Wednesday, October 24, 2012

By Tori Haverkamp

On September 27, 2012, a team of seven members from Cornerstone Church plus two from Harvest Vineyard Church (Jeff Dodge, Tim Day, Derek Quam, Jacob Overman, Sarah Stevenson, Kathy Houseman, Tori Haverkamp, and Paul and Patience Lueth) left Des Moines en route for the Hope Children's Center.  After nearly thirty hours of travel to Lusaka (did you know they serve dinner on a 2:30am flight?), and a death-defying 6 hour ride in our rented van to serenje, we finally reached the guest house, exhausted, but excited to start our week in Africa.  Here are some highlights from our time there:

While driving to the guest house in the dark on our first night, Jeff misjudged where the road was and started driving through the adjoining field - all in the while complaining about the upkeep of the road - until two local Hope Center kids came and rescued us from our folly and put us on the right road - which was actually fairly well maintained.  After getting settled into our new home and putting away the groceries we had purchased in Lusaka, we ate a quick meal of peanut butter sandwiches and finally got to sleep in actual beds (not airplane seats).
 Jeff driving the rented van on the actual road...

Bright and early on Sunday morning (our first full day in Serenje), we piled into the back of the big flatbed truck, along with about 37 African friends, and made our way to the church in Kamena.  The ride was long and bumpy with several stops to pick up more people along the way; just when you would think they couldn't possibly fit anyone else onto the truck - more would pile in on top of the others.  When we arrived at the church, we were greeted by lots of children and families who were eager to meet Americans; and as the honored guests we were taken in the side door of the church and seated on wooden benches on either side of the pulpit.  The African men sat separately from the women during the service, and the children all sat very quietly in the front on the floor.  Navice introduced us to the congregation, and then allowed his wife, Ketty, to pray to begin the service.  After her prayer, Navice invited Jacob to come up and give the message for the day while he (Navice) interpreted.  Jacob encouraged the people "to not become weary in doing good" and to keep training themselves to be godly so that they will finish the "race" of this life well.  After Jacob's message, we all sang several songs in which everybody but us (little children included) knew the words and the actions.  God made the Zambians very musical - it is a huge and beautiful part of their culture and church.  At the close of the service, Navice invited several of his children to come forward with a gift.  Since it was Tim's birthday, the church presented him with a live chicken as a present.  Tim, not accustomed to receiving birds, said something like, "I've always wanted a chicken for my birthday," and everybody, even the Zambians laughed.  When the people had dispersed and we had socialized outside for a while and taken pictures, Navice and Ketty brought us back into the church where they had prepared lunch for our team - chicken (not Tim's), rape (a cooked form of Kale with onions), and nshima (the staple food in Zambia, made of boiled cornmeal) - a meal that would become very familiar to us before the week's end.
A very traditional Zambian meal of chicken, rape, and nshima
 Paul and Patience surrounded by the children at the church in Kamena

Before leaving Kamena, we drove a few miles up the road to some falls, where we spend the rest of the afternoon with several of Navice's family members and numerous village children, just playing in the water and getting to know one another.  

On Monday morning we gathered at the Hope Children's Center for music and devotions and introductions of the pastors and their wives.  15 Pastors had come to complete their 3 year training track - hoping to graduate at the end of the week.  May had traveled several hours by bus or by walking to attend the conference.  The wives that attended with them brought their youngest children (babies and pre-school aged), usually leaving many children with friends or family at home (most of the couples had between 6-10 kid!). After introductions, we split the men and women up for teaching; the men stayed with Tim, Jeff, Derek, Jacob, and Paul, at the Hope Center, while the women went with Sarah, Kathy, patience, and Tori to the guest house porch.

The next four days followed this pattern, with the pastors staying with the men to study Revelation and the wives going with the ladies teaching team to learn how to be Biblical women.  When the Hope Center kids were around, Kathy spent time teaching them about Jesus and helping them make salvation bracelets.  We were very thankful for our fantastic interpreters who helped us to teach God's truth in Bemba.  We also learned a little Bemba through songs and interactions with the people.  Often times, during the women's sessions, someone would break out into a spontaneous song or powerful prayer - it was truly amazing to be surrounded by African sisters and brothers yearning for the same truth and the same God we know in America.
Tim teaching the pastors at the Hope Center
 The women on the guest house porch showing off their salvation bracelets

Also during most of these days, and sometimes into the evening, Jacob, a dentist, was pulling teeth and checking out the dental health of numerous pastors, wives, Hope Center employees, and villagers.  One local boy had an abscessed tooth that was so infected that the infection had penetrated his jaw bone and was draining out of his lower chin.  Jacob was able to pull that tooth and give the boy antibiotics to clear up the infection - probably saving his life.  We awarded Jacob MVP status that day. 
 A pastor pointing out to Doctor Jacob which tooth has been hurting for months

