Monday, September 1, 2008

Baby Esther

Esther. She is 9 months old and weighs just over 8 pounds. She was abandoned by her father after her mom died and was then brought to the local orphanage where I found her. We have brought her into our house to help her and love her. We would greatly appreciate your prayers for her and us as we struggle daily to bring her back to health.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"There is no despair as there is in Africa. No hope brighter than the hope of Africa. Africans have been waiting and hoping a very long time."
This quote was taken from a book by Eddy Harris an American journalist trying to see africa from the perspective of Africans in a year long journey from north to south. He was a black author but his blackness could not hide him in this continent. Yet through his journey across the continent he had some real insights into the culture, the climate and mostly the people. Waiting and hope is in the air we breathe and the water we drink. It is the substance that defines our existence, like a fish to water or an eagle to air. Waiting drags us down and hope sustains us.

In my trip to Dar Es Salaam I saw little of what I would call hope, but many opportunities for despair. First we went to the customs warehouse and saw the contents of our container spilled out into a pile next to the contents of several other containers awaiting a similar fate. The tough packing crates that we built and packed carefully into the container were gone and the contents laid bare. Even many smaller boxes were opened and contents dumped out. It was difficult to see what was there and what wasn't. The hours of work and thousands of dollars that went into packing and shipping the container flashed through my mind and I became angry with no vent to my anger. The Tanzanians who watched from behind a desk sat expressionless. The secretary of the church whom I traveled with still clung to the hope of releasing even this and was ready for the next stage.

The next stage brought us to an office building known as "the long room". We moved from the bottom floor to the top floor which had a balcony overlooking the room below. I was confused first by the name of the building because the room itself was more of a cube than it was long. The office building was hot and humid and though nobody appeared to be talking the room echoed in loud constant droning noises. I saw bright eyed men and women in blue and white shirts walk to the crowds surrounding the counters in no semblance of a line. Throughout the day these same hopeful ones would slump into the middle of the room where shoes were removed, and apparently backbones, as people melted in hard chairs to jellyfish. They had reached despair. A thought popped in my mind that if there is a purgatory it would look a lot like this room. The building was called the long room not because of its shape but rather because of the waiting. In another quote Eddy Harris said, "Lives here are shorter in time, but are infinitely long in the emptiness of days." For two days we repeated a cycle of going into offices in this building, being told to come back later and then tomorrow, and then later and then tomorrow. I left the general secretary for our church and received My dad, my father in law (Craig Apel) and Kevin Rigg at the airport. Besides coming to visit us they had come to lead a seminar for 40 of our pastors in Sumbawanga.

Throughout the week Method held out hope for returning home with the container and the remaining contents, while the pastors in Sumbawanga learned and grew in their understanding of the Bible and the role of leaders in the church. Kevin and Craig shared their lives as well as their knowledge and expertise and were then themselves blown away by the passion in which the pastors sang. Every pastor in that room has lived in the tension between despair and hope. Still waiting for the church to take hold in the lives of this country. Still hoping to rise above the infinite emptiness of time. despairing the stories of lives cut short in their congregations. Hoping for a future that does not resemble their present.

As Method returned from Dar he was still hopeful in recovering the container and its contents. Two days later that hope has sunk again into despair as the paperwork has officially and permanently become lost and needs to be re-filed from the beginning. Many have asked me about the container and I have been slow to respond because I keep waiting for news myself- still hopeful. If the container doesn't come construction will be more difficult but we will not let our hope sink that far into despair because watching and guiding us all throughout the process is a Father who loves us.

I will share more about our time with family and the continued progress of the building of our school. Keep us in your prayers.

In Him who provides hope from out of the despair,
The Zubers

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Catching the vision

The rainy season is ending. The tall green grass is fading along the mountainside to waves of brown. Wild flowers along with allergies are flaring up everywhere. Some have begun to harvest their crops, others have begun to burn fields to prepare for next seasons plantings. Most importantly for me is that the ends of the rains brings new opportunities to build our school. We have been waiting out the rains while traveling from church to church encouraging people here to raise money and work to build bricks for the next stage of our building process. In this stage, I am not asking for money from America. According to the agreement I made with the church, I would look for money to help build the secondary school in America but it was not going to be a project of the American churches only. It would require work, or money, or both from the Tanzanian church as well.

I have spent the last few months reminding churches of this agreement. At times this has been difficult. People share stories of how life has been hard this past year due to crop failures and family needs. Their complaints are legitimate. Life is difficult and the falling dollar has caused international prices for imports to change- especially with fuel costs and everything that comes here comes on large trucks. The shilling has lost ground even to the dollar and costs for everything have grown. But the benefits for the school will come to the Tanzanians and the Tanzanian church so it is important that they too contribute. We are not only offering charity but also building up people. In every stage of growth sacrifices must be made.

Last week though as I visited a local church it was announced that they were scheduling the youth of the church to build 60,000 bricks in a few weeks. Following this announcement, an elder from the church stood up in the middle of the service and said that it wasn't enough for the youth to build the bricks. Instead, the entire church should be there to build. Applause rose from the congregation and within my own soul. It is encouraging to me to know that the work we are doing out here is not only noticed and appreciated but also inspiring the local churches to contribute.

The well has been dug (50 feet dug by hand-tools), the ground is being prepared, and in a few short weeks I will be out on the field along with the entire Chanji church making bricks by hand. I don't know what I am doing but others will teach me. I am both part of the church here and part of the church in America. I find it important enough to contribute my money to the project, and as a member of the church here, I will give of my work also. Mostly, I will get in the way no doubt but my presence there means more than one more shovel to dig. It will show in a physical way that I belong here shoulder by shoulder as in the days of Nehemiah.

We appreciate your support both to us personally and to the building project here. Please pray for us as we break ground again and as we continue to raise support for the remaining stages of the building process!

Also we offer praise that Pat Apel (Becca's mom) has come to join us for 2 months and Keith Zuber (Chad's father), Craig Apel (Becca's father), and Kevin Rigg will be joining us for the month of May for a pastors conference and other ministries here. (Maybe I will get them digging with us as well!)

In Him who builds us up,
The Zubers

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lovely Kids

Well I get a lot of complaints from people about not sharing my kids with them. As you can see they are so beautiful it is easy to try and keep them to myself. Here are a few pictures though. You can see they are continuing to grow up. Zibby's (Elizabeth's) eyes in this picture show a bit of the brilliance that she holds inside them. Ian is wearing his favorite outfit (yes we found a Spiderman outfit here in the used clothes market. When he is not wearing that he is likely wearing a Buzz Lightyear one! Emma is trying to help Zibby walk. She is such a great sister to both of the kids- though sometimes tries to be more of a parent than sister. I have been reading the Narnia series with her each day- She begs and I cave easily so we often end up reading 3 chapters a day and are midway through the fourth book since coming back from Malawi in February.


The name of the village in Kifipa is “Cold Stone” but it has nothing to do with ice cream shops. It is a village where a few years ago a short-term missionary went to show the Jesus film. From that a community of new believers was formed. They built walls and the community grew. Another missionary helped fund the roofing of the small church and the community grew. Once, twice, now three times the walls have fallen in. The building they made was like the village itself struggling but surviving. In fact despite the struggles with the building, the church is growing. There is an old Ethiopian proverb that says, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” This church will become skillful through their struggles.

As we entered the village we were greeted by a half dozen donkeys, a testament to the villages economic strength as a transport city. Most of the people in the village are farmers of course, but they supplement this income by carrying fish from the nearby lake Rukwa to Sumbawanga and other cities where they can sell them in the market. They use donkeys to carry the fish up the mountain.

As we arrived at the pastor’s house we heard a crowd gathered in the courtyard. The home was a traditional Tanzanian house with several small buildings including a pit latrine, a place to bathe, a small kitchen room, some bedrooms, and a sitting room. All of these buildings form a square with an open courtyard in the middle. The congregation met in the courtyard on small benches and grass mats. Sunday school had already begun when we got there but our arrival ushered in many others who may not usually attend the service.

We traveled with a long time pastor who makes up what he lacks in education with great passion and a pastoral heart. He had asked us to visit the church with him because it had been many weeks since he had been at the church and he was charged with overseeing this church as well as 7 others in and nearby Sumbawanga. He was tired from conducting a funeral in the city earlier in the week and another in a village further off. Biking for half a day to get to the village would have been too much for him.

In the service, I was asked to say something to the congregation as is customary when visiting a church here. Being the first visit to the church, I introduced myself but talked mostly about Palm Sunday. I remembered the donkeys. Here people don’t talk much about the triumphal entry of Jesus. They did not even mention the palm branches or the shouts of Hosanna. Instead, they remember Christ coming on a donkey. I talked a bit about the entry but talked more about how the church falling echoed in the reality of Christ’s body being broken. Like the death of Jesus did not kill the church, the falling of a building did not kill the true body of Christ in the village of Mawenzusi. Like the resurrection of Christ’s body on Easter, the body of the church lives on in the Christians who make up the community. And likewise the building too will rise again. After saying all this we gave a gift of about 20 dollars to the church towards the rebuilding project. You would think I gave them a new Crystal Cathedral from their reaction to the gift.

A little encouragement is all the church needs. They will rebuild from out of the rubble. Visiting the church building again after the service we saw the reason it fell was lack of cement holding the bricks together and other construction flaws based on inexperience in building and lack of money to buy cement. The gift I gave them is a little more than half of what it will cost to repair the wall that had fallen. A little more cement and they could prevent more falls in the future.

A seed has been planted. Another has watered it, so the story goes that Paul told the church at Corinth. More graphically, my friend and pastor, Mwanisawa called me and all Christians, “Punda ya Bwana”. (Donkeys for the Lord- could be translated in other words). We thank you for providing for us so that we can pass your gifts on to others.

In Him who calls us to be his hands and other parts in this world,

Sickness and Health

The bugs keep biting but they are getting smaller. This year continues to be one of attack on our bodies. (You may remember the fly larvae that we popped out of our bodies in January).

It all started with me buying shoes over the internet. Because I bought shoes that I didn’t try on, they came a little smaller than I had hoped. Not to worry my foot got used to them except my big toe which ripped off the toenail and grew back poorly. In growing back, I got an ingrown toenail that became infected. While I covered it with triple antibiotic cream (our version of Windex for the fans of My Big Fat Greek Wedding), it continued to pus. I didn’t worry about it and figured when the nail finished growing it would be fine. And so it was for a few weeks time. Let me give a disclaimer here: I am not a smart man. Though I knew on some level that I had an open infected wound in my foot I never let that keep me from running through rivers, or wading in swamps looking for hippos while in Malawi. God has made our bodies remarkably good at fighting off so many things that should kill us everyday which causes us to do stupid things that the human body was never intended to do (like mentioned above for me or living in Michigan in February for some of you reading this email). The problem is that while waiting out this infection I got sick with malaria, giving the infection a foothold (my Jr. High English teacher would be proud of that pun).

This was my first experience with Malaria but I knew from seeing others and reading a bit what to expect. Malaria is carried by mosquitoes who are themselves infected with a smaller bug which takes two weeks to mature in the mosquito, which is why most mosquitoes cannot carry malaria. They die too soon. It does the same thing in us so this malaria likely came from a mosquito bite 2 weeks before. The alternating fevers and chills and overall aches followed everything that I read about, but when I took the science kit home test for it (which Becca was all too happy to poke me for blood that she did it an extra time for good mesure), it came out negative. I let the fevers come and go for another 2 days before I went to the clinic for a real blood smear. One thing that any African doctor can out diagnose nearly any American doctor is malaria. They see it everyday and the meds are pretty easily available. The entire blood test and doctors visit cost $1.20 cents (much cheaper than the malaria home test that misdiagnosed me). We had Becca and Emma tested too but they both came out negative.

While the Malaria symptoms went away within the next few days the ache in my upper leg would not. In fact, it got much worse. Feeling around the lymph node I noticed that it was swollen and really sore. This soreness and swelling continued to increase. In talking with Mark Guilzon, a doctor and new missionary in the Rukwa Valley, he encouraged me to get on antibiotics. After starting the Antibiotics, the pain decreased but I became worried when, what I thought I was feeling was a huge increase of size of the node. One doctor friend of ours recommended going to Iringa to get it drained. However Mark was coming that day up from the valley and agreed to take a look at it. He said what I was feeling was not one really big lymph node but rather two smaller ones. (While 2 is bigger than 1, I guess that size does matter, more so than number anyway). So I am continuing the antibiotics and today things continue to look and feel remarkably better. Three days ago I was in the worst pain of my life. Today, I am thinking of running. No swampy rivers though for a little while.

Meanwhile, Ian and Elizabeth are fighting off colds (Always blamed on the change of weather here). Becca also has a few scratches on her foot that got infected and swelled a bit. Maybe its something in the air (Maybe it is the weather). She will not be chasing hippos at any rate. But pray for our family as we continue to get bitten up by new bugs of all sorts.

In Him who leads through sickness and in health,

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Buggy new year

Well it has been a very buggy new year. We rang out the old year at a beach
along lake Malawi along with several of the missionary families from
Tanzania and Zambia. Actually this was the first step in our three country
tour. We have made plans to visit Zambia and Malawi before returning back to

The beach was a beautiful get away from the stresses and joys of life in
Sumbawanga. We rang in the new year with volleyball and snorkling.
Sometimes we can take advantage of living in a country of so much natural
beauty, though this location is a 9 hour drive from our home so we don't get
the chance often to visit. We took full advantage of the swimming and
fellowship among missionary families because there is not much opportunity
for either living in Sumbawanga. Unfortunately it seems that the flies in
the area had also taken full advantantage of us.

Shortly after leaving Matema, we saw several bumps appear on Elizabeth (10),
then Becca (11) and to a much smaller extent Ian (2) and I (1). We thought
of several different possibilities of rashes and skin irritations. I had
not so fond memories of some medical training I took part in in the states
looking at picture after picture of skin rashes. However, yesterday as
becca was picking at one of them we discovered they were larva from a fly
that laid eggs in our clothing! We were told to treat them you need to
cover the opening with vaseline so that it cannot breath and when it sticks
its head out to squeeze it like a zit! On top of that Elizabeth has been bit
up by fleas and we have all faced the increase of mosquitoes as we left
Tanzania for Zambia. To exact my revenge on the insect world though I
bought a bag full of catipillars on the side of the road which we will roast
up and eat tonight for dinner!

While we are in Zambia we will be taking part in a Bible teacher seminar
where I will be instructing on various teaching strategies as well as
learning the system of evangelism and church development in Zambia and
Malawi. Following the conference we will be heading over to Malawi to
participate in the start up of a new primary and secondary school. Please
keep us in your prayers as we travel and battle the insects.

In Him who guides our ways through the great and minor struggles,