Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ostrich Ride

Here is the video of my ostrich ride in South Africa. It was quite an experience!


We received an e-mail from Rod and Sue Calder who live on a farm adjoining Namwianga. Last week they saw two groups of elephants going through their farm--a total of 12 plus a baby. The elephants have torn down fences in several places and have terrorized the farm workers. Rod and Sue report that many people were wide-eyed and shaking as they watched the elephants tromp through the fields. I wonder if homeowner's insurance covers elephant damage?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Back in the USA

I'm blogging from Austin once again. We left Zambia on Thursday for our furlough in the US. It's been almost a year since my cancer diagnosis, so we're back for my doctor's visits and checkups, as well as reconnecting with and reporting to our sponsoring congregation at Brentwood Oaks.

We arrived in Austin on Friday after having an adventure or two on the trip. At the Atlanta airport we had gone through immigration, reclaimed and rechecked our luggage, and had just gone through security when another passenger stopped us. She was an elderly lady in a flowing, tie-dyed African dress and head wrap. She held out her passport from Senegal and a boarding card and looked at us with fear in her eyes. "Help me?"

I tried to find out what she needed, but it was obvious that she didn't speak much English. She did say "Washington D.C. and Baltimore." We got the attention of one of the security workers and asked him what to do. He said he had to finish what he was doing and then he would help her. He told us we could go on, but we didn't think our new friend was ready to navigate the Atlanta airport on her own, so we stayed. The security guy looked at her boarding card and told us she needed to go to gate B31. We were leaving from B28, so we decided we would just take the lady with us. We gathered up her tote bag and rolling carry-on and took off. I told David I'd lead the way and he should come behind her.

The first hurdle was the escalator. It was obvious she had never been on one and didn't know what to do. She had a long flowing scarf around her neck that dragged the ground, plus her over-sized dress, so we had to make sure none of that got caught in the escalator steps. She watched me and cautiously followed us. We navigated the tram using hand signals and lots of "It's okay. Just wait" types of comments and gestures. Off the tram and up another scary escalator, we emerged in Terminal B. Gate 31 was at the far end, so we headed down the crowded corridor. At one point she stopped us, "I tired!" We were almost there, so we urged her on, finally arriving at gate 31--where passengers were about to board for Orange, California, not Washington and Baltimore. Turns out we got her there at 10:00, and she had already missed her 9:55 flight. The agent at the gate rebooked her for the 11:19 flight--which was to leave from Gate 4--at the opposite end of the terminal. We only had 30 minutes left before we were to board our flight, and I wasn't sure our new friend could stand another long walk. The gate agent advised us to wait for one of the motorized carts to come by and pick her up. After a few minutes of waiting, I asked the agent to call for one of the carts and she did.

We waited another 10 minutes, and no cart came. The original agent was now busy boarding the Orange flight, so David went to another counter and got the agent to call again. And we waited. The lady from Senegal began trying to communicate. In monosyllables and broken sentences we managed to tell her we lived in Zambia. She said, "My name. Write. Senegal." So I pulled out my notebook and pen and she wrote down her name and address in Dakar, Senegal along with three phone numbers. "You come to Senegal. You stay with me. I cook for you," she managed to say. I thanked her, and she went on, "You come. You good. Your husband good. Thank you."

Still no cart. At 10:20 I went back to the second agent and told her that we needed a cart quickly, so she called again. Nothing. By 10:25 I was stopping anyone who looked like an employee of the airport and asking for help. Five minutes later I went back to the first agent who had completed her boarding duties and told her to please get some help for this lady because we had to get on our flight. She called again, and said the cart was on its way. I looked down the corridor and saw the blinking light about 10 gates away, and it wasn't moving. Motioning to our friend to wait again, I sprinted down the terminal to the cart and told the driver to please get moving so this lady could get to her gate.

At 10:35 the cart finally pulled up and we settled the lady in the cart and gave instructions to the driver to make sure she made it to the gate and was taken up to the counter. Then we waved goodbye and the cart rolled a few feet as we turned to head toward our gate. The driver called after us, "Wait! She wants to talk to you!" So we turned back. "Your name! Your name! " our new friend wanted to know. "It's Linda," I told her. Then she held her hand up to her face with the gesture of talking on the phone and said, "You call me! Say Linda! Come!" I smiled and waved her on down the corridor as the cart took off.

I had to smile thinking how the phone conversation might go if I ever did try to call my new friend in Senegal!

We thought our excitement was over for the day when we made it onto our Austin flight, but we were wrong. There were thunderstorms all over the southern part of Texas on Friday afternoon. We had to divert to Houston to get more fuel and sat on the runway there for over an hour. Then just as we were about to take off, the captain got word that the Austin airport had closed due to the storms. He pulled us over the gate and we got off the plane. A couple of hours later, we lined up to get back on, but we could tell the sky in Houston was turning black in a hurry. Sure enough, just as the first passengers headed down the breezeway, the captain called them back. The storm from Austin had moved to Houston, so we had to wait it out. Our flight that was supposed to be in Austin at 12:30 finally landed at 6:30.

Even with all the delays and adventures, it wasn't a bad trip. We're already over the jet lag and enjoying our time with friends and family. We're here until June 5, with a few side trips along the way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Weekend Outreach

Our GBCC students loaded up on the yellow bus for a weekend outreach March 20-22. We expect our students to work with local congregations during their student teaching experience May-August, and this was part of the effort to prepare them for that role. They have been meeting on Friday nights for training sessions, and the weekend outreach was the culmination of their preparation.

Sixty students divided into groups of five each and ministered to twelve different village congregations. The bus dropped the groups off at their assigned locations on Friday night and picked them up again on Sunday afternoon.

The students spent the weekend going door to door in the village communities holding Bible studies and inviting anyone who was interested to attend special meetings on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Some congregations had prepared lists of members who were sick or needed special attention, and our students visited and prayed with those people.

Many students admitted to being a bit frightened at the idea of the weekend outreach. When Angela unloaded her things on Friday night, she turned to director Kenneth Siaziyu with wide eyes and cried, "You're just going to leave us here! Only God knows what will happen to us!" But by Sunday afternoon Angela was glowing with excitement and full of stories about her experience.

The statistics are impressive: On Sunday morning 139 individuals in the 12 congregations requested prayers or were restored, and 13 were baptized. The average combined attendance at the 12 congregations is 690; on March 22 there were 1,297 who attended.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Fun

We had a very happy Easter with the little ones shown here. Jason and George came home with me after church. Meagan brought Cathy (left) and Carol. Mayoba (far right), my neighbor's niece, saw the fun and came to join us. We had an Easter feast (complete with lime jello for the kids) and then dyed eggs. The kids didn't know what to think at first, but eventually they got into the spirit. The bunny ears were a last-minute inspiration (thanks to my many years of Mother's Day Out experience), and then it was time to hunt the eggs. After two rounds of hiding and hunting, the kids decided they would rather eat the eggs than hunt them, so that's what they did.

My mother used to call days like this "Making Memories." I hope the kids had as much fun making memories as I did.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ready to Teach

This morning our students are heading off for a break. Those who are in their second and third years of training will be doing their student teaching May - August. We expect our GBCC students to do more than teach in a school classroom--we expect them to be active leaders in a local congregation as well. The women shown above attended a training session and received Beginner's Bibles and instructions for teaching children's Bible classes. It will be great to see how God uses their willingness and their abilities to serve the Kingdom.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Back from the Retreat

Refreshing! Encouraging! Inspiring! These are all apt descriptors of our time in South Africa last week. We were part of a new program called InterMission aimed at encouraging missionaries on the field, and our southern Africa retreat was the first of its kind. We didn’t know that until the last day, and we never would have guessed because the facilitators did such a great job. John and Beth Reese, Kent and Nancy Hartman, along with Fielden and Janet Allison are all former or current missionaries, and they know exactly what missionaries need.

We were with 14 other couples and four young singles, plus six missionary kids for the three-day event. The other missionaries were natives of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Great Britain, and the Congo as well as some fellow Americans. Our commonality was working in cross-cultural missions in southern Africa, and that drew us together quickly.

Someone told us that once you’ve been to the mission field, you never quite fit in anywhere. You’re no longer completely at home in America because your experiences have changed you so much, and yet you’ll never be completely accepted in your country of ministry. So it’s no wonder that when missionaries get together, they have an instant understanding and a deep bond. We loved making new friends and renewing our ties with former acquaintances.

The location for the retreat was Carmel by the Sea, a Christian conference center on the coast near George, South Africa. The views were breathtakingly beautiful in every direction.

In addition to presentations and discussions, our program included an afternoon for fun. We went to an area of the South Africa cape called the Klein Karoo and toured an ostrich farm and the Cango Cave. Believe it or not, I can add “riding an ostrich” to the list of weird experiences I’ve had in Africa—and I have the video to prove it! I may even post it on the blog when we’re back in the US and have more bandwidth.

We are very grateful for the opportunity to attend this retreat, and we feel very blessed by the experiences we had and the fellowship we enjoyed.