Monday, 4 December 2017

Is there a bridge between China and Africa?

My time in Zambia was spent in the City of Kitwe, which is located in northern Zambia. Unlike Zimbabwe where there is not much industrial development and investment in the economy, there are things going on in Zambia.  There are roads being built and a lot of building and activity in the mining and manufacturing sector.  The vast majority of this investment is by the Chinese and so there are many Chinese expats living in Zambia that work in these Chinese operations or are in the country and operating some sort of business.  Large compounds are built to house these workers and there are two near the mission property where I was staying. There are dozens of these compounds around the country and and one of the Bishops from the Pentecostal Assemblies of Zambia has a compound filled with Chinese workers  right across from his church.   Bishop David as I will call him, was considering how best to minister to these workers and was feeling like something had to be done to reach out to these people.  In discussion with Bill Pipke an idea for a cultural center was born.  The name of this ministry is "Bridging China and Africa (BCA)". The ministry leaders were able to purchase a 13 acre property through the generosity of many Canadians and it has been turned into a Cultural center. A Chinese Christian family that Bill got to know in Beijing agreed to move to Zambia to be the leaders for the center.  JJ and Patricia and their two children have been living in Kitwe now for about three years and  the center has become a place where the Chinese can come and enjoy the gardens, share a meal together and attend a church service and learn about Christianity.  Every Sunday 40 chairs are set up in Patricia and JJ's living room a church service in Mandarin takes place.  JJ is a very good networker and he has contacts that are extensive in the Chinese Zambian community.  He took Garry Fess and I on a short road trip in the area to show us the developments in the area and it was amazing how many times he pointed to a business and told us he was friends with the owner and/or they were members of the church. 

The living room at the cultural center set up for the morning service
The cultural center has a large garden that JJ and his family use for their own food source and there are numerous fruit trees on the property that provide mangoes and bananas throughout the year.  The team is considering what other things they can do with the property and as the Chinese church grows and there are more funds for local ministry, it will be interesting to see what the expat Chinese new believers will be able to do to improve the lives of the lower income Zambians in the area.  Already a number of Zambians are able to be employed as grounds keepers and do construction projects and good relationships have been established with the Garneton community where the center is located.  While I was there the team had a discussion about the possibility of starting a  Christian school on the property.  Bishop David who is the Chair of the BCA ministry has a wealth of knowledge about the regulations and Zambian cultural aspects and was able to provide a lot of important background and advice regarding the best way to move forward.  The Pentecostal Assemblies of Zambia (PAOZ) of which Pastor David is one of the national leaders, has a part to play in supporting and growing BCA and as the center in Kitwe becomes fully developed, it can be a model for more centers in other parts of the country. The vision for BCA is to have the PAOZ be the lead agency with all of their churches in overseeing this ministry among the Chinese in Zambia. 

JJ and Pastor Garry Fess, one of my travel mates from London, Ontario
One lovely lady whose name is Imelda is employed as a housekeeper to help Patricia and JJ to care for the center and she is a single mother who has 6 children and lives with her mother and the income she receives is the difference for her family.  JJ is in a wheelchair, and Patricia teaches at one of the local schools so Imelda is a huge help to them.  The center has a lot of square footage and beyond the spacious home for JJ and Patricia, there is a large meeting area, games room, a second apartment and 5 dorm rooms which are all used when work and ministry teams come from Canada to assist the ministry.    As things get busier there may be need to bring on more staff to care for the property. Of course the majority of the funds  for this work come from generous donors in Canada either from Churches, personal donations or corporate support.  It is always amazing to me how the financial and material needs of the ministries continue to be met and it requires a large effort by Bill, Don and Marie Josee to travel around Canada and connect with Christians to share the vision and mission for BCA and CLI.  It is clear to me that as our global workers are able to share the stories of the lives that are being changed around the world through the work they are doing, people are prepared to give to support these efforts.  The Church in Zambia is large but finances in many cases are extremely challenging.  Unemployment is high, especially among the uneducated and poor that live in the squat communities.  As I have shared before a large focus of International Missions in places like Zambia are to be able to provide educational opportunities to train pastors, develop trade schools and business opportunities such as teaching people to sew, or motorcycle mechanics so that they can start a small business of their own and begin to lift themselves out of poverty.  Another big part of the work is coming alongside local pastors and congregations to help support their ministries in the community they serve.  Sponsorships for pastors to get additional theological education, helping fund raise for church building projects or even micro finance opportunities are some of the ways the Canadian church helps the PAOZ.  The last Sunday  we were in Kitwe I had the opportunity to attend a church service in one of the squats.  Mary, who is the administrative assistant at the bible college which was started by the Pentecostals from Canada but is now owned and operated by the PAOZ, took us to her church and it was a highlight of my week.  
After Church everyone comes out as the Pastor,and us as guests shook their hands and they stand in a semi circle to chat

