Sunday, January 31, 2010


Meagan Hawley, our dear friend and co-worker here at Namwianga, is on her way back to the US for medical treatment. She has been having symptoms which lead her doctors to suspect serious health problems. On Saturday, a specialist at OU looked at photos of her lymph nodes and tonsils and said she needs a biopsy immediately to diagnose or rule out lymphoma. She will have surgery in Oklahoma City on Monday or Tuesday. Meagan had just 12 hours notice to get ready to leave Namwianga, making it very difficult for her to say her goodbyes and pack for the trip while she processed this frightening news.

Meagan has devoted the last three years of her life to caring for the orphans here at Namwianga. Most recently she has been in charge of Marjorie's House, a facility to care for babies who have health problems or compromised immune systems. Words cannot express the impact she has had on all of us who know her and especially on the little ones who rely on her tender care.

Please pray for Meagan, for her family, and for those of us here at Namwianga who need her back soon.

Jason Takes a Swim

Jason came over last Sunday for a few hours. He loves to “swim” in our outdoor concrete sink and had a great time splashing and playing.
He also told me about Petty, a 13-year-old girl who lives with Jason at the Eric’s House orphanage. Jason reported, “Petty went swimming at church and put her face in the water!” It took me a few minutes to figure out he was describing Petty’s baptism at church that morning. Ah, the mind of a four-year-old.

Welcome Week

“All beginnings are hard,” wrote Chaim Potok. Certainly beginning a college experience can be daunting. Students struggle to make friends, find classes, settle into dorm life, and adjust to cafeteria food. The Welcome Week Committee shown here helps to make the beginning of college a little easier at GBCC. Members of the Welcome Week Committee greet each new student upon arrival. The newcomers are ushered to their dorms, given an informal orientation, and introduced to other students.
Each night during Welcome Week, the committee hosts a special activity. Devotionals, movies, Bible studies, and singing groups keep students busy in the evenings and help them make friends. Students also look forward to twice a day drawings for prizes. Backpacks, Cds, T-shirts, and “surprise bags” are awarded to lucky individuals whose names are drawn. The Welcome Week Committee organizes work projects that not only help improve the campus but also provide opportunities for new students to form bonds with others.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Special Little Guy

Roy Merritt recently sent out this story about Gwembe, one of the boys that he and Kathi have taken in at the Eric's House orphanage. It touched my heart, and I hope it will touch yours as well.

From Roy Merritt: Gwembe is the little guy on the left.

Gwembe is mentally retarded. Doesn’t talk much. He grins a lot and gives “thumbs up” to everyone he meets. He runs if he is travelling more than 100 yards.

Before he came to us, thugs battered him to mincemeat and a concerned person dragged him to Zimba hospital. When he recovered the hospital wanted to release him to Somebody—anybody! Social services brought him to us. They knew nothing about him, and when anyone asked his name he only replied “Gwembe” – which is a tribal name for our part of Zambezi Valley.

I liked him immediately. People here can be brutal with mentally ill or retarded people. Every town has a few ragged, filthy, shaggy fellows shuffling through trash heaps for a snack. I wasn’t just moved by compassion. I wanted our kids to learn that people like Gwembe are also valuable human beings, made in the image of God.

Gwembe has become popular, and fits in well most of the time. He plays with the two-year-olds, Hides behind the door and shouts “Boo”. He protects them and separates their little fights. He loves gadgets that flash or beep or unfold. Our older kids have learned to like him, return his thumbs up, and protect him from those who would be unkind.

Gwembe has some problems that need surgery. How do we get permission? I tried Social Services, the local court, the Chief medical officer, and just got passed around to the next office. We began to follow hints—where is his family? We finally traced them out—200 miles away at Siameja village deep in Gwembe valley. He had disappeared two years ago, and the family even planned a funeral for him, until they heard rumors he might be somewhere near Kalomo. After we told the family what we needed, Gwembe’s older brother Kingwell, brought us a handwritten letter from Gwembe’s father, with the date stamp of their local headman, giving permission for the surgery. Kingwell is the big guy in the picture. He is 25 years old and in grade 9.

The letter also told us Gwembe’s real name, Kalombe Siakoole. We’ve called him Gwembe for so long, nothing is going to change here!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Welcome Week Fun

The students arrived on campus last week to begin a new year. As part of Welcome Week, the student government organized a chair party. Students collected plastic chairs from all over the campus and brought them to the ad building lawn for a scrub down. Laughter, splashing, and a few water fights mixed in with the work.

Veggie Tale

This eggplant came from our garden complete with a long pointy nose! I found some googly eyes and couldn't resist creating a Veggie Tale wannabe.

It's a Jungle Out There

I took these shots of the college campus last week right before the tractor mower came in to do its job. I thought the HIZ students would especially enjoy a peek at these rainy season scenes.

This is the road to our house from the college.

Looking from the offices toward our house. The roof is all you can see of the Behnke/Estes house.

The library and classrooms are hidden somewhere behind that grass!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Off they go!

