Dawbies in Africa


13 Oct 2012


What do a medical student from Finland, an archaeologist from Denmark, an Ethiopian tour guide, a German lawyer and art auction-house worker, a UN envoy from Canada, a Chinese middle-aged mum, an Australian teacher and two Australian mission workers (us) have in common? A three day camping safari to Etosha National Park, that’s what.

On the weekend of October 6 to 8 we were privileged to be able to join this mix of people and explore some of the country of Namibia. We have been in this country for just over a month and had not seen anything apart from the capital city of Windhoek. It was time to get out and do a bit of exploring. When in Africa, what do you have to do? Go on safari and see some animals!

Etosha National Park is approximately 500kms north / north-west from Windhoek. Namibia has good infrastructure and so we were able to make the journey on sealed roads the whole way. Once in the park, however, the four-wheel drive / gravel roads begin and so do the animal sightings.

We were told that this was a good time to go to Etosha as it is the end of the dry season and so the animals are fairly restricted in their movements to be centred around the more permanent waterholes. We were so blessed by what we saw.

There is something so majestic and wonderful in the “big” animals of Africa. We really do not have anything equivalent in Australia. The slow and purposeful tread of a herd of elephants as they emerge from the dry bush, ears flapping as they make their steady trek to get a drink, just takes your breath away. At one point we had to stop the bus to let a herd go by (22 of them in total!!); mainly mothers and their babies. We saw elephants taking mud baths, playing with each other, caring for their babies, telling other animals in no uncertain terms via the swishing of a trunk that this was their turn at the waterhole and no one else’s, appearing suddenly out of nowhere and disappearing just as easily. How does something that large do that?

Giraffes also have a lazy way about them as they stroll through the bush seeking greenery. It was amazing to see their heads peeking over the trees from time to time; they have a very distinctive silhouette. Funny thing was, even after we left the park to come home we were still looking for those heads. Watching a giraffe make the awkward adjustments with knocked knees and delicate balance in order to drink from a waterhole is also quite humbling.

The highlight of the trip for many, because it is uncommon, was the sighting of a number of lions, including at one point a whole pride consisting of male lion, three females and their cubs strolling about in the early light making their way back to shelter to get out of the heat of the midday sun.

God’s creation is truly wonderful and diverse: zebras whose stripes are as individual as our fingerprints who blend effortlessly into the grass plains; antelope ranging in size from that of a cow to a domestic cat; hyenas who look as ugly as they do in “The Lion King”; powerful rhino who like to make their presence felt at waterholes, particularly at night time; brilliant orange sunsets signalling the end of another day plus the arrival of the cool of the night; strange trees thriving in the midst of shimmering dust; birds large and small, flying and flightless; ostriches whose flexible necks enable them to clean their feathers no matter what the angle. 

We felt blessed and privileged to be given this opportunity and have come back to Windhoek refreshed and ready to go.

“God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, & all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:25)

OK, you’ve been waiting for them (& so have we). Here is a selection of the best.

Blue Wildebeest

Lion in the early morning

Social Weaver nests

Albino Zebra

Ground Squirrel


Watch out! Elephants on the move. 

An unbelievable sight. Twenty two elephants (with many babies in tow)

Giraffe - who me?


Lions at rest

Zebras at sunset


11 Oct 2012


On a weekly basis we are attending a Bible Study & Prayer Meeting at our church.

Bible studies are held in a number of different locations throughout Katutura & beyond. Our group meets at the church & we usually have around 15 to 20 attending. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of a small group who take delight in gathering around God’s word on a regular basis.

We have been studying “The Call to Fruitful Living” & have been challenged by what the Bible has to say about how we should live our lives & grow in Christian character. As we have personally found, the more we study the Bible & apply it on a daily basis, the more the Holy Spirit transforms us to be like Christ. The Bible talks about becoming a “new creation” where we no longer live for ourselves but for others. How different this is to the self-centered, wealthy & consumer-driven culture we come from.

As the weeks go by we are getting to know our brothers & sisters a little better. Lots of conversation & laughter at coffee time!  The study is conducted in both English & Otjiherero & many have sound Biblical knowledge to draw upon. Others are new to the faith & keen to learn. Life is not easy for many in Namibia & there is little in material wealth, however Christian joy & contentment is evident, as many have found new life in Christ.

The weekly church prayer meeting is also well attended. Once again a wonderful opportunity to come before the Lord in praise, give thanks for answered prayer, & bring our requests before His throne. Individual prayer requests are also shared as we encourage one another through prayer. At the prayer meeting tonight we had 37 in attendance & the meeting went for 1.5 hours.

We may be in a different country & attending a different church however some things just don’t change.  God’s word & the power of prayer are there for everyone. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions & desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking & envying each other”.     Galatians 5:22-26.

Sunrise over Windhoek


08 Oct 2012


Australians tend to have a very limited view of family. They are small units in large houses, often separated from each other. The ‘family’ is nuclear rather than extended.

Not so here in Namibia!

Families are complex and large and network all around the country and beyond. Families rely heavily upon each other in times of crisis. Where one family member cannot cope, another takes up the burden without question or thought.

When asking about a person’s family (what brothers and sisters do you have?) we have come to expect a complicated answer. When we asked a Christian man this recently he gave us a typical Namibian answer. “On my mother’s side we are seven – I am number 4. On my father’s side we are thirty-two – I am number 12.” There seems to be a ‘mother’s side’ and a ‘father’s side’ to most people’s history. Faithfulness in marriage or being married to only one person is quite unusual; hence the complex family structure.

In addition to this, in Herero culture your mother’s sister is also considered to be, and called, your mother and her children are your brothers and sisters. Similarly, your father’s brother is also your father and his children are your brothers and sisters. Your mother’s brothers remain your uncles and his children are your cousins, and your father’s sisters are your aunts and her children are also your cousins. So when someone is talking about their brother or their sister from our point of view it is hard to know whether this is a direct nuclear family relationship (but from which parent?) or the broader family relationship. To our African friends the distinction is irrelevant.

We have first hand experience in our own African ‘family’ here in Windhoek of how families look out for each other, with two girls living with “Mummy” because neither of them can be at ‘home’ at this point in time. One has parents whose work commitments make it difficult for either of them to look after her. She has lived here for four years now and has sisters and a brother living in various parts South Africa and Namibia. The other was recently involved in a terrible car accident and needed a quieter place to recover and get back into school life than could not be managed at her own house. They are very happy to be living here and are true daughters to our host. She provides for them in every way without a second thought.  Throw two Australians into the mix and you can see that we are very much a blended family here!

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.         Ephesians 5 : 1

Some of our neighbours dropping in to say "hello"

Some of the local children playing outside our front door


05 Oct 2012


This past Sunday we turned up to church at 9am (on time) to find the congregation all standing around outside chatting to one another. It was a really warm morning so perhaps they were ‘chilling out’?

No, the key for the church could not be found. The pastor and a few other significant members of the church had travelled to Rundu (over 700kms away) for the weekend to attend the opening of a large EBC church there, this one mainly for Angolans, and had taken their keys with them.

Mike and I were determined not to stand in the heat of the sun for too long so we headed up the steps to the shade while we waited. A suggestion was made that the congregation start some singing while we were all waiting. After all, usually the first 30 – 40 minutes of the service is singing anyway.  

Unintentionally we were standing with a significant number of the female members of the choir. They started the singing and most of the male members of the choir came to join them. We were sandwiched amongst them with no chance of ‘escape’ to a less conspicuous spot. It is not as if we blend in very easily at the best of times!

So what do you do when the key is lost? You join the choir as best as you can despite the fact that the songs they are singing are all in Otjiherero so you don’t know the words and you have a very Western sense of rhythm when it comes to dance and movement so you are ‘clunky’ when everyone else around you is smooth.

Fortunately a key was found within about 30 minutes and we could enter the church and join with the rest of the congregation, relieved to be part of the masses once more.

Praise to the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.                  Psalm 149 : 1

Congregation standing outside church

Some of the children from the After School Program


04 Oct 2012


During our first 10 days in Katutura the water was being cut off daily without warning from the local authority. It could be off for seven or eight hours at a time. Simple things like going to the toilet you needed to think about before you went. We got into the habit of filling up the kettle, water bottles & a bucket each night “just in case”. Thankfully things have now settled down.

We are now experts at hand washing. Routine is to have a bath & then use the same water to hand wash your clothes. Once washed you hang your clothes on the clothesline & they tend to dry very quickly. You do not however leave your clothes on the line over night otherwise they may not be there in the morning! Namibians also do not hang their underwear on the clothesline so you leave these to dry inside.

Ever seen a fridge with key locks on the handles? Food is a valuable commodity in the developing world & one you need to protect in certain circumstances. I wonder if fridge locks would go down well in Australia for different reasons?

Notice the key locks on the fridge handles?


04 Oct 2012


On the odd occasion we’ve watched TV (two channels to choose from), the following commercials have caught our attention:

One ad reminds people that it’s against the law to dump babies in garbage bins. This ad shows a baby doll crying whilst being placed into a large public bin. Although hard to believe, this is unfortunately a reality in Namibia that the Government seeks to eradicate.   

Another called “He loves me to death” warns people against domestic violence with a photo indicating a woman being strangled by her lover using a necklace.

Another has the catch phrase “A guy who loves you won’t mind using a condom”. This ad is pertinent in a country with high HIV / AIDS status.

Another warns people to be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking, which is a very large worldwide issue. Innocent people (often children & teenage girls) get trafficked across borders & the add remains people to be on the lookout for things that don’t appear right. 

Kate at our front door discussing life with some young Namibians


01 Oct 2012


How do you respond when people come to your door begging for food because they say they are desperate? What if they say it is for the children? How do you know if they are genuine? What kind of food is appropriate to give? How much do you give?

These are some of the questions we have been grappling with in recent weeks.

There is a man who goes through each garbage bin in the complex where we are staying every morning – you can hear him rattling things around. He is partly looking for recyclable bottles for which he can earn some money, but mostly he is looking for left over food to eat. We carefully put the rubbish in a tied up plastic bag before putting it in the bin, but the next day it is all undone and everywhere. So what do you do? Do you put out other food so that he has no need to do this? Do you make sure there is a bit of extra left-over food in the garbage so that he can eat it the following morning? Or by doing that are you creating a sense of dependency? We have not resolved this dilemma.

One Saturday while attempting to do the shopping in the supermarket in town I (Kate) was approached by a man who asked me to buy some food for him, stating that he had recently come from South Africa and had been unable to find work and was now so desperate he was begging in the middle of the shop.  I was unwilling to hand over money in the middle of the supermarket (too unsafe to take out your wallet). When I said I would not be able to find him if he waited for me outside the supermarket (his suggestion) he assured me he would find me! This made me feel quite uncomfortable so in this instance I declined to help him. He followed me for the next aisle continuing his story but eventually left. I did feel guilty wheeling my trolley of food after that as I think he probably was genuine.

That afternoon while doing some jobs at home we had two people come to the door asking for food or money. The first man stated that this was particularly for his children although they were not with him. Communication was difficult as he did not have good English and would have preferred to conduct ‘business’ in Afrikaans. We decided to give him some oranges and apples. At least, we figured, these have some nutrition and do not require any cooking. Apparently what we gave him was insufficient as he came to the door again some time later, this time asking for raw meat. This request we refused.

Shortly after this and older lady came to the door asking for housework to do so that she could earn money so that she could buy food. Having just completed all the washing, ironing, floor mopping and other cleaning tasks I had to tell her that there was no work we could give her. We were also uncomfortable in letting a stranger into the house anyway when security is such an issue here. I guess we could have also offered her some fruit (we did not have much else we thought we could give away easily) however she left once we said we had no work.

So what kind of food is appropriate to give? We spent a morning trying to figure this out. Many people have suggested a loaf of bread, however in this dry climate it goes stale within a day and there is no room in the freezer to keep it ‘fresh’. As we are not close to the shops this did not seem like a practical solution.

Fruit remains a viable option, however without a car to transport the shopping home (a N$9 taxi fare will get us close but not all the way) an extra bag of fruit is quite a heavy thing to carry along with everything else.

We wanted to find something that had nutritional value, that was relatively light to carry, that could be eaten as it was (no guarantee that a person this desperate would have any means of cooking or heating food) if need be and that would last until it was required. So this week we added a few ring-pull tins (unlikely to own a tin opener in this situation) of baked beans to our shopping trolley. As we walked around we deliberately looked for other options that may be of use in weeks to come.

Although the central business district of Windhoek is modern and busy with people shopping, there is significant need and poverty in the township areas.  How to respond to this poverty is challenging but we are learning as we go. Another organisation we have just begun working with is located in the most destitute area of Windhoek so no doubt there will be more challenges to come!   


27 Sep 2012


1) Your veins show through your skin, meaning that many children ask you what on earth are these lines all over your hands? I tell them that this is where the blood goes and try to show them on their own hands but this is not always easy.

2) Some white men have hair on their chest – freaky! So freaky it needs to be looked at and touched.

3) Your hair is very ‘soft’ and must be stroked and played with at every opportunity. Even Mike’s hair gets a good work out at times by both boys and girls!

4) The concept of a bald patch is hard to grasp. Mike has been asked why he took the trouble to shave a circle in the middle of his hair rather than leaving it all on or off. Good question!

5) It is impossible for braids to stay in the soft hair. Many children have tried to make Kate’s hair African all to no avail – within a minute all their hard work has disappeared. We keep trying to tell them this but each one thinks they are the hairdresser to make the breakthrough.

6) Your eyes are not brown unlike all the other eyes around you.

7) You only have one teaspoon of sugar in your tea or coffee. Most people we have met here take around 3 tablespoons per cup – apparently Africans generally love their sugar.

8) You need to wear a hat and sunscreen in order for your skin not to turn red. There is very little concept of sunburn here.

9) You do not constantly walk around with your cell phone (mobile phone) in your hand. Young people in particular are very surprised that I have a phone yet do not take it with me to many places.

10) You wear a watch to tell the time rather than go with the flow of the moment. Our wrists are often being looked at to see what is the current situation.

11) Kate wears a ring, actually 2 rings (an engagement ring and a wedding ring). Kate tells them this is to show that she is married. It would appear that this is not all that common in Namibia.

12) All our children have the same father. When I was asked who that was by one of the volunteers at the After School Program they were genuinely quite surprised that I said Mike, even though she knew we were married.

13) We have very small families. One young person we met could not believe it that even though we have been married for 27 years we only have 3 children – most unproductive.  Families are large here in Namibia and extended family is enormous. We have been told that if all the relatives of the family we are staying with got together, which they do now and then for weddings etc, the number of people would be over 400. Many cows are slaughtered for the occasion! 

Kate with some of the After School Program children & volunteers

Mike with the daughter of our host Namibian family. 


26 Sep 2012

We are serving in the Evangelical Bible Church with a congregation of around 200 (mainly Herero people). The church is involved in many & varied ministries including an After School Program for children & youth & an HIV / AIDS home based care ministry. Weekly Bible Studies & Prayer Meetings are held along with the usual Friday night for youth. The Sunday School annual camp us coming up in a few weeks time with 70 kids & 10 teachers already signed-up.

The Sunday service goes for around 2.5 hours & is spoken in both English & Otjiherero. The singing is full of praise & in typical African fashion there is no musical accompaniment, yet four part harmonies fill the meeting space. Many of the songs we actually know from our own time in youth group back in Australia. Fortunately for us, Otjiherero is a fairly phonetic language so we can sometimes join in those ones as well, even if we are unsure what we are actually singing about. The song is chosen from the songbook, someone then starts us off & everyone joins in (with gusto!). In fact, if the singing is not enthusiastic enough for the leader it is stopped, the congregation reminded of how great God is and how worthy He is to be praised properly, and we start again. There is both a youth & adult choir who often sing ‘items’ each week.

The church is based in Katutura in a black community on a large block of land. As is typical in most of Windhoek, there is no grass or gardens just dirt & stones surrounding the buildings. There are bars over every window (as is usual in Windhoek) and security grills on every door. The church was designed by a Swiss man back in the 1960s and is made up of hexagonal shaped sections joined together. Covering the wall at the front of the church is a painted mural depicting a water scene and green bushland.

We have been warmly welcomed into the church & relationships are slowly being formed. The Bible is being faithfully taught & guests are being introduced & welcomed each Sunday.  


22 Sep 2012


One of the projects we are currently working on is a Pre-Primary School (PPS) & we have now completed our first week there.

The PPS was established in 2010 by a graduate of the Namibian Evangelical Theological Seminary. Rather than go on to pastor a church, this graduate saw a greater need within his community to establish a Pre-Primary School which would give classes to orphans & vulnerable children & those effected with HIV & AIDS. This educational opportunity was to be offered to any child (aged 3 to 6) regardless of whether their parents could pay the school fees or not.

The PPS was established within a poor community, which has in excess of 20,000 inhabitants. Some of the children are not going to school because parents are unemployed or because they are orphans & vulnerable.

The PPS is located in the back of a local Evangelical Church. It consists of one small classroom & an office, which are both partitioned off from the rest of the church. It is very basic, resources are few & cash flow strained. On the other hand; the kids are great, a teacher is employed & hope (vision) is evident!

Starting with one student in 2010, there are now 20 students enrolled. The Director has great passion for the project, which seeks to deliver quality Christian education in a disadvantaged community. A vision for growth is also in place. The PPS seeks to provide children with affordable & long life opportunities.

The Director has worked on the project now for two years & has never drawn a wage. When we asked him how he lived, he answered “by the Grace of God”. The class teacher is employed from 7:00 am to 2:00 PM five days a week. She does a great job in loving, caring & teaching the children. Her wage is Namibian $1,000 per month (AUD $ 125 per month!).  

The PPS is providing good opportunities for the children to learn about themselves, their environment & their God. It is Christ centred & each day begins with a twenty minute Bible focus for the children.

Kate has been working with the teacher, assisting her in the classroom & looking to provide some mentoring where required. Mike has been reviewing the schools Administration & in particular financial considerations & funding requirements.

“Train a child in the way he should go & when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).


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