Monday, October 26, 2009

Four of the Big Five

This past weekend we were able to get away and go to Kruger National Park and camp for 2 days. It was a much needed break and we all had a GREAT time. We joined 3 other families from our church here in Polokwane. We arrived Friday late afternoon and had to get our tents set up before it got too dark so we didn't go out on a drive with the others. Later as we were having a Braii (BBQ) we found out that they saw 3 leopards in one area and then another one on it's own. Needless to say we were a little (ok ALOT) disappointed we missed that sight. Pastor Nicki and his family had their site right against the fence. During our Braii both Friday and Saturday nights a couple of hyenas kept passing by the fence. On Saturday night you could hear the lions.

Saturday we woke up at 4:30 and left the camp at 5:30 to begin a 12 hour drive through Kruger. We saw SO much game. It was amazing. We were able to see four of the Big 5. The only one we didn't see was the leopard :( We saw 5 different sightings of lions. They are amazing animals.

Sunday we got up at 4:30 again and headed out for about 3 hours. We didn't see near as many animals but we did come across an area that had 2 different groups of lions - total of 11 with 3 of them being cubs.

We headed back to camp to pack up and say goodbye to everyone and then we left. We decided to drive in the park up to Letaba and then head to the gate and on home. The kids actually went to Letaba Camp in 2006 when we brought them so they were excited to return there and go see the elephant museum again. I was amazed at how much they remembered from that trip 3 years ago. Sunday we ended up driving in the Park about 7.5 hours. It was SO hot and we did not see as much but we had a great time. We left the park at 5:45 (15 minutes before the gates closed and headed home.

We love the fact that we live just a few hours from the park. We had a great time. Here are a few of the pictures from our weekend.

Here are the 4 of the Big 5 we saw ...

More pictures from our 2 days in the Park...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

We spent the first night in Kruger’s Punda Maria tent camp because the border crossing was already closed. The first time in my life, I heard the enchanting yet fierce roar of a Lion that was just on the outside of the fenced area of the camp. The next morning we folded away our tent and made our way to Pafuri Border Crossing. Upon crossing over the border, the roads changed from a grated game reserve dirt road to rough terrain that is tough on the shocks and springs. William drove a Nissan pickup and I drove a Landrover Defender. We ventured into the “bush” of Mozambique and found our way to the Limpopo River. As sand began to be our road, the Landrover had to be put into low range 4x4. It slowly kept traction as it chugged along in the riverbed. The river had a little bit more water in it than it did about two months ago. Splash, the Landrover kept up the slow pace as the wheels were submerged in the Limpopo. Unable to see what lies in front, I kept the vehicle going in the location to the other shore. As the wheels came out of the water, the embankment was steep but the low range kept its pace. We drove a bit further until the Landrover was taken out of 4x4.

We continued in our journey and finally came to Dumela. We were a few hours late from when we were scheduled to begin; the pastors of surrounding villages were waiting. The greetings took place and then we began the pastor/leadership training. Pastors and leaders from Zimbabwe had joined us again. This is the third training these gentlemen and ladies attended. They had walked several kilometers to get the training. This just proves that God’s Word is valuable to those who seek Him. All the others in the training seemed to be as grateful so that they could get a deeper understanding in the Bible. In two days, William and I had taught the group about teaching children, what is means to be a Shepherd over God’s flock, the transfiguration, and Lazarus being raised from the dead.

FYI: Zimbabwe is under economical struggles at this time so much they use the US dollar for currency because their currency is worthless. Many people have escaped in large numbers to South Africa just to be able to try to make a life for themselves.

The two-day training finished. It was a great time of prayer, fellowship, and worship. Now it was time to pack camp so we could start on a new journey. We lowered our tent and folded it. It is common to find all sorts of small critters scurrying around and underneath the tent. We are cautious just to avoid being stung. We made a couple of folds in the tent and began to roll it up when I noticed a brownish clump about 6 feet away. I had just been on top of that location folding the corners. You look for the small things but seem to overlook the larger sometimes. I loudly proclaimed, “SNAKE” so that others would not accidentally step into its path. The word could only be understood by a few until a translator said it Shangaan. Needless to say, the Puff Adder’s day was at hand and it did not make it much further in life.

Camp was packed into our vehicles and a new journey took place. Our adventure took us to Dumela, Mabuzane, Chicualacuala, Mapai, Machaila, Mpuzi, Panhame, Chowe, Xicumbane, Matsilele, and Mbuzi. On Sat and Sun, we drove 8 hours each day to get to each village at approx. 530 kilometers (330 miles) in 4x4 required roads. We met with pastors in each village to invite them to the Pastor’s Conference in November. The 6-day journey was an enriching one as I saw where Samaria Mission is in constant discipleship.

The house we bought is becoming more and more like a home instead of seminary hostel. The walls have all been plastered and painted. The stage has been removed. New tile has been laid. The bathroom that had three shower stalls and a leaky toilet has new tile, basin, bathtub, and toilet. God was sure gracious to us by allowing us to have such a house.

Now the house needs a security fence for the safety of my family while I am away. I have gotten a few quotes but it seems it may cost anywhere from $4000-6000 since we live on a corner lot. I am also looking into a well (bore hole) for the house because we have been without municipal water at least 4 times since we moved here in June.

Luke is doing a great job at PEPPS School. He’s improving on reading and learning. Brit was doing great in the school, but we have decided to home school just because we know and believe she is disciplined enough to learn.

The vehicle we bought before we moved had some problems requiring the engine to be overhauled and the carburetor replaced. Alicia had been stranded twice in the middle of the road and it got to the point that I needed to make sure she was going to be safe while I am away.

I am looking into attending Christ Seminary, which is part of Christ Baptist Church this January. It is very cost effective and the knowledge would benefit Samaria Mission as we travel into Mozambique to teach pastors and leaders. This has been something I wanted to do for nearly 10 years but tuition was not as important to me as to support my family. Attending Christ Seminary is shockingly reasonable.

In November, we will not only have the Pastor’s Conference, but we will travel into Mozambique a week later with Steve Mickler from San Angelo, Texas. We will be traveling to the villages that PaulAnn Baptist has conducted outreaches so he can do a field study.

Final Note: We want to thank each of you for your prayers and support while we are on this journey. Our motto is “My Life…HIS Purpose…Our Journey” You are part of this journey as well. Romans 10: 14-15 explains that some are sent to preach the Gospel and others are to send those that are sent. Thank you for being part of this journey with us.

Respectfully and in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Mark Raley

Pictures on front page: the church at Machaila. Leadership training in Dumela while I was teaching. The Puff Adder before it’s memorial service.
Pictures on this page: two ladies in Machaila that came to greet us. It is amazing what they carry on their heads. The bottom picture is one of the people getting water to cook, drink, and wash with for everyday living in Dumela. They scoop away sand and let water filter through the sand to get clean water.
More pictures can be found on our blog, so please visit and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sorry It Has Been So Long

Wow time has gone by so fast. I can't believe it has been over a month since our last post. I will try my best to fill you on everything.

Update on the House
We have unpacked a lot of our things and each day our house begins to look a little more like home. We still have a lot to unpack and organize but it will come in time. (Side note ... I remember all those months ago when we started packing thinking that we had too much STUFF. We got rid of a lot and now that we are unpacking I am still thinking that we have TOO MUCH STUFF!)

Last month we were able to hire several workers to help us take care of the things that needed to be done in the house. They were able to plastered the walls and put a primer coat of paint on, painted all the ceilings except the kitchen, study and bathrooms. We also had to re-pipe the master bathroom (some pipes were corroded, had the tub wall built and had the master bathroom tiled. The stage in the lounge was taken out and a new foundation was laid in its placed. We had a wall built in the lounge to make a walk in closet for storage. The tile in the dining room and hallways were removed (several were broken and we decided to go ahead and re-tile those areas now while we were already in a huge mess and we got a great price on the new tile). They were also able to tile the lounge, dining room and start the tile in the hallway.

A few weeks ago we had to tell the workers they were finished and we would have to finish the rest ourselves. It was great having them here to do the work but after 3 weeks of anywhere from 8 -17 workers we had to make a decision to save money and do the rest.

There are 2 seminary students that helped us in the beginning tear down some of the wall in the dining room and they have helped us finish the tiling in the halls. We are almost finished with it we just need to grout the skirting in the dining room and halls.

While Mark was in Mozambique at the beginning of October I was able to paint all the walls and the study ceiling. After the grouting is finished in the halls and dining I will need to go back and paint the bottom 5 or 6 inches of the walls in there. Then we will need to paint all the doors, door frames and window frames.

Our master bathroom is almost complete. We are able to use everything in it. We still need to paint the ceiling and put the crown molding up (the ceilings and the walls don't meet so you have to use crown molding). We were given two mirrors so we are going to have one cut and then we will put them up. One will go over the vanity and the other will go on the wall with the corner bath.

Hopefully in the next week or two we can get the shelves built for the closet so we can get organized.

Here are the other things we are hoping to do to the house sometime as the Lord provides ...
*Remodel the hall bathroom (everything will have to be replaced in this bath as well do to the mold and old pipes etc.
*build the linen closet
*new floors in the bedrooms (carpet is old and not in good condition)
*Paint doors, door frames and window frames

Here are a few pictures of the house so far ...

Mark went into Mozambique this month for the pastor training and he is preparing to go back for a week long Annual Pastors Conference in November. They will be teaching over the attributes of God.

Also in November we will have our first guest from the US stay with us. Steve is coming to do some research for dissertation he is working on. He will speak with the leaders at Christ Baptist Church and Samaria Mission. He will also go into Mozambique with Mark and Sean to visit several of the villages that the PaulAnn teams have been to over the past 7 years. We are looking forward to meeting Steve and sharing with him all the Lord is doing in and through Samaria Mission.

Here are some pictures from his trip into Mozambique this month ...

The guys were able to help out some of the locals and give them a lift down to the river to get water. They usually walk there and carry the water back (some carry one and some carry several containers) The pictures below you will see how they dig a hole in the sand and let the water filter through the sand before they put it in their containers. Sometimes we forget how blessed we are to be able to turn on our sinks and have clean water.

Thank you again for all of you prayers, support and encouragement. We just emailed our first official newsletter. If you did not receive it please leave a comment below and give us your email address. We had several addresses come back to us that were not good and we would love to update our list.