As you know, I’ve been organizing twice-monthly meetings with Cavango’s community leaders to formulate and address a list of health difficulties and challenges that face the people of this remote region. A proven and historically successful guide used to improve the public health of a community in the developing world is to:
- form a team of the community leaders,
- with this team formulate a list of health challenges/problems,
- as a team, using available resources, plan interventions to improve health outcomes, and
- as a team, continuously re-evaluate that the community health is actually improving secondary to the interventions.
In Cavango, we are addressing both physical AND spiritual health challenges (spiritual health = Kingdom health, though this is initially unspoken). This is our fourth month of meetings and the group of 12 men and 3 women (chosen by the community leaders themselves) have been a model of passionate, wise, considerate and respectful interaction. I begin every meeting with a message from our Father’s letters to us and it is always hungrily received. Comments are made to me throughout the week about our Father’s timely word to us.
This group of leaders has gone out of their way several times to express their appreciation for my leadership, and just this morning (Saturday), several in the group intentionally and deliberately interrupted the discussion and told me again how respected and empowered they feel. They said that missionaries have done good things for them in the past but they’ve never been included like this in the planning and decision-making, and they love it. They said that they feel as though God has heard their cries by sending us to lead them in addressing the many challenges that they face. They shared that they feel like baby birds, expectantly looking forward to what their Father might bring them next (such trust in their Father while living such difficult lives!). I don’t mention this to focus on me, but to highlight the beauty of empowering and encouraging people, the lovely fruit that results from leading respectfully and with deference and love, and the honor communicated when we “come alongside” as servants, rather than bring about good changes by dictating paternally. We must remember this when interacting both with groups and with individuals!
Our list of health challenges currently has over 30 separate issues, including the following (in no particular order):
Physical Problems / Challenges
– Malaria, mosquito nets
– Hygiene and sanitation
– Access to medical help (truck to transport the sick and injured)
– Nutrition (malnutrition)
– Hospital Lab
– Hospital beds, plastic chairs, bedding, simple renovation (roof leaks, etc)
– Morgue with refrigeration (people wouldn’t need to be buried within 24hr)
– Community oxen and yoke or Tractor (to help with planting)
– Molds for Brick-making
– Medicines for those with TB and Leprosy
– Medical help for other villages (a mobile clinic)
– Community sewing machine
– Helping the people in the community that are disabled and/or unable to work
Spiritual Problems / Challenges
– A church building
– Making disciples
– Perseverance / commitment in our faith sufficient to evangelize effectively
– Financial support for pastor (he hasn’t been paid since July)
In October, our pastor (Danny Meyer) and friend (Craig Crotinger) from Ohio visited us, met the people in Cavango and a few of the surrounding villages (saw the need), and attended one of our community meetings. They met the leaders, witnessed the mature group dynamics and then enthusiastically returned to our home church family (Vineyard Church of Delaware County) to raise funds to help address some of the above prioritized health challenges. With their generous contributions, we will be able to purchase a truck to transport people to and from the Cavango hospital (many now walk for hours/days), buy a solar/generator system to light the hospital at night and begin some basic renovations in the small Cavango Hospital. It was such a beautiful, sacrificial, tangible outpouring of love from one part of Christ’s body to another. There are NO other means of transport here for those ill. The truck will travel about 2 hours north (and 2 hours return) twice weekly and 3 hours south (and 3 hour return) twice weekly, thus stopping at about 20 villages twice each week to transport those injured and ill to the Cavango hospital. “When I was ill, you provided transportation for me to receive help…” This vehicle will be a very real “Good Samaritan’s donkey” for so many. Thank you VCDC! Many will be served because you gave…
Another organization in the U.S. is looking to help build a church building and will combine efforts with the local people in that the outside money and labor will erect the roof and framing, while the local folks will construct adobe and/or cinder block walls (a huge part of the task). It has been well demonstrated historically that ownership, dignity and local participation are keys for the long-term success of any missionary construction enterprise.
Yet another organization from North America is preparing to clear and level a dirt airstrip near our house to better enable us and other missionaries to come and go and to allow medical evacuations of gravely ill patients from this region to our excellent surgical mission hospital in Lubango (drive-10 hr, flight-1hr, 40min).
