Saturday, August 18, 2012

Clean Water Rising!

Isn't it great when a million miles away (the Congo feels a million miles away) work is being done by local labor to bring desperately needed fresh water to a village due in large part to the generosity of people in Round Rock, in Texas, and several other states.

The Lodja Mission of the United Methodist Church in Central Congo had a water system in use for 20 years from the mid-1950's until 1976. At that time, unusual rains and seepage from the hillside caused the dam to give way and the system was no longer functional. 

Villagers (mostly women and children) are forced to get their water from the valley almost a half a mile away and haul it up a steep hill back to the village.

In 2009 drops of grace partnered with Appointment Congo to rebuild the dam and water system to a village and mission station near Lodja in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Kip and I visited Paul and Marty Law in 2009 at the mission station in Lodja and we were blessed to come back with a sense of what this project would ultimately be.  We reported that at the inaugural Ripple Effect Banquet and raised enough money to fund the project.

That was three years ago and although it has taken longer than anyone anticipated, the dam is finally nearing completion!  

This is a recent update from Paul:
"We finally got down to the drain level and by building a form around it and pumping the water that was coming in, we managed to pour a foundation to the monk that envelops the original drain. We pounded gravel down around the original drain to try to create a fairly solid base upon which to pour the foundation. We made it 2 meters x 2 meters and when we got it up over the original structure about 4 inches we placed the form for the inside of the chimney on top over the opening below. You can see in the pictures how much earth we had to move to do all this.

The second pour was easier and brought us up another 4 1/2 feet. I'm sorry that I didn't get any pictures of that process, but I did of the 3rd pour where we began to leave an opening on the upriver side that will allow the water to flow into the monk and drain out through the dam. This opening will also allow us to raise and lower the water level as we wish to. The top of the monk is about 15 inches above the regular overflow up by the feed boxes to the ram.

We are now ready to begin refilling the dam around the monk and downstream. Once the monk has set up enough we will divert the water into the monk and remove the temporary plastic pipe that has been carrying the stream through the dam. Once this out of the way, we can refill in earnest and complete the dam entirely.

We will then rebuild the overflow and take the water up to operational level. At that point we will be ready to install the ram and start laying pipe up to the tower on the station.
 Keep us in your prayers and I'll keep you posted as the drama unfolds."


See how easy that is?     The cool thing is that this is being done with local Congolese labor which supports the local economy.  And....

Ultimately the pond will be a beautiful setting providing bring clean fresh water to thousands of people for generations to come.

It would not have happened but for Paul and Marty Law, Appointment Congo, and the generous support from the friends of drops of grace

It's getting close to completion and hopefully water will be flowing in the next few months. 

Want to hear and see more?  The Ripple Effect Banquet will be held on September 14 we will be talking about it and showing more pictures.

You will also hear about the phenomenal year drops of grace has had in Joplin Mo, Bastrop, and  two awesome  teams to Malawi.

 God Bless you all and we will see you at the Ripple. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Little Wonders...


Chief Theresa Malila - Somebody Cares-Malawi

     During our first team’s visit to Malawi, Chief Theresa, Executive Director and Founder of Somebody Cares-Malawi, took the drops of grace   medical team to visit at the local hospital.  They met with the Head Mistress and gave T-shirts & blankets along with a “cutie baby” to the babies recently born.  As they were there, a beautiful little girl was born.  While Chief Theresa chatted with the new Mom she discovered there was no money for diapers, blankets, or clothes. Happily this precious little wonder was gifted with a new blanket; baby t-shirt, and a cutie baby.  As Chief Theresa cuddled & cooed with the baby, she dressed her, wrapped her in warm blankets and smiled with the new momma. Thanks to a Chief’s heart for her people, and the generous donations provided by St. David's North Austin Medical Center and various volunteers who made the precious Cutie Babies, a complete stranger was shown tremendous love.  This is just one story of many.  This is Somebody Cares, and we are blessed to go alongside them. 

…. It’s the heart that matters in the end.

    Peace & Grace,
    Diane Bouchard (VP International Operations)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

what is the gift of love?

Love can be expressed in diverse ways and in diverse places. Consider where our team from San Antonio, Texas may have seen love in abundance on their recent mission trip to Malawi:

Was it . . . the humility we felt as the women in the village came to meet us singing, dancing and hugging us as we arrived?

Was it . . .  the child who quietly walked up to us and lightly grabbed our hands to walk with us for the duration of our visit?

Was it . . .  in the smile of a child who just ate their only meal of the day?

Was it . . .  the moment Kelly attracted the children to tell them of God’s love?

Was it . . . the powerful sense of the Holy Spirit that brought life, healing, and hope to women who possessing only their children came to learn how to crochet in the hopes of a brighter future for their family?

Was it . . . the smile that radiated from the little girl with the torn dirty dress and the shaved head?

Was it . . . the prayers and worship that rose up from the youth in the village as we sat in church together?

Was it . . .  when Judy would help the Home Based Care Volunteer hear her heartbeat for the first time. 

Was it . . . the construction, with the help of the youth, at the Home of Mercy, a safe house for women and children caught in domestic violence?

Was it . . . the care and concern the Somebody Cares staff had for us?

Was it . . . on Friday game day in the laughter and joy found in being together?

Maybe . . . it is wrapped up in the fact that Jesus gave His life for us so that we can follow His example in extending love to one another!

“Because we loved you, we were happy to share not only God's Good News with you, but even our own lives. You had become so dear to us!” 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Grace and Peace in abundance.

The Living Hope

In the bible, hope is not wishful thinking but a firm conviction, much like faith.  For Christians, we are assured of hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Hope invigorates and spirits up the soul to action, to patience, to fortitude and perseverance to the end.  This is our Living Hope. 
I was listening to Crystal Bowersox singing, "Up to the Mountain” strangely it triggered a vision of Jesus.  He had been teaching, preaching, and healing throughout Galilee. I imagined He was tired but as He turned He saw the expansive crowds, I could see a small smile on His face as He watched the expression of amazement on the multitude of faces eagerly watching Him.  Resigning Himself, He made His way to sit along the gently sloping hillside along the Sea of Galilee.  He called His disciples to come to Him, with the sun warming His back; he began to outline His standard for all Christians.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted, blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:3-6, 8).   Probably like most believers, I haven’t really seen much fulfillment of this through the lives of those that I encounter on a daily basis. 
It came to me that our San Antonio, Texas June Team in Malawi brought Living Hope to the Blessed.  Every day in community there were precious moments with the children - the blessed.  Looking into the angelic faces with the eyes of Jesus, I saw team members bring HOPE to the “least of these” in the kingdom.  Every time John would turn from his task and seeing the quizzical faces looking up at him, he would bend to their level; language no longer a barrier, he would sit among them with a smile on his face revealing hope through his presence.  In another captured treasure, I was sitting in the courtyard of the Home of Mercy, when I heard uncontrollable laughter.  Smiling, I turned to see what was so hilarious, what I found was Guy, a huge smile on his face, pushing 2 small boys in the mouth of a wheelbarrow.  They were falling all over each other, legs and arms flying everywhere, laughing so hard I wondered if they were able to breathe.  And I thought in that moment - Jesus, through Guy, was in motion bringing hope to the blessed.  Something deep inside me said, breathe deep, moments like these are treasures to keep. A small child having never seen a white person - an azungu - would be full of fear, crying, and hiding until he saw the sweet smile of Colby kneeling down to him, holding out her hands gently beckoning. Patiently waiting for the child to resolve to come on his own terms and seeing the light of Jesus in her eyes, this small one, this blessed one, would smile back and reach out to touch ever so lightly.  Living Hope offered to the blessed.

I am captivated at how God graciously revealed Himself by reaching down, and through the Holy Spirit available in the lives of those that are open; He created in them the qualities of His own character to teach the rest of us the richness of His kindness.  He brings to the non-influential, the unlikely ones, those living in the farthest reaches of our world: The Living Hope.  I am encouraged, inspired, and motivated by witnessing this living example of the only viable way to approach life with our Lord. 
                         Grace and Peace in abundance. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How I spent my Christmas Break - By Avery Ory

Dear Friend,
"A week of service and showing God’s light to the people of Joplin was an amazing way to spend my Christmas break!" Is the response Avery gives when asked why she spent her Christmas break in Joplin, Missouri.

