Saturday, November 8, 2008

Attack of the banana trees

Sometimes when we travel to Banjul as a group, we have strange experiences. With 4 people making purchases to bring back to Ndungu Kebbeh with us, you never know what might be in the car on the way home. Here's an example.

Here I am riding along in the shade of a banana tree.

Deb, attacked by her own tree!

Suellen at the oasis.Teresa chillin' with the shades.
I have heard reports that the trees are doing well. Maybe we'll even get some banana out of the deal!

The Walls are UP!

When Deb returned from furlough, we evaluated our finances and decided that we should go ahead with the construction of the literacy center office/literature production/training facility. With prices constantly on the rise, we are looking at it costing more as time goes by, so we are moving ahead and trusting the Lord to complete it. We have the money in hand that we originally estimated that we would need, but the actual cost will certainly be different. Meanwhile, however, we are paying rent on a building that is going to fall down around our ears one of these days so we need to get out soon before we are forced to put money into repairs. (Our landlord doesn't have money to repair it. We have done all the repairs since moving in 15 years ago.)

The great news is that Ted Weinberg and his wife (ABWE projects manager) is going to be able to come for two months and bring 2 work teams to finish the building for us. Hurray!! If all goes according to plan, we should be able to be moved into the new building before I go on furlough at the end of March. Running the literacy program alone will be much easier for Deb when the office, nursery school and library are back together on the same compound.

Rice day

Well, this happened a while ago now, but I wanted to be sure to get it on the blog. Better late than never.

The day of the great rice distribution dawned hot and sunny. It would a long hot day in the sun, but at least the rice wouldn't get wet or the distribution postponed. The Village Development Committee showed up bright and early with some of their teenage boys to help with loading and unloading. We filled 3 vehicles with rice and set out with our lists. Each vehicle carried a missionary, a member of the VDC and some "muscle". Others stayed behind to help re-load vehicles as they finished their deliveries. We had to deliver over 300 bags of rice that day!! The pick-up and the Nissan only carried about 15 bags at a time, but the ambulance was a workhorse, carrying 25 bags at a time. Still that's a lot of trips for re-loading.

As we pulled up to a compound and honked the horn, people popped out everywhere to see if the rice was for them. With a village this big, we had to have lists of people who were supposed to receive the rice and upon delivery, they had to sign or in most cases, put their thumbprint on our paper to acknowledge receipt of the rice. Some danced and clapped as we unloaded their rice. Others were more restrained in our presence, but we heard later that they danced after we left :-)

Men were slinging bags over their shoulder. Women were teaming up to drag their bags into the compound. I watched 3 little pre-schoolers gather around a bag of rice tugging away (they were rescued by their father). People were overjoyed. Many people told us that until we arrived with the rice, they had no food in their compound. Others simply said, "You have no idea what you really did by giving out that rice at that time."

Our purpose in giving out the rice, besides feeding hungry people, was to demonstrate the compassion of Christ to our Muslim neighbors. By making sure that the distribution was done in a righteous manner and that there was a missionary present with every sack that was given out, we wanted to show people true Christianity. People in our area need food, but their greatest need is Christ. With every bag of rice, we gave a letter expressing our friendship with the people of Ndungu Kebbeh and a booklet developed by missionaries in Senegal that gives a brief overview of the gospel from creation to Christ. Deb and I put our phone numbers on the booklets so that anyone with a question could contact us. Many people used the phone numbers to thank us, but a few have mentioned the letter and the book. As the distribution went on, we saw people all over town looking at the books. Those who can't read, found someone to read it to them. God's Word went to every family in Ndungu Kebbeh that day.

Since that time, we have been able to purchase more rice and do distributions to all of our employees (we have almost 65 of them!) and to approximately 8 other villages. Most of the villages around us are much smaller than NK so the rice went a long ways with each family provider getting a half sack of rice. Booklets were given out in each of those villages as well. Only eternity will tell us what impact this project had on our area. Thanks to all of you who contributed and prayed for us.