Sunday, July 31, 2011

See, listen, learn.

Sunset, Nyanga Mountain Range Foothills (Moz side)
July 30, 2011.

A friend and I were passing bit of time yesterday late afternoon while waiting for the intensive seminar's grad ceremony to start. Turns out we were in the right spot at the right time to see a perfect sunset...except for the tall grass.

I've photographed sunsets here many times over the years. Usually the fields are clear so there's a clean shot of the sun. Not this year though. This summer the fields weren't plowed, and this winter the brush fires haven't swept through yet. So the grass stands tall, proud, and imposing. Rather in the way, depending on how you look at it.

Intensive Seminar week is always just that: intense! With about 50 monitors here there was quite the hum of activity. In the past, I've had more of a support role during these times. I'd make the odd health presentation and help with logistics, when needed. But now that the health course has been fully developed, I teach that.

So this week it was up and out of the house and in the car early to head to where the seminar was being held. One morning, we had to stop along the way to buy bread at the Pina Community Bakery. It was early, and cold!

Cute little Pina onlookers

Pina Community Bakery

Joao and Matthew with one of the bags full of hot buns.
I bet the monitors were anxious for those buns.

By the looks of it, Dwight was too :)

Our vehicle was pretty full, so 4 of the guys had to crawl in the back, two of them in their suits! And still they smile...such good sports.

General session with the monitors. They study the course material at home then attend the seminar to complete the classroom component and write their exam. When these men finish their courses this week they will return home and present the course to other pastors. These 50 monitors represent, and will return home to teach, about 1000 pastors.

Here Bero carries the hot bread rolls to the kitchen. He's a sponsored student in secondary school but doing winter-break volunteer work during the intensive seminar.

Some of the other older sponsored boys, lik Mateus, help in the kitchen and haul water.

The school cook, Pastor Tome.
Kids are off school right now on winter break, so this gives us the opportunity to use the school and school kitchen for the seminar.

Bero chopping firewood. Food is cooked in huge pots on an open fire.

Kitchen and tents.

There aren't enough classrooms to house all the separate sessions, so some are conducted outside under trees.

Boy do we ever need our training center!

Some are held inside where there's cute artwork on the walls.

Leila Frank held a session with the monitors to do some brain-storming
for topics for a future pastoral counseling course.

I got to use the preschool corner for teaching the health course.

Celestino took 2 of the sessions: hygiene and sanitation. He's a good teacher who doesn't pull any punches!

I decided it was a great time mid-week to hand out some glasses that had been donated. I was with my class at the time this elderly gentleman received his, but apparently when he put them on and realized he could read his Bible he literally jumped up and down for joy exclaiming, "I can see! I can read!"

During some between-session down time, Ernesto and I hung curtains in the clinic.

Not perfect yet but it'll keep the hot sun out in summer and limit the "peep-show" from the veranda too.

At the end of a long week of study, when brains are about as saturated as they can get, exams are written and the grad ceremony is held.

This seminar's grads. They've completed 26 courses over 6 years. Congratulations!

This young man was recently selected by a local community church to fill a pastoral role. This week he completed his first 2 courses.

And last but not least of the excitement this week was what happened with Sr. Andreas (below). We've known him for 15 years. In fact, he was probably the very first man I met out here in the "bush" (as we call it here). He helped look after us when we were "newbs", living in tents and contending with bugs, snakes, no water, etc.

This week he came to the clinic saying, "Senhora, I need help with my ears. Some 'junk' needs to be taken out of them so I can hear." A quick look with the otoscope revealed nothing but nice, glistening, healthy ear drums. No "junk" at all. According to him he has progressively become hard of hearing and can hardly hear someone talking 2 meters away.

It was more than coincidence that just a few night previous I'd discovered a pair of hearing aids along with the donated glasses. So yesterday I took them to him to try out...

(hearing aids in, smile on)

After we had the hearing aids in place, I stepped about 6 meters from him and said at normal volume:

"Sr. Andreas, I'm talking to you now. Do you hear me?"

"Yes Senhora! I hear you very well!" He boomed back with a huge smile that went from ear to ear.

"There will be a bit of learning in order for you to use these things. I'll try to find some glasses for you too so you can see those small things better to work with them. Are you up to it over the next week?" I asked.

"Yes! I can hear, so I'm alive again. I will learn to use them!"

So I guess my next week will be a busy teaching week too, albeit minus the pomp and ceremony of grad.

If Sr. Andreas can learn to put his own hearing aids in though, I rather expect a jump or two, a bit more booming, and a few more big smiles, too.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Packing Parachutes?

Every morning before work begins, the mission staff all gather for a half-hour time of encouragement and prayer followed by a coordination of work schedules. It's a great way to start the day, even if it's frigidly cold like it has been this past week! This week Dwight shared the following story about a US Navy jet Pilot who was shot down in Vietnam:

Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience!

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, "You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!"

"How in the world did you know that?" asked Plumb.

"I packed your parachute," the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, "I guess it worked!" Plumb assured him, "It sure did. If your chute hadn't worked, I wouldn't be here today."

Plumb couldn't sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, "I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said 'Good morning, how are you?' or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor." Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn't know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, "Who's packing your parachute?" Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory - he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes.

