Friday, April 17, 2015

Farm Friday

Having a new bed former arrive early this year was really exciting. The farm is moving forward in the area of mechanization! We will be able to form amazingly awesome beds this year....or so we thought...

This rainy season has been one of the strangest on record. We have had long dry stretches. And now, when the rains are supposed to be finishing we have had the wettest April that many Zambians ever remember.  With some anxiousness we wake in the night as the rain pounds on the tin roof wondering when in the world we will ever be able to prep the fields for this year's 100,000 strawberry plants. Rolling over with long sighs, we realize that God has it all under control and there isn't a whole lot we can do about it. But as the rainy days drag on, we have decided to hire workers to form our beds. If we don't have them do it, we may be waiting for weeks. Weeks that we don't have. Because at this moment, our plants our sitting in cold storage. If they stay there too long...they will remain in a vegetative state and will not produce berries. 

Hesitatingly, we finally agreed to our farm manager's advice to round up some of the Lifesong School mamas to form the beds. "We will try it and see how it looks," Erik said. He was pleasantly surprised and even amazed at how quickly and efficiently they formed the beds by hand using crude hoes and persistent effort, even in the rain! After 3 days, 3.5 out of 4 acres of beds are ready. Each row is over 300 feet long and they have done over 150. (For those who care, that's over 45,000 linear feet!!) This is serious progress and work.

The ladies operate a hoe like we drive a car.  They can talk and interact without any thought of what they are actually doing.  Granted, they don't eat fast food or apply makeup while hoeing, but they can have fun and still get a lot done.

 The ladies are excited to have work which equals income which equals food for their children for a few more weeks.

As the beds are completed, some of the ladies break off bed forming to stretch irrigation drip lines down each row, cover each bed with plastic, and hoe in each row so there is enough soil to hold down the plastic. On Monday, they will begin punching holes in the plastic and planting plants in each hole. The plants will be dipped in fertilizer and insecticide right before they are planted. 

Our family has anxiously awaited this time. We knew once the new baby plants were all snug in their beds, we would be heading for America. As of today there are only 25 days till departure. Our emotions are mixed. My good friend Amy expressed the way it feels so well. The analogy she shared on her blog keeps running through my mind and has been very helpful for me and our kids to put words to what we are feeling.

In America, we were yellow. 
We thought yellow, we talked yellow, we dreamed yellow, hey, we even ate yellow!

We really like yellow.

In Zambia, we are blue, or at least try to be.
We find our minds stretching to think blue, interact in the blue way, and occasionally we eat blue.

We really like blue.

But we really aren't either blue or yellow...we have become a shade of green. 
And we like green.  We think.

Green feels strange.  What is familiar?  What is normal?  What if we act blue in a yellow situation?  For instance, eating rice with our hands.  Or forgetting to wear shoes in public.  Or, driving on the wrong side of the road.  And these are the obvious ones.  Who knows what will go through our green minds.  But, we look forward to the adventure and certainly will have many laughs and embarrassing moments.  Isn't that what makes life interesting?
Here is yellow me operating a blue tool and doing a green job of it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Flat Stanley in Zambia

Maybe some of you have heard of Flat Stanley and his adventures. If not, let me explain. Flat Stanley is a children's book about a boy he gets flattened by a bulletin board. A little gruesome I know but lots of children's things are actually somewhat frightening  (how creepy is the song about the old lady who swallowed a fly? but I digress.) Because of his flattened state, Stanley is then able to be put in an envelope and go visit his friend in another part of the country. 

Inspired by Stanley's adventures, teachers all over the United States have taken to having their classes produce "Flat People" that are then mailed all over the world. A letter is sent with Stanley encouraging the receiver to take pictures of flat Stanley doing cool stuff. We received a Flat Stanely recently and since I already had everything typed up, I thought you might enjoy reading the letter that we returned. 

Note: For anomymity reasons, I do not name the sender. But dear sender, please note this letter isn't identical to the one I sent you. The words have been changed a little. 

