Monday, March 29, 2010

Sports, the River and the Boat

Two of our boys, Goty and Petro, have been selected from among the regional club teams to represent the Caprivi region in the Coca-Cola Cup coming up next weekend in Windhoek and they played a pre-game against Zambia at the festival yesterday and won. This will be a nationally televised event and a great honor for our boys to be a part of--and of course they are both only a little more than stoked.

Speaking of competing, the Namibian national track and field event was held this weekend also. Unfortunately Goty found out at the last minute that he didn't actually qualify to compete and only by seconds, but at least this way he was around to qualify for the Coca-Cola Cup. But also at the last minute, literally 15 minutes before closing time the night before she was to leave, Lisedi got all the paperwork she needed and was able to go! But the biggest news lies with Djolo. He received the bronze medal in his national competition. He is officially the 3rd fastest runner of the 200 m race in all of Namibia (for the Under 15 age category)!! We are still waiting to hear if his time will qualify him to go any further, but this excitment is enough for now.

This announcement is only a few days late, but better late than never. As of now, they will NOT be evacuating this year!!!! (knock on wood). And its all due to a phone outage...and answered prayers of course. Last Friday they were mandated by the regional counciler to evacuate, but Friday night the phones went out and were out until Saturday night. Therefore they didn't have a way to finalize the evacuation location. But also starting Friday night, the rising water levels slowed drastically to the point that by the end of the weekend it had even stopped rising! At this point they decided to use the phone outage as a nice excuse to delay the orders to evacuate. When he was talked to again on Tuesday, he agreed that they did not have to evacuate immediately. And since the waters have continued to not rise--and even went down just a little--I dont think we will be evacuating. We are of course still having to function as an island and go everywhere by boat, but at least we are still here...all thanks to a phone outage (and answered prayers!) :-)

In other news, there is a big prayer need from Gilligan's Island. The boat broke this morning. It is running only on 1 cylinder and stalls whenever you go to put it in gear and thus is 92 % nonfunctional. Dave has spent all day trying to fix it, but to no avail thus far. He was able to arrange for some boat fixers to come tomorrow, but please pray that it can be fixed quickly. He was also able to arrange a ride to town in a neighbor's boat for Sarah and Becca since Becca has to take Sarah to the airport early tomorrow, but we have had to cancel school since they can't get the teachers here. Even things like food can only get picked up by boat.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Boat Ride Anyone?!?

The waters have slowed (answered prayers!!), but have not yet stopped. Now it is rising maybe only an inch or 2 per day at most and the majority of the effects now are seen as the water is filling in the little valleys throughout the compound. There is not yet water in any of the buildings (except for the one staff house just outside the compound, pictured below), but it is less than 20 feet from Becca's front door. The river/puddles/ponds/water (whichever you prefer) is currently knee-deep and full of fish in some of the common walking paths are there is no way around it. The garden is now full of water and creeping up from the back, non-river, side of the children's home, which is flooding the septic systems (another prayer request).

They have officially been mandated by the regional councilor to evacuate the property and we were going to do so today, but, due to an opportune phone outage from Friday night till Saturday night, they were unable to finalize an evacuation point and thus have not yet evacuated. They weren't mandated to leave because of immediate danger, but rather so they don't get caught at that point. But now with the waters slowing, they are hoping to maybe re convince him otherwise. Please keep praying for this. There are a lot of logistics and extra expenses involved in evacuation and, as excited as the kids are and as much adventure as they don't already have, it wouldn't be ideal.

Until then, this compound continues to operate as an island. The only way to get anywhere is by boat. Even our neighboring villages are completely blocked by water.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Back on US soil

After quite an adventure with Becca as our tour guide, we encountered a very nice safari.
We also attended a Losi festival with dancing, druming and celebration. It was quite delightful.
We are now back on US soil after a long journey and somewhat of a bumpy ride in. After 19 hours in the same plane, we were ready to get off and walk for a while. All connections went well and we are home safe thanks to your prayers and the grace of God.
I see that Becca did not get in by car but had to be transported back to the home via boat after she dropped us off at the airport. You can go to read her blog at and find her blog under the volunteer link - Becca Mason.
They are working at filling sand in the 500 bags that they bought. I wish that we were there to help but I pray that they will not have to evacuate and will be safe to stay put at the home.

I have worked on titles to pictures and will figure out how to post them tomorrow on the photo gallery. For now, I need some sleep in something other than a plane.

Good night and May God continue to bless you!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Our last night in Namibia (for now)

Well, we have had a great visit and have met so many wonderful people. Everyone has been so kind and have been so helpful with teaching us so many new things (that we are expected to remember for the next 6 months until we return).

