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Monday, October 5, 2009

This is what we do

Yo, Overland made a video about the Angola expedition and it's sweet. You should check it out. It goes above and beyond my blog posts about the expedition and it provides an excellent picture of what Overland does and what I was working to support while I was in Zambia. If you look closely, you can see me in the background early in the video.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

(written on the morning of July 1)

Greetings from London once again! I am in transit on my way back to the States after being in Zambia for the full 6 weeks. A lot has happened in that time but it still doesn't seem like it has really been six weeks since I was sitting in this very same airport lounge. I'll definitely miss all my new friends and hopefully I'll see most of them again at the annual conference at the end of the year.

After returning from the AMT bush expedition, most of my time was spent in the warehouse or doing other work on base. I spent a day and a half putting the final welds on the AMT motorcycle stands and also did some work on a couple vehicles and helped Paul with some plumbing. Jeff had a problem with the clutch in his Land Rover and my old nemesis the Pajero kept overheating and had a strange noise coming from the brakes. We got them sorted out as best we could but we should have parked the Pajero on the edge of the gorge and 'accidentally' let it roll off a long time ago. The Pajero has been around for a long time and has been used for a vast number of trips to villages to do ministry, but it has been run into the ground and rebuilt so much that it's rapidly approaching the end of its life.

AMT had to go out for the 4x4 driving practical exercise so we all got up early and drove one of the DAF trucks out to a dry sandy riverbed to do some recovery training. It took longer than expected to get the truck stuck but eventually we were able to stick it well enough in the sand to get the class digging it out. We got the truck out in time to collect more sand for our volleyball court, buy lunch in town, and take a break to celebrate JJ's birthday. JJ is one of my college buddies that I've been in Bible study with and now he's in the AMT class.

One vehicle related highlight of my week was that I got to drive Dan's Land Rover to the airport myself for the first time ever. Keep in mind that this is a stick-shift, left hand drive vehicle and it's a 45 minute drive to the airport on a dirt road through a village, then a tar road all the way into and through Livingstone. It was just a quick trip to pick up three people but it was pretty sweet. I also got to drive one of the big DAF trucks on the base for the first time.

I climbed both water towers on the base several times in the past few days. Paul has been devising a plan to install some special valves and fittings to make the water supply system work more efficiently so he needed me to climb the ladder up to the top of the tower to replace some parts.

The Angola team returned on Thursday night and had loads of stories to tell. It turns out that only a handful of the team were able to get in to the country and then the police made them leave shortly thereafter even though they had legit visas. It was a bummer that they didn't get to Angola as planned, but God opened doors in Zambia's Western Province and a lot of cool ministry happened there. The Gospel was introduced to new villages, relationships with area leaders were strengthened, and the team made contact with a hard to find people group called Bushmen. (If you've ever seen the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, you'll know who the Bushmen are. Seriously, that movie is for real.)

Now I'm heading back to Madison and moving on to my next adventure. Through my traveling, finishing college, and working, I've seen more and more how awesome life is when I'm closely following Christ. It might not always seem like it when I'm just going to work or some other “normal” activity, but life is not merely good, life is epic.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

From the bush to the base

We got back from our 5 days in the bush today and I was grateful to have a shower. On Wednesday, we got on the truck and traveled for 6 hours out towards the chief's palace in Nyawa. We cleared a campsite and got everything set up that night and we went out to the palace on Thursday morning. Whatever you think of when you hear the word "palace" forget it when you think about this one. The chief's palace is more of another village community where the chief's house is and where he meets with visitors. There isn't any fancy huge building or anything like that.

Overland staff had sent out invitations to 55 head men of villages in the area that the chief had recommended come to a leadership conference that Overland would run. Our purpose of being at the palace this week was to assist with the conference as well as serve and minister to the villages within walking distance from the palace. We arrived at the palace around noon on Thursday and Jake (the sector manager) kicked off the conference. The conference was designed to equip these village leaders with Bible based leadership techniques and there was also a great deal of evangelism and Christian teaching built into it in order to develop these men into men of God who can effectively lead their villages. Even though only 55 invitations were sent out, we had 105 head men from as far as 40 km away show up. This is completely unprecedented since the head men rarely gather all in one place and never for a conference such as this. Three Overland staff men spoke throughout the weekend and my team was able to do some evangelism as well and I hear it went really well. At the end of the conference, 70 of the head men stood up and publicly confessed their sins, renounced any connection to Satan, and committed their lives to following Christ. This could be a really significant event in the history of this country since these men represent a significant portion of the leadership of this portion of Zambia. The chief is also a Christian and has access to the President of Zambia and interacts with other chiefs so God could use this as an open door to spread word of the Gospel to other parts of the country.

In addition to going to the conference, we were able to go out to some villages in the area and help harvest maize, preach to the villages, and pray for the sick. There was also a demon-possessed man at the palace that some of the Overland staff prayed for. If you want more information about that encounter I'd be happy to give it to you individually. The village that Nathan, Kelly, JJ, Wezi, and I went to had a Seventh Day Adventist church service in progress so we joined in for a while and had lunch with the church elders. We introduced what Overland is and what we were there for and we asked questions about the village, the church, and what the area was like. We found out that we were the first white people to ever visit this village and they almost never have visitors from other villages. We were able to teach a little during the church service during the afternoon and then we had to be on our way.

I've got just over a week left here on the base and it's probably going to be full. Ciaran and I are replacing some shocks on a Land Rover tomorrow and there are various welding and fabrication projects I'll be working on all week. The 4x4 driving practical test for the AMT students will be on Tuesday.

Until next time,

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On the road again

Today we discovered that we could get pizza from town delivered to the base. It was amazing. Now I can honestly say that I've had pizza delivered to my tent in Africa.

I led welding class throughout all of last week and we finished on Saturday. The class was split into 4 teams and each team had to complete a project by the end of the week and their grade would be based on the quality of the finished project. The students were eager to get practice with the welder once we got out of the classroom and they saw how cool welding actually is. Some groups didn't have enough practice time during class so they came in during their free time to get some more instruction. The project for the class was to build motorcycle stands to make it easier to work on all the bikes on the base and by the end of the week we had 4 stands almost completely done. Everyone seemed to enjoy the class and they definitely got some practice with the basics of arc welding. Hopefully they'll never have to use what they've learned in an emergency situation but the knowledge will be there if needed.

We've since moved on to the 4x4 driving portion of the training and I've been tag-teaming the instruction with Ciaran, one of my Overland staff buddies. We did a day of lecturing and watching instructional videos of pro 4x4 guys and we'll get out to do a practical demonstration next week. The practical will most likely consist of Ciaran and I getting a Land Rover stuck in a dry river bed and the class trying to get it out by digging, winching, etc.

Today we packed one of the expedition trucks and we're heading out into the bush tomorrow. The AMT class goes out to do village ministry 3 times during the course and I've been invited to go along this time, their second trip. We leave tomorrow morning (Wednesday) and it will take about 6 hours to drive to our destination and we'll be there until Sunday. Overland has worked in the village we're going to and actually a conference has been set up for us with about 50 Head Men from villages in the area. I've never been on one of the African expeditions and this should be a good one to be on. The trip is actually part of what the sector manager is working on in that area of Zambia so it's a big help to him that we're going. Sector management is a strategy that Overland uses that puts a missionary couple in charge of reaching and developing the villages in a specific plot of land by using short term expeditions, the LIFE Project, SAM Project, and the Rural Pastors Network. These are all partner organizations or branches of Overland Missions designed to bring humanitarian aid, social work, Christian discipleship, and sustainable agriculture and microenterprises to villages in need. So far there are active sectors in Zambia and some upcoming ones in the neighboring countries.

The Victoria Falls expedition returned on Friday and it sounded like it was a good one. The members really enjoyed it and had some excellent stories to share with us. Even the team leaders said it was a really fun and productive trip. They were at a location about a 12 hour drive away and they actually went right through where we are going for our expedition. Their team have all boarded planes to their respective homes so the base is relatively quiet again. There's about 34 people on the base now but there will be only 8 or 10 after the AMT expedition leaves in the morning.

I've received more info about what we'll be doing at the conference and in the villages. The conference is a leadership conference of Head Men hand picked by the local chief himself. Overland staff will be speaking at the conference from Thursday through Saturday and we will take turns sitting in on meetings. We will also be doing evangelism at the conference meetings and in the villages nearby. This is a very unique situation and it has the potential of raising up strong Christian village leaders and impacting the life of the chief of a large area of Zambia. It's kind of a big deal.

