Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mission More Than Accomplished

As I reflect back on the trip, I cannot emphasis enough how often we heard from Climent (our Zambian boss) and from Gary Sidle (the missionary) how amazed they were with the amount of work we got done, They both repeatedly pointed out that though we were a small group we outworked much larger teams who had worked on this project. This was satisfying for us to hear. We came to work hard and with God's help we did. I have been on 13 trips, and 12 have been with this team representing MV First and/or the NCO district and it matters a great deal to me that the teams we take around the world have a reputation of going overseas to witness for Christ through our labor of love. This trip was no different. We completed everything we could at the work site and then some. I know several people had minor trips and falls on the last day of work simply from being physically spent. We sent Climent for more supplies numerous times. He was amazed that in the 7 days of work they planned for us, the paint crew used up 60 gallons of paint. The framing crew had installed, from scratch, all the 2x2 grid work remaining to be installed for the ceilings in the building. We installed grids in 13 large rooms and each of their respective 13 bathrooms, the central hallway and the entry way. We also installed the actual ceiling panels in 10 rooms, the hallway and most of the entry way before the time ran out that seventh day of work. Praise The Lord for what He can accomplish when a group of people come together as an effective team for the common purpose of building something for their fellow man. We offered up our labor to that of the Zambian workers here and God multiplied it many fold in the 7 days on the work site.

Gary Sidle explained to us that since we unexpectedly almost completed the ceilings, the building may be ready for use by this fall. There is another crew coming in July and they have 4 tilers in that team, so they hope to get the floors finished and bathrooms operational this summer. When this building is ready to house people, W&W teams can start rooming here as they build the kitchen/cafeteria building. This will eliminate the sometimes hour long commute to and from work we experienced staying in the Baptist Guest House in Lusaka. Once the kitchen/cafeteria building is operational then this Central Africa Regional Center will be ready to hold conferences, meetings, camps, training events etc... for Nazarene groups and any other church related groups that want to rent the facility. Eventually there will be more buildings on the site including a large auditorium/chapel.

Once again it has been my privilege to witness the amazing things God can do when a group of individuals say yes to the call to "go into all the world" and then come together as a team and give of their time, talents and money for the Kingdom of God. We worked hard and had a blast doing so. We also "played hard" enjoying the fellowship within the team, with the Sidles, with Climent, Pherie, and the other nationals we worked with. And after the work was done we got to witness the majesty of some of God's amazing creations in Zambia and Botswana.

As usual, near the end of the trip we were already talking about where we will go next year on the NCO Work and Witness trip. That has not been finalized yet. Originally we thought Vanuatu was the destination for the 2015 trip, but they are not going to be ready for us by next Spring, so the 2015 destination is yet to be determined. Stay tuned and prayerfully consider if God might be calling you to a front row seat to see what He can do when those called by His name simply say YES when He says Go! 

Click on the link below to see a video made by the Sidles of our trip.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Long Road Home

I love the way airports in third world countries like Zambia and Ethiopia have us walk out to the plane to board. There is something more exciting about walking out onto the tarmac with the sounds and smells of large planes coming and going and approaching a giant machine that is about to take us up to 40,000 feet and fly at close to mach 1. That never gets old:-). It was also one last chance to soak up some Zambian sunshine and perfect 80 degree air.

Once boarded on our 787 we left Lusaka for the 4 hour flight to Addis Ababa. We landed in warm and muggy Ethiopia about 8pm local time and went through another security line and then another line to get color coded sticker dots on our boarding passes because Ethiopian boards by sticker color. They hold up paddles with the colors so people know when they can board. I guess that is their way to cope with the miriad of different languages spoken by their passengers. Besides there is nothing to do or to eat once you get through security so standing in lines complaining about standing in lines for a sticker gives fliers something to do during the wait.