(Above photo and story credit:

And so, the thought of the week has been, "Make sure that you put your best effort into any contribution you make, even if it seems small and insignificant, because the impact could be someone's life."

This was a very timely encouragement for me this week especially since I was hobbling around on a sore knee, had a nasty cold, and was trying to focus on preparing health information to share during the upcoming monitor's seminar.

And I'm sure it was a timely encouragement for the guys going to all the work of unpacking and setting up tents for the monitors to sleep in.

(Note the stack of firewood in the background. Like I said, it's cold right now. Let's trust the monitors will also be encouraged as they rough it this week that in doing so, they are also investing their lives in packing parachutes right now!)

Unpacking a tent and figuring out which way is up.

Ah, easy as 1-2-3 when you've done it countless times before!

Voila, what a pretty camp!

Back in the mission office, other "parachute packing" activities took place.

Matthew and Dwight show one of the things Matthew has been working on: course certificates.

Joao has been busy preparing course exams, booklets, etc.

And the rest of us have been doing similar jobs in our respective work corners. Seminar time is always a busy time.

A few more photos of the week.

Andy "packing parachutes" on a tractor, plowing a corner of the field for planting beans that will be used in the school feeding program.

Mariano "packing parachutes" through actively engaging in
teaching life-building lessons to orphan children.

And with this last photo, I will close for this time.

While everyone else is out being encouraged in the freezing cold
our dog, Mushu, snuggles at home under his blankets.

I guess he figures he'll do his parachute packing once it warms up a bit :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Unlocking the Mystery

I have a hobby that some people here find rather curious: I collect old pieces of weathered or burnt wood. To me, they're fascinating.

My "beautiful wood"

Not everyone shares my enthusiasm. "It's just firewood," they say. That's true, it does look like "just firewood". So much so that at times when these odd pieces are discovered in the back of our truck, they get chucked onto our firewood heap by mistake. (At the moment I'm trying to track down a piece of ebony I got the other day that I fear has ended up in smoke.)

The reason old pieces of wood fascinate me so much is that they have a lot of character. Each one has a story to tell. They all possess a certain beauty, too...albeit a bit hidden. If you're willing to invest the time and effort though, the beauty and some of the history comes through. In a way, they're a bit like people.

But back to my story. I took the following photo 3 years ago and forgot about it.

A few months back while on a walk I discovered a "new" piece of beautiful wood and brought it home, washed it, sanded it, and varnished it.

I was pleased with how it turned out, but it was obviously part of some sort of structure. There were "missing pieces". Curiosity got the best of me so I went back to the area where I discovered it. In doing so, I realized that it was the lintel for an old door when I actually managed to find and recover the two adjoining sides to the door jamb. One of the pieces still had the rusted padlock attached (top photo). I felt pretty privileged to have recovered all 3 pieces of wood which have survived countless bush fires, intact.

Anyway, once I was done cleaning, sanding and varnishing the lintel, I took a photo. When I took the photo, I realized I'd taken a photo of this piece of wood before.

July 2011

I went back through old photos and sure enough...

August 2008

It was rather uncanny to realize that I'd found and photographed this piece of wood 3 years before in its original location and state.

Let me catch up on the week's news though.

I took the usual mid-week trip to the school clinic to work with Ernesto for aawhile. I packed up my emergency box and tool box with the plan to do health assessments AND install the much needed counter top. But half way there, I realized I'd forgotten the drill. Well, we used all our allotted time just doing paperwork and seeing a some sick people anyway.

The mission was donated reams of orange paper some time back. Makes for a colorful desk top!

Ernesto changing dressings on chronic leg wounds on one young man. The rickety table to his right is where the counter top is supposed to go in. Next time, when I remember to take the drill. :)

There was a bit of local excitement also this week as our area was visited by the provincial governor (governess, actually). Here, Dwight and Joao await her arrival.

She is welcomed to the community with brightly colored banners,

and crowds of people.

Since we've been away, it's been awhile since I posted photos of progress on any of the construction projects. Here, the training center roof trusses are all up and roofing tiles are now being put on the 2nd and 3rd sections.

View from the opposite side.

Foundations were poured for the maintenance workshop. Foundations never make for exciting photos, but they're important nonetheless.

And last but not least this week, Alta and Urs celebrated their birthdays so we got together and made an evening of it. We had supper and desert, then planned to set off the "fireworks" the guys found in Chimoio that day.

They were mysterious fireworks, really. The tube looked like the normal fireworks variety, but it clearly stated: "Fun! Fun! No Firework." Words around the top of the tube also read, "New edition nil powder environmental protection type fireworks display." (Just a hunch that this company's first language is not English...) We weren't sure what to think. It's dry at this time of year so we were a bit concerned about taking it outside where the bush is like tinder and could catch fire so easily...IF there was any kind of spark involved. But the more we read the label, the more it became apparent that this was pretty low key, safe, and spark free.

So we decided to take the plunge inside the house. We curiously peeled back the top foil, slowly eased the release button, and POOF! Out came a ton of brightly colored confetti!

Haha, that was fun! Happy birthday Alta and Urs.

And happy birthday to our son too, who turns 25 today.

Bye for now.