Thursday, October 22, 2009

Back Home but the Journey is Just Beginning

It's been a pretty exciting couple of weeks for Kip and I and here we are back in Round Rock, safe and sound thanks to the prayers of all our friends and the hospitality of Paul and Marty Law. They are incredible people. Have I said that lately? And let's not forget David and LaVeta Law and Dean Jordan who took good care of us while we were in or in transit around Kinshasa. These folks, and Pastor Leon, and Pastor Kitambala, Shaku, Mama Umba, and many others extended a very warm and gracious welcome and took very good care of a couple of wide eyed Texans in a foreign land.

It's all still processing and will be for a while. Who knows, maybe by November 20 we will be able to eloquently express the experience we have had. In the meantime, here is the mile high view:

Kinshasa..... stay tuned, I'm still working on that.

The airports at Kinshasa, Lodja, and Chumbe.... Oh my goodness.

The Diengenga Mission Station at Lodja. I have high hopes.

The work on the dam and hydram system is well on it's way. People are working and by this time next year, provided we raise the remaining funds to complete the project, women and children will no longer have to carry water up a very steep hill on trecherous paths and almost a mile to the village.

This project is providing employment for many of the men in the village. Here are few along with their families that are benefiting from the generous gifts so far. They got all dressed up to get their pictures taken.

On Monday we took a road trip to Katako Kombe. A short 6 1/2 hour drive of 160 kilometers. There is a dam there, built by David Law many years ago. It stands strong but the unrest and other political problems prohibited the completion of the project of installation of the pipe and pumps. Here is a picture of the pond that was created by the dam. The Lodja project will have similarly constructed dam and pond when completed.

After Katako Kombe, we were off on another short 7 hour drive of about 170 kilometers to Wembo Nyama. Wembo Nyama is a special place. This is where missionaries set down in 1914 and established the beginning of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of the Congo. This is a very large mission station and village that, in spite of a well intentioned attempt many years ago, has never had substantial water. To the South, a very wide valley and the convergence of the river, to the West a a branch of the river, and to the East, a spring that trickles from the mountain, enough to build ponds to capture a few small fish but nowhere near what will be required to produce enough water to sustain the village.
It is a very complicated problem for the mission station that has no electricity or running water but has a hospital, schools, and trying to build a university.

But life goes on, as difficult as it is
Kip and I received a very warm welcome everywhere we went. The hopes of these people to deliver water to the village is clearly beyond the resources they have. We met with village and church leaders and spent time with the Bishop. It is clear that they are willing to participate in the solution.

In our meeting with the District Superintendent, he cited an Otetela proverb that said,

"a man will never starve where there is running water"

True that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


drops of grace Team
As we look forward to our Galveston Mission Trip benefiting the people affected by Hurricane Ike, I'd like to share a little excerpt from speech given by Robert F. Kennedy... This speech has, from the first time I heard it, always affected me. It clearly shows we can act to change our world, and our world becomes the Whole Wide World of change...

Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Robert F. Kennedy
University of Capetown
Capetown, South Africa
June 6, 1966

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back in Kinshasa and on the way home

It has been quite a journey and we are on the home stretch.

We have experienced the DRC. Been there, done that, I want to come back.

We arrived back in Kinshasa after another adventure in air travel here in the Congo. After hops from Lodja to Chumbe to Kindu, we landed in Kinshasa about 5:15. The problem was that the plane the luggage was on, did not show up until about 7:30. No worries, we spent some quality time hanging out in baggage claim with about 100 new friends until the bags arrived. They did and all is well.

We are back at MPH today and spent the afternoon with David Law. They are drilling a well at the school and we watched that a while. Looked much like what we did in Honduras but on a larger scale. Ate supper (meatloaf and mashed potatoes, yum) with David and Laveta, met some more new friends and now back at MPH for the last night.

Tomorrow morning we expect to see Bishop Yemba early, then off to check luggage, then church, then lunch with the Laws and Dean Jordan, back here for a little while and hopefully a shower, then off to the airport for the flight out of Kinshasa at about 9:00. Back in Austin Monday evening and home.

It's been an awesome experience. It was not an easy trip but certainly one we needed and wanted to make. The needs here are many and resources are scarce. It will take time and money, and people committed to improving the conditions and the lives of the people here. It is happening now but there is a long way to go. The work being done in Diengenge(Lodja) , and Dengeli (Kataka Kombe), and Wembo Nyama will have a ripple effect in the region. This I know is true.

An update with pictures and stories will be posted when we return next week.

May god bless the people of the Congo and,

Zombi anyu chokoli
(God Bless you all)

Phil and Kip

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No man; No beast; No mosquito will stop us!! - Mosquito???

The weather in Lodja, well actually the entire Congo, is very HOT and humid.  Today the high is 91 degrees but it feels like 96 degrees with 46% humidity and rain is forecasted for the rest of the week.  October is rainy season in the Congo and with that comes a ton of mud and stickiness.

The guys were mapping out the dam site and so they had to make the trek to the water.  Well if you've been keeping up with this blog you know that the walk is rather interesting.  It is a steep, rugged walk down through the jungle.  If you've done any hiking at all you know that going DOWN is not nearly as hard as going UP for most of us.  So the guys were going to do the mapping today and that meant a couple trips DOWN and then back UP the "hill."

Just a side as to their dress code: Being the ever cautious one, Kip brought with him all long sleeved shirts - he 'read' on the internet that it was recommended that you wear long sleeves to prevent mosquito bites and so being ever mindful of this Kip brought ALL long sleeves with him - Anyone who knows Dendy already knows that Dendy did not read the information on the net and so he probably packed a pair of jeans but he is most likely sporting a tshirt, a hat, shorts, and sandles - and that is how they roll....

Well after the first trek to the water and back the boys were a little winded; they drank some cold water; discussed the project; and back down they went.  On their way back up the hill our boys were feeling the elements - not to mention starting to grumble about the fact that their personal trainers were going to hear a thing or two from them about their training regiment - Anyway, back UP they were going when they came across a 9 month along pregnant lady with a 5 gallon water jug on her head going UP the hill to her home...  little disconcerting for our guys as she was not nearly as winded as they were.  She smiled and on she went to get back home to complete her chores, maybe give birth, and then do her laundry by hand.

This time UP they felt it for sure... they were just plum tuckered out.  They drank gaterade to replenish their electrolytes and rested.  Kip decided it was too blasted HOT for long sleeves and disregarding everything he read he decided to live the reality - he took scissors to his sleeves and now Kip is sporting short sleeves and not worrying about the mosquitos in the Congo.

The guys were successful in mapping the dam site and have left for Katako Kombe where there is a successful hydroram pump to check it out and then off to Wembo were they are assessing another site that is in desperate need to get water.  Please keep them in your prayers that they may continue to have the eyes to see and the wisdom to discern what God would reveal for drops and the people in the Congo.

God Bless,
Diane (on behalf of Kip and Phil)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

We've arrived and have been blessed with 4 chickens...

October 9 at 6:00am we were picked up by Dean Jordan and his son Ben to head to the airport for the flight to Lodja.  We were anxious to get there.  Marty (Paul's wife - Appointment Congo) describes this process like experience Bedlam...however, Bedlam defintely underestimated this experience.  Fortunately, Pastor Leon had taken our luggage the day before  and we did not have to mess with anything other than a back pack.  The 'staging' for the airlines was in town and packed with people inside and out.  We we made it through the room was the size of a two car garage and boy did it feel smaller.  It was hot and dark and chaotic and we were so thankful for Pastor Leon and Dean with us.

Finally getting on the plane we flew to Lodja without any further issues.  All our luggage had made the trip successfully and was piled and waiting for us on the tarmac.  The porters hoisted those 70lb. packs loaded with tools, saws, paint, and various other supplies on their heads!  Unbelieveable!

We found Paul outside, loaded up and ready to rock and roll.  The trip to the mission station was only 7 kilometers.  And so here is where we sigh - phew... from Austin to Kinsasha and finally in Lodja - we have arrived!

Marty and Paul are incredibly loving and committed people.  The people of the Congo are truly blessed to have them.  The Laws have a nice home.  After visiting for a little it was time to open the packages.  We popped open the trunks filled with the saw, the transit, the paint, the chocolate chips, and of course the pecans - after all there is more to life than tools, I think - all made the trip safely thank you God. 

After a short visit we settled in the guest house.  The house is at the end of the station and looks out over the center of the compound.  Palm frawns waved in the breeze as if they were welcoming us into their home.  There is no electricity, but there are concrete floors one dichotomy of situations that was becoming the norm and yet felt surreal.  It was nice.

That afternoon we finally made our first trip to the "dam" site.  At the top of the hill was ran into a group of children carrying water up the hill and a few small children on their way down.  The hill is much more than I expected.

It is long; it is steep; and the path is not easy to navigate.  But when we got down there and saw the site, it all made sense.  The stream carries more water than it appears in pictures.  The construction of the dam, overflow, ram system, makes total sense when put in context.  Workers had been there earlier and fresh diggin was evident by the mud and silty water.

The hike back up the hill was not easy without water on our heads.  =)  Seriously, I can't even imagine - well I guess I can with the hauling of oranges on my back in Honduras, but we were winded, Kip more than me because he is so much older.

Saturday morning after breakfast we loaded the saw and headed to the shop.  Worker's were unloading the freshly cut lumber.  We had our first real conversations with the men of the community.  Shaku, Jamba, Michelle, Victor, Daniel, and many others.  The kids were everywhere all the time.

Around 3:00 that afternoon we were told that Elders were coming to see us.  They sang Blessed Be the Tie That Binds in Otetella.  The words were foreign but the melody was clear.  They said they had been hearing about us and that we wanted to help with the dam and water system.  It was an honor to meet them all.

That evening was the adventure for the day. It was in a word - incredible.  Paul invited us to travelto the village of Shilo (Shelow) where he would peach and show the "Jesus" film.  The road there was the adventure.  Shaku came with us and had to do a little 'road work' in one spot to make the road passable.  That same spot on the road back (after the rain) turned out to be a problem.  We left about 5:00pm and it was 20 kilometers whick took about an hour to make the trip.  This was quite the production with a generator, small lights, a microphone and projector showing the film on a large screen that would show the film on both sides.  Villagers began to gather and by the time Paul started his sermon there were approximately 100 women and children and men all around.  The movie began.

About halfway throughthe movie, Paul, Kip, Shaku, and I, the Pastor and a few others were all invited into a hut for dinner.  It was a mud hut with a small room in the front where we ate at a table.  We dined on djese, rice,chicken, and water we brought from the mission station.  Our ambiance was one small palm oil candle.  We were given a gift of 1 chicken and 3 eggs. We felt so blessed to have been given this honor when it was our priviledge to be their guests. 

It had rained so the roads were now slick and it was a bumpy ride but we were making progress.  Remember that bad spot I mentioned earlier, well suffice it to say we slipped and slided right at that spot and got stuck.  Because we were among good company we were successful in getting 'un-stuck' and off we went heading for home safe and sound. The chicken survived the trip as well.  I don't believe he survived the night. 

So we have had quite the adventure so far.  It is Sunday evening.  It was another great day but you will just have to wait to read those stories.  But here is the hook - we now have 4 chickens!!

Tomorrow we will be mapping the dam site and doing other 'dam' stuff  =} Then we are off to Katambe to look at a completed dam and spend the night there.  Tuesday we will finish there and head to Wembo Nyama and spend two nights there. And back to Lodja on Thursday and off to Kinsasha on Friday.
We will be in the Congo - communication is limited at best.  We will be in touch when we can.

Much Love.
God Bless,
Phil and Kip
(via Diane)

Reflections of our arrival and first look into the sights and sounds of the Congo

It is a beautiful Sunday morning here at the Diengenga mission station.  It's 6:30am here and we are looking forward to another incredible day.

Believe it or not access to the internet is limited when you are in the Congo.  Who would have figured that? But, here we are.  I am sitting on the porch of the guest house listening to the roosters and other birds, seeing activity beginning to come about, including three women that just disappeared around a house with their buckets.  They are on their way to fetch their daily water.

Reflecting to the first day:

The entire trip went well.  Our worries about packing, oversize/overweight baggage were just that - worries.  We used every available ounce of space and weight and all the bags arrived safely, all the way to Lodja.  We went around the world to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, through Chicago, Brussels, and Douala and through it all the only delay we had was in getting out of Austin, Texas.

Our stay in Kinsasha was brief but impacting.  Kinsasha is a huge fast paced city of about 3 million people.  The conditions for the masses are extremely tough.  Very little infrastructure and rampant chaos.  We stayed at the Methodist Protestant Hostel (MPH).  We met several people from Austin believe it or not, including those that are dedicating their lives to the Congolese people.

We spent the day with David Law, Paul's older brother (Appointment Congo).  We began at the foundry where David was looking into to see if the old rams (pump for the project) could be repaired.   Unfortunately, the picture did not tell the story as the foundry needs the actual product to determine if they can repair them.  David will need to arrange shipment of the parts for analysis.  We traveled the city, moving in and out with eyes wide open.  We ate at ECC, where we dined on rice and beans and chicken.  This was our first meal outside of what I consider a controlled environment.  It tasted good and the best news is it went down and never came back up.  It is all good.

We then headed to the flour mill.  The process to buy a 50lb. bag of flour was not as simple as you may think.  We went to the Central Police Station.  Not something that most sensible people would think to do but there we were nonetheless.  David needed to get paperwork done so there we were.  After that we visited our first grocery store to puchase some water.  The cost of the water was about as much as it is in the States.  What we spent on 3 bottles of water probably was more then the checkout girl made in a day.  Then off to the ship yard where David is supervising the building of a couple of boats.

Seeing David's gas gauge on empty was a little disconcerting.  When I asked David how we are doing on gas he said, "we're low." Seeing as we were traversing this huge chaotic city and going into areas that most tourists do not find themselves in we were a tad nervous.  Thankfully funny man David was just messing with me as the truth is that the gauge was broken and he had just filled up the day before.  Breathing easier once again, we continued on our errands.

The sights and sounds of Kinsasha... I am still processing all that we saw and did.  We continue to trust that God is in control and He will continue to reveal Himself to us as we move around this amazing place in His world.

Tomorrow we are off to Lodja.  Can't wait.
God Bless,
Phil and Kip
(transcribed by Diane)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kinshasa Today Lodja Tomorrow

Spent the day with David Law all around Kinshasa at the foundry, the Protestant Church of the Congo (ECC), flour mill, grocery store, boat yard, and other places many don't see.

The need is great in this country. It will take a while for it to sink in so we can adequately express it.

At the Methodist/Presbyterian Hostel (treating us very well by the way) we met some folks from Austin doing a documentary on the Lueba(sp) rebuilding a church and using (not the right term, or maybe it is) Don Bobb, another Austinite that was here and knew Burleigh Law and knows the Law family well. God has a way of making connections. Who knows what this one will lead to.

Kip is trying to teach me French. He speaks pretty much - none, and I speak zippo so between us we can say "we don't speak French" with a Texas Accent.

Tomorrow we meet a new friend, Dean Jordan who will accompany us to the airport and to Lodja where we will meet with Paul and Marty Law and continue the journey between Appointment Congo and drops of grace.

Thanks for the prayers and support.

We will post again when we get a chance.

Kip and Phil

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Phil and Kip's Excellent Adventure

All the bags are packed. We're ready to go.

We leave at 12:30, then Chicago, Brussels and Kinshasa.

Follow us on Facebook. Just click on the link on ths page. That will be quick and dirty updates. Check here for the good stuff.

God Bless and thanks for all the support.

Phil and Kip

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Three days until the Congo

Just a few short days until Kip and I jump on the plane for the short trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We leave Tuesday about noon and a short 25 hours later we will be in Kinshasa.

Before I forget, let me express my sincere appreciation to everyone that has been giving their prayers and financial support to drops of grace. Because of that support so far, we sent the money to kick start the Lodja Water Project. Additional gifts just received are allowing us to send additional funding to Appointment Congo next week. It is so cool that Kip and I will deliver the message in person to Paul, Marty, and the people in the mission station that they have the prayers and financial support from the people in the United States.

We still have a long way to go but thanks so much for all the support so far.

Here I am blogging, watching (really just listening to) ESPN Game Day, when I should be getting my stuff ready. It's a packing party at the Dendy's today.

Kip and I will be squeezing two weeks of clothes and personal effects into our carry-on luggage. Every ounce of our checked luggage will be used to pack needed supplies for Paul and Marty, the mission station, and the project. Again, thanks to Dan and Gregg, Diane, Cheryl, and Carl for filling the "grocery/laundry/supply/wish" list.

Gotta get busy,

God is Great!

See ya,


Saturday, September 26, 2009

T- 10 days to the DRC

It's only 10 days until Kip and I begin the first drops of grace trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This comes on the heels of the very productive trip that Diane and Cheryl took to Malawi. This is certainly an exciting time in the early life of drops of grace.

We are very excited about our mission and look forward to telling the stories at the drops of grace banquet on November 20. Details will be posted very soon. This will truly be our coming out party and will demonstrate the how, with the love and support from our friends, family, and partners, and the tools and gifts with which we have been blessed, a few drops can create a ripple effect that will positively impact those who are less fortunate.

Now a quick update about Lodja. We have been visiting either via email or Skype on a regular basis with Paul Law. The story of the Law family is in and of itself incredible. From a missionary assignment in the 1950's for his father Burleigh and mother Virgina, to the tragic loss of his father in 1964, the Law family persevered, returned to the Congo and have been spreading God's love and working for the Congelese people for many years. I can't wait to meet these remarkable people in person.

It's still not entirely clear how drops of grace has come to be a partner with Appointment Congo. What I do know is that obstacles kept being thrown in the way when we were looking in other directions. But every time this relationship was on the table, the signs were there to follow. God has a plan and we finally paid attention.

This great project will rebuild a dam and hydram water system that washed out in the 1970's. Women and children spend hours hauling water up the hill and for about a kilometer twice every day. Not only will this project bring water to the Lodja mission station, it will employ over 30 people for about a year and be an economic benefit to this region.

As soon as Paul received the initial funding, work began clearing the land and dredging the stream bed. The pictures in this blog were taken since the work began the first week of September.

Kip and I will visit the Lodja water site and have the opportunity to assess the project so far, meet and visit with the people in the community, and while there, will be visiting a couple of other sites and assessing the possibility of similar projects along with other possibilities that follow our mission of community development with water, health and hygiene, and education.

We will communicate through this blog and any other way we can while there.

We will keep you posted, No pun intended.

God Bless


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

We are helping to put people to work in the DRC!

Water is a necessity for life and the challenge of providing themselves with water is one that the Congolese face everyday. Tradition and experience have shown the Atetela people of Central Congo that healthy living requires them to build their villages on the plateau well above the valleys where the abundant streams flow with life giving water. This means that their water sources are far away from where they live and that the water they use must be carried up steep hills from the valleys below.

Do you know that women and childen spend approximately 4 hours a day hauling water for their daily use - EVERYDAY! They walk about a mile down to the valley fill their 5 gallon containers, which averages 40lbs each, and walk 1 mile back UP the hill to bring the water to their homes.  Can you fathom that? Can you imagine what your day would be like when at any given time during every day you are bringing much needed water to your home?  Think about how many times a day you turn on your faucet in your home, your sprinklers, your washing machine.  And then imagine having to get the water every time to do these every day tasks.  Astounding isn't it?
We found a solution but we need your help.  The Lodja Water Mission project at the Lodja mission of Diengenga will be a restoration of a technology that has been around for generations.  The original hydram water system has been salvaged and with a minimum of parts can be put back into use.  The dam will be built mostly by hand and will require a team of men to work for many months. The salaries of these men will be the primary expense in addition to some parts for the ram and repairs to the distribution system on the station. Just by employing the local people to build the dam we stimulate the whole regions economy. This project alone will be the biggest employer in the area.
It is exciting for the people of Lodja and they are so full of hope and joy for the possibilities that this water project will bring to them and their community for many years to come.
We invite you to follow along as we rebuild this exceptional technology.  We will introduce you to the men who are working to rebuild their community.  You will meet childen and women and read about their lives as this transformation to their community unfolds.  
Please visit often feel free to comment.  We look forward to your partnership on this journey.  
God Bless, 
The drops of grace team
Update on the water project in Lodja……
Dear all,
Just a short update on the progress of the water project in Lodja Africa. We have raised a little money for the down payment for the project and have sent it off. We have received word that Paul Law has received the money and the project is underway!!!!! The timing was perfect; Paul was going to lay some workers off from other projects the same week the money arrived so they can now keep there jobs, God is GOOD!!! Paul tells us that the dam site is cleared and that they are starting the dredging of the stream bed. They need to clear the site and dig out the stream bed to see how much of the original installation can be redeemed. The word is spreading that they may have water again and there is excitement in the air. Many are asking what they can do to help, even the Pastors school students will be working on the project a day or two each week. This is truly going to be a community project. Paul tells us that he met several women on the hill carrying water back up and they spoke with much emotion about the hope that they have that there will once again be water in the village after so many years.
We are in full gear trying to raise all the funds for this project; we can not let the hope of these people fade. We will be having a fundraiser dinner on Nov. 20th so stay tuned for more details on that later.
As the project gets up to speed we are sending our own Phil Dendy and Kip Reuter to the Lodja station on Oct. 6th. They will be going to get a first hand look at the project and report back to us on the 19th. While they are there they will be looking into another project in Wembo Nyama. That is all I have for now, God Bless and thank you all for your support.

Surrendering to “His” call
Dan Rybaski

Saturday, August 1, 2009


When we first arrived at Matanda the village children were bashful. Many of the small children hid from view and yet others would reluctantly surrender a smile. One young boy, about 9 years old, was primary caretaker of his sister who was about 1 year old. This boy carried his sister on his back and every time the baby would look at us she would cry. She was very scared and hid in his back. The children were in the middle of their lessons and so we stayed in the perimeter of the building watching and helping where we could. We had a secret though that was going to be a shoe in. :D lollipops!

We had lollipops for everyone! The children had never had these and so we waited until after their meal and recess and then the teacher called them back and they sat in rows looking at us with anticipation and uncertainty and then Barbara and Sandi told them we came with a treat. That peeked their curiousity - even the crying baby stopped to watch somehow sensing something exciting was about to happen. Sandi took out a lollipop, unwrapped it, and put it in her mouth and with a grin from ear-to-ear she said, "YUMMY!" As I watched their little faces nearly every child licked their lips and their eyes were big and they were starting to smile too. Sandi told them that everyone was going to get one and then we handed them out. (watch the video now. :D)

Isn't it a wonderful thing that JOY is totally FREE! We can make such a huge difference in someone's day or even in their life if we will be open to the needs of others. The adult's & children's unembarrassed expressions of joy as they sucked their lollipop for the first time was a sound that is forever embedded in my memory. The exuberance with which they sucked those lollipops, and their need to savor each and every moment was a JOY to watch.

Sometimes all it takes is a smile, a warm hug, or a lollipop. You never know what path someone is on and just how deeply your gesture effects their very soul and alters their day and they learn to just let go and feel a moment of happiness.

JOY! it is contagious.....

Peace and hugs,


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Is there hope?

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, "Is there hope?" "Do you have hope that things will change?" Is there hope is a short but profound question: one question that every person of faith should try and struggle with.

I know that I have struggled with this question on many occasions. On one hand I feel there is little to no hope that lives will change from the violence of hunger, disease, malnutrition, and death. There are approximately 84,000 deaths per year of HIV/AIDS and approximately 250 new people are infected every day. This translates to Malawi being the 8 most vulnerable nation in the world for women and children.