We had a great meeting with the Sukudo Village leaders yesterday. They are so appreciative to the work and relationship building that Ray and Becca have started. We are excited to continue to grow this relationship and partnership. This relationship is critical to the success of the kids and the Children of Zion Village.

Last night Margret, Sarah and a couple of the girls organized a wonderful dinner for Ray, Travis and I before we leave. We had some of the traditional African dishes and it was quite good. We ate with all of the kids and they were very kind and seem anxious to have us back.

This morning (March 10th) we went into town. We needed to get a modem for the computer so we have better connection when we get back. Now we have a bank account and a modem. We are almost citizens!! We ran some other errands and had a nice trip to the open market and craft store. We bought some fresh fish that they thread through the gill with a reed and that is the way that you carry the fish from the market.

We had a great staff meeting this afternoon with the 3 managers. They are really wonderful and we look forward to working with them and learning from them.

The river is rising – Still!! The bridge had a "leak". Remember the bridge is concrete but also sand. Potentially we will not get over the bridge in the morning so if not, we will take the boat. We are pretty sure that they will have to travel back and forth by boat for supplies before the river crests but we are praying that the kids will not have to be evacuated.

Just to be clear, we are leaving in the morning because we are going to the airport with Ray because his flight is tomorrow. We are really not leaving until Friday at 1:00 (6am your time) but the drive from the Children's home to the airport is over 2-3 hours so this will save them from doing 2 trips. We are staying overnight at a lodge and will have the time to visit the beautiful Victoria Falls.

We cannot wait to fill you in with the details and most of all share the pictures and videos.

Thank you for your prayers!! You are the best and we cannot do this without you!!

Please continue to pray about the river situation and that we can get out over the bridge in the morning and that the kids do not need to evacuate. Also please pray for Ray and he travels back to Maryland tomorrow (Thursday) and for our travel Friday. We will be back into Atlanta around 11:00am on Saturday. Love you and God Bless!

Monday, March 8, 2010

COZV March 6th continued and 7th

Thank you for your prayers. The guys were able to get the van successfully into town to leave it there because of the rising waters and were able to get back home in the pickup. We also secured a place to evacuate if needed. It is a big field with very high grass that will need to be cut down before tents are sent up. We are very thankful for some where safe to take the kids.

The 8 kids that were going to go see their families in their villages were disappointed today because we did not feel it was safe to take them through the high water. We were concerned that either we wouldn’t get through or we would get out and not get back. The rain continued almost all day. We were finally able to get out late in the afternoon and went for a walk to check out the road and water situation. It was coming up so we will just watch it one day at a time. We also went into the garden to gather fresh corn, tomatoes and okra for dinner (or as our new Australian friends would say, “tea”). Then we took the boat for a test run with another success!
Saturday evening is movie night at COZV! We saw a funny movie that the kids seemed to enjoy. We were able to watch it on the new TV that the kids got for Christmas.

March 7th
What a beautiful day!! Thank God for clear blue sky and sunshine!!
Ray asked Travis and me to do the sermon this morning. We started with prayer by the spiritual tribal leader. Then we sang lots of praise songs (some in English and some in Silozi – the local language). Ray and 2 of the kids played guitar and one on the drum set. A few of the girls led singing for two song and then 4 of the staff ladies sang. WOW! Beautiful music (we will load some of the video when we get home so you can see and hear)!!! There is a lot of talent here!

Ray prayed with Travis and me before we began the service. We were able to tell the kids a little about us and how it was that we were there and our plans for the future. God has really placed these kids and this place and community in our hearts. We really fell in love with the kids on the web site and that was even before we met them. We watched a short video about how God has made us as his masterpiece. Even though it sometimes feels like we do not have a purpose, God does have a plan for us and we are good because we were made by God and we are God’s children. The kids listened intently and then we discussed it after it was over. It was a great morning.

After church we walked to the bridge and some of the kids went fishing. David brought fishing poles and gave some of the interested ones a lesson in baiting the hook and casting the line. The water continue to rise but it is still too early to leave. The kids wanted to go for boat rides so we took turns going around the “loop” with a load of kids. They had a great time (oh, and so did we by the way). Little Josiah (the 1 ½ year old) went on Uncle Travis’s lap. He kept saying “I want to drive the boat.” Sarah (one of the volunteers) spotted a huge hippo across the way. We can certainly hear them but this is the first time we have seen one.

One of the kids had a birthday so we had a cake and sang in the early evening.
The evening was a special time – a Big Bonfire. We were going to do this earlier in the weekend but it was just too wet. Since the day was sunny and beautiful, it worked out perfectly. The kids were dancing and the music was loud and it was a great time.
What a great day it was!!!