We only had about an hour after getting our stickers before boarding our second 787 for the 14 hour flight to Washington Dulles, but Don, Jillian, Mike and Kenny still found time to get in another game or two of Rook while we waited. The conversation amongst the team was about hoping we can sleep through the night. The flight will be almost entirely in the dark as we were scheduled to take off at 9pm from Ethiopia and arrive about 8 am in Washington DC. The catch in this return flight was the stop in Rome. We flew northwest from Addis Ababa to Rome in about 5 hours. Then we stayed on the plane while we refueled and changed flight and cabin crews. After about an hour on the ground we were off again for the 9 hour hop across France, the Atlantic, and Nova Scotia to get back to the USA.

We watched the sunset last night as we approached Ethiopia. The line from day to night was just ahead of us as the world turns in Ethiopia, but as the flight progressed through the night the night to day line was now creeping up on us from behind by the time we reached the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The effect of this was a very long and gradual sunrise as we raced to the west just a little slower than the approaching sunrise. Most of our team got a few hours of sleep here and there throughout the night, but only Tim Sharrock has the God given ability to sleep well almost the entirety of every flight no matter the time of day or night. As for the rest of us, as we watched day break Saturday on the east coast of the US, we were already looking forward to being in our own beds, in our home time zone Saturday night.

Once on the ground at Washington Dulles we de-planed after over 15 hours of being in this one 787. We went through customs and re-entry into the US. That meant collecting all our luggage from our international flight and reloading it for our domestic United flight to Columbus. Once through the luggage lines and immigration procedures we walked to the gate and settled in for a couple hours of waiting before the final short flight home. Everyone is in great spirits and excited about these past two weeks and now excited to be just a few hours from being all the way home.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Chobe and Victoria Falls

Tuesday April 1, 2014

We left the Baptist Guest House in Lusaka, Gambia at 5:30 to begin our 6-7 hour bus ride to the Zambezi River. We passed back through the same streets of Lusaka we took to work every day. We passed the work site and the ladies who had not been there got to see the development at the Africa Central Region Training Center. We headed south out of Lusaka and into the hill country. We were already at an elevation of over 4000 feet, but we must have gained even more altitude in the hills because our ears were popping and the sparse wispy clouds looked so close I could have touched them out the bus window. We then headed into a vast plain with round grass roofed huts and corn and sugar cane fields everywhere. Occasionally we passed through villages and past schools full of uniformed children. We started to see termite mounds almost as tall as the bus. The beautiful clear blue Zambian sky was the backdrop for the vast fields of crops and trees firmly rooted in the red Zambian soil. The highway was in very good condition for the most part with the rare construction zone where we had to go off into gravel and dirt to bypass. If not for the speed bumps at every intersection and bus stop zone, we could have slept soundly on the highway to Livingston. A few hours into the ride we stopped at a store complex with a food store, public facilities we could use for 2 kwatcha a piece, and a bar attached to that called Tooters. After a 10 minute stretch at Tooters we re-boarded the bus and headed down the road eating bananas we bought from a street vender by a few hundred speed bump zones back. As we got closer to the Zambezi, the dirt became more sand colored and less like red clay colored. The termites down here make a different type of mound and they were everywhere, huge, and easily much larger than our bus. Many were covered in corn stocks and other vegetation. Soon we noticed that our road was parallel with railroad tracks. Occasionally a red passenger train would pass us and we could see the people riding on trains that appeared to have no glass in the windows.
After about 7 hours we arrived at Livingstone, a city of about 250,000 people. Before we entered the northern city limits we could see the mist rising from Victoria Falls which is located south of the city. We stopped at "Steer", a hamburger place in a shopping center in town. The burgers and fried were good and a little reminder of home. Then we headed south west out of Livingstone down to where we would cross the Zambezi River into Botswana. We went through the exit process with our passports in Zambia and headed down to the river to wait in the blistering sun for our boat. In the meantime we took in the scenery and the realization that we were standing at the border of 4 countries. We were standing in Zambia but looking across the river to the southeast at Zimbabwe, south at Botswana and southwest at Namibia. Our boat pulled in about 15 minute after we arrived, which was enough time for a few team members to get suckered into buying a few more wood carvings from persistent salesmen and for Tim Sharrock to lead one of the ferry boat workers to the Lord.
We all had to walk the plank literally to board the boat. There was a floating plank about a foot wide and stretching about 15 yards out from the shore to the boat. Walking the plank would be enough of a test without luggage, but with carry ons the degree of difficulty was raised a bit, but with a little help from the boat workers everyone was soon safely aboard the boat high and dry. We motored across the Zambezi, right where the Chobe river empties into it. Here at the confluence we were skirting the coast of Namibia our way to the Botswana shoreline. The Zambezi River is about the width of the Ohio River. The difference here is the carnivorous critters that live in the river and the fact that a boat dead in the water could end up eventually going over Victoria Falls if its not careful.

Two safari Range Rovers from Chobe were waiting for us on the Botswana shore. We loaded up these tall open air vehicles and road up to the border station to have our passports stamped into Botswana. Then we headed toward the Chobi Safari Lodge. There was a detour because of a road project which was a blessing. The detour was through some dirt roads that took us right into the path of five elephants, a giraffe, and an assortment of of other smaller creatures.

We were greeted at the Lodge by a smiling staff and non-alcoholic fruit drinks. I only mention the "non-alcoholic" because the guy giving us our drinks repeated that it was non-alcoholic fourteen times as he served us. After our orientation brief we went to our rooms to freshen up for dinner. All our rooms open up to the Chobe River. In the yard between the lodge and the river Warthogs were grazing and playing in mud, while monkeys ran around on the grass roof of this two story lodge.

The dinning area is open air in a large grass roofed area overlooking the pool plaza and the Chobe River. The buffet meals here are prepared by trained chefs and it showed in every dish from the salad bar through the dessert bar. After overeating our late supper a troop of Botswana tribal dancers performed for us. Then we all settled in by 9pm since we had to be at the front desk reading for a game drive at 5:45 the next morning.

Wednesday April 2

We loaded our two Safari vehicles at 6am for our morning game drive. We were out on the highway for the 10 kilometer drive to the Sadudu Gate of Chobe Game reserve before the sun was up. We entered the park as daylight broke. We spent 3 hours in the park taking pictures of all sorts of animals, including some rare finds, like a pair of jackals and a sabu. We did not however see any big cats and that was the primary point of the early morning game drive. We stopped about half way through the drive for tea and coffee along the Chobe River. We had to fight off the monkeys who wanted our bread cakes very badly. After 9am we headed back to the Lodge for brunch. This left plenty of time for everyone to rest and relax however they chose, including shopping, sleeping, swimming until our 3pm boat cruise.
At 3 we gathered at the pool plaza and boarded a large covered pontoon boat to go on our boat safari. For three hours we cruised the Chobi River taking pictures of elephants, giraffe, deer like things, hippos, many kinds of birds, and water buffalo. We were looking for animals all along both the Botswana and Namibia shores of the river.  Will still did not see any big cats, rhinos or zebras. We did however see the rare sight of a giraffe bending down to drink from the river, which is quite a production and something they only do after making perfectly sure there are no predators around.

We watched the sunset as we left the boat back at the Lodge where we started. We had devotions by Jillian and then another amazing buffet dinner in the candlelit open air grass roofed dining room. Then a few of us took advantage of some rare moments of good internet connectivity to Facetime and message loved ones bad home before turning in for the night.

Thursday April 3 started with devotions by Don at 6:45 followed by breakfast and packing. We left the lodge on a bus at 8am for the short few miles to the Chobe River. Once there we went through the Botswana exit process then went on down to the shore to await our ferry boat. We boarded two small boats for the ride back to the Zambian shore. We walked the narrow plank back onto dry ground and headed for the Zambian border entrance station to officially re-enter Zambia. Then we boarded our familiar bus from Lusaka to ride the hour or so to Livingstone to visit Victoria Falls.

We took lots of pictures and video. Words cannot describe the raw power and magnitude of the falls. After viewing Victoria Falls, Billy Graham proclaimed that "Victoria Falls makes Niagara Falls look like the sniffles". I agree. Due to the sheer magnitude of the falls and the mist coming up and down everywhere, the "Smoke That Thunders", the real African name for the falls, it is impossible to see all of it from any one spot on the ground. Only from a helicopter or plane can you see the whole thing.

