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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.