Dear Family and Friends:
Bernie and I left Florida on January 7th for our nearly two month stay in Africa. When we got to the base in Malawi, the students greeted us, sang and had candles as we drove in. We did a lot of work and running around while we were there. We had an adult team who came a week later. We were building tables and benches for the Sunday school. We got 30-40 done and took some and set them up. The day after we arrived, we went to the House of Joel Rescue Unit. We were surprised to find a number of people there. We found out they were having a dedication of the Sunday School pavilion which was quite large and well built. To our surprise, it was dedicated and named the Bob and Bernie Pavilion. We were certainly blessed and thrilled, especially as the orphans gathered to sing and express their appreciation for having a safe place to go. Many of the residents came and some expressed their great appreciation for the work of Teen Missions International (TMI) in the area. They are ministering to around 200 kids in that area. We’ve put in a well there, which makes it the center of activity for the whole area around as people come to get water.
While we were there we attempted to build a walk bridge across the river that is right by the property. We finally got it set up. It had to span 36 feet across the river. We shored up the embankments and poured concrete. The bridge is made out of wood. However, there was a storm and the river came and washed the whole thing out. We will not be able to get it repaired until dry season which will be sometime during our summer.
Teen Missions has endeavored to establish a new work among the YAO people in a place near Mangochi at the southern end of Lake Malawi. This is an area where David Livingston explored. Not too far away was the first missionary settlement called Livingstonia. While there, we were able to visit it. The first missionary outpost was manned by five male missionaries. However, all of them passed away from malaria, having only one convert. Their graves are there and we visited them and prayed there. That one convert, however, planted several churches in Malawi. There is, however, very little work in this YAO area, which has been quite resistant to the Gospel. We spent a good bit of time there as we had to meet with the chiefs regarding the two pieces of property that we agreed on and thought we had purchased. The chiefs rescinded the sale because of a squabble between family members over the money. Just as the Lord generally does, He led us to another piece of property and we went down to look at it. Actually, it was a better place than the first one. As far as we know, that deal is going through. It has a lot of trees on it, is right on Lake Malawi and has a beautiful beach. The man gave us 100 coconut trees, which is good. It takes two years to get one started. Mat also asked him for a calf and he agreed to that. There is a three-room house on the property so we have a place to get started. We have an AIDS Orphans and Street Children Rescue Unit near by, reaching out to many there. Hopefully, we will have a YAO Boot Camp and a YAO Bible School soon. We have a couple from our Malawi Bible School that speak YAO.
We also worked on setting up the next Motorcycle Sunday School Mission circuit and were able to purchase a three-wheel motorcycle, which is like a little truck. We think this will be helpful in the Benga area where we are going to start the next Sunday School circuit. We have two and a half circuits up in Malawi now.
While we were there, we also built a storage building for Heni to use for the AOSC things. I was able to visit all 13 places that TMI has property, either AOSU, Matron’s units, or BMWs. I certainly was thrilled with what was going on. Mat and Heni have done such a wonderful job there.
We left Malawi in the middle of February and flew to Zambia. We were welcomed by Doug and Barb in Lusaka and took the five-hour drive to our base in Ndola. On the way up, we stopped for about an hour at Kabwe. A girl that I went to Bible School with, Joanne Demming Moir, ministers there. Her parents were missionaries in Tanzania when she came to Arizona Bible School. I haven’t seen her since we graduated together in 1960, but knew about her work. I was so glad that we stopped to greet her, because unknown to me, just about 10 days before, her husband went to be with the Lord. It was encouraging for us to stop and pray with her. You can pray for her, too, as she works there a couple hours from our base.
We were certainly impressed with the work Doug and Barb are doing. The base has grown so much in Zambia – the work has multiplied tremendously! The BMW has 27 students and I got to share with them a few times while we were there. Doug and I did an overnight trip to one of the most remote works. One was in Luswishi where we hope to build a bridge starting this summer. We need a walk bridge across the river because in wet season the people can’t get any place to grind meal or get medicine. The children can’t go to school, so they come to the Recuse Unit. We are hoping to build a bridge to get across the river. A couple tried to get across on tree limbs and both drowned. It will be quite a task just to get there. The area is a flood
plain and we had to wade in water for about 1/2 mile through tall grass, which was
over my head, to even see the river. During the dry season, there isn’t any water in the flood plain. It was quite a task. We got into our AORU that night soaking wet. I spent the night in my little tent and it poured down rain all night. I was kind of miserable next morning after being wet and cool. Then we had to put on wet socks, boots and clothes in the morning. I’m just thankful I had the tent. Equally important, I had my coffee pot! The lady facilitator there built the fire so I could set my coffee on it. All is well when you have your morning coffee. The only thing is that when it started to perk, they took it off ‘cause it was boiling. We had to explain that it has to perk since they had never seen a percolator before. But we enjoyed the coffee!
Next I landed in Uganda, and Peter and Camille were there to get me. A group from Camille’s home church in Oregon was volunteering and Joko, from Indonesia, was there. The next day we boarded a bus in Kampala for the nine-hour trip to Koboko. Koboko is a town on the border of Sudan and Congo, but still in Uganda. There are many refugees up in that area and we felt we should get established there. We sent Peter up a few months ago to find property. We weren’t sure how we were going to get started as we did not have a contact there, so we had a Uganda Boot Camp Team go up and start buildings for a Rescue Unit. On the bus, we were introduced to a man who was from Oregon, Tom Criswell. He told me the man sitting across from me was the C-5 of the area. C-5 equals Governor. So he introduced us. The man’s name was DaDa Williams. He invited us to his office the next day to meet his staff. Tom asked him to come out and see the TMI work, and he said he would. I didn’t really expect he would, but the next day he was there. We were concerned about Joko’s visa. They only gave him 30 days on his visa to stay in the country. We want him to be there for two – three years. The governor arrived with the head of police and immigration for the area, plus a lady who is the representative to the President of Uganda for that area. They saw what we were doing and they appreciated us helping with their orphans. We were able to introduce them to Joko and told him our problem. The lady said she would take care of Joko’s visa issue. Then, the Governor said he would take us on a trip of the area. He did and we went to the border. There is always a no-man’s land between two countries and I wanted to go to Sudan since I had not been there. Because the governor was walking beside us, we were able to walk across and go into Sudan. What a blessing. We came back that afternoon and went to his offices and met his staff. So, a day before, we didn’t know a single soul in the place we were starting to establish. God caused us, in one day, meet the governor, police immigration and the representative to the President. That surely is a God thing. What did we do to make that happen? All we did was get on the bus and sit down. It’s amazing how the Lord works and we are so thankful. We have two small buildings up to the cap beam and ready to put the roof on. We will continue to work there with Teen Missions teams.
We returned the next day by bus to our base in Jinja. It only took 14 hours (8AM-10PM). The next day we went to Bunlawyeni, where Teen Missions has a secondary school. They had quite a ceremony with traditional dances. I thought some of them were X-rated. I sure wouldn’t want them at Boot Camp. They made a number of speeches and some students gave testimonies of appreciation of Teen Missions. If it were not for Teen Missions, they would not have a school. People gave money for the buildings. The orphans we have at the eight Rescue Units can now go to High School. We built a dorm for boys and another one for girls. There were so many people at the program that it had to be held outside. Tables and chairs were brought out and various people came and did their program. Then it poured down rain so we moved inside. The building was packed and people were looking in the windows. After many speeches and introductions and three hours of listening, they asked us to speak. This is a Muslim area. It was a joy to share with them that the reason the school was here was not because of me, Peter, Camille, or Teen Missions, it was because of Jesus Christ. Because of Him, you have the school. I shared the Gospel. After I finished, one of the staff gave an invitation and four people came forward and accepted Christ. There is a great opportunity and blessing there.
I just had an overnight at our base in Nakabongo, as I had to leave to go back to South Africa. They are in need of a construction person at the Uganda base. They have four projects that need to be done and no one with real construction skills. We have a boys’ dorm built and the foundation for the girls’, but no one to work on it. The Forest Newland Rescue Unit is two story; one story is up and we need to finish the second story for it to be a safe house. They also are in real need of a Sunday School pavilion. What they have now is just mud and sticks, and, of course, it leaks and is not suitable for children in the rainy season. In addition, we are trying to build a small kitchen as there are groups who would like to use the property for conferences that need a small kitchen to cook in. We are praying for a builder to go for two or three months to oversee these projects.
Here at the office, we are getting ready for the five Boot Camps we run here, beginning June 12 this year and ending July 11. Because of the economy being down, we expected quite a few less team members. Praise the Lord, that at this time, we actually have a few more than last year!
Bob and Bernie