Monday, January 22, 2007

Coincidences? and more

When we went to South Africa we were asked to share a bit at the church we were visiting. Steve read the passage from Acts that tells of the Macedonian call and that we were looking for someone to come and help us start Ancient Paths in Mozambique when we were put in contact with their pastor. Later the pastor got up and said that when he got Steve’s first e-mail he wasn’t sure what to do with it. But he prayed and got the distinct impression that this was a “Macedonian call” that he should answer.

Sunday we visited the Tembe’s church outside of Maputo that we talked about in our last newsletter. They have been wanting help with the church as they have been involved in a mixture of Christianity and traditional religion and now want to drop the traditional religion. Steve had prepared a sermon from I John 2 that talks about little children, young men and fathers. He talked about spiritual maturity and that we start as little children and then grow into maturity. Later a letter was read and presented to us that in part said that they were “young newborn children needing the milk of the Word” and that as children they need the strengthening of the Reverend Pastor and Pastora (new titles for us!). The letter was prepared well before we arrived.

Later they set up a table for us and the leaders and served Coke and crackers. One of them looked at me and said, “You could come and share with the women during the week.” He went on to describe almost exactly what I had thought of the first time we visited—doing a small Bible study, praying together, teaching some skills or crafts or maybe teaching some to read, just relating together.

So are all these coincidences or is God working behind the scenes? I choose to believe the latter.

On Friday morning I, Steve, got up early and went out to the local hatchery where we get our chicks. I took our driver and project manager to orient them on loading the truck to carry 3000 plus day old chicks. When we arrived I could tell immediately that they were not ready for us. There were almost no chicks and none were in the proper shipping container that we normally use. After some inquiry, they told us they didn’t have enough chicks because the heat from earlier in the week had damaged the hatch. We could only get 600 of the 3100 we had scheduled to transport and they were going to have to hand sort those 600 while we waited. We thought not!

It had been as hot as we have had it for two days--100 F. Rachel was out doing microenterprise training in Zimpeto both of those days and found that using a hand fan, made her feel hotter. It was adding insult to injury by pushing more hot air around - kind of like standing in front of a furnace!

On the way back to the office we drove by the dump. Since I was driving, I almost didn’t catch it, but there were a bunch of day old chicks that some hatchery had disposed of. They had been dumped on a tarp and people were sorting through them to find the “living among the dead.” They looked like they had been through a mud puddle. Instead of being all yellow and fluffy, they were reddish brown and all matted down. I can only suppose that the people collecting them will either try to sell them or take them home and raise them for food. Who knows, some might even make it to a dinner plate. I am still shaking my head.

Today is the deadline for the submission of a grant proposal for a coconut project to the Gates Foundation. Our colleagues have been working around the clock and Steve has put in lots of extra time as well. There have been many Skype calls to Indiana and Nicaragua but thankfully the end is in sight. Now the praying begins!

Monday, January 08, 2007

South Africa - a land of many contrasts

We've just come back from a wonderful break. The WR office was closed for the holidays. The first week we stayed in Maputo and did some work as well as relaxed. Then we went to South Africa. We stayed at Mercy Air, a missionary aviation ministry that has some extra housing. They are in the country with beautiful grounds and mountains in the background.
We were greeted by a troop of monkeys climbing through the trees. We were also entertained in our apartment by a toad just as we were getting ready for bed. Hmmm, Steve took that one out but then I saw another one hopping behind the kitchen cupboard. We decided not to pursue him. The next morning I was keeping my eyes open for him but he was nowhere to be found. I went to straighten a sofa cushion and who should be looking up at me but Mr. Toad! I was surprised to say the least. Good thing I didn't sit on him.

Our apartment was built around a big rock which protruded out of the wall--a bit unusual. Here's Steve trying to rearrange the furniture.

We spent a full day exploring waterfalls, canyons (the Blyde Canyon is the third largest in the world), and just enjoying some of God's incredible creation. They say pictures are worth 1,000 words, so here are a few.

Friday we went to visit some folks that we met through Ancient Paths, who live close to Johannesburg. We drove through corn fields and it all looked like the Midwest. It was very strange to think that we were still in Africa. Then we began seeing what looked like nuclear energy plants. Later we found out they produce electricity, liquid fuel, fertilizer and chemicals from coal which is mined in the area. The strip mining doesn't look so pretty. I guess some of the mines are like underground cities with roads and street lights.

We've heard about all the crime in Jo'berg but in this community there is not much besides petty thefts and carjackings. (Yeah, watch out if you have a nice car.) We found it interesting that people don't have guards like they do in Maputo. In our hosts' big yard and house, it really felt like we'd been transported to the U.S. But then sometimes we'd be driving along through the countryside and there would be a mud hut, or a township with houses/shacks made of tin. We were reminded that we were still in Africa and that S Africa is a very complex country. The rich are getting richer and the poor are still poor. Apartheid hasn't been gone that long and though they have come a long way, there is still evidence of some attitudes and separation between the races.

Saturday we watched the videos of Level II of AP without the small group part. We'll do it right later, but it was good to get the lecture content. It will take more than one time through to really grasp the concepts.

Sunday after church we took off for the other world we live in 6 hours away. We were happy to sail through the border. Going into SA was another story as many miners are heading back to work. It looked like they would have to wait many hours.

Now we're back to reality with plenty to do and a WR staff member from Malawi coming to spend the next several weeks with us.

I'll leave you with one last picture of one of the strangest flowers I've seen. I'm constantly reminded of how creative and imaginative God is!