On the other hand I also feel a deep sense of hope in God's presence and activity in places of extreme poverty, suffering, and death. We met women who were able to live through and care for their children even with the meager resources of food and shelter available. And men, and women, and children praising God and Christ for their very lives and the power of the Holy Spirit. For me this is HOPE! This is the power of the spirit to give strength to people who live in these hardest and most desperate of human situations. If God was able to work life out of the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross then surely God is able to create life out of the suffering and hunger consuming the communities in Malawi. The incredible will to live of the women and children was a revelation for me of the power of God in chaos. And the power of the HOPE that fills us with the will to live and to work with God to make things new.

It was our final day being among the people. We picked up Mary and Agnes, our treasured angels, and headed out to Mtandile. This is the village of Agnes. We were excited to meet her people. This community was a hustle and bustle of activity. Many street vendors selling their wares, music playing, and people were out and about. This was very different than all the other locations we had been at and Agnes was smiling from ear-to-ear. It was a special day for her bring the azungu. She most especially wanted us to see her school, meet her teacher friends, and meet her husband Godfrey and her daughter. We pulled into the school yard - it was a locked school area and all the children were there along with the women to greet us. They sang to us and brought us into a school room. This was the first school that we saw that actually had buildings for the various subjects - reading hall, administration, etc... In the center of the small courtyard was a playground. It was run down by our standards - there weren't any swing seats on the swing set; the teeter totter was rusted and unsafe, the slide looked like it would collapse at any moment but the children were having so much fun playing and laughing it was easy to overlook the conditions and focus on the joy of the sounds of children playing. One of my most favorite sights is to watch a child soar like an eagle on the swings and watching their face scrunch right before they get the courage to jump off and land back on the ground...the look of wonder and accomplishment at themselves as they brush their knees off to go and do it again makes me feel that I've eaves dropped on a moment and I tuck it away in my heart. As I watched the children in this school play on their one tire swing I knew that I was eaves dropping on special child's play and I have tucked it into my heart. Children inspire me to be more than I think I can be; children, no matter what, hold hope in their hearts.

Some of our group stayed at the school while the rest of us went into the village to visit some who were not feeling well. We had one of the Doctors with us and he was going to pay a few house calls. We visited a critically ill man. While Dr. Skelton was examining him we waited in the outter area of the house... many children had heard the azungu where there and they came to see us. They smiled and shook our hands. I felt in the middle of beauty and heartbreak and I wasn't sure how the two could coexist.
As we traversed the village we added new friends to our journey along the way. We prayed for the sick. We chatted with families. We got so much more than we received - openness, graciousness, kindhearted, loving, joyful all of it unconditionally. Every where we went the owner pulled out the sand colored carpet for us to sit on while they sat in the dirt. Do you do that for your guests, do you give your guests the best you have? really? OH, and strangers at that. I want to say I do but I don't think I really do. What is it that causes a person who has nothing (by our standards) to give everything and yet a person with everything (by our standards) gives nothing? Matthew 18:4 says, "The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who makes himself humble like this child."
Alas our time in Agnes' village came to an end. We had to get back to Somebody Cares headquarters to pick up a gentleman that was going to take us out to a youth program in Nadzuluwa. My ears perked when I heard that. Youth? I hadn't see any teens other than at the soccer tournament and I was excited to have the opportunity to chat with them. We drove for miles and miles through villages and markets and desolation on a dusty bumpy road to reach our destination. It was worth it!
The youth were just arriving when we got there. They had a structure about the size of a 1 1/2 car garage. There were cement rows on the ground for us to sit. The youth pastor immediately appologized that some of the girls would have babies with them because they are the primary caretakers and had to bring them. Why was he appologizing for that? Having babies on the backs of young girls had been common place for us and we didn't question this. There are so many orphans and vulnerable children and teens that have had to step up to be the head of households it was not uncommon to see this and I felt bad that he felt the need to explain. And then it happened.... they started singing; what an amazing array of musical notes strung together in perfect harmony reverberating in surround sound over the very core of my being. I was awe struck. I looked at Cheryl and she was smiling ear to ear. Finding my place in the back I taught a young man how to video and I sat and watched and I could have stayed there the entire day and night listening to this amazing group of youth worship and praise God with all they had. They all had bibles and I could see that each bible was loved - with crumpled pages and floping binding - these bibles were treasured for sure. I don't know how to describe the feeling of watching youth praise God with babies on their backs, with no shoes on their feet, with no jackets to keep warm, and with one meal a day. They praised God for what they have; they descibed ways they had seen God in their lives; they have hope in God and they know He is the way. WoW!

After the service we went outside and Bree organized games to play. The youth pastors are working really hard to break barriers that have been in the culture for generations and generations and so when we played something that was girl and boy it was very awkward at first because they don't do this in their culture. But it didn't take long for them to get engrossed in the game and the gender roles dropped and we were teens just playing a game and it was amazing! Edward, who works for Somebody Cares but works with the youth in the communities, explained that this was the first time that the girls and boys played together. That the youth pastors were really excited and that he felt it helped bridge the gap and they would continue to play these games and little by little he had HOPE that the teens of Malawi would day by day make strides with God's help in transforming their world.
Hope in the dictionary is defined as a promise; a trust. I always answer the question, "Is there hope?" with a firm, emotional, faith-filled - YES! Indeed there is hope. God created all things new in Christ.
"But the needy will not always be forgotten,
nor the HOPE of the afflicted ever perish." psalm 9:18

Monday, July 27, 2009

Show me Your glory...

I'd like you to meet Agnes (on the left). Agnes is a native Malawian woman who volunteers for Somebody Cares - Malawi (Theresa Malila). She spends her days as a Community Leader working with village volunteers within the surrounding villages of her community. She is an angel on earth. Her smile is contagious and her sweet and humble nature is calming. Her energy for her people, especially women and children, is boundless and it is an honor to be in her presence. Mary (on right) is yet another volunteer who spends her days visiting women and children in her community. She, too, is a community leader with Somebody Cares-Malawi. Mary has a little spark to her. She has a keen sense of humor and gives new meaning to joy that is found in everyday life. She is a born teacher and takes every opportunity to help the azungu (white person) understand her culture and people. You will always have a homework assignment with Mary. She is a treasure.

