Tuesday, March 31, 2009


When you hear about the pandemic crisis of Zambia, you can get overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the problem. The numbers and statistics are staggering. One Zambian relief organization sums up the crisis well...
Zambia is one of the African countries hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. About 19 percent of children under 18, or 1.1 million, are orphans, most of them due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. About 70 percent of the population earns less than US$1 per day, so families, communities and schools are overstretched in their efforts to care for children. Many households are now headed by children, as young as eleven, who are forced to forego the education they need to prepare for a harsh economic environment, as they struggle to care for their younger siblings. (zambiaorphans.org)
But when you travel to Zambia and begin to meet the individuals (as opposed to the raw data), you begin to see people - not numbers. And it moves you to action.

Shadrach is the little boy on the far left (above). Last year Mike and Kristi Despard travelled with us to Shadrach's village. When we got there, here is how we found Shadrach...Shadrach had a growth on his neck that was growing and incredibly painful. But his mother (his father is dead) had no means of getting him help. And so Mike and Kristi got him to the clinic in Serenje and were able to purchase the antibiotics to treat his infection. Without this intervention, Shadrack may have become another "statistic."

When I got to Kamena this past week I looked for Shadrach and was overjoyed to find him alive and well. I took a ball that Mike and Kristi had sent for him. One more little boy had been spared because of the compassion of God's people. Shadrach escaped becoming a "statistic."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The New Team

(from Jeff in Serenje)
A group from Cornerstone has arrived in Serenje. One of the men (Brian) said tonight, "I think this is one of the most life-changing days of my life." Well said.

The "worker guys" have put in a half-day on Saturday at the Hope Center. They will work all this week, beginning each morning at 7:00. They are a very capable and eager bunch. Can't wait to see what is accompolished this week!

Today we traveleld through the rain out to Kamena - a rural village about 40 kilometers from Serenje where we are delivering food to the orphans we care for out there. We had church out there as well.

I saw many friends. One godly man, one of the pastors-in-training named Robert, told me that he just lost his 16-month old daughter to malaria. His wife's eyes are hollow with grief. I hate this part of coming back here. Christopher told me of his 18-month old home sick with malaria. I think she'll make it. And these are the kids with loving, healthy parents!

I thank God for Cornerstone - sending us here. Caring. Extending mercy. Building God's church. These people are so deeply grateful for our church family. I'm grateful to learn more about what God's church ought to be every time I come here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words

Things are going good. We are getting what the locals call "the last rains." We are waiting for the group to come next week. It is going to be a busy week.
Today was Jack's lst day here with us. It is sad to see him go back to Omaha. It is clear that he touched many lives during his time here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Picking up the Pace!

(The following is from Zack in Serenje as he anticipates the coming of 8 Cornerstone men and 2 Brookside men who will travel to Serenenje next week. Please pray for those who will primarily work on the Hope buildings and for those of us who will be sitting with our Zambian leadership team to establish the soon-to-come opening of the Hope Center! -Jeff)
So last Friday the reality hit me that the group coming from Ames would arrive in about a week. It was the first time that I thought "I'm running out of time" Now really, I have a lot of time left, bu it is officially crunch time. I spent the weekend getting caught up on paperwork, cleaning up at home and getting "ready" for being run over by this project. Monday, There was a new tone on the job site. There was no longer any time for messing around, no longer any time to put off the projects no one wanted to do. On a different side of things, Jack is on his final week here in Zambia. He has been taking advantage of each morning with the workers to teach them from the bible. That also set a more defined tone for the week. Overall, we have gotten a lot done. Lots of little projects, as well as beginning painting. That's kind of an exciting step, to get to paint stage. I'll post some picture soon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Psalm 39

Our church family is celebrating Lent by praying through the psalms (click here to learn more). Today I meditated on these verses from Psalm 39...

4 "Show me, O LORD, my life's end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.

5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath.

6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.

7 "But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.

The psalmist is right. Our lives are very fleeting and are gift from God. How can I make these days count for His Kingdom? for eternity?

As we put our hope in God and allow Him to direct our days, we're going to make our lives count - they won't be in vain.

The Hope Center is an incredible opportunity to offer our wealth to something that counts for eternity. Talk with Zack, Randy or any of the guys who are making huge contributions to the Center - you'll find no regret. If you are one of those who also contributes in any way ... thank you. Strengthening God's church in Zambia and helping to feed His hungry children -- what a privilege to be part of this!

Monday, March 2, 2009


(The following post is from Marlin Rice, a member of our Cornerstone Zambia team who travels to Serenje in order to establish the agriculture project of the Hope Center)

It was a week ago today that I returned from an 11-day trip to Zambia and a visit to the Hope Children’s Center. Zack and Randy graciously allowed me to stay with them in their combination office/kitchen/storage room/sleeping quarters. Accommodations were very tight as James and Jack also roomed there, and then a medical team of three from the University of Nebraska ate their meals with us. But my time in Serenje was filled with joy and encouragement as I worked along side both Cornerstoners and the Zambian nationals to meet the needs of the orphans.

After the worship service at Cornerstone this morning, someone asked what I was doing in Zambia. In short, I am directing the agricultural production for the Center, which I affectionately call the Z8 Project, after 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.) This passage from Zechariah 8 is taken as a prayer of hope, that the land would produce abundant food for the orphans, which suffer from the devastation of AIDS, and that the orphans would become a blessing to their nation through the grace of our Lord and the strong labor of the agricultural workers.

Our vision is that the Hope Children’s Center Agricultural Project (Z8) will become a self-sustaining and economically productive resource managed by Zambian nationals for the direct benefit of the Center’s orphans and to the glory of God’s kingdom. Two of the goals are: 1) Cornerstone will establish and develop effective partnership with Hope Children’s Center leaders to train and support farm managers for the Z8 Agricultural Project; and 2) Cornerstone and Z8 farm managers will cooperate to improve food security, natural resource management, nutrition, and health for the children of Hope Children’s Center.

These are ambitious goals, but I believe realistic. As noted in a previous blog, we have many crops planted at the Center: maize (white corn), sweet potatoes, dry beans (similar to pinto beans), groundnuts (peanuts), and cassava. Tomatoes, cabbage and rape (an edible green leafy vegetable) should have been planted this past week. Sunday, a young man helping to manage the farm, and I measured the plots of crops. The best I could determine (because none of the plots were ‘square’) is that we have about 8.9 acres currently in agricultural production. The maize and dry beans should be ready for harvest in 30-45 days; sweet potatoes will be harvested in 3 months. Hopefully in the near future an abundance of food will be ready to supplement the diet of the orphans of Serenje.

Marlin Rice

Sunday, March 1, 2009


(from Zack in Serenje)
There is a small village not far from here. I guess "far" is relative. It is about 90 kilometers from here. All on bad bush roads. One English lady here told me it is about as far into the bush as you can get in Zambia. The place is called Chisomo, also locally known as "the valley". I visited there a couple of years ago with a team from Cornerstone. We traveled there in the back of a truck for about 6 hours. While we were there we showed the Jesus film and started a church. Pastor Navice has been working with the leaders there to grow the church.

Why am I telling you this? Well, as I was working today with one of the guys Willard. We saw some helicopters flying over. I thought that was kinda odd so I asked him what they were doing. He said that there is an out break in a village called Chisomo. He said it was cholera, and "people were dieing like animals". (he was surprised that I had been there, as he had lived here for his whole life and never been there) I later found out that they don't know what the problem is, all they know is that lots of people are dieing. The government is bringing in food, medicine and doctors to help out. I don't know a lot about this stuff but I do know that things have to be pretty serious to have this kind of relief come in. I know that there are many who are very sick.

Chisomo is a desolate place, frequent floods, poor farm ground, located at the end of a long, bad, road to nowhere there is little traffic from outside, little food, little medicine, and little hope. It is one of the most hopeless places I have ever seen. I was just talking with a government official about the village on tuesday, before all of this came up. I asked why they don't leave, with all the suffering and stuff? He said that the government had offered to relocate them but they refuse. They like looking at the mountain views, their ancestors are buried there, they can't leave. They will suffer and die there because that is where their forefathers brought them. My worker Willard put it well saying that "they are ignorant." The picture above is a picture I took there of their school when I was there August 2007.

(Note from Jeff -- When Zack and I visited there with some others in 2007, some kids were in this school and when they looked out the windows and saw us coming with our white skin, they jumped out of the back windows of the school in fear. They'd never seen white people before!)

Please pray for those who are dieing and suffering in Chisomo. Pray that God would use this to grow the church there and draw people to Himself.