My plan was to get a photo with Pastor Martin, next to Garry and as we were setting up a lot more decided they should also be in the photo.  Mary is the lady in the black suit and turquois top.  Just like in every Canadian photo, there is someone checking their phone! too funny.

The church was small and simple but very serviceable.  It was packed out and actually several people came to the door and looked in and then left because there was nowhere to sit.  To address this the church has been in a building project for many years.  they bought a piece of property next to the existing church and since 2004 have been working on it.  they have the walls up but are at a standstill until they can get the timbers and roof tin in place.  After the service the pastor and his building committee chair met with Garry and me over cookies and juice and told us about the need they have for funds. They have been fundraising with 7 groups within the congregation trying to do what they can to bring in the money they need to finish the roof.  That would make the structure secure but they will still need a floor, doors and windows, etc.  

We were told that they needed 42000 Kwaacha to purchase the roof materials and they had the expertise to do the construction.  To date they had raised 2000K.  They needed about 5000 Canadian to finish this part of the project.  While we did not make any promises, we did say we would share it with folks as we could and keep this project in mind as we had opportunity. There is no shortage of projects to get involved with and sometimes it is hard for me to come back to Canada and see the disproportional distribution of wealth we have here.  It does give me some peace to know that we have opportunities as Canadians to partner with worthy charities and causes and build relationships with other Christians around the world through the connections of our global workers and national partners.  I like the fact that I have visited so many of these places, got to know the folks in charge of the ministry and see first hand the need and care in which the local ministry teams build community and provide opportunities. These folks use this money carefully and respectfully and the difference it can make in the lives of the people they help is unreal. 

Not everyone can retire from full time employment when I did and have the opportunity to volunteer their time and go plug into these ministries, I count my blessings almost everyday.  For anyone who is reading this you can participate in this work that we global workers do by agreeing to stay interested and follow the work Cheryl and I do and the others who do similar things.  You can encourage us and if so inclined pray for us as this is extremely important and needed.  Here is the can also partner with us by agreeing to give to projects or connecting with us to see how you can get involved in one of these ministries. Cheryl and I have made the decision to support ourselves in this volunteer mission effort.  We have been humbled by some donations from our church, family and friends that has helped us pay for some of our travel and we are incredibly grateful for these gifts. We have learned that while we do not actively seek donations, we do need to be open to this option for those wanting to give, and also to direct their giving to the places and projects they want to support.  My desire for anyone reading this that is wondering how that can connect with this work in a more tangible way is that they would actually do something about it. Consider how you can invest your time and/or some of your money in a project, the people leading it and by extension the communities and lives of the people impacted by it. Talk to me about this. It is not my plan to start soliciting you for funds, but I will always be interested in telling you more about the work we are involved in and as the conversation leads I am certainly happy to talk to you about how you could participate with us in this work if you are interested.  Not everyone can go do this work, but for those of us who are able to go-we need the rest to be the senders.  I would ask you to consider what you can do to  get more involved in what we are part of.  Let me tell you some of the stories over coffee, or lunch or around our meal table and I would be so pleased to be able to help you connect with some of the people I have met and for you to be able to invest in a meaningful relationship with God's people in other parts of the world.  Thanks for reading and for your encouragement and interest in both this blog and what Cheryl and I are doing.  We appreciate each and every one of you.     

