Thursday, April 10, 2014





2013 ACCOMPLISHMENTS BY CHILD ACTION INITIATIVE, KASUNGAMI, DRC





Care for Orphans and Vulnerable Children: 100 children are in various schools from elementary through highschool. They performed well. The children received nutritious food three times per week. 10 students are in apprenticeship programs.

Shoes for Isaiah’s kids: 100 pairs of shoes and socks were distributed last year. It was so exciting to get this gift donated by Sydney Wentz on her birthday event. Children are so thankful to receive this donation for the fourth time .

Fipango Chapel: A new United Methodist Church Chapel was built in Fipango village. This community faced challenges to worship due to the very poor condition of the chapel. During a visit by the building team led by Max Kern (Oak Ridge UMC, Oak Ridge, NC) June, 2012 to begin construction of the Nazareth UMC parsonage, with Isaiah as guide, Max visited the old chapel in Fipango. He was moved by the poor condition of the building. Using funds raised by Max and his team, Isaiah led the project to reconstruct the chapel. People who attend Fipango chapel are so thankful for this support.

Sustainable Agriculture Development: One hundred local farmers from North and South Kasungami (Fipango, Kintu, Kanyaka, Kipweka, Kasamba) attended UMCOR Integrated Crops and Pest Management (ICPM)for 18 weeks. They learned under the leadership of two trainers from North Katanga Annual Conference, to grow, control and enhance food production.

Ms. Abiongeke, 60 years old, said," The training enabled me to grow produce, sell it and buy the metal sheets for the roof of my house. I praise God for that".


Bev Medical Center: was established in the heart of Kasamba in Kasungami, Southwest of Lubumbashi City and framed by five communities. It serves an area of about 4 square kilometers. This is an area of extreme poverty and very little social welfare. It supports and supplements in addition to birthing babies, health related activities and preventive programs. This Center is serving more than 100 women in various programs. 50 babies have been born in a safe place (rather than the bush), and 350 children were vaccinated with polio and chicken pox vaccines.

Saving Group and Microcredit: Five saving groups have been established in Kasungami to reinforce the microcredit program for small scale household projects. This includes women’s literacy and sewing programs. The ladies started a sewing workshop.

CAI Building and Office Extension: The CAI building was completed. This will be used for vocational training, children’s recreation and bible study activities. Also an additional room was built at the Center that will be used for administration activities.

Isaiah (Esaie) Njimbu Chot
 Director Executive   
Child Action Initiative























Friday, March 28, 2014

FUND RAISER: SHOES & SOCKS FOR ISAIAH’S KIDS
CHILD ACTION INITIATIVE March 26, 2014
Sydney Wentz, our grand daughter, is holding the fifth consecutive fund raiser: SHOES  &  SOCKS FOR ISAIAH’S KIDS to be held at Oak Ridge United Methodist Church’s (ORUMC) Family Life Center, Oak Ridge, NC.
Sydney conceived this idea after meeting Isaiah in November 2009 when they discussed the children’s needs for shoes and socks to minimize medical issues such as ring worm. Shoes and socks are also required to participate in the Child Action Initiative (CAI) sponsored education program. Isaiah was visiting with us and spoke about CAI at Oak Ridge UMC following his participation in the three month training program for indigenous missionaries sponsored at Servants in Faith & Technology (SIFAT), Lineville, Al (info@sifat.org).

In the past four years Sydney, her friends, family and acquaintances who took an interest in this project raised funds to purchase 22 pairs of shoes and socks the first year; 50 pairs the second year, 100 pairs of shoes and socks the third year, and 100 pairs of shoes and socks the fourth year. This year she hopes to exceed last years total.
Since 2009 Sydney, her friends and family raised enough money to purchase 277 pairs of shoes and socks.


Isaiah Njimbu Chot founded Child Action Initiative (childactioninitiative.blogspot.com) in 2006 to provide educational programs for HIV/AIDS orphans and extended family who fled war torn areas of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Kasungami, DRC.
The population of Kasungami has grown ten fold to approximately 50,000 people since 2006 when CAI was founded. More than 50% are children. They are in desperate need of essential items such as food, water and clothing.


