside to see the Christmas lights…

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Outreach - December 15

The roads dried up enough this week that we were able to head out for Njabalombe on Sunday morning. The students have all gone home for the holidays, so we took some of our local Zambian friends along with us. We dropped two at each of three congregations along the Kabanga Road: Lubombo, Katungu, and Shangu. Then Rodwell Sianzoolo went on with us to Njabalombe.

We had a wonderful surprise when we stopped to drop off the Lubombo pair. We found Chrispine Moono and his cousin on bikes just about to head north on the road. Chrispine is one of the sponsored students who recently graduated from Namwianga Christian Secondary School. On his own initiative, he and his cousin were on their way to do an outreach at Katakula.

David had asked me if I was going to teach the children at Njabalombe. I told him that I wouldn’t need to, because I had just done a teacher training session there a few weeks ago. Sure enough, when the time came for Sunday School, a young man carrying the Beginner’s Bible I had given the congregation took all the children outside. At the end of the service, he had his class stand up in front of the congregation and recite memory verses for us.

Sometimes we wonder if our efforts are making a difference. Chrispine and the young man who taught the Sunday School class give us encouragement to keep on trying.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Dorm

The new women's dorm at the college is quickly nearing completion. The construction crew is working from dawn until dusk six days a week to make sure that the dorm will be ready when the college opens again on January 12. Forty-four women will be housed here. Many of them spent this past year living in a converted classroom.

Sunday at Kasibi

On Sunday we were supposed to head up the Kabanga Road to Njabalombe. Saturday night Thomas Siafwiyo came by to warn us that three vehicles had turned over on the Kabanga Road on Saturday due to the muddy surface and construction debris. We changed our plans and headed for nearby Kasibi instead. Kasibi is one of our favorite places (reminds us of scenes from "The Lion King"), and we took along some of our favorite students--four of the guys who had just finished at George Benson Christian College.

I hadn't taught a Sunday School class for six months--the longest I've gone in 24 years! I'm working myself out of a job by teaching women in the village congregations how to teach and by providing the college women with training and supplies so they can teach on outreaches. But on Sunday Humphrey (above) and I gathered 47 excited kids and did the story of the lost sheep.

The girl on the right is showing off her sheep and shepherd stick puppets made with craft materials left over from Zambia Medical Mission.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Dinner Party That Almost Wasn't

I should have known that I was pushing my luck to schedule another dinner party. I have hosted many large dinners on our veranda, always managing to have electricity at the right times to get everything cooked. There have been a few close calls, like last month when the power failed just as we finished cooking, so I guess I should have known that eventually my luck would run out.

Thursday night we had invited all of the graduating college students for a final farewell dinner. With administrators and wives, the expected guest list swelled to forty. I had hired help: Harold, the assistant cook for Harding In Zambia, and Obrien, who was home from boarding school. They had started early in the day making cole slaw, cutting up eight chickens, and setting up tables.

The power often goes out around 5:00, so Harold and I planned to get the chicken in the oven at 2:30 so it would be done early just in case. Harold had rolled the chicken pieces in butter and cornflake crumbs and put the first two trays in around 2:40. About that time the sky darkened and a distant roll of thunder sounded. David, ever the pessimist, warned, “You’d better get the brick oven going in case the power goes out in the storm.” I ignored him—we had no time for building fires right now. The second set of pans went into the oven at the Hamby guesthouse at 3:00. At 3:20 I put the last two trays into the oven at the Mann guesthouse and headed back to my own kitchen just as the first raindrops fell.

I made it to my house without getting too wet, hoping against hope that for once we could have a rain shower without losing electricity. I should have known better. At 3:30 the fans stopped, the lights blinked off, and my dinner party took a decided turn toward disaster. Sometimes the power comes back on quickly, so we waited and hoped. The rain lasted only about 10 minutes, and as the skies cleared I stared at the ceiling fan, as if I could will the blades to start spinning again.

At 3:55 it was time for Plan B. Harold and I headed for the backyard of the Hamby guesthouse where there is a homemade brick oven. It hadn’t been used for several weeks, so the first step was to pull out a rake, several huge logs, an axe, and some bags of food and trash stashed there by a temporary worker. Then we had to cart a bag of charcoal from my house and get the fire going. By 4:30 the fire was just getting started and I was approaching panic.

Harold(shown here on the left) is the epitome of calm. I needed someone to share my sense of impending doom, so I tried to explain the finer points of food poisoning to him and Obrien. The chicken in the oven, I told them, was just warm enough for germs to start multiplying. We must, I warned, get the chicken cooking as soon as possible or risk all of our guests getting sick from eating tainted food.

Harold gave me the look he often gives me, the “I feel sorry for this poor, crazy American woman who doesn’t understand Zambians” look. He sighed, saying, “Madam, we Zambians will not die from food poisoning. We could leave our chicken out all night and not get sick. It will be okay.” I resigned myself to panicking alone.

It was approaching 5:00 and the dinner party was supposed to start at 6:00. We still had rice and a tomato/onion sauce to cook. Obrien went to work starting a fire in the outdoor grill for those pots, and I went to my house and brought all the ingredients down to the Hamby backyard so all the cooking would be happening in the same place.

The fire in the brick oven was finally ready at 5:00, so I retrieved all six pans of chicken from the three different ovens/houses and we got them all into the oven at once. The rice and sauce were soon bubbling on the grill fire. Obrien set off on his bike to pick up the rolls from Mrs. Phiri’s house across campus, and I got everything set up to serve the meal on the veranda.

The chicken wasn’t ready by 6:00, but then none of our guests arrived at 6:00 either. They began trickling in by 6:15, and by 6:45 we had a critical mass. The chicken still wasn’t quite ready, so I made opening remarks about how special this group was to me, how much we would miss them, and how much we expected of them. And, as we often do in Zambia, we sang.

Meanwhile, David drove our truck to the Hamby house and loaded up the trays of now-cooked (I hoped) chicken and the huge pot of rice. Harold hand-delivered the sauce. Meagan arrived to help, and we served dinner at 7:00 by the light of lanterns and flashlights.

Everyone declared the food delicious, there were no leftovers to worry about, and I crashed into bed at 8:45 wondering if I’d ever have the desire to entertain again. And for those of you who are wondering, Harold was right—no one got sick!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Oldenburg Update

You may remember that our coworker Don Oldenburg had battled cancer for several months in the US. He and I were going through radiation at the same time in July and August. Don finished his treatments and follow-up tests in September, and he and Laura returned to Namwianga in October.

Last week Don and Laura flew to Johannesburg, South Africa, for a routine PET scan as part of additional required follow-up. The scan showed a suspicious area at the base of his tongue, and the doctor in South Africa recommended a biopsy. Don and Laura decided to go back to the United States to have this done. Yesterday David and I took them to Livingstone to catch a flight back to Texas.

Please keep them in your prayers. We need them here with us, and they hope they can return quickly.

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

This was the scene from our front yard on Tuesday night as the moon passed between Venus and Mars. It was an incredible sight!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Namwianga Calendar

Henry and Mary Ann Melton were our guests at Namwianga in September, 2007. Mary Ann spent several days with the toddlers at Eric's House and took some great photos of them. She has put together a calendar for 2009 featuring the children of Namwianga. You can purchase it online for $15.00 by clicking on the title above. This calendar will make a wonderful Christmas gift for anyone whose heart has been touched by "the least of these."