Thursday was graduation day for the pastors and the ceremony was a grand affair with the local, purple-robed choir and pink and white toilet paper streamers, and many important and influential community people in attendance.  The pastors and wives (who danced in together to take their seats) were dressed in their finest.  Because of this, Jeff and Tim quickly visited the market (earlier that morning) and purchased suits to help them look "official."  Jeff was looking fine with his gray suit and black tennis shoes and Tim sported a dark suit with both plaid shirt and patterned tie - all in all, they looked very Zambian, plus they were able to give these suits as gifts to some of the pastors at the end of the week.  15 pastors graduated and were presented with a bicycle and an Iowa State backpack in which to carry their Bibles and other evangelism tools.  It was a great day.  
Graduation Day
Tim shows off his fancy duds and poses with a graduate and his family

Friday was our last day in Serenje, and since our work was done with the pastors and wives, we decided to visit Kundalila Falls, which is within an hour's drive of HCC.  The hike to and from the falls was somewhat arduous, but we all made it and were amazed at the beauty of God's creation.  The guys even decided to swim in the ice cold water and make their way underneath one of the waterfalls.  Since it was National Teacher's Day in Zambia, we were joined by several off-duty teachers who were also taking in the falls.  One of the young Zambian female teachers decided that she would like to swim under the waterfall, and she dove in the icy water.  Shocked by the change in temperature and the pressure of the swirling tide, she immediately began going under water and gasping for air.  Seeing that she was drowning, the women of our team called for our guys to save her (since her male Zambian friend was also near drowning), and Jacob swam over and helped her out of the water and onto the rocks - saving the life of yet another person that week.  HE got MVP that day too.
The falls were amazing

While heading back to the guest house Friday afternoon, Jeff recalled a national park he had visited on an earlier trip, so we all decided to try to get in our last little bit of Africa by visiting the Kansanka Trust Lodge.  We stopped here and were told that we could get an evening Safari if we waited around a while.  While waiting, we enjoyed chatting with Sam and Heather - a young British couple in charge of the lodge, sitting on the front porch watching for hippos in the lake, and eating amazing home-made pizza.  When Safari time arrived, we piled into an open air jeep with our soft-spoken Dutch guide, and his driver, Steven.  Although we saw lots of Puku on our ride, most of the safari was uneventful, save for the biting Tsetse flies and the bush rabbit.  We were glad we had at least seen some baboons on our smooth drive to the lodge.  At the end of the evening, we loaded up the van and drove back to Serenje to prepare for our departure on Saturday.

After another harrowing drive to Lusaka the following morning, we flew out at almost midnight Saturday, Zambian time, direct to Amsterdam, where we were supposed to have a connecting flight Sunday afternoon.  As it turns out, the connecting flight was cancelled, so we all got to spend one more night together as a team (the airline put us up in a fabulous hotel), touring downtown Amsterdam and being amazed at the millions of bikes in that city.
Walking along Canal Street in Amsterdam

We arrived in Iowa on Monday evening, October 8th, a full 24 hours after our originally scheduled arrival, happy to finally be home and thanking God for his favor on our trip to the Hope Children's Center in Zambia.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

January 2012

In January 2012, a team of 6 people traveled from Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa to the Hope Children’s Center in Serenje, Zambia.

This team consisted of Marlin & Kay Rice, brothers Randy and Phil Brekke, and their dad James, and me (Rachel Wise).

Marlin has been working for 3+ years on the agriculture project at HCC, called Z8. He spent much of this trip working with the garden staff and planted/transplanted quite a few banana trees to increase the food production on the property.

Marlin's mens group had donated funds to help the orphans in the outlying areas. So after church on the weekend we were blessed to be able to distribute banana tree along with mealie-meal (ground corn meal), beans, and fruit seeds with fertilizer.

Kay has a passion for the 60 children that are part of the HCC program, so she spent her mornings and afternoon teaching Bible lessons and using hands on illustrations to tell the kids about God.

One day the lesson talked about how we are like banana trees: the trees need sun, water, and nutrients to grow, and we need the Bible, fellowship, and prayer to grow as Christians. After the lesson, each child was given a banana tree to plant in the orchard at HCC so that the children would not only have fresh fruit next year, but they would be reminded about growing in their relationship with God each time they see the trees.

Randy, Phil, and James had a lofty goal of laying 1600 feet of field tile during the week. And with great, motivated workers, they accomplished that! This may not seem like a big deal until you remember that the trenches were all dug completely by hand.

Randy and James also spent time as the fix-it guys around HCC, doing everything from fixing vehicles to re-welding the much loved swing sets.

I spent my time floating between projects and meeting with the staff to discuss the future of HCC. One of the most fun parts of my week was hanging out with the older group of kids – grade 8 and up. We had many rousing games of 4-square and good Bible study times.

