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We’ve been busy! April 29, 2014

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I was just reminded by my good friend Pamela from Last Chance Chapel that I haven’t done a blog update for quite some time! I guess I didn’t feel anything was new…  or newsworthy… but in reality what we’ve been up to is quite phenomenal!

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Since the school year began here at the beginning of January, the Powerhouse In-School Program has been busy, busy making as many HIV Prevention presentations as we can fit in at nine different schools in our town of Selebi-Phikwe and the nearby villages of Tobane and Mmadinare. The two high schools, as well as one of the junior schools, has classes of 35-40  students rotating in and out of our presentations all morning long, and many afternoons we go to another school and do entire grade levels of 150+ students, and sometimes two or three grade levels at a time! Many students have already seen our five presentations, and many of their guidance teachers want us to keep coming to see them. This has made it necessary to create new presentations where we really concentrate on building good character God’s way, equipping the students to know how to make good decisions in difficult situations.

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At the end of March we completed another grant year with BNAPS, which meant preparing a year-end report for them.We were able to report seeing 8867 students in the past year! And as I mentioned, all of them we’ve seen more than once, and many of them at least five times! God is so good to allow us access through the Botswana government to teach and preach His ways to thousands of students. We really feel that our Peer Educators are making a huge impact on the future of these students, and on the eradication of HIV in this generation in our town!

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God is so good! February 24, 2014

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The Powerhouse In-School Program began doing our HIV Prevention presentations at a new school today – Mmadinare Senior Secondary School – a boarding school that has almost 2000 students from around the country of Botswana. Here our Peer Educators are being introduced to the students at an assembly this morning. God is so good!

I just want to share a story with you. In January we had a young man – Thabo – come to our gate. He was starting high school out at this senior school in Mmadinare. He knows us because he used to live out in Botshabelo and participated in the Powerhouse Sports Program a few years ago. He has gotten very good grades in spite of the situation he is living in. Thabo, 16, has been staying in an old abandoned house in Mmadinare by himself, with no one helping him with money for food or other things. His dad sometimes comes and stays with him, but not often.

When he came to our gate he was asking for money to buy a school uniform. There was an orientation at the school and he did not have the required clothing to attend. We are finding this to be a big problem here! Of course we took him shopping and got him outfitted for school. We also encouraged him to board at the school so that he could be in a good environment to continue to do well in his studies.

Steve actually talked with the administrators at the school about Thabo while he was out setting up our presentation schedule. We found out he could not start school because he had fees due at the Junior School he attended last year. Steve paid those fees. Thabo started school, but was denied boarding because he lives in Mmadinare. Steve, again, went to the guidance teacher and head master of the school and explained Thabo’s home situation.

Today we found out that he was accepted to board at the school, praise God! We will need to help him purchase some things for his dorm room, but what a small price to pay for a young man’s future! Please pray with us for our Powerhouse Team’s influence in the Mmadinare Senior School, and please pray for Thabo as he “beats the odds” at this tough, tough life he is living here in Botswana. He wants to be an engineer! We are believing he is going to make it!

Back in the Schools 2014 January 25, 2014

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We welcome you to check out the short video we put together with our Peer Educators talking about the Powerhouse In-School Program. We love and admire these young people, we would like you to get to know them too!
 
With the “festive” season over (as they say on this side of the world), we are looking forward to a new year! Here in Botswana, many churches had “crossing over” services on New Year’s Eve – representing the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. It is summer here, as well as the rainy season, so there are signs of new life everywhere, green grass, beautiful foliage, water in some of the rivers, big bugs, crops growing and fat cows! It is impossible not to look forward with anticipation to what God is going to bring in 2014.

One of our favorite events when we were at Last Chance Chapel is the Annual Mission’s Summit at the end of January. It changed our lives four years ago when we felt the Lord leading us here to Botswana. Although we’ve only been able to attend once since our move, we know that it is going to be an event that changes people. Open hearts and open minds will grasp a little of God’s perspective on His people and His work around the world as missionaries share their lives and passions. We will be praying for this event, and encourage anyone in the Helena area to attend, January 26-29. For more information check out Last Chance Chapel’s website: www.lastchancechapel.org.

Thank you everyone for your support, love and prayers. Here’s an update on what we’re doing here in Botswana.

