Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Mission of Connection

My name is Erik Mueller and in January 2018 I had the profound opportunity to go Africa for a mission trip with the Sinanzi Sepo Project (SSP).  The destination was a small village in the Zambezi region of Namibia near the town of Katima Mulilo.  Africa is a wild, wild world filled with every sort of adventure a person could possibly want.  The culture, the landscape, the animals, the people truly make this land so unique and exciting.  The famous poet Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “there never was a day when I woke up in Africa, when I wasn’t happy.”  I must admit that during my stay there I would have to agree with Mr. Hemingway.  The harshness of the living conditions in the village where we stayed was real and it took its toll on me over the two weeks I was there.  However, the true simplicity of the place and the mission I had set out to accomplish would not allow me to become anything but happy.

The goal for this mission trip with SSP was to make connections with people within the villages, learn about their customs and cultures, work on building a fence for their community garden, interact with the children, teach, share the gospel, discover what their most pressing needs are, and take plenty of pictures to document and share with family and friends back home.  The extent of needs within the villages is overwhelming to my American eyes which can’t fathom to see such poverty.  Everywhere you look you see houses made of mud and sticks, old tires being used for chairs, dogs roaming the streets, children playing on old rusted out cars, and hungry people looking for a job to pay for their next meal.  Many people’s first reaction to seeing this kind of poverty is to want to give “stuff.”  Many people, including my old self, thought that it was good enough to donate money to pay for the things they need.  The most important thing that I realized during my stay there, is though they may appreciate the “stuff” they far more appreciate the fact that you just want to get to know them.  You want to be a friend.  You want to help them learn and learn from them.

The single most important thing that you can give anyone is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Without this message you can gain the whole world and still lose your soul.  It became so obvious to me while in Katima Mulilo that this message I had heard so many times was so accurate.  The people in the village where we stayed were as happy as anyone could expect them to be, however they all carried the burden of poverty and for most of them it is something they’ll never have the opportunity to get out of.  I met men who confided to me their feelings of worthlessness and failure for not being able to provide for their families.  I talked with people who believed their lives were cursed because of the color of their skin.  I met people living feeling depressed and defeated because they fully believed that there was no way to better their lives.  The need for the heart changing, life giving, soul feeding, thirst quenching, complete Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can pick someone up out of these mindsets and lead them down a path towards freedom from the burden of these thoughts and feelings.  Even if they never make it out of their Earthly poverty they CAN get out of their spiritual poverty.  The Gospel makes it possible for someone to live a fulfilling, purposeful life even in the midst of great poverty.

My greatest opportunity during my stay in Katima Mulilo was getting to know the wonderful people that made up those villages and to share the Gospel from my heart and learn a little about theirs.  Our time spent working on the fence brought an opportunity to bond with the men in a special way and also taught them some new skills.  I sang songs with the children in the SSP Kindergarten and gave them some lollipops and a soccer ball and that was more than enough to win over their hearts.  I took photos and videos and shared them with the world and hopefully inspired some more people to want to join me next year.  Everyday I look forward to another opportunity to go back and do it all again.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

African Home Depot

Grocery shopping African Style!  This food will last the village over a month!

So much to do and so little time!!  The Mission team has been hard at work since the day they arrived.  As we mentioned before, the biggest project our team plans to achieve is building a fence around the entire garden.  This started with a large shopping day at Pupkewitz, AKA the African Home Depot, to buy all the building supplies.  This was a project in and of itself!

The team has been joined by a number of awesome local volunteers and together have dug 350 feet of 12 inch trenches as a foundation.  In their current 95 degree heat, they aren’t missing the New York winter in the least! ;-)

Please continue to pray for safety and keep watching for more updates!!

The Three Amigos

L-->R is Larry, Elton, & Erik
Photo credit to Cindy for getting up at 3 am to snap this pic for us!
Today is a very exciting day! Elton and a mission team from Community Fellowship at Princetown have arrived in Katima Mulilo to serve the people of this region through Sinanzi Sepo Project. Erik & Larry will be staying for 2 weeks and Elton will stay for 5.  They have big projects planned for their time here but first and foremost they plan to build a better fence in at the garden to deter the pesky pigs, elephants and other wildlife.  Just last month we had a heard of pigs come through so the timing is perfect!  They will also be purchasing supplies and clothing to bless the kids in our Mukisa school.  We are so blessed to have these men on board!

The team arrived safely in Zambia yesterday and then arrived in Namibia tonight with all luggage intact. Praise the Lord! The team is relaxing and resting arond the fire in the village before tackling all they set out to do first thing tomorrow morning!!

Please pray for traveling mercies and for a successful two weeks! Stay tuned to our blog and Facebook for periodic updates...

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Life Happens

3 years ago when the Sinanzi Garden was first established a water tank was installed and cistern dug as our main water sources of irrigating our ever-growing number of crops.  A simple water pump is used to supply energy to the process making consistent irrigation in both wet and dry seasons possible.

As with any machine in Africa, it's lifespan can be on a day-to-day basis, but we have been incredibly blessed that this sole water pump has not only well-surpassed its expected life span, but has also not fallen victim to theft either...until now.  On January 1st, our staff house had its door smashed and the water pump along with 2 shovels were taken.  While we are heartbroken over this, we are also reminded that we have been on borrowed time with that pump as it was AND noone was hurt!  The pump has been functional way longer than we could have ever expected given the workload we put on it.   So, in some ways, the joke is on them. They stole a pump that is in it's final days. It has been reported to the police but likely nothing will come of it.

