Friday, August 10, 2012
Well, I think it is Friday morning in Enumclaw - at least the sun arose in the east about 2 hours after I woke up in my own bed. But after leaving Johannesburg on Wednesday evening (South Africa time) and spending the next 25+ hours traveling home, the itinerary that I found as I unpacked my backpack said that we arrived in SeaTac Airport on Thursday, Aug. 9 at 1:20. So, I guess that has to be correct. But after traveling in 5 countries, and trying to keep track of all the time zones, it is all a little foggy in my mind. This, my final blog reflection on our group's mission trip to Zambia and South Africa, is the most difficult one to write. Being as tired as we are, I find myself being very emotional as I reflect back on some of the people we met, the miracles we witnessed, the blessings we received, and the marvelous mystery and beauty of Africa and its people. Where do I begin to convey not just words but underlying visceral and spiritual impressions of it all. One of the reflections we spoke about as we debriefed our trip at the home of John and Heather Witherow before leaving Johannesburg was that no matter how deeply affecting our trip was in our own lives, it would be impossible to make it come alive in the retelling. Already this morning, I saw people at the bank and at Starbucks who asked me about the trip. However, I knew they didn't have the time - or for that matter - the interest in hearing all about it. It would simply take too long and words would not do it justice. In spite of that disclaimer, the life of the Christian is always one of bearing witness in word and in deed. So I will do my best to provide a siumple summary of the sights, sounds, events, and feelings of the trip from my own experience. (Other members of the team likely would provide a different outlook; a unique perspective but I will let them tell that part of the story). The city of Dubai, with its opressive heat, glistening, extravagant hotels and skyscrapers and bustling nightlife during Ramadan. The large "Welcome to Zambia" signs that greeted us as we disembarked the plane, down the steps onto the tarmac of the Lusaka Airport. The strange, cringing sensation of watching cars coming at our bus/van on the wrong side of the road as we twisted and turned through the winding bumpy streets of Lusaka and Kabanana The joyful reunions with people with whom we have forged deep and lasting bonds of love - Goerge, Joy, Pastor John and his wife Thenny (and their children) Abel, Paul Bwalya, Naomi, Falidah, Rachel and Cappio and so many others The spontaneous, joyful, rythmic singing that erupts everywhere around - whether in church, or on a dusty field in front of the school The steady stream of people queued up to recieve water from the pump we had helped install; and the stream of people coming with sick children knwoing that we had with us a medical expert and medicines to treat various kinds of sickness and injury. The divine appointments we had prayed for becoming realities: Mwanhsa - the owner of the hotel where we stayed and an employee of the US Embassy being the answer to our prayers of providing benches for the school and scholarships for the students. Leymans and Angela - the sister and brother in law of Albert Mhlanga who came to the school to see what we were doing and promising to provide help in completing the classroom and toilet facilities we had begun; Naomi returning to the home and deaf school from where she had unexxplainedly disappeared; Falidah, the young woman who some of our team have been sponsoring in her school work; and so many others, too numerous to mention. Worshiping in Redemption Ministries Church in Zambia and preaching there to an amazingly gracious, welcoming and spirit-filled congregation pastored by John Mpanga; who along with his wife Thenny have given so much on behalf of orphans in their community - not only directing Healing Place School but also caring for 9 orphans in their own home. Working alongside church and community members to begin construction on a new sanitary toilet facility for the school as well as a new two room classroom building for the school. The smiles, hugs, receptiveness of the 323 some children; caring physically for them,teaching them about sanitation, and health education, physically caring for them and simply reminding them they are not alone in the world - there are those who truly care for them. The beauty, majesty, and amazing display of life at Victoria Falls and Chobe Game Reserve. The beautiful handcrafted art found at every market; The first of its kind in the area Pastors Leadership Training Conference that I was privileged to co-teach with Karl Teichert from OC Africa. Over 50 pastors from as far as 360 kilometers to attend. The press of people and the frantic concern of making our flight from Livingstone to Johannesburg; Not only preaching in United Reforming Church of Ennerdale (an amazing congregation serving missionally in the community near the Finetown Settelement) but being privileged to baptize 7 children alongside of Pastor "Wessie" Wessels. After church being hosted in the homes of church members. Feeding soup to children in Finetown at Mama Florina's house in Finetown, South Africa and knowing that this might be the only meal these children will have had for over two to three days. Watching it snow and feeling the biting wind course through my light jacket as I walked alongside Jabulile and Sylvia - two dedicated home care providers - and Pastor Vessie as to visit the homes of the sick and dying in Finetown. We visited a woman with HIV/Aids, a man with TB, a woman with diabetes, another young mother of two who is bedridden with the HIV/AIDS disease that is so prevalent