Graduations 2015

6:00 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

The bible college programme for 2015 has concluded with graduations. The students celebrated their year's work, received the certificates they had earned and gave testimonies of how the course helped them in their Christian walk and in their churches.
I get great pleasure hearing how our work effects the student's lives. The theme of the year was first learning the truth so then we could learn to walk in the truth. The student's testimonies spoke about the joy they have learning and understanding God's Word. They also spoke about how sad they were that others had chosen not to join in the training. 


Progress?

6:43 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

I was in a meeting yesterday where I was told the government heads of departments were instructed to assist us with our community development projects, that these hold ups were unacceptable. This made me feel good as it gets very frustrating getting through all the red tape.
Two minutes later I was shocked and heart broken to be told that a mother is distraught after 3 men snatched her 10 year old son only minutes before. We drove the streets in a vain attempt to see something. This is a too common an occurrence where people are taken to be used in witchcraft or sold.

Greg.

Monday Reflections

5:12 PM Harts for Africa 2 Comments

Today is Monday and I'm enduring the after effects of another misadventure. I once again have the privilege of asking myself how's it going and is it worth it? Do you ever ask yourself this question? I guess we all do so hey my life is not so different from yours.

On Saturday I turned up to a conference I was invited to as speaker. Kim and I arrived on time to find the venue open but only two people there. Where were the others? Yes this is Africa but normally a few people turn up on time, particularly with this group who know to give me the actual time to arrive not the time to start getting ready to go.  Oh one of the pastors had died, so they all went to the house to pay their respects. The delegates arrived ready for the conference to start a few hours later.  We get going and I am looking around and can't see my interpreter, ok must have some one else filling in, then I look over and see the event organiser sending a text message, please come and help…..! Oh no interpreter for me. So it's time to start, I have 3 hours of teaching prepared in English and ready to translate into Shona with the help of a friend. Nobody in the room is fluent in English so they ask me to teach in Portuguese as they have someone who can interpret Portuguese to Shona. So off we go. It takes a lot more concentration to teach in a language not your own but the message gets passed on and I am sure people have been given a chance to grow as leaders.

Come Sunday and I have checked and the interpreter will be at church today. So time for church and we can't find it, what - has it moved? Why can't we find this church? So we call the pastor his phone is turned off, we call the interpreter phone also turned off. We see people headed to church but none to the church we are looking for. What a disaster, but in the big scheme of life no big deal we can go there next week with someone.

Sunday afternoon the water is not flowing in the outside tap so I go to investigate, as I pick up a hose I feel a slight prick in my finger. I looked to pull out a splinter and see none, and then I see a scorpion. Nice….. I have never been stung by one before so I capture it and look up on the internet the effects and treatment. It's ok, I won't die but find out I can look forward to 12 – 36 hours of intense pain. Great that's not so long hey. It has been 20 hours of pins and needles in my hand with a burning sensation if I dare to move my arm. Looks like I didn't get the 12-hour end of this stick.

So once again I find myself asking the question, how are you doing? The answer is ok, a little sting is no big deal so I try to look at it in the big scheme of things. The conference went well so I can tick a box there. I have a journey today with the road builders to a remote community to see if we can get their road started before the wet season, that's exciting!  Church was a misadventure but we get another go at it next week.

Is it worth it? Yes it is! Life is an adventure for all of us. I can see things that we have learned in the past helping us in our future. Sure there are things I would like to go differently but that's life for all of us. So the bottom line is I am pleased to be where I am and doing what I do.


Community Driven Development.

7:10 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

Continuing with the community driven development program - we recently had two community meetings. One for the men and one for the women. In both meetings the road was the greatest need presented. We discussed the pros and cons of fixing the road and at both meetings the people said that without a road their community will not develop. It was also discussed that some disadvantages of better access to the nearest town is that in turn they have greater access to you. This will attract business people as well as thieves and unsavoury people but the positives are greater access to goods and services and markets to sell their produce. 