One of the most unique parts of my week was eating rat. Yes you read that right, rat. Sometime during the week the workers (and Phil) caught a rat and mouse and told us they were going to cook them up for dinner. Rat there is a delicacy. So we watched them char the rodents on the coals, scrape the hair off, and split it open to remove the insides. Then Joshua, one of the HCC staff, wanted to make sure I knew how to cook it. NO tomatoes. NO onions. Just salt and water. I corrected him and said, “Salt. Water. Mouse!” Yes, he said, “Salt. Water. Mouse!” I now know how to prepare rodent. I can’t say that I ate very much, but the Zambians were very excite to eat it – the head included. The little piece I did eat was SOOOO salty that I needed nshima (the national staple food of boiled white corn) to cut the taste.

(Later Joshua, one of the HCC staff, caught a crab and we asked if he was going to eat it. He looked at us with disgust like we did with the rat. But I think he cooked it up and tried it!)

Kay and I were also able to deliver the letters that Cornerstone kids had written to the Zambian kids as part of the KidConnect program. The children there were VERY excited to read their letters and they sat down right away to write a response or draw a picture for their new friend from Iowa.

After our time at HCC, we took 2 days to sight see. You can’t go all the way to Africa and not see some things. So we drove 12 hours to get stuck at a Ferry crossing into the country of Botwsana. In the meantime we visited Victoria Falls and when we finally made it across the border, we had a great time seeing tons of wildlife in the Chobe National Park.

(Yes, this really is us in front of a bunch of elephants! Its not a backdrop. :) )

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sarah in Zambia

From Sarah Day:
I went to the Hope Children’s Center for a few days last October and had a blast. I would start each morning with the pastors in their morning devotion time. Before devotions were done, however, I would start to see (and hear) the children as they arrived at the Hope Center. This drew my attention, of course, so I would soon slip out to go play.
I came up with something different to do with the kids as they gathered each morning…macramé bracelets, play with play dough, make and fly paper airplanes…whatever. They had fun with anything.When most of the kids had arrived, we went to the porch of the guesthouse for story time in the shade. After singing a few songs, we walked together through a small portion of God’s Big Story. I focused on the creation and fall of man and the promise of a redeemer, judgment of sin (and preservation of the promise) through Noah, God’s promise to Abraham that the whole world would be blessed through him, the substitutionary sacrifice of the ram for Isaac, and finally Christ as the fulfillment of all these promises. I was glad to see the kids had a pretty good base knowledge of many stories and Bible verses. Annie and Ketty translated for me.
After our story time, we ate lunch together, and I spent the rest of the day helping with dentistry. I truly enjoyed my time at the Hope Center, meeting the pastors and children and seeing first hand how God is at work in Zambia.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What's Happening Now

If you're a regular follower of this blog, you probably noticed that there hasn't been much to follow. This isn't because nothing is happening at the Hope Children's Center, its because we haven't had to send as many Americans to do the work - which is a good thing!!

But many of you may be completely new to this blog. So this post it just to give you an idea of what Cornerstone (actually, what GOD) is doing in Zambia and how you can be praying.

First, a little history. Through a connection with Gospelink, a missions organization operating around the world and in Zambia, we met Pastor Navice Kalunga. Navice had a great vision to see a place that would help ease the burden of the local Zambian churches by caring for orphans. In Zambia, half the population is under 16 and over 1 million of these children are orphans! There is no government care for these children, they are simply taken in by whoever will have them. The problem is, most of the families can't afford to feed their own children, much less the kids they have taken in.

Through conversations and a growing relationship, God gave Cornerstone a heart to partner with this pastor and help the local churches and kids. In early 2008, God provided a wonderful plot of land in Serenje, Zambia - the future site for the Hope Children's Center. Later that year, Zack Ludwig and Randy Brekke moved to Zambia to oversee the building of the center.

In June 2009, the Hope Children's Center Officially opened and started serving meals to 50 elementary age children. HCC is not a live in orphanage. Instead, it supports the local families by provided a healthy meal 6 days a week to double orphans (both parents have died), single orphans (one parent has died), and vulnerable children.

(The multipurpose building that houses offices, an open air cafeteria, a kitchen, and 2 classrooms.)

And from HCC, bags of maize and beans are distributed 4 times a year to 130 orphans in the surrounding area.

(Maize being distributed to children in the bush areas.)

The Hope Children's Center is also a base for Pastor Training and Church Planting - which is the true heart and gifting of Pastor Navice. HCC hosts quarterly pastor's trainings, some lead by US teachers and some lead by Zambians.

(Pastor Jeff leading a Pastor's Training)

Under the direction of Marlin Rice, the agriculture program called Z-8 was formed. Z-8 comes from Zechariah 8:12-13 (The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.) and is a prayer of hope, that the land would produce abundant food for the orphans (as Marlin put it).

