Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reflections on Final Days

In just a few days our time at Namwianga will end. We are packing and sorting the pieces and possessions of five years as we get ready to move. The trash cans fill quickly, and the stacks of things to give away grow taller. Our schedule of "things to do" threatens to consume every waking minute. There are meetings to hold, classes to teach, details to delegate, goodbyes to say, and stories to tell.

In all this busyness, I am trying to savor every African moment: basking in the glow of the sunrise, savoring the quiet of dusk, and marveling at the blanket of diamonds that is the night sky. Each experience strengthens the hold that Africa will always have on my heart.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The People at My Door - Susan and Brenda

Susan and Brenda are two young women that David and I helped to get through high school in Kalomo. Both are orphans. When we met them in 2006, Susan lived with her grandmother. Brenda was the head of household caring for her two younger brothers. We helped them pay their fees to go through Kalomo High School's Academic Production Unit, an alternative program that offers afternoon classes for those who don't fit the regular student profile.

Since they had responsibilities at home, we didn't expect them to work for us, but they showed up almost every Saturday morning ready to do whatever job we had for them. They were always cheerful, hard-working, and very grateful for our help. Eventually they finished high school and are now on their own. They attend the Mwata congregation in town where they are part of a singing group.

Susan and Brenda heard that we will be leaving soon, so on Saturday they came to see me and to say goodbye and thank you. It brings me great joy to know that we were able to help these two fine young ladies, and I'm sure that they in turn will help others on down the line.

Just for Pun

I love puns. Someone at our home congregation knows that and has sent us some pun surprises through the years. Brentwood friends collect and send us seasoning packets since we can't get that kind of thing over here. The anonymous punster prints out a pun-ny joke, folds it up, and tapes it to a seasoning packet. Then when I'm cooking and find one of these, I get a good laugh and a smile knowing that someone back in Austin is sharing my love of puns.

Here's a sample from the latest packet I used: A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree and reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter. The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. Even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.

Groan. Whoever you are--thanks for the laughs!

For Aggies Fans

Our recent visitor Christin King just graduated from Texas A & M University. She posed with George and Jason for this 'Gig 'em Aggies' photo. Longhorn fans, remember that George and Jason also have UT shirts and know how to "Hook 'em Horns." We're all about being fair.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Destroyers

Our special little guys, Jason and George, live at the Eric's House orphanage with Roy and Kathi Merritt and a bunch of other kids from toddlers to teens. Roy Merritt recently sent out these photos and descriptions of the youngest little ones at Eric's House. Enjoy!

Roy Merritt writes:

We do keep a few toddlers here—The Destroyers. (Shudder)

They look cute, don’t they?

Jason George and Kevin – don’t they look drooly and harmless?

And yet –

These bombers are the most destructive weapons known to humankind.


This kid is four years old and a chatterbox. Most chatterboxes let me keep on typing and are happy with the occasional grunt or “Wow!” Not Jason. He bumps me on the arm if my attention wanders, and he asks questions – thousands of them – and he doesn’t allow me to answer with a mere “Wow!” And he doesn’t discourage easily.


Pretty. Dainty. Delicate. Bratty when it serves her purposes. When she is good, she is VERY good, and when she is bad she is HORRID.


Cuter than a bedbug, George can really turn on the charm. He can also be a brat. He is visitors’ favourite kid to spoil.


The mildest, least destructive of the bunch. Timid and shy, he talks in a high falsetto voice. Wonderful crinkly smile.


Better known as Ben JA.

This beefy little kid is a clown, sassy, a troublemaker, a dirt-eater, loves to rassle and goof around. The pinnacle of achievement in Dirt Ball misdeeds


Usually has two middle fingers in his mouth. Can be quiet sometimes. Likes being a lap kid—in (sigh) one-minute doses spaced one minute apart.


Can be well-behaved, sweet and cool -- Can also be a bully which results in great and terrible squalling of his victims -- “Shane the Pain”.


This kid is the very definition of noise, screeching, yelling, whooping, crashing into things.

Breakfast time . . .

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kasibi Church Service

Grady King preached for the Kasibi church service.

Kids at Kasibi

The Kasibi kids are beautiful and friendly. It doesn't take much effort to get a lap full of them.

Everyone joins in the fun. In the background, an oxcart is being used as spectator seating for the men.

