Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Over this past week we have watched the river rise and spread further onto the land here. Because everyone depends on the boat to get anywhere, we have all had longer days; Rebecca and I have been staying at the children’s home while Gary takes the staff home, and picks up the people for the night shift. Last week, we weren’t getting home until about 7-7:30 at night! But, waiting for the boat beats walking in the water; last week we heard that 95 people have been killed by crocodiles because of this flood!!

Yesterday, Rebecca and some of the staff moved the horses through the water to drier land, which was a scary task. They made it through just fine, and today they were able to load the goats on the boat and bring them to the horses. There is still a concern about whether we should move the children or not- so far the water has not entered any of the buildings, though it is coming close to a few. We have already had sandbags in front of doors since last week, so we are prepared! The biggest problem we have now is that the septic system isn’t working very well. Today the social worker and health inspectors came to see what the situation was here, and they want us to move into town next to their building. However, we will be crammed into one area, in tents, without toilets, the children’s school work, and any free area to move around. It also means more noise from the town when we are trying to sleep at night, trying to get food from the children’s home over there with any other medical stuff we need. Gary and Rebecca have looked into a place near us that is still on the water, but not flooded. We would at least have more space to move around, there are tables for children to do school work and we would actually have a place to shower! But the mosquitoes are bad there, and the roofs are thatch roofs, so if it rains we will get wet. Ideally, we don’t want move unless we really HAVE to because it will just be more of an inconvenience and who knows how long we’d be stuck in that place. So we are praying that the social worker and health inspector will not make us move, and that it won’t get to a point where we really do need to move.

Obviously, because of this whole flood situation, the trip to Cape Town has been cancelled. I’m a little sad, but I would’ve felt bad leaving with the water was creeping closer each day.

Please continue to pray for us here, and pray that the water starts to go down!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Just a quick update about the flood situation here:
The water has been coming quickly and the path to the children's home from the Minks house is completely flooded! They bought boots for me yesterday so I wouldn't have to worry as much about snakes when walking through that water. They got the boat working Monday evening, so Gary is now able to bring staff here and back. Rebecca and I are still debating about this trip to South Africa this weekend- if the water keeps rising like it has been, I don't think it's smart to leave Gary here by himself! Last night Rebecca was talking about moving some of their furniture upstairs in the lofts because the water is right next to two side of their house, but we haven't done that yet. If it comes in the house, we will have to move into the children's home and Rebecca has been trying to find places in town to stay incase the children's home floods. We have been lucky so far, but some of the staff who live right outside the gates have already had to move because their houses were flooded! Right now, the only thing I'm really worried about are the snakes and crocodiles; yesterday Gary killed two snakes that were inside the hood of a truck and Rebecca saw a crocodile not too far from where we have to walk through! Please just pray that the water will not rise anymore than it already has!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Remember how I said that it was raining a lot and we were afraid because the river was raising?  Well it has REALLY come up this past week!  Every day on the way to the children's home, the staff would put a stick in the ground close to the water and by the end of that day, come back to find that the water had passed the stick.  We watched as the water got closer and closer to the bridge outside of Gary and Rebecca's house, but we didn't think it would reach the bridge for a few weeks still.  Saturday morning I went horseback riding with three of the children and we were amazed to see that parts of the bush were flooded already.  We noticed that people had made piles of sand on the side of the road, so that they water wouldn't come onto the road.  I was very surprised to see children running and playing in the water in the middle of the bush; there could definitely be snakes in there!!  At the end of the ride, we decided that we would go again the next day since that would probably be the last time we would be able to ride for awhile.  Late Saturday night it started pouring down rain and it didn't stop until early the next morning. 


I made my way over to the barn early Sunday morning, dodging puddles and wondering how far we would be able to go since the water was now almost to Gary and Rebecca's bridge.  The four of us got on the horses and made our way to the gate to exit the property.  Once we reached the gate, Gary met us and told us that one of the staff had called and said that part of the dirt road was flooded!  He was waiting for them to come so they could help him move some of the cars through that water, to the dry part of the road.  We rode along the path and I knew the water would be close to the bigger bridge because I could hear the water rushing before I could see it.  Sure enough, the water was right underneath the bridge, which is scary because there are crocodiles in that water and when the water gets high enough, they cross over the bridge too!  One of the girls and I had to walk our horses across the bridge because they were too scared to cross.  Shortly after crossing the bridge, we saw where the water had broken the "sand dams" and had flooded the road.  We slowly made our way through the water, which was a couple inches deep.  Occasionally, we saw people walking through it carrying their shoes like this was nothing out of the ordinary, and we finally found the two guys that work here walking through, one pushing a bike, the other holding his pants and shoes in his hands.  We kept wading through the water and after awhile we came to dry road, so we decided to keep going to see if any more of the road was flooded.  We hadn't gone very far, when a car came speeding towards us.  The two girls and guy were riding in a line on the side of the road, and I was close to the second girl and the boy.  The people in the car were driving down the middle of the road and didn't even bother to slow down or move over at all!  They were so close to us that when they passed, it scared my horse, who jumped up and then started spinning in circles.  I pulled back on the reigns as hard as I could, but it the horse still didn't stop.  At this point, my right foot had come out of the stirrup, the saddle was leaning toward that side, and I was holding on for my life!  One of the girls was screaming, "Hold on!!!  Please don't fall!!"  Then the horse started spinning faster and I screamed.  The girls yelled at the boy and told him to come help me and by the time he had reached me, the horse had calmed down.  I was able to pull myself back up, take a deep breath, and thank God that I didn't fall off!  We decided that it would probably be best to turn around and head back, but the horses were scared of the moving water (because of the car) so we had to go through the bush.  This was pretty scary for me because I was so scared that a snake would come out and scare my horse again.  We made it to the bridge and the same girl and I got off and walked our horses across.  Halfway across, my horse stepped and put a hole in the bridge and water started rushing up in it!  We walked the rest of the way back to the children's home because both my horse was still pretty jumpy.  Once we got back, it was fine though, and I even rode it around the ring a little bit.