Some in our party only went as far as they could go and stay dry, which still gave them great vistas from just down inside the gorge and from above the falls on the Zambian side. A few adventurous souls, like me went on into the mist and torrential "rain" that came from below and above to get better glimpses of the falls from deeper into the gorge. This involved getting soaked, especially when crossing the bridge that spans a gap in the gorge wall. On that bridge water hits from every angle as you make way across. Tim and I would wait for moments when the mist would change directions and then pull out cameras to take pictures until the next wall of water made us zip the cameras back into our water proof  bags. Keeping a camera dry at Victoria Falls is a challenge to say the least, but we both managed to get some amazing shots and leave with cameras that were still functional.

After a couple hours of Falls watching, and shopping at the curio shops at the entrance, we all bordered the bus and headed for Steers at the shopping center for lunch and to dry out some more before the long bus ride back to Lusaka. Perfect weather has been our blessing this whole trip and today was no exception. It is sunny and warm (mid 80's), and the refreshing breeze blowing through the bus windows slowly but surely put most of the passengers asleep. Fortunately the bus always has two drivers so they talk to each other in their native tongue and keep each other awake.

We stopped a few hours into the trip for the bus drivers to purchase a new fuel filter. This is routine and about as frequent as oil changes here since the diesel refineries don't do quite as good a job at refining African fuels as they have to in order to meet US standards. So there tends to be sulfur and other unwanted things in the fuel.

I rode with Gary Sidle in his truck the rest of the way back but we didn't make much better time than the bus. The trip was slowed down by semi trucks and detours. After dark the drive was even more of an adventure. So many people walk or ride bikes along the road after dark with no lights. Most of the time there are no lines on the road and every time we passed a car or truck we had to watch for them to swerve our way to avoid people or animals like we were doing. We passed trucks that were broke down and abandoned in the dark right in the middle of the road or at least out into the roadway many times. A couple places we found road construction work where we had to follow "deviations" into the corn fields on dirt paths to get around the construction. Those last two or three hours of traveling in the dark were quite an adventure to say the least.

About 10 pm we were back at the guest house and more than ready to eat the pizza's and KFC the Sidles picked up and delivered to us for our late supper. Connie gave each of the Sidle family members gifts from the team. They said tonight was like Christmas at the Sidle house.

We were tired from the long ride and the excitement of safari and exploring Victoria Falls, and shopping of course. After dinner was all headed to our rooms to pack since we needed to be out of our rooms by 9am Friday. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we were more than ready for a good night's rest.

Friday April 4

Most of us were up and finishing packing by 6 am even though breakfast and devotions wasn't until 8:30. We filled the tubs that carried our food over here full with goodies from Zambia and Botswana and some items the Sidles wanted shipped back to Ohio. We revealed prayer partners and had a good time of fellowship as we waited for the bus to take us back to Arcades shopping center for our final lunch in Zambia.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekend in Lusaka

Saturday March 29 was the sixth straight day on the worksite. We divided into three crews as usual. One crew continued painting walls and doorframes. One crew finished the last bit of the ceiling grid in the entire 23 room building. The third crew continued installing ceiling panels in the building. By the end of the day there were about 7 rooms left to have ceiling panels installed. Next Monday our crew will try to finish the remaining ceilings in the building.

The trip home from work was a little more exciting than usual because the radiator in the bus had a leak. We stopped at a station along the route two times for water. We still made good time home from work since there is almost no Saturday traffic on the downtown streets and roundabouts that have been nearly gridlocked during the weekday rush hours.Dinner time was jovial since we finally was able to look forward to a day off of work and an opportunity to visit a local Nazarene church the next day.

Sunday March 30 we got to sleep in. Instead of the normal 6AM breakfast, we did not eat until 8. After breakfast and posing for some team pictures we boarded a bus and headed across Lusaka to the Baulina Church of the Nazarene. This church is in what they self-describe as the ghetto district. Narrow dirt streets wind through this economically depressed community and dead ends at the fence row that marks the edge of the Baulina Church property. The church is a simple and small building, but the crowd was large and packed in tight.