If you wish to donate to the Shoes and Socks for Isaiah’s Kids fund raiser, please send donations to: Oak Ridge United Methodist Church, 2424 Old Oak Ridge Road, Oak Ridge, NC 27310 and earmark donations: Shoes & Socks for Isaiah’s Kids. Please go to: www.oakridgeumc.org to view additional Oak Ridge United Methodist Church activities and programs.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

 
 
CHILD ACTION INITIATIVE DOUBLE YOUR DONATION OPPORTUNITY
 
 
When you make an online donation through the Advance on December 3, 2013, your gift will multiply.
 
For one day only, December 3, 2013, as part of UMC#GivingTuesday, gifts made to Child Action Initiative through Advance Number 3021036 will be matched*.
 
As always, when you give through the Advance, 100 percent of your gift directly supports the ministry project; overhead costs are supported through other channels.
 
To donate, please click on Advance ; Advance Project Search - enter Child Action Initiative;
click on find.  Click on 1. Child Action Initiative - Projects.  Click on Give Now and follow the instructions.  There is an option to give your UMC credit for your donation.
 
Thank you so much for your faithful support and doubling your impact by making a generous gift on December 3, 2013
 
*The General Board of Global Ministries will allocate the "matching funds" dollar for dollar up to the first $500,000.00 in gifts to Advance projects received on line on December 3, 2013, between 12:00 A.M. E.S.T. and 11.59 P.M.  A maximum of $10,000.00 for individual gifts to a project will be dispersed as matching funds.  A project may receive a maximum of $50,000.00 in matching gifts.
 
Blessings,
 
Bev & Ed Wentz
U.S. Coordinators for Child Action Initiative
Western North Carolina Conference
Northern Piedmont District
Oak Ridge UMC,
Oak Ridge, NC 27310
 
 


Tuesday, October 8, 2013





DEDICATION OF THE NAZARETH UNITED METHODIST CHURCH PARSONAGE, KASUNGAMI, DRC

Following are excerpts of a recent email received from Isaiah Njimbu Chot, Founder & Executive Director of Child Action Initiative providing an account of the recent dedication of the parsonage in Kasungami, DRC. Included are photographs of the parsonage under construction and of the dedication.

Sunday June 9, 2013, was a phenomenal day at Nazareth United Methodist Church Kasungami, DRC. Local municipal authorities, Episcopal area officers, leaders of the Bishop Katembo District, pastors, church members and members from other church congregations, mission organizations including World Vision and villagers were excited about this event and enjoyed witnessing this memorial dedication and historical event. It was exciting, meaningful and most importantly an enriching learning experience that people will never forget in Kasungami and the South Congo United Methodist Annual Conference.

Speeches were presented by the lay leader of Nazareth UMC, Isaiah Njimbu Chot and the Bishop’s Representative, Rev. Chibambo Shebele. The lay leader especially thanked American brothers and sisters in Christ who, through their donations and talents, made this project truly benefit the church and its dreams.
 
 
Isaiah related, "During Bev and Ed Wentz’s visit to Lubumbashi and Kasungami in 2008, they learned the minister at that time, Pastor Jean Kalau Zombil and his wife Esther, lived several miles from Nazareth United Methodist Church. It was difficult for them to visit the church without transportation and minister to the congregation, especially during the rainy season. During a meeting with the church members the need for a parsonage was raised to enable the pastor and his family to live close by. After more than four years the building team was organized and funds were raised under the leadership of Max Kern and his team: Shirley Kern, Dave Heiser, Amy Hurley, Jayne James and Bill Baxter. It was so amazing for them to visit June 15–30, 2012, and begin construction of the parsonage.

Before dedicating the parsonage, Rev. Shebele, the Bishop’s representative, blessed people who first gathered together to come up with the idea of building the parsonage and the building team from the United States of America who did a great job in helping to get the project underway by fund-raising and then begin building the structure with the help of members of the church.

