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”.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sparks and Nail Heads Flying in Zambia

Tuesday March 25 was another beautiful day in Zambia. We have a set routine already: breakfast at 6am, devotions at 6:30 and on the bus to the work site at 6:45, with the lunch prepared and packed in a cooler by Connie, Jean, Kendra and Eva. Today we stopped at a few construction hardware stores and picked up a couple new aluminum ladders and other supplies to make work safer and more efficient. This detour gave us the chance to travel through a socioeconomically very different part of Lusaka on the way out of town. For a few of our team members this was their first look at how most of people in Africa live. It was a sobering reminder of why we were here and why this project matters.

We are helping build the Africa Central Region Conference Center. When completed, people from all over the heart of Africa will come here for training, education, camps etc. This facility will belong to the Church of the Nazarene in Africa, but it will be available for booking by other groups and organizations all year round. The large dormitory building we are helping to finish is the first phase of the project. Once these facilities are finished W&W teams will be able to stay right on the site to continue building the conference center without the 1 hour commute (longer in rush hour) both ways to work every day.

We are getting to know our boss Clement and his number two man Pherie (spelling) better as we go. They and the other Zambian workers and the pastor of the church on the property are a joy to work with. At lunch time we all gather under the mango trees to eat lunch and visit. We had a very special moment Tuesday as we asked the Zambian pastor (90 years old) to bless our lunch. While I could not begin to understand his language or any words in his prayer, in my spirit I knew it was a powerful prayer and he was asking God to help and bless all of us working on the project.

Jillian and Mike are painting rooms ahead of the rest of us who are installing ceilings. They have the privilege of painting every plastered surface three times, to properly prepare and then finish coating the walls. Juan is in the central hallway as the saw man, as two teams of installers yell measurements at him, sometimes at the same time. Juan cuts the 2x2 ceiling grid lumber to our specs and then the rest of us up on scaffolds and ladders install the grid work that soon will hold up 4x8 foot ceiling panels. The biggest challenge so far has been driving the masonry nails into the plaster and block walls all the way around every room. These anchor points are critical for supporting the ceiling, but they are a challenge. We literally have sparks flying and sometimes nail heads ricocheting around the room and occasionally off of one of us. Thanks to glasses and hats, we only had a few scratches to show from the ballistic nail heads Monday. On Tuesday, with the addition of some masonry pre-drilling sparks and flying metal was almost eliminated.

We are well ahead of Clement’s schedule already having installed ceiling grids in 5 large dorm rooms and their adjoining bathrooms. When we left work on Tuesday the hallway grid work for this segment of the building was about 80% complete. At this point we have already done about twice as much work as Clement expected from us, and he is doing an excellent job getting lumber and supplies to stay ahead of our brisk work pace. It is great having everyone working in the same general area. We all have our jobs to do but we get to interact with each other and the Zambian workers frequently throughout the day. Between the fun work atmosphere and being 6 times zones from home, most of us are surprised when we here “lunch time” or “time to go home”. We are all very tired at the end of the day, but tired like a bunch of school kids after a day at the amusement park, ready to go back and hit it again the next day.

We had another excellent dinner today with meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, jello salad, pasta salad, and amazing cherry pie for dessert. It is so nice to come back from an 11-12 hour day to some seriously good comfort food for dinner and great company to interact with in the evening, before heading off to bed to rest up for another day of rewarding working and witnessing what God is doing here in central Africa.

Must have coffee!

On the road to work.

Lunch break under the mango trees

Clement is the man in the middle (Tim's right) He is our boss.

Our fancy lunch table

The exterior of the dorm building we are helping to finish

On the bus waiting for a store to open 

Mike get at least most of the paint on the walls please.

Jillian showing us how it's done

The central hallway where we all get our 2x2s cut by Juan.

Hall way ceiling grid just beginning

A room ceiling grid almost done. I'll show completed grids later.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Safe and Sound in Zambia!

Saturday March 22, we arrived at Mount Vernon First Church at 1:30 AM. We loaded up our luggage and supplies. After a brief team meeting Jim Gaston and Rob Elwood drove us in church vans to the airport in Columbus.

