Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Exterminator

We returned from furlough and found a major infestation of ants in the kitchen. I had no ant spray in the house, so I used antiseptic for the first round. Then our Zambian friend Obrien recommended hot ashes, so we spread ashes around the outside of the kitchen where the ants were coming in. I used a bleach/water solution to spray the countertops where the ashes wouldn't work.

Don and Laura brought us a sprayer and some ant poison to try, but the stuff was for spraying crops and seemed like overkill for ants. I stuck to the natural stuff. Then we woke up one morning and found the ants had moved their trail right through the living room. Hot ashes to the rescue again--oh the joys of living on concrete floors!

Two weeks later we are still ant-free. Score one for natural pesticides!

Elephant Finale

Some have asked me what happened to the elephants. We talked to Rod and Sue Calder at Seven Fountains Farm and got the full story. The elephants stayed around for two weeks, terrorizing the farm workers and destroying fences. They munched their way through the maize fields, but the crop had already been harvested, so they did little damage there. Rod and Sue said the elephants did not want to be around people and would turn away and go into the woods whenever the vehicle came near. After a couple of weeks, the elephants moved on and haven't been seen since. Rod reported that they did a good job of clearing some brush for him. He wasn't able to get a good photo of the actual animals because they always ran away. The photo above, however, is his souvenir: authentic elephant droppings.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sichikwalula Farewell

The women who took the training class gathered outside the church building for a final photo.  We said our farewells and shook hands one last time before we headed for home.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lunch at Sichikwalula

Lunch time.  An outdoor kitchen area was up outside the church building, and the ladies took turns tending the fire and cooking.  This lady is stirring a big pot of nshima with a wooden paddle that resembles a small boat oar.  Nshima is similar to grits, but cooked to the consistency of play-doh.  
 We were served our meal inside the church building--men on one side, women on the other.  The menu was nshima with side dishes of goat and chicken.  There weren't enough plates to go around, so we ate directly from the serving dishes.  No utensils needed--we used our hands.

Sichikwalula--Sharing Chibwantu

David met with the men under a tree. After class they shared chibwantu, a non-alcoholic beer made from mealie meal and "certain roots of the forest." We Americans refer to this drink as "the brew you chew" because it has chunks of cornmeal in it. The Zambians love chibwantu, but I can't acquire a taste for it and have given up trying.


As soon as we got out of the Land Cruiser, the greetings began.  The Zambians are a warm and gracious people, and their greeting traditions are one way they express these qualities.  We shook many hands before starting our training sessions.

The group of women in my class came from three different congregations.  There were women of all ages, plus a few babies and school-age children.  

Monday, June 22, 2009


We pulled into Sichikwalula after a jolting, bone-jarring two-hour journey.  The Land Cruiser seldom got out of second gear during the entire trip.  

Our ties to Sichikwalula go back to the year before we moved to Zambia.  The congregation began in 2004 after some women studied with me during the medical mission.  We visited in 2005 and met with them in a deserted two-room house (to read the full story of that visit, click here).  The brick and thatch structure seen here is an improvement.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Road to Sichikwalula, Part 3

The village of Muchenje was along the way. Like most villages, it has a few shops that sell basic food items and household goods. Unlike many other villages, Muchenje has a nice looking basic school (through grade nine) and is constructing a high school. There is no electricity, but we saw solar panels and TV antennas on some of the houses.

We passed a kraal (rhymes with call), or what we would call a corral, made of thick logs. This one was full of cattle, and several people were working with the animals.  

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Road to Sichikwalula, Part 2

On the outskirts of Kalomo we stopped to let Rodgers Namuswa, David's translator, join our group.  We saw this girl wheeling her little brothers down the side of the road.

We encountered this herd of cattle a few miles down the road.  A few seconds after we stopped the vehicle, a cowherd came running and whistling.  The cattle reluctantly moved to the side.  

The Road to Sichikwalula

Today we traveled to Sichikwalula to do teacher training and a leadership seminar. The next few blogs will be things we saw along the way. The 34 mile trip took us over two hours, so you can imagine the kind of roads we were on. It was another kind of rock and roll experience.

Our first stop was at Eureka to pick up Christine Moono, my translator for the day. Christine had hired four ladies to pound her family's dried maize (corn), and they were working on the porch outside her front door. The lady in the back is pounding the cobs with a long stick to loosen the kernels. The other ladies are rolling the cobs in their hands to take the kernels off. The next step will be grinding the maize into mealie meal, and this process will be done at a nearby hammermill.

The next stop was the filling station in Kalomo where we picked up Sylvia and put diesel in the Land Cruiser. This small truck loaded with riders pulled up next to us. This is a common sight on the roads around Namwianga. How many Zambians can you fit in one vehicle? One more!

Friday, June 19, 2009

HIZ Speech Pathology

Harding University sent a group of students and faculty members from their speech pathology department to spend six weeks here at Namwianga. They did speech and hearing screenings at all of Namwianga's elementary and secondary schools and at George Benson Christian College. They also conducted daily language enrichment activities with the babies and toddlers at the Haven. You can read about their adventures on the group blog at Elizabeth, one of the participants, also has a blog at

Program Director Dr. Beckie Weaver became somewhat of a pioneer during Harding's time here. She taught a class on speech pathology to the GBCC first year students--the first instruction of its kind in Zambia as far as we know. The students loved the course and are proud of their attendance certificates. Shown here are a few of the students with Dr. Weaver.

The group arrived in mid-May and will be leaving this weekend. David and I were gone on our furlough most of that time and feel like we missed out on a great experience. The short time we have spent with this group has been a blessing, and we hope the program will continue next year.

Friday Night at the Movies

We just got home from movie night at the college.  The students asked us to bring our multimedia projector and show a DVD.   We chose "Glory Road," the story of the 1965 Texas Western University basketball team that won the national championship with a new coach and a starting lineup of African-American players.  

Talk about an enthusiastic audience!  We had true participation from this group.  They yelled "Texas!" whistled, called out coaching suggestions, and broke into an uproar during the final victory scene.  A great evening with great students who know how to have a good time! 

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The People at My Door

Three knocks on the door one day. Three stories of sponsored students. Three illustrations of the joys and challenges we face as we try to help.

Laiford Muleya (left) came one morning to report on his nephew Current. After a frustrating two-year saga, we were finally able to find a school in Maamba that promised to help Current with his special needs. I hadn't heard from Mr. Muleya since he took Current to school in January.  Now Mr. Muleya reports that Current likes school very much and has learned to walk with crutches. His report card indicates excellent progress.

A few hours later, Victor knocked on the door. He haltingly told me why he had missed the last three weeks of classes. Victor, a 12-year-old sister, and an 8-year-old brother are orphans who live with their grandmother. While the sister was away and Victor was in school here at Namwianga, the grandmother left the young brother alone for an entire day. When she returned the boy had disappeared. Victor was called home to help in the search, but so far there has been no trace of the boy. The police have no leads. A distraught Victor now struggles to deal with academics when his mind is preoccupied with his brother. We prayed together and he set off for class again.

Late that afternoon, Nadine came by (no photo available). Her mother Charity is a GBCC graduate, the headmistress of a remote village school, and the single mother of Nadine and two younger children. Charity was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in May. She had a radical mastectomy in Lusaka on June 5 and is staying in the city with a niece until the doctor releases her to return to her village. Nadine broke down and sobbed as she talked about her fears for her mother and her worries about her younger siblings. I told her that I was a breast cancer survivor and helped her understand what her mother would go through during her treatment and recovery. I phoned Charity and had Nadine talk to her for a few minutes, and then we prayed together. Nadine brightened and flashed one of her incredible smiles as she headed back to the dorm.

Three knocks on the door. Three stories. Three opportunities to share joys and struggles. 