Elton's family has graciously allowed us to borrow a pump in the short term and will be purchasing a replacement when he is actually there later this month.  A water pump costs about US$500.  If you feel led to contribute, we would greatly appreciate it!! You can do so by clicking the "Donate" button on our Facebook Page or via PureCharity.

We ask you to pray with us for the continued safety of those involved in our ministry, for the wisdom how to proceed with repairing the door, strengthening our security, and replacing the pump.  As always, thanks for your continued prayer and financial support through all the ups and downs!

Friday, December 1, 2017

World AIDS Day 2017

Today might be just a typical Friday for you: finishing up your work week and looking forward to a weekend of holiday shopping and decorating. But for 36.7 million individuals around the world, today holds much more significance.

Today is World AIDS Day. Today we remember those infected and affected by the epidemic, we celebrate the achievements over the past year, and we refocus on our goals for the coming year.

What We're Up Against

If you aren't familiar with how big of a problem HIV/AIDS is, please take a few minutes to learn about the epidemic:

  • There are 36.7 million individuals living with HIV, and 1.8 million more are infected each year.
  • Africa is the most affected region, with 25.6 million individuals living with HIV. 
  • Only 20.9 infected individuals are receiving treatment; only 43% of infected children have access. 
  • Only 70% of infected people know their status. 
  • The epidemic has already claimed 35 million lives, and around 1 million more die each year.
  • Tuberculosis accounts for one third of AIDS-related deaths; nearly 60% of cases are never diagnosed or treated. 
  • In Namibia, 13.8% of the population is living with HIV, and nearly 4,300 people die from AIDS-related causes each year.
  • There are around 640,000 orphans in Namibia due to AIDS. 

If you glazed over that list of numbers, that's understandable - It can be a lot to take in. Instead of trying to compute and calculate the statistics, let's make this a bit more relatable: Imagine you're in class or at work or at a family holiday, surrounded by 20 friends and loved ones. Now imagine that 3 of those loved ones are infected with HIV, and 1 doesn't even know it. Of the 2 that know their status, only 1 has access to treatment. Can you imagine knowing that, and not helping them?

How Far We've Come

There have been huge successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS - especially in Namibia. However, we're far from done. Many organizations have a goal of completely eliminating the epidemic by 2030, which is attainable if you consider the progress so far!

  • Since 2000, new infections have dropped 11% in adults and 47% in children! 
  • Since 2005 (the peak of the epidemic), AIDS-related deaths have dropped 48%!
  • Since 2000, 13.1 million lives have been saved by antiretroviral therapy (ART). 
  • In Namibia, last year was a big year in tackling treatment AND prevention:
    • Treatment guidelines were revised and the "Treat-All" initiative was piloted. 
    • Over 95% of health facilities now provide prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and increased early infant screening and treatment.
    • There was in increased focus on gender inequality, violence, and human rights.

What Lies Ahead

If we're going to eliminate the epidemic by 2030, there are a few challenges we need to overcome, especially in Namibia. While Namibia is actually one of the wealthiest countries in Africa overall, there is a huge discrepancy between rich and poor, between those with access to treatment and those without. Today, the US Embassy Namibia announced that a new ART site was opened in Katima Mulilo! However, this treatment can only be received if people know about it, and if they understand the importance of being tested and treated.

Despite our progress, we can't lose focus. Until the stigma is gone and the epidemic completely defeated, we have work to do. We'll continue to show the people in this region that they are loved, encourage them to grow into strong and educated citizens, and provide for their basic needs. Will you continue to help us? 

Thank you to all of generous supporters around the globe, and thank you to our amazing staff and volunteers in Namibia, for joining us in our goal of helping as many people as possible - especially those affected by HIV/AIDS. 

Cassie Hooker
Vice Chair, Board of Directors

Thanks to the following sources for all of the statistics we gathered. Will you take a few minutes today to learn more?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Staff House Completed!

Our 3 Garden Staff Workers
A huge thanks goes out to our donors!! Our new staff house is now complete, and just in time before the rainy season starts! You have gone above and beyond in supplying the needs in a very short period of time to build our new staff house!! As we have mentioned before our older traditional mud hut housing was in strong need of repair and we felt led to make the investment into a longer standing structure as this project continues to grow! Our 3 garden staff are very appreciative as they continue to tend to the gardens that feed those in need in this region! This house provides a safe structural living environment that is now separate from the space needed for the garden tools and crop storage area.

As our project grows, we are continuing to seek additional monthly supporters!! If you are interested in supporting this project on a monthly or one-time basis, there are a number of ways you can do this! See our links on the right side-bar to use the PureCharity option including child sponsorships in our kindergarten!

Thanks again and Praise God for all that He has provided!!
When we say "garden", we really mean small farm ;-)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Phase 2

We have been working on raising support to build a new staff house for our garden and thanks to generous donors Phase 2 of the new staff housing is now complete!! This past week we were able to purchase windows, doors, and supplies for the rest of the bricks!! Praise God for His provisions!!

We have 2 staff at all times tending to the garden and as part of their wages, we provide housing for them to stay in. Their current mud-style house is growing unsafe to live in so the timing of this progress couldn't be more needed!

On to the final phase! The roof will get put on in the next 2 weeks! 

Phase 2 Complete!