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Botswana 2010
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Last one home

I am back in the USA. In Atlanta and waiting for my connection to GSP. The 16 hr flight never gets easier and my back felt like a vice grip at times; but, I’m home. The goal today is to stay awake until night. Starbucks!!!

Thanks again for following along with our mission this year. I will post photos soon.

You can follow the Shipes family in Botswana here: http://shipesonmission.blogspot.com/

God bless!

Mareko

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Missions Day

Today was a missions visit day (after our African adventure journey to the rhino reserve yesterday).

Scott and I visited several churches in and around Gaborone today.  First, we meet with Moruti James at Naledi and got an update on the construction.  We then went downtown for some quick shopping (got a Botswana flag guitar strap) and had tea at the President’s Hotel.  Scott also took me to the Three Dikgosi Monument in downtown Gabs.  It’s a monument to the country’s foundation and history with statues of the 3 founders.  I think this should be required for all vistors!  We then had a great meeting with Moruti Norman at Open Baptist discussing missions.

Finally, it was time to head out of town.  We headed out to Molepole (moley-po-low-lee) township north of town.  Moruti David has a church there that meets in a former shebeen (bar).  We also picked up a cowbell from a street vendor for Nancy.  Outside of Molepole, we found the Livingstone cave.  David Livingstone spent the night in the cave in order to lead the former chief of the local tribes to Jesus by proving that God would protect him from the evil spirits that supposedly haunted this cave.  That was cool, also saw a troop of baboons out there too.  We went back to Gaborone through the village of Kumakwane (the village where David Livingstone lived when in Botswana).   Some of the Open Baptist leaders live in this village today.  We tried to find Gakuto (ha-ku-toe) village today; but, the new construction on the highway had us confused so we continued on to Molepole.

I ended my last full day in Botswana with the prayer meeting at Naledi Baptist.  I brought the Word again focusing on Ephesians 2:19-22 reminding the group that we are all family in God’s eyes and that we must base everything we do on Jesus as the cornerstone.  I used the construction projects as my example and stressed that a building does not make a church.  Again, we had great worship and singing to start the service.  I slapped the tambourine to the tunes in Tswana since I didn’t know the words.  I will miss their singing and voices lifted to God.

After the prayer service, Moruti James announced he had a special surprise for me.  He asked me to move my chair to the center of the circle.  He said that there is a Botswana saying that he who remains last is the chief.  He then pulled out a handmade crown (goat skin and horns with ostrich egg shell) that he placed on my head.  We all hugged and we wished each other well until we meet again.  It’s no longer a sad goodbye and more of a “kayta labona” (“Until I see you again.”).

We again had the 2 college kids from Campus Crusades as dinner guests and Tonya topped it off with a special chocolate cake for the chief 🙂  Nice to have such awesome hosts here in Botswana.  Please continue to pray for the Shipes as they start the real work next week.  Their orientation phase is coming to an end and now the ministry will be kicking into high gear.  I see mighty things from this family doing God’s work here in Botswana and all of Southern Africa.   I look forward to returning to spend more time with the Shipes soon.

Tomorrow afternoon is the journey home.  I am having lunch with Jeff and April Sukup (missionaries from Tampa, Florida) and hope to get a chance to meet with the Flying Missions team too.

This ends the active part of this blog.  So, thanks for keeping up with our work here and for your prayers and encouragement during the planning and travel.  We couldn’t do it without your prayers and support.  Please check back later as I plan to add updates on the feeding station construction project and add a link to a photo gallery of all the pictures.

Until then.

In His Steps,

Mareko

Feeding station (Tuesday, 9-14)

Monument to Three Digkosi

The Lady Detective tea

Moruti David with grandson

Livingstone cave

Chief Mareko with Naledi Baptist team

Chief with Moruti James

Mma Grace and Chief Mareko

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Part 2 continues

The Freedom Fellowship team is now back home in South Carolina!!! Pray that they continue to recover and get back to a normal sleep schedule fast. As for Mareko, I am here in Gaborone as a guest of the Shipes family. Here’s a snapshot of the team with Moruti James from Naledi Baptist Fellowship on the day of departure.

Moruti James and the FF team

Yesterday was a great day here in Gaborone. We went to Open Baptist Church here in Gaborone. Open is the main church in Botswana for Close Connections and is the central hub for most of the activities. I have been to Botswana 3 times and this was the first time I had the opportunity to worship with the Open Baptist Family. We also celebrated the Lord’s Supper, which made me feel even closer to the church family. I know OBC members and staff from working on the projects and through Close Connections and it was good to see everyone there for a day of worship. Pastor Norman and his wife, Gabi, do a fantastic job leading this church. I look forward to my next visit with OBC. Afterwards, I went out to eat with Shipes family at the Riverwalk mall and had a pineapple/peppers/rib meat pizza (yes!) at Spur’s place. I also bought a nice African shirt from a sidewalk vendor.

Last night, Scott and I made plans to head out of town to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. We braved the wild Botswana highways north of town and drove about 3 hours to a hotel on the edge of the Kalahari desert, in a town called Palapye. Scott also had his first taste of speed traps in Botswana. Ouch!

