Opening Day

Opening Day is when we CLOSE  the school for the term break.  Does this confuse anyone else, or is it just me?!?!  :)
Anyway, Opening Day is the last day of school and it is also Parent Interview Day. The parents pick up the report cards and get a chance to chat with the teacher about the students’ performance.
One of our teachers had a birthday this month.  Her name is Mazyanga Phiri.  She is 25 years old and she is currently teaching the Senior Kindergarten class at Harmony Community School.  She has two children – Shawn who is three-and-a-half and Jeremiah who is fifteen months old.  She is a widow.  Last year, her husband Henry died suddenly at the age of 28.  She told me that Henry’s side of the family doesn’t support her at all, and that they are not even interested in seeing the children.  The responsibility of raising Shawn and Jeremiah now falls on her side of the family – her own parents have 10 children.  In spite of the difficulties she faces, Mrs. Phiri has decided that she wants to upgrade her education (she does not have the necessary qualifications required to teach – she was hired before we came last year). When she completes the three-year program (which takes place whenever the school breaks for holidays) she will be qualified to be a primary school teacher.  She will have the job security that she so desperately needs as a single mother. The school fund will allow her to do this – many thanks again to our donors!

March 31, 2016

WE OFFER A FOND FAREWELL TO OUR FELLOW CANUCKS – THE ARDELEANS
It is good to have visitors here in Zambia!  We get homesick (as you can imagine), so when visitors come it gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling!  However, all good things must come to an end……hence the Ardelean departure.  We will miss you guys….especially Dennis and Simon’s bantering back and forth!
On the day before they left, the entire school gathered to bid them farewell and to wish God’s blessing upon them and their journey back to Canada.
John addressed the children and the staff, and Albert (the head teacher a.k.a. principal) translated.  John encouraged the students to walk a close walk with Jesus, and he emphasized the fact that the school was God’s ministry and that the people involved in serving are just conduits.  Dennis, Albert, and Ken had closing thoughts and prayers which included thanking John, Terri, and the boys for their hard work and love.
The next day we headed to the Ndola Airport to drop off the Ardeleans.  We wish them a safe journey back home!
In other news (some of which happened while we were on furlough) we now have power at the school!! We are really excited about this!  However, not excessively so, because we still have certain obstacles to overcome before we enjoy the benefits of this privilege.  One of which is that the whole nation of Zambia is still experiencing Load Shedding or Rolling blackouts. What is this….you may be thinking?  It is…..
Def. the deliberate shutdown of electric power in a part or parts of a power-distribution system, generally to prevent the failure of the entire system when the demand strains the capacity of the system.
Apparently the Kariba dam (a hydroelectric dam in the Kariba Gorge of the Zambezi River basin between Zambia and Zimbabwe) is falling apart, and the fact that the country is experiencing an unprecedented drought (the worst since the early 1990s) is just exacerbating the problem. So, we patiently wait, in darkness at times, but we are most happy when we are walking in the Light!

March 10, 2016 | WE’VE ARRIVED!!!!

Back home to Zambia we go, with 16 – plus more – luggages in tow!:)

Being back in Canada proved to be more challenging than we ever could have anticipated.  Life there is so vastly different from what we experienced in Zambia (though we’d  only been there – in Zambia- for a relatively short period).  The trip to Canada made us cognizant of the fact that we really don’t fully belong back in Canada – nor do we feel 100% Zambian at this point.  Essentially, we feel as though we’re in a sort of a “no-mans-land”. I guess that’s how we should be feeling anyway as believers. This land is not our home, we’re just a-passing through .

I’ve read a fellow blogger express it this way, and I quote,

“In America (Canada) we were yellow.

We thought yellow, we talked yellow, we dreamed yellow, hey, we even ate yellow!
We really like yellow.
In Zambia, we are blue, or at least try to be.

