Sunday, February 24, 2008

Getting Ready

Tomorrow our first group of guests, a work team from Mercy Air, arrives. The next group, nursing students from the University of Saskatchewan (Canada), arrive on Thursday. So this past week was a time of taking camping supplies out of peaceful storage and getting it ready for use again. Here's Raimundo getting dishes cleaned up and items counted.

Everything had to be counted to make sure everyone has cutlery, dishes, and a bed. That was where we came up a little short, but we’ve been short on beds for quite some time. We manage to provide them for some, but for larger groups, most members have had to be willing to sleep on sponge mattresses on tent floors. Our aim is to be able to one day offer 5 star camping accommodations to everyone. This is how stars (*= star)are assigned:
*Kitchen with stove/fridge/electric light
*Bathrooms with sink and flush toilets AND hot showers
*Large tents
*Covered dining area

(Brief divergence here: I’m thankful to say that even upon our arrival to this neck of the woods 12 years ago, at least I had 2 star accommodation: a large tent and a bed. Our bathroom facilities were very “bush”. The toilet was a latrine with black garbage bags for walls (oh yes, very private indeed). Our shower was simply a blue tarp strung between 2 trees to stand behind and you sprinkled yourself with a camp shower: a plastic bag (with a nozzle) you’d hang from a tree. One side of you was shielded from human eyes but the other side was in full view of the bush beasts. The kitchen was an oddly shaped tarp tied onto trees to shelter a table, a 2 burner camp stove and a book case (used to hold dishes). There was no fridge. Yes, it’s an interesting way to live for an indeterminate amount of time. I don’t miss it at all!

Back to what I was saying though. Over the past few years we’ve been able to upgrade our campsite to offer 3 star accommodations (the first 3 above). Now, we’re making a concerted effort toward providing the 4th star...beds. Due to USASK’s fund raising efforts, we’ve been able to pick up some sturdy camp cots. But just recently our woodworking shop has become better equipped and we’re pleased that we’ve been able to produce a few beds of our own! It’s easy. First you go cut down a tree. Next you cut it into slabs. Then you cut it up some more J (obviously this is not my area of expertise). I do know there’s a lot of precise work involved. This is a picture of Dwight and Gabriel (one of our woodworkers) doing final measurements on this bed before it gets assembled.
If you’re squeamish about insects or reptiles, it would be good to ignore the last paragraph of most of my blog posts. Personally, I am not a fan of either, but I can’t help but photograph the more impressive ones we come across.’s the latest. I didn’t know scorpions got this huge, and Dwight and I were both quite alarmed with the discovery of this one. Firstly, we were concerned that he was inside our house and we didn’t even see him come in. Secondly, he’s very big! Dwight just so happened so have some dental floss nearby and “lasso-ed” him. I wasn’t there to see the spectacle since I was in the bedroom working on my English assignment. Before we got rid of him we inspected the dark place he’d emerged from to make sure he didn’t have a wife and kids :). Nope. Phew. You never know.
Anyway, I’ll sign off for this time with the promise to keep you posted on all the teams’ activities over the next few weeks. TTYL.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

VIP Visit

Last week was an important one for us as we hosted a visit from the provincial governor. The original plan had been for him (and his supposed entourage of 20-30 people) to share a noon meal here with us. A week or so later, the meal plan was changed to just sandwiches. Apparently he was on a tight schedule. After we had purchased cold meats, cheese, etc for the sandwiches, we were told there would be no time for that either. Just time to meet, take a quick tour, then out again. Also, the day of the visit was changing from Thursday to Friday.

The first four days of last week ushered in a fairly steady stream of officials from district commander to police to government security personnel to a delegation from the ruling party...all to help plan the exact route the governor's walking tour would take while on the farm. When Friday finally rolled around we were as ready as we felt we could be. We had his gifts lined up and at least coke and cookies to serve as ‘quick’ refreshment.

A vehicle with event planners/security people was among the first to arrive. They made sure everything was in order including us standing at the side of the entry road to form the appropriate greeting line. We weren’t sure how long we may stand there waiting so we did our best to shuffle into the shadiest spot while still maintaining the position/stance the security folk thought was best.
Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long before the vehicles started roaring up the road, among them were more security, police, militia complete with camouflage outfits, news reporters, TV cameras, and heads of just about every government department between here and the border! There were at least 10 vehicles with+/- 70 people in all. The governor was the first to come shake our hands, then other heads of departments came after him. We gave the governor a quick introduction to the mission, its vision and work while cameras snapped photos and microphones were thrust in faces. Dwight then presented him with a Study Bible for which he was very thankful. He commented that he also was a religious man affirmed that he would make good use of the gift, then expressed his appreciation for it. He was interested in all the mission’s activities, especially the orphan program and he shared good words of encouragement with us.
Before he went on the tour of the mission, the much-rehearsed route pattern was quickly changed. So rather than see the mission structures first, they saw them last. When they happened by our house that is currently under construction, the governor said, “When you are ready to inaugurate your home, I would be very happy to join you for the event.” So—I’d better get planning NOW. This will certainly be a grand affair :)

Upcoming visits:
-We are anticipating the arrival of a team of six student nurses from the University of Saskatchewan later this month. They will be involved in a number of prevention and intervention health activities with our health posts, schools, women’s ministry and local community groups. You can check their blogspot at: (

-Mercy Air is bringing a work team up this month as well to help complete work on one of the guest cottages and to transport the Saskatchewan team from Beira to Chimoio. This will be a very busy, productive time indeed!

With that I’ll close, but no without leaving you with another picture of other oh-so-famous visitors who just move in wherever they want. At the rate they come and go, it’s a good thing there’s no pomp involved here!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More orphans, another school, oh yes, and more spiders!

Last week was one of those where one critical activity followed the other in such rapid succession that I personally felt a bit like a puppet on a string, first pulled this way, then that.

One of last week’s priorities was to follow up on new applications made for assistance from the orphan program. First, we gather basic information from the applicant (usually a grandmother caring for orphaned grandkids). Next, we pay a visit to their home to assess their current situation. (2 very camera shy brothers)

Most of the needs a quite dire! Then, in a meeting with mission staff, we decide if the new applicant qualifies for assistance. And finally, we make our first visit to the home to deliver the much needed food, clothes and sundry supplies. Most of these people are shy in front of the camera, but their hearts are very grateful for the help! This week we added 2 new orphan families to the orphan program.
Another current mission priority has become the restoration of this old school which borders our property. This is a joint mission/community undertaking and the space it provides will be in high demand! Its main purpose will be to provide classroom space for a mission-run preschool, to accommodate the huge overflow of students from the nearby school, for women’s ministry activities and, I’m sure you can imagine, a hundred and one other uses! “It looks like it’s been through the war”...because it has been! These dots in the walls are from bullet shots fired at it during the civil war. But even with all the abuse it endured, the basic structure it pretty sound. Though construction on our house has taken a back seat lately, mostly due to weather, we are making some progress on it as well. (Note the grass growing inside the foundation walls :)) Our hopeful ‘date of completion’ is July sometime so Rick and Heather have a place to stay when they come (besides a tent). I’m sure they’re praying to that end too, and that may well be what speeds the process along!

And last but not least, the spider part. Spiders seem to be reproducing prolifically right now, much to my dismay. And their favourite spot to spin huge webs seems to be everywhere I need to be, like right across the paths we regularly use. There’s just about no worse feeling than walking merrily along minding your own business and suddenly you’re snagged by an invisible net of sticky spider webbing across your face, head and arms! I've learned some impressive 'rapid-back-up-while-in-motion' steps complete with sweeping-arm manoeuvres to decrease the chances that the web's resident spider is crawling down my neck. Aaaaaahhhhhhh! I’m happy to say, that hasn’t happened to me yet.

*Note to upcoming visitors: These aren’t on every leaf...relax :) Really.
**2nd note to visitors: We don't see THAT many spiders this size, which is why there's a picture of this guy. I'm sure you feel better already.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

School’s Back In!

And what an exciting day it always is! Not all the kids could make it to this year’s school opening day (our school year starts in February), since the river’s water level was very high and it was simply too dangerous to cross. Hopefully the rain will begin to diminish this month and the water levels will fall and kids can make it across the river again to start school. In the meantime though, those who can come had a great day as everyone first sat through the formalities, then had photos taken.

Hmm, although her friend had the hang of what to do on photo-day, this little one on the left wasn't too sure about it all!

She looks a little more amused here (can you tell?), but we failed to coax a smile onto this cute little face! Maybe next year.
After photos were taken, new ID cards with last year’s photos were distributed. This is definitely the most fun part of the day. We all love to see pictures of ourselves and these kids are no different, especially since these are about the ONLY photos they’ll ever own of themselves. To see the responses to these ID cards is always a highlight for me. After the initial hand-out rush, the cards are studied closely with amused smiles and little comments to themselves and each other. Then kids congregate into small groups to look at each other’s photos. If per chance in the photo someone wore a funny smirk or expression, there is an outbreak of hilarious whooping and laughter. This goes on for quite some time since photos are SUCH a novelty. It truly is the best entertainment for at least a week, likely more. I can’t help but get warm feelings inside when I think of the difference the participation of many people has made in these young people’s lives! Each smile is priceless.

We also visited the kids who have now ‘graduated’ to grade 6 and are boarding at Chitundo school. Last year there were 10, now there are 22. So the Mucombeze bush presence is becoming one to reckon with! The icing on the cake is that 3 of the 22 are girls, and 1 is a new boy who struggles with a real physical challenge. He was caught inside a burning hut as a toddler and has extensive contractures of his arms now. He has a heart of gold though, and who knows, maybe he will even have corrective surgery one day! Oh, small item of interest to a select few bugs!

This week was a busy one rife with challenges. Yesterday while I was having some ‘fun’ of my own, Dwight was nearly involved in a head-on collision. Yesterday on our highway as he came up over a blind rise he was practically nose-to-nose with a vehicle passing a semi on double solid lines. The vehicle that was passing was so far into his lane (nearly on the shoulder on his side of the road) that he hit had to hit the brakes veer hard toward the ditch. Dwight said his life flashed before him in that instant. (Bear in mind that we drive on the left side of the road here.)

Thankfully he missed the last of a row of these cement erosion steps in the ditch, so slid to a stop on fairly flat ground. Had his tires hit this cement step, or had any pedestrians been in the way, things may have turned out much differently. We’re thankful that the Lord neither slumbers nor sleeps!

Until next time...