Monday, February 16, 2009

The Weekly Blog

The week's entry was written by Ben Chleboun. Ben will be graduating from IWU in April with majors in History and Philosophy/Religion.

As we are all working diligently on our various areas of study, we are doing very well getting settled into life at IWU Zambia. Here in our little corner of Choma we find comfort in some of the small things that being us a little closer to the west. Some of the things that we treasure are when Mrs. Boltah makes banana bread or peanut butter cookies, frosted flakes with skim milk in the morning, warm water in the shower, a half-hour of fast internet (which I have yet to experience). But what has really been exciting to watch are the relationships that we are beginning to form with people in our community. At first our contact was primarily with those involved in WHIZ, which was amazing, but now that we have been here for a significant amount of time we are starting to see a broader picture of daily life.

There have been many stories of friends we have met during our time here that are all worthy of telling. These are stories of friends from the Peace Corps, church, and the side of the road; stories of people that we have met on long walks down dirt roads, children that are enamored by our white skin, and a longwinded pastor who happens to be a friend of Lindsey’s Aunt. All of these should be told, and still may. But the story that I am going to tell is of my friend, Kelly.

I met Kelly on my way into town last week. He is tall, around 6’3”, and has a smile that reveals humility and joy. So when he walked up beside me, wanting nothing but to smile and say hello, I had no choice but to keep the conversation going. He works as a painter at the new site of WHIZ, but currently he is seeking new employment because the job is almost completed. He has openness and sincerity that brings you to a place of security, which allows for reciprocal openness and sincerity. Needless to say, we were fast friends. Over the course of the past ten days I have had the pleasure of spending a good amount of time with Kelly. We usually just walk to town, using our time to chat about anything and everything. He often has various errands that take us all over the community, which gives me the opportunity to meet a variety of different people.

At twenty years old, Kelly is the only person in his family of eight that currently has employment. We have quickly learned that the unemployment problem here is primarily because of a lack of opportunity, not because people are lazy. There simply are no jobs. Kelly was living about 50km away from Choma pursuing a career in agriculture, until his father was fired from his job at which point he selflessly came back to help provide for his family. One day Kelly told me that his primary goal in life is to help people. “First,” he said, “I must help my family, then I can help the others who need.” This is Kelly—humble servant. He puts his own interests on hold in order to provide the basic needs of his family. He worries whether he will have the money to send his brother and his sister back to school next term. But he never shows any signs of anxiety. Throughout it all he maintains hope for a future that does not lack the satisfaction for today. During the time I have spent with Kelly he has taught me so much about making the best out of life, even when times are bad.

We have all had the privilege of getting to know some really amazing people here in Zambia. The paradox is that in some of the worst conditions we have found the most joy. Many here have experienced more pain than I can imagine, and yet they find no trouble sharing laughter and happiness. This strange dichotomy is what keeps these people alive. Without the joy they would be taken over by the pain. Kelly’s love for people gives him no choice but to care for his family, his joy in the midst of that is what gives him my utmost respect and admiration.

News Flash: We were served the most amazing Valentine’s Day meal EVER on Saturday evening. The girls made an ethnic treat that everyone had been craving for at least a month: Mexican food. Homemade tortillas, chips, salsa, guacamole, sweet chili chicken—all from scratch—made this meal the most extravagant culinary experience that any of us have had since arriving in Zambia. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better they brought out carrot and chocolate cake for dessert. What a meal! Needless to say, love was in the air—that is, if love means amazing women cooking an amazing meal.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dear Abby...

Dear Abby,
My daughter and a team from Indiana Wesleyan University are currently in Zambia, Africa serving with World Hope International as well as studying abroad. I know this is not a typical “Dear Abby” letter, but is there a way you could possibly give me insight into what they are doing?

Curious Parent (a.k.a. Debbie Weigel)

Dear Curious Parent,

I completely understand your curiosity concerning your daughter. It is very scary as a parent to have a child all the way across the world communicating with limited internet access at best. However, you are in luck because I have just heard from the team and know all their happenings! I will relay what I have heard:

Well it has almost been a month since our arrival in Choma, (knowing the unreliability of the internet it will probably be over a month by the time I actually get a chance to submit this) and things are finally starting to follow a routine, well as much as possible anyway. Saying “Mwabuka Buti” (hello, how are you?) has become as natural to us as seeing a little lizard scurry past our feet or blowing the ants off our peanut butter in the morning. We have been making new acquaintances as well as building even deeper friendships with those whom we have known since the beginning.