throughout Africa but particularly there in South Africa; Sharing time with our friends and Mission Partners - Karl and Jenny Teichert and John and Heater Witherow(and their families of course. The sense of deep sadness as we toured the Apartheid Museum and read the accounts of how unjust and oppressive human beings can truly be to each other. The 25 hour trip home - ugh! The amazing team God assembled for this trip. Though incredibly different in so many ways, united by a sense of common faith, purpose and love; though most were sick at one time or another, the sacrificial efforts they put in to dig foundation trehches, mix concrete, meet new people, cram on a bus, endure the dusty bumpy roads; though tired extremely patient and forbearing with each other; though each having their own desires, being flexible enough to go with the flow and trust the Lord each step of the way The memories of how God worked throughout. My messages in both churches where I preached were based on the idea that believers are all living stones who the Lord is using to build up his church. Christ is the cornerstone as well as the mortar that holds each stone together. But in His grace and wisdom, he uses each different, unique, living stone to touch the world with love and mercy. We felt blessed to be a part of that reality in profound ways that transformed us and we hope blessed others. The amazing sense of support in prayer we felt from all our family, friends, church members back home who emailed us, Facebooked us, Skyped us, read our posts, viewed our pictures and most all prayed for us. You were all part of the team. Thank You, thank you, thank you. THere will be team reports at Calvary and at Rotary, and if you think you can endure, pictures galore. Just ask. Now for a short nap.........
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Hard to believe it but after 2 weeks and two days,; 3 countries, God only knows how many cold showers, and bottles of hnd Sanitizer; nearly as many "English Breakfasts;" worship at two very different yet African churches; 7 baptisms; 3 preschools; two community based schools; a women's sewing co-op; lots of Starbucks VIA coffee packs; 7 people down with colds; hot dusty, sweaty work mixing concrete; meeting an African community's chief; a Pastor Leadership Conference; and so much, much more, we are finally ready to board a plane and head home. After a good nights sleep (Judy and I got to spend the night with the Teicherts in their lovely home), we will meet at the Witherows for brunch and debriefing. Then its off to the Apartheid Museum for the afternoon and finally on to an Emirates Air flight that will carry us to Dubais and then on to Seattle Washington. In case you hadn't heard, it snowed yesterday in Johannesburg - a very rare event. There wasn't enough to cover the ground but the roofs of the simple houses in Finetown and Soweto were white. And we had the awesome, humbling privilege of walking with the home based health care givers in Finetown. The finely falling and blowing snow chilled our bones but our hearts were strangely warmed by the tender care these men and women give to the sick and suffering in the dirt lined streets of FInetown. I walked with Pastor Vessie, Jabulilu and Sylvia. We visited 5 homes - seeing illnesses ranging from HIV'AIDs infections, to TB, to heart disease to Diabetes. One of our team members had the sobering experience of knocking on one patients door only to be told by neighbors that the gentleman had died in the night. This is not an uncommon occurance that these selfless men and women encunter each day as they mnister in Christ' s name. I am not sure I could ever adjust and accept this on a daily basis and retain my sanity or my spiritual health. An expression we have often heard is TIA - This is Africa. And the realities of of uncared for orphans, poverty, illness, death, poverty, exploitation, corrupt and inefficient governments are every bit as much of the landscape of Southern Africa as are the wild game, adventurous safaris, charming rural villages, and mysterious history of the continent. I am not sure how our team will ever be able to process and syncretize the feelings, memories, experience and people that have been a part of the trip. Add to that the wondrous variety of fun, uninteresting, and tasty markets, restaurants, and sights and it adds up to something that is nearly impossible to grasp.. Don't ask us about our experience unless you really have some time and patience to listen, view slides and maybe even allow us to weep with fond and tender memories. Again we thank you for standing with us in this incredible endeavor. We are anxious to see you all - family and friends alike. Sawubona
Monday, August 6, 2012
Lusaka and Johannesburg - two large cities in Africa; a world apart. Each of then populated by over 4 million people - a mixture of European, Asian, Black African, and mixed races. Two cities with distinct class differences ranging from the extremely poor to the upper and middle classes. In each case white westerners live much more comfortable lives than their African counterparts.. One city - Johannesburg bustling with a very modern, western feel. Lusaka on the other hand lacking government services and infrastructure. The common things with each city are the rampant prevalence of HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty, thousands of orphans, hungry people, and homeless. South Africa seems to us to be well ahead of Zambia. But it would be unfair to compare or quantify the level of need - it is beyond comprehension in both places. And throughout our mission trip we have discovered selfless people, dedicated to serving the poor, helpless and vulnerable in both places. We are overwhelmed by people like the, Witherows, Pastor Vessie and the people of the Ennerdale URC church. What impresses us more though are the people like Mama Florina and the dedicated cadre of caregivers that go out each morning to care for the sick and dying. It is the dedicated pre-school teachers in Finetown and the teachers of Healing Place in Lusaka. We are moved by the tireles desire of pastors and church leaders who are willing = no, compelled - to breath the very air of the people who live in their communities. That is to say, they desire to be the hands and feet of Christ proclaiming the Gospel in word and in deed to the people in need in their own communities/ Right now - two days away from heading back to our own homes and beds - we are on emotional and spiritual overload; trying to make sense of what we have experienced. Today's highlights were celebrating with the pre-school teachers of Finetown as they received their certificates of training and then serving those teachers lunch. We cried as Lovie and Ida hugged their friend Cherie who has walked with them in their caring for the sick. We prayed, asking God to set apart Mama Florina as she attempts to feed up to sixty children two times a week, send the caregivers out each day, and take care of 11 orphans in her own home, which even though larger, nicer and better equipped than others in Finetown or Kabanana, is still modest and challenging considering all she does. We served a simple, nutritious soup to about 20 children - a meal that may be their only meal for the day or even two days. We can't begin to thank you enough for the prayerful support that you are continuing to offer up on our behalf. Continue to pray that we would be vessels through which Christ's love can flow. We return home Thursday but a part our soul will always remain in Africa. We are grateful. We are blessed. We are humbled. Two cities - an overwhelming amount of human need.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
From the city of Livingstone to Johannesburg and the township of Ennerdale in South Africa. Even though it was rather traumatic affair trying to make the British Air flight to OR Tambo Intn'l Airport, we arrived safely, greeted by our mission partners John Witherow and Karl and Jenny Teichert. All our luggage arrived safely, we loaded it in a small covered trailer and headed for a beautiful garden surrounded lodge called Ferndale Lodge in the Randburg suburb. We are safely ensconsed in cozy, cabin like cottages that surround a beautiful swimming pool. (It's winter here so there won't be any swimming). Once we settled in to our rooms we hopped back in the rented van with John at the wheel and headed to the Witherow's for a meal of good old "take away" pizza and a helpful orientation on what we will expect while here. Most helpful...and just a little unnerving as we realized we would soon be plunged into a new culture, a new set of needs and new challenges. Sunday morning dawned under another glorious sunlit African morning. Ferndale Lodge serves the traditional "english breakfst" but this one was more extensive and more beautifully laid out than any we had experienced in Lusaka,. We discovered the woman who cooked it preferred to be called "nono" but it was yes, yes as far as the food was concerned. Sunday morning we worshiped with the some 800 members of the Uniting Reformed Church of Ennerdale. We decided this church was as close to Presbyterian as we might have ever imagined. Yet it also had a distinctive African flair. Once again we were honored to be seated in the front rows. Judy prayed, Cindy and Swampy were honored to participate in a foot washing ceremony. I preached and performed 6 infant baptisms. Cherie, Cate, Cindy and Judy all spoke fervantly about the people and the work God did in Lusaka to help illustrate the sermon point that we are all "living stones" in the church God is building throughout the world. The real highlight for most was to go to the homes of different church members where we were hosted at dinner. Ennerdale Township is considered a "colored" area. We felt that term to be derogatory as it would be in our country. Here, it is not. It is a carryover from the days of apartheid when different racial groups were divided into three castes or stratas of society: white (having roots going back to Dutch settlement and colonization); colored - the term referring to those who are mixed race and Indian; and non-white meaning the black Africans. Although Apartheid has ended, these groupings remain segregated in their communities. Our hosts - Jason and Kathy are a mixed race couple who have at least some Indian blood. We had a warm, wonderful time with an extended family. Our time at church and in people's homes was a moving, emotional experience. Once again we were reminded that our small corner of the world is so narrow. We were once again beautifully reminded that God is the Father of us all; Jesus is Lord over his church worldwide; and the Spirit is as work in vast, diverse, powerful ways outside our own experience. How easily we forget that in the comfort and daily lives we live in the States. After dinner, we re-grouped, put on warmer clothes and headed out to Rosebank Mall to see and shop at the African Market there. Dinner at Nandos - a South African chicken franchise specializing in peri-peri sauce (extra spicy to my liking), then back to our lodge for a night of rest, some Olympics viewing and a chance to reflect ont the day. Some members of our team continue to struggle with respiratory ailment. John Witherow has supplied us with plenty of cough drops syrups, kleenex, and the like so the infirm are hanging in there but sadly, probably not fully enjoying the experience as the rest of us are. Monday morning we will attend a celebration service honoring the Pre-school teachers of Finetown - a project that Heather Witherow and Jenny Teichert organize and lead in the settlement of Finetown - an informal, sprawling place dominated by ramshackle tin houses, great poverty, HIV/AIDs and wonderful people. In the afternoon we will walk the streets and meet Mama Fliorina who runs an orphan care center. Our minds and hearts continue to be expanded and stretched this trip. Processing it all is tough and besides the jet lag we will no doubt experience upon our arrival, we will need to respond hours - perhaps days reflecting, remembering and giving thanks. All of you, no doubt will be asked to endure our stories, pictures, and raw, deep-seated emotion. Pastor Vessie had me introduced before my sermon with these words. "Pastor Fred retired at the beginning of July, One of the famous farewell speeches he used was from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure: Be excellent to each other and party on in the Lord (He chose not to use party on dudes)." I close this entry with those words, Be excellent to each other and do celebrate all that the Lord is doing. As Tony Campolo says "The Kingdom of God is a Party," Join us in celebrating all the Lord is doing. In His Amazing Grace Fred
Saturday, August 4, 2012
I know it seems impossible for a preacher to be speechless but the past 10 days have left us all in that condition: some because of scratchy, sore throats and coughs; others because the things we have seen and experienced have left us not knowing what really to say. The intense poverty and need in Lusaka has been transposed with plush, luxurious accomodations at the Zambezi Sun Resort near Victoria Falls. The press of people, the squalor and the ubiquitous dust of Kabanana have become the majesty and beauty of the African Plain and the amazing variety of living things in the Chobe Game reserve. The simple meals of nsima, boiled cabbage and the occasional piece of chicken have been replaced by exquisite, culinary delights too numerous to mention. And the commitment to serving others, particularly vulnerable orphans and widows, seems remotely foreign from the current surroundings where we have been waited on hand and foot by men and women who no doubt have come to Livingstone to work and escape the very conditions we witnessed while in the neighborhoods of Kabanana. We will spend a long time trying to process the juxtaposition of these contrasts. We are grateful for all of the experiences we have had. It's just hard to put what is in our hearts into words. So I will end this post here and send more from South Africa which will be our home away from home for the next four nights before the long plane trip back to Seattle. Wishing you "mouka muili buengi" - Good day - and all of God's marvelous Grace. As they say in the Bemba dialect - lesa muzuma; eyonce. GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME. ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD.
Friday, August 3, 2012
Thursday, August 2, 2012
imagine -leaving your small village on the outskirts of Lusaka and the small simple house you live in and seven hours later arriving at a posh tourist destination in Victoria Falls. Imagine - for years having as your sole food staple a dish called nsima (shee-ma)perhaps once a day, and then being confronted with any and every imaginable rich, extravagant and western food imaingable. Imagine - making a transition from sleeping on a thin mattress on a concrete floor to the luxurious comfort of a fluffy hotel bed. Imagine - after years of serving others selflessly, having someone - perhaps a tribal cousin - waiting on you hand and foot; carrying your bags, serving you food and coffee, asking you if all your accomodations are satisfactory.' Imagine - not having left the city of Lusaka for years and finding yourself all of a sudden transplanted right next to one of the most spectacular wonders of the world - Victoria Falls. Imagine - having lived in Southern Africa all your life and having never seen a giraffe or zebra only to have them peacefully wandering by right outside your hotel window. Such are the experiences of John and Thenny Mpanga. As a way of honoring them for all they have done for the vulnerable orphans in Kabanana, we have invited them as our guests to experience the thrills and comfort of the Zambezi Sun Restort - right next to the falls. Tomorrow they go with us on a game drive in Chobe National Park and will see elephants, warthogs, impalas, crocodiles, perhaps a lion and many other native species of their homeland - all of which they have never seen. I wish I could read minds because I know that this has been a day filled with unusual and overwhelming experiences. Their reactions to all this might very well be similar to the reactions that I - a middle class American - had the first time I set foot on the ground at the Lusaka International Airport. Foreigners in a strange land and culture. I am hoping that they will receive this gift as a gift; an honor to them. They are amazing people. I am blessed to know them. I am blessed to have them share this amazing experience with me as I was to have stood shoulder to shoulder with Pastor John digging foundation trenches for an addition to the school and sitting next to him in his church at a Sunday morning service and at the Pastor Training Conference. I know Judy feels the same way as she has shared in the classroom with Thenny - who also has an education in teaching and does an amazing job with very little resource. It is we who have been blessed and honored all week. Now it is their turn. I wonder what they are imagining as they experience all this.