Powerhouse In-School Program
We are off and running! The new school year started here on January 7th, and we were visiting the schools right away to set up presentation schedules. Our calendar is filling up, schools are anxious to have us in with our HIV & Aids training presentations, and we have already begun with a new batch of Form 1 (8th grade) students! We also have a boarding High School in Mmadinare that we will be visiting for the first time in February. During this year we will be in front of approximately 6000 students, five different times. We have finished all of our presentations in some of the schools for some grades, but the teachers want more! We are developing new presentations for classroom time so we can further relationships and our report with these students.
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We, and the Peer Educators, are more determined than ever to take our presentations to a new level. We feel a sense of urgency in our quest to stop this HIV virus that has devastated Botswana, with this generation of students. We feel strongly that the youth of Botswana are the key to fighting this pandemic, and the way they are going to do it is to make decisions for their lives according to God’s Word, and with the Lord’s strength.
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We will be focused, and we will be busy for the next six months. We are so honored to work with our Peer Educators – they have a real passion for the work they are doing. They are excellent examples and capable of influencing this generation. Please keep us all in your prayers!

(Back) Tshego, Tshepang, Edwin, Neo (Front) Lebo, Nyani, Richard, Thapelo

(Back) Tshego, Tshepang, Edwin, Neo (Front) Lebo, Nyani, Richard, Thapelo

Bibles & Kids

We continue getting Bibles into people’s hands and homes. Although the prices for Bibles in Setswana and English have gone up, we continue to sell them to our church members for 25 pula, or around $3.00. Thank you for continuing your support with this, it is truly an investment in eternity!

We also continue to provide a large portion of the food and drinks for the Powerhouse Sports program. These kids are so near and dear to our hearts. This program touches them with the love of Jesus through coaches that act as role models, fun sports activities, moral “power talks”, and of course a meal. Thank you for helping us feed these children, for most it is much-needed nutrition in a poor community where food is scarce.

Erik

And of course there is Erik! He also has started a new school year, and is already involved in his after school activities -swimming, tennis, debate, and he’s even playing in a cricket tournament up in Francistown this weekend and a debate up there next weekend. He has been selected to be an MC for the school play and will be practicing that for the next three months.  He swims some mornings at 6:30 to train for the “Ebenezer Mile” in South Africa in March. It is a mile-long swim in a very cold dam – he swam in it last year and did very well. He has grown another foot I swear in the last month, and it’s hard to believe he’s going to be 15 next month. We are very proud of him!
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A New Year with the Powerhouse In-School Program January 15, 2014

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A new school year has begun in Botswana and the Powerhouse In-School Program is busy setting up a presentation schedule with 10 middle schools and 2 high schools! After just a week we know that our peer educators are going to be very busy. All of the schools are anxious to schedule our HIV training presentations – and we’ve even had to add new presentations for the students that saw them all last year. We have a new batch of 8th graders that we are anxious to get started with, as well as a boarding high school in the nearby village of Mmadinare.

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We had our first presentation of the year to Form 1 (8th grade) students this afternoon at Makhubu CJSS – Do Something About It! We had a group of over 150 students, wide-eyed and eager to learn – I am always in awe of how God is using our peer educators to influence the lives of these students. He is raising up an HIV-free generation!

Erik also started a new school year at Morula High School. He is in Form 2 (9th grade) – it’s hard to believe he is going to be 15 years old next month. He will also be very busy as his afternoon activities begin, so our schedules are about to become very busy also!

It’s good to be here in the midst of God’s work, we are honored to be a part of it!

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A big party at our house yesterday! December 2, 2013

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Yesterday was an awesome day with church family. In the afternoon, 23 people were baptized! We heard many testimonies of changed lives, and how this is a new beginning in serving the Lord. There was even a family of 7 from the church in Tobane Village that were baptized! We praise the Lord for these people and the work He is doing in their lives.

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The baptism took place in a hotel pool about a block from our house. After the baptism, we all walked down to our place for some games, food, and a Chinese auction.  There were over 70 people that came, and everyone had a great time! We love hosting these events at the home God has given us, and thank Him that we are able to bring His precious family together for great fun and fellowship!

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We also attended a funeral early (5 am) Sunday morning. Josephine, the 41 year-old mother of one of our peer educators, Richard, passed away last week. We had only known her a short time, since we came back from the states, and unfortunately our visits with her were in the hospital. We got to know her sweet spirit though, and her faithfulness to her Lord Jesus Christ. She had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, but ended up dying suddenly from a blood clot. Richard – 19 – is the oldest of her 5 children. She was a single mother raising children ages 16-12-4-3 years old. This is going to be a tough time for this family as the care of her children is sorted out, please keep them in your prayers.

Happy Thanksgiving from Botswana! November 27, 2013

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We have been back in Botswana about 6 weeks now and are in the midst of an African summer! Temperatures in the 90s & 100s don’t feel quite right as we enter into the “festive” season, but we often think of cold and snowy Montana Thanksgivings.

We had a lot of paperwork to catch up on with our Powerhouse In-School Program grant, but our peer educators made us proud as they held up a very busy presentation schedule in the schools in our absence. We will spend the next month getting ready for a new batch of 8th graders as the school year begins in January, as well as developing new presentations. We are more determined and committed than ever to influence these youth to rely on the Lord to make good moral decisions for a bright future, and to stop the spread of HIV in their generation!

We have been watching what our Facebook friends have been thankful for this month, some have been posting something new every day! Each time we read them we know that we could never list the abundance of God’s blessings that we are thankful for each and every day of the year. But today, on Thanksgiving Day, and being very far away from those celebrating this special holiday, we would like to dedicate this newsletter to thanking you, and thanking the Lord for just a very few of the things we are grateful for.

We are so very thankful for…

…every prayer that is spoken for us and our ministry here in Botswana.

…to all of those who support us day after day and month after month – financially, and with their love. We are so in awe that you choose to stand with us and allow us to be your hands and feet on this side of the world.

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…the peer educators in our Powerhouse In-School Program – our “kids” – Lebogang, Thapelo, Tshepang , Tshegofatso, Richard, Edwin, Neo and Nyani. These are powerful young adults, in love with the Lord and dedicated to changing a generation, teaching abstinence God’s way, and eradicating the HIV pandemic in Botswana.

…black skin and big deep brown eyes! Some eyes are young and innocent, looking forward to a bright future, some are hurt with pain and suffering, and some are full of light and the joy of the Lord! These are the people we live amongst and they are all His!

…that God has put us in this place, at this time, chiseling and molding us into who and what He wants us to be.

…no winter this year! Somehow we’ve managed to skip winter in Botswana and in America… how wonderful is that?

…the Botswana government, for allowing us to enter into schools with our HIV & AIDs training program, and for giving us the freedom to use the Word of God to influence youth in this country to make moral and wise decisions for their lives.

…Asher James Krissovich! God has given us a most precious gift! New life in a young family that has dedicated their lives to Him. Nothing could make our hearts sing with more gladness as parents and grandparents.

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…Megan & Jacob! They have purchased their first house, and are raising Asher in a home filled with so much love! We are grateful to have kids doing so well and so happy.

…and last, but certainly not least, of course Erik! He is growing up into such a fine young man, doing well in school as well as adapting and thriving in a foreign culture. We are so proud of him!

We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love and blessings from the Lord! We love you all.

Steve, Tracie & Erik Olson

A very sad day… November 21, 2013

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A week ago today, a woman from our church, Botho, gave birth to a baby girl they named Phatsimo. The baby had some problems at the hospital, but they were released and sent home on Saturday. Sunday morning her parents took her back the hospital with more problems, and the baby passed away before a doctor could see her.

On Monday afternoon I attended the baby girl’s burial. When an adult passes away here there are several nights of prayer followed by a big service, burial and meal on the next Saturday. When a child dies, the burial takes place as soon as a death certificate is issued and a plot can be purchased at the cemetery, and it is attended only by women. A group of 50-60 women gathered at the hospital’s mortuary Monday afternoon as a grieving Botho and other women in her family picked up the baby’s body. It was brought out in a tiny casket and then transported, with everyone following, to the cemetery. At the cemetery, the casket was lowered into a grave, located in a row of pre-dug graves, on the children’s side. There was a short service, and then the gathering of women sang as they took turns shoveling dirt into the grave.

It was really amazing to be amongst this gathering of beautiful African women as they sang and showed their support for this grieving mother. I was thinking about how sad this situation is because so many children here are born into single mother families or given to relatives to raise. Here was a loving Christian family – mom, dad and siblings – that had to bear such a loss.

Please keep this precious family in your prayers – I praise the Lord that they know the God of all comfort.

Busy with awesome things… October 28, 2013

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Dancing at the Wedding!

Dancing at the Wedding!

… catching our breath after being back in Botswana almost two weeks! We had a lot of paperwork to catch up on in regards to our Powerhouse In-School Program grant and a quarter-end report to prepare. Our peer educators were so awesome in keeping things organized and continuing on with presentations in the schools. After they presented our fourth and final presentation in some of the schools, they wanted more! So our peer educators put together an additional 40-minute presentation that they are doing during classroom time and keeping themselves very busy.  We are very sad about one of our peer educators, Gift Gulubane, leaving us to move to Francistown and begin his own church. Gift has truly been a blessing to the program, as well as to us personally, we will truly miss him!

We were greeted to balloons, decorations and a cake when we arrived at our house, a very warm welcome back! Our dog Chinook has been beside himself, although he fared very well while we were gone under the care of Gift and the rest of our team.

Gee & Changu

Gee & Changu

We were so excited to go to the first wedding we’ve attended in Botswana on the Saturday we got back! Our dear friend Gee married his bride Changu in two ceremonies, on two Saturdays in a row. The first ceremony was when they said their actual wedding vows at a church in Francistown, and this was followed by a lunch and celebration up in Changu’s village just 30 km outside of Francistown.  It was such a wonderful and joyful day!

Gee & his family greeting Changu & her family with song!

