Thursday, 21 May 2009

News from Serenje

Those of you who were at last night's Prayer Meeting will have seen a 5 minute film from our recent visit to Serenje. Seeing the film reminded me again how exciting it was to seeing the amazing things that are happening there and what a privilege it is to be partnering with such special people.Things are developing all the time.

As Simon has mentioned, we're buying a plot of land. The plan is to build a dormitory and a guesthouse on it. The dormitory is so that when girls move from primary to secondary school they have a safe place to stay. Rather than having to rent accommodation locally and put themselves at risk. The guesthouse is for income generation so that the project is sustainable. I heard today that money for the land is being handed over to the buyer tomorrow. This is great news as it means we've definately got the plot we wanted! You can see from the photos it's a big plot of land.

I also heard that they have been able to purchase 10 bicycles. They will be offically handed over to the Serenje Project Committee tomorrow. Two bikes will be given to each of the 4 communities that we're working in and then 2 bikes will be given to Alex (on the right), who is our amazing Project Officer based in Serenje.

The bikes given to the communities will be loaned out for use in the work of the project - for example pastors or volunteers visiting people living with HIV. By foot these journeys could take hours. You may have heard stories of Alex flying around Serenje on his motorbike while we were there. I learned today that the motorbike isn't his and has to be hired out each time he uses it. So now he has his own bike and another one for people joining him on visits to the communities. What a difference a few bikes can make.

Friday, 15 May 2009

A different future

Serenje is a district of around 144,000 people and we're working in 4 communities. The first of these is a place called Kashitu. The community only has one primary school and because of this, some children walk 56km to get there. This can be a 5 hour round trip. As it's such a long journey some of them sleep on classroom floors Monday to Friday and go home at the weekends. You can see Simon and Alex (our Project Officer in Serenje) standing in front of 2 of the classrooms. Around 30 girls and 30 boys sleep on the floor of these classrooms. As we walk inside my heart drops. They are empty rooms with cold stone floors. In the boys room there is rubble all over the floors and a old wheelbarrow. There are no beds or anything to indicate that children sleep there. The other photo shows how the toilet blocks have sunk into the ground because of the rain.

We chatted with 2 of the teachers in a small room. There were lots of educational posters on the wall, but I noticed on the wall a hand written chart, with the following columns:
-Number enrolled

Deaths. One those poignant reminders of how different our worlds are.
This was our first visit of the trip and it was all very sobering.

But then we walked into one classroom and there were 18 young people and children studying. And we are told that these are children we're sponsoring to go to school. I can't stop a massive smile spreading across my face. Most of them are orphans and they had dropped out of school. But now they're having extra lessons to help them catch up. If you were at church on Sunday you'll have seen Simon show this photo of Mapwe who is 15 and is one the young people we're supporting.

There are lots of challenges in Kashitu, but 18 young people are now going to be part of creating a different future for that community and their families.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Back Home

It's weird to think that on Tuesday I was watching an African sunrise in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. And now I'm back in Bracknell straight into the routine of work and everyday life. How can two such different places exist in the same world? I'm struck again by the luxury and convenience of my world. In Serenje we stayed in fairly basic accommodation, where we washed using a bucket, the toilet didn't flush properly, we couldn't drink water out of the tap and we ate the same food every day. And yet this was incredible luxury compared to most of the people we met in the villages. And now I'm back home and I have my hot shower, my flushing toilet and my fridge full of my favourite foods. So what do we do with all this? How do we hold these two extremes together?

One way is to stay connected with what's happening in Serenje. I'll be updating this blog around once a month with info, stories, photos and prayer requests that I hope will connect us with individuals and their lives. Please encourage your family, friends and Life Group to sign up to this blog, so we can share what's happening with as many people as possible. Hillsong worship leader Brooke Fraser went on a trip to Rwanda and wrote a song about a little girl she met called Albertine. One line from the song says: 'Now that I have seen I am responsible. I will tell the world, I will tell them Albertine.'

Let's tell the world what's happening in Serenje.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Heaven touches Earth

Our trip is coming to a close and we will be flying home tomorrow a.m. As always the sun is shining and the beautiful green African countryside is at it's best. It has been inspiring spending time with the team in Serenje who are doing such a good job.

I am humbled to see all that God is doing here. We have met orphans who are now at school, we have seen fields full of crops and women who visit those with HIV and pastors who love their communities. The task is huge but many lives are being changed. God a here and something of heaven is touching earth.


Friday, 1 May 2009

4th Village

We visited the 4th village in Serenje that we are working in today. We were met by singing and dancing. We all joined in with the dancing at some point and busted out some moves! Very funny.

In the communities we've visited they have given us a gift. This village overwhelmed us to the point of tears by giving us enough food to cover a rug. I've never wirtnessed such generosity, people who have so little giving so much. The lady giving it said that it is more blessed to give than to recieve. Wow.