Dear sender of Flat Stanley,

I am sure you have been wondering where in the world Stanley has been. Well, let me tell you…he has been on an adventure. Stanley’s journey got off to a slow start because he spent a lot of days forgotten and neglected in a postal box in the town of Kitwe, Zambia. When he was picked up things started to get a little crazy. One of the first things he noticed when he finally got out of his envelope was the fact that people drive on the opposite side of the road here! Weird! He ended up staying with the Wiegands most of the time. But they have had quite a lot of flat people visit them since they moved to Zambia. So, they passed him to one of their team members to take for a few days. 

Our team is a group of Americans who are all working in Zambia to run both a farm and a school. Stanley’s first night was spent getting to know our team. Here is at our weekly team Brinner. (having breakfast for dinner) The people on our team are from Indiana, California and Texas. He even spent some time riding a pretend camel while the adults had a meeting and prayer time.

Zambia is an exciting place but there are some things that made Stanley scared and sad too. First off, there are snakes in Zambia that can hurt you. Once while Stanley was here we saw a spitting cobra in one of our farm fields. Stanley wouldn’t even go outside because he was so scared! Lots of kids here are very poor. They often don’t have enough food to eat or nice clothes to wear. Many of them don’t get to go to school. They live in small houses and lots of times they are orphans. We know one place where 7 boys live together and they only have a small twin bed in their house. There isn’t always great medical care either. And lots of people get malaria. That made Stanley feel really down. But he noticed that the kids still smiled a lot. They built cool toys out of the things that they had. Like empty milk containers, pieces of wire, and other things.

And visiting Lifesong School made him very happy. The kids there are able to get an education for free because people in America love and support them and because the workers at Lifesong Farm sell berries to pay for everything they need! Also, the school feeds the students twice a day. That made Stanley really happy! He spent a day at the school and helped cook lunch. You can see him helping to stir a giant pot of nshima, the staple food in Zambia. It’s made from cornmeal. You have to be really strong to stir this big pot!! Then of course he had to help clean up. He also met the headmaster and had tea time with some of the teachers. He also learned that Lifesong has a nurse to take care of the kids when they are sick. Everywhere Stanley visited in Zambia he was met with smiles and laughter. People thought it was really fun to take pictures with him and to see us taking pictures of him in different places.
Having tea with some teachers

stirring nshima
Cleaning up after lunch with Mama Jennifer

Meeting Headmaster Luke

One of the very first things that happened to Stanley at the school was he got put through a laminator. It is rainy season here right now, so he kind of had a permanent rain jacket! Also, we really wanted him to be protected from malaria carrying mosquitos and crocodile bites. Which we weren’t sure how much it would really help, but at least he stayed dry!

Soccer is a big deal in Zambia. Everyone plays it. Not everyone can afford to buy a real ball though. Sometimes, balls are made out of garbage that is found lying around like plastic sacks or old clothes. So of course Stanley had to watch a match while he was here. While he was watching he saw some boys doing flips off of an old tire and Stanley felt like he had to try it out. The boys were nice so they decided to help him do some flips.

Where the members of the Lifesong team live, it’s not very busy on the streets and there aren’t too many stores close by. One day, Stanley went in to the town to the open air market. It was a little overwhelming for him, but he smiled the whole time anyway! It was really incredible to see all the things you could buy there! There was chitenge (which is cloth that ladies here use for skirts, balancing things on their heads, carrying babies on their backs and all kinds of other things!), carvings, clothes, shoes, watches, vegetables, fruits, suitcases, books, electrical parts, plumbing pieces, gardening hoes, garbage cans, and even TV remotes. 

He had to watch for traffic. The bank was interesting to him. There weren’t any American dollars there! Only Zambian kwacha. He looked at the exchange board and saw that one US Dollar is equal to about 6.5 Zambian kwacha. At the end of that day, Stanley was really tired, so the team took him out for pizza. Sometimes, when you are visiting a country different from your own, it is so nice to eat something familiar.
Waiting in queue (as they say in Zambia) at the bank

Stanley was surprised to see much new construction in town when in other areas the people are so poor.

Working stoplights! Yay!

Watch for cars!


Stanley’s adventures were drawing to a close. He really enjoyed his pizza but a day or so later he noticed that something wasn’t quite right. He had a terrible tummy ache! This happens A LOT to travelers and it seemed as if Stanely had maybe eaten or drank something that didn’t agree with him. So, his new friends gave him some medicine and he felt tons better.

Before he left, Stanley had the opportunity to worship with Zambian believers. He was a little nervous at first because it felt different than what he was used to. The drums were very loud and he really isn't much of a dancer. (it's hard to dance when you are stiff from being laminated!) Plus, he didn't understand iciBemba which is the language they speak here. The longer he was there, he realized that the Spirit was in that place. He remembered the verse that talks about "settling on the far side of the sea" and He smiled because He knew God was with Him even in that place.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:9-10

Riding in the back of a pick up to church. This is not illegal in Zambia!

Greeting everyone at the end of the church service. 
Stanley ended up flying back to America with a friend from California. His protector was Dr. Judy Johnson but the Wiegand kids sometimes called her Dr. Strawberry. She visited Zambia from Plant Sciences, Inc. The whole team was so grateful for her consulting advice. She spent time encouraging the farm ladies too! A team from Texas was here at the same time and things were crazy for a little while. The workers in Zambia love to have teams visit to see what God is doing in Zambia. It is an exciting and encouraging time for everyone.

It was a long flight back to the States and so Stanley just slept the whole time in his envelope. His new California friend slipped him by the post office and then he traveled back to you! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to get to know Stanley and teach him a little bit about Zambia! I hope you enjoyed hearing about his adventures.                                                    

From, The Wiegands

p.s. I thought you might like to see some photos from when another "flat person" was visiting. This young lady came all the way from Colorado.

Riding in our van during rainy season and experiencing the potholes for herself.

Hitching a ride with some young mango harvesters

Enjoying a traditional Zambian meal at one of our worker's homes

eating caterpillars!

meeting some new friends in the compound

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

rainy season ramblings

Even though it is rainy season here, the past week has been sunny and hot. We expect the rains to come fast and furious again soon. 
In the meantime, here's a glimpse in to our world after a deluge hits. The rains come quickly and dump more than you can imagine in a short time. But ah...the smell as the storm rolls in and the way everything is lush and brilliantly green after...

Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase,
and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Leviticus 26:4

Puddles everywhere. Much to my messy children's delight. Thank goodness we put a foot washing station on our porch...they often have to hose off before entering the house.

The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. Deuteronomy 28:12

The farm is currently growing some different vegetables to see what kind of markets we can open between strawberry crops. Also we use the vegetables for our workers lunches. Recently one of our workers reported she has been feeling much healthier from eating the nutritious food we serve and from strengthening her muscles in daily labor. 

And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; 
for there is a sound of abundance of rain. I Kings 18:41

New plants went in to the ground the end of January. We are already beginning to harvest a few fruits. Below our mangers Ameck and Moses install water meters under the tunnels to keep track of soil temperature and water levels for the tender young plants.

For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly. Job 36:27-28

We had a successful first harvest from one of our blackberry varieties. They are under tunnel of course so they escape the damaging rains. Our stellar jam team was able to produce blackberry jam and then our amazing marketing team was able to locate regular markets for it.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: 
as showers that water the earth. Psalm 72:6

The oranges continue to grow. There is nothing like the scent of orange blossoms heavy with morning dew warmed by the rising sun. (check out that minuscule baby orange growing below!)

Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous   Isaiah 30:23

Gooseberry fields after a night of rain

The beautiful husk of a gooseberry.

Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain. Proverbs 25:14

First fruits from the tunneled everbear strawberries. 
Holding the education of a future Zambian leader in the palm of a hand.

This past weekend, some of our ladies marched in town for International Women's Day.

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. Matthew 7:25

Another fun filled school day!

Car time craziness!

Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. Acts 14:17

oh the joy of a new rope swing

water slide action shots

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, 
but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give 
seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, 
but it shall accomplish that which I please, 
and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11

May rain from His word
renew your hope as you allow 
Him to reign in your life.