Cappuccinos and americanos were frequent events with this crew.  Me, Don, Garry and Bill.  3 amazing servants of Christ and one organizational wonk!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

From Z to Z

Our team left Zimbabwe on November 18th and spent a couple of days in Pretoria, South Africa.  We had some down time and took a day to drive around the area and visit a game park and since we were a group of four men we went to a very well known restaurant called Carnivore.  Not only was it a culinary experience that was like nothing I have had before it was an extremely cool design and it felt like you were on safari and staying in a lodge in the bush.  A photo of the menu shows what our meal consisted of and the process was that each of the meats were cooked on a open charcoal fire in the center of the resto, and  as they were ready  one of the chefs would bring a large skewer the size of a sword to the table and slice off or remove some of the meat on offer.  My favourite was the blesbok, kudu and zebra.  Along with the huge variety of meats there was salads, a number of great sauces and veggies.
Vegetarians should look away, and yes I tried everything on this board!  I only had some ice cream for dessert.
Don and Marie Josee Mann have lived in S.A for about four years and use it as their base of operation in Africa. In the past few weeks the Co-Directors have travelled to Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and we were off to Zambia on the 20th.  The political unrest in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Liberia impacted the plans for CLI summits and meetings in 2017 and they have described  this past year as a challenging one for CLI.  The leadership in Zambia had been communicating with Don and Bill just earlier in November about some administrative issues regarding registration of the initiative with the Zambian government and just before I left for Africa they indicated that the summit could not go forward.  This trip would provide an opportunity for all of us to sit down with the Zambian leadership team to sort out issues and strategize.

Don, Marie Josee and Bill are in the foreground and Pastor Gary Fess from London, Ontario along with the CLI Zambia team as we discuss a plan forward for the initiative.
  Don and Bill envisioned the initiative, developed curriculum and set out a model to launch a movement of integrity.  In the conversations I have been having with them over the past few months it has helped them to create a strategic ministry planning document that  lays out the road map for this initiative.  So much of this has been happening quite quickly and the struggle has been between launching the movement using the right sequence of events and taking advantage of the momentum that comes out of the summits as people get excited about the potential to reshape a country in the way they think about integrity in all walks of life.  The curriculum is well designed and has numerous life applications that if applied, will improve a person's lifestyle in the six pillars of integrity (dignity, trust, authenticity, honour, influence and truth).  As most of us are painfully aware, it takes accountability and a group of like minded people around us to help us stay on track.  This accountability network is a big part of the initiative that is still in development.  A well established framework of accountability and mentoring within the cohort model is the key to maintaining any movement of integrity.

Over a number of days we met with the Zambian CLI lead team, and within our Canadian team to strengthen our strategies for each country we are working in. We were able to clarify a national strategy that supports the launching of CLI in a country that equips and empowers the effective replication of the cohort model and provide accountability circles that keeps the movement true to its values.  In the countries where CLI had launched and there were a few hiccups, we modified the Natstrat ( new word I just made up) to be able to get it back on track.  over the next few months if things go according to plan there will be several dozen men and women  in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone who will have gone through the cohort experience, and will be ready to lead a cohort of ten through a 14 session personal development course that will give them the tools to be able to live a life of integrity.  From these sessions it will be expected that many of them will lead a cohort of  their own and hopefully a movement begins...

Gary, Don and Bill - my travelling companions for the past two weeks
It was cool for me to go to the game park and see wildabeest, a number of antelope species, ostrich and lions in their habitats.   The park has a hands on experience with lion cubs and I usually am not too impressed with animals in enclosures it was pretty cool to be that close to 2 month old cubs and see their size.  later as we saw the lions come right near the jeep I was also impressed with the size of these cats.  I do want to want to share about the other ministry that Bill and Don are involved in in Zambia so that will be my next post. 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Cultivating Integrity in Zimbabwe

The main reason I am in Africa is at the invitation from co-directors Don Mann and Bill Pipke to accompany and observe two summits for their initiative called Cultivating a Lifestyle of Integrity (CLI).   Bill and Don were pastors for many years in Canada and are now full time global workers doing work in Africa and China. They have developed a discipleship manual that is delivered via a cohort of ten over a period of weeks.  This initiative is intended to shift the paradigm in society away from corruption and toward a life that is built on six pillars of trust, authenticity, honour, influence, truth, and dignity.  Using a discipleship model the cohorts are on a journey together to solidify these values in themselves, hold each other accountable and then go forward and gather a new cohort to repeat the process.  this type of movement grows organically as one group of ten can become 100 and 100 can become 1000 and thus a movement in a city and eventually a nation can occur.
Once the national team of 8 is in place and they are trained in the cohort model a summit is held to introduce CLI to a larger group of people.  as we were planning to go to Zimbabwe it was thought there would be 200 or so participants at the summit.  It was scheduled to start on the Thursday but on Wednesday the Army took over administration of the country.  People were unsure what would happen so many stayed away.  The numbers were lower but those who were there were committed.  for two hours on the Thursday and Friday the team took them through the pillars.  On Saturday the team continued to describe the initiative and how the cohort discipleship model can be applied  and at the end of the day there was a call for a commitment from the participants to decide if they would be interested in participating in a cohort or even leading one.  of the 35 in attendance all but two wanted to continue on this journey to cultivate a lifestyle of integrity and join a cohort.  Eight committed to leading a cohort.