Thank you for your prayers! We have been safe and healthy and have been blessed by the kids, the staff and the volunteers as well as people that we have met in the community.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

COZV March 4th and 5th Adventures

Wednesday night and Thursday it rained almost all the time with just a few breaks in the rain. We went into town to run several errands with some of the staff. We are learning more and more of where to go to do what and the details (like all of the taxes need to be paid with the exact amount of cash.)

Early in the afternoon the girls (Margret, Sarah and myself) went behind the barn to the garden. We picked fresh butternut pumpkins, tomatoes and lemons. When we got back we worked on the peeling of the squash for soup and Margret made fresh lemon pie that we had with ice cream. We also had kudo which is a type of big antelope. It was very tender and tasted great!

Prior to dinner we went to the transition house to help. We had an opportunity to visit more one on one with the kids there. My patient came over for his back treatment and the good news is it is feeling better!

On Friday Margret, Becca and I took 4 kids to the hospital. This is where they go for any outpatient visit. It was an interesting visit and experience and I am glad that I went so I will know what to expect when I have to do this when I come back. All of the kids have their own health record that they (we) take along for the visit. It was interesting that they did not write in any other chart other than this little folded record that they child must bring each time. So, you wait outside on a bench where you sit in order that you arrived. You slide up and around the bench until it is your turn to register. Then you move to another outside area and wait for the doors to open (of course we were there very early). Once the doors are open you stand in line and wait to be weighed. Then you sit on benches – in order of your number that you got there – and when it is your turn you go up to a table and get your temperature and blood pressure taken. Then you sit back in the same order on the bench and wait to get in to see the nurse. Then the nurse will tell you what consult room to wait outside of based on what your symptoms are. Then you wait in line there until the doctor comes and it is your turn. If you have a prescription from the doctor you go to the pharmacy to get the medications and you wait in line there. So we were there about 7 and home about 1. It did give me some time to spend with one of the 16 year olds that was the first girl at the home. So, she has been through a lot of transition and it was interesting to listen to her and her perspective. She also had a little sister that passed away at the home. She is a sweet and beautiful girl with a lot of potential so I know that with the grace of God she will be successful in life.

Travis and David had an exciting morning as they traveled to help transport some meat to one of the staff member's houses. Well, little did they know that they would witness the slaughter and the butchering of the cow! It is captured on video and pictures.

Once we returned we had a quick lunch and headed back out with Ray to speak to the Parish Priest to see if he would allow the children and staff to evacuate to their property if needed. He did not say "no" so that is a blessing. He will meet with his council to see if they will approve the situation. Keep praying please that we would be able to secure a safe place for evacuation. We know that God has a plan and we need to be patient until he reveals it to us. Ray and Jenny (the guardian for the children) will return tomorrow morning to meet with him again. We were scheduled to meet with the Social Worker but he ended up in the western Caprivi Strip helping with some evacuations.

We plan to take 8 kids back into their villages to visit family tomorrow. This is exciting for them and we are excited to see where the kids are from and meet any family they have in this area. Please pray for a safe trip and a blessed visit for the kids and families.

As I type this note, it is pouring rain – again!! Within the next few days we will most likely have to move the cars closer to town because of a dirt bridge that we have to cross where the water is getting high. After we do that we will go in and out of the village by boat. I assume that at the rate the river is rising that we will be leaving the village to go to the airport via boat.

We continue to thank God for these great kids the wonderful staff and the blessings that we have encountered each day. We also thank God for your interest in this ministry and your prayers and support. We pray that you will be blessed because of what is happening in Katima Malilo because of the love and grace of God.

March 6th:

We were up at 5 to administer meds and get on the road however, it rained all night. We do not think that we will get through the roads with the van (which we need to take 8 kids) so we will not be able to go. The river has been going up about 4-5" a day and from yesterday to today it went up 8".

The guys are heading to town to try to get the van through so they can leave it out of the village. They are also taking the truck so if the van gets stuck they can try to pull it out. We will keep the pick up truck inside the village for transport around here.

Yep – we will definitely be leaving via boat on Thursday! God is providing us with the adventures and experience that will no doubt be useful later in our ministry here.

To be continued after we see what unfolds today.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

COZV March 3rd

We had an exciting morning, a rainy afternoon and I had a spa this evening.
OK, let me explain. This morning Ray, Travis and I went into a nearby village to help one of the people bring corn (maize) into town. We were definitely off road and back in the bush. There was tons of mud and water because of the rain and the flooding situation. We stopped short of the final destination because the water really looked too deep (more than a couple of feet) for us to get through and not stall out and be stuck in the middle of the water. The person that we were coming to help felt certain that we could get through and encouraged Ray to continue. I was in the front and Travis and our new friend from the village, Martin were in the back of the pickup truck. Ray fired it up and we just prayed we would make it and we did!! We loaded up a few big pile of fresh picked corn and headed back into town. The off road was deep with water, deep with mud and very bumpy but the grace of God and Ray’s expert driving got us through.

This afternoon it poured down rain (not that we need any) and tonight it is pouring down rain again! The river was up 4” since yesterday and has been going up about 4-5” a day. Not good but we are trusting that God is good and He will provide either dry weather (here and Angola which is where it is flowing from) or a safe shelter for the kids and staff and volunteers.

Travis and I spent some time with the kids at the soccer field. First the girls played and then the boys played. The younger kids did not play so we “played” with them. Some of the shyness is wearing off quickly (especially with the little ones but not so much with the older ones).

I was able to use some of my professional knowledge today when one of the oldest boys was complaining of back pain. Margret took him to the hospital and spent the entire day there (which is just what happens here in Africa. There are no appointments so you go and wait in line after line). He was told to see a physical therapist but the in town one was out of town, so guess what? Auntie Lorna let’s see what you can do. We will see after a couple of days how it goes. Please pray for pain relief for Disco.

Tonight was very exciting for Auntie Lorna. I went to read a story to the younger girls (and Josiah and Jonathan) but really it was spa night. They cream just about every part of exposed skin including the inside of my sandals. Josiah was really into combing my hair (he is the 1 ½ year old) but did give a couple of the other kids turns. Some of the little boys were asking for Uncle Travis so I think he will have the experience tomorrow evening!

God Bless you all! You are the best and we appreciate your support and prayers.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

First Day at Children of Zion Village

We finished our journey on Monday from Johannesburg to Zambia. Ray and Becca picked us up at the airport and drove us about 3 hours to the Children of Zion Village. Mostly it was a straight path with paved roads until we get about 3 miles from the home and it turns in to a bumpy, rather muddy drive.
We were greeted by many of our kids. They are shy but I can already tell that it will not be for long. Ray (the interim director who has been here with his wife for 6 months and is leaving when we leave in 2 weeks) gave us a tour of the facility. It is really a beautiful property. There is the big children’s home with a girl’s dorm at one end and boys at the other and a big main room and kitchen in the middle. There is a school with classrooms and divided study area because the curriculum is self study so because the kids are at different levels, they can go at their own pace. There is an east house where some of the volunteers stay, a work shop, a sand soccer field, the missionary house and a transition house that is not quite finished (and I think that I might be forgetting a thing or 2).

They no longer have horses or goats so I am not ducking out of milking goats but there are no goats to milk- honest!! They now have a cow and are looking to buy more cows because cows fit into the culture better and they are more useful. There is also a beautiful garden and we had fresh corn from it tonight for dinner. It was really tasty.

We are very thankful for Ray and Debi and the 6 months they have spent here. They have really done a great job and we know that God has blessed this ministry because of their commitment and love. We also have some new friends, David and Margret. They are from Australia and will be the house parents for the transition home for the older kids, once it is complete. Margret has taken me into town and shown me some of the very important things that I will need to know. For example, when you go to the bank, you have to wait outside the door until a light turns green. Then you go into a Q and wait until the light turns green again. Then you get the rest of the way into the bank. It is the same way coming out. I would have stood out there pulling the door thinking the place was closed if I would have not known that. We went to the post office, the telecom place where we have to buy minutes for the computer, the pharmacy and a couple of supermarkets. The town is rather small but I think it will have everything that we need.
To the left is a picture of the main square in Katima Malilo.
Travis and Ray went back into the bush to get wood posts for one of the staff. She is going to work on building a new mud hut which starts with the men pounding in the wood posts. Then the ladies do the mud bricks. The ladies get the “sawdust” from the termite hills (which are 7 and 8 feet high here) to finish the outside. This helps to “weather proof” it. Maybe I will have an opportunity to help with this. It is only the ladies that can do the mud wall, not the men. It is part of the culture that we will continue to learn for some time to come. My understanding is that they have to replace the house about every 5 years because the termites eat the wood posts.

The view of the river from our house and back yard. Beautiful, peaceful, just spectacular!!! See below!

When times get tough I think that looking out back or walking out back and looking and listening to what God has placed around us will be the calm that will keep us knowing that we are here because God has called us to give up the world that we know now and GO and Make Disciples as we go. This is with our new family here as well as with the people that we meet in the community and on the bumpy road to town. They walk 6 miles just to get to town to buy the food that they need for that day. How can we not be thankful for what we have? We are rich because we have the love of Christ in our hearts but it is not to keep in our heart, it is to share with the world and each person that we meet.
To the left is a picture of the road to Children of Zion Village durning the rainy, flood season.
The river continues to rise and currently we do not have a safe place to evacuate the kids if the need should come. Please pray for us to secure a place but also that the river would go down so that we will not need to use it.