Zambia is now in its winter season. The evenings and mornings are crisp and cool--cool enough for a fire in the fireplace the other night.

The cold weather occurs during the dry season. Usually there is no rain from mid-April through October. We were shocked when thunder rumbled and lightning flashed last Tuesday. Then the sky poured for most of the night. The native Zambians tell us they've never seen rain like this in June.


Namwianga is blessed to have visitors who come to share their time and talents with the work here. In May the Carters and Davenports arrived for a three-week stay. Brent Carter and daughter Hailey (left) are from Edmond, Oklahoma, where Brent works as a drug and alcohol counselor. Eric and Wendy Carpenter and sons Brinson and Aiden are from San Antonio. Brent and Eric taught classes at George Benson Christian College, Wendy shared some of her skills in nursing, and all of them spent many hours each day working with the children at the Haven and at Eric's House. They were a blessing wherever they went, and we know they will be missed as they head back to the US next week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Power Issues

Electricity has been unreliable since we returned, so tonight I gave up and graded tests by the light of my trusty headlamp.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Back Home in Zambia

We had an uneventful trip back to Zambia. The long leg of our trip is the flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. It was shortened to only 15 hours this time because we didn’t have to stop and refuel in Senegal. We landed in Johannesburg Saturday evening and spent the night at a lodge before flying to Livingstone on Sunday. We managed to sail through the immigration checkpoint—not a minor feat since we do not have physical possession of our work permits which are lost somewhere in the Zambian bureaucracy.

Here are just some random thoughts and descriptions about returning to Zambia after six weeks in the US.

1. My neighbor Mrs. Moono came to greet us as soon as we got home. She grabbed me and swung me around in the air a few times. Now that’s a welcome!

2. We went to church last night and sat down in the middle section of the auditorium. A few minutes later, Jason crawled up on my lap in his fleece pajamas. We had a joyous reunion. He quietly informed me that he is now four years old. In a few minutes he fell asleep in my lap. Does it get any better than that?

3. I couldn’t remember which of the faucets in our bathroom is the hot water faucet. They’re both labeled cold, and they’re the old fashioned setup where each faucet is separate. The water does not mix—you either get hot water or cold water, so to wash your face you do a little catch water/splash/catch some more water routine. I’d forgotten what fun that is.

4. The sunset filled the sky with flames of red and orange. You just don’t see sunsets like that in Austin.

5. I spent five minutes trying to lock the back door today. We finally unscrewed the plate on the side of the door—and then David realized I was using the wrong key! Can I blame jet lag?

6. I miss long, hot showers. I felt guilty every morning in the US as I stood under that incredible water pressure, but I enjoyed every minute. This morning’s bucket bath was a reality check.

7. Being back in my own bed makes up for the bucket baths!

8. Ants invaded while we were gone. The counter by the kitchen sink was brown with dead ants when we got home. Once those were cleaned up, live ones swarmed in to take their places. I declared war today. Since I didn’t have any ant spray, I went after them with antiseptic liquid (think Lysol). I figured the smell would repel the ones it didn’t kill. That worked marginally well, but Obrien had a better method: hot ashes! We dumped hot ashes all over the veranda under the window where the ants were crawling in. Sure enough, the ant population reduced from the millions to a few straggling survivors who soon fell victim to my antiseptic-laden paper towels. Unfortunately, a remnant came back for dessert tonight. I’ll get them tomorrow.

9. The chicken population is down. Five of the chicks and three of the older hens died. The gardener says it was a snake—but that would be a big job even for our local cobras. The good news is that three chicks survived and are all grown up, and the remaining hens and the rooster are doing well. More good news: Petronella—the one who started my chicken business in 2007 and who literally rules the roost—survived and is now hanging out in the guinea fowl side of the pen.

It’s good to be home.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Goodbyes Again

It’s early morning as I write this. I got up a little after 5:00 to spend some time reading my Bible and preparing myself for the trip back to Zambia. I read Psalm 31 again—one of my favorites, especially verses 14-15a: “. . . I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands. . .”

The times for today will include more goodbyes. This is our third furlough, and I keep thinking that the goodbyes will become easier, that it won’t wrench my heart quite so hard to give my kids that last hug as we leave. But it doesn’t seem to get any easier. That hole in my heart will be there with my carry-on as I walk onto the plane at 12:55 today.

But just as my heart aches for those we leave behind, another part of my heart races to think of those who will be waiting on the other side of the world. There are students to teach, projects to finish, a great God to be shared. My times—the goodbyes and the greetings—are in His hands.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Moving and Moving On

Packing up and moving our daughter Sara last week reminded me of other moving experiences. I confess that I LOVE the packing part. Finding just the right box, cushioning breakable items carefully, placing books the right direction, and filling in every available space—all this gives me a thrill of satisfaction. My daughter thinks that is really weird, and I’m guessing most of you reading this think it’s a bit strange too. But in the six moves we’ve made during our 33 years of marriage, I have never packed a single item that arrived cracked, chipped, or broken.

My family has a story about moving that has been handed down to me. The year was 1953—before I was born. My father was recovering from a serious bout with rheumatic fever. The Iowa farm had not done well, and my father had decided that southwest Missouri was the place to be. He bought land in the rolling hills not far from Branson and prepared to move our dairy operation and his family to what he hoped would be greener pastures.

From what I understand, my mother was a bit dismayed at leaving her Iowa roots and extended family. But she supported my father and never looked back, even though I know it must have been very difficult to say goodbye to the people and places she loved.

Moving day came. The cattle were loaded into one truck, household possessions onto another. My brother and two sisters wandered through the empty house. Dad shut the tailgate of the truck—or tried to. A solid oak dresser had a top that stuck out two inches, and the gate wouldn’t close.

Dad stepped back and surveyed the situation. It would take a major re-shuffle of furniture, appliances, and boxes to fit that dresser in. Time was short. Daylight was burning, and a long trip lay ahead.

Never one to contemplate for long, Dad located the handsaw and quickly sawed two inches off the offending dresser’s edge. The gate slammed shut, and Dad yelled, “Let’s go!”

All during my childhood, that dresser sat on the screened-in back porch that served as the laundry room for our farmhouse. With a nice coat of paint, the dresser’s sawed-off edge wasn’t that noticeable. But it was always there to remind us that sometimes you just have to deal with the things that hold you back and then move on.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


I can't believe it's only three more days until we head back to Zambia! It has been a whirlwind of travel the past two weeks.

We spent three days in Tulsa last week helping Sara pack up and move. She had to be out of her apartment on May 28--the same day that she had to have her final day at the school where she taught. We rented a truck, and David and I loaded everything from her second floor apartment into the truck on Thursday. She came home to an empty apartment, so we turned in the key and set off for Texas.

As with any move, this one involved some sad goodbyes. Sara has lived in Tulsa for five years and has made many wonderful friends. I'll admit that I shed a few tears saying goodbye to her friends--and some of them I had just met! It has meant so much to David and me that there were people there in the church, in her school, and in her circle of friends who could do the things for her that we were too far away to do.

We are enjoying our last few days of being with family and friends. We are making our trips through the discount stores to stock up on the things we can't get in Zambia, and we're trying to finish up all the errands that we have put off during our travels. And my mind is turning toward Zambia, longing to be back in my own bed and to get back into routine--whatever that may turn out to be!

Adventures in Missions

We received this from David French, our good friend who directs Mapepe Bible College just outside Lusaka. I thought you would appreciate hearing about his medical mission adventures. Say some extra prayers for him, his wife Lorie, and the mission team.

From David French:

What is it like to do mission work in Africa? Well, let me share with you the experiences of just the last few days as we endeavored to transport all our equipment and medical personnel to our base camp in the Central Province over the past few days (about 300 miles north of our Mapepe campus).

