Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Last week, Wednesday, the council came and put in our new road. This is a big deal in Africa. It is easier to move mountains than to get the government to do anything. So this is the new road leading into the site. Now we can work on getting the power company to get the power poles installed. Before they refused because they didn't know where to run the poles.
Today was a very dry day, great for building. We laid our first slab and have prepared two more. I am overwhelmed with the amount that is still remaining to do. Please pray that the right help will come with amazing efficiency.
Christmas was ok. Not really a big deal made it is here in the rural area. We went to a 3 hour service at a local church here. I guess they don't mind sitting on a small plank for 3 hours, but I was numb after the first hour.
After Church we made dinner and relaxed for the afternoon. Friday, we set up the room next door for Jack, the new arrival, and James, another guy coming back with Randy in January.
Saturday morning we set off in the van with a cooler full of food and a few essentials and headed North. We weren't really sure where we were going to end up, but we had some ideas. We were going to drive and sleep in the van and have a good old fashion adventure.
We ended up visiting a large estate set up by an Englishmen in the early 1900's He didn't like the way the English treated the Blacks so he tried to set up a "utopia" community. It was very neat to see old English architecture in the middle of Africa. The property also has some hot springs where we made home for the night. There was a small lodge near the springs with lush gardens and a few small chalets near the riverside. They were fully booked, but when we told them that we were going to sleep in the van, they offered us a spare room they had for a very low price. The hot springs were AMAZING. No sulfur smell, hot water, jungle like vegetation all around. We sat for hours soaking in the calming waters. It was just like my hot tub at home. Kinda.
On the way home we Stopped at Kundulila Falls, the same falls I visited s few weeks ago, only it was a lot different this time, with all of the rain we have had, they were much more violent than before, it was still fun to swim under them. We bought some car tire tubes to float on.
All in all it was a good relaxing weekend. There is a lot to see in Zambia, it was good to get out and see more of it. This week is another big week. We will start manufacturing trusses for our buildings. We also have a lot of dirt to move to backfill our foundations. Please pray that the rains will hold off. Also, pray for those that heard the Gospel on Christmas, and that we could help them in their walk with the Lord.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
So Zambians have an uncanny gift to transform something perfectly normal to into something horribly gaudy. Especially when attempting to make something "nice".
We came to Lusaka today because Randy is flying home tomorrow. Things are a bit different here than the rest of the country. I didn't remember there being palm trees in the Christmas story. the funny thing is that there aren't palm trees in Zambia either (except electric ones).
Being back here seeing the Christmas lights and hearing Christmas music have made it kinda real that I won't be home next week. Kinda a bummer. Today, as i sat in traffic, amidst the honks, smoking tailpipes and all around craziness, I sort of escaped reality and started singing Christmas songs. Then I had to get bank into reality so I didn't wreck. But it was good to be away for a few frames of life. Perhaps I'm starting to loose it? I don't know.
43 days down, and still no nshima. Those of you that have not been here don't know what Im talking about. those of you that have.....do.
This morning it started raining, it hasn't stopped.
We left the guys working while we came to Lusaka, hopefully that was a good idea.
No sign of the Rat for a while, hopefully we are in the clear.
Tomorrow, a new guy from Omaha is coming. He'll help us our wit the building. His name is jack and is from Brookside church in Omaha.
That's all for now.
The Men have been working very hard. On friday Randy and I had discussed providing lunch for the men, just as a good gesture. Many of the men do not eat over their noon break. We had a large load of cement to unload, a large load of lumber to unload and a lot of concrete to mix. It was a good day to provide lunch. At my morning address I told them that we would be doing Lunch together. You would have thought they had all been given the day off. They all cheered, jumped up and down. Huge smiles, old me giving me two thumbs up! I expected them to be happy, but the response I got was really fun. And all for about $25 to feed 40 men.
The picture above I took this morning of a 2 yr old boy who has been coming over to our house, opens the door and comes in. He speaks no english. His mother lives at the hotel next door. He is really cute and funny.
Today we went to Mukishi, a town about an hour away. There was a new church that Pastor Navice and his team had started. They had asked me to preach so I reluctantly did. I told an old Bemeba (their "tribe") and parralled it to the story of the Bible and Christ coming to save. It could have been better, but I got through it. When I was done, Navice asked for those who have givn their lives to Christ for the first time today to stand up. Of the 66 present, 11 stood up. It was good to know that my God has used me to bring his message to these people.
Big week this week. Randy leaves friday. We have a lot to do. Thanks for reading.
Monday, December 8, 2008
"The Omaha World Herald did a pretty nice spread on the Hope Center today. Thought you might want to see it. It was nearly a full page on the front ofthe LIVING section. You can view it online - see link below."