Avery is a Freshman at Texas A&M.  As a frequent volunteer with drops of grace we have come to know that Avery has a passionate heart for service to others. This Christmas, Avery, along with 16 others (a mix of college students & adults), went to Joplin, MO to continue to help with repair & reconstruction in the wake of the devastating tornado that blew through in May 2011.

Avery brought JOY & hope, and some pretty amazing mudding, taping, and painting skills, to people who were holding on day-to-day as they were facing Christmas for the first time since the tornado whirled through their home town.

We have been blessed with fantastic volunteers and thank Avery for sharing her story..."But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..." (Galatians 5:22,23)

 Be Blessed. Peace.
Wall Art - Joplin, Missouri 2011
When most people think of holiday vacation, they think of ski slopes or white sand beaches. Know what my family thinks of? Sheet rocking. Well, that’s what we thought of this year when we found out about drops of grace’s college Christmas mission to Joplin, MO. All four of us jumped at the opportunity to do something we love during the holiday season.  
After a long day of driving and sing-a-longs in the car, the group of 17 arrived in Joplin with our good lookin’ trailer full of tools, gear, and Christmas gifts for 2 families in tow. I worked on the “Sib” team with my brother and another set of siblings: hence the clever name. We worked on Mrs. Irma’s house, a small 1000 square foot home that had been heavily damaged in the storm. When we first pulled up the first thing that I noticed was the lack of Christmas decorations. Madi and I discussed that we needed to fix that for her. Mrs. Irma is an elderly woman who is currently living in the half of her house that wasn’t damaged by the storm. All of her belongings were boxed up and stacked in different rooms, needless to say a very crowded space. The ceiling in her living area was in terrible shape, the wood was rotting and insulation was popping out of the cracks. Did I mention that the insulation was infested with some kind of mold? Not the kind of environment that is good for an elderly woman to be living in! The closet in her bedroom needed a ceiling so heat wouldn’t escape out of it; the bedroom needed to be painted, and the bathroom needed a LOT of work. That bathroom was my challenge this trip. It needed mudding for all of the drywall, the bathtub needed to be secured to the wall, siding for the bath needed to be put up and the window needed to be framed. Oh, and the entire thing needed to be sanded then painted. It was overwhelming to see that so much work needed to be done in such a small space. But when drops of grace sets their mind to help someone, that someone gets helped! We had 3 full days and a half day on Thursday to complete the job and it took every single second to get the work finished, but after all the challenges and difficult situations that arose from the week, I became closer with the people I worked with (thanks Tanner, Madi, Diane, brother, and Bobbers! You guys rock), made an impression on a woman who was devastated from the storm, and got to see God working in the midst of destruction.

There is one more thing that I want to tell you about my trip. Like I said before, my work site got together and all agreed that Mrs. Irma needed a little Christmas spirit in her home. When I asked her if she was excited about the holiday she simply responded with “Well dear, I hadn’t thought much about it”. OKAY, NOW WE DEFINITELY ARE GETTING THIS LADY A TREE. I say that sentence all in caps to show you how much determination we had to give this woman a good Christmas. Bobbers, Madi and Taylor went to the Walgreens, who so graciously let us use their bathroom 5 times a day (thank ya’ll for the hospitality!), and picked up a tree and some ornaments. Now what’ s a tree without presents under it? On the next potty break we bought Mrs. Irma a small gift. The whole group helped decorate this 3 foot tree at dinner that night. It wasn’t much, but we all thought the tree was pretty and would bring Irma some cheer. As we left her house for the last time on that Thursday we all presented her with the gift and the tree and Mrs. Irma was so overwhelmed. “I’ve never felt this way before!” she said over and over as she cried and looked at our offering. We all gave her hugs and left with a smile on our faces, knowing that we had helped to make her Christmas just a little brighter. If you’re reading this, I hope you had a great Christmas too, because I sure know I did. A week of service and showing God’s light to the people of Joplin was an amazing way to spend my Christmas break! If you’re thinking about doing some mission work, call up drops of grace because those people can make it happen!

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. –James 2:26

Team 2: Avery Ory,Tanner Dendy
Madison Dendy, Taylor Ory, Bob Eskridge
Miss Irma, Diane Bouchard