Kasibi Road

I guess we didn't get enough rocking and rolling with the Kasibi band; the road on the way home gave us a few more reasons to shake, rattle, and roll.

Kasibi Village Band

Sunday afternoon the Kasibi Village Band tuned up and played for us. All of the instruments except one banjo are homemade. The music is delightful, and the musicians and listeners celebrate life with joyful spirits. Goats and chickens wander in and out of the crowd, the children dance with abandon, the men and women watch and chat about their lives. I call this a "National Geographic moment."

The homemade instruments are models of Zam-genuity! Check out this trap set.

Using Your Head

We visited the Kasibi congregation recently. After church, our friend Rodia carried the communion tray home with her in the traditional Zambian way.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Update - 12 March, 2010

We have had a wonderful two weeks with Grady, Karen, and Christin King. Grady did a superb job at last week's "Come Together" meeting for the students and community. There were 14 baptisms and over 30 responses for prayers on Friday and Saturday nights. Christin and Karen have spent many hours with the babies and toddlers at the orphanages and have shared many stories of their adventures.

We are with the Kings in Livingstone this weekend doing "touristy" things. This morning we went to Victoria Falls. I have been to the Falls at least 10 times, but today was a different experience. The rains this year have been plentiful, and the flow of water over the Falls is incredible. The mists are so thick that one can barely see across the gorge, and the spray is torrential--we were completely soaked as we slogged through the water flowing on the bridge and the trails.

So now I have seen the Falls at its driest when there was only a trickle of water flowing and we could walk across the top, and at its wettest in today's deluge, and at many other stages in between the two extremes. Always I am amazed at God's creation!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The People at My Door - Clifford

Clifford first came to my door in 2008. A church leader in Kalomo had sent me Clifford’s grade nine results—no application, no explanation, just a handwritten page that showed Clifford had done well on his grade nine exam way back in 2002. A sponsorship opened up, and I notified the church leader to send Clifford out to talk to me. Handsome, well mannered, and articulate, Clifford explained that his single mother was unable to pay for his school fees.

Clifford started at Namwianga in 2008 when he was 19 years old. Even though he had been out of school for six years, he made excellent grades from the first term. Now in grade 12, he is second in his class and is also the Vice Headboy, a top leadership position. The teachers and administrators have nothing but good things to say about him.

When he showed up at my door a few weeks ago, he was distraught. The Zambian educational system will not allow anyone with an examination number from 2002 to take the regular grade 12 exams. Instead, he was told that he would have to be an external candidate. This meant that he could only take four of the eight required exams this year, and he would have to wait another year to take the other four. Besides delaying him from college for an additional year, the cost of external exams is very high, and he would have to pay it two years in a row.

Clifford and I visited the education official in Kalomo to plead his case. The officer very nicely explained that old examination numbers like Clifford’s would be rejected by the computer system, and there was nothing that he could do about it. I asked if there was any way Clifford could be issued a new number. Probably not, the man said, but you could go to Lusaka to the Examination Council of Zambia and talk to someone there. He warned me that I would be wasting my time and money.

I went anyway. Last week David and I made the five-hour trip to Lusaka. I expected the worst and prepared myself for hours of battling with the Zambian bureaucracy. Instead of hours of battle, I was in and out of the Examination Council offices in less than 15 minutes. The assistant director assured me that it WAS possible to get a new examination number. All we had to do was to provide her with a letter from the Head Teacher and a letter from me explaining the situation. This week we sent a representative to her with the letters, and she issued the new number right then. Clifford will be taking his exams just like all the other grade twelve students, and we expect him to do very well.

Update - 6 March, 2010

Grady and Karen King and their daughter Christin are here visiting us. Grady and David were friends at Oklahoma Christian College way back in the 70s, so our friendship spans many years. Grady has been teaching college Bible classes this week, while Karen and Christin have been giving lots of love and care to the babies at the Haven. Last night the Mission hosted a "Come Together" night for praise and preaching with Grady as the featured speaker. Almost 700 students and members of the community were there for a great experience of congregational singing and Grady's message on "Lifting up Christ," followed by presentations from seven different high school and college singing groups.

It has rained and rained and rained some more this week. The roads are slippery, muddy, and messy. Tomorrow's student outreach had to be relocated because the Kabanga road is too bad for the bus to make it through. We're hoping for some sunshine today.