Here's the online link.http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=3940&u_sid=10506548
Friday, December 5, 2008
We have made a lot of progress this week. The place looks a lot different than it did Monday morning. We stared monday with about 6 guys, we gained some each day and had almost 40 men working on friday. Key men continue to imerge in the group, it is very incouraging. The shop and bathouse footings are done, the footings for the big building are almost dug, and will be poured tuesday. The rains held off until about 3:00 friday afternoon. then the heavens opened and it poured. We are hoping to have a restful weekend, but it will not happen. As we look forward to Monday, there are a lot of things to get ready for. It is a bit overwhelming having 40 sets of eyes waiting for a greeting, a job assigment, instruction first thing in the morning. We want to be prepared. the licture is from last weekend, The cheif of police, John, and his new glasses that I brought from the US. He was like a kid a christmas when I presented him with his new glasses.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
After waiting for some funds for some time, We finally were able to get some dough. It took a three hour process at the bank, but they were able to issue us some money to buy a truck and some supplies. It was kinda funny leaving the bank with a backpack full of bills.
Friday, November 21, 2008
We really do feel welcome here in Serenje, When we arrived from a week in Lusaka, there were 7 men waiting to greet us, I'm not sure how long they waited, but it was welcoming. People are interested in what we are doing, people want to talk and share their ideas, it is a good feeling to be welcomed.
Please pray that Randy and i will make wise decisions concerning how to build things to make the most of the funds, make the orphan center functional, and have it look like something we want to put God's name on. We are having fun, it is no Disney land, but we are glad to be here. Miss you all
I am continually trying to figure out this place. It is hard to understand why things are they way they are. I'm constantly shocked at how much things cost, the fluctuation of prices, and how people continue to survive. It is hard to have hope that there is a brighter future.
Today, I was in the city, people everywhere, dusty roads, unfamiliar languages, smoke billowing out of car exhausts, horns honking. As I sat in the car, trying to send an e-mail, which is amazing in itself that I can do that here, I made a couple of calls to the US. It suddenly struck me. I felt like I was in a movie. Who gets to do this this? This is so far from what we know. yeah it's usually not too fun, not real glamorous, but there is something about it. Definitely hazardous to my health, but I feel privileged to be serving here.
Another strange sight today. We went to a hardware store, when we park at the stores, people come up and try to sell cheap stuff to us. Sometimes we get some begging kids. today, I waited outside in the car to guard our goods. As i was there, just a few feet from me was an old blind man with a young kid begging. well, the kid was begging and the blind guy was just sitting there. It is common for cripples to have someone with then to guide them around and collect money. I then noticed that someone had given the boy a pizza, I assume to give to the blind guy. As I watched, I noticed that the kid wasn't giving any pizza to the blind man, as i continued to watch I noticed that the kid had the pizza behind the blind man and was trying to be very quiet when eating the pizza. He would also look around when taking bites to see who was watching. When he was done eating the pizza they both got up and left, but not without trying to get some money out of me. It was today's reminder of how desperate these people are, how sinful humans are, how corruption can begin at such a young age, and how much work there is to do here. Please continue to pray.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Zack Ludwig and Randy Brekke have volunteered to go and live in Serenje for several months in order to build the first facilities at the Hope Children's Center. Pray that God will strengthen them for this enormous task. Pray that they will find great joy in their work. And pray that God will use the work of their hands to reach countless people with God's grace.
Pray that God will lead us to find a Zambian Orphan Director. This is a vital role as we need to make sure that each orphan is identified, cared for, and that the care-giver (foster parent) is appropriately looking after the orphaned child. As the Hope Center grows, Pastor Navice will not be able to keep up with this large responsibility. Pray that God points us to the right man or woman for this job.
Pray for the first crop at the Hope Center that will go into the ground this coming rainy season (beginning in November). This piece of the strategy is critical to the long range sustainability of the Hope Center. Pray that Cornerstone team member Marlin Rice will have divine guidance as he directs (from a hemisphere away) the Zambian farmers (Sunday, Joshua, and Wenard). Pray for a protected and abundant harvest.
PASTORS / CHURCH LEADERS
As Pastor Navice continues to take the gospel to more villages, more pastors are needed to shepherd the people who come to Christ. Currently there are 13 men being trained for this task. Pray that Cornerstone will help Navice train these men (and their wives) well. And pray that the training/discipleship will also continue for the 80 "key leaders" and from among the newest church plants. The local churches being planted are reaching many, many people for Christ! And it is these churches which are key to taking care of the orphaned children that God cares deeply for.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
You would think that I would get accustomed to the miracles God does for us. They are so frequent and yet powerful -- I am still stunned and amazed at His grace.
On this trip (I am writing this from Navice's office) ... God has opened more doors than ever. We have met the District Manager (like a U.S. governor) of this region - the highest government official. He moved here for this position just one week ago. He met us, spent the evening with us and is EAGER to help us do whatever God puts on our heart to do. GOD IS GOOD! Even Navice is stunned by this one!
Today I had a reminder of why I am here. I reached down to pick up little Georgy - a three-year old boy the size of an eighteen-month old- a double orphan (both parents are dead). He looked into my eyes and played with my beard and rubbed my face and melted into my arms ...
and my heart. God brought us to the hundreds upon hundreds of Georgy's in Serenje.
I must go. There are setbacks. The enemy does not want us to succeed. But the glorious works of grace make these difficulties pale into insignificance. Thank God with me for the privilege of being His channel of grace!
Monday, September 29, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Our African friends are accustomed to disappointment. Life's journey is full of potholes and ditches for them. Every advance forward is met with countless setbacks. It makes their faith resilient and strong. They have Hebrew 11 faith ... the kind that does not get defeated when God's promises seem elusive.
All these were still living by faith when they died. They did not eceive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.Hebrews 11:13
I am equally aware of the Devil's attacks on God's work but also strengthened that he is a defeated enemy. Let us continue praying.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Having just completed another trip to Serenje, Zambia, I can report to you that the need has never been greater, nor has the work ever seemed more rewarding!
Friday, May 30, 2008
After several months away, I (Jeff) am back in Zambia! I am accompanied by some first-timers: Tom and Marie Nesbitt, Mike and Kristi Despard and my wife Teresa (overseas for her first time!). Zack Ludwig is along as well as he makes plans to move to Serenje this June to manage the construction of the Hope Children's Center. This is a huge step forward for the Center as Zack brings a lot of experience with him (having worked for eight months at Kazemba).
Monday, April 14, 2008
And so Brookside's leaders prayerfully introduced the vision to the Brookside church family. I guess God's people caught the vision. After the offering was taken and accounted for, they FAR surpassed even the most ambitious guesses. The total offering ... $130, 476!!!
Immeasurably more than than all we ask or even imagine... (Ephesians 3:20). This is God at work!
And so we continue to take steps forward. With wisdom, but with boldness. God is with us.
Friday, April 11, 2008
A strong partnership has been forged with our friends at Brookside Church in Omaha. Here is a note from John Alford who is leading the way for that church:
Thanks Cornerstone for allowing Brookside Church to be a part of this Hope Center project! We have great respect for your church. A number of our high school students have gone on to SALT company and have been discipled by you guys. Not only that but your pastors have frequently served us in a teaching capacity for our retreats.
Thanks for all you are doing for the cause of Christ! You are carrying your torch well. The Hope Center has truly engaged our hearts and we sense that God’s hand is all over it. We are leaning into a year of emphasis called, “Justice and Mercy.” God seems to be awakening in us a passion to do more to help the poor and to help restore the broken. So thanks for giving us opportunity to partner with you and to learn from you!
John Alford (Brookside Pastor)
Thursday, April 10, 2008
God has been good! Navice discovered a parcel of land immediately adjacent to the one we originally eyed - even closer to the market and school and also bordered by the same small river. And once the negotiations began a very sweet miracle occurred - the city of Serenje GAVE us the land - five hectares (~12.5 acres). Incredible! Then our friends took Navice to Lusaka to get the appropriate papers drawn up for the center, and a lawyer there agreed to do her work for FREE.
But we have hit a snag. The family who owns the original and adjoining piece is unwilling to sell. Though it is discouraging, it is not time to lose heart. The two parcels owned together would be almost exactly what would be necessary to grow and raise the food necessary for the children. We believe it to be the right choice. And so we continue to ask God. Who could doubt His generosity? Who could doubt that He is for us? The fact that He is choosing to say "not yet" on this second piece of land only gives us opportunity to demonstrate a grateful heart and a persistence in prayer. He is good, and He cares far more for these orphans than even we do. He will do what is right -and we will wait on Him.
Please join us in praying for the Hope Children's Center. And don't give up. He is going before us and knows best. Pray that we will find His timing impeccable and THANK HIM for what He has done to bring us to this point.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Our friends, Mark and Betsy Meyer, are on their way to Zambia. One of the tasks they hope to accomplish is the securing of the land for the Hope Children’s Center. We believe that we have found the ideal plot of land. It is close to the town market. It is just down the path from a school for the children. There is a small river on the land which maintains water even in the dry season – perfect for irrigating the gardens that will feed the children. There is even a small orchard of fruit trees surrounded by a shelter belt of evergreens – a sweet and nutritious treat for the kids!
When we first walked on it, Navice’s wife lifted her hands in praise and said, “This is it! It is Canaan land!” We all shared her joy and stopped right there to thank God for leading us there and asked Him to provide us that land for the Center.
While the purchase of the land seemed to be in our grasp, it wasn’t long before we hit a snag. The owners doubled, and then tripled the price. We were discouraged to say the least. But Navice has continued to be our eternal faith-filled optimist. Set-backs are part of life in Africa and it takes far more than this to discourage him! He knows God is in this and trusts that He will either give us that particular plot – or lead us to something better. I love that – and his faith inspires me.
And so today as I bid Mark and Betsy good-bye, I turned to my Bible and came across this passage…
Though this promise was given to the people of Israel long ago, it reminded me that God can provide such things for His people. It reminded me of His goodness and generosity toward us. And the picture these verses paint formed a picture in my mind of what I long for Him to provide for our Zambian friends.Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in His ways and revering Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
Will you pray with us for God to provide and secure the land we need for the Hope Children’s Center? Pray that it will be a lavish expression of His goodness to take care of His people. Pray that it will cause even the unbelievers around to exclaim, “God must be in this!” And pray that Mark and Betsy will have the deep sense of trust that God is leading them (on behalf of all of us). I can’t wait to see what He has in store!
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Mary sings her song in grateful awe at this God who extends mercy, lifts up the humble, fills the hungry with good deeds, helps His servants and always, always remembers to be merciful. The God of the universe has not forgotten her.
Those of us who follow Christ should have this reputation with the poor. Jesus set the pace - and He beckons us to follow Him, to mimic His example in this world. I long for the people of Zambia to cry out to God in song. To worship the One who has not forgotten them.
God, help us to be merciful as You are merciful. May our Zambian brothers and sisters proclaim,
Saturday, March 1, 2008
The first of these voices was an unlikely one: Bono. Yep, an aging rock star was the first compelling voice that set my course for Africa. In an interview with Bill Hybels, Bono spoke with quiet-yet-passionate conviction about the plight of Africa. And he used passages such as Matthew 25 (about the “sheep and goats” judgment) to call God’s people, the Church, to action.
I was shamed by the fact that this man was using the Book I was very familiar with to open my eyes and point out what Jesus was clearly calling His followers to. Bono didn’t chastise or mock my hypocrisy, he simply asked the Church to hear from Jesus and act.
Bono’s voice got my attention, but the second voice God used was a far more compelling one: Jesus. I began to re-read several passages and was especially caught by Luke chapter 10 (the story of the “good Samaritan”). Here Jesus finds Himself being questioned, even tested, by an “expert in the Law.” As Jesus turns the questions back on the “expert,” he displays true orthodoxy – he knows the Word and can recite well-rehearsed answers to Jesus without even a pause.
The expert knows the whole Law of God and proudly (and correctly) sums it up by saying that we must love God and love our neighbor – thus “doing” what it takes to inherit eternal life. Bingo. Pure orthodoxy. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The problem – this man isn’t “doing” it, he just knows the right answer.
Jesus is well aware of the duplicity reigning in this man’s soul, and so he tells a story to paint a picture of what it means to actually “do” love for a neighbor (the Good Samaritan). And He concludes with a call to “show mercy” to our neighbor and then commands the man, “Go and DO likewise.”
So there I was. My “neighbor” in Africa was dying on the side of the road and in desperate need of help. I was sitting on my orthodoxy, passing on by, not DOING a thing about it. And so I called my friend Mark Meyer.
Mark had visited Zambia with several people from Cornerstone Church in the summer of 2006. His heart was moved with compassion and so he returned several months later to visit a few of the pastors he’d befriended there. Coming back to the States he was more convinced than ever that we needed to help. I asked Mark to take me to Zambia.
Mark and his wife Betsy took me to Zambia in April 2007. I met the courageous pastors there and saw the thriving Zambian church trying desperately to care for the overwhelming number of orphans left in the wake of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and malnutrition. I saw with my own eyes countless “neighbors” in need of mercy. And I determined that I would not simply turn a blind eye and pass by on the other side of the road.
Two subsequent trips to Zambia have followed with more to come. In these visits I have encountered some distasteful things. The path to showing mercy is rarely a yellow brick road. I’ve chased a rat from my room, slept in a tent in freezing (no, literally freezing) weather, discovered a used condom at my feet in a shower, and on top of all that, I’ve gone without coffee for weeks at a time.
But these things pale into insignificance and even bring a smile to my face, because I’ve grown to love Zambia. Not the climate or the living conditions – I’ve grown to love my neighbors, the people of Zambia. And in loving my neighbor and showing mercy to him, I’ve grown to love God with a renewed passion and commitment to “go and DO likewise.”
On my most recent trip (January 2008) my friend, Zack Ludwig, and I were able to find land for the future Hope Children’s Center of Serenje, Zambia. Cornerstone Church is giving me the privilege of leading the charge on behalf of our church family. It is an aggressive vision which will require hard work, a lot of money, and perseverance. But it will carry the sweet reward of following the compelling voice of Jesus!