The Africans remarked that someone needed to take a picture of  all of them wearing jeans! it is more usual to wear suits or dressed pants.

Pastor Gary Fess, Co Directors Don Mann and Bill Pipke.
From a group of 35 most will go forward and become the start of a movement in Zimbabwe.  The next step will be for the national leadership to take these 8 through a cohort and prepare them to start 8 cohorts of their own.  In six months time there should be around 80 men and women from all walks of life who will have been through the cohort experience and  many of those will start cohorts of their own.  My role here is to be able to advise the team on the structure and process they could put in place to maintain the consistency of the model and ensure that the National strategy is well defined and there are appropriate accountability structures to support it.

 Amina and Munetsi Zowa

The National Director for CLI in Zimbabwe is Munetsi Zowa.  He is a force for God in Harare.  He is Pastor of a large church and overseer for the Village of Hope located in Harare.  He also is a member of the international board for the 8 Villages of Hope (VOH) in Africa.  The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada operate 8  VOHs in Africa that use a model where orphans are brought in to homes on the campus with mothers and they attend school and learn life skills and become part of a family and community where they are supported through university and into adult life.  These schools arose out of the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and has become a very successful model.  Munetsi has caught the vision for CLI and is an amazing champion for cultivating a lifestyle of integrity in Zimbabwe.  Amina and Munetsi  are amazing role models for the entire community  and clearly exhibit the six pillars of integrity.  Amina works at the village and in a country with 90% unemployment she gave up her job as a customs officer to be the first volunteer at the village of hope in the early 2000's. The Zowas live a lifestyle of faith in God's provision and they continue to trust that as they are obedient to what they see as their call to serve, they shared several stories of  how their personal needs were met in amazing ways.

We have now moved on to Zambia and are having fruitful discussions about CLI in both countries.  I will do one more post in the next few days to  talk about the work in Zambia.  A golf game is organized for tomorrow so that should be a treat.


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Africa Leg 1
Travelling to South Africa takes a long time!  I left Regina early morning on the 13th and after three flights and 19 flight hours arrived in Johannesburg at 10 pm on the 14th.  I met up with a pastor from London, Ontario and we travelled together from Toronto and we soon found out that we knew some of the same people from within the PAOC family.  Gary was a pastor in Rosetown, Saskatchewan where my aunt and uncle still attend and he went to school with my cousin at Horizon College in Saskatoon.   It was good to have a companion to chat with during our layovers. Our hosts Don Mann and Bill Pipke met us at the airport and welcomed us to South Africa and soon reminded us we had to be back at the airport in 7 hours to get on the plane to Zimbabwe. 
 It was a fitful sleep even after not really sleeping for most of the previous 40 hours or so.  As we met up and travelled to the airport the news was starting to trickle out of Zimbabwe that the military had taken over the government and our contacts in Harare were concerned about whether we should come or not.  The Commissioning a Lifestyle of Integrity Summit was starting on Thursday and Pastor Zowa was just not sure what to advise.  Whatsapp was buzzing with updates while we sat in the airport waiting to board and by the time we got on the plane it was felt that it should be okay for us to come. 
 When we arrived in the capital of Harare we were told that the military had taken over to ensure that the nonsense over the past few weeks with President Mugabe and his wife did not escalate and to ensure that the ruling party did not make things worse under the Mugabe regime.  Leaving the airport, there were some soldiers and things were quiet as many people were staying home to see what was going to happen.  The president had been placed under house arrest and the first lady was also being held in the family compound.  Many of the party leaders faithful to the president were arrested and everyone was waiting to see what would happen next. 
What a time to be in Zimbabwe.  Pastor Zowa kept saying “nothing like this has ever happened here, we will have to see what happens”.  There was concern that the number of people expected to attend the integrity conference would be low because of the uncertainty.  Thursday and Friday as we drove around the city it was business as usual but the activity was a bit lighter than normal.  Not so many cars on the roads, not as many people on the streets.  With each passing day there was a bit more traffic and more shops open and people out and about as it was clear that things were secure and safe and the people were supportive of the actions taken. As Saturday approached more news was coming in that the President was being asked to step down and a rally and march was being planned for Saturday.  Due to the uncertainties, attendance at the summit was low for both evening sessions.  About 40 people showed each night from what was expected to be 2-300 before the military actions on Wednesday. 
 We were able to move around freely and were not concerned about our safety at all. We felt very safe. The people of Zimbabwe are known to be very peaceable, and so there was no trouble being caused.  On Saturday hundreds of thousands met for a prayer rally and then they marched to the city center and it was like a celebration.  Jubilant groups of people, many draped in national flags or waving smaller ones were happy and making noise like they were celebrating a world cup win or the Grey Cup. Everyone was in a very good mood.  Our summit that day was poorly attended because a lot of the attendees wanted to be part of this unprecedented moment in Zimbabwe’s history. After the summit ended we travelled through the city center and saw the people walking and cars honking. We had to weave through and divert around the large groups of cars, buses and people scattered through the downtown.  It was really something to be in Zimbabwe at such a historic time and to see firsthand such developments and to hear from the people what they were thinking about things as they unfolded.    “MUGABE MUST GO” posters were everywhere and every newspaper has a bold headline.  This kind of free speech and reporting from within Zimbabwe was unheard of while Mugabe was in charge.  To quote the caretaker at the mission house we stayed at  ”It is time for change, life is too hard here, there are no jobs and things must get better” 

