Branch Visit, Studies & Safari

Hi – it’s us again!

A lot has been going on since the last post – we had family visiting from TX so we went on safari with them to South Africa, then brought them back to Harare with us for about 9 days.  Lots of fun! Here are a few pics from the safari… it’s hard to explain what it’s like to be with these animals in their habitat and observing them going about their daily lives, nearly oblivious to us.  But imagine Paradise … just without the petting and snuggling.

While the Conner’s were in Harare with us, we had many a braai – which in TX would be known as a BBQ.  Same idea, different continent. Grilling of meat, drinking of adult beverages (if you’re so inclined), plenty of conversation, you get the idea. All in all, pretty nice! We also took a day to go out to a game reserve and got to see 3 white rhino, which we hadn’t seen while on safari in South Africa.  There was also a pretty nice view from the top of the rocks and some very cool bushman rock paintings from who knows how long ago!

 

Sunday, Jan 8th, we were invited to attend the Headquarters Representative Branch Visit Special Meeting at the Harare Assembly Hall. Here are a few pictures – not great ones but it was raining quite a bit so I didn’t get many photos. Sorry!

There were 2400+ in attendance at the Assembly Hall (3 open air buildings each holding about 800) but if you didn’t get invited there, they also streamed the program to the local Kingdom Halls so that pretty much everyone in Zim could be a part of it. So for us being from the US, we weren’t really familiar with a Headquarters Representative Branch Visit.  A Brother Dillinger from the US Bethel branch (not sure which location he’s currently at) came to Zimbabwe to deliver a very encouraging talk which was translated into Shona, the local majority language. But, the first two parts of the program – the abbreviated WT Study and the local report for Zimbabwe – were in Shona and not translated into English.  I could very vaguely follow along with the Watchtower study by listeing for names and scriptures in the paragraphs but when it came to the local report, we were pretty lost. We could tell a nice experience was being told and then the audience would laugh or applaud and the sweet sister with us – her name is Fortunate – would try to fill me in on the joke or experience before they moved on to the next point. Then came the talk by Br Dillinger from the HQ which was excellent.  I took lots of notes because since it was being translated (almost sentence by sentence) into Shona, I had plenty of time to write down what he said! The songs though were probably my favorite part. We started singing in English but since we were 2 of about 800 in our area, we quickly decided we wanted to sing with the group instead of battling through in English.  The video screens had all the lyrics in Shona which is a mostly phonetic language so we were able to read the words and sing along with everyone in Shona.  I have to admit, we only did 2 of 3 songs this way … the middle song was not an easy tune so it was tough to keep up and sing in Shona for that one. Oh well, we tried!  Here’s a video of the brothers and sisters singing in Shona – video credit goes to our friend Kate Vosloo … I was too busy trying to sing the song and not burst into tears to remember to take a video!


Being in service here is great – there’s not much in the way of bathroom breaks or stops at Starbucks but there is lots of walking and lots of talking to people.  I’d say we talk to just about as many people walking down the street or doing gardening as we do talking to people at their doors. I’ve been able to conduct 3 bible studies so far – and they’re all really great in their own way.  One is with a mother of 2 girls that had been sitting in on studies with her brother but it was in Ndebele (the second most common local language) and she wanted to have a study of her own in English which is what she understands the best since that what she was taught in school.  Her name is Lucinda and she’s already pretty knowledgeable but she wanted to start over in the Bible Teach book.  Fine by me!  The other one that is so nice is the one that Cameron found for me a few weeks ago – her name is More Blessings. He showed her the Why Study the Bible video and when it asks if you’d like to know more about the bible and study it with JW’s she said YES! We’re in chapter 3 of the Good News brochure and she’s loving it.  She loved learning that God has a name and she just loved  James 4:8.  This is the busy season for planting and farming but she came back in from the fields to be there for our study at 11 and then was going back out to work the rest of the day. But she thanked us over and over for coming and for our time.

Here are a few random pics of service:

 

That’s it for now – headed off to the meeting! We miss everyone but we are having lots of fun and good times here!

Harare Zimbabwe, December 2016

Hey guys!  Not sure who’s checking this out but I wanted to start writing some things down before I forget.

So, we’re back in Harare for the 3rd time and it’s really feeling like a home away from home. Cameron loves it here – as we’re driving up and down Borrowdale Rd (which seems like that’s the only road we know and the only one we need for now) he’ll just randomly say ‘have I said how much I like it here?’ to which I’ll reply ‘Yes’ but it’s good to know nonetheless.

It’s the rainy season now and it’s living up to the expectations this year after last years drought. As I write this at 10:48 pm, the rain is coming down like a monsoon outside.  Happy to know the crops will grow and the people will have maize to eat this year.

As for service so far, wow.  We haven’t been on a normal schedule yet with the jet lag, the moving from place to place, the rains, etc but despite all that, we’ve had some very cool service experiences already. Today, Cameron went on some RV’s with his group while I did PLD (cart witnessing for us americans) and he found a bible study for me.  He had gone to do two calls that were just a couple houses apart and when they didn’t find those calls at home and started to walk away, a woman from the house in between (that they didn’t go to) came out and asked why they didn’t come to her house.  She asked what they were doing so Cameron used the Teach the Truth presentation for this month about who caused Job’s suffering. She said right away that God didn’t cause it and was happy to see the verse that proved her right. Then he showed her the Why Study the Bible video and she was loving it.  At the end when the video asks if they’d like to learn more about the Bible she said Yes! and asked when they could come back.  She was busy tomorrow and we go out of town on Friday but as soon as I get back from South Africa next week, I’m going to go study with her.  Can’t wait!