Friday, June 5, 2009

At long last

Friday has come and two expeditions have gone so the base is much more reasonable and peaceful now. At one point this week we had about 85 people here who were going on various expeditions and now we're down to about 30. I had put in a lot of hours to get the vehicles ready for the Angola expedition and they left on Tuesday as planned. It will take several days of driving until they get to Angola but the team was really excited to get going.

Another crew of people came in from Florida and England on Wednesday for the Victoria Falls expedition that left today. It's been really cool getting to hang out with people from all over the world. So far we've had quite the spread of English dialects spoken here: Canadian, Midwestern, Texan, Southern, 3 kinds of British, Australian, New Zealander, South African, Brazilian, and Zambian.

I have been helping teach the diesel mechanics course while being here and I was one of the examiners for the students hands-on final. Everybody did very well. Once the diesel course ended I was able to start my welding course. The first lecture was yesterday and I finished up the lecturing today so I took the class to the shop to intro the equipment we'll be using. Everybody is excited to get in to the shop and start working so it seems to be going well so far. The students are especially excited because they will be graded based on the final project they have to build rather than written tests like in the diesel mechanics course. Each team of 3-4 people will be making a motorcycle stand so we can stop using paint buckets to put broken dirtbikes on.

I'm looking forward to a restful weekend without expedion prep to do.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Just drive

A lot has happened here on the base since I arrived. I've only been gone for a week and a half but it seems like so much longer because there is so much going on here and so many people to spend time with. I haven't been teaching welding yet but I've been helping with the diesel mechanics course with my buddy Ciaran and there are two expeditions leaving this week that I've been helping prep for.
On Tuesday, the Angola expedition will be leaving. The team is about 20 people including staff and they will be heading off to do evangelism and service wherever possible as they drive through Angola. This expedition has been greatly anticipated since the country has only recently been open to missionaries after their civil war and Overland's only presence there so far has been a 3-man recon team that went in last year. There is another 2-week expedition leaving on Wednesday that I am also doing work for. This expedition isn't as long or intense as the Angolan trip but it still requires a lot of prep work. All the vehicles need to be checked over and some fabrication and maintenance has been required. So far I've been doing a variety of shop duties and getting the team members involved in the prep work as well. It's been really cool to be able to take a leadership role as well as work alongside my shop buddies from my time on the base last year.
The coolest story I have so far happened last weekend. Pastor Jeff had taken a Land Rover to a village for a conference with about 50 local pastors and blew a tire on the way. He put the spare on and made it to the conference fine but then blew the spare on the way back. We get word of the situation sometime Sunday afternoon and had to figure out how to go get him because it was about a 4 hour drive to where he was. After weighing the options, Joe, Jack and I ended up heading out from the base at 9pm in a brand new rented vehicle that had just been driven up from South Africa. The route to get there was partly on a heaving potholed paved road and then on a narrow dirt road that had been severely potholed and rutted. We got to Jeff in just about 3 hours, swapped the tire out in 5 minutes, and turned around to head back because it was past midnight at that point. We made it back in record time since Joe is a really good driver and the vehicle was well suited to the terrain so we got to bed about 3:30.
I got to sit in on morning staff meetings all this week and I learned a lot more about how Overland works and what the plans are for the work in Africa for the next few years. It was really cool to see all the different branches of ministry and how they work together and I got to spend some time thinking about what I might do if I was to stay long term in the future.
I've had a great time here so far and it's been a productive week. There's a lot to do this week and it's going to quiet down a lot when the expeditions leave so we'll see how it goes.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Hello again...

I did it. I graduated from college, finished my responsibilities on campus, and went to Zambia. I arrived on the base a few hours ago and it already feels like I'm picking up right where I left off. Not all the faces here are familiar but there are several staff buddies of mine that I've been able to catch up with and I'm excited to get to know this new crew of Advanced Missions Training students.

There are a few of you out there whom I talked with about support and then lost contact with. If you're still interested in giving financially towards my work, please email me right away and we'll sort it out.

More to come soon.