Gee & his family greeting Changu & her family with song!

This past Saturday was the second part of the wedding, when Gee’s family welcomed Changu to his village of Tobane. It was such a neat thing to watch the people of Tobane, along with Gee, sing from inside his family’s yard a greeting to Changu and her family as they arrived. The day was another lunch and celebration that lasted into the evening.

One thing I have to mention is the dancing the bridesmaids and groomsmen do several times throughout the celebrations to escort the bride and groom. I am trying to include a short video to give you a taste of the fun this is!

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We were also honored to attend a prize-giving, or award ceremony out in the village of Sefophe. Tongai and Rumbidzai’s two sons Tarisai and Tariro go to school there, and they both received awards on Friday. (The family that oversees the property at the Children of Promise Orphan Home Project.) Tarisai received several “best in subjects” awards, as well as the top student in the 4th grade. This family is so dear to us, we were so proud of these precious boys accomplishments.

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Thank you for your love, support and prayers – we thank you for letting us be your hands and feet in this beautiful country!

Blessings, blessings and more blessings! October 13, 2013

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Asher James Krissovich - being dedicated to the Lord along with 5 other babies at Last Chance Chapel

Asher James Krissovich – being dedicated to the Lord along with 5 other babies at Last Chance Chapel

Waiting in Atlanta… we catch our 16-hour flight tonight to Johannesburg on the next leg of our journey back to Botswana. What a blessing it is to get buddy passes on Delta from Sarie, Jim & Barb Furshong’s daughter – but we fly as seats are available so we didn’t arrive in Atlanta in time last night to catch our flight. What that meant was a good night’s sleep after a couple of weeks of little sleep squeezing in last minute shopping and precious time visiting with friends and family.  (And an over-abundance of good food!)

We are so grateful to Jim and Barb Furshong who offered the lower floor of their home to us for our entire trip! We were so comfortable, and staying right in Helena was so convenient – what a huge blessing they are to us! We also had a car given to us when we first arrived this summer from Anna Sampson’s brother in Florida – we were just thrilled and it worked out so well! We had countless blessings from so many people in the past three months – we just love you all so much!

Of course the very hi-lite of our summer in Montana was the birth of our new little grandson Asher James Krissovich on August 22nd . We were able to help Megan and Jacob move into their new home, and just soaked in every moment we could with our precious daughter and her family, we are so proud of them!  We thank God for modern technology and skype, although we are leaving a part of our hearts back in Helena with them.

Botswana NightBotswana Night

We were overwhelmed by our Botswana Night at Last Chance Chapel! So many people helped us decorate, cook and put together a wonderful evening so we could share the work we are doing in Africa. Sue Meardon organized a very authentic Botswana meal and Sue Woodrow helped me decorate the tables in Botswana flags! We are so grateful to Pastor John, Gloria and Joseph Cathcart for hosting this event for us. Again, we are so thankful for everyone who helped, and we love you all!

We are anxious to get home to our Botswana family; we have truly missed them… and anxious to see what the Lord has in store for us in the coming months!

Botswana Meal

Botswana Meal

A busy May! May 25, 2013

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Small classes at the high school rotating through our HIV/Abstinence presentations.

Small classes at the high school rotating through our HIV/Abstinence presentations.

The month of May flew by here in Botswana! On the 2nd of May we picked my late dad’s wife, Ruth Patrick, up from the airport in Johannesburg for a three week visit with us. We kept Ruth very busy – she conducted two Bible studies for us, taught Sunday school out in Tobane, attended two braais at our home with church members, attended many of our in-school presentations, played soccer with the Powerhouse Sports program kids, spent time at the orphan project in Sefophe, and to top it off we took her to the Tuli Block to see animals like giraffes, elephants and leapords! We enjoyed sharing our life here with her, and were so pleased with how kind and loving our Botswana family was – they made her feel right at home and were calling her “Mum Ruth” before she left. We drove her back to Johannesburg to catch a plane back to the states last Tuesday – we are truly going to miss having you here Ruth!

We have been on an “insane” schedule as I tell Steve, with our in-school presentations! The local high school gave us classroom time for 2 ½ weeks to rotate 1600 students through our more “mature” presentations. We will see each student 2 times this term, and twice again next term. We have also started presenting in two new middle schools in our town, as well as three middle schools in the villages of Tobane and Mmadinare. God has really been working through our peer educators – they are really making a connection with these students! We continue to have hundreds of 13-18 year olds pledge abstinence until marriage and commit to killing HIV in their generation. We praise the Lord for the difference he is making in these young people’s lives!

Teaching Sunday school in Tobane

Teaching Sunday school in Tobane with Maggy Interpreting

A leopard on the hill!

A leopard on the hill!

 

Out in Sefophe with our groundskeeper Tongai

Out in Sefophe with our groundskeeper Tongai