There is a feeling of relief and expectation of a better future for Zimbabwe. The Country is bankrupt, there is no currency available in the country and unemployment is around 90%. 4 million diaspora have fled the country.  There is almost nowhere to go but up.  We all pray for peace, prosperity and good government and a positive transition.  As we sit in the Harare airport waiting to board our flight back to Joburg, the news says that the former VP has been reinstated along with a number of exiled cabinet members from 2014.  Mugabe has not resigned yet so impeachment is the next step. So the short term future is uncertain but with millions around the world praying for the country of Zimbabwe, let’s look forward to a brighter future for these people.  May it become the bread basket of Africa it once was.

I have been trying to get access to internet and it is still sketchy so once I get this sorted out I will post photos and more reports.


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Coming Home

My time working with the De Weerds and Every Day Ministries Canada (EDMC) in Nagua, DR has come to an end. I am sitting in Regina at my dining room table writing the last post for this trip.  The last three full days  in the DR were quiet as Ryan had a lot of administration to catch up on and the passion fruit project was in suspension until the second and third passes with the discer could be made.  The tractor was  supposed to be there on Saturday the 18th but did not show up.  Next steps in that work is to get the land worked and then source and transport the 3 meter posts that will serve as the frames for the passion fruit to grow on.  I left on Thursday and the plan was to get the ground prepared and the first 200 plants in the ground on the 25th.
Aerial view of the area to be transformed into passion fruit plants 
Adrian and Sharon Thomas, the founders of EDMC, have been in Canada for several weeks and are hoping to be able to return to Nagua around the middle of April.  Since I was leaving, they asked one of their friends to come down and replace me as the caretaker of the house and on Tuesday I drove to the Semana airport (about a half hour drive) to pick up Sam.  Sam and his wife Dawn (who was unable to come this time) have been to Nagua a couple of times previously to take care of the Thomas's house, and Sam, like me, is semi-retired and willing to offer his time to help in this way.  We had a couple of days together as we shared the house, and our stories had a lot of common themes. Sam and Dawn have servant's hearts and last year had spoken to their pastor about any opportunities he might be aware of to volunteer since they had recently retired and they were wanting to be able to serve.   It so happened that the pastor was aware of a request from the Thomases asking if there was someone willing to go down to Dominican Republic for 10 weeks to take care of their property while they were back in Canada promoting the work.  So Sam and Dawn met with the Thomases and were able to work out an arrangement to come and spend time with Adrian and Sharon in their home in Nagua before they left for Canada. A lasting relationship began. The Thomases were able to go back to Canada knowing Sam and Dawn would take care of things while they were gone. When Sam was asked if he could come back again this time, he was pleased to be able to do it.
Proof that I am able to put my feet up!  Sam with Libby De Weerd enjoying the sand
Sam and Dawn seem like a great couple who to me are showing what it means to live a life that reflects Christ in being willing to put others first and give of their time and finances to support Christian development work in the DR.  The last day I was there, the De Weerds took Sam and me to a nice tourist area called Las Terrenas where we spent a few hours soaking up the sun and enjoying a nice meal.  The couple was so generous and appreciative of my willingness to come down and help, and it was my pleasure to get to know them and begin a relationship as ministry partners in the Latin America and Caribbean Region.  When I see the level of comittment and sacrifice that a family like the De Weerds  make to live full time in Nagua, raise their children there and build into the lives of so many people, it is truly inspiring.  Over two hundred pastors are connected in some way with EDMC and by extension the members in their churches.  They, along with the Thomases support the Christian community in this part of the DR by building churches, homes for those in need, training leaders and pastors, supporting kids to go to school, mentoring men, women and young people and improving economic opportunities through small business ventures and training.  The biggest limiter for this ministry and so many others in the region is funding.  Much of the work is done through the use of volunteers in the communities and churches that are connected to EDMC, and from Canadian churches who send teams of volunteers that plug into the projects and get involved in ministry.  The networks that EDMC has to solicit financial support for all of the projects they have on the go can always be expanded.  Cheryl and I are blessed with the opportunities we have to work to support our volunteer efforts and we feel strongly that we want to be able to promote the work of our regional teams and provide an opportunity for more people to hear about the Kingdom work that is going on here and the impact it is having in transforming communities and  families.
The Team from Langley, B.C. and Robert their driver and overseer who works with EDMC.
If you are reading this and are interested in hearing more about the work of EDMC or any of the other ministries we work with, please reach out to us.  We would be honoured to be able to tell you more about the work and connect you with folks on the ground.  If you are interested in having us come and speak to your business, church or small group, we would love that opportunity as well.  We think there may be a role for us in facilitating partnerships between the folks who are busy doing the work in places like Dominican Republic, Honduras and other parts of the region and individuals and groups here in Canada.
We are all part of the church of Christ and those of us in Canada have the responsibility and opportunity to support our global workers through encouragement, prayer and finances.  I will promise you  that if you make the decision to partner with any of us in the Latin America and Caribbean Regional team you will have the chance to become part of something really cool.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.  It means a lot to Cheryl and me when you make the choice to support the work we do through your interest, encouragement and prayer.      


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Bags of Dirt

Since my last post we have made progress in the preparation for the passion fruit planting. Lorenzo Garcia was hired to disc the soil and did the first pass on Tuesday. The soil is quite sandy so the breaking disc was able to get deep.  It is not the smoothest land so the first pass was a bit crude.  He returns on Saturday to make two more passes and we will assess whether we can start putting up the posts and wire.  We are still trying to source this stuff and our Ag consultant is working on finding the posts.
Six foot breaking disc going over the land
Last Saturday our consultant came by to check on our progress and to drop off passion fruit seeds, some small bags and a few sacs of topsoil. The task assigned to me was to build a 12 X 4 foot frame under a shady tree to house all of the seedlings for the few months they will be growing, until they are of a size that they can be transplanted.  So the last three days I have been filling little plastic bags with dirt and placing them in nice neat rows in the frame. Pasqual, the watchman on site offered to help me and saved me some time. By the end of Monday I had filled the frame halfway and on Tuesday I planted about 400 seeds.  Two seeds for each of the larger bags and one for the smaller. Tuesday I spent quite a bit of time with the tractor guy and only got about another 100 bags ready.  On Wednesday I finished filling the frame with bags of dirt (460 in all) and planted another 400 seeds and watered everything.  790 seeds planted.  Now they will have to be cared for by Pasqual until they are ready to plant.
460 bags of dirt and 800 seeds- how many glasses of passion fruit juice will that produce?
A crew of volunteers was on site today as well to start on the walls for the security and office house for the farm.  Four rows of cinder blocking and the rest will be made of wood with a tin roof.  Of course no power tools, and everything mixed by hand.  It reminds me of the way my grandfather talked about his life on the farm.  These men are all in good shape and were working hard in the sun. Impressive to watch.
Excellent work gentlemen
One younger guy was fooling around on a break and balanced a cinder block on a beer bottle he found. He came over to where I was filling the bags and said I needed to come and take a photo of his amazing feat!
Strange physics
There is a team of young people from Langley B.C. here until Sunday.  This ministry has a lot of construction projects on a list where many hands can tackle some of these things.  These highschoolers are working in the hot sun moving fill into a low lying area to get it ready for a playground and park, they are doing some kids programs in schools and sharing in churches.  They will go home very tired, but I think with a good perspective on life in this culture and what it means to serve others in this context.  I join them in the evenings for meals and they seem like a great bunch of teens.
Loaded in the truck and ready to go to work
Their last full day here is Saturday and they have a beach afternoon, and so I think I will join them.  Seems like I should go to the beach at least once while I'm here.  800,000 Canadians a year pay a lot of money to do just that...must be something to it!

I head for home a week tomorrow and I am wondering whether we will get any passion fruit plants in the ground before I go. Ryan is somewhat optimistic, but secretly I am thinking the post setting will be hard on an ex civil servant who has spent the last few years behind a desk.  May be a photo op with me holding a post hole digger like the politicians do when they are trying to look civic minded around election time.

I will do one last wrap up from my time here next week.  P.S.I had to get a flat repaired on Monday and the hole was in the sidewall.  The fellow fixed it right away and it cost me $4.00.  I remarked to Ryan that it would be non repairable at home and the tire shop would sell me at least two new tires. We think things are soooo much better in Canada!


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

It has been just over one week since I landed in Nagua.  I head for home in just over 2 weeks so my time here is short.  After reading the passion fruit document I feel like I know just enough to understand the process we are embarking on to prepare the land for the planting. The land we are using is part of a 27 acre property purchased a few years ago, and will be the main Ministry HQ for Every Day Ministries Canada or as they are known here Ministerios de Cada Dia.  Their plan is to build a ministry center for teaching and conferences, build accommodations for ministry teams from Canada and for ministry center events, develop a fruit orchard that will make a profit to help with costs and some additional buildings to house staff and act as a storage/warehouse for the agriculture operations. Grand plans to be sure but it makes sense to me as I sit and listen to all of the things that have been going on for the past decade or more since the Thomas family first arrived. This team is building homes and churches, training pastors, mentoring families around the area and having a facility like this will be able to bring most of their infrastructure together in one place.   To see the range of impacts this team is having go to and check out what they are doing to empower and equip the people of Nagua. if you go to the website and want to help out financially with any of the projects there is a way to do that.  
Some of the Chinola (passion fruit in spanish) parked under a tree to keep them cool
Back to the Passion fruit.  These plants grow on vines and an orchard of grapes they need to be set in rows with trellisses to support the vines and allow them to climb and produce fruit with enough sunlight and open air for easy picking and care for the plants.  The plot we are preparing is on virgin pasture land with a handful of cashew trees.  Job one after marking the boundaries of the 50 metre by 50 metre plot was to cut away any branches around the perimeter or on trees in the plot below 8 feet to allow the tractor to get in and break up the ground.  So armed with a machete, bow saw, two axes,(freshly sharpened) and a 6 ft step ladder i traipsed around in the plot and sawed, hacked, chopped and pulled out every shrub tree or offending branch in my path.  Paqual, the security man on the property came out and helped and we got 95 % of it done on monday.  At the end of the day this is what the fenceline boundary looked like.
This is the south west boundary of the plot along a fenceline
On Tuesday I went back with a hired chainsaw operator to tackle some large branches and the one nasty, gnarly old tree with about one thousand intertwined, mostly dead branches.  While my hired gun worked on the big nasty, I hauled and dragged by hand the branches removed the previous day.  Myphone was in in my back pocket and by the end of the day I had walked 10 km. Those were hard calories to burn.  This day there was a volunteer crew finishing a cement pad that will be the house and storage building and when they finished the pad they agreed to help me finish the branch removal.  In 30 minutes we finished the last of it.  The land is almost ready for the discers, except for a couple of roots and a handful of low branches to be dealt with in the next couple of days.
the remaining "nasty and gnarly" just before
 the chainsaw man got after it

Day one I got two nasty wasp stings which left me a little skittish on day 2.  I got through day 2 with only one mysterious bite and most of the skin off my legs maimed from the branches. Careful use of the polysporin helped in that regard.
Once the land is prepared we will plant the passion fruit seedlings ans get the trellises in place.  More on this next time.
the same tree with the offending parts removed
 and all the branches along the fenceline gone


Thanks to the work crew for their willingness to help me out.  In five days a work team from Langley B.C. will come for a week.  I am looking forward to working and observing them while they tackle some tasks here in Nagua.

From Dominican Republic,