Both these ladies are Angels among us. They glorify God. They do not draw attention to themselves. They work quietly behind the scenes and when the work is done they leave quietly. It is said, "are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" hebrews 1:14. Agnes and Mary are ministering every day, unconditionally, non judgementally, they are the true epitome of what it means to Glorify God. I am convinced that when I reach heaven I will find these beautiful ladies walking in companionship with Christ Jesus. They bring such joy to everyone who comes in their path. We were blessed to have these two with us every day of our journey and I feel blessed to call them friend.
I woke and asked God to "show me Your glory" today. He sent me Agnes and Mary.
God Bless,

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's ON!

Soccer Tournament 2009 - July 19

Round Rock & Outlaws (MA)


Today was a good day in Malawi. Did you know that these kids only play in tournaments every 5 years? That is all they are allowed because it coincides with Parliament votings and such. Isn't that amazing and mind boggling? Well this day was very special to over 500 kids in Malawi and we can't thank all the people and groups that donated to make this soccer tournament happen we couldn't have done it without you!

Jesus said, "Be careful. Don't think these little children are worth nothing." matthew 18:10

We started our day going to church services. I have never been to an African church service and was very excited. We dressed up and off we went. We drove for ever! I couldn't believe how far it was and I was finding it hard to contain my excitement - how many kids will be playing? Are girls allowed to play? How will be work the bracket? All that stuff that we would think about before holding a tournament. 1 hour later we pulled into the small village that was hosting our church services. There were a ton of people around but I couldn't see the church. And then I noticed, there aligned in front of the worshippers were a row of 16 chairs. All different shapes and sizes. And there, under the big tree, we would worship for the next 3 hours. Theresa Malila led worship with the attending pastor. It was just amazing how exuberant these folks are in their love for Jesus. They sang songs to us and we sang songs to them and it just seemed to click for all of us. I felt honored to be there. I noticed something else I had not seen so far - teenagers! They were all dressed in their sunday best holding a bible and sitting on rocks or the dirt ground. Nobody complaining; nobody talking to each other; and nobody on their cell phones. They were there to worship and that is what we did. It was fantastic and inspiring and beautiful.

When the service was over we started the much anticipated 'football' tournament. Many of the youth leaders came forward to show us their teams. We had 8 teams all together - only the 14-17 year olds played. This was a serious village to village competition. Girls are not allowed. Small children are not allowed. It is just the real men of Lilongwe who will be playing this day. As we set up many people started to show up to line the perimeter of the field. You could feel the anticipation the excitement in the air. They told us that although they were there to worship as one family under God when it came to football they were going to be looking to win. And they were right in telling us that. The guys lined up for the uniforms. They were so excited. Shirts and shorts and socks and shoes... WOW! They couldn't believe it. You could feel the excitement in the air. We didn't share with them that they would get to keep the uniforms right away. They thought they were just borrowing. Each team played. Nearly every game ended in a shoot out. They are very good players for sure. They didn't like playing in cleats and socks. They were way more comfortable barefoot.

While I was on the sidelines filming the big game many of the teenage boys were fascinated with the camera. They called it a TV. I taught many of them how to use it and they really enjoyed it. I met the chief of Misula, a zone in the Lilongwe area. Their team was wearing red and they were cheering them on like crazy. One man turned to me and said that he was so proud because he had never seen the children look so good. It struck me right away. We take for granted that our children have clean clothes every day. These guys have one set of clothes typically and they are very rarely clean. The adults were proud to have their kids in the uniforms and to watch them play. They kids felt empowered to play harder for their village. Once again I was struck dumb in the presence of these amazing people. At the core of our being it is our fondest wish to have our children do better than we did and to see a parent with his eyes glowing because his boy had a uniform and was playing in a tournament... an event that occurs every Saturday morning in my town, was humbling.

Cheryl and I can't thank you all enough for your generous donations. Without you this wouldn't have been possible. I have to tell you that whenever they scored everyone jumped so exuberantly up and down on the field. You gave young men and an entire community joy for a day and a story to tell around their fires that night. Because Malawian's are still oral story tellers this story will be with them for many years to come and it will be passed down to their children and to their children's children. It was good this day for sure.

"I tell you the truth. Anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me." matthew 25:40


Saturday, July 18, 2009

If you judge people you have no time to love them

Day 2 Malawi - July 18, 2009

"We...have joy with our troubles. Because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character and character produces hope. " romans 5:3-4 ncv

Genuine diamonds are known for both their beauty and their strength. The same is true for strength of character and how this priceless trait is developed takes place through an unexpected process - experiencing joy when you're suffering under pressure. As your character grows stronger so does your HOPE. And this, my friends, allows you to find genuine joy, even in the middle of suffering.

Today Cheryl and I visited the community of Njawa. It was similar in appearance to Deya Center in that it is supported by Somebody Cares but it did not have the same feel for sure. When we arrived the women were dancing and singing for us. It was so sweet to be greeted in such a way. They were smiling and having a good time and you could see their genuine happiness that we were there to help. What bothered me was that I did not see the children right away. I was looking for them but they were not there and that was strange since this was supposed to be a location for widows and orphans. We brought bubbles and books and though the women were singing loudly I was looking for small smiling faces. After we enjoyed the singing and dancing for some time Mary, our community leader, took us on a walking tour of the village. They have a new well so we were excited for that once again, but still there were no latrines.... and as we were walking I realized we had some children following us. I excitedly turned to say Hi! but I paused. The children were not smiling; they were not laughing; they just were there. Curiosity? Maybe. But their eyes told me the entire story and I knew in that instant that I was never going to be the same. You know eyes are the way to see the soul and these childen were telling me volumes without even speaking.

Overcoming my reaction instantly, I smiled and said hi and I as I bent down and shook their tiny hands one of the women spoke to them and they ran off. I was confused and in that moment I put my video down and just walked and looked and listened and watched. Mary asked if we would cook the meal and of course we said yes. We went into a small room with some young girls and they showed us how to cook the fortified porrage for these orphans only meal. I stirred the huge pot on an open fire pit and the smoke was so thick I couldn't see and my eyes burned so bad. While the porrage cooked we went and got some water from the well. Cheryl and I filled the tubs with water and the young girls asked if we wanted to put it on our heads and of course we said yes. They were allowing us in to their life and asking us to see the daily chores of their lives and so two girls lifted the bucket and placed it carefully on my head. UNBELIEVABLE! I could not believe how heavy that bucket was. I seriously thought my neck was going to break. We walked for about 25 feet ever so slowly because there was no way I wanted to spill the water and the young girl stopped me and took it from my head. Now you must know and I am ashamed to tell you, but that young girl took that tub of water and put it on her head and as she turned I saw a baby on her back too! It was so humbling. We washed the cups and by then the porrage was done and we filled 92 cups 1/2 full with porrage. Smiling and excited because we accomplished a chore for these sweet women - maybe even eased their life for a moment when Mary came in and told us we did not have enough. Are you kidding me? That isn't a choice and in that instant we bowed our heads and prayed that God would multiply those cups. We counted the children again...but while counting more children kept coming and we were getting nervous and I could feel my chest start pumping - this is their only meal! are you kidding me? Where is the food? I was telling myself not to panic or make a scene they were watching me. I had cooked everything they gave us to cook. The head teacher had lined up the children and they were watching us; starring at us with huge eyes filled with hope for their daily meal. Cheryl and Bianca were pouring some of each cup into more cups to make enough for everyone there. The children waited and watched. There was no shoving or pushing. There was no shouting or excitement...they just waited and watched. I watched and listened and prayed there was enough. Cheryl, of course, was not going to accept anything else and I watched her and I trusted her that she would make it happen because for some reason to me she was going to be the miracle worker. She looked at Mary with hands open as if to say, "Come on lets get these children fed" Mary got more cups and filled them with the scrap from the bottom of the pot and while the last child waited for his 1/2 filled cup of food for the day we found the amount we needed at the bottom of that pot and handed it to this young man and he said, "Thank You" I know that I was not breathing until that moment. Praise God! He fed the children for this day.

Sandi, Operation HOPE's manager of operations, had a HUGE bag of lollipops. YEAH! After they ate we got to give every child and mother a lollipop. They thought they were funny. They had never seen anything like it before. Isn't that funny? While they were eating them, Cheryl was blowing bubbles and they were laughing and having a good time. Cheryl has glasses that are reflective and so she thought the children were curious about her because they kept starring at her and following her, but what it was they were looking at themselves in her glasses! We laughed about that. They have never seen themselves before it was so interesting to watch them and Cheryl was so wonderful with them because she would just bend over and let them look. I just wonder what they thought about that?

After that we went on a home-based care walk and visited the community and their sick people. I did an interview with an aging gentleman. He was super sick and I obviously don't have the skills to know with what but luckily we are with doctors here and so we sent a note to Somebody Cares and they are going to get him to our Doctors. That was fabulous. We talked with a woman who lives is a concrete house with not a stick of furniture. She was so happy to bring us into her home. She has AIDS. She has 7 children and her husband left her. We fetched water for her from her borehole and washed some dishes and then sat and chatted with her. She didn't have food. That was her biggest problem. She needed to find a way to get food for her and the children. We seriously need to work on getting the communities a means to get food for their children. It is not a question of whether or not they want to work it is just a matter of not having the resources and tools to grow food. After our visit with this wonderful lady we visited a 14 year old girl with Malaria. She was laying on a straw mat covered in blankets. It was stunning to see this sick young woman laying in the dirt on a straw mat and feeling so sick and everyone just going about their business around her. It is a way of life here in Malawi. What choice do they have? We talked with her mother and tried to talk with her but she was too sick and so we just prayed over her.

Today I didn't take any pictures. Today I learned to not judge and just love. I love Malawi. I love the people they are truly warm-hearted. We feel so blessed to have this opportunity. They are so very thankful for anything and so accepting of that which we would never accept in the States. Please pray for them. Please love them. Today my character was challenged. I will never be the same.

God Bless you all.
Peace and Joy,

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Lesson

Azungu Azungu Azungu

First full day - July 15: As we drove into our first community we were greeted with 100 children shouting Azungu Azungu. We were smiling and I turned to Mary, our interpreter, and asked what they were saying and she replied, "white people white people."

We started our day at Somebody Cares headquarters. Theresa Malila is Executive Director. Her team of volunteers are bringing us to the communities that we will be working at. Today we had Mary and Ramsey. I wanted to understand some basic words to say before we reached the community and so Mary helped me with that and while we were driving the entire team got a lesson on their native language - Chichewa. Everyone is taught english in school but this is their native language and pretty much the only language spoken in the communities and villages we are visiting. muli bwanji? How are you?; mwadzuka bwanji Good Morning; ana child; yesu amakukonda Jesus Loves You. We went on and on. Before we got out of the car Mary made me promise to practice and she wrote all the sayings on paper for me but I had to teach it to the team that night at dinner. I of course agreed. Cheryl decided she would wait for the lesson that evening with everyone else.

We went to the Deya Center. This is a location of Somebody Cares and it is where the orphans come for their daily feedings. They have over 100 kids that come to the center every day and then there are those from the village and they never know how many will come day-to-day, but there are a lot! The children were so excited to see us. They wanted to touch us - they don't see many azungus (white people). These children, dressed in rags and all bare footed, where so full of joy it was inspiring. The chidren had to go for their lesson and Ramsey walked us around the grounds of the Deya Center. They have a new well donated by Operation HOPE so the entire village has access to clean water; we were all excited to hear that. However, the latrines where few and far between. There is no electricity at this center or in the community. We walked to the fields where the youth were getting the gardens ready for planting season, which isn't until October. There are these wonderful men who volunteer their time from the community to teach the youth how to garden. It is a wonderful program and incredibly needed here.