We stayed in a decent hotel next to the highway. A weird oasis in the desert night that played country and western music all night and all day. Just weird listening to Johnny Cash way out here in the middle of nowhere Botswana. We got up early and filled the tank with petro and headed to Khama. We went through a VERY large township called Serowe on the way to the reserve. We were both caught off guard at the size of the town and the modern amenities found there. There was even a very large hospital and health sciences school on the edge of town. It all looked new too. Very interesting rock mound/upcroppings all around the town too. Reminded me of New Mexico and El Paso, Texas with wild donkeys just about everywhere you looked.

We had a private guide and vehicle in the park for a 2 hour game drive followed by a late breakfast. The park has about 32 white rhinos and 3 (includes a new baby)black rhinos. In addition to giraffes (42) and zebras (about 260) there were tons of warthogs, wildebeast and more impalas and other varieties of the antelope family than you could ever count. The reserve is also home to some leopards, cheetahs and brown hyena. The large male giraffe was one of my favorite views, an incredible beast and watching him drink water was a life experience. There were some huge rhinos in this park. We got really close to some of the white rhino (grazers); but, didn’t see any black rhinos as they tend to stay in the bush (tree/shrub diet). A great day in the park with a guide who was witty and full of information about the reserve and it’s residents. Scott is planning to take his family back soon and stay in one of the chalets that sleeps 6 with hot water heater (they call them geysers here).

Tomorrow, we are going to make a big loop and visit some of the missions and churches outside of Gaborone. I will conclude the day by joining Naledi Baptist for their Tuesday night prayer service and worship. I will get an updated picture on the feeding station construction as the workers are continuing to lay block and build. A long day today with another 4+ hours of driving home from Khama. So, more later and I will be posting a ton more pictures (including all the pictures from the team’s cameras) once I get home. The internet speed is too slow for a lot of pictures at one time. Good night.

In His Steps,

Mareko

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Team on the way back home

The team is on the way home. They left Botswana around 5pm local and since we didn’t hear from them in South Africa, they must be airborne. They are due in Atlanta in the morning with a late morning arrival in Greenville. I don’t think they will make worship service. 😎

We had a departure celebration today with fried chicken and homemade dumplings per request with some “supa” chakalaka salad that was made by our friends at Naledi Baptist Fellowship. We passed Mahtada and his team that had been walking across Botswana to raise money for a community library in Old Naledi on the way to the airport. I was so glad Jason and Nancy got to see Mahtada before they left as he has been gone all week on his journey. Very cool day as Botswana TV was filming some of the walk and arrival in Gabs.

I am back at the Shipes home. We had burgers and hotdogs tonight with 2 college kids from the USA, who are here to start a Campus Crusade for Christ chapter at the University of Botswana. They will be here for a year and were so glad to have Internet access to call home and to eat a good meal. A good way to honor 9-11 in my book… We even tried to watch some football via Skype video!

I will be joining the worship at Open Baptist tomorrow. Looking forward to that as I have been to Botswana every year since 2008 and have yet to join worship there. Then Scott and I are going to plan the rest of my time here in Botswana.

So, the rest of the blog postings will be focused on my experiences here with the Shipes missionary family and the missions outside of Gabs. The adventure continues tomorrow!

In His Steps,
Mareko

P.S. Here’s a photo of the team on the way home at the airport today. I am so proud of this team and what God allowed us to do this week!!!

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Mokolodi Friday

We are now home after a fantastic game drive and cookout in the bush at the Mokolodi game reserve with the Shipes family. We worked until 1:30 today and then prepared for the night in the park. See the pictures below. Everyone on our team was able to get close to the cheetahs, hyenas and rhinos. Great park guide tonight and a great meal followed by some relaxing by the big fire circle. Stars everywhere, it was so beautiful.

We are all sleeping in tomorrow, doing some shopping and the celebrating our week of work with Naledi Fellowship during lunch. The team flies out tomorrow afternoon.

I am going to bed now, more pictures and updates tomorrow.

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Construction Day #4 and Feeding Station

End of Day 4

Jhespo, Mareko, Nytah (pronounced "Nate")

Today was another great day working and living in Old Naledi.  We got up to the 13th course on the back wall (almost done with that wall) and some of the side walls higher.  We had many more men from Naledi Fellowship  and some from Open Baptist helping out after lunch today which really helped us move faster in the afternoon.  I picked up pizza for the gang at Debonair’s pizza near the Game City Mall.  I was able to slip into Cafe Dijo for a hot 5 Roses tea and biscuit while waiting on the pizza too (nice!).  Amazing how fast you can go from extreme poverty to modern comforts here.  We will be working a half day tomorrow as we wrap up the building work tomorrow.

Nancy and the kids

After the pizza lunch we went over to the old feeding station to help out.  Nancy had spent the whole morning with the women prepping for the feeding.  Nice for her to get a break from mixing mortar with Sir Mixalot and Moruti Donny.  I got some great shots of our team playing with the children and the feeding station in operation.  Many of the team who had yet to experience this operation (today was the first day its been operating due to some resource issues) expressed how blown away they were by the kids and the feeding station today.  It strongly enforced why we are here and working so hard.  It’s almost impossible to not be moved by the feeding station.  They are precious in his sight…

After a half day of working tomorrow, we are heading to Mokolodi Game Reserve with the Shipes family for a game drive and an outdoor braai (cookout) in the park.  We are going to see their cheetahs as a special part of our visit.  Cool!!!

Ok, I’ll post more when I catch up, most likely Saturday.  Know we are well, just tired and a little sore; but, we are all smiling about today’s experience and the work we have accomplished so far.

In His Steps, Mareko

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Construction Day #3

We are back at the B&B and waiting for an outdoor grill of impala and kudu. So looking forward to that! Another solid day of construction. We are up to 8 courses on the back wall and we have window frames in the side walls in place.  Just so everyone knows, Jason Collins is a block mason y’all 😎

We had a later start today because we had to help our master mason get some money to his friend who had been arrested/detained and was being deported back to Zimbabwe, long story there 🙂

We had a rare cloud cover this morning and that kept it cooler this morning. The clouds were burned off long before lunch, which was at Wimpy’s over at Game City mall. Scott joined us at the end of our lunch for a quick burger. The temperature was much better today and we feel much stronger tonight.

We took the long route back tonight and enjoyed a sight-seeing ride through the city. My map and Jason’s driving got us home safely and we went around all the rush hour traffic. Nice ride and we also took a ride through Naledi village before heading home. We got an eye full of the extreme poverty that exists right where we are working. This feeding station will serve this community for many, many years. That’s the amazing thing that God is doing through us. We will never know how many we will touch. Our God is Awesome in Power (ok, I had that Chris Tomlin tune in my head all day and that worked :-)).

Looking forward to another night of rest tonight. Tomorrow we will be helping with the feeding at the current rented station in addition to building. Please know we are doing great and all laughing together often- that’s a great sign on jet lag Wednesday. More updates tomorrow.

In His Steps-
Mareko

P.S. The kudu and impala grill was off the charts good eatin’. We all applauded the cooks. The kudu filet was my favorite along with the impala chops. The beets on the side…meh…

Child and cross at Naledi Fellowship

Day 3 Building

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Day #2 of Construction

Day #2 rolled on with lots of dagga (aka mortar) from Dr. Allan Waterfield (aka Sir Mixalot).  The temperature was 97F and lucky for us still no humidity.  But, I think we all need to rehydrate before we head back out tomorrow.  We have 7 courses of block on the back wall and even have a few courses of small block for the interior walls set up.  The door frames have arrived and we hope to have some up tomorrow too.

We had Prayer Meeting tonight with the Naledi Fellowship after working up until 6pm.  I was privileged to bring the word and discussion to the group tonight.  We focused on the last part of Matthew 12 where Jesus declares the apostles his family because we are all family in the eyes of God once we have accepted Jesus and follow him in doing the Lord’s work.  It’s awesome to tell people I have family in Botswana and that’s why I travel so far! The church family was happy about that comment.  It was very different speaking to the large group with a translator; but, we got a good rhythm down fast.  Allan and Donny also led group in prayer tonight too.  Please remember to pray for Donny’s family as his Dad is having a pacemaker placed today, which follows open heart surgery and valve replacement last week.  Moruti Donny that is 🙂

Nancy and I are now in the two apartments at the Shipes family home in Gaborone.  We had another great dinner at the Olive Leaf.  I’m sure all of the gang will be sleeping well tonight.  We will hook up again with the group in the morning for Day #3.  Here are some photos of today’s work below.  Also, check out Donny at the “fish market”.

In His Steps, Mareko

Donny at Fish Market

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Construction!

We got moving today with the work we came to Botswana to do.  The load of block (cinder block) was delivered around lunch time; but, we were able to get started before lunch on the corners working with the master brick mason, a great worker from Zimbabwe named K’Numbay (pronounced K-New Bay) or something very close to that 🙂 .  We also had some of the members of the Naledi Fellowship congregation helping out at times.  We have to mix the mortar by hand on the ground and it’s not easy or lightweight work.  It was very warm today, in the low 90Fs with very low humidity (thank you God).  Still, there was plenty of sweat going on!

I will post some pictures of the construction progress as we move along this week.  Tomorrow Nancy and I are checking out of the lodging and going to stay the rest of the week with the Shipes family.  We will still have our meals here with the team each night.  It will be saving a ton of money and the Shipes family have 2 apartment-like rooms and we will not be taking anybody’s space while at their home.  Looking forward to getting there too as I will be their guest for the next week or so.  Scott and Tonya Shipes are some of my favorite people in the world, Botswana included :-).

Everyone is tired tonight after a good day’s work and we look forward to making even more progress tomorrow.  I am going to try and post another video, this time of the youth choir (young ladies); but, it doesn’t look likely as our internet is WAY slow tonight.  More soon!

In His Steps,
Mareko

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