Sunday, February 28, 2010

There and back again...

If you enjoy the writings of Bilbo Baggins (as I do), then you'll know that journeys can contain many adventures...and such was the case this past weekend.

My niece Keren needed to leave and re-enter Mozambique for visa puposes...much too long of a tale to go into right now. But Laura and I elected to accompany her on a road trip north to Malawai for two nights, and that's when the fun began. Pack three wazungus (i.e. white folk) into a Toyoto mini-van and let them loose on Afrian roads and border crossings, and just about anything can happen.

Rule #1: Leave early in the morning. You never know what will come up, and it will always take longer than you think. For the initial trip out, it was sections of road under repair and suspension bridges crumbling apart under our tires (or so it seemed).

Rule #2: Bring lots of money. You'll need it to pay the visa fees, customs fees, import duties (for your car), extra insurance fees, to pay the kid to watch your vehicle while you go in and pay all these fees...
...and finally, the bribes to the well-fed policeman at the roadside check point (sorry, didn't want to chance taking his picture...).

Rule #3: Have a good destination in mind. For us, it was the Fisherman's Rest Guesthouse near Blantyre. Wonderful accomodation overlooking the great Rift Valley, fantastic food, amazing hosts, and the cutest lap dog named Tippy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What exactly does he do all day...?

Well, as promised, here is a look at some of the things I've been working on. You've already heard a lot about the wiring issues with the Isuzu truck (I now have parts ordered to fix the steering, driveshafts, and air conditioning), but today we worked on Nurse Keren's motorcycle (nicknamed The General), and also a small generator owned by another missionary.

By "we" I mean Thomas, Tome, and Jacob, three men who work here and decided that it might be fun to watch a white guy work a bit, and maybe pick up a mechanicial tip or two...

Tome is really the main guy in charge of things mechanical, and here he is changing the oil on the main generator that supplies all the power to the farm.

That's all for now, folks...the power is about to go off.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Singing in the rain...

Okay, maybe not singing, but we did go for a hike.

The rains, although late, have arrived and while they are appreciated for growing food, they do interfere with things like building projects and doing laundry! But Sunday came with a few sunny moments, so Keren, Laura, Jeff, and I went for a walk down to the nearby river that runs through the farm. As you can see the waters have risen to a respectable level.

This rather large fellow was perched on a rock as we climbed down the bank towards the river (his shell is larger than my hand). Intimidating, but harmless. I was more concerned about meeting a snake or two under the moss-covered rocks. Fortunately that didn't happen.

Below are some Monday morning photos looking out my door at the house where I'm staying. Dwight and Lynn Lagore have been such gracious hosts.

In the next post I'll give you an update on the vehicle repairs that I've overseeing (and taking part in, of course). I do keep busy, just in case anyone is wondering...:)

So goodbye for now from the happy wanderers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

School visit with Lola and Luisa

Yesterday Keren (aka Luisa) and Laura (Lola) climbed on The General and headed out to the ASAM interior primary school to observe the health class and to serve lunch. Keren had a special interest in the visit, as the school was using for the first time the health cuirriculum she created. By all reports, the visit went well...

Lots of interest by the students...

...and lunchtime was an even bigger hit.

Then they all had to try on Laura's aviators...

A special moment came as they delivered an Olympic t-shirt to Paolo, sent over by "Auntie Pat", aka Nurse Keren's mom, Pat Massey.

Paolo has ongoing problems with mysterious infections that Keren has been treating him for. Please pray that he will heal completely.

So it's time to head back to the farm...Laura waits for her ride...

...which turns out to be very wet, thanks to a sudden rain shower. But at least they made it back safely!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Down to the wire(s)...

It's been an intersting two days of working on this 2001 Isuzu pickup. The more I look, the more burnt or broken wires that I find.

A melted fuse panel, the result of someone using a solid piece of wire to replace a fuse...not a good idea.

So far I've been able to repair the power windows (it's nice to be able to open your window on a hot  African day...), get the automatic door locks to operate ONLY when they're supposed to (as in NOT unlocking when you're walking away from the vehicle), and the rear taillights now work like they're supposed to.
Next on the list is to get the air conditioning and fan to work...oh yes, and to get both wiper blades to move at the same time.

There must be a moral to this maybe the right fuse in the right place saves an entire wiring harness...but that doesn't sound very profound.
Maybe it's just a reminder that nothing lasts forever, although a little maintenance will certainly help.

Tomorrow I think I'll tighten the loose horn on Nurse Keren's motorcycle...I could use the change in scenery...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A New Day in Africa...

Today I wake up to the morning sounds of birds and insects in Mucombeze, Mozambique, after spending our first night in this beautiful country.

Time to begin the work that we came to do.

Getting here from South Africa was an adventure in itself, but thanks to some wonderful people - like Joao who met us at the Maputo airport and got us to our overnight accommodation, and like the sisters Evangeline and Juanita who put us up for the night (after an amazing meal!) and who got us to the airport early the next morning - we finally arrived in Chimoio. What a relief to see the familiar face of my niece Keren, along with Jeff and Dwight, who came to claim us and bring us out to the Farm ASAM where we will live and work for the next 28 days.

But the fun begins even before we reach the farm. Here we stop to see the progress on a new clinic being built by volunteers from the US, only to discover that their Honda generator has quit.