We flew from Columbus to Washington Dulles arriving about 7 AM. We made our way through the usual international lines and processes to proceed to our Ethiopian Airlines gate where they weighed our carry on bags to make sure they were under the 15 pound limit. Then we boarded our Boeing 787 and settled in for the 12 hour flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

On Sunday morning March 23 we arrived in a beautifully sunny and cool (70’s) Addis Ababa where we changed planes (another 787) for our final 5 hour flight to Lusaka International Airport. We arrived safe and sound in Lusaka at about 2pm (8am in Ohio). After gathering our luggage we met up with Penney, Lindsey, and Alyssa Sidle, our host missionary family. They took us to their house for our orientation then we went to the Baptist Guest House where we settled into our home base for most of the next two weeks.
The Sidles took us to dinner at a American Indian themed restaurant at the Manda Hill Mall, a location that looks like it could be in any city in the US.

Today, Monday March 24 after breakfast and devotions, about 7 AM nine of us on the team headed for the work site and 4 ladies stayed back to work at the home base on shopping and cooking for the team. The trip to the work site takes about 40 minutes and involves driving through the heart of the central business district of Lusaka. But about half way into the drive we reach the suburbs and then the country side to arrive at the job site. I’ll have to give more detail on the project later, but for now I have time to say we are installing ceilings and painting in rooms in the District Center that will serve as a meeting place for people from Zambia and surrounding countries. The facility is will be designed for the Church of the Nazarene to use, but it will also host groups from various organizations throughout the year.

After work Clement, our boss took us shopping for work supplies at a “Lowes” type store and “Game” a higher end version of a Wal-Mart, that is now owned by Wal-Mart. We got home about 7:30 for a late supper. While the ladies had to keep it warm for our late arrival, dinner was great. After working hard all day, the spaghetti dinner with dessert really hit the spot.

Everyone is jet lagged but fine. Jillian is doing her homework after getting most of the paint off from her day at work. Rook is being played by the usual suspects and a few of us are on the Internet at the Sidles. I will try to load pictures in the next couple of days when the connect is a little more stable.

Saturday 2AM team prayer before we depart from MV First Church

Waaaaaaaaay early to the airport so we were certainly first in line to check our tubs through to Zambia.

Some crazy Americans I had to spend about 20 hours of flight time with Saturday and Sunday

Shameless selfie in front of a 787 before boarding in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Safe and sound on the ground in Lusaka. Thank you Ethiopian Air!

Some scary looking mzungus  from Ohio beginning their Zambian adventure.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Zambia Trip Planning by the Numbers

A number of numbers are rattling through my brain today as I think about the upcoming trip. The first and most important number is 13. Thirteen people from Mount Vernon First and other churches on the district make up this W&W team to Zambia. The team members are Tim and Connie Sharrock, Ken and Kendra McKenzie, Juan and Eva Vega, Dave Secrest, Jillian Secrest, Jean Taylor, George Gribben, Don Beecher, Mike Norris, and Kevin Hughes.

We have 12 days left to prepare for the trip. I know Connie Sharrock has been making the final travel plans including things like gathering up food donations at church and getting our entry visas from the Zambian embassy. Individually we all have checklists of things to do and things to pack in the next dozen days. Most importantly, by now everyone should already have or be about ready to get their Yellow Fever shots and Malaria pills.

50 pounds is the maximum each of us can pack on our 1 check bag. That is always a challenge, especially when the packing list includes tools. To complicate matters, Ethiopian Air only allows 15 pounds in a carry-on. So the usual strategy of putting the heavy items in the carry-on to get around the 50 pound limit won't work. Fortunately Ethiopian Air allows a personal or computer bag that doesn't get weighed beyond the 15 pound carry-on. So your's truly will have a heavier than usual computer bag on this trip.

777 is another number I'm thinking about right now. Fortunately we had the pleasure of flying an Ethiopian Air Boeing 777 a few years ago on our trip to Mozambique. At first it was a little scary thinking about flying a plane hailing from Ethiopia, but we were pleasantly surprised. This is a young fleet of comfortable and well equipped planes with individual TV/computers in each seat. This is important since we will spend 14 hours of our 20 plus hours of flight time on a 777.

When I think I might not be able to handle this extensive amount of time confined to a flying tube, one more set of numbers give me the resolve to keep packing. Those numbers are 80 and 60. Those are the forecast average high and low temperatures for our 2 weeks in Zambia.