After our tour we played with the children who were on break from their lessons. I played soccer. We really didn't have a field so it was soccer random. These children are fast and so quick with their feet. We had a blast. We then, and don't laugh, did the hokey pokey and they loved it! These children are vulnerable orphans but you wouldn't know that by their honestly was contagious. Azungu Azungu they shouted over and over again and would laugh and run away when we looked. As I mentioned, we had received our lesson for communicating at a very basic level and so whenever we would say something to the children they would laugh. We thought Mary taught us wrong words but it was actually the children getting a kick out of azungu speaking in their native language.

We then fed the children. It was one 10 oz cup only 1/2 full of cream of wheat type drink. That is their one meal a day and that is what keeps them coming to the center. Now I don't know about your kids, but when mine are playing sports when they come home to eat I know it is more than 1/2 cup full of cream of wheat - oh, and if there is not enough to go around, the teacher must take from other cups to feed the ones that didn't get any. The children never once complained. They wait very sweetly until eveyrone gets their cup. And when the teacher says to eat they all eat. They lick their bowl clean. It was a very humbling experience. These small children show so much grace; so much humility; so much understanding at such a young age it makes your heart ache and rejoice at the same time. The children went back to their lessons and we went into the community to help with home-based care.

We had to get 'wraps'. It is unacceptable for women to go in the community not wearing a dress, and here the widows sew wraps. Our entire team of 12 ladies bought wraps from the women that are trying to work and are living with (on ARVs) AIDS/HIV. They sang and danced for us. Their joy and obvious love for one another was beautiful to see. We had fun dancing with them in our new wraps. When we were properly clothed we went to the community in teams of 6 (1=community leader; 1= pastor; 4 of us). This home-based care is a program that reaches out to those in the community who are sick and suffering. As we walked the path to these homes I couldn't help but wonder what it must be like in the rainy season; when it was cold; when it was hot; when someone was sick and dying what do they do. It was very disconcerting to know that life is dispensible. It has to be. With a life expectancy of 37 years old what would you hope for? There are no streets as you may know them. There are dirt paths everywhere. The huts are made of straw and pretty much any material they could find. So imagine with me: you are a small orphan child responsible for taking care of your brother or parents to care for you. You live in a dirt hut and have no furniture. You can't lock a door so anyone can walk into your home anytime they want. The night falls and you are enveloped in complete blankets only a cold bug ridden floor. Can you imagine your children handling that? Can you picture with me what must be going through these children's minds? I'm not sure I could handle it with the maturity and matter-of-fact attitude that these children have and they smile every day. It is incredible. They are small miracles full of joy.

I was surely blessed and humbled by childen this day. On the way home Mary had be make sure to continue our lessons. We promised. I wonder if we will?

Peace and blessings to you all.

Ndi makukonda


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We have arrived!

Hi Friends!

Cheryl and I have finally arrived in Malawi, Africa - The Warm Heart of Africa. It was an adventure getting here for sure - 2 days worth. However, as we were loading our ridiculous amount of luggage (oh, let's just say we had over 40 pieces of luggage so you can imagine the spectacle we caused; I think we were for many this days reality TV show) on the roof of the little car that was taking us to our hotel, a school group of little children, probably the ages of 4 - 8, were having a "field trip" to the airport and there was probably 50 kids. They were dressed in their school attire; some were looking at us with curiousity and others would smile and say hi. It didn't take us long to wipe the sleep from our eyes and defeat the fatigue in our bodies as we watched them skip along swinging their arms and laughing while their teachers tried to keep them all safe and in the group - it was like watching cats being herded. All of us were smiling and laughing as well and it just instantly changed our attitudes and reminded us what it is we are here for.

The hotel is fun. We had the electricity go out about 5 times already. It doesn't last long but it is still interesting depending on where you are in the building. ;o) It didn't take me long to take my small flashlight every where I go!

We are excited to start our work here with Operation HOPE. Dr. Thomas, Sandi, and the medical team are amazing. For now I just wanted to let you all know we arrived safe and sound and ready for God's work! We can't thank you all enough for your support in getting us here. Without all of your contributions - be it time, resources, or gifts we would not be able to help these beautiful people, and especially the vulnerable children. Malawi has a staggering 1.5 million orphans due largely to the AIDS/HIV pandemic - a number we were told this evening will grow if something is not done to over 2 million by next year - remember Malawi is no bigger than Pennsylvania. But also, disease and sickness runs rampant as the water and food crisis continues here. We will be working in the communities with Somebody Cares-Malawi an organization that is run by an amazing woman named Theresa Malila.

Please come back and follow us on this journey. Please pray for us that we can be God's eyes and see what it is He would like for us to see. Our hope is that we can partner with local community leaders - such as Theresa - and assist in the communities to help set up an infrastructure that will provide transformative solutions to empower the people and let them know that we care and that everyone deserves a few little drops of grace during hard times. God Bless.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Every great dream begins with a dreamer...

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world." Harriet Tubman

It has been a while for drops of grace. We have been working hard and making decisions and praying a whole lot! Our work has taken a detour but now we are back on the road again and starting a new journey. We have shaken the dust from our sandels and are heading to Malawi, Africa in a mere week. We are partnering with Operation HOPE. A group of doctors and professionals who offer their services to those who are underserved. We will be working with Dr. Thomas to assess the needs for a water well at the hospital he and his team work at. In addition, we will be working with Teresa Malila of Somebody Cares-Malawi in the community near the hospital. We are hoping to build a relationship with her and the leaders in the community to work on the possibility of providing sanitation, health & hygiene, and small construction work with schools and buildings. It is certainly going to be a busy time for us.

I will be doing my best to keep you all updated. Please keep checking back and feel free to comment I would love to hear from you too. July 13 is the day we head out. Please pray that we will hear and be able to act on God's call for our group because it is only possible through Him and your constant prayers that we will be successful in providing hope in communities that have lost it. Grace and Peace to you.