A guest post from Roy Merritt.

Northreach/Westreach funds sponsor George Benson Christian College students who agree to be missionaries in far-flung corners of Zambia. They are bonded to “equal time” – three years in college – three years teaching and working with the church out in the boonies where their cell phone can’t find the network.
We have just sent out a bunch of them—the graduating class of December 2009.
They went out in three main groups; Sesheke and Mongu areas in western Province, Mporokoso and Kaputa areas in Northern province.

They travelled and dropped off here and there day and night.

Some roads were good . . .

And some were not so good.

Car troubles happened every day. That’s why each group went with its own mechanic and his toolbox.

Trailer troubles too—one night this axle snapped. One wheel popped off and rolled 100 feet into the jungle.
They didn’t find it until daylight. Strips of inner tube held it together till the next town and a repair shop.
They paid the guy on the right to sleep with the trailer till they returned next morning.

Lukulu, town of plenty.
What it has plenty of is sand!
Western province is covered with deep deep sand.
No stones to throw at somebody if you get mad.
No rocks for little boys’ slingshots.

About half the students are married, and took their families along.
The singles looked like they were homesick about one minute after they unloaded.

Thanks for supporting this work!
God bless you,
Roy and Kathi

Monday, January 11, 2010

Two Worlds

We said goodbye to the people of Mukonda on Saturday afternoon and traveled through breathtaking scenery back to Namwianga. The sapphire sky sparkled over clusters of thatched roofs on verdant rolling hills. Goats and cows meandered across the dirt road. Ten Zambian ladies filled the back of the Land Cruiser, singing in the rich Tonga harmony that I suspect will be the melody of heaven. It was one of the times I tell myself that I am experiencing a National Geographic Moment.

We had been back home a few hours when I got an e-mail from one of Sara's friends. She was with Sara in a Dallas bridal shop, and Sara had narrowed her selection down to two wedding dresses. Sara's friend sent me pictures of the two gowns via her iPhone, and I e-mailed my feedback on which one looked best. I was thrilled to get to be there for one of my daughter's significant moments.

Two incredible experiences in two starkly contrasting worlds.


Sylvia Mancheesi (left) and Eneless Hankuba traveled with us to Mukonda and translated my classes. Eneless has been my translator for several years on medical mission, and Sylvia has done teacher training with me a few times. Sylvia teaches the children's classes at her congregation and loves helping other women learn how to teach.

After the Seminar

After Saturday's seminar, the ladies shared their favorite beverage. They call it chibwantu and tell us that it is made from maize and "certain roots of the forest." We call it "the brew you chew" because it has chunks of cornmeal in it.

Mukonda Leadership Seminar

While I taught the women on Saturday, David and his translator Rodgers Namuswa taught a seminar on "The Character of a Leader."

Mukonda Teacher Training

On Saturday we did a teacher training/leadership seminar at Mukonda, a village near Kafue Game Park. Women from nine different congregations attended. As in all our seminars, each congregation receives a Beginner's Bible and a packet of materials. In the training sessions we play games, do role plays, and explore ways to give children in our Bible classes something to HEAR, something to SEE, and something to DO. For most of the women this is their first exposure to any teacher training.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


These lions were just a few feet away from our vehicle. Our guide assured us that as long as we stayed in the vehicle, the lions would ignore us. However, he warned us that stepping out of the vehicle instantly transforms a tourist into a tasty lunch.


This cheeky elephant showed off his big ears as he charged our vehicle. He stopped a few feet away and walked off in disgust.


Every time I see a zebra in the wild, I am reminded that God has a great sense of humor. Interesting fact: When a mother zebra delivers her colt, she keeps the baby away from the others in the herd for several days so that the baby has time to imprint. A zebra's striped pattern is like our fingerprints--every one is different.


I hope you can see that this giraffe has a little bird on his head. The bird perches there and helps keep the bugs off his friend. Pretty amazing.


Last week we made a quick trip to South Luangwa Game Park with a fantastic group of twenty-somethings: Meagan, Kelsey, Jana, Betsy, and Courtney (the Extreme Team), their three visitors from the US: Thomas, Matt, and Mary, plus our good friend Robby Banda. And we also took along Bright, a three-year-old from the Haven.
We had an incredible day of game viewing, seeing giraffes, zebras, hyenas, lions, and, best of all, a mother leopard with her cubs.

Double Trouble

Harold and Joe came running when they heard there was a snake in the flowerbed. Harold (right) helped find the critter, and Joe finished him off with a shovel. David held up the kill for inspection. That same night, the watchman killed another snake just like this one on the opposite side of the house.

Friday, January 01, 2010


David and Dillon posed with this bunch of bananas off our backyard tree. The bananas are small--about four or five inches long--and delicious!

Monkey Stand

As we traveled through the countryside, we saw shelters like this one in many of the fields. Rodgers Namuswa told us that there are monkeys in this area that will steal the maize crops. The shelters are built so that someone, usually the children in the family, can watch the fields and chase away the monkeys.