On my way back from the barn, I noticed that the water had come up on Gary and Rebecca's bridge a little bit- just in that hour I was gone!  I found it very weird that it would flood so quickly since it wasn't raining here at all, but I was told last week that it can flood so quickly because the river flows from other parts of Namibia and a little rainforest in Angola, and floods other plains first, and then overflows down here.  By that afternoon, the bridge was completely covered and we had heard that even more of the dirt road was flooded.  Three of the boys who were chosen to play soccer with one of the teams here had a game at 4:00, and they came to the house at 3:00 so we could take them on the boat to where Gary had parked the cars.  That's when we realized that the boat wouldn't start!  Gary and one of the staff worked on it for two hours, with the help of some people who live nearby, but they couldn't get it working.  This was really bad news because that meant that the rest of the staff that had to come that night and today would have to walk through that water, with the possibility of meeting a snake or crocodile, in order to get here.  As I am writing this (Monday afternoon), they are still out there trying to fix the boat.  Luckily, it seemed like everyone was able to make it, but if they can't get the boat working I'm not sure how much longer they'll be able to walk here.  Supposedly, the water is over a meter high in some places and it has already covered the bigger bridge.  It sounds like we are now living on an island!  We are all praying hard that they will be able to get the boat working, and that some of the people that live nearby will be able to help us because if we don't get this boat working, we will be in big trouble!!  I am also praying that I don't see any crocodiles climbing out of the water near the house and that I don't see any more snakes slithering around here either!!


Besides the flooding, nothing much else has happened.  Last Sunday we went out to a restaurant to celebrate Rebecca's birthday.  I ordered "Chicken Gordan Blue" which apparently is commonly misspelled in African restaurants.  Even though they weren't crowded at all, it took forever for us to finally get our food; two hours after we had arrived we were finishing up!  Even though the service was painfully slow, the food was delicious! 


This weekend, Rebecca and I are leaving to for Cape Town for two weeks, as long as we can get the boat working, that is!  It will be a long drive there and back (which takes up about half of the trip!), so please pray for us while we make our way down there, and of course, please pray that they will be able to figure out what's wrong with the boat and fix it!  That is all I have for now, but I will try to get one more update in this week before I leave for South Africa!

Monday, March 9, 2009


I don't really have much to update you on from this week; there are only a few little things. We planned on having a bonfire Tuesday night and the team brought stuff to make s'mores with the kids (which is what they did last year when they were here). Some of the girls were going to go look for fire wood, but they weren't allowed to go alone, so I volunteered to go with them. I thought we were just going to be walking around the fields near us, but then Gary told me to take the truck and one of the boys would give me directions of where to go. So I had about 8 kids sitting in the bed of the truck, a girl sitting up front with me, and one of the older boys yelling the directions to me from the back. I'm not sure if I've already told you about how the road to this place is made from sand and really bumpy and uneven, especially after it rains, but the kids LOVE to drive fast through it….so for the first five minutes of the drive, all I heard was the older boy yelling from the bed of the truck, "GO SARAH-SARAH GO!!!". We turned down the dirt road that lead to the fire wood, but we didn't get too far before we saw water ahead; the road had been flooded. Of course the older boy wanted me to drive through it, but after I told him to go walk and see how deep it was, he got out, walked over to the water, and yelled jokingly, "NO SARAH-SARAH, I TOLD YOU IT'S TOO DEEP!!!" then climbed in the front seat with the other girl and I. We turned around and he told me to go to the main road. I wasn't really sure if he knew where he was going, or if he just wanted to go for a ride, but I continued anyway. After a few minutes on the main road, we turned onto another dirt road that lead into the bush (can't remember if I described that either, but it's basically like what we call woods, only there aren't many trees. It's mostly bushes, and other plants on the side of the road. Every so often you'll see the dirt paths going into the bush that lead to houses or water). The kids weren't worried at all driving through the bush, but I remember thinking, "Oh my God, we're going to die!" The path was really narrow, and I just kept picturing someone jumping out of a bush and attacking us! After a few minutes, we saw a guy who was herding some cows in the open fields, so we stopped and asked him for "directions to the fire wood". To my surprise, he knew what we wanted and pointed us to a place where we got what we needed. An after we had left, we arrived back at the children's home and unloaded the firewood.

We were a little unsure if we'd actually be able to have a bonfire that night because it was thundering in the distance, but the men from the team didn't want to wait until the next night in case the weather was worse. After the fire was started we told all the children to come outside and we started handing out marshmallows. It was crazy trying to give 60 children a marshmallow to cook, but luckily, Rebecca planned ahead and already had the chocolate and graham crackers all ready for them. A lot of the kids were sneaky and kept coming back to get more marshmallows, which we gave to them anyway. Everyone had a fun time after that, just running around the fire playing games. I felt bad for the night staff as we left; trying to get all of those kids to settle down and go to bed must have been hard!

I found out that there were about 10 kids who placed in the competition, and that they would have a chance this past Saturday to go compete again in the regionals. One of the teachers took the kids to get the birth certificates that they needed, but for some reason, they were only allowed to get two of them. So we only had two boys go to compete this past Saturday, and they both took second place. I feel bad for the others that were supposed to go compete, but it's neat to see how happy they were for the boys that got to go.

Since Gary didn't want all of the children to watch the competition again this week, I got up early Saturday morning and went to play soccer with the girls AND the boys. The boys have been asking me ever since I started playing with the girls if they could play against us, but I've already said how the girls are too scared to play because the boys are too rough. I still didn't know when I was walking over to the field if I was going to be playing against the boys or not, but I guess the girls said they would only play if we could mix the teams up. Once I got there, they had already divided the teams up and they were ready to play. Since some of the kids were watching the competition, we only had about eight people on each team, and only five girls playing overall. It wasn't long before I realized why I used to get tired of playing soccer with boys; they hardly ever passed the ball to the girls! Because they boys weren't passing to the other two girls, they just kind of stood there, talking to each other. I guess because I was actually playing and stopping some of the guys on the other team from getting by, they started passing to me more. After about two hours of playing, everyone decided they were too tired to play anymore, so we walked back, the girls saying they would never play with the boys again. Even though I didn't get to play as much as I do when I play with girls only, I still had fun, and I think because the boys saw that I wasn't afraid to challenge them for the ball, they were willing to pass to me more.

This has turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be, but I still have one more thing. I found out last week that it's going to cost me an extra $350 to stay here. So I feel bad asking for more money, but there have been a few people who have said they are still interested in sending money and have asked me where to send it. The best thing to do would be to send it straight to the Church, so they could just take the funds out when they need to. The address again is:

Children of Zion, Inc.

P.O. Box 413

Churchville, MD 21028

Thanks again, and please continue to pray for everyone here!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Yesterday, at 7:00, we arrived at the field ready to win this competition. We waited and waited until 9:15 to finally start. Only a few of the children placed in any of the events, but I think everyone had a lot of fun. It was so weird to see what these children from other schools were running in; some girls had skirts on, some children were wearing button up shirts, some girls were wearing leggings, and most kids didn't have any shoes on!! (The track was mostly sand, but there were still little rocks along it.) It's amazing how fast they could run without any shoes on! It was another long day, I was with the first group to go home since I was sunburned again, and I got home at 4:00, the rest of the children didn't get back until 6:30! We ate dinner late, started the movie late, and by the time the movie was over (10:30) everyone was exhausted!

This morning a Church from Zambia came to visit us for our Church service. They have been here before so Rebecca was telling me how amazing these kids are. There were about 25 of them, ages 4-15, and they got up and sang a capella so beautifully! The service lasted two hours and they were still singing afterwards while waiting for lunch. They have left already, with some money that we gave them to build their own Church (they have been meeting for 11 years, finally had money to start building a Church four years ago, but then a storm came and knocked it over, so they are still in the process of building it).

One last piece of news: I have volunteered to stay here longer while Gary, Rebecca, and their sons go back to America for a month. Rebecca had told me that she was worried about how people here would do while she was gone because there will be a girl, who just went back to the States a week before I came to get married to one of the African workers that she met here, her husband, and two supervisors. The girl has volunteered here a few times for long periods, and the other three have worked here for a long time, so they should be in good hands. When Rebecca told me this a few weeks ago, I just felt like I should stay and help; I really love it here and I don't even have any plans when I go back to the States anyways. It was a hard decision because I am starting to get a little homesick, but I think I made the right one, plus it's only two extra weeks that I'm staying. I know it's going to be a lot of stress for the five of us, but we can do it! I am still waiting to find out how much more it is going to cost me to stay here; I already know that it was $175 to change my ticket, and Gary and Rebecca have offered to help out with the funds a little since I am helping them out, but I think I might need to raise a little more money.

Well, that's all I have from here so thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers!