Stay tuned, Zimbabwe Updates only 9 days away…

This entry is part 12 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

While I am in Zimbabwe I am going to be posting here daily (as long as I have internet access/power) .? I will be posting to the Zimbabwe 2007 series that I started when I first announced my participation in this project.? If you’d like you can also subscribe to the series.

What am I going to be writing about?? At this point I really can’t say.? All I can promise you is that I’ll be chronicling my experiences and thoughts on what I am experiencing.? Kind of broad isn’t it? 🙂

“Fill the bags”

This entry is part 11 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

We’ve just published a “needs list” of items that the Village of Hope could use and what we’d like to be able to take when our team goes in June (just under a month to go!).? Thanks to special arrangements with British Airways, we are able to take two extra bags per team member and each bag can be up to 50lbs.? That means we can take 400lbs worth of stuff on top of our own luggage.? It’s a great opportunity to be able to take things to Zimbabwe for much, much cheaper than it would cost to ship (at least $450/50lbs from Hanover) the same items separately.

We are hoping that we’ll be able to take most of the needs on the list – if any of my readers are able to contribute somehow it would be greatly appreciated!

Walkathon, Retreat, and Countdown

This entry is part 10 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Time for another update about my Zimbabwe trip. Between the Fundraisers for Zimbabwe 2007, the 50 Days of Prayer and Fasting that I’ve been participating in (which includes writing and publishing the devotional that my church is using) and my normal day job – I’ve been kept extremely busy and have barely had time to maintain all the websites I manage/own let alone put posts up. Yet, it’s really no excuse, I guess the creative part of my brain is just exhausted by the time the night rolls around and I haven’t been able to muster up the energy to put words down. I haven’t even twittered!

Anyway, tonight I’m finally taking some time to write up another installment in my Zimbabwe 2007 series.

Walk-athon Fundraiser

This was held on Saturday April 28th and all participants walked 10km (The number of average steps in 10km = number of kilometers to go to Zimbabwe). We collected pledges for each km or for the total distance. At last count there was close to $1200 collected for the project!

Gord and Anita Cooledge and their family were with us for that weekend and it was great getting a chance to meet the directors of the Village of Hope. Since I walked with Gord on the walk-a-thon I had a great chance to get to know him and talk about what its like for them in Zimbabwe. I really enjoyed our conversation and I’m really impressed by the faith and genuineness of this couple. I’m looking forward to seeing them again when I go to Zimbabwe in June.

STM Team Retreat

I joined the rest of the team this past Saturday at the Schaab’s cabin for a day retreat. We spent the day working on some conflict resolution exercises (I’m an owl and a teddy bear according to the test…) and we also spent some time looking at our spiritual gifts. Brian O’Gorman, a leader of a team that went to Zimbabwe in March, came and shared with us some of his experiences and there were a number of helpful tips he gave our team. We also heard from Dr. Stretch who has been on numerous missions trips to Ghana. Dr. Stretch gave us some health and safety tips for traveling to Africa and there were a number of things we wouldn’t have known otherwise had he not shared with us (I’ve crossed sandals off my list…don’t want to be invaded by egg laying bugs..) All in all, it was a great day to bond closer together as a team and get more prepared for the trip.

Countdown…

As of this post there are now 36 days until we depart. It’s hard to believe there is just over a month to go! As we get closer to the date I’m getting more and more excited about the adventure that awaits. Of course, there is also a bit of nervousness due to the vast distance we will be traveling and the stability of the country we are traveling to!

I’m also really excited that fundraising goal for the project has already been exceeded! We are well over our original goal of $27,000 and are quickly approaching $30,000. As a team we are praying and hoping that between now and our departure we’ll have raised an additional $10,000 (for a total of $40,000) to add to the amount we can give to the Village of Hope for their ongoing projects. It certainly is within reach! If you want to contribute please feel free to chip-in using the widget in my sidebar.

One of the things we discovered as a team when Gord and Anita Cooledge visited the church is that we will most likely have internet access each day. That means I’ll be able to post updates about what we’re doing while in Zimbabwe. So if you are following my journaling about the project you’ll be able to continue reading as I send posts from Harare. I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to keep all my supporters up-to-date!

Event Update (getting closer to Zimbabwe)

This entry is part 9 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Just thought I’d give a little bit of an update as to what’s happened in the past few weeks with the Zimbabwe 2007 Project that I’m a part of.

Day at the Sugar Bush Fundraiser [04/07/2007]

The unexpected snowy weather for this time of year turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it really contributed to the success of the day. The snow certainly gave a more appropriate backdrop to the whole experience of being in the sugar-bush.

When I arrived at the Schaab’s barn I quickly attended to my pre-arranged pancake duty. It was while making my extra special “flap-jacks” (all I did was coat the pan with oil, pour the mix, and flip) that I realized how many people were attending this fundraiser event. We were kept pretty busy making the pancakes and there were times that we couldn’t keep up with the number of people arriving!

All in all the day was a fun day – and thanks to all the volunteers and the generosity of the people attending we made just over $2,000 between the sale of Maple Syrup and the tickets for the day.

Community Supper and Silent Auction [04/14/2007]

My contribution to this event was designing the posters, tickets, program/auction item list, and power-point slides for the evening of the auction. So I was able to attend with my wife and enjoy the evening without being involved in all the other preparation that went into it. I must say, the Auction & Dinner committee really worked hard and it was evident in the awesome response of the evening.

The number of items that were available was amazing and the “bidding wars” that ensued through the night were good natured and hilarious 🙂 In some cases husbands and wives were bidding against each other! It was also humourous seeing people bid $10-$20 dollars over the value of a gift-certificate. This certainly demonstrated people’s willingness to support the Zimbabwe 2007 Project!

The entertainment for the evening was also really great. Steve Wall, a classical guitarist, played and boy can this guy play the guitar! The quality of his music was a real treat to listen to.

Dave Cummings sang a couple of songs for us and his contribution was much appreciated as well.

The only thing that wasn’t so great about the evening was the sound quality. The acoustics of the room we rented for this event were a real challenge for the people in charge of the sound equipment nevertheless it was obvious they made every effort to do the best they could with what they had.

Paul and Jennifer Hudson from my church were the MC’s for the evening and they both did an excellent job of keeping the evening moving forward and interesting! I also was really touched by the idea Paul had of circulating sheets for each person on the team that people could sign and write short notes on. I’m sure these “personal messages” will be much appreciated by all of us on the team when we read them while in Zimbabwe!

All-in-all the evening was a great event and we made just over $5,000 after expenses towards our goals for the project!

Team Meeting 04/16/2007

We met once again as a team to work on the planning and preparation for the trip. At this meeting we spent a lot of time talking about the actual logistics involved in getting to Zimbabwe and back. Our team leader, Barry Mutrie, has put a lot of time and preparation into researching various aspects of embarking on this project and I’m very appreciative of everything he has done.

We went over packing lists, questions we want to ask the Cooledges when they come to our church in two weeks, and we did some team-building exercises as well. We also spent time talking about the responsibility we all feel towards those who have contributed to the project. People have put their trust and faith in us by giving generously towards this cause and we want to be good stewards of the funds they’ve directed towards the project. Thought is being given towards how we can communicate with our supporters while we are in Zimbabwe and the reports we will give when we get back. For any supporters that may be reading this entry…thank you for giving generously – your gift is much appreciated!

Every team meeting we have reminds us how close we are getting to the actual date of departure and the excitement is certainly beginning to build. I go this week for my last shot before leaving and while I am looking forward to going to Harare I’m also a bit nervous as I think about just how far Zimbabwe actually is from Hanover! Not only that, but the change in culture and setting will be dramatically different from what I’m used to and it will be a challenge adjusting. Nevertheless, I’m anticipating that God is leading us and will be doing a work in those of us going that will transform each of us in some way. We’re trusting and believing that in responding to the call of God leading us to Zimbabwe that we can be a help in contributing to the work of the Village of Hope in bringing hope to the orphans and the people living in this part of the world. That is something I’m looking forward to most of all.

Still to come are two more fund-raisers. The “Walk for Hope” which is a 10km walk I’ll be participating on (we gather sponsors for each km of the walk) on April 28th – and the Flea Market/Garage Sale that will be held on May 12th. We are already nearly at our team goal of $27,000 so it’s exciting knowing that we will exceed that goal and be able to contribute much more to the Village of Hope than we originally planned!

Something I haven’t done yet is send out personal support letters to family and friends. I’m hoping to get that done this week – I’m sure there are family and friends who will willingly contribute to this cause and I’m counting on their support to help make a difference in Zimbabwe. If you are one of those people I’m referring to – thanks in advance 😉

The dreaded needle…

This entry is part 3 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

Well today I got my (hopefully only round) first round of shots in preparation for traveling to Zimbabwe. Even though the actual journey is still nearly 4 months away I want to make sure I get any necessary medical stuff out of the way. Did I tell you I hate needles yet? Well then, let me tell you, I HATE NEEDLES. But I was surprised, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought it would. At least not as much as getting bloodwork done. When I visited the lab due to doctor’s orders to get my blood checked out for who knows what, I didn’t think they were going to take THAT much blood! Did I tell you I hate needles yet? Yeah I hate needles. I nearly passed out when they stuck that instrument of torture into my veins…at least the kind nurse found my vein on the first try! (clump, the sound of my body passing out and hitting the floor).

Well, on to another subject shall we? While getting my dose of the Hep-A vaccine and the mumps/measles/rubella concotion – I started to think about how much we take for granted here in our country. In the travel package I received from our local public health unit I noted the differences in disease risk – for Canada (my country), the traveler is warned,

Food-borne and water-borne illness:
* Minimal risk throughout the country.

And then the disease risk for Zimbabwe…

Food-borne and water-borne illness:
* High risk throughout the country including deluxe acommodations in major cities.

Did you catch that? Even in deluxe accomodations in Zimbabwe there are high risks for food-borne and water-borne illnesses – let alone the daily acommodations most Zimbabweans live with! In western society (especially in Canada) we have such freedom from concern when it comes to diseases and illness – not to say it doesn’t happen here – but in Zimbabwe its a fact of life!

Here’s another sobering thought – 1 in 4 Zimbabweans have AIDS. That means that if I walk down the streets of Harare and shake hands with folks, chances are that every 4th person I shake hands with has AIDS. Compare that to Canada? Well, AIDS doesn’t even make it to the travel advisory to Canada, I had to do some digging around to find statistics about the incidences of AIDS in my country. Here’s what I found: according to Public Health Canada, approximately 58,000 Canadians were living with AIDS by the end of 2005. According to Statistics Canada, the population of Canada is 32,623,490 at the end of 2005. Doing some simple math that means that 0.17778600634082987442483927991763% of the Canadian population has AIDS or in more understandable terms (and rounded) – 1 in 1779 people have AIDS. So in Zimbabwe, 1 in 4 people I shake hands with has AIDS, in Canada I’ll have to shake hands with 1,779 people before I shake hands with a person with AIDS. Wow, yeah…we kind of do take things for granted here don’t we?

By the way, did I tell you I hate needles…?

What am I getting myself into?

This entry is part 2 of 27 in the series Zimbabwe 2007 Project

I believe it was back in May of last year that one of the men in my church first approached me expressing his desire to go on a short term missions trip in the future and wanting to present a questionarre to the men’s group to see if there were any others who had an interest. Little did I know the way events would unfold and how not only is this missions trip actually happening, but I’m one of the ones going!

Why Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe became the point of destination for the men in our church because it is a natural fit with the partnership our church has established with Gord and Anita Cooledge who run a Village of Hope in Harare. The purpose of this project is to make available the varying gifts and abilities of the men who go, the resources we are able to take with us, and the willingness to serve wherever there is a need to aid in the work that the Cooledges are doing in building this community to help children orphaned by AIDS.

Why did I decide to go?

The closer we get to departure date, the more I start thinking that very question! Just kidding – well not entirely – I am nervous – nevertheless I”m committed to going and am looking forward to the experience. Here are some of the reasons why I decided to go in the first place…

  1. Inspired by what others have done.
  2. In the months leading up to the actual opportunity being presented our men’s group had a few different speakers who had been on Short Term Missions trips and shared of the impact their experience had on their life. As they shared there was no doubt that something changed in their life as a result of the selfless act of stepping out of their comfort zone in order to help those less fortunate than themselves.
    I’ve also been inspired by Barry Mutrie, who is the man leading our team. As Barry entered into retirement (from being a teacher) he wanted to do something with his life that would make a difference. I’ve been inspired by the transformation occurring in Barry even before going on a STM! It’s hard not to catch the passion and vision that Barry communicates!

  3. Broken by the impact of AIDS
  4. As we’ve communicated with the Cooledges, our adopted missionary family and have become aware of the impact AIDS has had on Zimbabwe, and particularly the children there, it has moved my heart and created a desire to be involved in helping in some way. Certainly, I can write a check but I’ve always been the kind of person that would much rather help in “hands on” work and this is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up to help out with the village.

  5. To expand my horizons
  6. One of the stronger motivations for me making the decision to go to Zimbabwe is a desire to do something radically outside of my comfort zone and to put me in a place where I need to be dependent on God. That’s not to say that I don’t depend on God, or that I’ve not been stretched in my life, but the sheer magnitude of this experience is way beyond something I’ve ever done in my life. Not only is there the hurdle of getting there, but there is also the challenge for me to overcome my nervousness due to my hearing impairment and the resulting communication difficulties that will pose to me.
    Another aspect of expanding my horizons is this whole desire to gain a perspective of what life is like outside of our Western Culture.

  7. The whisper of the Holy Spirit
  8. The clincher for me signing my name up to participate in the project is of course the result of spending some time in prayer regarding the opportunity. In that quiet way God often speaks He gave me direction to go and be a part of this endeavour.

Certainly it is also the love of Christ that compels me to go and I’m looking forward to opportunities to express God’s love when in Zimbabwe. I’m excited about being a part of bringing hope to the people of Zimbabwe and particularly the children!