Back in 2012 when our adventure began the plan was to spend 2.5 years in Africa – six months in South Africa and then two years in Zambia. That 2.5 years started January 2013. The astute among you will notice that 2.5 years ends in June 2015…
We came here to be part of the J-Life international team – starting in South Africa as we learned the ropes, got to understand how the organisation worked, were trained on the J-Life ethos and material, and got stuck in where we felt we could be of help. The original six months turned into nine months for various reasons and during that time we really became part of the J-Life family. We left SA in tears, very sad to be leaving the community we had quickly come to love, but excited by what Zambia had in store.
Our time in SA left us with twenty months in Zambia. Our main remit was to help the J-Life leadership in Zambia to complete the construction of the training centre and to get it up and running. The idea was that the centre would be used for both ministry and income-generating purposes.
When we arrived the structure of the building had been completed, but there were a number of significant issues that needed solving before we could realistically allow visitors to stay there in any comfort: our earliest (non-human) visitors needed exterminating, the electricity needed running 2km from the substation, the incorrect plumbing pipes needed replacing, a kitchen needed fitting, storageneeded creating, and the whole place needed decorating.
We had a mammoth task and with no finances to sort it, other than what we could raise, it felt like
a mountain to climb. I confess that for the first 6 months I (Claire) broke down in tears pretty much every time I went there. Jason always describes his life as like driving through fog: he worries about things when he hits them. The Training Centre project made me wonder if it wouldn’t sometimes be easier to live like that…
But as funds from our social enterprise Jireh Crafts (www.jireh-crafts.org) came in, and our first team in February came to help get some bedrooms up and running, things began to take shape. And over the last 20 months with a lot of hard work, frustration, sweat and tears together with 5 amazing teams the place has been transformed and word is beginning little by little, panono panono, to spread. We’ve started taking bookings for and interest is increasing. Not only that but it is being used much more for J-Life purposes now and this will only grow with time.
The electricity is now ALMOST in – the poles are up and the equipment is on site, it just needs final connection. OK so it’s 4 months late (and not quite there yet), but the end really is in sight.
The grounds will hopefully be transformed in the next few months as the J-Life new country leader (Joe) has managed to secure some free assistance in landscaping it. The potential for the centre is emerging and will continue to do so as Joe takes J-Life Zambia to the next level.
It’s not, by any means, been totally successful. For example, a shop we started on site was losing money so we had to close it. But that’s part of the learning process. Joe’s desire is to build a house so that he can move there with his family. Once that is achieved then the shop could re-open under his management – proving not just of benefit to the local community but also a fund raising initiative for J-Life.
Jireh crafts continues on making good quality greetings cards, bags and tableware and we’re actually delighted that one of the Jireh ladies has been able to do a nursing course at college – the fees for which have been supported by Jireh.
So where does that leave us. Well our 2.5 years in Africa came to an end in June 2015. So by our original reckoning we were due to come home, for good, just about now. It’s causing me to reflect even more on our journey over the past few years. It’s certainly not been easy or straight forward and sometimes it has been painful, but I think that we can say that we have achieved what we set out to do, learned a lot more about ourselves, learned to rely on God a lot more and made lifelong friends in the process.
We love J-Life, we love the people, we love what it stands for, I hope we always will.
But as we mentioned in our previous blog we aren’t going home, not yet anyway. Mechanics for Africa has seen to that one. We are really enjoying it here, even if it is incredibly hard work. But this isn’t a blog about Mechanics, I want to leave that for future instalments ( www.facebook.com/mechanicsforafrica).