All of these efforts are the result of people contributing their work to help serve those in need. Money always equals work. These projects are happening because of much work and effort sacrificially contributed, in the form of money, to help those who have little means to help themselves. Such a beautiful picture of our Father’s love (and grace) in action.
Over the next year, I would also like to raise money for another challenge on the list and the problem that just might impact the most lives – malaria and mosquito nets. If purchased in quantity, it will cost about $10 US to ship from Europe one mosquito net to Cavango. I would like to purchase a container of nets in the coming year and distribute 10,000 nets to the villages near Cavango. It is estimated that a child’s likelihood for dying from malaria is reduced by 75% (!) when consistently sleeping under a net! So much death and disability will be averted as many, many lives and families will be impacted over several years and will cost only $10/net.
We have about half of this money raised and need further (work) contributions for the other half. If you have ideas about how to raise this money over the next year (or would like to contribute), please let me know and we can work together to prevent this awful disease from taking precious lives in this small part of southern Africa. I don’t have a specific fund set up yet (early next year), so please ask our Father if He would have you participate in this incredible opportunity to save lives and have no one know of your contribution except Him (the Kingdom way)! If you want to contribute before the end of the year, please write me and I will direct you.
Our community leaders estimate that the most that the rural people here can likely afford to pay is about $2.00/net (a rarely achieved, good day’s wage in Angola is $5.00), so we will sell the nets for about this amount. We know that if material items are sold (vs. given away) to individuals, even for a small amount, they are more valued and will more likely be cared for and appreciated.
Giving money or material things for free is rarely wise, though giving our effort, our time and our lives for free, like Jesus did, is our Father’s pleasure.
The vehicle, the lights, the church building, the air strip, and the hospital renovation will be given to no one, will help to serve many people, and will create opportunities for people to serve people (our Father’s pleasure)…
Our Father is obviously up to something as much is going to happen in Cavango in the next few years and we need humble wisdom in leading these efforts. Please pray for us. We can lead with wisdom or without (we are fully capable of leading without wisdom!). As you know, wisdom comes from being connected to, and surrendered to, our Father’s Spirit. We cannot love wisely without knowing our Father’s pleasure in each situation, and this takes knowing Him and time discussing each issue with Him. Loving wisely also requires much humility (realizing our tendency is to serve ourselves, even when helping others).
Missionaries, churches, mission organizations, and many individuals have been, and are, involved in these efforts and over the next several years we will try to see their completion in order that these remote folks are blessed, no strings.
One plants, another waters, someone else harvests, and all fruit is of Him…
As to spiritual health and discipleship, I begin a small group this week with 10 community leaders and during the next several months each will be trained (through participation and modeling) to lead a similar, humble small group in their home, where others will be trained to do the same, and so on. We will be discussing the “Roots (basics) of the Kingdom”. We hope to see a network of simple, supportive home groups develop in this region over the next few years. We arrived serving and embracing several months ago (after visiting monthly for almost a year), and now the trust groundwork is laid (they know that we care for them and seek their well-being) and the leaders are anxious to hear about spiritual (Kingdom) health…
Sometimes it’s costly (and requires much sacrifice) to bring about positive change and to have a Kingdom impact in people’s lives. Very often, it is not. A word of encouragement, a listening ear, a genuine warm embrace, an offering of grace, and a small act of kind service can all have a tremendous Kingdom impact (all seeds are small…). How can you scatter small Kingdom seeds today in one or two lives?
I spent $30US and bought 500 suckers. With all we do here, little gives me more pleasure than giving these suckers to the young children at the clinic. These kids never get candy and to see them light up every time is pure pleasure for me. We have a little 5 year old girl in our hospital this week with severe rheumatic heart disease (heart damage after untreated strep throat) and heart failure. She snuggles up to me every day with a smile and lets me give her a huge hug (and a sucker!). Small seeds of love and kindness are what later germinate into passionate relationships with our Father...
We celebrate this month the journey of the first Kingdom missionary. He loved passionately and wisely, and He gave so much and those to whom He was sent were the sole beneficiaries of His effort and sacrifice (He gained nothing).
Thank you for helping us follow Jesus in the giving of our lives for the benefit of these beautiful people of southern Angola.
We hope your Christmas season is warm, intimate, slow, restful, and full of connecting, worship and thanksgiving!