We find our minds stretching to think blue, interact in the blue way, and occasionally we eat blue.
We really like blue.
But we really aren’t either blue or yellow…we have become a shade of green.

And we like green. We think.
Green feels strange. What is familiar? What is normal? What if we act blue in a yellow situation? For instance, eating rice with our hands. Or forgetting to wear shoes in public. Or, driving on the wrong side of the road. And these are the obvious ones. Who knows what will go through our green minds. But, we look forward to the adventure and certainly will have many laughs and embarrassing moments. Isn’t that what makes life interesting?”

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(from left) Back: Kafula, Jasmine (Yasna), Dennis, and Esau Front: Faith and Grace

Zambia Update – September 25, 2015

We live in Kitwe, Zambia, in a section of town called Parklands.  We are 12,448 Kms  away from home, and at times we feel each and every one of them. At other times, we feel so settled, that it’s hard to imagine that this isn’t our home.

 

Well, the past couple of months have been busy – what with hosting teams from the U.S and Canada.

 

First of all, we had Joe Marton and his nephew Josiah visit (Joe was the one who introduced Dennis to African ministry to begin with).  Following that, we were blessed to be visited by a Canadian team from Thunder Bay.  They have been coming to Zambia for a number of years (visiting the Lifesong school in Garneton).  They visited Harmony School for the first time and were really excited to see the work that has been done by Canadians (eh?)-  we have been invited to visit them in Thunder Bay when we get home at the end of the year.

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Then we were visited by Sam and Suzie Rufener from our church in Brunswick Hills, Ohio.  They were instrumental in uncovering one of the major academic problems at the school – that is, that the reading level at the school is way under par.  This is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately!!

 

Lastly, we welcomed our ACCMBC work-team (which made us miss home even more :(….).  They were instrumental in bringing electricity to the school!!   At the moment we are experiencing MAJOR blackouts in our country – 10 hours of blackouts at a time, to be precise – but hopefully the situation will get better as we move closer to the rainy season.

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Dennis and I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of the work team members for contributing to the school.  Firstly, for Rob Ritzmann – we are thankful to God that he was able  to lead the team – for organizing the whole project and for managing the work so that it could be accomplished in such a timely and efficient way.  For his father Robert Ritzmann Senior – tears come to my eyes as I think back to his visit.  Surely, this brother is using his senior years as an offering of service to the Lord.  What an example you are to us, Brother.  Thank you for sharing your story with us both – we were truly blessed.  For building the addition to the cafeteria (and many other things) – may God bless you for your labor of love.  I would be remiss not  to mention yet another senior brother on this trip, brother George Bodjanac….thank you for loving our family!  Our kids were so touched by his visit.  They told me that he reminds them of their “deda” back home whom they miss so much especially with him being so sick in the last while.  

Not only was he loved by our kids, but also the many, many children at the school.  He would play games and hand out treats – spending time with the orphans – showing the heart of Christ.  For Edmund Reinhardt….in helping with the electrical and block work, and for sharing a very memorable message on Sunday morning.  He led us in a a beautiful time of confession –  we are thankful that he was willing to humble himself.   Josiah, in helping with the electrical and block work, along with providing encouragement to me personally.  Mark Varga, who was going through quite an ordeal (with his son Riley being so sick), but he carried on working for the Lord tirelessly and with his whole heart.  We could see that he was carrying a heavy burden, but this did not deter him from accomplishing what he had set his heart and mind to do.  Thank you!  Marlene and Jacobi Ritzmann, who also showed such love toward the children at the school by playing with them.  Thank you for investing into each and every one of their lives – you could visibly see that the children were rejoicing in their presence.  They also taught a class on purity, which the Grade 7 girls enjoyed so much, and they helped with painting and improving the property.   Lastly, many thanks to Mike Sulja for helping set up computers for the staff at the school (they were thrilled with their new computers, Dennis included :)- thank you to all who contributed in this area specifically).  Also, for helping with painting the property, doing block work, and investing some time to play with the children as well!  Many, many thanks Zambia work team 2015!!

