Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Hundred Thanks

Submitted by Marlin Rice, Z8 Agricultural Director (HCC), Dec. 20th, 2009

On Sunday, December 22, we drove the mini-bus and the truck to the Kamena church—out in the bush 22 miles from Serenje. The road is not always easily passable and as Joshua said, it is “too much bad.” Somewhere along the way we hit something that gave the mini-bus a rattle so we made temporary repairs by crawling under the engine and tying on a wire.

The worship at Kamena opened with the men and women singing in beautiful, rhythmic a cappella hymns. The small, mud-brick building was packed with worshippers and 115 children were seated and kneeling on the broken cement floor at the front of the church. Navice introduced me to the congregation and then delivered an impassioned message in Bemba. After the service, it seemed that the entire congregation stayed around to observe the distribution of clothing. Navice, Freddie, and I handed out new dresses, shirts, pants, sweatshirts, and shoes to the 100 orphans sponsored by the Hope Center. It was a delight to see the surprise and joy on the faces of the children, many of whom were wearing only filthy rags for clothing. Afterward, the children waved their thanks for Cornerstone’s generosity.

To finish out our Sunday at Kamena, several of us climbed the granite “whaleback” just outside the village. The top of this 440-foot high granite outcropping gave us a beautiful view of the forests and fields around Kamena. Navice and I had spent a wonderful week laboring together planting crops and distributing clothing. It was the best of times in the Lord’s service.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Unwanted Guests at the Guesthouse

Submitted by Marlin Rice, Z8 Agricultural Director (HCC), Dec. 20th, 2009

We have a wonderful, new guesthouse on the property with two bedrooms, two baths, and a kitchen. There is a porch with a couple of outside lights and after the rains, if the lights are left on at night the insects coming swarming in.
Some are beautiful, such as the moth.
Some are striking, such as the longhorned beetle.
Some are bizarre, such as the mole cricket.
And some are just plain unwanted. Thousands of winged termites buzzed around the lights looking for a mate, then fell to the floor where they shed their four wings and died and then I had to walk across them, which crushed hundreds. They created a mess and I swept up dead termite bodies and thousands of wings all week long.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Jesus Loves Who?

Submitted by Marlin Rice, Z8 Agricultural Director (HCC), Dec. 20th, 2009

The children at the Hope Center love to draw and color with markers. They don’t get this opportunity in the public school, but three new packets of markers and a ream of paper gave them the materials to explore their artistic talents.

I wrote “JESUS LOVES” and each child’s name on a sheet of paper. A number 2 pencil is all they have in school, so when given 48 colored markers they had a blast decorating their papers. Here Linda and Promise share their artwork.

Chalwe was so excited to have his photograph taken that he forgot to turn his artwork right side up. Chalwe was having a rough week. He had spilled boiling water on the top of his foot, which had burned a golfball-sized hole into his skin. All week long Chalwe had hobbled to school, the Hope Center, and then back home with one shoe on his left foot and a shoe-less right foot with a nasty burn, but he usually had a smile on his face.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Would You Like Fried Caterpillars WIth That Meal?

Submitted by Marlin Rice, Z8 Agricultural Director (HCC), Dec. 20th, 2009

Cornerstone Church has been given the privilege to partner with the Serenje church “to look after orphans…in their distress” (James 1:24). Approximately 50 children get one meal a day along with Bible teaching. When the children arrive after school, Navice would gather them around the tables and read a Bible story in Bemba. They loved this time with Navice.

Women from the church arrive mid morning to prepare the daily meal over a charcoal fire. The meal always consists of enshima (boiled white maize) and we have a supply of 74 bags of maize harvested from the crops we planted at the Center last year.

The enshima is given a side of rape (boiled greens) and beans or kapenta (dried minnows) reconstituted in an onion and tomato sauce. The children love the kapenta, but the overwhelming smell of dead fish kept me from eating it more than once.

Sometimes fresh vegetables are purchased in the Serenje market when the supply runs low at the Hope Center. One day Navice and I went to the market on a shopping trip. The sights, sounds, and aromas of the market are a sensory delight; they never fail to accentuate the African experience.

We found that dried caterpillars were the newest item in the market—big black caterpillars with spines or white caterpillars the size of my thumb. Navice assured me that they were a delicacy, and being an entomologist I knew I would have to eat some. Kettie sautéed them in the onion and tomato sauce, then presented them for lunch. They were chewy and after eating three of each kind, I decided that I had fully captured the experience. The children were given the rest of the sautéed caterpillars and they gobbled them down.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It Takes Two for Success

Submitted by Marlin Rice, Z8 Agricultural Director (HCC), Dec. 20th, 2009

The spring rains begin to fall in November confirming that it was time to begin planting crops in Zambia. I returned to Serenje on November 14 after driving the 255 miles from Lusaka with Festus Kalunga - the son of Pastor Navice and Kettie. Festus is a delightful young man with an infectious smile and it was a blessing to have a traveling companion who spoke Bemba. We found some giant mushrooms along the roadside and he was excited to give them to his sister to cook.