The congregation assembled outside the door of the new parsonage with joy and grateful hearts to join in this act of dedication. Rev. Shebele declared the parsonage to be a place where the Nazareth pastor will rest, nurture his family and prepare God’s people for the abundant life. After receiving the keys to the Parsonage from Isaiah, she prayed for the house; opened the door; and advised the church to maintain it properly.

Everyone had a great time and shared food with joy. Thanks for doing such a wonderful job and making this event happen!"

By (Isaiah) Esaie Njimbu Chot


The following was written by Shirley Kern when she returned from Kasungami in 2012. This article summarized the experiences of the building team led by her husband Max Kern.  The team began construction of the parsonage for Nazareth United Methodist Church, Kasungami, DRC  June 15 to June 30, 2012.

"When a Fork is Not Just a Fork!"

"Isaiah joined us often and one night he was thanking us for the medicine, clothes, shoes, toys, school supplies, etc. we had brought with us. He made a statement to us that had us scratching our heads. He said, "sometimes a fork is not just a fork". He further explained, every single thing we brought had a purpose and God knew who would get each and everything sent. Each dose of medicine had a name on it, each pair of shoes was desperately needed by a particular child unknown but to God. This became evident when I saw two sisters standing side by side. One sister had on the left shoe and one sister had on the right shoe because there was only one pair of shoes for them. Sometimes when we send something small and seemingly trivial to us, someone there is in desperate need of it. He went on to say, it might just be a fork to us, but to them it represents something they desperately need. So, everything we send fulfills a need someone there desperately has. They were SO VERY THANKFUL for everything we brought with us. Thanks to all of you for your donations. They were received with such gratitude!"

As Shirley also stated in her article, "We had hoped the Western North Carolina United Methodist Conference Building Team program would have been able to send three teams to build the Nazareth United Methodist Church parsonage and raise the $15,000 for building materials, but only six people could make this commitment."

In a conversation we had before the team left for DRC, Max Kern stated, "God chose this team!"

This accomplishment demonstrates what two groups of people of different cultures can do through faith and the belief in God.

Contributions can be made to Child Action Initiative Advance Special 3021036.

Blessings,

Bev & Ed Wentz
U.S. Coordinators/Advocates for Child Action Initiative
Oak Ridge UMC, Oak Ridge, NC
Northern Piedmont Conference
Western North Carolina Conference

 



Isaiah and church members finishing construction of the parsonage
 

 Finished Parsonage 2013

 Rev. Chibambo Shebele, Bishop's Representative
 

 Kasungami UMC Congregation

 



Yvette, Isaiah & Eddie Chot
 
 

 
 






























































 

























 

 










 
 


 

 

































 


 













 

























 







Friday, February 1, 2013


CHILD ACTION INITIATIVE ACTIVITIES IN 2012

CHILD ACTION INITIATIVE NEWSLETTER            JANUARY 31, 2013

Following is a summary of events accomplished by Child Action Initiative in 2012, provided by Isaiah Njimbu Chot, founder of this mission. Please take time to read this dialog and consider financial support of this worthy mission through United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries’ Advance No.: 3021036. It is only through monetary donations that this mission can continue to assist the people of Kasungami, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Blessings,

Bev & Ed Wentz

Bev & Ed Wentz
U.S. Coordinators/Advocates for Child Action Initiative
Oak Ridge United Methodist Church
Oak Ridge, NC
Northern Piedmont District
Western North Carolina United Methodist Church Conference

EVENTS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN 2012

Our deepest thanks for all your support in 2012. Generous gifts from donors like you provide the financial and moral support needed to continue our mission.  With your faithful financial contributions over the years, you’ve demonstrated your deep commitment to our work. These have played a key role in our accomplishments:

Implementation of the Sustainable Agriculture & Development (SA&D) program: UMCOR-SA&D’s training in nutrition was conducted in 2012 for nine communities. More than 500 community members can produce and utilize Moringa trees. So there is an ongoing program for farmers and other community members. Also many families are growing Moringa trees for nutrition, subsistence and income generating activities.