Preparations: For the past two months I have been working to make sure all our equipment and "old" vehicles were ready to go. My primary 4x4 vehicle (we call the GX) blew the engine about two months ago. I hired two mechanics to do an overhaul and get it in working order in time for this medical mission. We also bought a 6-ton truck three months ago to replace Jezebel (my 2-ton truck) which has always broken down on our previous medical mission trips. In addition to this, I have been working with our construction crew to improve and increase our visitor accommodations (install some extra showers, build 2 more visitor huts).

Advance Team Arrives. One week in advance, Joe Godley (American team leader from our sponsoring church in Memphis) and his advance team arrived which included Mark & Stephanie Taylor, their two college-aged sons, Glenda and Charlotte Bradsher. For the next week they worked with me to make the final preparations (buy medicines, food, sort the medicines, visit all the necessary govt offices, etc). Ty and Judy Jones arrived three days before the medical mission in order to get the optical clinic ready. Bobby & Bonnie Grisby (both optometrists from Jericho, NC) arrived two days in advance.
Transport Mapepe Students. On Friday (May 29) we loaded up our Mapepe bus and Jezebel (2 ton truck) with all our students and their supplies and drove them to four of the six villages that we will buy. Of course, I worried about Jezebel making it, but she did (I overhauled the engine for the 3rd time two months ago). However, the bus blew a front tire on the return trip on Saturday (this was the first domino to fall). My mechanic (who was also one of the drivers) had to go out late Saturday night to try and buy two new tires -- not easy to do in Zambia on a weekend.

Main Team Arrives (May 31). Early Sunday morning my mechanic got to work at sunrise trying to fix up the two new tires he bought and put them on the bus. At 7:30 am we finished loading up the 6-ton truck (we now call Goliath) with all our supplies, equipment, medicine, and luggage. At 8:00 am we assembled for worship and at 9:00 am we loaded up the bus and Goliath with the advance team and headed out to the airport to pick up the main team which was scheduled to arrive at 10:10 am (16 American health-care workers). They arrived with all but one of their bags -- which was the best record yet. We loaded up all the remaining luggage on Goliath and off went the 29 Americans (minus 3 nurses who had to stay behind with me for govt interviews on Monday morning).

The Adventure Begins. No sooner did the bus head out of the airport than the front-left tire began to go down. The driver phoned the mechanic (driving on ahead in Goliath) that he thought it was just their air pressure valve needing tightening. I became aware of the problem as I drove up behind Goliath now stopped on the side of the road (which in itself gave me a heart-attack). I got the little tool to tighten the air pressure value, turned around (driving my just overhauled GX landcruiser) and head back to find the bus (now off to the side of the road with a fully flat tire). We quickly changed the tire and headed off down the road to find a tire shop (not easy to find on a Sunday).
Upon finding a tire shop, we stopped to fix the flat tire. They put a new air pressure valve in the tire and I again changed the tire (the tire shop didn't have a jack so I again had to use our two hydraulic jacks -- and it takes two to change it). As I put the new tire back on I, then, realized why the tire had gone flat. The tube inside the tire was the wrong tube (as the value stem was hitting the brake-pad as the wheel turned). NO, the tire shop did not have a new tube I could buy. It was, then, suggested that we take the tube out of the spare tire and put it in the new tire (as the spare tire is going bald). Ok, "let's do it!" But, in pulling the tube out of the spare tire, the man broke the tire stem on the spare tire! Now, I don't even have a spare tire to put back on the bus to get it to another tire shop! As the tire shops workers began to discuss our solution, I called Moonga (a driver who was busy picking up a rental bus) and asked him to bring the rented bus to where we were so that we could send the American team on (which would give us the rest of the day to resolve our tire problems).
The head man of the tire shop came up with a new idea. He put an extra nut on the tire stem which would pull the tire stem up closer to the tire rim (allowing it to clear the brake-pads). And, sure enough, it worked! But, I don't know if I trust this. Afterall, this "solution" meant that a nut was inside the tire that ought not to be there between the tire rim and the tube itself!
Moonga arrived with the other bus. So, we had all the Americans get off the MBC bus and on to the rented bus. But, then, Moonga told me that the oil light was going on and off on this rented bus (which had just had an engine overhaul). Not good. So, now what? Only one solution left. Get everyone back off the rented bus and back on to the MBC bus... and let it go with the "fix" tire (and no spare) and hope for the best! So, we did and off went the MBC bus with no spare and a "not-so-sure" fixed tire. I instructed the driver that if he had a flat, he would have to borrow one of the tires off the back in order to go on (or get to the nearest point of civilization). So, off they went.... as I held my breath.

More Problems. As I drove home with the remaining three American nurses, I began to realize that my newly overhauled GX Landcruiser was not running right. It had no power. "Now, what?" It didn't appear to be an engine problem, but a fuel starvation problem. But, it didn't matter what the problem was, it is too late now to fix the problem. So, scratch one vehicle from service.

American Team Arrives. Later Sunday evening I got the call I had been waiting for all afternoon: the MBC bus with the Americans had arrived (along with Goliath which had no problems whatsoever)! Great news. Moonga and I, then, began to make plans as to how we were going to get everyone else up to base camp on the next day (Monday). With one vehicle down, new plans had to be made. Still needing to be transported were the 23 Zambian healthcare workers and the 18 MBC staff and some remaining students. Remaining was the rented bus (the oil pressure light was just a loose connection), Samson (one of our other 4x4 Land- cruisers), and my Toyota Camry. Not enough seats.

Monday (New Day, New Adventure). First tasks: we have three American nurses that need to get to their government interviews at 9:00 am; and we have a student from Malawi who must go to Immigration to get his visa renewed (which Immigration wouldn't do last Friday). So, I took the three nurses to their interview (dropped them) while Thomas Simubali took the Malawian student to Immigration. We, then, loaded up the trailer behind Samson with everyone's luggage; then we loaded everyone on the rented bus and into Samson and off they went to a rendezvous point in Lusaka (where they were to pick up other healthcare workers and the 3 nurses).
Meanwhille, I sent a driver to the airport to pick up the one lost bag that didn't make it the day before. I also had the two mechanics working on my GX to return to see if they could fix whatever was wrong with it. Yes, the lost bag had arrived; but when my driver got to the airport the airline people had all gone off on their two-hour lunch break. They would not return until after 2:00 pm which meant that somone would have to remain behind. Around noon we finally were able to send off the rented bus and Samson. We had also managed to come up with another solution to make up for the loss of the GX. Kennedy Mukuka decided that he could take his vehicle, pick up the three nurses, and wait for the luggage coming from the airport. It was a good thing that he did, because around noon I was informed that the nurses had not yet been able to have their interview. The government office had lost their files and had taken 3 hours to find them again (at least, they found them)! Eventually, the nurses completed their interveiws and the luggage from the airport arrived around 3:00 pm. And, off they went while Lorie and I remained behind here at Mapepe "holding our breath again" and praying that everyone makes it okay. Late Monday afternoon (around sunset) I began to get calls from the drivers as they reached base camp safely. The last vehicle (with the 3 nurses) arrived about 8:30 pm.

And, then there was one. It's Tuesday morning (first day of the medical clinic) and Lorie and I are still stuck here at Mapepe. We had planned to travel north in our car once everyone was safely on their way; but, the mechanics who were asked to checkout my GX (but told to return no later than 12 noon) never returned -- not until about 7:00 pm last night. And, neither were they able to solve the problem (although they now think the problem has to do with clogged filters in the gas tanks).
In any case, Lorie and I (along with our daughter Kerin and another Zambian) will be heading out of here for base camp within the next 30 minutes. But, I thought before heading off I would write you all this email just so you can be praying for a safe and successful medical mission. Obviously, Satan is working against us; but it doesn't matter what the kingdom of darkness throws at us, for we know that "all things are possible through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Phil 4:13).