At the school (before the work team arrived), we had an end of term assembly.  We thought that it would be a good idea to encourage the children by having a student of the month award – encouraging them to build up Godly characteristics.  The month of July was focused on the act of kindness.  Also,  the teachers are busy decorating their classrooms with all the wonderful supplies brought to us from the Brunswick Hills congregation and the Canadian churches!  Thank you to all of you who contributed to this cause!  The staff is so excited – it really helped in boosting the morale at the school.  On behalf of all of us at Harmony School, thank you for your expression of love!  We are truly grateful!

September 4, 2015

Unfortunately the trip is now over but what an amazing two weeks it has been. Since they had to leave at lunch, Mark, Edmund and Josiah were on light duty while the others worked on closing up loose ends. Mark finished off the rest of the plumbing in the bathrooms by fixing some loose connections and replacing leaky faucets, Edmund assisted Robert Senior with mortaring the remaining blocks at the new cafeteria cooking area and Josiah worked on various electrical jobs. Due to injuries, Mike assisted Josiah until around lunch where he assisted with some computers tasks for the head teacher Albert. Robert wrapped up a number of outstanding electrical items in addition to assisting Patrick with the new climbing section on the swing set. George cleaned out all of the tools and parts out of the various rooms and reorganized it all in the container which definitely needed it as we used almost every tool available there during the course of the two-week stay. Marlene and Jacobi spent time talking and playing with the teachers and kids who love every minute of it.

Due to a shortened school day, Marlene, Jacobi, Faith and Grace handed out goodie bags to all the kids in the school just before noon. Depending on the age of the children, they received candy, gum, small play animals, punching balloons, headbands and tennis balls. The children were overjoyed to receive the gifts and all the extra items were given to Albert to use as rewards for the children later in the school year.

At noon, Mark, Edmund and Josiah said their goodbyes to the teachers, children and the group and headed back to the lodge with Victor to clean up and get ready for their flight. The others continued various small tasks or spent time with the community until end of the day. As the day came to a close, the reality of seeing the school for the last time sunk in and it definitely was difficult to say goodbyes to the teachers and the children. Although some of the children have difficulty understanding English the older ones were able to translate to the younger ones that we weren’t coming back which resulted in some big group hugs with the children.

Before dinner, Robert worked on fixing the leaky hot water tank for the Lifesong Lodge since the pipes were failing but unfortunately due to lack of parts and tools, we could only put a makeshift solution in place until a plumber can be called. Dinner was served at the Delic residence and consisted of pasta, salad and garlic bread with strawberry rolls for dessert. It definitely was a fantastic meal to end the trip.

In closing, we appreciate all the support and prayers from everyone. Many amazing experiences were had and the memories created are sure to last a lifetime. God bless you all!

September 3, 2015

Today started off with breakfast at 6:00 so that we could attend the student assembly at 7:15. Dennis and the head teacher Albert addressed the students and then the floor was given to George to talk to the kids which was translated by Albert (see video below). We continued to focus on getting water into the water tank. We had hoped that during the night less people would be using water therefore increasing the water pressure to fill the tank. Unfortunately that was not so. Rob Jr. and Mark hooked up a 1hp booster pump in hopes of increasing the water pressure to the tank and to service the bathrooms. Thankfully now we can fill the water tank and service the bathrooms. We are now trying to fix all the leaks that are caused by poor by the “high quality” fittings that we can find in Zambia. George and Mike finished fixing the swing set and now there is a line of both young and older kids waiting their turn to go on the new swings. Josiah made up a bunch of extension cords and a cord that allows the welding machine to plug into the generator or the generator into the main panel which can also service the welding machine. Patrick continued to fabricate pieces for climbing rope addition to the swing set. Unfortunately Mike was having a little too much fun with the kids. He swung a bit too high and the link that connects the chain to the hardware on the top beam broke sending Mike to the ground and spraining 2 fingers and scraping his elbow. Marline and Jacobi inventoried all the school supplies that we donated to the school. As we opened each suitcase of supplies all Albert could say was “Wow, wow. We have gone from the year 2000 to 20015 in 1 day!” All the teachers are very thankful for what we have done and what the people from North American have given them. Rob Sr. and Edmund continued to build the room behind the cafeteria for the cooks. In the Afternoon Marline, Jacobi, and Josiah went back and braved the Chsockeny Market to get some gifts for their families and friends at home.

