Friday, February 27, 2009

Life in Serenje

I know, I am long overdue for a new post. The last few weeks have been pretty eventful.

The project: The roof is almost on the new building. The picture above is not where we are, just the most recent. We have begun putting the roofing sheets on the side showing. You can see in the picture the "mobile scaffold" in the back of the truck. It is pretty handy. We continue to plug along on several projects. Mostly roofing, plastering the walls and some plumbing and block laying on the guest house.

People: A lot of people have come and gone through here the last few weeks. Randy's wife came to visit. They spent some time traveling so I was at the site without him. Luckily I had James. Marlin Rice, A guy from our church who is an entomologist came to work with our farm manager to help grow crops for the children. It was great to have him around to invest some serious time with the Ag side of the project, and also to tell us what every bug was (and explain it's life cycle), and it was good to have someone to sip some wine with in the evenings.

Dr. Brian from Omaha and two other doctors, Karen and Abbie were also with us for two weeks. They worked in the hospital. They made a great impact on the community and helped save many lives. I was overwhelmed daily when they came and told stories of what they saw each day. I couldn't't have done it. Kudos to them.

James, the superworker, has also left us. His sentence here was up so he went home. He was a huge blessing, and great company. Thanks James!

My friend Josh Jensen is here now and will help us get the roofs finished. He is only here for a short time though.

The work, and life in general is more routine than ever. That doesn't mean that we don't get curve balls every now and then, but we are able to easily deal with them. The time also seems like it is winding down. There is a lot of work to do. I know we will get it done, but it is daunting to think of all of the details. I'm glad I have good help. God is good, all the time.

Zack gets suckered

(from Zack in Serenje)
So a couple of weeks I posted a blog about one of the workers who had his house collapse, Rodgers. He was my benevolence case. He told me he was an orphan and was taking care of his younger siblings. He was also the one who had his house collapse. Well, I was suckered. He isn't an orphan, he isn't taking care of his siblings. He seems to be a crook that quit showing up for work when he was thrown in Jail. I wasn't the only one, several of the workers loaned him money and have not been repaid. They are very concerned about it all. Thankfully all he got out of me was a job. He actually earned everything I paid him. It just goes to show that even with time here I am still not without fault, and that people here will do anything to get a buck.

Great Contrast

If you want an appreciation for how hard our Zambian friends are working, take a look at how they first clear the ground and then what they can get that some ground to produce! Their ability to work hard against such odds is encouraging and motivating! (from Marlin Rice's recent trip to the Hope Center)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Zack - Our Fearless Leader

Here is Zack, eating his Zamchick lunch and guarding the goods! He's mostly Zambian at this point.

Marlin has just returned!

Marlin Rice (our Cornerstone ag project leader for the Hope Center) has just returned from Serenje. A report will follow, but here are some pictures of the land. Keep in mind that just a few months ago this land was completely uncultivated and was covered in grass and small trees. Here's a peek into what it looks like now...

This is a field of "groundnuts" (peanuts) which are a great source of protein for the Hope Center kids.

Here is "cassava" - the tuberous roots are eaten as a source of carbs.

Here are dry beans, another source of protein

Here is the future bath house for the kids

Check out the new roof on the multi-purpose building...

Here's the crew. Can you tell which one is Randy Brekke (Cornerstoner)?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Marlin's Ag Update

(This is a portion of a letter from Marlin Rice, the Cornerstoner God has raised up to develop the agriculture side of the Hope Center. Marlin is in Serenje for two weeks checking on and expanding the ag project.)

I was up at 4:30 this morning. Every morning about this time there is a group of military-style joggers that run down the road calling out a cadence. Then on the return trip into town someone with a whistle blows loudly for every fourth count. It's really quite obnoxious, especially before 5:00 in the morning.

Work starts at the Hope Children's Center at 7:00 every morning. We ride a truck to the site and there are 45-50 workers waiting for their orders for the day. Zack has some laying concrete blocks, mixing cement, digging trenches for the septic system, leveling trusses, hoeing weeds, moving soil, etc. Sunday and I spent the morning with a tape measuring off fields to plant seedling musangu trees. These are the trees that don't leaf out until the dry season, so they don't compete with the maize and beans for sunlight and moisture, then during the beginning of the rainy season, they shed their leaves, producing a shower of nitrogen-rich leaves for the surrounding crops. We also identified some more of the ground that we are having hoed where Sunday will plant vegetables.

Right before lunch today, Joshua, one of the farm laborers killed a gopher while he was hoeing the peanut field. He brought it to show to me, then gave it to his wife. They have a little brick shack on the farm where they live with their four children. His wife took the gopher, laid it on the open wood fire, singed the hair and scrapped it off with a knife, then continued to cook it on the fire. Then she gutted it, put the intestines in a bowl (notice she did not throw them away), split the ribcage with a knife, and then boiled it. If you haven't figured by now, they were going to eat it. She had also made some enshima (boiled white corn meal). She asked if I wanted to eat with them. I said I could eat the enshima, but I wasn't too sure about the gopher—we don't eat gopher in America. Fortunately, it was high noon and I had to run and catch Zack's truck back to the office. No gopher for lunch today!

Walk Thru the Bible

Last week week we had a trial run on a partnership with "Walk Thru the Bible." It is an organization that uses creative teaching methods to guide people through the story of the Bible. Their overview of both testaments is second to none, and they have many other courses as well.

Our goal was to see if our Zambian pastors-in-training would connect with the WTB methods and teachers, and so we set up a week of training and invited some of Navice's "graduates" to join in as well. WTB has an African outreach and they had trained instructors who spoke our pastors' native language, called Bemba.

Here is what Mark Meyer wrote after he talked with Navice about the WTB training (in a letter to the head of WTB S. Africa director)...
Last week Frazier Katanga and Daiman Mainsa encouraged our 35 pastors with your OT overview (presented in Bemba). It was a fabulous success! Our leader for the Serenje effort, Pastor Navice Kalunga, spoke with me this morning and had the most enthusiastic praise for their effort. Pastor Kalunga used phrases like ‘inspired”, “we have new minds” and (my favorite) “Nobody knew we could have such an inspired week! A week like no other!”.

Congratulations to you and your team and a big “Praise the Lord” for the quality of material and the excellent teachers you have working with the churches. I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to know that we have a good experience that they are eager to repeat and they are anxious to pursue other courses from WTB.

God is leading the way! As our team of men work to complete the building at the Hope Center, we are seeing things come together for the training of these pastors who are vital to the success of God's work there. Sharing the pastoral training with WTB will be a joy and is one more step toward seeing the work continue and strengthen in Serenje!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sobering reality

(from Zack in Serenje)
People keep dieing. I won't tell all the stories, but there have been several people who have died in the last couple of days. No one we really know, but people who are one step removed from us. One was a young man who we met at a church a couple of weeks ago. He had come to town (30 miles from home) because of a headache. He dies a couple of days later. Pastor Navice knew the young man. His family is from the bush and had no way to get the body back to the bush. We were already planning on taking the truck out to that area to pick up pastors for a training week in Serenje. Navice asked us to take the body back to the bush, I couldn't say no as it was costing us nothing and would be an incredible testimony to the family and the community. Randy and Jack offered to drive out. I didn't argue. I had my chance to use the truck as a hearst last time I was in Zambia.

Tomorrow, Monday starts a week of pastor training. This is a program that Navice came up with years ago and now Cornerstone has the privilege of helping out with. As I mentioned earlier, Randy went out with the truck to rural areas and picked up about 35 pastors for training. One of the men, a new pastor "student" who is leading a new church we planted two summers ago. He was very excited about the training school this week and had his bag packed, in hand, ready to board the truck to head to the training. Unfortunately, Pastor Navice had to inform him that he wouldn't be able to attend this time. These was a funeral he had to attend. His young son, who had gone to town the day before with the mother had died.

The teachers, who are from South Africa, are with an organization called, "Walk Thru the Bible". We are hoping it will be good as we have not utilized them before. Jack went with the minibus and filled it with cabbage, cornmeal, chickens (live) and an assortment of other things. It should be good.

The work is going good. Of course Sunday, today, is the only day this week it hasn't rained and of course none is working. We have worked the last couple of Saturdays to try to catch up. We are winding down on the time we have for James to be with us, he has been a Godsend. We are praying that he can stay a bit longer. We'll see.

Thanks for all who are praying for us daily.

Friday, February 6, 2009


(from Zack in Serenje)

So every day there are some men who don't show up for work. They are all what they call "piece workers" meaning they aren't really "employees" but they are regular workers, so I have to ask them the next day why they were absent. It is usually sicknesses with them or their children. Today I heard a new one. Rodgers, one of the slashers (grass cutters) didn't show yesterday. When I inquired, he told me that his house collapsed over the night. That's the first time I ever heard the "my house collapsed" excuse.

It is bad that I find it kinda funny, because it isn't funny at all to him. He is a 20 year old guy who just lost his mother and his dad had died several years ago. He is caring for his brothers and sisters who are left orphaned at home. Please pray for Rodgers.

He is a unique worker, he came to me around Christmas time looking for a job. I told him i didn't have any more jobs, as I told the other 30 men that came looking for work that week. Rodgers pleaded with me, almost in tears told me in broken English how he was desperate to feed his brothers and sisters. Now, every two weeks he says with a smile, "thanks, now we can have food".

Engineering Disaster

(from Zack in Serenje)

Okay, so it really isn't a disaster, but it kinda sucks. The septic tank walls collapsed the other night. We had really heavy rain and the tank was empty, so the pressure pushed two of the walls in. Luckily it wasn't in use yet. In fact it wasn't even finished. I still needed to put a top on it. I am confident that is would have held with the top reinforced and if it was full of water/other stuff:-) I'm only writing about this so you get a glimpse of what life is like here. The unexpected is always around the corner. I don't let it get to me, I try to learn from it and move on.


(from Zack in Serenje)
I know you all enjoyed the pictures of the progress the other day. It really doesn't do it justice. I need some areal shots. Anyone want to sponsor a plane Ride:-)? The work has been in full swing, we finally got the shop up and running at the site. It is great having all of our tools out there with us. It helps us to not have to drive home every hour to get what we need. Randy and James have been truss making fools. They have a great start on the roof for the Main building.

We are still having about 50 workers showing up every day. We work on everything from pouring concrete, placing pipes in the ground, fixing electric boxes in the walls, laying block, plastering, digging trenches, working on the road, cutting grass(slashing), building trusses, installing roof metal, pulling wires, shoveling stones, painting get the idea. Most of these jobs are all going on at the same time, so it is a lot to stay on top of. I just want to reiterate that I am very grateful to have the help here that I do.

The picture above is of the trusses that Randy and James built today. I take for granted that we don't have to do this at home. We just place an order and they show up at the site. It is a lot of work, but worth it. It takes a long time to lay out each truss on the computer and determine all of the angles, and then transfer them on to boards. Then the guys make hundreds of cuts and they get glued and nailed together. The lumber isn't straight so it makes it more fun. People have stopped and marveled at the roofs we have built, saying that we are "changing the town", or "nobody in Africa can build a roof like that". It feels good to have people awe at our work. I pray that people see that we are changing the town with more than just bricks and mortar, but with changed lives.

Sneak Peek