Africa

Tessa and the Radio

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“I don’t have a job” “Why?” “Because I drunk so much when I was younger I never got an education!”

Recently four ex heavy drinkers from Tessa’s group, Wakonye Kenwa, shared their stories on Mega FM, the most popular radio station in Northern Uganda. It was the first of a three part series to garner support for Wakonye Kenya’s latest endeavour, and massive dream: a law which would ban the cheapest, strongest and most popular form of alcohol. Small plastic packets of Alcohol, called ‘sachets’

Tessa’s work is going really well. After taking upon the mammoth task of embarking on creating a new law, her group has moved forward at a rate of knots. The group has a real sense of community and purpose which is driving them forward. Meetings are very social and the group is starting to believe they can do great things. They’ve already got thousands of signatures on a petition to ban the packets (aiming for 5000, I think they’ll reach 10000), a Ugandan NGO has agreed to fund all the group’s transport and phone calls, and the local government has agreed to draft the law and put it in front of the council for voting. Everything is moving remarkably smoothly at the moment. The inevitable challenges from the industry and business will come when the law looks like it might actually happen.

 

For more from Nick and Tessa in Uganda, visit UgandaPanda.com

An Akester Update

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Peter and Christine Akester are currently on deputation in the North Island. Last Wednesday, while in the Taranaki area, they were involved in a car accident. Thanks to God, they both only received some cuts and bruises and the driver of the other vehicle was unharmed. From what we’ve been told, had the car been an inch or two forward, we may have been reporting two deaths!

The police, an ambulance and a fire engine were called in as Peter and Christine needed to be cut out of the car. Peter had glass up his nose, in his eyelid and in his mouth. Miraculously they have sustained no long-term damage. They are feeling very sore, with bruises and abrasions but were given the all clear from the hospital the night of the accident. Amazingly, the next morning they continued as planned, speaking at a couple of gatherings – though they were pleased to have a day off on Friday!

Praise God that they were protected during the accident and that they are both doing well. Pray that God’s hand will be with them as they recover, physically but also mentally. And pray that God will continue to protect them as they travel around the country.

Iri’s final weeks

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It’s already June and the official start of winter. It started here in Gisborne some days ago and most probably where you are too. Hope it’s not a sign of a harsh winter ahead. Iri is going to get a shock when he lands back in New Zealand but the jackets and jerseys which had been stored in the container for ten years are now all freshly washed and hanging in the wardrobe waiting. The process of unpacking the container and turning an empty house into our home has been a good project for me and there aren’t many sleeps to go now!

Iri is busily tying up the ends to his time in Kondoa, setting up the final exam timetable, paying final visits to villages he loves, and having visitors come to see him there before he says his final goodbyes and leaves for the last time. He’s trying to get away without farewells but I don’t think that will happen! On a recent return trip to one village he found that the local Christians had made such a wonderful effort to build their own church that we sought funding for the last of the timber from faithful Auckland supporters who were able to help complete the building. The local congregation had hand made the bricks and built the church themselves, saved and purchased the iron sheets and transported them three at a time by bicycle from Kondoa town – a trip of three hours by car so probably all day on a bike.

Sacks of maize have been purchased to be sent home with village pastors, boxes of Bibles bought and distributed, the vehicle serviced and repainted and a household inventory made of goods to be kept by the Akesters.

Would you join with us to cover everything with prayer for Iri and the Akesters including

safe travel safe storage of the household goods and vehicle safe transport, distribution and storage of maize supplies safe sharing of emotions at the time of leaving and arriving

We love and honour you for sharing this special time with us. May the Lord bless you abundantly.

Miriam’s Journal

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Day 1. I finally arrived in Mango and it has been a long journey. Months of planning and working and saving, a Bible Collage paper, a million emails back and forth to Togo and NZCMS, learning to ride a motorcycle and a few rugby games – you have been caught up on what I have been up to for the last year.

A quick flight to Auckland then the not so quick flights to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Addis Ababa and finally Lomé left me all ready for the eleven and a half hour bus ride up to Mango. I was mentally prepared for it to take up to 18 hours so the shortened time and the air conditioning came as a pleasant surprise.

Day 2. A quick tour of the hospital to see where I will be working for the next two years. The most exciting part for me was to finally see the Pharmacy that I had designed while on a 36 hour whirlwind trip to Mango one and a half years ago. I am impressed how much it looks like the diagram I drew and could not wait for the shelves to be full of medicine. The rest of the Hospital looks pretty amazing too! We have a 40 bed hospital with separate Men’s and Women’s wards, a Maternity ward, NICU, Operating Rooms, Radiology, Laboratory, Sterilising Unit and a Clinic which sees about 100 patients a day.

Next was a quick tour of Mango to see the local market where I will be buying my rice, tomatoes and cucumbers. I have since learnt that it is worth paying extra for the bagged rice in one of the boutiques as this means you don’t need to pick out the rocks yourself and saves on potential dentist bills. Also you can not always buy Mangos in Mango!

Day 28. I had just got back from prayer meeting and was excitedly going through a box of donated kitchen supplies – it is amazing what becomes exciting when there is no Briscoes down the road! – when I received a Pharmacy call out. A little surprising as the Hospital was not open for another 18 days… I quickly pull my long skirt on over my shorts and borrowed a flash light to put in the basket of my bicycle so I can see as I cycle back to the Hospital. I entered the Pharmacy, picked up my jandal to squash a spider (I never know which spiders are dangerous so my current theory is to kill them all!), retrieved the meds then cycled off through the night to deliver Morphine to the poor nurse with kidney stones.

While dropping off the meds I had a conversation with the Chief Medical Officer about how the machine that gets water ready for making the IV solutions (we make them from “scratch” around here) needs a part that is coming from the USA. He asks me to order some IV fluids from Lomé. I cycle back off into the night with my IV fluids order scrawled across a scrap of cardboard, knowing that this is exactly where I am supposed to be and that tomorrow will bring more exciting adventures and challenges.

Day 30. Elizabeth, a Paediatrician from Texas, and I moved into our brand new cottage. It wasn’t until four weeks later that I got my bed and I still haven’t unpacked my suitcase yet but it is starting to feel like home.

Day 42. The Grand Opening! I was woken up at 6:30am by Hotel California blaring out of the sound system over the other side of the hospital compound. Four hours later, with the same song on repeat, I was well and truly ready for the President of Togo to arrive in the hope that this may cause the sound man to choose a new song! There was a lot of excitement and all the Hospital workers were dressed in the blue Hospital of Hope fabric, while many of the people from Mango were dressed in a green version in celebration of the day. It was fun to see some of the local dances preformed for the opening ceremony and while the speeches seemed long (it is always difficult to concentrate in a different language) I was rewarded for my attention by hearing ‘Nouvelle Zealande’ mentioned once.

Once the excitement of the cutting of the ribbon and the feast of roast beef and rice was over it was time to head back to work for the afternoon before collapsing into bed at 6pm and sleeping solidly until the next morning. Apparently opening a hospital is exhausting work!

You can watch clips from our opening day by clicking here.

Day 46. Monday March 2 saw our first patients arriving at the Hospital gates long before I woke up. By the time I got to work at 7am there was a well-controlled line of patients stretching out of the Hospital entry and down the dirt road that leads back towards Mango. We had a tent set up just inside the Hospital walls where the Doctors, Nurse Practioner, Midwives and Surgeons were screening people to decide if they were going to be our first patients or if they were not urgent and could come back later in the week. It was a slow start in the morning for the Pharmacy as it took a while for the patients to get through the system but we made up for it in the afternoon and we ended up having crowds of people waiting at the Pharmacy until 8pm.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers during this start-up phase.

Back to Tanzania

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We’re delighted to introduce Peter and Christine Akester, who were recently accepted as NZCMS Mission Partners. The Akesters are no strangers to NZCMS, having served with us from 1979-1998 in Dodoma, Tanzania. During that time they adopted two Tanzanian girls (now in their late twenties) and returned to New Zealand when the girls were completing primary school. Since then, Peter and Chris have been living in Rangiora. Peter presently heads up a Christchurch pharmacy while Chris has been teaching music in local schools and to private pupils.

A parish mission trip to Kondoa last year rejuvenated their passion and vision, exciting them about the opportunities to serve God in the region. What’s more, Bishop Given Gaula has extended an invitation to Peter and Christine to work in this diocese. The plan is for them to depart for Tanzania early in September for two to three years. Peter will take over the role of Principal of the Kondoa Bible School from Iri Mato, focusing particularly on mentoring a local Tanzanian to eventually take charge. Christine will likely teach some Biblical subjects and English language at the Bible School as well as be involved with a women’s empowerment programme.

Transformations in Gambela

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A friend of Rosie’s reports about what is happening in Gambela, Ethiopia. 

My heart is so full. It has been said that life in Gambela is either very high or very low, but rarely in between. The stench of death, disease, and despair hangs in the air like a sulfurous fume from the pit and, if we are not careful, it can suck us in and rob us of the joy we have in Jesus. It is especially hard when those close to us are suffering…like when the teenage son of our Opo guard, Joseph, unexpectedly died of unknown causes recently.

But at the same time, the Lord is doing great things that we have, up until now, only read about in Acts and in books on revival. People regularly cry out in services, falling down on their knees weeping as the Holy Spirit touches their hearts. Demons too cry out, throwing their hosts to the ground, but they are dealt with swiftly in the Name of Jesus. The Anuak are using the Jesus Film in their revival meetings and evangelistic services to great effect.

The Spirit is moving and we have the best seats in the house!

We recently heard about a man in a nearby village who served as a ‘priest’ of a familiar spirit by the name of Wiu. This spirit is well known in the Gambela People’s Region as a powerful force for good (so-called) and for evil. The man has two wives, the youngest of whom is a Christian. His children too are Christians. In the past he was respected by many and feared by all, as he was very powerful. But bad things were beginning to happen to his family. From late 2014 to the recent present ten family members died of unnatural causes. So this past weekend, his children went to beg him to denounce the demon and to follow Jesus. At first the man resisted – he too feared the power of this spirit – but after being convinced of the truth of the Gospel and the power of Jesus, he rejected the demon and publicly burned all the fetishes, sacrificial spears, and cultic instruments in his possession. But not only was this one man set free from Satan’s clutches, but many of those who feared and revered him also turned to Jesus, including his first wife!

This is just one story among many. The folks in the Anglican Church here are advancing into areas previously untouched by the Gospel. (There is so much work, especially to the south of us, but we do not have enough trained leaders!) Pray especially for the continuing outreach work among the Majenger and the Tamakoi people groups. Pray also for the many showings of the Jesus Film and pray for our church members, that they may grow to maturity in the faith.

We won a borehole

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Last November I announced a big win for Wakonye Kenwa. Our research and persistent lobbying won a promise from the District Water Office to drill a new borehole for the community of Obiya West. Its now February. So, you may ask, what happened?

We continued to hassle sporadically. Lots of excuses. Then, one day in late November, many of us were gathered for a kindergarten graduation. Yup, you read that right- a kindergarten graduation complete with brass brand-led march from Lacor Hospital, all the way down Juba road to the Kindergarten, 4 year olds in full regalia. Several hours into this lengthy event, a truck pulls up. The contractor hadn’t contacted any of us, but was lucky enough to arrive on a day when half the community were together.  We briefly abandoned the nackered wee 4 year olds to hunt for water with the contractor and his fancy equipment. Water spouted forth.

BUT, its still not complete. It remains a deep pipe poking out the ground, no spout for the water, no handle to pump with. After continual hassling, the contractor said he’d return when the community has appointed a committee to oversee protection and maintenance. A meeting was called to appoint the committee. Then our usual problem reared its ugly head. People didn’t show up. From the fifteen attendees, we scraped together a makeshift committee to fulfill the requirement.

Then the best moment came. A member of group, Kidega,* who has worked dam hard to bring this borehole to his community stood up looking pretty frustrated:

“When this borehole is finished, I will come and lock it, and it will stay locked until we hold a proper meeting.”

His point is that the community must actually meet, agree on use rules and an adequate monthly household contribution for repairs before it starts getting used. It’s a community asset, and it needs to protected collectively, or it will become broken and abandoned like so many boreholes around here. More over, our group wants to make sure the community knows the story of how it got here. We want them to know it didn’t just drop randomly from the pockets of distant donors. They need to know their own neighbors worked and fought for it. We want them to believe they can make change.

So I was quietly stoked that Kidega played hard ball. Some time this month, they’ll come finnish the work. Kidega will lock the borehole, then we’ll see if people can get their act together and show up.

Note: I don’t use peoples real names in this blog

 

For more from Nick and Tessa visit their blog.

Prayer for Miriam

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Here’s a quick item for prayer. I’m now in Togo with the Hospital of Hope, working to set up the pharmacy department before the hospital opens. We have items that are needed for the operation of the pharmacy that were shipped from America but no one can find them at the Hospital. The most important is a scale that we use to weigh the NaCl and dextrose used to make our own IV fluids. Please pray that they will be found.

We are trying to order the last of the medicines needed for the pharmacy. Pray that this goes smoothly and quickly and for safe travel next week as we go down to Lome to pick them up.

Big problem, small scale solutions

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To tell  you the truth, we almost gave up before we started.

I remember a very early meeting. We sat in front of a big piece of paper. One side of the paper read: possible sources of a new borehole. Scrawled beneath this heading: St Mary’s Hospital (compensation), NGOs that focus on water, local government. I stood up and wrote another heading in Acholi: challenges.

“National Water” replied Ocan, bluntly.

Everyone nodded. Lacor center officially falls within the municipality (town) boundary. The contaminated water source Lawula itself is exactly on the border between town and district. The national water company (100% government owned) has an agreement with the municipal authorities that there shall be no new boreholes drilled within the municipality.

Why? Well, the official reason is that Gulu must aim for city status. In cities, apparently, there should be no peasants walking to public boreholes. Rather, civilized city folk should all drink from private piped water. The real reason can be easily extrapolated. To use a private tap, people must pay for installation and ongoing use. National Water wants to make money. If more public boreholes are drilled, people will pay an ‘up-keep’ fee of 1000 Ugandan Shillings (50 NZ cents) per month for all their families water needs, rather than the much great cost of piped water. Therefore, don’t allow more boreholes, and eventually more people will be forced to buy their water.

In theory, people living within the municipality are supposed to be able to afford piped water. Some can. But many also cannot. Recently, our local borehole broke. The nearest public source is very far away, so we tried to find someone with a tap close by to buy water. We found many people with taps. However none of them had paid for their water recently, so it wasn’t flowing! They just couldn’t afford it.

In that meeting, we resolved to persist anyway. Where else but Uganda might we be able to find some way around this ‘agreement’?!

We took our research to ‘Feed the Children’ in Gulu. Respectful of National Water, they don’t work the municipality. We approached World Vision. They also only focus on the District. In fact, all the groups we talked with would not consider drilling boreholes within the town boundaries.

Finally, armed with our research paper, maps and a recommendation from our local health inspector, we knocked on the door of the District Water Officer. He listened to us, and read our research, and understood the depth of our problem. He came and met with local residents and leaders of our group. He said if we could raise a community contribution by collecting from every household, and organize a volunteer team to help with some manual labour, they would drill us our borehole. None of us mentioned the National Water Agreement.

After many weeks of our volunteers collecting from every household, we delivered our community contribution. We wait for drilling day! Sometimes, in some circumstances, the rules can be overlooked.

But my fear is that unless this ‘agreement’ is broken all over the township, Gulu’s obsession with city status will succeed in pushing its poor back to the villages

Messy Meetings

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Our big Wakonye Kenwa meetings always make me a bit anxious. The trickiest part comes before the meeting even starts. Unable to kick my western habit, I always arrive on time. After about 20-25 minutes, your early birds arrive. After 45 minutes its time to start guessing whether you will get enough people for the set agenda. If the goal is to pick your next big community issue to tackle, but you only get 8 people, it won’t feel legitimate…better to turn the meeting into something else. The next task is to gauge when to get the meeting started. Are more people on their way? If we delay will we lose people’s interest? When the meeting actually starts, I breathe and feel the stress slipping away.

On paper, our community organizing group has 43 members. At any big monthly meeting, we usually get between 15-25 people. Interestingly, the people that come are not the same people every time. Whats going on? Its an important question. Why is it so hard to get consistent turn up? Do people just not care enough? Is our meeting at the wrong time of day?

At first I assumed it is hard to get our members to meet for the same reason it’s hard to hold a community meeting. That is, people are used to being paid to attend meetings or at least receive a soda and a meal. We don’t give soda, therefore our meetings are unattractive. I’ve since realized I was wrong. I underestimated our members. Most of them get it. Unlike the wider community, they know what we are here for, and what we can achieve. So why is it so hard to meet together?

Here are five top factors, from my observation (in no particular order):

The reality is, people die here much more often than in NZ. In Acholi culture, if you are connected in any way, whether you knew the deceased or not, you are expected to attend the burial. If you live nearby, you should go. If you know any relative of the deceased, you should go. Lacor where we live is small enough that people are very connected, but big enough that there are frequent funerals. Almost every meeting, several people will be attending a burial. Patient ‘attendants’. If you go to hospital in NZ, hospital staff will bring you food, change your sheets, and bring you your drugs. That’s not how it works here. You need to bring a friend/relative to do all that for you- to be your ‘attendant.’ Being an attendant is a full time job. Again, people get sick here way more than in NZ. The kind of people we get at our meetings are the responsible types that often get the job of attending the sick relative. Almost everybody that lives in Lacor farms, at least part time. However, its common for people’s family farm land to be far away. Those that rent land also often choose far away land, which is often cheaper AND more fertile. Therefore, trips to the far away village to farm are frequent! Life logistics. When you don’t have running water, life simply takes longer. Washing clothes, washing dishes, fetching water, cooking, walking to the market everyday for food (no fridges). Throw in childcare (most women have small babies). Sometimes the logistics of managing to complete all these tasks before it gets too dark prevents people from making it. The unknown timing of any other events Last week we attended a friend’s child’s kindergarten It was scheduled to start at 8am. It started at 11:40, and finished at 4:45. Family meetings, community events, parent-teaching meetings…its pretty hard to predict the start and finish time. Therefore any other important meeting or event on the same day as our meeting can prevent members coming.

To sum up, life is difficult and unpredictable!