Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mukuni Outreach

We just spent the past week on an outreach in an remote area of Zambia known as the Makuni Chiefdom. We travelled with a team of 18 Americans and 4 Zambian translators and it was absolutely phenomenal! Every day we spent time visiting the sick, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and just giving hope to a people who have lost hope. We drove two large DAF trucks packed with tents, sleeping bags, food, guitars and all of the other essentials for outreach. During the week we saw God's power come through in breathtaking ways. One headman followed us back to our camp after a time of ministry and asked us to pray for his left foot which had lost all feeling. He had the use of only his pinky toe. A few of us laid hands on him and began to pray and after a few minutes he began to say he could feel "electricity running through" his foot. Moments later he began shaking his head and saying "I can't believe it! I can't believe it! My foot is totally healed." He was moving all of his toes and looking utterly shocked. We prayed for him, encouraged him to give his life to Jesus Christ and sent him on his way. Another woman approached us as we were picking up some charcoal and was limping very badly. She was very old and said her leg was in a lot of pain. We began to pray and told her that she was going to be able to run on that leg because we believe our God is bigger than any injury. As we were praying she suddenly had a huge smile come across her face and she said that the pain was gone. We asked her to jump up and down, which she did with no problem and then she took off running back and forth from hut to hut to show how God had touched her. It was amazing.
We spent some time going through surveys with the headman in each village to understand how many orphans, widows and at-risk individuals were in each area. It is always disheartening to hear the number of orphans in such a small area. We also spent time ministering in a large school called Libala and at the end of our time of ministry the entire student body stood to commit their lives to Jesus Christ. When you read through the word of God it is almost hard to believe how so few people could shake entire nations, but I'm telling you that when you are walking in the power and presence of Jesus Christ there is nothing that can stand in the way of the redemption set forth on the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to redeem mankind. It doesn't matter how corrupt the governments are here in Africa, how oppressed these people have been, or how hard the devil is coming against the work of God - - there is nothing, nothing that can hinder the love of God pouring in and transforming the oppressed culture of this place. We're believing God for total community transformation. No more poverty. No more sickness. No more laziness or dying from lack of motivation. No more corruption.
I'm so excited that I'll be coming home in just a few days because I am pumped up. I am excited to share this vision we have here at Overland to reach the unreached with the gospel and see total community transformation. I am beyond convinced that we have a strategy that can and will work. I love you all and pray I will get to see you soon face to face.

In Christ,

The Botswana Shopping Adventure

On Monday, a group of us took the trek across the border of Zambia into Botswana. The reason? Zambia is so expensive that it’s better to buy bulk food in another country. There is a bulk food warehouse just across the border, requiring only a 90-minute drive and a ferry ride. Apparently, this is a trip that the Overland staff makes often. Having been in Zambia for two years and barely traveling anywhere outside of the country, I decided to accompany the group for the experience.

We loaded the gigantic overland truck at 4:30 am. If you’ve never seen an overland truck, look in a travel guide. It is a passenger truck with a lot of room for storage underneath and a high seating area only reachable by stepladder. Used for people who travel “overland” for African safaris. This is where Overland Missions got their name. Anyway, the truck had a bit of trouble getting started (apparently it didn’t like waking up at 4am any better than I did). But, at 5am, we finally got on our way. We drove VERY slowly, since it was a foggy morning, the road was terrible, and the truck was huge, and reached the border at about 7am. We loaded out of the truck to get our passports stamped. As we pulled into line to wait for the ferry, we discovered that the ferry was running late because of the fog. So, we made some sandwiches and sat eating our breakfast, not even fazed by the typical “Africanism” that does not allow you to dictate your own schedule. By 9am, we were ready to load the ferry, but not before our driver pulled an expert maneuver that got us in the front of the line. The concept of a queue in Africa is quite skewed. So, we’ve stopped trying to follow our Western ideals and just fight to get in the front like everybody else.

The ferry ride lasted about 25 minutes across the lovely Zambezi River. At one point you can view four countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana. It’s beautiful. Once across the river, you offload the truck, jump into it, and start to drive to the border post. Jump out again, wait in the queue, get passports stamped, get back in the truck. Drive about 50 yards, get out of the truck, step on a muddy carpet that’s supposed to prevent the transmission of foot and mouth disease from country to country, get back in the truck, drive to the food warehouse. Whew! It’s only 10am and you’ve already had a workout!

Once at the food warehouse, we set to work buying 7 huge dolly carts worth of food. 100 kg of sugar, 75 kg of flour, 100 kg of rice, etc. It’s a lot of lifting and a lot of currency converting. Nowadays, I think in Kwacha more than I think in Dollars. For example, I have a better idea of what sugar should cost in Kwacha than what it should cost in Dollars. So, I was trying to convert the Botswanian currency (Pula) into Dollars, and Dollars into Kwacha. It was crazy, and I don’t think I did a very good job. The African economy also doesn’t really account for bulk shopping the way that we understand it in the States. You could often buy 10 boxes of the smaller version of laundry soap for cheaper than you can buy the huge bucket. I guess they figure that they should charge you more if you don’t have to shop as often?