November had brought considerable rainfall and the countryside was lush and green; it was just beautiful.

The rains also brought out the chameleons and we saw many crossing the road in their slow, stilted, hesitating walk.

The gardens at the Hope Center also benefited from the rains. Joshua and Shadrach had planted rows and rows of tomatoes, onions, rape, patches of pumpkin vines, and two large plots of maize, which would be roasted for the children when the ears were ready. The garden was lush, and with the coming of the rains, Joshua would no longer need to carry buckets of water to irrigate the garden.

But the rains also encouraged the weeds. Weeding the gardens and fields is a very difficult and time-consuming task with the traditional hoe. I brought three wheel hoes with me to the Hope Center—graciously provided by Gary Clem. Navice and Joshua quickly learned how the wheel hoes would increase their efficiency in weeding the gardens. Shadrach soon abandoned his traditional hoe after he observed that weeding a row of onions required only one minute with a wheel hoe, but 15 minutes with his traditional hoe! By the end of the week, most of the weeds in the garden had fallen victim to Shadrach and the wheel hoe.

A major objective of my trip was to work along side Navice, Freddie, and Joshua in the planning and planting of the crops. We were blessed with an additional 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) to plant our crops this year. Navice and I bought the maize seed in Serenje at a store called Chinchi Wababili, which means “it takes two for success.” This became our motto for the week and Navice and I would use it to remind each other when we encountered an unexpected challenge.

To plant the maize, Navice and Joshua had the new ground plowed with a tractor to break up the clumps of elephant grass, then they coordinated a crew of 11 men with traditional hoes to level the ground, remove the clumps of grass, stretch a 490-foot rope across the field to mark straight rows, dig small divots along the rope for the seed, drop the seed one at a time into the hole, and then cover the seed with soil. Having grown up planting maize by this method, Joshua was experienced and extremely fast. I told him he was a machine, which brought a big smile to his face! The entire maize-planting process was a very labor-intensive process, but in between the rains, which fell almost daily, we planted 7.4 acres of maize in five days—all with hoes and by hand!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pray for Planting

Right now, Marlin Rice is on his way to Zambia. Marlin is the leader of the Z8 Project at the Hope Center, which is the agriculture program designed to help grow food to feed the children. Marlin has done so much work studying, planning, teaching, and implementing this program. And right now he's on his way to teach and oversee the second planting season.
(Here's a picture of Marlin teaching planting methods last year)
The rainy season starts in November in Zambia and this is when the large crops, such as corn (maize), sweet potatoes, and beans are planted. (The gardens are kept year around growing tomatoes, sweet corn, onions, cabbage, spinach, and many more things.) So Marlin's task in the next week is HUGE! The Hope Center was laid out very intentionally to take advantage of the wonderfully furtile land. And now God has blessed the Hope Center with a NEW hector of land (about 2.5 acres) in addition to the 5 hectors we had before.

Here are some ways you can be praying for the Z8 part of the Hope Center Project:
  • Pray for Marlin - for safe travel, for energy and health, and for continued wisdom as he leads and teaches the Zambians new and more productive methods of farming
  • Pray that Marlin and Joshua (the full-time farmer at HCC) will be able to find all the supplies, seeds, fertilizer, etc. that they need
  • Pray for our Zambian friends - First, we need them to volunteer to make this happen! Second, pray that they would have a heart for all that is happening at the Hope Center and desire to be involved. Finally, pray that God would bless their efforts and give them understanding of the new things they will learn. They can then take these skills home and apply them to the food they grow for their own families.
  • Pray for good weather
I'll post more from Marlin as I get word about how the trip is going.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

HCC Profile: Joseph Mwila

It's hard not to fall in love with all of the children at the Hope Center. But last summer, I really connected with three little boys: Joseph, Kenny, and Andrew.
But last year we had two translators for 50 kids and no real opportunities to talk with them one on one. On our trip in early October, I had a chance to sit down with a couple kids and hear a little more of their stories. Joseph told me more about his life.
Joseph is about 12 years old (birthdays and ages aren't nearly as important there as here, and many people don't know how old they are). He is in grade 5 at the Boma Basic school in Serenje. Right now, he lives with his aunt who works in the market in town. His older brother and mom have both left to try to find work elsewhere, and his father died several years ag0. (Joseph said he died because the blood dried up in his body. Not sure what that means.)

Like most boys his age, Joseph loves to play soccer and basketball. And he also really loves school and takes it very seriously. He stays at school late each day to study because he wants to be a doctor when he grows up. He especially likes science and math.

Joseph use to get aid from the local government agency in Serenje, but because of the abundant number of orphans in town, they were past the limits and he was kicked out of the program. His aunt brought him to Pastor Navice. He was receiving help from Cornerstone with food distributions even before HCC was built , but now he gets a hot meal every day at the Hope Center. He said he really likes coming to HCC every day because he is being helped.
During my interview with Joseph, I could tell he was being quite shy because the other kids were listening, too. But later, he took me aside and tried very hard to tell me something in English. He couldn't come up with the right words, so I asked if he wanted me to get someone to translate. He said, No, he wanted to find the right words so he would tell me the next day.

I was curious what Joseph would say. And I was sad when he didn't come at his regular time the next day. But just as we were closing up the kitchen he arrived and I sat with him while he ate. He had thought very hard about what he wanted to say. And in very careful English, he told me, "When I go away and finish school, I pray God will bless this place because they gave me food." My heart melted to see the genuine gratitude in this young boy. He wasn't coached into saying this, it came from his heart.
Pray for Joseph and the other 49 children being fed daily at the Hope Center. They all come from very difficult backgrounds and yet they have hope. This hope is not just because we are feeding them, but because they have the chance to hear the gospel and come to know the God of Hope who has a plan for each of their lives.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

HCC Profile: Joshua and Gift

(The next few blogs will introduce you to some of our wonderful Zambian brothers and sisters in Christ.)

No matter what time of year you visit the Hope Children Center (and I do hope you can all visit and share in the labor there one day) you'll see gardens growing. Right now, even though its the end of the dry season, the gardens are flourishing with corn, tomatoes, onions, green beans, cabbage, spinach, pumpkins, and more.

God has blessed the Hope Center with a great care-taker of all this produce! His name is Joshua, and he lives in a small brick house on the Hope Center property with his wife Gift and their 4 children (Rachel, Ines, Webby, and Joshua), plus one nephew (Karen) who's mother died when he was 3 or 4. Both Joshua and Gift are very hard workers with quiet, humble spirits and great smiles!
Joshua has worked for HCC since September of 2008. Before that, he farmed in the Teta area, a remote area past Kamena which is where Pastor Navice is from and has started many churches.

Joshua's job is not only to plant, weed, and harvest the gardens year-round; he is also in charge of getting the fields ready before the rainy season. That's when the large plots of maize, kasava, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables will be planted. He lives right by the garden and often spends his nights on patrol making sure the crops aren't stolen (a future fence will help with this). The metal roof of his house has even been commissioned as the place to dry the groundnuts (peanuts) grown there. (Here is Joshua with some of the groundnuts).
Gift helps in the kitchen and in over-seeing the orphans. Some days you'll find her washing dishes late into the afternoon or corralling the kids and getting them to the bathhouse for a shower. She brings joy to those around her and an enthusiasm that is contagious.
We thank God that he's brought this couple to the Hope Center and ask that he would provide and protect them as they serve the orphans of Serenje.

Up and Running

The Hope Center is up and running!

Starting July 1st, the Hope Center in Serenje, Zambia started feed orphans from the surrounding community. Right now, about 50 are in the program, and about 45 come each day for a mid-day meal. (Many more who live too far from the center are being helped with regular food distributions.)

While things are still in the beginning phases, and there is much to be figured out, the basics are in place. Volunteer ladies from the community (most of whom are care-takers for the kids) are taking turns coming to HCC each day and cooking for the children.

The facility is incredible, thanks to God's provision, your giving, and the sacrificial work of some Cornerstone & Zambian men. It truly is a light to the community, and the kids are so excited to spend time there each day. (More posts in the next couple weeks will tell stories about a few of these kids specifically... so check back!)

A small team, consisting of Mark & Betsy Meyer and Rachel Wise just returned from a check-up trip to the Hope Center on Oct. 9th. They were able to see how the feedings were going, check over the gardens and facilities, and spend time with the local leadership figuring out how Cornerstone help in the future.

There will be more posts soon - but for now, here's a couple pictures from this last trip. Enjoy!

Betsy gets plates ready while the children pray and thank God for the food they are about to receive.
David fills up on nshima (the national dish), cabbage from the garden, and beans.
The ladies who cooked for the day are enjoying a meal with the kids.