We spoke about the red tape involved and the time frame to build a road that includes 5 creek crossings. The community felt it would be a great idea to build a Health Post whilst we worked on the documents for the road. I told the community we are offering our help but the project is theirs, so they need to keep it moving along. They community took that on board and within a few days of the meeting, 75 ladies turned up to clear the land and started to make bricks to help with the construction. One of our roles is to find out from the Department of Health the steps required to build a clinic. We need plans, standards, and also to register the project. We have the green light from the head of the district we just need the process to be completed. 

As for staffing the Health Post there is currently a young man being trained in health, ready to enter the Health Post once it is finished.

Without looking at the plans I would estimate under $1000 will be needed to buy roof sheeting, cement and steel and I doubt the community will have it. Maybe this can be our gift to assisting the community. Lets see how it progresses.

As for the road the government has offered the use of their earth moving equipment if we provide the diesel. All we need is a stone mason / bridge builder that would like to visit Mozambique. Two bedroom lodging can be provided and plenty of hard work is lined up. The community will provide the stone, sand and labour. We will need to provide the cement, steel and expertise.

The photos show one of the current bridges and it's condition and the type of bridge we would like to build.

Bible College Challenge

4:34 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

This year we have been having trouble with one of our bible college training centres. Although 48 people registered from the 30+ churches in the area, we have been getting around 7 people on average to each lesson. On Monday instead of training we spent time discussing the problem with the students. What we spoke about highlights a major problem with the African church.

The people that have been showing up to our training have moved into the region from other areas of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. One of these students was a past student to our training and had invited us to hold bible training in this new district. The local people don't trust these people enough to sit with them in bible college to learn the bible. They have their church doctrines and they don't want to change even though the leaders have never had bible training before. These people use traditional black magic to invite spirits into their churches to manifest miracles in-turn giving the leaders influence. These leaders don't want to risk losing their "power" by studying the bible as it will upset the controlling spirits. As you can imagine there is division in these communities which creates further problems.

Our answer is to postpone bible college until next year. For the remainder of this year Kim and I will visit churches on their meeting day to give a simple evangelism message in the hope to gain trust and get some church members refocused onto Jesus. Once we have a sprinkling of people from each of the 30 churches we will start to have story telling meetings in the market place until we have provoked interest in bible study. Then we will reintroduce our bible college.
In the other regions bible college is going well and we will continue them as they are.

Community Meeting

4:12 AM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

We met with 29 members of a rural community to ask the question 'What would make your community a better place to live in?

This is a community that we had a bible college in 3 years ago. This has helped with rapport in the community. They have told us of the way the bible college helped the community in various ways.

We explained to the gathered members of the community that we were not here to do things for them but instead we were here to help them to do things for themselves.

The men told us of their need for a road into the community. Each year the log bridges they build get washed away, and the road is impassable for much of the year. We drove out during a good time of year and it took 45minutes to do 7km.

They also said they needed a health post, as the only way of getting to town is walking. Sick people and pregnant women have trouble walking to town. The Government has offered to train a community member and supply medications if the community can build the clinic building.

The women mentioned that they need wells for drinking water as they currently get water from the creek which is unclean. 

The people asked for an orphanage due to the number of children without parents. We suggested that a better way may be for different people to volunteer to take some children into their homes and others to assist by helping to build bigger houses and providing school needs and food if required.

The community also wanted to fix their football field. 

I asked the question 'Do you consider your standard of living as poor, wealthy or middle class?' These people live in mud and grass huts, have no form of transport nor electricity, they consider themselves as being middle class. They said we have food to eat and land to use. 

The object is not the projects but the people, we are seeking to build vision and team work in the community so they gain the ability to resolve their own problems.

If one person says we can achieve that, it builds faith in others, if that person can convince others to work toward the vision much will be possible.

We are meeting with the community today in three separate groups. The men, the women and the youth, to see who has what as a priority. 

The outcome will be choosing a project that the whole community can participate in, provide the materials for and complete. We will provide any training or expert advice required. This is where we may ask for your help. Let's see where this journey takes us!

After this first community meeting I met with the government representatives for this area. I let them know how our meeting went and the purpose of the community development. They were both pleased that we would do this and look forward to seeing the long term assistance it will provide.

How do you build a bridge? I have no idea but God will provide the right person at the right time to help us achieve this. 

Strength and Shine

4:15 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

Great to have new chairs for our training room. First outing for the chairs is a strength course aimed at instilling self worth into teens and young men.

Greg.

Community development experience.

6:09 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

I read a blog recently written from a guy working with the Peace Corps in Mozambique. What he wrote was well articulated and the truth of his experience. He was asking the question of how can we do any development with people who won't help themselves. His experience is that the people he works with make excuses and false promises to get things done. They then sit back and wait for a foreigner to save the day, both with resources and funds. His question is "how can I promote behaviour change when the people are unwilling to make the change themselves?" Great question!

A sense of hopelessness will drive people to give up. It sounds to me the community the Peace Corps worker is in has given up.

My experience of community led development is different to his. Yesterday I turned up in a remote community unannounced, to gather people together for a public meeting next week. I was met by the community leader who invited us to get involved with his community with training and advice. He said he could speak for the whole community because they have been told by a top Government official they need someone from the outside to help them and as a community they have discussed this.

The community leader said they need transport. This will take upgrading of bridges and better agricultural methods but we will meet next week with the whole community for better ideas. I was reassured they don't want finance but want help to get the job done.

What is the cause of the difference in experience between the peace corps worker and myself? He confesses to having no religion. I went into the community several years ago and taught bible college. The community leader I met with was in the bible course. He knows and trusts me. The result is a sense of hope and a desire to self develop. This community leader has moved out of a mud house with a grass roof into a brick house with a tin roof. This shows a desire to help himself.

All this because of a sense of hope being restored and the rise of moral values in the community. If you are doing community development without first sharing the good news and teaching the Word of God, you are fighting a loosing battle. First we must address the root causes of poverty, then we can give people a hand to get out of it.

Greg

Resources

4:50 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

Many people overlook the small amount of resources they have to build themselves a better future. Mozambique is land rich, there is more than enough to go around. If someone has a vision to use agricultural land well, the Government will give them land, and in many cases seed to start off. If a person takes that land and uses it, in a short time they will have a profit and are then able to begin building a better life. 

The hinderances to being a successful subsistence farmer then is not what they have, it is very much cultural. A lack of desire to change from traditional methods of farming and adopt improved sustainable agricultural techniques and family expectations / pressures are just two of the hinderances standing in the way of being financial security. 

Typically a 4-hectare farm is considered to be large among the people. This is partly due to the habit of preparing the ground after the first rain falls in the wet season. They are then in a rush to plant so they can catch the next rain and they have not yet cleared the weeds that will compete with the crop. The lack of adequate ground preparation and fertilisation and the rushed 'we'll just plant as much as we can in a short period of time' approach severely limits the quality and quantity of any harvest to come. If this crop fails they don't have enough to sustain the family never mind having some extra product to sell to pay school fees, buy clothes, visit the hospital or cover other vital expenses. If this crop is successful the family can usually just get by until the next harvest.

A severe hinderance to a larger than normal farm is that if a Mozambican was to plant say 40 hectares of crop during the year with the assistance of a rented tractor or traction animals, they would then be expected to help support those in their extended family who did not plant or planted too little. So they may also struggle to get through the year due to the number of "dependents" they have. So they work harder than others to gain the same result. Where is the incentive? What is the answer?

The answer lies in the need to disciple the whole community. We need to change the world view of the people to become more Christ centred. Those who don't understand the teachings of the bible may well disagree. My challenge to you is to read the book that takes man from a garden into a city. It outlines the steps along the way. Covering ways to trade successfully, ways to relate to those around you and most importantly, ways to put others before ourselves including the one who created us. 

The bottom line of any community development is changing the way people think and what they have the capacity to plan and achieve. To really help Mozambicans out of poverty we are seeing that more time spent explaining and encouraging is needed and less time doing and showing.

When a handout hinders.

11:33 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

Mozambique was and still is one of the poorest countries in the world. Over the past 9 years we have seen the economy of Mozambique improve yet many people still live in absolute poverty. How can we help these people? The answer for many Mozambicans is to look to other nations to give them a handout. They want to be given houses, food, vehicles, schools, churches, hospitals, businesses etc…. but does this actually help? From a donor's perspective it depends on the desired outcome, if handouts are given by donors in an attempt to make the donor feel they have done something, it does help. If the donors desire is to help a nation stand on their own two feet, a handout can hinder the objective. For the recipient it does help - momentarily. And there in lies the problem - it is not sustainable and perpetuates the lie that the only way to help developing nations is to give enough handouts to 'get them started'.

An example of how handouts do not help is by building a water system to supply a town with clean drinking water. A wonderful objective, but if outsiders come and do it, within a relatively short period of time the whole system will break down due to a lack of maintenance. Because the people expected to maintain the water system (recipient) are not the ones who sacrificed to build it (donor). The recipients have little sense of ownership, nor do they understand the importance or methods of preventative maintenance and in may cases they believe it is the donor's responsibility to do maintenance not their's.

To understand what I am saying consider two seventeen year old boys, both want a car, one boy's parents give him a car, the other boy's parents help their son find a job to buy his own car. Which son has learnt the most and which son is more likely to care for his car? One lesson learnt by buying their own car is delayed gratification. The power of achieving a goal over time. Not borrowing to have it now and working later, but the power of saving first and buying later.

We have met many in Mozambique who have decided that the answer to meeting their financial needs lies in relationships with people from the west. The view is that westerners have no end of resources. The Mozambican establishes friendship with the view that "the westerner is my friend so I can benefit from them". If a donor (friend) helps them build a school, The recipient can take some as a wage and "borrow" some to build their house, buy a car and gain an increase in their standard of living. Some have worked out that the church is very generous so to build a church comes with the same benefits.

These people have little idea what those donors in the west have sacrificed to assist them nor do they know the amount of hours people put in at work and the expected output during those hours. When a third world nation catches that it is hard work and creative, progressive thinking that creates a better standard of living they grow. Take China and Korea for instance both these nations have an expectation that people will work hard and both nations have huge increases in recent decades in their GDP.

I believe every time a person is given a free lunch it reinforces that their provision will appear, dependent on who they know, and that it is not dependent on how hard they work.

The answer lies in that we should be looking for ways to educate, encourage, train and equip a nation to identify and problem solve their needs which in turn give long term benefits that are not reliant on the continual handouts from other nations. This is the way to help which benefits both the donor and the giver and is sustainable in the long term.

Bridge to nowhere

11:33 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

I had one of those but the wheel came off!

8:30 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

I was 400km from home looking to repair the radiator in my car. I searched all over Harare to find someone to repair it, only to be told that it needed to be replaced. So a new search started for a radiator, one place no stock, second place over $1000, third place no stock, 4th place yes we have one but the top and bottom tanks need to be swapped with your existing radiator. That's no problem a guy can do that for me that afternoon. I arrived radiator in tow only for him to discover the radiators were slightly different and the tanks wouldn't fit. 

 

The next day I went back to return the radiator, then it happened that I entered a pothole and didn't come out! The front ball joint in my car let go and basically the wheel fell off. I was in a different country than I live, so I start trying to think who can help? I contact Kim, stay calm and think what do I do? How long will the repairs take? Who can repair it? How do I get home to teach Bible College on Friday? How do I pay for the repairs? 

I remembered a friend who lived in Mozambique near us a few years back (like 5 years) who now runs a business in Harare. I called him to ask if he knows a mechanic, he does more than that; he organized a tow to a mechanic who specializes in Toyotas and imports his own parts. Three days later we were back home in time to teach that afternoon.

 

God blessed me in so many ways.

1) The wheel fell off at 40k/h, the next day I was planning to return home at a top speed of 120km/h and that would have been nasty.

2) I was 3km from the mechanic's workshop. In Mozambique the closest mechanic to us is 180km away.

3) I had the unexpected opportunity to have lunch and reconnect with an old friend.

4) I have the bill delayed until I find the money to pay it.

5) The ministry did not suffer due to the down time of the car being repaired.

6) The repair took 3 days. It could take 6 weeks at best in Mozambique.

7) I finally know who can fix my car.

8) Nobody was hurt.

9) My car feels like a new vehicle, the whole front end is reconditioned.

10) It was the final straw that drove Kim and I to fast for 10 days and press into God.

11) In 6 weeks time the mechanic will have a new radiator for me and the stop leak has worked as a patch.

 

As my friend dropped me back to where I was staying, I started to count my blessings. He said that's the difference with Christians, we can see the good in a bad situation. That comment made me feel good.

Living with Integrity.

8:14 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

Have you ever been put in a situation where you have the choice to pay a $300 fine or a $3 gratuity instead for overlooking the infringement that you may or may have not committed? Have you been told new information that you needed when you set up your business, and as a result been asked to pay either a $100 000 fine or a $10 000 non-receipted payment to have the issue fixed? Have you ever been told you are going to gaol on a ridiculous charge or you can pay a few dollars to sort your mess out? Have you had no electricity, internet, water or phone because the technician does not have time to solve your problem but you can pay him to do it in his own time? Have you ever been refused entry into a country because your documents are not in order yet you have been there several times before with the same documents?

Where is the line between a tip and a bribe? When a person uses their public office for personal gain above the renumeration offered to them for performing their duties, they are corrupt. If you have been bullied, scared or harassed into paying these type payments then you are inadvertently helping support a corrupt system that is creating poverty around the globe. Yes corruption is a massive contributor to the existence of poverty.

Some see these gratuity payments as a necessary cost to business. This is a shame because corruption allows inferior infrastructure to be built at the same cost to the community as the superior. For example building inspectors allow less cement per square meter than the required amount, or roads to be built with inadequate materials to last more than a few months. Corruption stops finance and services from raising the standard of living, instead it helps make a few rich.
Corruption allows organised crime to flourish as the police and courts can be paid off. There is a saying in Africa, justice can exist between two poor men, but between the rich, justice can not exist. The people know that the courts will rule in favour of the person who can pay the most.

Corruption allows the untrained and unqualified to undeservedly pass exams, weakening the skill level of a nation. Corruption allows donated medicine supplied to public health systems to be stolen and then sold in the local market place by unskilled people as a cure for diseases that the drugs were never intended for. These same medicines are then not available to doctors in public hospitals when a legitimate patient requires them.

Corruption ruins nations yet many good people are willing to pay because they think "what does it hurt?", besides they need to get the "road block" out of their way or they can't help the needy. Sorry but you become a road block to a nation's success if you pay that bribe.

A person of absolute integrity will take their chances over paying a bribe. Lets make a stand together and help alleviate poverty for the long term in emerging nations. A quick fix is not a good fix. Some situations could be life and death, and it could be said that the end justifies the means. Yes, at times it is as serious as someone may die if a bribe is not paid. People may feel their backs are against the wall and there is no choice than to pay the bribe, but if that bribe is paid many more will die due to the system that remains in place.

There are public officials that hate the system of corruption that surrounds them, but are powerless to make a stand. I believe if enough people in the community make a stand against corruption then people with integrity in public office are given more power.

To make a difference we need to resist the fear that drives corruption and instead obey God's Word by living with integrity.

2015

5:18 PM Harts for Africa 0 Comments

The beginning of a new year brings challenges and excitement. We are preparing to start training for 2015. That includes cleaning and repairing our MP3 players (they are tough but not indestructible), also visiting locations to find out how many church leaders want to take part in the bible training course. This year we have decided to run our sunday school training concurrent with our pastor training. This will help to get Sunday Schools established in remote churches.
The level of corruption continues to confound me. It truly is destroying the economy and seems to be normal at every level of society. The most powerful way to combat this is the Word of God and a to show people the truth of Jesus Christ . If only all people were able to grasp the truth of Jesus instead of the rubbish that is peddled to them instead.
We are looking forward to seeing what opportunity lies ahead in 2015. Let it be a Happy New Year.