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Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Sunrise on the train to Bulawayo

On Friday, September 21 I left Botswana and entered Zimbabwe on foot, caught a taxi to Victoria Falls, then took the overnight train to Bulawayo. I will be in Zimbabwe for the next couple weeks as part of MAPC’s partnership with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), Harare Synod (which includes all of the CCAP churches in Zimbabwe). I spent the weekend with my gracious hostesses Rebecca and Maggie. I stayed in Rebecca’s home and Maggie made sure I had everything I needed and more.

The Three Little Angels Choir sang during worship at Bulawayo CCAP

On Saturday I visited with Rebecca and Maggie, then Sunday was filled with church activities. I preached at Bulawayo CCAP’s worship service, attended the youth group meeting, and also visited the Cement congregation. By the time we got to the Cement congregation they had finished with their church activities, but we were able to meet with a few folks in one of the congregant’s home. The Cement neighborhood is so named because it is composed of the families of workers at the nearby cement plant.

View from the home we visited Cement

Overall my visit to Bulawayo was short but sweet. I was glad to have a bit more time with the folks I had just briefly met in April. I hope I was able to encourage them and take one more step forward together in our partnership with CCAP Harare Synod.

With my wonderful hostesses, Rebecca and Maggie
Posted September 26, 2012
Chobe Top 12

River safari with Carrie and Corin

I spent my last day in Botswana in Chobe National Park. I got up early in the morning to go in with Corin, one of the young ladies who works in the area, and we spent most of the day in the park. Then I had a boat safari in the late afternoon I went on a river safari with Corin and Carrie. It was a wonderful day and I even got to see many animals I had not seen before: a honey badger, roan antelope, red lechwe, steenbok, jackals, and a tawny eagle. We also saw lots of animals congregated around the river as it is now dry season. There were whole herds of zebra, buffalo, and elephant, which was a majestic sight. My favorite part of the day was watching a leopard with its kill. We spotted a dead impala up in a tree, which is the work of a leopard, and decided to wait to see if she would come back. We waited for just over two hours, watching the elephants drink and play in the water nearby. Then there was a twitter in the trees as the birds became agitated and then we saw her. For several minutes she stood behind the tree trunk from where we were, then with just two jumps she was up in the tree. We then watched and listened as she began eating. I hope I can share a bit of the wonder of this place with you. Below are my top twelve photos from the day, enjoy!

Roan antelope

Waterbuck

Elephant 

Tawny eagle

Zebra

Lilac breasted roller 

Baboons

Ellies and impala at the river

Leopard with impala kill 

Lion

Mom and baby

Goodbye beautiful Botswana

Posted September 25, 2012
Kasane, Botswana

Friday I left Zambia, crossing the river to Botswana. I have been staying with Keith and Robin Honey who run a mission organization, Africa Crossroads (AC), in the Chobe area. They also have a social work coordinator, Carrie, living with them and working with AC. It has been great to learn about their work and hang out with fellow Texans for the week (yes, they are all from Texas). I have also been able to learn about other projects in the community. Kasane is the town closest to Chobe National Park so there is a lot of tourist traffic and many game lodges. This is also the governmental center of the region, so there are many government workers. The Batswana (people of Botswana) of this region face many challenges such as poverty, alcoholism, abuse, early pregnancy, dysfunctional families, lack of education, and health challenges. The people I was able to meet this week are working to improve the lives of the Batswana.

FAS poster developed by Africa Crossroads

On Saturday I attended a workshop sponsored by Africa Crossroads that addressed the issue of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS affects children whose mothers drink alcohol during pregnancy and results in mental disability, characteristic facial features, and slow growth (FAS children are usually ten percent smaller than their peers). FAS is the most severe form of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) – which range from mild mental delays, internal organ defects (especially heart problems), more serious brain damage, all the way up to full blown FAS. Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can affect the developing baby. The first few weeks and months are the most crucial time for development so the damage can be done before some mothers even know they are pregnant. With the high rate of unplanned pregnancies and prevalence of alcohol abuse, many children in this area are affected. The workshop included health workers and educators from the community, as they are dealing with the mothers and children affected by FAS and FASD on a daily basis. A phenomenal woman, Leana, from the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research in South Africa came up to teach about FAS and FADS. At the end of the workshop there was a great response from the community and we are having a follow up meeting tonight to discuss how to educate the community about the consequences of alcohol use during pregnancy. 

Robin Honey, Keith Honey, and Leana at the FAS workshop

I attended worship at a small international church in Kasane on Sunday. After church some of the international folks working here in the Kasane area gathered at the Honey home for lunch and games. It was great to get to know their stories and have fun together. I was also thankful for a day of worship, rest, and fellowship.

Church

Monday I visited a school run by one of the local churches. It serves the poorest area of Kasane, providing a preschool in the mornings and after school activities for school aged children. Many of these children are not well looked after, so the interaction and love they get at school is very important. The young ones also get a meal at lunch, which may be their only meal of the day. The day I visited the children sang me many songs and I taught them a new verse of “Head, Shoulder, Knees, and Toes.” They were also talking about family and each child drew a picture of their families. There is one Motswana woman who runs the program by herself six days a week. Please pray that she will be encouraged to continue to teach and care for the children.

Drawing families

Then on Tuesday I shadowed Octavius, a Peace Corps volunteer who is working with BOFWA, Botswana Family Welfare Association. This is an organization that provides health education, counseling, and care – especially in regard to sexual health and family planning. The clinic in Kasane is focused on helping youth (ages 10-29) so it runs workshops and programs in the area in addition to having the clinic. Octavius helps in the clinic, works in conjunction with the local government, and runs some of BOFWA’s programs for children and youth. When I was visiting he was preparing for the next day’s DES club, which is for children ages 8 to 12. DES stands for Delay Early Sex and teaches children to have confidence in themselves, educates them about sex, and encourages them to know that they have a choice about engaging in sexual activity. In this area it has become culturally acceptable for young people to have sex and it is often very hard for a girl to refuse if a boy or man propositions her. BOFWA’s vision is “for every Motswana to have choice for a healthy and productive family now and beyond.” Please pray for Octavius and BOFWA as they educate and care for the people they serve.

Octavius at the BOFWA office

Today (Wednesday) I have been with Carrie, Africa Crossroad’s social work coordinator. This morning we visited a preschool for OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) which is near the AC office. These children are mostly orphans so the school cares for them in many ways. Although most of the children live with extended family they are often not cared for and even abused. The children get a bath, brush their teeth, and are provided breakfast and lunch each day at school. In the same complex there is also a youth library where kids can come to read, play games, and have a safe place to hang out. It was wonderful to see these projects that the community has put in place to help their young ones, please pray that resources and caring people will continue to be provided for this school, library, and projects like them. 

The children's toothbrushes at the OVC preschool

The Lord's Prayer - Carrie and kids at the OVC preschool

Tomorrow will be my last full day in Botswana. I am planning to visit the game park in the morning, then go on a river safari in the afternoon. After a week learning about all the challenges here it will be good to see the magnificent beauty of this place as well. Then on Friday I will head to Zimbabwe. Finally, please pray for Keith and Robin Honey and Carrie as they work to support and minister to the community in Kasane in so many ways. I am so grateful for the way they have opened their home, ministry, and lives to me over this past week.

As night falls elephants come to a waterhole

Posted September 19, 2012
Lusaka & Livingstone

The Ellington family

This week I have been making my way through Zambia toward Botswana. I have stopped along the way in Lusaka and Livingstone. I was in Lusaka for three days staying at Justo Mwale Theological University College. While there I got to spend time with my friends, the Ellingtons, who are PC(USA) mission coworkers. I attended church with them on Sunday and also attended Dr. Ellington’s preaching class on Monday morning. I really enjoyed sitting in on this class as it reminded me of my own experience at seminary. Each week one student preaches to the class, then the class evaluates the sermon together. They discuss the delivery, Biblical content, and relevance of the sermon. The Ellingtons have been wonderful friends to me this year and I was blessed to have this time with them and get a glimpse of their ministry in Lusaka.

Student preaching in Justo Mwale class

Class discussion

As well as spending time with the Ellingtons I also had a chance to rest and reflect on the past year. It was wonderful to have this time to shift gears from my work with TEEZ and saying goodbye to preparing for my travel time. I had time to thank God for all that has past and pray about what is to come.

A shady spot at Victoria Falls

On Wednesday morning I headed down to Livingstone on the 6am bus. I had a reservation for the 7am bus but arrived in time to just barely make the earlier one. The bus was literally rolling out of the station as they threw on my luggage and I hurriedly bought the ticket. I planned to stay in Livingstone for two nights so I could have a full day to see Victoria Falls and relax before leaving Zambia.

Victoria Falls

I had visited Victoria Falls in late May when my parents were visiting. At that time the water level was very high after rainy season. We had gotten soaked as we wandered through the park and could just make out the falls through all the mist. It is a very different picture now in the dry season. The falls are pretty much dry on the Zambia side. It is stunning to witness the difference, I am glad to experience both wonders. The gorge that has been carved is beautiful, something we had not been able to see in May. But I do miss the characteristic rumble that had been ever present on my previous visit. Instead a small herd of elephants wandered through the camp last night, munching what they could find and trumpeting to one another. This week has given me time to think back over my experience and add a few more amazing memories to my time in Zambia. 

        River below falls, May                                      Same view, September 

Victoria Falls with my parents in May

View from the same overlook in September


Posted September 13, 2012
Mwende bwino

TEEZ farewell luncheon

Over this past week I have heard this phrase countless times, “mwende bwino” – travel well. The year has gone and my time with TEEZ and my friends in Kitwe has drawn to a close. In the midst of orientation for the new folks there were good times for me to wrap up my time in Zambia and say goodbye. On Wednesday I had my final evaluation in the morning with the TEEZ Director and Rev. Banda, then TEEZ hosted a wonderful farewell luncheon for me. We enjoyed visiting, sharing a meal, and I was even presented with a few gifts to remember my time in Zambia with TEEZ – a necklace and copper clock.

Receiving TEEZ's gift from Rev. Banda

Then on Friday, my last night, the international crowd got together to send me out in style. We had fun singing, sharing a potluck dinner, and watching slideshows. The Lund family even had a farewell song they had written about my time with them over this past year. It was a very special night and a wonderful time to celebrate together. The evening was bittersweet as I had to say goodbye to my friends as the party came to an end.

International farewell crowd

The other side of this week was orientation for the new TEEZ interns. As you know, Andrew and Claire Ruth are the new Global Ministry Fellow folk. There is also a young woman from South Korea, Esther, who has come through the United Methodist Church to develop projects on gender issues and e-learning who is an intern with TEEZ this year as well. We had a lot of fun together this past week learning about TEEZ and life in Zambia. Please pray for Andrew, Claire, and Esther as they adjust to life in Zambia and their work with TEEZ. I think they will do very well here.

Andrew, Claire, Esther, and me

It was very hard to say the final goodbye this morning. We were planning to go into town as usual for a Saturday morning, except that I would have my luggage and not come back. The Lunds, Andrew, Claire, and I all piled into the Lund’s truck but we only made it as far as the front gate of MEF before the truck developed a problem. We pushed the truck back to their house and spent the next hour sitting on the lawn and visiting which ended up being sweet time together. Eventually I did have to go catch the bus to begin my travels. I tearfully left the compound that has been my home for this past year and am now writing to you from Lusaka, where I will be for the next few days. Over the next two months I will be visiting Kasane in Botswana, MAPC’s partner CCAP churches in Zimbabwe, Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa, Buenos Aires in Argentina, La Paz in Bolivia, and finally my favorite foreign country of Texas to have some time with my family before returning to MAPC. I will continue to give you updates as I am able and I hope you will come along with me.

Almost leaving


Posted September 8, 2012
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