Tonight we had dinner at Spurs which is a Zambian take on a Texan steakhouse. The Wigand family also joined us as the came down from Garneton to see the progress on the school, Lifesong Lodge, and to say goodbye. We also celebrated Marlene’s birthday which was yesterday.

September 2, 2015

Today Mark and Marlene taught the Grade 7 class for 3 hours. Mark took all the boys and assigned small groups to help out one of the team members for the first 2 hours. Josiah had his boys help him pound the ground rods into the ground and had them layer charcoal, salt, and dirt over the ground rods and earth mat for the grounding of the electrical system. George had his boys paint the offices, Rob Sr. had his boys help mix mortar and carry blocks for him as he built a room in the back of the cafeteria for the cooks in shelter, and Mark had his boys helping him with the piping from the water supply to the water tank. We hope that at night the water pressure will be great enough to push the water up into the tank. Mark and Marlene also talked to their classes about purity. Marlene also gave her girls a bag of toiletries and taught them how to use them. Most didn’t have at home or knew how to use them.

Today Rob Jr. was driving to get more building supplies when he was stopped at a police and immigration road stop. When asked for his licence he gave him his Canadian licence which is not valid in Zambia. When the guard asked for his passport, Rob replied that it was at the lodge he was staying called Lifesong Lodge. The guard then replied that he also works for Lifesong in Garneton and if he knew Luke. Rob replied yes and that he was actually at the farm getting a tour from Eric Wigand yesterday. Since a minister from immigration was with the guard he could not let Rob go without seeking his passport, so he took Rob’s licence and told him he would return the licence once he was able to see Rob’s passport. Rob drove back to the lodge, retrieved his passport and showed to the guard and got his licence back. It is amazing that Rob happened to be stopped by a guard who knew Luke and Eric and was able to let Rob go.

In the afternoon Edmund, Mike, George, and Jacobi went to Care and Compassion with Victor.  The group we visited is the most successful of Victor’s groups.  The leader, Agnes, borrowed 2,000 K and purchased a machine that will fill and seal freezes.  She needs to put in 300K in material and is able make 1,500K in profits.  Even today she sold 100K of freezes. She has bought a second machine and given it to her niece.   The group had gathered more capital and was using it productively. They specifically thanked George who had been there before and explained how this micro financing had really helped them.  There was one man and 7 women in the group.  They were mostly in the 50s and 60s and had children.  Many of them had orphaned grandchildren (or children of other relatives) that they were also taking care of.  Their success has encouraged a number of other neighbourhood in the area to start.  We shared some words of encouragement and helped them with some gifts and purchased some of their products.

In the evening, the Chipata Compound Community Board cooked a very traditional meal for us.  This community board has voted in 6 representatives from the community, 3 men and 3 women to represent the community’s interest in the school.  In order to help create cross-cultural bonds, the board members created about 20 Zambian dishes including Nshima (the base staple which is a stiff maize porridge with the consistency of mashed potatoes), caterpillars, minnows, a hot drink, fish of various kinds, beans, vegetables, nuts, and exotic fruits.  The meal was eaten with our hands, without utensils.  You dip your hand in the Nshima and then pick up whatever else is on your plate.  A few team members were brave enough to try the caterpillars.  In conclusion there was a number of speeches made expressing appreciation for what God is doing at the school.