Four Moringa community cooperatives were established in these communities. All together they cultivated 3 hectares (1 hectare = 2.47 acres) of Moringa oleifera trees. They will be able to harvest, process, dry and grind leaves to make into powder. This can be added to any food or beverage to increase the vitamin and protein content to fight against malnutrition. Its usage has then impacted positively malnourished children who participate in the CAI Moringa nutrition activities.  

Children’s education: 100 children participated in the school care program. They attended different programs: primary school, secondary and vocational training. They received school supplies, food, uniforms, shoes and socks. They performed very well. Three of them will be ready to join colleges or universities.
 

Sewing class: Girls and young women are learning to make clothes, mechanics, knitting and cooking, They are proud for gaining job skills. One of them said: “I learned to write and read; I am now practicing and making some for my sisters and brothers; I will have a small business and a small shop of clothes made by myself. I have to fight and to survive”.


Woman in a sewing class
  


In 2012 Masonry program: Established to help boys and young men who have not been at school to learn how to construct, read and write. The skills gained can help them to use rocks, sand, cements and bricks to make houses. Parents and children are happy.  A 14 years boy said, “I started a new life. I will be able to make my way”.
Microcredit program for women’s empowerment: We established this program to help women who are doing literacy and sewing program. Weekly they donate 2000 Congolese Francs (Fc) (U.S. $ 2.2) each. Plus the donation of 10,000 Fc (U.S. $11) they received last year from CAI Supporter, Technical Adviser David Heiser, they are making clothes, buns and small items for business. Sales proceeds from these items will help to buy other sewing machines or provide credit to any group member who would like to start her own business or income generating activities. But the credit is to be returned with a small percentage on top for the financial sustainability of the program.
Building team constructs parsonage for Nazareth UMC: June to July 2012, it was a great blessing to have a group of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (Max, Shirley, Bill, Jane and Amy) who came from the United States to help construct the parsonage for Nazareth United Methodist Church in Kasungami. They also brought clothing, knitting materials, medicines, toys, supplies and various gifts including the Nazareth UMC signs which were assembled and installed at the church and main entrance.
It was so amazing and a blessing to learn how hard the building team worked to raise funds to enable the work to be accomplished. 
At their arrival, the team members decided to stay in Kasungami with the people of the community. They had a productive time and achieved a lot. They started early in the day to carry bricks from where they were made, laid the bricks and made mortar with the local building team. People were astonished because it never happened in the area. So it challenged even people from other congregations. “I never dreamed that we will have a nice parsonage for Nazareth United Methodist church Ministers. We have been crying for many years, but today I have seen God’s hand’, said Ngonga, Nazareth UM Church member!” 
The team members were so interactive and flexible. They socialized with the church and community members through cultural exchange and stories. They tested local dishes such as Bukari staple food made from maize/corn, lenga-lenga or amaranth/vegetable, sombe-cassava leaves/vegetable, etc. at the center with the church and family members.
Children were gathered at the activities center during spare time for games, fun and entertainment. They could make flowers, paint images, share stories, learn English words and play soccer.etc. It was so exciting.
Ms. Kapembe one of the cooks said, “Isaiah, do you know that it is my first time to sit side by side with a white man; share food and shake their hands.  We are thankful for having them sleep in Kasungami, otherwise they would just come and go to Lubumbashi city center”.
The team left behind a positive impression.  When it was time for the team to leave, people cried and escorted them to the airport with songs of joy. Their presence meant a lot and contributed to the evangelism of Nazareth UMC in Kasungami.
The Parsonage
  
Sydney’s gifts for Isaiah’s kids program in 2012: It has been one of my major concerns for so many years to fit our children with shoes to protect them from disease, parasites and many types of injuries. These children would still be barefoot without this great help! Instead of using funds for her birthday party, Sydney decided to buy 100 pairs of shoes and socks for orphaned children in Kasungami.
This donation touched each one of us and expressed Sydney’s big heart and love dedicated to making life better for orphans, vulnerable children and families. Children were so happy to receive again new shoes. So after finding the perfect fit for each child, one boy said, “I never dreamed I would get a new pair of shoes each year even though many schools require children to wear shoes, this has never been heard in Kasungami. I am so grateful.” 
  
Children receiving sneakers.
Work started on Fipango Chapel: Max Kern, Oak Ridge UMC, leader of the Nazareth United Methodist parsonage building team visited Fipango village with me during his stay in Kasungami DRC. He was touched to see the poor worshiping conditions of the United Methodist members in this chapel such as lack of adequate roofing. So it was decided to finance a new roof and work has started.
New bricks were made and burned/fired by the church members for the construction of a new chapel. The work is now under the way. Iron sheets for the roof and wood are ready for the work to be started. Cement, sand, paint and benches will be needed in the near future.
Rebuilding Fipango Chapel
 Bishop Katembo Kainda - South Congo conference Episcopal area: Visited  Nazareth United Methodist Church recently in Kasungami. He was thankful to learn more about the building team’s work, CAI accomplishments and the parsonage that will be dedicated in the near future.
Christmas celebration: 23rd December 2012, CAI children celebrated Christmas. They played various rolls, sang and shared Christ’s birth stories. As they sang Silent Night each one lighted a candle. They received clothing and toys. Refreshments were provided.                                                                                                                
 
Plans for 2013 and Beyond:
o   Establish a clinic and maternity unit to help nine communities in Kasungami.                            
o   Farming: drill well at the farm; add animals and laying chickens  and structures.                                                                                                          
o   Computer class: second hand computer will be needed for the vocational classes. for ICT program.
o   Education: Scholarships for orphans’s college or University studies.
o   Reinforce  microcredit program for women’s empowerment.


Submitted by,
Isaiah Njimbu Chot
 Isaiah Njimbu Chot                                                                      
Founder of Child Action Initiative
Kasungami, DRC














Tuesday, December 4, 2012

       



UNITED METHODIST COMMITTEE ON RELIEF IMPLEMENTS
S A & D PROGRAM IN KASUNGAMI, DRC
 
CHILD ACTION INITIATIVE NEWSLETTER      DECEMBER 4, 2012
 


Child Action Initiative (CAI) was founded in 2006 by (Isaiah) Esaie Njimbu Chot. This mission serves through Nazareth United Methodist church (NUMC), in Kasungami, DRC in the South Katanga-Zambia Conference meeting the many needs of the 40,000 plus residents of Kasungami. These needs have been met by developing an on-going education program for HIV/AIDS orphans and vulnerable children, drilling wells to increase the supply of potable drinking water,improving medical treatment, reconstruction of NUMC and construction of a new parsonage. Malnutrition and lack of an adequate food supply continues to be a major issue in this community.

 
Isaiah provided a report on the SA&D program summarizing the following:

 
October, 2011 a needs assessment was conducted by Ms. June Kim, Ms. Judith Santiago and Mr. Mozart Adevu with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to determine the need for the Sustainable Agriculture & Development (SA&D) program.

 
More than 200 people from eight communities attended a meeting to discuss food, nutrition and malnutrition problems. A host of problems were revealed such as: people are eating one meal a day; they do not grow a variety of foods or raise livestock; farming techniques must be improved.
The SA&D program is an initiative of the Hunger and Poverty Program office of UMCOR. Over the past eight years this program has operated with demonstrated success in five African countries - Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, DRC, and Mozambique.

 
Providing information through training is more useful and valuable in the long term than only providing money and materials. Knowledge cannot be destroyed by war, stolen or otherwise separated from the person. SA&D's priority is providing training, skills and information. The training and related activities are farmer centered and field based.
 
The SA&D program works in partnership with local churches and community organizations such as CAI with the goal to provide improvements in the standards of living in Kasungami, ensure food security, improve health and nutrition and reduce economic dependency for self sustain-ability.