Last Saturday we had the privilege to have Dr Chondoka come speak to our team regarding the impacts of colonialism on African society and politics. It was a very intriguing seminar and even though it lasted three solid hours, longer than any class at IWU, it was well appreciated by all. And even though on Sunday morning our group split up into three groups to attend three separate churches we were no doubt praising and worshipping as one body of believers before Christ. Monday brought around the first day of February, which proved to be quite relaxing. It was also on this day that Kara and I took a run out to the “bush” (African rural area) where the evening sunset proved to be one of the most amazing things my eyes have yet seen. Yes, those African sunset pictures you see in national geographic are indeed legit. Tuesday rolled around and the groundhog saw his shadow so looks like you folks are going to have a longer winter, that’s tough. We however, are having a hard time feeling your pain as the weather is a balmy 80-something and the Africa sun is as cruel as ever! The aloe is being passed around if you know what I mean.

Tuesdays and Thursday exist as the days we get to work alongside with World Hope, and I am not sure about the others, but these have also been the days that I have come to anticipate the most. While it is nearly impossible to share stories from all the groups I would just most certainly love to inform you of the activities of my group. Group #3 which consists of Michael, Elijah, Melinda and myself (Leah) have had the opportunity to work with Reach4Life and AB (Abstinence and Being Faithful) for the first few weeks. In this group we were again split so as to have time in both of the programs. Michael and I spent this week in Reach4Life traveling to the different schools meeting with both the students and facilitators to get a feel for how the program is moving along. From what we’ve seen the programs are extremely effective at accomplishing their purpose, to teach abstinence by drawing from lessons in the New Testament. It has been a real testimony to see how these kids are so excited about this program! On a lighter note, I have never talked about sex and condoms as much in my entire life as I have in a single week here in Africa. As many of these topics are blunt and a tad embarrassing at times, HIV/AIDS is a serial killer that is taking more lives than we can ever imagine! Thank God that a subject that has been taboo in the past is finally being exposed for the damage that it can do. In fact, just today I saw a billboard on the side of the road that said “
"Sex thrills and AIDS kills.”

Other random notes that I think can be beneficial to parents reading this blog include:
  • Peterson’s and Weigel’s, (and maybe Termeer’s) your daughters are scheduled to get dread locks this weekend, so say goodbye to that gorgeous shine, Bob Marley here we come!
  • Mike, I have never seen Melinda happier than when she gets back from the guesthouse after having chatted with you online.
  • Bratcher family, your son Michael is officially the best one out of the group at speed scrabble. You have taught him well in the ways of words! (note: speed scrabble is a very popular sport among team members at the guest house, some have even reported having played it so much that they see small letter square when closing their eyes to sleep)

    Well, that’s a wrap from Africa,
    Leah Weigel

Friday, February 6, 2009

Learning Connections Come to Life

One of the most amazing things to watch and experience are the connections between what the students are learning in their coursework and their real-life experiences among the people of Zambia. On Monday/Wednesday/Friday of each week, students participate in classes and also work on coursework that they are completing in cooperation with faculty members (largely via the internet) back home on campus.

Our "African Literature and Culture" class just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible. This book was written by an American author and tellsthe story of a missionary family in Africa. Reading this book while experiecing the culture here opened our eyes to things we had previously not seen or thought about in a serious way. We will next be reading Things Fall Apart, written by an African author, that looks at the arrival of missionaries from the African vantage point.

The "International Servant Leadership" class is reading the book Pedadogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Friere, a classic text, that provides insights into the lives of people living in poverty. We have been able to share real-life examples that bring the reading of the text into new focus.

Our "Team Leadership" class met today for lunch with the pastors of the Wesleyan churches in Choma to explore how we might be of better service to them during our time here. Again, the lessons learned from their leadership texts have taken on new and personal meaning for each of these students.

Others are actively engaged in writing journals, preparing research papers relevant to their stay here and the issues faced by the people of Zambia, participating in practica alongside WHZ staff and local pastors, and teaching in the schools are part of coursework in the Education Division. It's all good!

We thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Out into the field for service

This blog entry comes to you from Nick Yankey, a social work major:

This week got off to a more relaxing start when we were given all day Monday to work on our school work and catch up on laundry and those other tasks that tend to get pushed aside until we get a free moment. Monday night, Margie gave us some encouragement about the work we are doing here, being just a small part of God’s great plan. She shared with us this quote that heads her personal blog:

“We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.” – Archbishop Oscar Romero

Tuesday we split up into four groups to do our field work with the WHIZ staff:

Melinda and Elijah left early, heading all the way down to Livingstone to visit four schools and meet with the staff about the Reach 4 Life program. On her lunch break, Melinda learned the differences between sandwiches at Subway in America and Zambia. Michael and Leah also worked with the Reach 4 Life staff and visited several schools that are implementing this sexual abstinence program with great results.

Audrey, Ethan, Lindsay, and I went to Zimba where we helped out trust caregivers fertilize their corn fields that were planted back in December. With about 15 of us, we were able to apply fertilizer by hand to the whole field in under an hour. This is a job that we were told may take a few days on a family farm. We learned that farming is dependent on the chemical fertilizer, which is very expensive. This presents a challenge to farmers struggling through poverty.

Ben, Brandon, Charlotte, Kara and Brittany headed out to Jembo, working in community health and youth outreach. Lessons were learned about how little some students know about HIV and AIDS, which gives World Hope a good opportunity to spread its programs into more schools here in the southern province.

We set out tomorrow for another day of work.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another exciting week...

We have been in Zambia for fifteen days. We are all still just as excited today as we were the first day for all of the things that God will be able to do through us in this country. We have been busy with our school work and field work every day since we arrived. Yesterday was the first day that we had a break from our schedule so most of us went into the local town to buy stuff with our recently acquired "Kwatcha" (local currency that currently trades @ 5,000 Kwatcha/dollar). It was nice having a “day off” but most of us spent the day studying for our classes or reading our Bibles.

On Monday of this week we were split into 2 groups so that we could go with the World Hope staff on their regular visits to HIV/AIDS patients. In one of the groups we visited a man named Edgar who had been taking medicine for about 6 months. He initially told us that he was depressed and angry that he was HIV positive but after a while God gave him peace about it and he was able to share his entire story with us. He told us how his wife had left him and how he had lost his child when she was only several months old. But he told us that through all of this he remained faithful to God and he still trusts God to watch over him and to take care of his needs. When we were about to leave the one thing Edgar told us that he needed was a Bible. I was shocked when I heard him say that, I just assumed that he had a Bible because of the way he talked. It made me think about how much I take my Bible for granted. There are so many people in this country that don’t have access to a Bible. I have at least three Bibles at home and I rarely read them, the people here read the Bible whenever they can find one but there might be one Bible. Later in the week, we spotted Edgar walking past our Guest House and we were able to provide him with a Bible. God is good!

On Thursday our entire group went to a village to work with the people and learn about their daily life. When we first arrived everyone gathered in their church and we sang and prayed together then we were introduced to some of the leaders of the village and the church. Then we all went outside to work on different projects. The villagers were in the process of building a piggery (a stable for pigs). The women of the village along with the girls in our group made a long line and moved the bricks from one pile to another one closer to the builders. The men on the other hand, started mixing mortar for the brick layers so they could continue their work. Some other women in the village had been working for over 4 hours to make food for the entire village. Some of our own team members helped them make the food. When our respective projects were done our team members mingled with the people and talked with them. Some of us played soccer with the children, others sang songs with them, and some of us just sat there and lived life with those beautiful people.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Things are moving along...

You will be receiving a more detailed description of our weeks activities, but I just wanted to assure all of our friends and loved ones back home that we are safe and totally experiencing the richness of God's blessings. The team that He has assembled is totally amazing. The ways in which they encourage one another, pray for one another and the needs of the people here, demonstrate a flexible approach to daily activities, laugh and have a great time, and serve with a passion is a remarkable thing to experience and observe. We look forward to sharing more about our week with you. Stay tuned for an entry by Brandon Clark later this week.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Zambizi River!

This is the road to Choma from Livingstone