Dear Family and Friends,
When someone mentions February, most of the time my mind conjures up thoughts of Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day (or back in the day, it was actually Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays), and bitter cold temperatures. These concepts, of course, come from our past, because none of them have anything to do with our present lives. Even though the two biggest industries around Ziway are the huge Sher Flowers farm (exclusively roses) and the huge Castel Winery vineyards (wine and roses, get it!?), there still is no recognition of Valentine’s Day. Our only national holiday in Ethiopia in February is Mohammed’s birthday (February 4).
Now, though, it seems February brings year-end reports, quarter-end reports, month-end reports, U.S. income taxes, and the long and bureaucratic reports to all the government bodies that control or monitor Misgana Ministries. As I write this, the external auditor is here going through Misgana’s books line-by-line, which doesn’t reduce my stress any.
And, for the past three years February meant being thrown into the midst of a flurry of construction projects. This year is no different. We have three major construction projects underway now, with the promise of more to come . . .
The biggest and most ambitious is a 14-room (12 classroom) two-story addition to our Primary School. Upon completion this will allow us to have two classrooms for each grade from Nursery School, through Lower and Upper Kindergarten and grades 1-8. The additional two rooms will be used for offices and probably a library. We will also have a one classroom for a computer lab.
Shown below is a picture of the site. Right now, the massive footings have been poured three meters (10 feet) underground and the thirty columns are arising out of the earth. Starting this project in late January means we really have to hurry to have the building ready for next school year.
In Adami Tulu we are building another four classroom building just as we did last year. This will allow us to have two classrooms each of Nursery, LKG, UKG, and grades 1 and 2. Lifesong for Orphans (and the generous and motivated sponsors standing behind Lifesong) are funding these two classroom buildings (there is a picture below showing that construction has now arrived at the point of working above the beams of the walls).
As we hope to take our students all the way through high school, that means we are not nearly at the end of school building.
Our third construction project is a work shop being built in memory of my dad who died nearly one year ago (see picture below). Memorials given to Misgana Ministries in his name were used as seed money for this very necessary facility. We are using a different construction method for this building as kind of an experiment to see if it has potential for other projects. Instead of hollow concrete blocks we are using what are called Hydroform blocks. They are made of 90% earth (sand, red ash, and a special soil) and 10% cement.
The blocks are made to stack like Legos, so the walls can go up very quickly. Unfortunately, as we are working our way through the learning curve, we’ve had to tear down parts of the walls and re-do them. One time it was that our mason didn’t understand the proper method of laying these blocks and we arrived to see wavy lines of blocks. Wavy lines are not acceptable to a perfectionist, so they had to start over. The second time was a communication problem. I thought I had given clear specifications on the type and size of window the building should have. When I arrived to find a full wall, with no window, it wasn’t long before they were taking down the “Legos” and making a window. This type of construction is not merely stacking blocks on top of each other, because some mortar is required between the blocks end-to-end. But there is none of the tedious and time-consuming mortaring and tuck pointing the joints. And we think these blocks are more attractive, especially when painted with polyurethane sealer.
In addition to the construction we are also in the process of acquiring land on which to place future schools and possibly additional homes for vulnerable children, like Samuel’s Home. In a country like Ethiopia, where all land is owned by the government, obtaining land is not a simple process. We have recently gotten one nice piece of land in Adami Tulu for additional schools and a feeding center and feel certain we are about to obtain another. In addition the government is dangling an approximately six acre plot in front of us to see if we would be interested in building a high school and possibly a medical center.
In Ziway we also need more land and are in negotiations; however, Ziway unfortunately is under a “pilot” Master Plan concept which means there is a great deal of uncertainty as to how and when a land transaction can be finalized.
A teaser—my book is about to become an E-book. At first it will be available only for iPods, iPhones, and iPads. However, it eventually will be available for all types of electronic readers. Stay tuned.
And finally, please take a moment and look at this video. It was prepared by a new friend, Peter Craig, who visited us in January. We feel it does a very good job of capturing the essence of our mission here in Ethiopia.
May God richly bless you and your family,
Gary and Peggy