As as the praise team sang us into the building, we were ushered straight down to the front rows of the sanctuary. There were at least three choirs plus the praise team and all of them did an amazing job with multiple songs from each group. The pastor’s son performed a long and profound poem/rap he wrote and memorized. Special music and congregational songs in the local language and some in English rounded out the praise portion of the service. Gary Sidle introduced us and Tim Sharrock gave the greeting from our team. The pastor gave an excellent and succinct sermon speaking in both the local language and English for our benefit.

After the 2 hour service we were ushered outside with the pastor so everyone in the church, and I mean everyone could file out of the building and shake hands with all of us as they left. This process took about a half hour. Then we stood around socializing with the people from the church and taking pictures. George had the privilege of meeting a young man he and his wife have been sponsoring for the past 5 years or so. Thanks to their support for his education, at the age of 19 now, he is finishing his education and planning for the future. What are the odds that a child in Africa they selected to sponsor in about 2008 would live in the same community where George would go on a W&W trip in 2014? This is certainly a God thing.
About an hour and a half after the service we finally pulled away from the church and headed to lunch and Mike’s Kitchen. No it was not Mike Norris’ kitchen. It was a nice restaurant by a South African company serving American food. After lunch we shopped through the afternoon in the artist market set up in the parking lot of the Arcades shopping center. A brief rain shower moved through while shopped. This was the first time we have had rain of any significance since we arrived.

We went back home to our compound about 6PM. As we waited for homemade pizzas to bake for dinner, we were honored to have Ephraim (Africa’s Chris Tomlin) perform a private mini concert in the dining commons. He has performed all over Africa and in the US, including Sonfest at MVNU. It was amazing that he took time out of his busy schedule to make a special visit to play and sing for us. Gary Sidle played acoustic guitar and Alyssa Sidle sang for us as well. Gary and Alyssa have credits on Ephraim’s latest album: Gary as a song writer and musician on the album, and Alyssa as a song writer and vocalist. Ephraim, his wife, their two small boys and a couple other friends joined us for supper. We bought up all the CD’s Ephraim had available and ordered more. If you are interested in finding out more about Ephraim and want to buy his recordings, you can go on Amazon and purchase his CDs.

After our concert and dinner, people started settling in for the evening with Rook in one corner, ladies making up Monday lunch for the job site. A few of us viewed the pictures and videos we captured today. Then by 11 everyone was off to bed since we have another 6AM breakfast before the 7th and final work day on the job site. Climent our boss is amazed by the amount of work we have accomplished, especially considering he is comparing our small group’s output to the work production of much larger teams he has worked with on this project. We have worked hard and long hours and hope to see the ceiling panel installation completed before we wrap up Monday evening.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Progress in Lusaka

Wednesday March 26 through Friday March 28 where productive work days here in Lusaka. Consistent temperatures in the 80’s and partly sunny to clear skies day after day. We have been blessed with dry weather. As I post this entry Friday evening, we are happy to report that everyone is doing well, having a great time, and the progress on the Conference Center is well ahead of schedule. We still have two more work days on Saturday and next Monday and at this point we have completed all but a small fraction of the wooden ceiling grids for the 11 suites and hallways still needing ceilings. Thanks to the exception pace being set by the painters including Jillian, Mike and Lindsey, all the bare walls in the building are now painted (3 coats) and many of the ceiling panels are painted and ready for installation. By this evening several rooms have ceiling panels installed.

I cannot say enough how much we all appreciate the work of Connie, Jean, Kendra and Eva in preparing all our meals and keeping up with the mounds of laundry that accumulate every day. With everyone still feeling a bit jet lagged and most of us still having a little trouble sleeping during the appropriate hours, I think we all are looking forward to a day of rest Sunday when we will visit a local church in the morning and tour and shop in the afternoon.

The Sidles are taking great care of us and are a wonderful family to work with. Gary Sidle returned from an international conference Friday. So we were in the privileged position of welcoming one of our missionaries back to Zambia. We look forward to visiting with Gary during the second week of our trip.

Please enjoy a few more pictures from Zambia and on personal notes, Jean Taylor and Eve Vega both wish to tell their friends and families “Hi from Zambia”.