Dwight and I try to get it going, but there is no spark - I suspect a problem with the module. So after bringing out a replacement generator, we haul this one back to the farm for further investigation.

Today, however, I'm introduced to Izzy, the 2001 Isuzu truck that has major wiring issues - power windows don't work, AC has quit (not even a fan...), the door locks have a mind of their own, running lights acting strange...all this from the results of mice chewing through the wiring harnesses. Should be fun to get into, provided I can find enough of the proper tools and - of all things - get some fuses. Apparently they're not easy to buy locally...

But it's the people, not the equipment, that makes this place so unique. As we sat through the morning devotions with all the workers and volunteers, we were reminded that one of the key features of true Christianity is that we are all equal in Christ, and that love for one another is to be our major focus, whether we're fixing a truck or dressing wounds.

What a privilege to be a part of something that has eternal value...kind of like dust with a purpose.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Kruger Game Park

Today Laura and I spent most of the day in Kruger National Game Park. The day began early, as we wanted to be at the park gate when it opened. Note on the GPS that our vehicle isn't on a road...not every street in Africa makes it onto the map!

We saw a number of animals, starting with an elephant feeding by the side of the road. By the end of the day we'd come across gazelles, zebras, warthogs, cape buffalo, a giraffe, a wildebeest, and to top the list, a leopard ambling down the road! This last animal is seldom seen, so we counted ourselves lucky.

As we prepare to leave South Africa and head for Mozambique, I'm reminded that the big culture shock is yet to come. SA is very modern, has paved roads, lots of stores with products that are familiar. Just as an example, the fact that in a game park you can use your credit card, find an ATM, drive on paved roads, and have your GPS help you get around is pretty amazing.

But we know that Mozambique will be very different. For one thing, it's hotter (and we were sweating a lot today!). Getting from point A to point B is not a simple thing...fortunately we will be met at the airport when we land there Monday afternoon.

But the main thing for me is that I'll be able to get started on what we came to do - and that is to help, to serve others, and through that serving show how real the love of God is.

For those of you who pray, keep us in mind in things like travel safety, health issues, and for enthusiasm in all that we do. We've only got a month, and we want to make the best of it!

Caution: Objects may be closer than they appear...

Okay, so I know the airlines are trying to cut costs and increase profits, but I have never been so crammed for space as we were on our first flight from Seattle to Atlanta. There was no way our carry-on bags would fit under the seat in front of us, and we needed a shoe horn to get ourselves into the seats! It was a tight 4+ hours...

But the Lord has a way of adding humour to any situation. As we watched the pre-flight video on the tiny screens positioned just off the end of our noses (you know, the ones in the seat backs in front of you...), I suddenly gasped. A side shot of the actor sitting in the "typical" airline seat showed at least a foot of space between her knees and the Inflight magazine pouch in front of her. I turned to Laura and said, "There's no way that video was shot on a plane like this!" It reminded me of that scene in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex was seen in the side view mirror while he was chasing the jeep.

Fortunately, we had a little more legroom for the 16 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, SA - after we got in the air, that is. We had to wait an hour on the ground in Atlanta because a cat got loose from its damaged cage in the cargo compartment, and they had to go find a new cage.

But we finally made it to our hotel, and as you can see from the photos, Laura and I found a nice warm spot by the pool the next morning. The luxury part won't last long, but we'll enjoy it while it lasts!

On a serious note, thanks to all who are praying for us, and especially I want to thank the anonymous person who left some money in an envelope on the windshield of my truck last Laura and I contemplated this trip and its costs, we knew that God would have to supply the means, and He is.

When God calls us to put some dust on our shoes, you can know that He will be faithful and will provide the shoes that we need.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What's with the dust?

The concept of "Dust on my shoes..." is simple - do we go through life mostly watching the ball game from the bleachers, or do we make an effort to get down on the field and actually run the baselines? In other words, when you leave the ballpark at the end of the game, will there be any dust on your shoes?

The way I look at it, Jesus has done the job of putting the ball into play. You could say that His death and resurrection was the greatest hit of the game, yet we are called upon to be pinch runners on His behalf - we are the ones to put hands and feet to God's plan to redeeem the world. As Coach, the Father has chosen us to be the base runners. Strange but true.

So have you taken any bases lately? Is there any dust on your shoes? Dirt stains on the uniform?

That's part of the reason we are taking this trip to Mozambique. I don't know if it will end up a single, a double, or even a sacrifice fly. Maybe we'll even manage to steal a base or two.

But I know one thing...there will be dust.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Slim Shambles goes to Africa...again!

Yes, I'm off to Africa again...the first time in 25 years.

Last time, my wife Nan and I were short-term missionaries in Kenya, East Africa. Now I'm going with our daughter to Mozambique, which is a whole lot further south on the continent.

We will spend a month helping out at a mission station run by missionaries from SAM Ministries, where I'll be doing some vehicle maintenance and repairs on some well-used trucks and vans.

Here are some samples of some "patients" that await me...

We will also be helping my niece Keren Massey, who is a nurse working with SAM Ministries. Her motorcycle, nick-named "The General" needs a little TLC as well.
By the way...if you're wondering what the reference to "Slim Shambles" is all about, it's my other life as an author and humour columnist. You can check it out here at .
Oh yes...we head to Africa on February 10th, 2010 and will return around the middle of March. A whole month of putting a little African dust on our shoes...