First Week in Shangalala

What a first week it has been! First, finding out that our plywood hadn’t been cut (the only lumber we could find in Lubango), then the packing of a flatbed truck piled so high, then, then the 6 hr journey for 18 people to Shangalala (with multiple stops because we couldn’t keep the tarp tied down) in six vehicles and our arrival to many people waiting for us with lunch (we arrived five hours late, @ 5:00p). The greeting by the local people was so heartwarming and every day people are constantly stopping over to greet us and see how we are doing. We crashed, sleeping on the cement floors, in bed rolls, on the flatbed truck, in the back of a pickup and in tents and a few beds.

We woke up at dawn on our first day, ate breakfast, and everyone dove in to the work with such enthusiasm. We painted the whole interior, made shelves (there is no place for storage of stuff), took down a thirteen-inch-thick adobe (mud) wall in the kitchen, began building a house for the generator, rewired the entire house and more. On the arrival night I read off the wish list of what we could accomplish in two days and we made a huge dent in the first day. Most of our friends helped us all weekend and the Fox family stayed for a week.

On the second day, I was trimming the edges of the wall that we took out in the kitchen, and was tired of using a sledge over head while standing on a ladder and decided to take a break. I walked out of the kitchen and about 15-30 seconds later, there was a huge crash. The entire ceiling of 2x6s and much lumber had crashed to the floor. There was about a meter of vertical adobe above the ceiling (where we had removed the wall) and without the support of the wall (plus all of the pounding), it simply collapsed, taking the entire ceiling with it. I would likely not have survived if the crash had occurred a few minutes sooner (I was on a step ladder under the wall that collapsed). Someone would have been seriously injured had the crash occurred in the future when we were living in the house. As it was, it occurred in an empty room and simply caused us to have to purchase a new ceiling and do a lot of cleanup.

With the crash, we saw that there had been over a foot of bat guano laying on the ceiling which was awful to clean up and remove to the outside. All we had was surgical masks for protection from the dusty piles, mixed with the dust of the collapsed adobe wall. We’ve now noticed that the rest of the ceilings in the house are bowed from the weight of the bat dung and we must consider both how to keep the bats out and how to clean up the waste. I’ve been up on the roof after dark twice trying to seal all of the openings…

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this sore, but it has been fun work and a joy to get to know some of our fellow missionaries around a hammer and saw. The Fox family stayed with us for seven days to WORK. I’ve never in my life had someone give a week of their lives to serve and help us (while sleeping on the floor or in a tent, eating so simply – and none of us feeling 100% because of the intestinal stuff, in such heat and sloppy rain). We all had diarrhea on the third and subsequent days. I awoke at 3:00a one night and there was a line at the bathroom door! Gotta love that river water. Now we are filtering AND using bleach. We need a Biosand filter! We have repaired many screens and now have fewer mosquitoes in the house. Hopefully we got it closed before becoming infected with the all-too-common malaria of the region (living on the edge of a huge river and it’s flood plain). The Cunene river is small by Amazon standards, huge for Angola). We still have so many mosquitoes in our house and will continue to work on getting rid of them.

We have accomplished so much in such a short time. Our adobe (mud-brick) house is now bright and and well lit and well wired. We can use our generator and almost have an enclosed front screened-in porch. The shelves will be completed soon and we’ll be able to organize somewhat. Our new kitchen ceiling, sink and plywood countertops are in and the paint should be dry this morning. Our challenges are that we only have water when the mission generator is running (three hours in the am and three in the pm), this is river water which we cannot drink and one of our two bathrooms is nonfunctional. Also, we have two large bins to collect rainwater for drinking and we noticed today that the water in one contains tadpoles. Perhaps it isn’t so pure! The other needs much repair. We were thrilled one night when we collected 25 gal of rainwater in a rubbermaid tub. Our internet connection is quite poor, so please excuse less frequent communication while we work on other options.

How blessed we have been to be so helped by so many. The folks who helped didn’t simply come, but they worked so hard in the heat, in less than ideal conditions, with difficult sleep. How blessed to see our kids work so hard. They learned so much about house renovation and construction. How blessed, as well, to see this old adobe house begin to look like a home.

The river view out our front porch is beautiful, the nights clear and so full of stars, with the southern cross almost overhead and laying on it’s side. The sun sets over the river and has been a daily delight for us. The landscape is full of Baobab trees with very thick trunks (we could drive through many) and little foliage above.

The hospitality and welcome by the local folks has been incredible. About every hour, someone new stops by to greet us and tell us what a joy it is to have a doctor in the region. The leaders of the Lutheran church seen very interested in reaching the people living remotely. Every one has given a first impression of humility and love. How much more important these qualities in the Kingdom of God than talent, knowledge, giftedness and charisma. We have been brought meals and even a half of a butchered goat (of which we ate part last night – it was great). The director of the hospital stops by every day and after seeing us work for a week and seeing how far we have yet to go, asked us to please take another week to settle in before beginning work (now next monday). Such grace and so honoring, even though she so looks forward to having me begin to see patients.

I’m challenged by these local and very rural folks to consider which personal characteristics I admire. So often we become what we admire. Do I admire in others and wish to personally seek after accomplishment, success, popularity, giftedness, leadership, or great bible knowledge? Or do I admire and desire humility, being a servant (like those who came to work with us), forsaking my life and happiness for another, simplicity, relationship with Jesus and others, etc? Being spent for others in love characterized Jesus’ heart and purpose and is a worthy pursuit. It is so easy to focus on ourselves and our own spiritual growth when there is so much pain all around us, such opportunity to embrace, to serve, to encourage, to love.

How can my Father spend me today? How can I bless, serve, encourage, love every person I meet today?


  1. Thank you Jesus for your provision and for saving Tim’s life. Protect them from the evil one and lead them on the path that you have prepared.

  2. Tim,

    Your mom and I met for lunch a week ago, and I became interested in your work and life. She directed me to your blog, which I have read, beginning on November, 2011 through February, 2013.

    What can I say? I am amazed at all you and your family have experienced and how clearly you describe the people you encounter. Your love for your work and your patients is certainly obvious and quite inspiring.

    Thank you for all that you and your family do for the people you serve. You will be in my prayers, and your mom will let me know what I can do from this end to help. God bless you.

    Sharon Croci

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