The staple food for Zambians in Maize (white corn) which they grind and make into a mashed potato type substance. This is called Nshima. So at HCC, they are growing maize, fresh fruits and vegetables, and groundnuts (peanuts) for protein. Annually, the food grown has allowed HCC to add more children to the program without increasing the budget. The goal is to grow enough food to feed the children and generate money from sales of extra food to pay for the work itself.

(Marlin with the bags of maize from the HCC harvest.)

We can't forget to also mention a big partner in all this work - Brookside Church of Omaha. Not only did God moved in their hearts in a HUGE way when they took an offering and raised $130,000 to help build the Hope Center, but they have continued to work hand in hand with Cornerstone by helping the children with schooling through their "Back to School" program and sending teachers for Pastor's Trainings once a year.

(Some of the kids in their school uniforms.)

There are so many great stories of the miracles God has worked in and through HCC, and just as many wonderful pictures in the past blog posts. So explore for yourself and see what God has done.

Here are some ways you can pray for HCC:

1. Pray for the Z-8 program, that the gardens and crops would produce a bountiful harvest with which to feed the orphans. Planting season starts in November, so this is a very time appropriate request!

2. Pray for the children! Even with the regular food, there is still much sickness. In the past month, one of the children from the bush, who was receiving food quarterly, died from sickness. Pray for their physical strength, but just as urgently, pray for their spiritual growth and maturity.

3. Pray for the Pastors and Church leaders who attend the quarterly trainings. Pray for their faith to grow and be deepened. And pray for them, and Pastor Navice, as they are continually planting new churches in unreached areas.

4. Pray for the Zambian leaders of this project. For any work to last long term, it has to be "owned" by the locals. Much of Africa operates on a survival mentality, because life is harsh and the day to day needs are hard to meet. So planning ahead and working towards bigger goals has been a challenge. Pray for mature leadership and sound decisions as the project moves forward.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

If Happy Is...

December 28, 2010—January 9, 2011

If happy is the smile of a child…
if happy is a new friend…
if happy is planting fruit trees…
if happy is swinging high in the sky…
if happy is the beauty of a waterfall…
if happy is sharing a moment with your buddy…
if happy is the exuberance of children…
if happy is a new pink stocking cap…
if happy is a hug…
if happy is your first Bible…
happy is learning about Jesus…
then happy is the joy of experiencing the goodness of God.

During late December and early January, Cornerstone sent a new team to Hope Children’s Center (HCC). Our team of Eric, Jon, Micah, Gabe, Heidi, Jewels, Kay (shown at Victoria Circle in London) and me helped with food distribution to orphans, Bible study for the children, and agricultural development.
Shortly after we arrived in Lusaka, we went about the task of buying seedling fruit trees to plant at HCC so that someday the children will have nutritious fruit as part of their diet.
HCC has a large building with a dining hall, kitchen, classrooms, and office. In this building is where our team led the Bible studies.
Our team stayed in the guesthouse and ate our evening meals together. A well and water tower on the property provide a reliable source of water for the Center.

The Cornerstone junior high youth group—180—purchased Bibles for the orphans. We made book covers from construction paper to protect the Bibles.
On Sunday, we went to worship service at the church in Kamena. Our guys piled into the back of the truck for the 24-mile drive out into the bush.
After worship service, we helped the HCC staff distribute 110-pound sacks of maize, Bibles, and new shoes or flip-flops to the 130 orphans. The caregivers and children were excited with the Lord’s blessings.

Maize and bibles also were distributed to 23 orphans at Teta church.
As we were taking photographs, some of the women of the church asked that their picture also be taken. They were all dressed in their Sunday finest.
Carrying a 110-pound bag of maize requires ingenuity. A bicycle is a common method of carrying a heavy load.
Nearly 60 orphans, or children-at-risk, come to HCC, usually after morning school, for a noon-time meal and Bible study. Like all children, they are full of energy.
HCC has about 11 acres in agricultural production—both in row crops and a large garden. White maize is grown in two large fields at the Center. Joshua, the head gardener, is seen here inspecting one of the maize fields.
One of our major objectives was to plant an orchard. Some of the native trees were chopped out and the field was smoothed with hoes.

The children helped carry the young trees out to the orchard.
In three days, the team had planted 128 avocado, banana, guava, lemon, mango, papaya, and tangerine trees.

It rained nearly every day, which was great for the crops and the newly planted fruit trees. Then the rains would stop and the sky would be a beautiful blue.

In conclusion, the team had a great experience loving the children and serving our Lord in Zambia. A new orchard was planted with seven varieties of fruit, new Bibles were given to orphans that had none, and we were able to experience the joy of helping those in need with the distribution of food. The apostle Paul wrote, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” So here are a few more photos of joy (if happy is…).

Marlin Rice (for the team), January 23, 2011