President’s Blog – 17 September 2014 -”It’s on my bucket list”

Posted on: September 24, 2014

I typically do not write many blogs when I am stationed in the States, but I figured that it is time for me to bring all of you up-to-date as I reflect on this recent season of ministry. Our first event of this season in Iowa was to speak at the Okoboji Bible Conference. Beth and I both found the conference to be meaningful and enjoyable. We hope to return to the conference many times in the future. Doc at Okoboji I

Dr. Blessman speaking at the Okoboji Bible Conference on Sunday, August 3, 2014.

The next thing that we did was to host our booth at the Iowa State Fair. A big thank you to the 65 some volunteers who worked alongside of us to recruit Iowans to come to Africa to serve with us in 2015. Empty Booth I

Blessman Ministries booth in the Varied Industries building. Iowa State Fair 2014.

Every year at the Iowa State Fair, literally hundreds of people tell me that coming to Africa is on their bucket list. It seems to me that lots of people have a bucket list but they do not really believe that they will ever get to do many of the things on their bucket list. All of our days are numbered, and if we are really serious about the things on our bucket list, we all need to get to work on doing the things we are serious about doing before we die. A trip to Africa with our ministry is truly a trip of a lifetime partly because of all of the beautiful tourist type things you will get to experience with the photo safaris, walking with lions and riding elephants. The more important reason that a trip with us is a trip of a life time is the opportunity to serve the beautiful African people and to help change their lives for good. I also promise you that your own life will be changed for good forever by doing a mission trip with us. 659

A recent missions team member just after landing in Johannesburg, holding a special message via coffee cup.”GO!” 

We have recently invested in updating our website to make it user- friendly and productive. We are hopeful that this update will get mission team members from all over the US. I have always been a believer in marketing and promotion to help grow our ministry. This next year we hope to do radio listener trips with WHO, Life 107.1 FM and Catholic Radio. We also have a team of Rotarians, and a team of veterinarians along with our church sponsored teams on the roster for 2015. This diverse group of team members will be served well by our Africa staff and will be a big blessing to the African people whom we love and serve. It has been such a pleasure and reassurance for me to know that while Beth and I are here in the States enjoying time with our grandchildren, family, and friends, that the work in Africa continues to progress. I enjoy speaking with Dustin and René nearly every day to get reports of all that is going on in Africa. blog92414

Dustin, Johanney and Rene’ in one of the green houses at the Del Cramer Children’s campus.

As many of you know, we had a small hiccup with our Rotary water project in that Rotary International asked us to basically start over with the grant and do a needs assessment for every community where we will be drilling a well. We had done a smaller need assessment on 5 of the schools and made projections from that. I just hired a young man by the name of Kabelo to be my personal assistant and help me get this done efficiently. He and Dustin are working together to do this. I am still hopeful that we will be drilling wells soon after the first of the year. These will be a great blessing to the schools receiving the water projects and will also be a good destination for many of our teams to visit these same schools and do a shoe or optical outreach with them.

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A bird’s eye view of the farmland we will be purchasing.

We are purchasing a 120-acre farm to use as a research farm in partnership with University of Pretoria and Iowa State University.

We plan to grow fish, poultry, vegetables in greenhouses, some grain, and to also have a small wild African animal-breeding program. The ministry side of the farm will be to provide jobs and job training for the Africans who will help us farm and to also provide food for our orphans in addition to bringing in some funds to help the financial sustainability of our ministry. There is also a house on the farm and a building that we will remodel to be a 25-bed youth hostel for our interns and church camps and retreats. One of our Iowa donors has caught the vision of what can be accomplished with this new farm and has put out a $100,000 challenge grant to fund the purchase and start development of this farm. This is the fourth matching grant of at least $100,000 that we have received over the last 10 years. Each time we have been successful in raising the matching funds and putting them to good work building Christ’s Kingdom. The first grant was for $120,000 and was the start of our feeding program that now feeds and gives help with schoolwork and Christian education. This current grant will significantly enlarge our farming program and move our ministry a big step towards financial sustainability. Our other 6 micro enterprises continue to do well although each of them lost a small amount of money during their first year of operation. 652

Our brick machine and staff at work to fill an order of bricks.

Our construction company is working towards getting a contract to build a small apartment building for Dr. Joe in Mokopane. With the expanded interest in mission teams, our lodge business continues to get stronger and we have good African staff in leadership in all of our micro enterprise companies. Our sewing business continues to grow in partnership with ISU, and we just got a contract to sew for a retailer in Los Angeles. Very soon our online store will be open for all of you to shop for African textile projects for gifts and personal use. Embroidery

A sample of the embroidery work done by the Lethabo sewing and training center.

The two churches that we planted are doing really well. Pastor Jonathan at Lighthouse Church which is located at the Del Cramer Children’s Campus, is getting married in October and graduating from seminary in November. He is also overseeing 4 small Bible study groups that meet weekly. 454

Pastor Jonathan preaching at Lighthouse Church.

Our newest church plant, Hope Church, is on the verge of a big growth spurt as we are looking to purchase a bus to transport people from the area where our new farm is located. 10012025_628911126095_5585436168261999009_o

Matt & Jacinda Shields with their daughter Stella.

Matt and Jacinda Shields, ambassadors with Blessman Ministries in South Africa along with their daughter Stella, have poured their lives into planting Hope church and preparing to pass the baton on to Pastor Romeo. We pray God’s best for the Shields as they end their term in South Africa and move back to the US. What a blessing they have been to us. I have been spending a good share of my time and energy raising funds to match our recent $100,000 gift. So far we are nearing the 50% range and hope to have the full match met in December. We have a large fundraising gathering November 6 and hope to have 300 to 400 guests come and enjoy “An Evening in South Africa” with us. An African children’s choir will sing and we will showcase our micro enterprise programs. Tickets are $10 each. Here is a link to our registration page where you can purchase tickets to this event. Register Here We hope to see you there!

President’s Blog – July 16, 2014

Posted on: July 23, 2014

We are heading to the airport after two months in Africa. It has been one of my more difficult stays here. Beth stayed behind to help Kelsey care for our new granddaughter and we had some serious security issues at Shikwaru where we live. The security issues were sorted out when police captured the criminals trying to steal copper lines down the road from us, several days after they broke into our farm. This incident did help us review the security on our campus and our updates help all of us feel safe and secure again. With two electric security gates, an electric fence surrounding the entire farm, security cameras, a jack russell puppy to stay in our house and a contracted armed security company patrolling our campus on foot every night, I now again feel completely safe and secure for myself, my family, and all of our guests.

Leadership AcademyBeth arrived with our last team to help with the International Leadership Academy for 17 eighth-grade youth from two different tribal villages near our Del Cramer Children Campus. René did an excellent job along with the pastor and leaders from our church. Our team helped teach Christian leadership skills. As these youth complete their community project, they will return each year for the next four years. I sensed this first one-week training has made a significant impact in the lives of these young people.

10354160_10154456042795347_1499037650173333751_nOur team visited a child-led home where 10 young people are living in a shack about the size of a single car garage. With two rooms, a living room and a bedroom, all 10 of them sleep in one bed or on the floor. They told us that when it rains the floors gets covered with water and they stay awake all night. Cooking meals is over an outdoor fire and their only water supply is a public water tap down the street, requiring several trips each day. With no toilet (not even an outdoor toilet) they are using their neighbor’s outdoor toilet when available.

Our Lighthouse Church is busy digging a new outdoor toilet for them and we also supply them with rice packets for food. This team delivered 10 hooded sweatshirts and blankets for this family. We sat in their small living room and visited with them for about 30 minutes and prayed with them and invited them to come to our church. Two of the older teenagers and two smaller children did attend church on Sunday and were blessed by our entire congregation and a hot meal with our church family. I often say that it blesses me to know that our ministry is helping feed 7,000 children each day, yet it is a bigger blessing to be able to sit with one child or one family at a time and be a blessing to them. I do indeed have the best job in the world.

Tula TulaI was also able to take this team by the Tula Tula baby shelter where six infants live and are cared for by two excellent caregivers. All of our teams love spending an hour or two loving on these babies. Our ministry has decided to tithe R2000 rand to this center each month to help pay the salaries of their caregivers. So far they are entirely privately funded and receive no government support.

This team was really special for me because our oldest daughter Christy came to work with us for the first time. To save money I usually do not participate with the game drives and some of the tourist-type activities but this time I joined in all of the activities and had a great time walking with the lions with her. We also had a great photo safari and got to see lions, elephants, rhinos, a crocodile, giraffes, warthogs and lots of plains game like wildebeest and several different antelope species.10504997_10152134866861017_3644887285798347836_o

Christy especially enjoyed seeing the Leroy Blessman Lodge of Dreams that was built as a memorial to her grandpa. Most of all she enjoyed visiting our church and visiting with Pastor Jonathan, who attends The Master’s Academy International (Christ Seminary) in Polokwane, a training center of The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, the same seminary that her husband attends.

For the last three years I have had a vision or goal of our ministry receiving a good share of the funding needed from South Africa. Part of that funding will hopefully come from our seven microenterprises, which are all off to a strong start. It looks as if most of them will be making a profit in the next couple of years and will be contributing to the financial needs of our ministry. I am expecting that some of this funding will also be coming from grants that we will be writing and from donations from Africa corporations. To move us in this direction I just hired a young African man who has experience and skill in all of these areas. He will also help us market our Lodge of Dreams to South Africans and possibly help us get some government contracts for conferences and lodging.

We have continued to finalize our Rotary matching water project. We submitted the grant about two months ago then received two pages of questions that we worked with the Polokwane Rotary Club to get answered and resubmitted. Hopefully we will be hearing soon that it is approved for $160,000 to drill 13 wells in rural schools here in Limpopo, South Africa. Dustin will be heading up the mechanical side of this and several of us will be helping educate the water committees at each of the schools. I am excited to be bringing many American Rotarians on team visits to these water projects.

Our farming project at Del Cramer continues to do well, and Dustin is ready to place our first order of 500 fingerlings. It took several weeks to get the appropriate environmental permits to grow fish in a pond at Shikwaru.

1545143_10151852972006017_1402930330_nI found a new small farm that I am interested in purchasing. It is about 100 acres and has a beautiful view of Entabeni Mountains. If we are able to purchase it I would like to move Johanney to this new farm and over the next year or two develop it to grow chickens, livestock, various grains and vegetables. I envision this being a pilot farm or university extension farm where we do research on several small farm projects with agriculture students from Iowa State and a couple of the universities here in Africa as well. We will build our youth hostel on this farm for our students and youth teams to stay in. With Johanney moving to the new farm I would like to put René in charge of managing the farming operation at Del Cramer with Johanney being her consultant.

As I am headed back to America I look forward to speaking at this year’s Okoboji Bible conference, staffing our booth in the Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fair and attending the LCMC international gathering in Des Moines in October. We are also planning a large fundraising event in November for friends of our ministry.

One of my more important jobs while I am back in America will be to help recruit new team members to come over next year. Lee Holmes is a retired veterinarian friend who is helping me recruit a team of veterinarians and a team of Rotarians to come early next year. We are also working with a new team from St. Francis Catholic Church in West Des Moines. Through radio stations like 107.1 FM and WHO we hope to do listener trips to South Africa. One group that I am especially interested in recruiting is farmers who can come and help us develop our new farm.

Lastly, this link will take you to a recent article published in Power for Living. This is a quarterly publication from David C Cook that “inspires readers with stories of people who do extraordinary things through the power of Christ”.  We are honored to have Blessman Ministries highlighted in their June publication.

Read the article by clicking HERE.

President’s Blog July 11, 2014 – Call to Missions Reconfirmed

Posted on: July 16, 2014

The last couple of weeks have been difficult for me as I have been here without my life partner Beth but even more so because of some recent farm break-ins in our neighborhood. We have lived at Shikwaru for 10 years now and always felt safe, but at the same time we’re always careful about security issues. Over the years we have made our campus more and more secure with an electric game fence all around the property and two electric gates coming into our farm. Earlier this year we had some friends from America come and install some security cameras for us to add another level of security. Last night we had a meeting with about 40 farm neighbors vowing to do whatever is necessary to help keep all of us safe. It was a good meeting with lots of prayer and pledges to support each other. Next week we will be meeting with a company to sync all of our two-way radios so that all of the neighbors can be notified immediately of any type of emergency like bush fires or crime. On Shikwaru and Blessman Ministry Campus we agreed to hire an armed security guard to patrol our area during the night.

At first when I left the group of farm neighbors discussing how to deal with this I was quite discouraged and even wondered why we are here giving our lives to help people who sometimes try to harm us. I prayed a great deal during the night and now have a peace in my heart that living and working here in Africa is still what God chooses for me to be doing. He has always protected us and will continue to do so. He gave me plan that if we get photo ID name badges for all of our workers at Shikwaru and Blessman Ministries so that we all know who is supposed to be on the campus and who is not. Also with the security guards one on Shikwaru side and one on our side who will now have weapons and radios.   With the addition of a trained security dog I will feel safe again and know that my family and guests will be safe. This is the same path that most of South Africa has taken to keep them safe. It is frustrating that it has come to us even up in our rural area, but it is just part of living and working here in Africa at this time.

10504997_10152134866861017_3644887285798347836_oBeth is flying in later tonight and I am so happy that our time apart is nearly finished. Also our oldest daughter Christy is coming along for her first trip to Africa. I was always a bit disappointed that my parents never made it over here to see the great work that we are doing but now at least all of our children will have been here to see what we are doing and to work alongside us.

Our church plants are both doing well. Our newest one needs to mature and grow a bit but I can see that happening over the next year. We are busy this week putting a new ceiling in the church sanctuary, which is also the main school classroom. Dustin and Matt will be building a new large steel cross for the church. The cross will be 20 feet high, lighted with solar lights and will also have a nicely painted church sign to make people more aware of the church. 1016917_627803730325_8903651673034499440_nWe have sorted out getting interpreters for the church and still need to sort out transportation up and down our farm road. At our farmer’s union meeting last night I learned that there are 104 farms up and down our tar road. Each farm has 5-10 workers so lots of people live in our neighborhood, and with proper marketing and transportation many of them will be coming to our newest church.

Likely the most exciting thing that has happened in the last couple of weeks is that I found a small 80-acre farm just 15 minutes drive from our home at Shikwaru. We are looking to purchase this for our ministry. It has an old farmhouse that could also function as our youth hostel for the next year or so until we have funds to build a nicer one. The farm was formerly used to raise chickens but has some nice grass areas and also tillable land for grain farming. One amazing surprise is that it also has a pond that was formerly used for fish farming. I am currently having our attorney check the property for land claims and any problems we might run into. I am thinking that this farm will be a great experimental farm to teach small holder African farmers how to farm with chickens, live stock, fish, vegetables and wild game. We will partner with Iowa State University, University of Pretoria and the South African agriculture department of the government to use it as an extension or training farm. Johanney our current farm manager would move there and continue to manage our smaller farm at Del Cramer by visiting a couple of days a week to continue supervising our farmers cooperative there.

10443522_10154444934200347_388460551356191976_nFor the last 4 weeks our intern from ISU and the other students here have had a good time working everyday with the children at Del Cramer Children’s Campus. Most all of our teams get to work at Del Cramer for a day or two but these students are having an opportunity to develop deep and lasting friendships with these children by going there every day. Both the children and students love it. Nate Davis, our student from ISU, has been great help in improving the hygiene and cooking programs in our kitchen at the Del Cramer Feeding program as well as working with me on completing the water grant and other farming programs. His work here has been a special blessing to our ministry and me.

We are also busy building an additional chicken house for layers at Del Cramer. We have been looking at doing this for about 12 months now and it is good that we are finally getting it finished. In this new building we will also have a small broiler processing plant. We have ordered a stunner, a scalder and a feather-plucking machine so that we can add value to the broilers that we sell. Most of our current customers prefer to purchase their chickens live but some of the nearby schools prefer to have their chickens processed. For the last couple of years we have successfully raised 800 to 1000 broilers on a continuous basis.

The winter season is a bit dreary and much of our farming is on hold just like in Iowa. In our greenhouses we are planting some spinach and new tomato plants even during this cold season.

This last week I was able to sit with our bookkeeper and accountant to assess the profit and loss of all seven of our microenterprise programs. All of these businesses are new yet they are at a near break-even point after just one year. I am confident that our farming programs, sewing and construction all have good potential to help sustain our ministry.

This week I am also hiring a new director of fund raising and development for all of our African operations. My goal for some time now has been to find sustainable ways of raising more of our funds here in Africa and this will move us toward that goal. He will not be starting with us until October. He has volunteered with us off and on for the last three years.

10556471_10154444934750347_7790818757444017442_nThis week the team will run an international leadership academy, a program developed by Reaching a Generation that trains up high school students through the church to become the future leaders of South Africa. We will be training 30 students this week, 10 from each of three schools along with two teachers from each school. These same students will return for a one-week camp with us each year for the next four years. Jacques and RAG have operated this program for the last five years and this is the first time for us to run our own program. René and Dustin along with Pastor Jonathan are managing this.

Nathan and I have spent several hours the last two weeks finalizing our large matching rotary grant to provide wells for 13 rural schools here. It is finally nearing completion. We should have our first wells drilled by January. This is a large project with lots of work for us but it will bring incredible benefit for thousands of children and adults here in rural South Africa. We have put together an excellent team with the Rotary Club of Polokwane. On this team we have a private water geologist, a sanitation and waste water professor from the University of Limpopo and another lady who works for the municipalities here, managing their water treatment.

René and I have also been doing lots of work paving the way for us to bring one of our children from Del Cramer to Iowa for a one-year rotary youth exchange program. She wants to be a doctor and without this opportunity her chances of accomplishing that goal seem nearly impossible. DSC05264We hope to have her go to Winterset, IA for 12 months starting in January as a rotary partnership between the Mokopane and the Winterset, IA club. It is always a joy to be helping feed 7000 children every day but sometimes my greatest joy comes from helping just one child at a time. This opportunity will be an absolute life changing experience for her.

 

 

 

 

President’s Blog- June 28, 2014

Posted on: July 8, 2014

 

 

Our last team from Lutheran Church of Hope finished well and is back in the States.  Being a team of mostly young people under the age of 25, they wore me out but a lot was accomplished.  Katheryn Haun was a joy to work with as a veteran team leader. For most of the team their favorite day was doing an optical ministry in a rural tribal village where we received a traditional African welcome.

 

 

I have enjoyed spending more time with our Iowa State student interns this week.  Nate and Dustin got the area for our new greenhouses measured, and we had an electric fencing company come to give us a quote on a fence that is advertised to help keep monkeys out.  They are a constant battle here at Shikwaru where our new farm expansion is planned.  We have battled a bit with rats on our farm at Del Cramer particularly around the chicken feed so we are planning to add a couple more cats to help us there. 

 

This week Dustin, Nate and I were working with some Catholic nuns at the school for the blind.  They have some cats that they would like for us to take away.  We tried our best to catch them with some fresh cream and lots of coaxing.  After getting scratched a couple of times we gave up and returned another day with gloves and a bigger box.