Once we loaded everything onto the carts, it was checkout time. Now, remember, we’re dealing with African time here. So, checkout took just over an hour. After that, an employee stops you at the door and checks every single item in your cart against every item on your receipt. This was not a quick “that looks about right” assessment either. This man checked and counted every can of baking powder before he was satisfied. You can imagine how much time we lost when we presented him with the empty soda bottle that we had already paid for and finished! It wasn’t so bad that it took an hour and fifteen minutes to check all of our purchases, because the credit card machine was broken. Because of this, we had to draw out cash for our 14,000 Pula purchase. It took all of our cards, a bit of luck, and a LOT of time before we had enough cash to pay for our purchases. After strategically loading everything into the truck (okay, this was the THIRD time I was lifting 10 huge packages of rice), we set off on our way for the propane station to refill our propane. It was now 1pm. We were filthy, sweaty, and tired. The truck smelled like diesel from being refilled and carrying canisters. And we had to be back at the ferry by 3:30 if we had any hope of getting over the border before it closed for the night. We were doing so well we even had high hopes of finding a coffee shop and having a cappuccino before heading home. We would have done it too…if not for the flat tire.

Needless to say, it was a mad dash. Between the propane, the tires, and trying to gather some food for us to eat, it was all of 4:30 before we were headed back to the ferry. By the time we got our passports stamped and waited in line (during which time I assembled avocado and tomato sandwiches on my knees) we were cutting it REALLY close.

Because of a $20 bribe in the right hands and an INCREDIBLE move by our famed truck driver, we got on the last ferry of the night. We were so tired we barely noticed the smugglers handing their purchases off to the canoes that pulled up to the ferry for that reason. Didn’t even mind wading off the ferry through the water. We just wanted to get home! It was another 2-hour workout to keep all the containers and purchases steady on the bumpy road. But, we did get our cappuccino! We stopped in Livingstone on the way home, had a coffee, and then jumped back in the truck for another 1 long drive to the base. We arrived at 10pm. What a day!

We slept late the next day before embarking on the next project: Putting thousands of dollars worth of groceries away!

Oh Africa, one of those places in the world that has the ability to make you tired before you’ve even done much of anything. I specifically remember it being the same way in China. Even going out to dinner was a mission. But, it makes for good blogging.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Overland Missions

There is so much about our lives that has changed in the last two weeks. There are new challenges and great benefits that have come with our shift to a different ministry. Our living situation has changed dramatically. I was used to living in an apartment with electricity, my own bathroom, and a separate room for Sunda. We are now living in a safari tent...enough said. Admittedly, this tent is the "Taj Mahal" of tents. We even have a little light rigged up for when the generator is on. So, we just flip a switch and we have light (a HUGE convenience when you're used to using candles). The bathrooms are about a stone's throw away, but they also boast lights, flushing toilets, and (usually) hot water. So, really it's not that bad at all.

The kitchen is communal, and we switch off cooking dinner for the 17-20 of us every night. We eat porridge for breakfast, nshima for lunch, and an "American" meal for dinner. We cook from gas stoves in the dusk until the generator is turned on and the kitchen is flooded with light from flourescent light bulbs.

The best part is that the main center is an open plan building with a thatch roof. Every night we eat dinner on the porch overlooking the Victoria Falls Gorge. The sunset is stunning, and the water roars and churns below us. It is such amazing beauty that I have to remind myself never to take it for granted. I am eating dinner just yards away from one of the natural wonders of the world. I am also rescuing my two-year old from going too close to one of the natural wonders of the world, but that is another story.

There are four other children here besides Sunda. Two of which are boys her age. They alternately play nicely together and throw fits at each other. But she's learning how to play with kids her age and older, and how to get along with people all the time.

It's quiet here now. But this week 15 more people will arrive at the base for the beginning of AMT (Advanced Missions Training). Jake and I are participating in this training, and are anxiously awaiting it. Our first week will be spent in "village immersion." In other words, Jake and I will get to go stay in a tent in the villages we were spending time in anyway. I think we're already pretty well immersed, but it will be neat to get the experience of being immersed with 15 others who aren't!

During that time, Jake and I will be performing double duty. Even though we're going through the AMT, we will also be scoping out the villages that we'll be doing a lot of ministry in when AMT is finished. Our first project involves making a shortlist of the villages that need special assistance and implementing the plan that we're working on with the project directors and managers. There's a really cool strategy in the works for empowering Zambians and raising the standard of living in places that have been previously ignored by aid organizations. We feel strongly that the heart of the project is in the right place with the right people working on it. So, we're excited to see what comes of it, and we'll keep you updated!

For those of you who were wondering, Sunda is really adjusting to her "auntie" (the nanny) very well. In fact, a few nights ago she woke up in the middle of the night and yelled for Jacob, "Daddy, Daddy, DADDY!" When that didn't work, she yelled for me, "Mama, MAMA, MUMMY!!!" When I also didn't move (a new plan that Jake came up with that avoids her coming into bed with us all the time and actually allows her to go back to sleep and sleep well) she got REALLY mad and yelled, "AUNTTIIEEEEEE!!!" So, we figure they're pretty tight if Sunda is resorting to begging her to come and get her out of bed in the middle of the night. (By the way, the nanny's name is Fridah and she does not stay with us, she lives in her own home in the village about a 40 minute walk away, she walks to work every morning and walks home every night.)

Well, there's the best update I can manage for now. There's so much that you become numb to after you've been here for awhile. We killed a cobra last night, but you're tired of those stories, aren't you? We haven't had running water in 4 days because of a broken generator, but you don't really want to hear about taking bucket baths, do you? Oh know what they say...This Is Africa!

Peace friends!