Christmas in May, you say? You’d better believe it! Santa’s sleigh arrived in Africa early this year….. all the way from the Great White North!
I am pleased to announce that our container arrived on May 21st! We were elated! Actually, we were both jubilant and glum – partly because it reminded us so much of home, and elated to get some of our things that we were looking forward to seeing again. Dennis went about unpacking the tools with glee (so gleeful was he, that he sliced his foot with the grinder and required 7 stitches) BUT….he was not deterred. He went right back to work the very next day – tools in hand. We were so excited to have our things arrive from back home. Thank you to all who contributed in helping with the container – many thanks to those in Kitchener; Dan Weinhardt, The Faulkenburgers boys, Jake and Devon Boronka, etc. also many thanks to Mikey Delic (Dennis’ brother) for being willing to be used in helping load and in donating much of the furniture that now makes up our home. To Alltrade as well – for the many electrical items that will allow us to bring electricity to Harmony School! Also, Christian Aid and Ontario Gleaners for donating foodstuffs. Mennonite Central Committee for humanitarian relief kits. To Chris Morris and the list goes on…..we humbly thank you!
It’s been a very hectic/stressful and busy month.
First of all, we started feeding the children lunch along with breakfast in the morning. So, it’s the second feeding time. Okay, I just feel like I have to thank the donors again back home. I know I keep mentioning it BUT none of this would be possible without your love and generosity. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. I mean, we see it being lived out here day after day….and it is truly amazing. Often times when we give, we forget about it, but we see it being used here in a very tangible way everyday. So, having said that, I feel compelled to mention it again and again – to the praise of the Father.
Alright, back to lunch…..here is what lunch looks like here in Zambia. NSHIMA – NSHIMA – AND MORE NSHIMA!! They eat NSHIMA with everything. It is their staple food item. Let me try and explain what it is. It is made from mealie meal – which is finely ground corn. It would be similar to our cornmeal. They boil it in water until it thickens. Then they add a relish to that. NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THE RELISH THAT WE PUT ON OUR BURGERS. Jazz, do not think about burgers, do not think about burgers……sob. Back on point, the relish here is considered anything that you serve alongside the Nshima (depending on what they can afford). So it can be anything from sautéed vegetables, to meat and so on. It was funny, I was grilling some meat for dinner outside, and Combe (the young man who tends to the yard), approached me and asked me for some relish (this is obviously before I understood what relish was). I proceeded to apologize, and explained that I didn’t have any relish (I’m thinking the kind you put on burgers) but that the next time I went food shopping I would buy some for him. He cocked his head to the side and looked at me quizzically. He then looked at the meat on the grill, and then back at me. We stood there in awkward silence for longer than I was comfortable with. After a few more moments of this torture, it dawned on me that he was asking for some of the meat I was grilling to eat as a relish for the nshima – ahh, yes, relish. Just another one of my “cultural adjustment” moments.
So, back at the school Dennis was interested in finding out what the nutritional value of nshima is, and he was surprised to find out that it basically has ZERO nutrients. This is information backed up by two nutritionists – one Zambian and another American. So instead of nshima, we serve rollermeal at the school, and that is equivalent to our oatmeal. Of course, they were not happy at first, but Dennis insisted because he wants the children to receive the most amount of nutrients. There is no difference in price, it’s just that people opt for the nshima because they are used to it.
So, from the container arriving from such a great distance to launching the second feeding program, we have been very busy!! We are privileged to be able to be a part of this ministry – humbled beyond words.
Africa. There’s nothing polished about it. It is raw and gritty. But God can certainly use it to expose and make us vulnerable. It’s not for the weak or faint of heart….however, if you can by Christ’s power bear up under it, then I believe something beautiful can emerge for God’s honor.
March. In March we celebrated Faith’s 12th birthday. Thank you, by the way, to those of you who remembered to wish her a Happy Birthday. It was by far the most different/difficult one for her. Thankfully, we were able to get her a cake, and the Wiegands were kind enough to invite us over for a swim! Good times.
Faith and Grace have made some friends here in Africa. Almost daily the neighborhood children come over to the house to play. It is sweet to see this interaction….and my heart is warmed to see our children making friends.
We are heading into the winter months here in Zambia. It would be equivalent to our fall season. Cold crisp mornings, with hot clear sunny days, and cooler comfortable temperatures in the evening. It’s actually quite beautiful. Because we’re heading into the dry season, there are many shortages of water and electricity. We have water early in the morning, but then it cuts out for most of the day, and turns back on in the evening. Lately, the electricity has been turning off in the evening. The other night the WHOLE COUNTRY was without power – I believe that a dam broke, and ALL businesses ground to a halt. Some were blessed enough to have generators which gave them a couple of hours of electricity. You can imagine what it’s like to be sitting in complete darkness…..it certainly makes for interesting conversation. This would be the perfect opportunity to share life’s most embarrassing moments (nyuk nyuk).
In other news, we had the ministry of health administer the tetanus vaccine at the school. Just about 450 children lined up over a two-day span.
Also, Bro. Adrian Brdarski was kind enough to arrange a donation of new soccer jerseys which we brought with us in February.
At the school – there’s so much work to be done! Bob Waite (I mentioned him in an earlier blog post – the Texan educator) stressed that our class size is simply too large. We will be running a babysitting service and NOT a school unless we split the classes. There are currently 50 – 60 children per class – any educator reading this would probably be cringing right now. This is a huge struggle! Yes, feeding the kids is key – but if we’re going to make a DIFFERENCE in the lives of these children, then we must do everything possible to ensure that we TEACH them as effectively as possible. Another issue that is setting us back at this point is the fact that the kids do not know English. You may think that’s arrogant of
me…seeing that I’m from the West, but you have to understand…..the CURRICULUM is in….English! All the exams are in English! This frustrates some of the progressive teachers as well!
Currently the school children are on break……classes resume on the 11th of May. Dennis and I are preparing the teachers for the new term, while Sarah is helping Faith and Grace with homeschooling. When the new term starts, Sarah goes back to the school early in the morning and helps the cooks with the feeding program. She has been trying to train the cooks to work efficiently, so that the feeding program runs smoothly. Also, Sarah along with Faith and Grace were painting at the school this week. The paint that they use here is so watery that most of the paint ends up on the painter and not on the wall.
Visiting the Lifesong School in Garneton
Last week we had the privilege of being invited to a seminar that was hosted by the team at Lifesong Garneton (Garneton is about 30 mins away from us – this is where some of the members of the Apostolic Christian Church of America work). Dr. Bob Waite, a principal from Dallas, Texas, was presenting a topic, and two van loads – including all the teachers and Ken – from our school went in support of this event. Dr. Bob spoke about a number of things, but he emphasized the point that the primary purpose of a teachers is to lead his or her pupils to Christ. Beyond that, he gave the teachers some pointers on how to stay focused in the classroom and to stay on point in the lesson. Furthermore, he encouraged the teachers to be diligent in both areas of life; as believers and as teachers. We were really excited to be able to meet him, and were ready to bombard him with a series of questions after he was finished presenting. He has been to Zambia a number of times, so he is well aware of what the educational system is like… or lacking.
On Sunday, we were pleased to have Eric Weigan, his family, and Caleb visiting with us at our home for morning worship. Eric and his wife Kerry are from the Sister Church in Indiana, and Caleb is a Brother from Bloomington, Illinois. Eric is quite prolific at playing the guitar, so we sang hymns and Dennis led the bible study. We read from John 15, where Jesus likens the Christian walk to the vine.
Dennis had the cafeteria doors fixed so that it would discourage the community from stealing the food stored inside. Also, some of the children would manage to squeeze through the bars and vandalize the inside of the cafeteria. Dennis was commenting that it is so different when you’re here long-term, rather than on a 2 week work team trip. There’s always something going on that needs repair, or general supervision.
On another note….the other day I asked Grace if she wanted me to book a flight home. She replied, “I would really love to Mommy, but I know that God wants us here, so we have to stay!” Out of the mouth of babes…
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Harmony Community School starts feeding program!
The day finally arrived! The children at the Lifesong Harmony Community School enjoyed their first meal yesterday. Approximately 500 children were able to eat breakfast at school thanks to the various donors back home!
Leading up to the event, there was a lot of running around and preparatory work that had to take place. Dennis and Kenneth were busy buying all the necessary supplies (large stock pots, burners, food stuffs etc.). As Dennis was purchasing the supplies, he choked up a number of times, because he was humbled by the fact that he was able to be a part of this amazing event!
On the actual day, the team woke up with butterflies in their stomachs! Off to the school they went! Sarah, Faith, Grace, and Jaz got to work buttering the bread, while Dennis, Kenneth, and Victor took care of some last-minute details. Other members of the community, the cooks, and the Delic/Weinhardt team spent the morning hours preparing the cafeteria for the big event. Excitement was in the air!
As the cafeteria was bustling, the local tv station arrived! At last, the children came in single file, excited to partake of their first school meal. One of the community members commented that this was probably the only meal that some of the kids had for the past couple of days. Sad.
The meal consisted of fresh buttered bread (the Zambians love their bread!), a hard-boiled egg, and tea with milk. Before the children partook of the meal, a speech was made by the school’s coach (also a school board member), Kenneth, and Dennis. A prayer was offered (all being broadcasted – you have to love Zambia for that!) and the children began eating. Everyone was touched, some were even crying! This was a long time in the making, and so emotions were heightened! There was a lot of work that went into this event, but it was worth it – more than words can express!
The events of the last year have turned my physical and spiritual life upside down. I’ve heard about trusting in Jesus since I’ve been in Sunday School, but to be honest, I’ve never really FULLY relied on Him. I’d be lying if I said that I did. Shocking? Perhaps. But sadly it’s the truth.
The last 8 months or so, have had me relying on Him for everything. I’m holding on tightly to Jesus.
Spiritually speaking I’m trying to sow seeds that will yield an entirely different harvest. To my shame, ones that I’ve never sown before. Ones that don’t focus on vanity, discontentment, and selfishness. I’ve been sowing those kinds of seeds for far too long. It’s time for me to put someone else’s needs before my own. Truthfully, this is foreign to me. It actually doesn’t FEEL good at the moment. I can only liken this state of being to having an unhealthy diet. If I’ve trained my body to be used to sugary, salty and fatty foods, then when I suddenly change to a healthier lifestyle, my body will still crave the bad food that I was accustomed to before. I would need to retrain my whole body to crave the new healthy foods. The transition period may not FEEL good but…..I think you get my point.
In this new phase of my life where I’m trusting God for everything (yes, I know, I’m a really slow learner – gentle with me please) some really neat things have happened that I’d like to share with you.
First of all, as I’ve mentioned in the last blog, the books have arrived at the school!! YAY!!! Seems silly, but they didn’t have a curriculum to follow before. Sigh.
Secondly, they DO NOT HAVE ANY SUPPLIES to work with at the school!! AARGH! It’s sad – really sad. Dirty, tattered and ripped up “notebooks” is what they currently are using. So off to the market with Dennis and Kenneth to buy new supplies. Big Smiles. After perusing through a number of stores to find the best price, we finally found a store that would offer us each book for 4 Kwacha (.74 Cdn or .60 US – btw, Dennis pulled me aside and lectured me on being outside of my budget which was 3.50 Kwacha per book…..don’t worry Willie he’s got your back :)). I insisted on these books because they would not rip or tear as easily as the cheaper quality ones. After putting our order in of 500 books, and paying the 2000.00 Kwacha (370.00 Cdn or 303.00 US), the Indian owner inquired as to why we needed so many books. Dennis told him about the school and the organization we were with and he seemed to be quite touched. He asked us what other items we needed, and he brought us some of the other things that were on the list. After doing so, he proceeded to give us back our 2000.00 Kwacha and said that he wanted to donate the books, and asked if we would be interested in him donating some canned foods, diapers, and other feminine hygiene items……..? Sniff. Why am I surprised??!!?? Don’t we serve a God who owns the cattle on a THOUSAND HILLS?!? When will this truth take root in my heart?
Care and Compassion
Today Sarah went to visit one of the Care and Compassion groups. In the interest of providing some background, the Care and Compassion ministry takes care of widows and widowers by providing food and teaching them life skills. One of the skills is called micro financing. Rather than just giving them food, we help them get back on their feet again by helping them start their own business. They borrow money from the group, and then pay back the loan at a fixed interest rate.
The group Sarah went to visit today had a few people who were involved in selling dried fish, another was selling coal, and yet another was selling gravel. Victor (the Care and Compassion coordinator) encouraged the group to press on through the various challenges they encounter as widows and widowers.