Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Living Water

"Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." ~Jn 14:4

I was thinking about this verse just this morning.  I've read it a thousand times (well, maybe not a thousand, but many).  But until I moved to Africa and started working in the bush, I didn't truly understand what it was like to draw water from a well.  And I didn't have a real-life example of how important functioning wells were to a community.

This morning, Luke and I met with members of the community in Ngangula and found out just how important a well is for them.  Ngangula is where our rural ministry centre is located and the well near our property is broken.  This is a well that serves close to 1,500 people!  Imagine having to walk half a mile to pump and carry water back for your family's meals and baths.  Then imagine that the well you use is incapacitated and now you have to walk 3 miles.  Now you're getting a better grasp of the struggle that many of these villagers are facing on a daily basis.

I'm beginning to see why, when Jesus told the woman at the well that he had water that would never make her thirst again, that she immediately asked for some of that water.  She probably thought to herself that if this guy is for real, then I won't have to make the long trek back to this well each day, several times a day and carry heavy buckets back for my family's meals and cleanings.

Many people think that lack of viable water wells is the problem affecting Africa's clean drinking water availability.  While new wells are needed, the wells that they are currently utilizing are falling apart and many are now inoperable.  Just in the community that we serve in Ngangula, there are 8 wells providing water to over 5,000 people.  Over half of these wells currently don't work.  So, in addition to drilling new wells, villagers need to be taught how to maintain the ones that are currently available.

Being that we're now part of this community, we asked if we could pull the parts out and do a thorough inspection to identify the problems.  We felt comfortable with this because of our training back in the States.  Well, today we were given that permission.  This particular well has been in service for nearly 12 years and it was very evident as we took it apart.  Many of the pipes had rusted through and the foot valve (which controls the pumping) was cracked in several different places.  Basically, if they tried to pump water, more water came back out of the pipe and back into the well than what made it to the surface.

Our desire is not to fix the problem for them, but to work with the community and assist them in coming up with a solution to this broken well.  This weekend, we'll head to Lusaka to price the parts and then meet with the community next week to discuss a way forward.  Pray that God would give us wisdom as we proceed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Fruit of Their Labor

(Eleeo Project Demonstration Maize Plots)

(Typical Rural Maize Plot)

I just wanted to give a quick update on our workers' demonstration plots.  This past November, we worked with our staff (5 different families) to plant 10 demonstration plots of maize using the principles of Foundations for Farming (a.k.a. Farming God's Way).  We really didn't know what to expect, because neither Luke nor I had ever grown maize and most of our workers hadn't either.  As you can see from the first picture above, it has been quite successful.  This coming week they will be applying the final top dressing and then it's just waiting for harvest.

I have included another picture just to give you some perspective.  The second picture above is that of a rural maize plot that has been farmed using traditional methods.

Do you see why these demonstration plots are so important to our ministry here?  They give us credibility in these rural communities that surround our home.  These same communities where 70% of the population live solely off of farming.  It's our "foot in the door" approach to reaching these villages with the gospel!  And they're taking notice.  Many Tonga's have asked what we are doing to get such good results.  Just for some perspective, a typical rural Tonga farmer gets about 1.5 - 2.5 tons of maize on a 2 acre plot of land.  These plots that we are planting are expected to yield upwards of 12 tons!  Think about that.  6 times more maize on the same piece of land.  This has the potential to change families and the communities in which they live.  Instead of these farmers scraping by each year, they can begin to turn a profit and have extra income to put their kids through school and to help others in the community who are less fortunate.

And in addition to this, the program's foundation is the gospel.  So while participants are seeing change in their physical fields, their spiritual fields (hearts) are being cultivated as well!  I never thought I would be blogging about farming, but I'm convinced more than ever that this is and will continue to be one of the best avenues we will have for reaching these people with the love and reconciliation of Jesus.

In the months to come, we will be having another field day where we invite the same individuals that were here during the planting to return and see the results.  I can't wait to see their reaction to what God has provided through our efforts here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ladies' Tea

[if you are receiving this post via email, visit our website at www.robertsinzambia.blogspot.com to view the slideshow]

Elise and I (Kerri) had the idea to host a Ladies' Tea here at our home and invite all the Zambia women living on this farm to attend.  We have been thinking and praying for a way to connect with these ladies on a deeper level - to really get to know them, their hearts, their struggles, their joys, and to have them know us as well.  We feel like this was a first step in that direction!  We had no idea what to expect, but 58 of our neighbors turned up!  It was such a success that we've decided to meet once a month.  We are praying that God will help us to learn from these ladies and to be able to encourage them in life and faith.

This time we simply served them tea and desserts and spent time meeting each one of the ladies.  Some interesting statistics: the oldest lady in attendance was 50 years old and she has 9 children; the youngest few were teenagers, 15 and 16 years old, who are each married with children; many of these women share husbands as polygamy is common among the Tongas.  At the end of our time some of the ladies started singing and dancing around to show their happiness!  They are so beautiful! It was a fun time and we look forward to seeing how God will develop our relationships with them!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I was walking out the door to go to work the other day and noticed something that is quite regular around here - Ellie and Grace (one of our Zambian worker's daughters) playing in the yard.  Nothing spectacular, but just heart warming to see two kids, from completely different socio-economic backgrounds and cultures playing and having fun together.  Isn't it amazing that as we grow up, we teach ourselves (or are taught by others) that those who are different, or who have less, or who think, act and speak differently can't be close friends?  I mean, we can try to help those who are different, but we can't be vulnerable in front of them, we can't really enjoy their company, we can't have a real intimate friendship with them can we?

I'm just glad that these two haven't learned this yet ; )

Monday, January 14, 2013


This evening as Kerri and I sat in the den, me reading a book, Kerri napping on the couch, we heard a rather loud squeeling noise coming from the back yard.  Apparently, our dogs found a skunk on the property.  The noise we heard was its last few screams for mercy!

When we got out there, our male Lab, Aero, had the poor thing in his mouth, but it was our female lab, Hershey, who initially caught the little booger.  Any guesses to how we figured that out? ; ).  I hope the smell doesn't pass from her to the puppies.  It might make them a little harder to get rid of.

Never a dull moment living here on the farm!  

Sunday, January 13, 2013


We're surrounded by farmers.  We live on a farm.  The church we attend is lead by farmers.  We work with a large population of village farmers.  So, the most common topic of conversation that we have here is rain.  Last year, it was lack-there-of.  This year, quite the opposite.

Yesterday afternoon, a rather large storm came up from Lake Kariba and dumped massive amounts of rain.  The significance of a storm approaching from this direction is that it dumps all of its rain in a valley which feeds the Kalaiah River.  Usually this river is a small stream, but because of the rains, it turned into a rushing torent!

Many of the large-scale commerical farms are situated along this river, including the farm where we are living.  When the water started rising yesterday, it didn't stop until it spilled over the side of the Kalaiah flooding some of these farms, including this one.  Because of the damage caused by the flooding, many power poles were downed meaning we are without electricity today and projected to be without it until late tomorrow night at the earliest.

No power, means no running water in the house.  So, this afternoon, Thomas, Ellie and I went down to get water the old fashioned way: hand pump style!  They had fun, but I didn't realize just how heavy that water could be.  Happy we only have to do this for a short time.

Be praying for our neighbors.  The farm we're on had such extensive flooding that the waters covered nearly 3/4 of our landlord's bottom two fields of soy beans.  Our specific prayer is that the rains would hold off for a while and that God would resurrect a lot of the crop in these two fields.

If you have facebook, we took some video of the flooding.  Just go to:  http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10151218746160143

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Internet Woes

We just wanted you to know that we haven't been neglecting the blog on purpose.  For the past 3 months, we have experienced major headaches concerning our internet situation.  Let me just say that we have had some major internet woes!

In the beginning of October, we lost all internet service.  As we waited patiently for the problem to get resolved (we were initially told it was a technical issue), we just got more and more frustrated.  After two weeks with no service, our provider told us that it wasn't a technical issue, but a management issue.  Apparently, the company that provided us with internet didn't pay their bills to their provider in Kenya. So, after nearly a month of going back and forth, and being told that the service would be restored, we made the move to another company.

Initially that was a good experience, but within a week, we started experiencing sporadic cuts.  Normally you would just say "Well, this is Africa" and kind of accept it and move on.  But we pay nearly $300 a month for this service (Split between us and the Whitfields).  So, to say that we were a little upset with the service we were receiving compared to the fee we were paying would be an understatement.

After a few calls back and forth with their technical support team and some trial and error, we were able to fix the sporadic cuts (turned out to be an error on my part) and we're now back online after nearly 3 months of no or very poor internet access.  And now that we're back online, you should see a lot more content on this site as we continue to process life and ministry here in Zambia.  Thank you for being patient with us!  And thank you for your support and encouragement.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Preparing for Teams!!!

(Caleb, Gracyn & Thomas varnishing the storage door before being mounted)

Work is underway and for a good reason.  This past week, we received confirmation that we will be hosting our first short-term team from the USA in August.  A ministry out of Texas, EmpowerDreams, is bringing a team to Zambia to work with us.  Yay!!!  Even though it is several months away, there are many things that we need to do here to get ready.  So, preparation is underway and even the kids are helping out!

Storage Shed

In order to host teams, we have had to change how we are currently storing all of our ministry items.  Before now, they have been sitting in our 40ft shipping container.  But that container is being converted into a bunk house.  So, the stuff inside must be moved.  As you can see in the picture above, our guys here did a wonderful job building a storage shed to hold all of the supplies that were in the shipping container.  We hope to lay the floor and move our ministry supplies by the end of the week!

Shower House

We've also been busy building a shower facility for visiting teams.  We hope to finish the walls and put a roof on the building by the end of next week.  Normally, we would have laid the floors first, but the rains have been just too heavy and we need the roof to provide shelter for the remaining work.  Anyways, we hope this building will provide 6 showers and 4 toilets.  We can't wait to see the final product, minus the weeds that are growing inside ; )

Please pray for us.  In addition to day-to-day ministry, a lot of our time for January & February will be spent doing construction.  Pray that we would be wise in how we setup for teams and that construction wouldn't be delayed by the rains.

We'll post more pictures as development continues.  Cheers!