The same day we enjoyed delivering 40 dozen eggs to several different centers feeding both adults and children.  One of the most interesting was a soup kitchen at the Catholic Cathedral where we helped crack, stir, and cook a 90-egg omelet to help feed 80 gentlemen.  Rotary friends from Mokopane generously provided the eggs.

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Today I had a meeting with our ambassadors Matt and Jacinda Shields who have been pastoring our newest church plant here.  They have done an excellent job and I have enjoyed working with them.  Jacinda has been great help with our sewing business as well.  They have the church off to a strong start.

On Tuesday evening we had a long committee meeting with several rotary members helping me finish up our water project grant to drill 13 wells in rural schools in our province.  We have two incredibly gifted members on our water committee who are water geologists: one teaches at the University of Limpopo and the other works for municipality assuring high water quality standards are met. I had written most of the grant myself and we got a lot of good ideas to add to it from this meeting.  One concern the committee had was that we may run into more than my projected two dry holes, and they had an idea that we could find some schools that already have a well that needs some repair like a new pump or tank stand.  A big part of this grant is to find sustainable ways to keep up with the repairs and maintenance of the water projects that we do.  My original thought was that each school could sell some of the water to the surrounding village and use these funds to keep the wells running properly.  Many on the committee were concerned that this idea would only work in a few of the schools so we came up with other ideas of ways the schools can raise money. One is growing vegetables with irrigation and then selling them to fund the water project.  One of the committee members had worked on another project where they helped the schoolchildren sell toilet paper as a fundraiser. It is a needed product and promotes good hygiene. I am excited to get this grant complete before I have to head back to the States in a month. I also hope to work on our farming grant that we are doing with the other rotary club in Polokwane.  It is so nice to have our ISU agriculture and food science student intern here to help with both of these grants.

It is the longest period of time that I have had to be separated from my life partner, Beth, and I have been missing her lots. We always have a number of sticky issues to deal with and the last two weeks have been a bit stressful.  Beth provides a nice soft balance to my type-A, get things done now personality.  It will be nice to get her back here, and I am sure that my entire staff will appreciate her being back with me as well.

President’s Blog- June 21, 2014

Posted on: June 27, 2014

Getting our Feet Back on the Ground

 

Doc&girlsI have been back here in South Africa just over a week now and I am still getting my feet back on the ground. I love getting back to America now and again and reconnecting with my friends and family back there, but I always feels that the momentum slows down a bit here in Africa when I am away.

 

This week I was able to meet with a couple of gentlemen who will be assisting us with Hope Church, our newest plant. One of them is the director of the nearby water treatment plant and he has agreed to supply us with 5,000 liters of free water each month to irrigate our garden at the school and church. Our commitment is to supply a water storage tank and tank stand that Maxwell already has installed. Johanney will put down the drip irrigation lines to irrigate the gardens in the most water conservative way.  Hopefully we can start planting the garden soon. The assistant supervisor at this water treatment plant is also a Godly man and has agreed to come on Sunday mornings with his wife and help us with translation of our services into Sepedi which is the local tribal language.  Lack of an interpreter has been a limiting factor in the growth of the church. An additional blessing of our visit to the water treatment plant is that the director is willing to transport some of his employees to church each Sunday. He is supportive of helping all of his employees with their faith and even has a prayer meeting with his staff at the beginning of each day.

 

René and I are enjoying our current team from Lutheran Church of Hope. Included with this team are youth and adults from other churches in Iowa and Missouri. They are working hard and having a great experience. Today they are at the school building where we have Hope Church and are cleaning the schoolrooms. We know that it is important for our ministry to be a blessing to the school that is letting us use their building for free. We plan over the next month or so to do some carpentry work, put in LED lights, and a new drop ceiling as well.

 

This week we have experienced a couple of days of electrical load shedding where the power company turns off the power to our entire area for about 3 hours. There is tremendous concern in our country that the electrical generating capacity of our power plants cannot keep up with the needs. I had a meeting with a contractor who does solar plants for small businesses and farms to see if we can make ourselves more independent of the electrical grid.  Current electrical cost here are already about 3 times what it is in the US and rising rapidly, so it looks to be cost effective to be able to generate at least some of our own power. There is not enough wind here for wind generators but solar should work well. We had the misfortune of the solar panels for our Hy-Vee pump being stolen, so we are busy getting those replaced as well.

 

This team from Lutheran Church of Hope has enjoyed the usual activities of helping us feed our children at Del Cramer Children’s Campus and also helping them with some religious studies and educational training. They spent a couple of days doing that and also two days doing optical clinics. The first optical clinic was in a tribal village high school near Del Cramer, and a second day in a rural tribal village in Siyabusua, Mpumalanga about a 2-hour drive from Shikwaru. It seems like a long drive with all of the needs in our immediate area but it is well worth it for our teams to get to experience the lives of the Africans living in such a remote area. We received a traditional African welcome by the entire community including the village chief.  It was our 3rd or 4th visit there and they really appreciate us bringing our teams and serving them. We gave glasses to more than 150 people, most of them older adults who have lived their entire lives and never had the opportunity to have a pair of eyeglasses.

 

 

walkwithlionsHallieMorrisYesterday we did our usual walk with the lions that has become a favorite of all of our teams.  We also visited a school for the blind just outside of Polokwane. This is rapidly becoming one of our favorite ministry partners. It is a Catholic supported school and they have about 500 students where the sighted and blind students attend school together.  For several months now we have been supplying the rice packets to help them with their feeding program. The Rotary that I attend also helps them with their school music program. Yesterday our team simply helped the school with lawn work.  They enjoyed visiting with the blind students while they worked. In January we are planning to bringing a large team to help teach English skills to the students and also to help them with their music education.

 

While we were there we visited their craft area, where even adult blind people are working with the students to create beautiful wicker furniture, baskets, and other gifts. Their quality is excellent and they told us they have a difficult time marketing the things they make.  We are busy in the States revitalizing our website and will add an Internet store to our site where we can sell our textile items. I am thinking that we could also transport some smaller baskets and wicker products that this school is making to help them sell them.

 

 

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Last evening our team also visited Northern Academy and were blessed by 1,000 children singing praise and worship songs at the top of their lungs. I always sense that this is much like what we will experience in Heaven. These are middle and high school age children and their message last night was on relationships between boys and girls. It was an excellent Christian message on this important topic for young people.  The children were quite attentive and seemed to agree with all that the pastor was teaching them.  It was a long day starting at 5:00 AM and bedtime at 10:00 PM but most thought it was one of the best days of their lives. It is such a joy for me to help American team members experience these life-changing experiences.

On Monday we will be taking this team to Mantadi Child and Youth Shelter (Anna’s) where they always enjoy interacting with her 25 children. We are nearly ready to construct the memorial to honor the 3 children, who were murdered in that community back in August, 2012. It will be a beautiful wooden tree with names of donors on the leaves.

 

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Tuesday on their way back to the airport we will take them by the Elephant Adventures where they will do a safari on elephant back, another favorite experience of our mission teams.

 

It has been a bit of a struggle for René and me to host this team without Beth and Dustin but overall it has gone well. We are both excited that Dustin will be arriving back here on Tuesday. He has completed his commercial flight certification and we hope to soon be partnering with Reaching a Generation on purchasing a plane.

President’s Blog – April 13, 2014

Posted on: April 15, 2014
Doc & Betty Sailboating

Dr. Jim Blessman with his 91 year old mother, Betty.

With this week being sibling week, and with today being my sister’s birthday, this has gotten me to thinking about how much I have been blessed with a great sister, and how much I appreciate her. She is doing a wonderful job caring for our mother while I keep myself busy working here in South Africa. I love my job here in Africa but there are times that I miss fellowship with friends and family back in America. We are headed back to the land that I love tomorrow and I am excited to be going back. We are looking forward to welcoming our newest grandchild into the world in about one month. In addition, I am saving one weekend to visit our three grandchildren in California, and I hope to spend one week sailing in Stockton, Missouri.

We also have a large fundraising gala event at the World Food Prize building on May 8 and I am looking forward to that. I will also be speaking at a couple of district rotary conferences and several churches over the six weeks while I am back in the states.

2011

Dr. Jim & Beth Blessman

Now that I have gotten a bit older, each time that I leave Africa I pray that God will permit me to return and continue the work He has called me to do. I have been reflecting on some of the things that we have been able to accomplish over the last 4 months here. One of the more important things to me is that we have begun the process of Dustin and René taking over the leadership of our ministry. There are many pieces of our ministry and hopefully the Lord will permit me to continue working here for some time with a gradual transition. I feel that we have a good start on the process. René is managing our pilot feeding project at the Del Cramer Children’s Campus and at the same time managing our feeding programs nationwide. Dustin is managing all things physical such as fish farming, the well drilling project, and vehicle and equipment maintenance. Both are working to develop policies to make BMI more efficient as we get more employees.

Dustin&Rene

Dustin & Rene’ Blessman

As I think about what we have accomplished during the last 4 months, feeding 7000 children every day Monday through Friday always comes to mind. We have not increased the number of children that we are feeding for the last year. The important thing that we have been doing is improving the quality of our child development program associated with our feeding program and the quality of the data we receive about the children in our feeding program.

Another significant accomplishment this season here in Africa is that we hosted approximately 100 people so far who stayed with us for 2 weeks each from America. Most of them came on short-term mission teams. We also had our first 4 guests here on our new Vacation with a Purpose teams. In addition we had our first large rotary team here that was essentially a Vacation with a Purpose type team. We are learning the reality and the hard work of keeping 100 guests happy and feeling like the experience they have while they are here meets their expectations. Our favorite ministry experience for our team members remains working with the orphan and vulnerable children, and doing the optical outreaches where they can develop a one-on-one relationship with some of our people here in Africa.

 

Short term missions team members from February 2014

Short term missions team members from February 2014

Our medical student exchange program continues to go well with about 15 students coming over the last 4 months. I am excited that we were able to add an obstetric rotation to that program where the students can actually be the primary doctor delivering babies. Our second student delivered 4 babies in her one week rotation.

One of the most satisfying accomplishments of the last 4 months has been getting our second church plant up and running well. More importantly, we are learning a model of how to successfully plant churches here in our area of South Africa. Our newest church was planted in a rural school building and that is working well. That same model should be able to be repeated many times. We will just have to find high quality national African pastors to head up these new churches. Matt Shields, an American seminary graduate is heading up our newest church plant and is doing an excellent job. At our first church, Lighthouse Christian Church, we were able to baptize five new believers on Palm Sunday.

Hope Church Cross and Prayer from Jacinda Shields

“On Thursday, April 10, 2014, a Blessman Ministries, Inc. team put up this cross at Hope Christian Church. On Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014, the church walked out to pray at the foot of our new cross and reflect upon the Holy Week journey that our Savior took toward His cross.”
Photo courtesy of Jacinda Shields, caption courtesy of Pastor Matt Shields

Our well-drilling project of getting safe drinking water in rural schools is nearly ready to launch, in that we have completed the grant application. Dustin has also made good progress in getting our fish-farming project ready to launch. He has had some good meetings with the Department of Agriculture who are interested in partnering with us.

Dustin with Ag folks

Dustin meeting with the Department of Agriculture in South Africa. Photo courtesy of Sara Anderson.

Maxwell has also done a good job in getting our block making business going now that we have completed building our campuses at Shikwaru and Del Cramer. We have one pastor who has ordered 30,000 blocks. Hopefully he will follow through and actually purchase these blocks to build his new church.

One thing that sticks out in my mind right now is how blessed we are by many wonderful friends who have come to Africa to serve with us and to pray for us and to financially support the work we are doing. We are truly grateful for each and every one of you.

President’s Blog- March 29, 2014

Posted on: March 31, 2014

This has been a difficult week.  I fully anticipated that this week would be a bit easier as we sent all of our guests back to the States.  We enjoyed our time with Mark Cramer’s family and letting them experience what our lives here in Africa are like.  Tom Raatz and Bud Paine from central Iowa were able to get our security cameras up and running which will give our campus an even more secure feeling.

Fish Farming:  This week Dustin and I met with some of the agricultural leaders to access their assistance with our fish farming program.  We drove a couple of hours to visit a fish farm over near Marble Hall.  The agriculture department here has lots of interest in fish farming; Zuma president of SA even paid a visit to this same farm last year.  We unfortunately learned that we must get an environmental study and a license to do the fish farming.  We have started that process and hopefully are getting a good business foundation as well as all of the physical things we must get ready.  We were hoping to have fish in our cages this week but now must wait another couple of weeks.

Meeting with Chief:  The chief called me for a meeting this week and I usually enjoy spending time with him and sense a lot of support from him.  This meeting was not so pleasant in that he is telling me that a group of people in his community are requesting a meeting with us to ask for money for the property that the chief gave us 3 years ago.  We had given the chief a nice financial gift when he gave us the property, as is custom, so this would be double dipping which is common here, especially when the Africans think they can get money from us Americans.  It is a bit discouraging that these requests and encounters seem to have no end in sight.  The Del Cramer Children’s Campus does so much good for the community especially in helping the kids there that it is a bit ridiculous for the adults to continue acting like they are upset at us for not helping them with additional jobs or money.  We routinely provide good paying jobs for about 15 people.

Pastor Mark heading for the States:  On Thursday Mark advised us that he was physically feeling so bad that he thought that he needed to be back in the hospital in the States so he took an emergency flight back home.  The same thing had just happened to him last October.  His health is a major concern and living in Africa is much more difficult that living in the States.  We have lots of dust here and many alarming infections especially TB.  The days can also be long and exhausting.  Please be praying for him and his family.

Dustin attacked:  On Friday our son Dustin was in Pretoria at the home affairs office working on his long term visa and was attacked by 4 men trying to rob him.  One of them grabbed him around the neck from behind and another was banishing a knife in his face.  Dustin fought back and was able to escape and even got away with his cell phone, billfold and backpack—all things the robbers were trying to steal from him.  Attacks like this are way too common in the big cities, but this was the first time it has happened to anyone on our team.  Our team and especially our family feels personally violated but vow to continue the good work that God has called us to do.  We are so thankful that God protected him from serious injury.

One on One Ministry Opportunity:  I was able to go out into some of the townships and do some one-on-one ministry to families in severe need this week.  We met one family of 6, a granny, her daughter, and four orphans and/or vulnerable children that she was carrying for.  They were completely out of food and when I did an examination on the 3 month old baby (Joseph) it was obvious that he was severely malnourished.  At 3 months old he weighs only around 4 pounds.  At first I was thinking that the problem was malnutrition as his mother (Lizzy), who was breast feeding him, was not getting enough food.  On a second visit I became more concerned as the child was lethargic and coughing and is likely ill from a disease such as AIDS or TB both of which are common in this township.  I was able to convince the mother of the importance of taking the child to the clinic.  On the same day we visited another home where there was a 104 year old lady living and being cared for by her daughter.  They were also completely out of food and the daughter had been praying for some rice.  We were able to bless them with a couple of boxes of the Meals from the Heartland rice packets.  This family reminded me so much of my own mother and sister who is caring for her.

Fire in Township:  A couple of days later we heard that there was a fire in one of the homes in the township and the family had lost everything.  Fortunately we have a nice supply of clothing, blankets, and food for situations such as this.  It was a great joy this week to be able to take time to get into the villages and do this type of one on one ministering.  It is a whole different experience than being part of a larger ministry feeding thousands of children each day.  Both are good and important for us to be doing, but I prefer the personal experience in the trenches of ministering to just a few people at any one time.  Opportunities like this always bring joy back into my heart.

New Obstetric Rotation:  This coming week we will be starting a new rotation for our medical students in the Mokopane Hospital.  They will be working in OB and should get to deliver some babies themselves.  In this hospital most of the deliveries are done by midwives and they will be great teachers for our students.  It turns out that the head of this department is our neighbor and lives on the next farm down the road from Shikwaru.

New Church:  We had a cleanup day at our new church to make the property look much nicer and be a blessing to the school that is letting us use the building on weekends.  We are still doing the movie night each Saturday evening and church on Sunday mornings.  This weekend was our 4th week to do services here and the church is getting off to a solid start.

This coming week we also have Dustin, Rene’ and Pastor Jonathan going to the Free State to do a training so that we can host a leadership academy for teens in July.  It is a great program and I will write more of that as we get closer to actually doing the program.

Special Report from Dr. Blessman

Posted on: March 27, 2014

The Joy of Ministering to Children in Africa

Meal Time AFter Church

Have you ever been in a funk?  I was in a funk the last couple of days and the overwhelming sense of despair and discouragement just wouldn’t leave me.   I was cranky and everyone around me knew it and gave me lots of space.  The burden of leading a large ministry and worrying about keeping all of the bills paid had finally got me down.  I have been a full time medical missionary for the last 13 years and most days my heart was always full of joy.  As a physician I have learned that you cannot always be on a high emotionally and if your highs are too high, you are cruising for a crash.  Serving the Lord and helping people here in Africa has been a good formula to keep my heart full of joy but recent leadership issues, staff issues and concern over funding was getting to me.  Our ministry continues to feed over 7,000 children every day and I am pretty good at trusting God to take care of the finances if I just continue to pray and do the work he has called me to do.  I could sense that our staff was concerned about me and how the ministry was doing.  My family was concerned about me and we had lots of talks and prayers about leading the ministry.

Today I was able to get back to the fundamental calling that God has put on my heart and go out into the African village and serve the widows and orphans.  There have been recent flooding in our area causing a relatively small disaster with a few deaths and many people being displaced from their homes.  I knew that there must be something that our ministry could do to help but became frustrated as I started looking for an organized disaster relieve effort to join in with.  I called the fire department in one of the affected communities and they told me of a few things that they had been doing but reported that they did not sense any great need for food or clothing which I was offering to them.  I next called a local rotary club representative to ask what the rotary was doing and they had also rallied and spent a day helping the flood victims but he did not sense that there would be much for us to do if we drove the couple hours to this area.

Flooding Damage Flooding Road

I then called my good friend Matome Mckwella who is head of the Waterberg Social Development Department.  He indeed was aware of great need and appreciated my offer to bring help.  He however was not able to get free from his busy schedule until Thursday, which was 4 days later.  Once Thursday arrived, I was able to spend the day with my good friend and just he and I went into one of the African villages that he knew was in great need.  In his regular work he had ran across a couple of families who particularly spoke to his heart.  Beth was busy taking her brother and his family back to the airport in Johannesburg so Dustin and Rene’ helped me pack my vehicle full of clothes and food to donate to people in need.

I love working with Matome because as a social worker, he has such wisdom in assisting people in need and helping them in a way that is truly helpful and honoring to them.  I read a good book a year ago “When Helping Hurts”.  Especially us Americans see a problem and think our money, or a bit of food or clothing with fix things.  It is always so much more complicated than that, but there are definitely ways that we can help people around us who are hurting and we must do that.  My friend Matome has been under a bit of pressure lately in his job and we shared our war stories of how it is often lonely at the top leadership position of a company, government department, or ministry.  We both discussed how our jobs are not to be our staff’s friends but to effectively lead them in a way that the ministry can be effective and accomplish what God has called us to do.  All of the administrative tasks and leadership decisions were taking their toll on both of us and it was good to get our “hands dirty and work in the trenches” today.

We drove to a rural village township just outside of a community by the name of Vaalwater, Limpopo.  It looked to me like the township had about 10,000 people living in shacks.  The streets back in the township were nearly impassable due to the recent flooding but we finally came to the first home that my friend wanted to visit.  He had stopped by their house over the weekend as part of his job and had seen how much they were suffering.  The head of this home was the grandmother Marie.  Her daughter Lizzy was living with her and she has 2 small children, one just an infant.  She was busy breast feeding this child during our entire visit.  There was not man or husband in the home and 3 other orphans or vulnerable children were living there.  There were 8 family members total living in this small house.  The grandmother was receiving a government pension, and three of the orphan children were also receiving grants from the government, but it was still not enough to even purchase food for this family and they were really suffering.  There was not electricity or running water for their home, they had to use candles to light the small shack at night.  They all slept on a couple of mattresses on the floor of the home.  There was a small area outside the home where they would build a fire to cook on.

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I spent several minutes just visiting with Marie telling her about my family and our ministry and how God has called us to come and help people in Africa like her and her family.  It was amazing to me that God had called us to this one house in a village of hundreds of shacks much like hers.  We were not there to try and help everyone just a few people.  That is how God often works.  She then explained her situation to me, all of this through an interpreter.  Fortunately my fiend has great English skills and also speaks their African language.  I then asked her if I could pray with her and ask God to provide for her and help her.  We then walked back to our vehicle and brought blankets, clothing, toiletries, and food.  She could not stop smiling and was so appreciative of the help we were giving her.  I then asked her if she would be okay if I took some photos of her and her family and their home.  She was quite happy to have her photo taken and it was then that I noticed how small the infant was that had been breast feeding.  She looked like a premature baby just released from the hospital.  I asked Lizzy, the baby’s mother, how old the baby was and she told me the child is 3 months old.  With this news I became quite alarmed and asked if I could hold the baby and examine her just a bit.  The baby did not appear to weigh over 4 pounds which is critical malnutrition at 3 months of age.  I wanted so much to just bring the baby and her mother home with me and begin helping her to care for it.  However, after 25 years of marriage I have learned that this is the type of decision one must consult with their spouse before proceeding.  I could not wait to get home this evening and tell Beth the story of the severe need Matome and I found and how I thought that we should get involved and help out.  I am concerned that if we do not help this child that she will surely die.  I am concerned that she may not survive even if we start helping soon.  After we as a family spoke of the need and prayed for the child, we feel at peace with our decision to go back to this village as soon as Matome can join us and try to convince Lizzy and her baby to come home with for a short period of time to improve the baby’s nutrition.

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Matome then took me to a second home that he had visited last weekend and we found similar suffering.  This family lived in a bit nicer home that even had electricity.  There was a lady living in this home who was 104 years old and her 38 year old daughter was caring for her.  There was the older lady her daughter and husband living there and no one had a job and they had just ran out of food.  Their last meal had been simply dry rice and the daughter told me that she had been praying for more rice.  They stated that they would have to wait until April 3rd to buy food after the grandmother received her government grant.  I then sat with her and prayed with her for God to provide for them.  I was then able to walk out to our vehicle and bring in a box of rice packets from Meals from the Heartland and give them.  It will be enough food for

them to eat for the next several days.  The older lady reminded me so much of my own mom and I explained to the daughter that my sister was also busy carrying for my mom in America.

104 lady

Matome and I then got back into our vehicle and I thanked my friend for the best day I have had this year.  My despair and crankiness has completely lifted and my heart if full of joy again.

He and I are both now ready to go back and lead our organizations to help thousands of people but sometimes we have to go back to the basics and help just one, two or three people to really sense why God has called us to do the work we are doing.

God never promised us wealth, happiness, good health or safety but the best formula for filling your heart with joy is to reach out and help others as we see and feel their need.

The greatest commandment in the Bible is to love God with all your heart and all of your soul. 

The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor.

 

President’s Blog – March 15th, 2014

Posted on: March 20, 2014

Photo by Mark Bettinger

Photo by Mark Bettinger

Our lives here in Africa continue to be eventful and nearly every day is full of adventure.

Des Moines University Medical School Partnership:

This last 2 weeks we have had Dr. Yogi Shah visiting with us, renewing our agreements with the medical school here in Limpopo.  That program is now about 5 years old and continues to run smoothly with over 60 medical students successfully trained in a one month clinical rotation here in Africa. The students always give us lots of positive feedback about their clinical experience here where they are trained to diagnosis and treat manydisease that they would rarely ever see in America.  They all spend one week in an AIDS clinic,one week in the emergency room and one week in a primary care clinic with oneoptional week in a specialty of their interest.

While Yogi was here we were able to add a high quality obstetric rotation that will permit the students to deliver several babies. That rotation will be in the Mokopane Hospital near our base here at Shikwaru.  Nearly all of the babies here are delivered by midwives and they will be great teachers for our students and the students will actually be able to deliver some babies themselves.  In America this is quite rare because nearly all of the clinical rotations are in private hospitals and the patients and doctors there are not willing to permit students to deliver their babies.  It turns out that the head of the OB department at the Mokopane Hospital is our neighbor at Shikwaru and he is willing to give our students a ride to and from the hospital each day.  Things often move slowly here in Africa, but fortunately we will be able to start this program with the students arriving here this weekend.

New Catholic Partnerships:

This last week we hosted Keith and Eileen Denner from West Des Moines and they were here doing a site visit to prepare themselves to lead the St. Francis short term mission team in September of this year. We enjoyed visiting potential outreach sites for their team.  For the last 5 years we have worked with the Catholic Pastoral Center just 10 miles south of Shikwaru.  We visited the priest there and he let us know that they would be happy to offer mass to our Catholic visitors any time that was needed.  We also visited the large Cathedral in Polokwane and the priest and bishop there.  There were also 3 nuns living at a convent on the Cathedral campus.  Everyone we met was quite friendly and excited to hear of our interest in working with them.

They guided us to a school for the blind in Polokwane where we heard an amazing story of how they were running low on food to feed their 600 children and had been praying for God to provide for them.  We had 10 boxes of the rice packets provided to us by Meals from the Heartland in our Land Cruiser and were able to bless them with that.  We also learned that the Polokwane rotary club has been assisting this school for the last 10 years.  They helped them to build a beautiful music school.  There are 600 students in this school and it is particularly interesting in that they integrate sighted students side by side with the blind students.  Their campus is beautiful and with lots of high quality staff helping these students, it was also obvious that they could still use lots of assistance.  Beth and I fell in love with this place and I am sure that we will bringing many of our teams there to help them.  Eileen has special gifts with music and is particularly interested in helping train their music students.  It is amazing to me how God continues to open doors like this to us.

Fish Farming & Water Purification:

Beth’s brother Mark is a water engineer; he and his family are visiting us this week to assist Dustin in moving our fish farming program forward.  Today they will be putting pvc pipes together to hold our fish cages suspended from our dock system.  Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will be ready to order our fingerlings.  Our Hy Vee-Water project continues to function well.  While Mark is here I would like to explore adding a water purification system to that. Our water is drawn from a well and is acceptable for drinking, but adding the water purification will be a nice addition.

Security Camera Updates:

Also, this week we have 2 men visiting from central Iowa to set up video security cameras on our campus here at Shikwaru.  We are also adding a new entrance gate to the estate housing side of Shikwaru.  All of these new systems will make our home campus more secure and at the same time visitor and guests friendly.

Flooding:

It has been raining nearly every day for the last 3 weeks and there is now reports of flooding in several areas of our Limpopo Province.  Maxwell got our big dump truck stuck at theDel Cramer Campus earlier this week, but other than that we have not had any bad effects of the flooding.

There are, however, reports of great need in some of the nearby communities where the flooding has been severe.  One dam has burst and 2 others are at risk.  My friend from the social development department called me to see if we could provide some emergency food relief which we will be helping with that this week.  There have also been reports of several deaths.  One high end resort in Bela Bela was completly swept away in the flood waters and 2 people swimming in a pool were swept away and drowned.  We do not have TV here on our campus and get sparse news reports, but will be checking for ways that our ministry can be of help.

New Church Plant:

We had our first service at Hope Christian Church last Sunday.  55 people were in attendance and we had a birthday celebration to celebrate the birth of the new church.  Everyone seemed to have a good time and appreciate having a church right here in their own neighborhood.  The church is located in a country school that has only 11 students. The school administration and teachers also seem to appreciate us adding all of this activity to their school.  We hope to help the school by starting a garden to help them feed their students fresh vegetables.  We are also providing the school with some of our rice packets.

This school is pretty much neglected by the government school system that usually provides food for the children. On Saturday nights we are providing a free movie for the neighborhood as well.  Right now we are showing a series called The Bible.

Last night as we tried to have our movie at church the power was off, so we all sat in the dark and shared our testimonies and praised and worshiped the Lord.  In America many people would have went home angry and discouraged that there was no movie. Our African friends made the best of it and enjoyed a great evening praying and worshiping the Lord.

Talent & Rejoice are employees for BMI & Shikwaru. They were able to attend the Saturday evening movie night, turned prayer service.

Talent & Rejoice are employees for BMI & Shikwaru.
They were able to attend the Saturday evening movie night, turned prayer service.
We just returned from our second Sunday morning service and 75 people showed up for church.  Every seat was full.  We are still looking for a keyboard player so all of our music was without music or drums, but it was still beautiful and people sang and danced to their hearts content. The hall we are having church in will hold another 25 people so we will be purchasing some additional chairs for our expected growth.  It will soon be time for us to separate that adult and children’s church services. Jacques and Lizzy did a great job helping us get our children’s church going at Lighthouse Christian Church and they have also offered to help us with our new church.  I am praying that they will be able to help us soon.

President’s Blog – March 6th, 2014

Posted on: March 13, 2014

The birth of a new church:  Today was the first service at our new church “Hope Christian Church” near our home base at Shikwaru Game Lodge.  I remember Beth saying 2 years ago that the day we opened the church at Del Cramer was the best day of her life, other than the days that our children were born.  I had a very similar feeling today as I sat in church.  It is an amazing thing to be present at the birth of one of Christ’s Churches.

 

 

Keith & Eileen Denner were present with us, and Eileen, a trained opera singer, sang at the service “Give Me Jesus”.  She also sang Happy Birthday to our new church. We also had Simba from Shikwaru playing on keyboard and 3 beautiful African ladies singing in our choir.  Pastor Matt Shields preached and started a new series from Romans.

 

 

Fifty-five people were present for this first service and we received good feed back from all of them.  We purchased 75 chairs for this new church and I am thinking we will soon need more.  About 20 people came forward at the end of the service for prayer.  Last night we had our first movie night at our new church and showed the first of a series called The Bible.   Thirty-six people enjoyed the movie and popcorn. I cannot imagine a better start than we have had.

This week I also enjoyed hosting Dr. Yogi Shah, the director of the Global Studies program at Des Moines University Medical.  We had success in renewing our memorandum of understanding with the Provincial Hospital and the University of Limpopo. We also made good progress toward opening up a new obstetric rotation for our students at the hospital here in Mokopane.  It seems to me like this could be the best obstetric rotation available to the whole DMU medical school.  In America, the private doctors and patients are not willing to permit the students to deliver their babies, but here in this public hospital they will be able to deliver lots of babies.  This program will put a bit more pressure on our housing needs and push us to get our new youth hostel built.

We made many new contacts with the Catholic communities here in Limpopo this week as we were showing Keith and Eileen Denner around. We enjoyed meeting with a couple of priests and the Bishop of the Polokwane Diocese.  The best new thing that we found was a school for the blind that is ran by some of the nuns near Polokwane.

They have 500 students, some low sighted and some blind. It is a nice program integrating the blind students with sited students.  We were especially impressed with a music therapy program that they are running.  It was nice to see that one of the rotary clubs in Polokwane is already supportive of this school.  The nuns had been praying before we arrived for God to provide food for their students. A donor had been providing corn meal for them to use and it had just ran out.  The department of education formerly also helped to provide food for them, but that is no longer available.  Then, we showed up with several boxes of the Meals From the Heartland rice packets!  Eileen got some great photos of the nun’s expression as we told them that we would be providing them with food on an ongoing basis.

 

 

I am still a bit frustrated with the slowness of us getting our water project-matching grant done with the rotary.  Fortunately, this week I was able to get access to doing our own application.  So now at least the ball is in our court to get this done.

We enjoyed having McKenzie and Jill here from our American staff on the last team.  They were quite helpful in getting some videos and stories of our work here to help us do a better job of telling the story of what our ministry is doing here.

Next week Beth’s brother Mark and his family are coming to work with us.  He is a water engineer and will be helpful at helping us with our well project, water purification project and fish farm.  We also have a couple of experts from America coming to help us install some security cameras throughout our campus near Shikwaru.

Dustin has stayed busy with his ground school to help him get his commercial pilot’slicense.  This has kept our fish farming program on hold as he has been in Johannesburg during the entire week over the last month.