Early 2012, implementation of the SA&D program began under the direction of trainers Mr. Tshinish and Ms. Nday from North Katanga Province, DRC, as follows:
 
Overall, 80 farmers from Kasungami communities and groups attended the trainings on production and utilization of soybeans and the Moringa tree. Information on the Moringa known as the tree of life provides protein and vitamins. This includes use of the leaves, flowers and roots as food and natural medicine. Soybeans were discussed as a source of protein including how to make soy milk, soy flour, prepare the beans plus recipes.
 
Interviews with people in Kamina, North Katanga Province, who have made Moringa a regular part of their diets pointed out that their health has improved. Those who have made selling Moringa products as part of their business have increased family incomes. Successful treatment of malnourished children with Moringa products have been well documented.
 
Five hundred Moringa trees have been planted in Kasungami. Moringa seeds and 600 poly bags have been distributed to enable people to establish Moringa tree nurseries and transplant the seedlings. Most of the trainees are involved in the extension of planting Moringa trees to help other families who have expressed the need. They are interested in making Moringa and soybean accessible for malnourished and community members who are obliged to purchase expensive nutritious foods.
 
Other topics taught: Integrated crop and pest management, restoring depleted soils as well as the judicious use of agrochemicals and the use of locally available alternative pesticides.
People are now excited to start training other community members and organizing sub-groups to develop Moringa and soybean programs in their respective villages and communities.
 
The next step is to incorporate the bee keeping program. The area is favorable with trees and other conditions for this activity.
 
The UMCOR Sustainable Agriculture & Development program provides hope for the future.
We are grateful to June Kim, Judith Santiago, Mozaret Adevu, Mr. Tshinish & Ms. Nday for their dedication to the SA&D program.
 
We wish to thank Edenton Street UMC, Raleigh, NC and Oak Ridge UMC, Oak Ridge, NC for their financial support to enable the implementation of the SA&D program.
 
If any churches or individuals wish to donate to the Kasungami SA&D program they may do so by sending their donations to Advance No.: 982188. Click on: DONATE NOW next to the Child Action Initiative Newsletter. Page 2, type in Advance No.: 982188. This procedure will take you to the Sustainable Agriculture & Development website.

Thank you for your continued interest in Child Action Initiative.

Blessings,
Bev & Ed Wentz

Beverly A. & Edward L. Wentz, Jr.
U.S. (UMVIM) Coordinators/Advocates for Child Action Initiative
Oak Ridge United Methodist Church
Oak Ridge, NC
North Piedmont District
Western North Carolina United Methodist Church Conference

 

 



Isaiah transplants a moringa seedling.
 
 
 
Villagers planting Moringa trees.
 

Friday, August 31, 2012




 
 

WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA UNITED METHODIST CONFERENCE BUILDING TEAM VISITS KASUNGAMI, DRC TO BEGIN CONSTRUCTION OF A PARSONAGE FOR NAZARETH UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
 
CHILD ACTION INITIATIVE NEWSLETTER                 AUGUST 31, 2012

After a year plus planning, praying, fundraising and recruiting a "small" building team led by Max and Shirley Kern, members of Oak Ridge United Methodist Church (UMC), Oak Ridge, NC visited Kasungami, DRC to assist in the construction of a parsonage for Nazareth UMC. U.S. team members included: Jayne James, Good Hope UMC, Lexington, NC; Amy Hurley, Park Street UMC, Belmont, NC; Bill Baxter, Venice-Nokomis UMC, Nokomis,FL ; Dave Heiser, Fuquay Varina UMC, NC. It is not the size of the team that is important but rather the size of each team member's heart that matters.

Led by Child Action Initiative founder Esaie (Isaiah) Njimbu Chot, Nazareth UMC church members fabricated bricks; laid the building's footings in advance of the arrival of the U.S. team. This preliminary work enabled the DRC/U.S. partners to focus on erecting the parsonage's interior and exterior walls during the U.S. team's two week stay. The team also interacted with the children. Since the U.S. team returned home the local building team completed the walls and installed a corrugated roof.

We are also grateful to Joe Mabiala and fellow members of Edenton Street UMC, Raleigh, NC for their large donation of medicines and medical supplies to Child Action Initiative.

 
Following is Shirley Kern's story which captures the essence of the team's experience.
Bev & Ed Wentz
Bev & Ed Wentz
U.S. UMVIM Coordinators/Advocates for Child Action Initiative
Oak Ridge UMC, Oak Ridge, NC

When A Fork Is Not Just A Fork

Max and I recently returned from our mission trip to Kasungami, Democratic Republic of the Congo(DRC), Africa, exhausted from the long travel time but exhilarated from our experiences. I have to admit I was somewhat apprehensive about spending two weeks in the DRC with threats of malaria, being in a village where "white people" are rare and there is no electricity. I kept having flashbacks of watching old Tarzan movies as a child. It turned out all my fears were unfounded as we were welcomed with warm and open arms with a wonderful hospitality I can only describe as "amazing".
 
God's love shone through the village as we were greeted by the members of the Sunday worship service and prepared for our work of building the parsonage. The worship service was inspiring with a guest female minister.  We could not understand the Swahili being spoken but the message was clear, God loves you. The young choir of about 20 blew our minds with their harmony and angelic voices. They could easily appear on the "Sing Off" with their rendition of our United Methodist songs sung in Swahili. The service lasted about three short hours and no one seemed to mind as they were truly praising and worshiping God. We could surely take a lesson from them!!


After church we were escorted to our quarters where we would live, sleep and eat for our two week stay.  As most of you know, this mission trip came about because of a providential meeting in 2005 between Ed and Bev Wentz and Isaiah Njimbu Chot on the campus of Africa University, Zimbabwe. That meeting changed the lives of Isaiah, Ed and Bev, as well as the lives of many, many people in Africa and the United States. 

 
That meeting culminated in the founding of "Child Action Initiative" (CAI). This endeavor helps AID's orphans and the very poor children who can not afford to go to school plus an outreach program for women to teach them skills such as sewing, knitting, etc. The center also provides medicines for those children who have no way of purchasing them. 
The "CAI" Activities Center consists of three rooms, a pharmacy, office and one larger all-purpose room where the classes are taught. This building was built on the Methodist church property across the street from the church and adjacent to a new well drilled by Hershey PA Rotarians. To our amazement they had cleared out the office and large room for us to use.  They had borrowed beds, mattresses and mosquito netting from a nearby Catholic mission so we would not have to sleep on the floor as we had expected. To our total amazement they had also built a new African toilet and two areas where we could shower with our camping shower bags. This new addition was connected to the "CAI" building where they knocked out a window and created a new door.  All this was done for our use and convenience while no one else in the community has any of these amenities.  How is that for hospitality? This was only the beginning of the love and graciousness we received at the hands of these wonderful people.
We had hoped our Conference Building Teams Program would be able to send three teams to build the parsonage and raise the needed $15,000 for building materials. Unfortunately, only six people could make the commitment of time, talent and funds to this project. Max and myself from Oak Ridge, NC, Jayne from Lexington, NC Amy from Charleston, SC, Dave from Fuquay Varina,, NC and Bill from Florida. We prayed God would provide a way and he never lets us down. Thanks to the generosity of many people with a heart for this ministry along with help from above, our small team was able to raise $15,000 for construction materials.  Many people donated medicine and medical supplies, clothes, school supplies and much needed new sign for the church.  We filled our bags to the limit and delivered much needed and much appreciated supplies.  There were tears in their eyes as we unpacked all our supplies.

Our work on the parsonage began in earnest the next morning.  Please visualize 10,000 hand-made bricks the members of the church had waiting when we arrived.  I can only imagine how many hours of hard labor went into making these bricks.  The church could not afford to buy the bricks but made the commitment of hand making them so they could help in finally obtaining a parsonage for the church.  The church is currently renting a parsonage but cannot afford the monthly rent from their meager earnings.  Also it was hard to attract vibrant ministers with families because of the lack of a place to live.   So, the commitment was there but our help was still needed to make their vision a reality.  We did far more work than we ever thought possible. 


Our first day began with deciding how to get all the bricks from where they were made to the construction site. God soon worked that out for us.  We started our trek from brick pile to job site trying to carry two to three bricks weighing around 10 to 15 pound each.  The children of the village had been watching us from a safe distance, not sure what to think of the strange white people that had invaded their existence.  Their curiosity soon got the better of them and in no time at all they were following us to the brick pile and bringing them back for us!!  What a blessing to work with these people for a common goal.  Soon women were carrying three and four bricks on their head to help us along with children with babies on their backs helping too.

Over the next two weeks, bricks were carried, bricks were stacked, bricks were cleaned and bricks were laid.  Everyday we marveled at how much was accomplished working along side all the volunteers from the community and church.  Many volunteers that helped were not even members of the church. By the end of our time there, all exterior and interior walls were laid with bricks up to the top of the windows. We were so happy with the progress but it was only accomplished with God's help. With additional funding this project will continue by the local people until the completion of the parsonage.

The work accomplished was only a part of this experience.  We met most every afternoon with a group of children doing crafts, and teaching them songs and games.  It was so much fun getting to know these wonderful loving children. We were not sure who the orphans were as they had been taken into the homes of other relatives or sometimes just a neighbor who cared for them as their own.  The women in the community worked so hard tending their crops where they have to water them by hand twice a day during the dry season.  They dip buckets into shallow, hand dug wells which are everywhere and a hazard when you are walking in the dark.  They cook on small hibachi style grills for their families and wash their laundry and babies from a bucket of water drawn from the local neighborhood well.  No electricity for anyone here.
We had volunteers who cooked for us and they arrived very early and stayed until after dark. It was a challenge for them to feed the Americans who are so use to eating three squares a day. I asked if they ate three meals a day and was told if they were lucky, they ate twice a day.  A lot of them only get to eat once a day. Even though we were paying for our food, it still made the food stick in my throat on more than one occasion. 
After our candlelight dinners (it is their winter and dark comes early) we held our devotions and team meetings sitting around the dinner table.  Isaiah joined us often and one night he was thanking us for the medicine, clothes, shoes, toys, school supplies, etc. we had brought with us. He made a statement to us that had us scratching our heads.  He said "sometimes a fork is not just a fork".  He further explained, every single thing we brought had a purpose and God knew who would get each and everything sent. Each dose of medicine had a name on it, each pair of shoes was desperately needed by a particular child. This became evident when I saw two sisters standing side by side. One sister had on the left shoe and one sister had on the right shoe because there was only one pair of shoes for them. Sometimes when we send something small and seemingly trivial to us, someone there is in desperate need of it.  He went on to say, it might just be a fork to us but to them it represents something they desperately need.  So, everything we send fulfills a need someone there desperately has. They were SO VERY THANKFUL for everything we brought with us. Thank all of you for your donations. They were received with such gratitude!

 
Even though we reached our $15,000 goal for construction materials, we do not have enough money to complete the project. Based on latest estimates and due to inflation, we will need an additional $5000. I hope you will help us raise the additional $5000 so they will be able to complete the parsonage before the rain season arrives in October/November.  Please send donations to: Oak Ridge UMC, memo "Nazareth UMC Parsonage Construction Materials", 2424 Oak Ridge Rd, Oak Ridge, NC 27310. 
 
I feel so blessed to have spent time with the people of Kasungami. They were warm, loving, generous and kind to us, just as God wants us to treat our fellow Christians. I keep going back to our United Methodist hymn, "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love".  So very true!!
Peace and Love,
Shirley Kern

Our team and church members
 
 
The foundation was in place when we arrived
 

 
Children helped carry bricks to the work site
 
 
The walls are going up
 
 
Eddie and Yvette in the men's quarters
 
 
The local work team continues to build
 
 
The roof is on!