Earlier this week, on Monday, we went to the rurals and found a family that I think could be a great study – for the Dad, Mom and teenage son!  We started talking to the son, the Mom came a few minutes later (she had been next door and watched part of the Why Study the Bible video I was showing her neighbor) and brought chairs outside for us to sit in so we’d be more comfortable.  As the video finished, the Dad came back and told us he had a book.  He went and got it from inside their home and it was the Bible Teach book.  He said he’d gotten it from a PLD (cart) somewhere in Zimbabwe and he loved it.  He’s read it all and always has it with him.  He works for the National Parks of Zimbabwe and so he’s often out in very remote rural areas as a National Park worker but he’s home for the holiday season now.  I asked him what he liked from from book or what he’s learned from it and he said he liked the parts about making family life happier and that he’s a better husband, she’s a better wife and they’re already happier because of what they’ve learned.  He’s going to be a tricky one since he works so far out in the middle of nowhere but we’ll definitely follow up with the wife and teenage son who live outside Harare.

I think we’ve barely scratched the surface but it’s been amazing even just so far. Totally worth the effort to be here!

The thunderstorm has knocked out the power so I’ll save this copy and post it later when I have power and wifi back.  🙂 I’ll also try to post some pictures so you can kind of see what we’re seeing.

Be well and hope to hear from you!

Harare, ZImbabwe – We made it!

For those of you checking on whether we made it or not – yes, we did.  We’re in Harare, Zimbabwe.  Woohoo!  We haven’t seen it in the daylight yet but we’ll soak it all in tomorrow after we try to shake off the jet lag. 

The reception at the Harare airport was amazing – lot of hugs and love from everyone.  We’ve made so many new friends already and we’ve barely arrived!

Arrived in Namibia

After long two long travel legs and a whirlwind tour of London, we arrived this evening in Windhoek, Namibia! We will pick up the 4×4 tomorrow first thing and head out on our trek across Namibia.

Since we only just arrived at 5pm we haven't seen much but what we have seen I think will be a common thread through the trip. Vast open spaces. The view from the plane window was nothing but open grasslands with low scrub bushes and mopane trees. A few low mountain ranges can be seen in the distance but what really strikes you is the amount of untouched rugged terrain with a few dry sandy riverbeds weaving their way to who knows where.

I can't wait to get on the road tomorrow …

 

Wild dogs on our last night in Botswana!

All good things must come to an end. And so it did. But before I get to that, an update on the last day or so in the Okavango Delta at Sandibe.  Instead of the boat ride on Sunday evening, we got word that wild dogs had moved back into the area and we had a good chance of finding them if we went back out on a game drive that afternoon.  Unanimously we decided that was the way to go as wild dogs are so rare to see.  I had secretly hoped to see them on this trip but had written it off because of their scarcity.  What I made known that I wanted to see was cheetah …. That didn’t happen – this time.
Back to the dogs: we piled in the Land Cruiser and set off to find the pack.  It was nearly an hour long and very bumpy ride past the airstrip but another vehicle was already there and was sending word that the dogs were stil there.  It was a pack of 17 dogs – pretty substantial! We arrived and there they were – laying around a large pond, just waking up from the midday slumber.  They are pretty scrawny with skinny little legs, very splotchy brown, black and white coloring and huge ears. I think they’re beautiful.  But I may be biased since I think our dog Lucy loosley bears some resemblance.  They had reasonably full bellies and we saw two impala carcasses nearby – presumably from the night befores kill.  They slowly awoke, started playing with one another nipping each others ears and chasing away the vultures that follow them around to pick up the leftovers. They looked just like any group of domesticated dogs.  Slowly they started wandering away, looking for the next place to go for food in the area. We followed as they started to break up and we thought maybe they were hunting – they’re known to be very skillful hunters using their numbers to scatter, surround, corral and surprise their prey.  Our guide said usually though if they’re hunting they move quicker – this just appeared to be a casual scouting trip.  Just then we saw a few of them bolt and the whole pack took off in a full sprint in smaller groups but all headed in the same general direction.  We took off after them and barrelled through the bush hot on their heels. Right, then left, then right again and then we arrived at the scene. They had just taken down an impala and we weren’t more than 5 to 10 seconds behind.  It was a bit gruesome so I’ll spare some of the details but wow – I never expected to see wild dogs – let alone watch them hunt and take down a meal.  These no longer looked like domesticated dogs. They were fearsome killers and very efficient at their job.  After they ate, they milled around yipping and bonding and watching us.  It was a bit unnerving.  I’ve had many encounters so far with predators looking at us – lions, hyenas and leopards that appear to be looking you in the eye even though the guide swears they only see the vehicle as one large thing and not individual people inside the vehicle.  This though felt different somehow since I just watched them do what they do best – kill their dinner.  They settled down and we left them and headed to a safe spot to have our sundowners. We stopped at another pond a good distance away and had our last sundowners of the vacation. Sad. We had a nice send off though as the sunset was one of the prettiest we’d seen, especially with the reflection off the water.

Here are the dogs:

The last sundowners of the trip: