Friday, November 28, 2008

a heart of thankfulness

i arrived back in the states safe and sound on tuesday morning. it was lovely to see my family again.

i'm so glad it was thanksgiving this week as well. it made coming home even more exciting. i had such a great day yesterday eating lots of yummy food, jumping on the trampoline with my 2-year old niece and playing fun games with my awesome siblings. it really was a very peaceful day with everyone getting along and just loving each other. i love days like that!

here is one of my favorite photos from the day:

isn't she just beautiful? i'm so thankful to be an aunt to such 2 amazing little girls. watching their little personalities develop is so much fun and they bring such joy to my heart.

i truly have so much to be thankful for this year. God has brought me through a lot in 2008 and it has had its share of ups and downs, but through it all God has been faithful. i asked Him to heal my heart and He has. i asked Him to show me Himself and He has in ways i never would have thought. i asked Him to stretch me and He took me places i couldn't have imagined.

life with jesus is an adventure, but i wouldn't trade it for the world. i can't wait to see what's next!

Friday, November 21, 2008

character development

so i'm sitting in an internet cafe here in lusaka listening to a choir outside performing christmas music and it's lovely. i feel relaxed for the first time in a while! starr and i just ate a yummy meal at a cute little restaurant and in an hour we are going to go see a movie at the theater. i am so excited! i feel almost normal again... haha!

this week unfortunately has been very stressful. we arrived back in lusaka after a 9 hour ride from the village. thankfully the ride was nice and we weren't crammed for space. i took the opportunity to gaze out the window at all the little villages we passed and the curious children who were watching the cars that pass by. i got a little sunburned though cause the sun was on my side of the car most of the way- oops! you forget how hot the african sun is!

we've spent the last few days working out the final details of the mini-bus that was purchased for the mango tree. we have to complete the change of ownership and i really want it done before i leave. it's been very frustrating learning the system here and being with zambians who don't know it either. we're all learning and my patience has definitely been tested. sadly, i've failed several times but they all still love me (i think). :)

today we were able to make some progress thanks to starr and i being american's and of course- God's favor! all our paperwork is in with the proper people and we find out monday morning if everything went through. unfortunately that means my weekend won't be as relaxing as i'd hoped because i'm a little worried about monday morning. did i mention we board a plane at 2pm on monday? yeah, how's that for a little stress! haha!

no matter what happens i know that God is still good. He knows what we need and He'll provide it. it's just a matter of trusting Him with the details. boy am i learning that lesson!

please pray for us as it's not over. pray that all the paperwork goes through and that we are able to get everything finished before we board that plane. pray for favor to get with the right people and for peace to be amongst all of us.

i love you all so much and i can't believe i'll be home in a few days!

i can't wait to sleep in my own bed again...

grace and peace to you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

a modern day parable

Starr and I are safely in Lusaka after a tearful goodbye to our friends in the village. I'll try to share more about that in an other post. For now I want to share this story with you:

On Friday afternoon we had a farewell party at the Mango Tree. Starr really wanted to throw the party so she invited about 50 guests and had her friends cook enough food to feed everyone. We ran around all day getting everything together. When the time came for the dinner only about 20 guests showed up. After we ate we realized that there was still an abundance of food left because we prepared enough for 50 people. I suggested that we go find some hungry kids, so we left the Mango Tree and headed amongst the huts in search of hungry children. When we’d spot kids we’d ask them, “Are you hungry” to which every single one replied, “Yes!” Then we told them to go to the Mango Tree and we would feed them. Most of them waited for us to finish gathering more kids before going to the Mango Tree. They were probably a little unsure of what was going on. Finally we headed towards the Mango Tree with a group of smiling kids circled around us, some holding our hands.

We entered the Mango Tree and I began to wash their hands, as is custom here in Zambia before you eat. We set out big bowls of the food so they could share it amongst themselves. As the kids stared at the food with their big eyes an older kid reminded them that they needed to pray so all the kids bowed their heads and thanked the Lord for the food. Once amen was spoken they dove in like birds in search of food after the rain. As I watched those kids eat my heart was overwhelmed. I allowed myself to think about what was taking place and remembered what the Lord spoke to me as we were running through the village searching for kids. I remembered a scripture in the bible where Jesus is eating dinner with some Pharisees and he shares with them some principles of the kingdom of God. It’s found in Luke 14. In verses 15-24 Jesus shares a parable with them about a man who was preparing a feast and he invited many guests. When the banquet was ready the invited guests didn’t show up. They each had their own excuse and the man who threw the banquet sent his servants out into the streets and told them to gather up the poor and bring them in.

Once I allowed this all to sink in all I could do was cry. I literally felt like I was living out a story that Jesus had shared so many years ago. Since I’ve been in Zambia I’ve been reading through the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) and I’ve been asking the Lord to give me moments like the ones in some of the stories Jesus told. God answered my prayer 2 days before I left. I’m still overwhelmed by the whole situation and what God has spoken to me through it. I really understand what Jesus was trying to say. I received so much joy in seeing those children fed and I got a glimpse of the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom doesn’t shut out the poor, but invites them in as guests without expecting to receive anything in return. We have so much to learn!

In that moment I saw heaven colliding with earth and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. How the Father must be longing for His children to experience more of those moments; moments where heaven and earth come together in such a way to provide life and love and hope to those who need it most. I pray that God would give you opportunities to create those “collision” moments in your life to impact those around you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

short update

i don't have much time to write today as the van is waiting to take me back to the village. we were able to purchase sewing machines today with a generous donation from some friends back in the states. this is HUGE for the mango tree and the entire community. we are all excited about how it's going to help the people in kaombe, especially the women.

starr and i leave the village on monday to return to lusaka. we have a week in lusaka where we have some business to take care of with the van. we're also going to purchase some school books for the library so students can check them out instead of having to purchase them. it will be very helpful as well for the community.

things are going really well.... we're just trying to wrap things up before we leave. i don't know if i'll get to write again before i leave the village. my next update might be from lusaka some time next week.

thanks again for all the love and prayers. keep 'em coming!

love you all so much!

Friday, November 7, 2008

getting crafty

I’m sure the burning question has been on your mind since my last update. Did she do it? Did she eat a caterpillar? Wait no longer my friends for I have done it!

My friend Agness brought a bag of caterpillars to the Mango Tree today, which had been “fried” and cooked in salt. Just looking at those ugly creatures had me regretting the decision to eat it. It took me about 5 minutes to work up the nerve to finally put that thing in my mouth. There really are no words to describe the taste and texture of a caterpillar. All I can say is that it was not pleasant and took a long time to go down. I gave my friends a good laugh as they watched my crazy facial expressions during the whole thing. And yes, I captured it on video. The quality is not good as a friend of mine, who had no idea what she was doing, filmed it but it captured the moment and that’s all that matters. I’ll see if I can upload it here, but if not I’ll definitely do it once I’m home in a couple weeks.

Yikes! A couple weeks! I can’t believe how quickly my time is going by here. I’m excited to get home to my friends and family and my comfortable bed but I am so sad to leave. I remember hearing someone talk once about the stages of culture shock and I think I’ve gone through them all. The last one I recall is where you realize how much you love where you are and you don’t want to leave. Not everyone reaches this stage, obviously, but I definitely have. The last week or so I just find myself looking around and taking everything in and realizing how much I do love it here. Sure, I have my moments when the people drive me nuts but something about this place gives me a feeling of belonging… a feeling of peace… a feeling of being home.

I’m so excited about the future possibilities here and the things we can help the people with. This week at the Mango Tree we started making some of our own crafts to sell. One of the things Katie, the founder, wanted to see at the Mango Tree was a place to sell crafts made by the local people. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much of that going on and lately we’ve had people stopping to buy them only to find nothing there. Finally I told them, “That’s it! We’re going to figure out a way to make our own crafts!” I’d seen an organization in Lusaka make picture frames out of banana tree bark and figured we could try. Try we did and they turned out awesome! We soak the bark and cut it into strips, which we twist or braid. After letting them dry in the sun we glue them to cardboard picture frames we make. It’s been so much fun being crafty and working with the ladies at the Mango Tree on it. I meant to take a picture and totally forgot so I’ll have to include it in my next update.

The other thing I want to do is teach them how to make beads out of clay. About 5k away from the village you can find clay soil. So I’m thinking if we get some of that soil I can show them how to make beads with the clay and then we can bake them. Next time I come I can bring supplies and tools to make earrings and necklaces. It could be really good! So that’s what we’re going to try to work on next week. I’m excited!

In my last update I mentioned that we haven’t gotten much rain and that night we got a torrential downpour that lasted for hours. I guess I spoke too soon! Since then it’s rained each night. It’s nice because the rain brings a cool breeze with it that is so refreshing after a hot day in the sun. One of my favorite things about being here is that you get to spend so much time outside. At home there are so many things to distract you and keep you indoors, but not here! It’s so fun to sit outside and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

This is getting long so I should let you all go. Thanks again for reading! I hope you’ve been enjoying my updates. I enjoy writing them and giving you a glimpse into “Zam-life.”

I pray that God would continue to shower you with His love and goodness this week. You are precious to the Father and to me.

Lots of love from Zambia…

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

news from zam

Happy Election Day everyone! I have it in mind to believe that today might be a bit of a stressful day for my fellow Americans so I hope the few minutes you’ll spend reading my blog will distract you from the craziness around you.

Zambia held their presidential elections last Thursday. The results weren’t released until Sunday morning and it appears that the ruling party has remained in power, much to the dismay of my fellow Zambians. Everyone here is surprised by the results, but also not surprised. I’m sure you catch my drift. Things have remained as usual here in Northern Zambia and for that I am quite grateful. Once again these peaceful people amaze me!

We had an executive committee meeting yesterday with the board that oversees the Mango Tree project. It was a very successful meeting and we were able to discuss a lot of issues concerning the Mango Tree project. I had one of those moments during the meeting where I realized just how much I’m going to miss it here, especially these people. It seems the longer I’m here the more attached my heart becomes. Seeing the looks on my friends faces as we discuss my return home only reminds me how precious these people have become to me, and I to them.

3 weeks from today Starr and I will be arriving back in America, which I hear is becoming increasingly cold. I told Starr today that I forget what it feels like to be cold, but I’m sure I’ll remember real quick once I’m home. It’s become increasingly hot here and the rains haven’t really picked up yet which usually cools things down a bit. There is one plus to this summery weather: I’m returning home with a nice tan at the end of November! :)

Let’s see… what else can I update you on?

Oh Yes!

Caterpillar season is upon us. Caterpillar’s you ask? Yes, caterpillars. You see this time every year here in Northern Zambia people stop what they’re doing and head for the hills to catch caterpillars. I’m sure many of you are shaking your heads saying, “Oh no.” To that I reply, “Oh yes.” Caterpillar’s are quite the delicacy around here and they catch a good price, too. People boil them, fry them, dry them… but most of all eat them. It’s one of those things I’m not sure I’ll ever understand. No, I haven’t tried one yet and I told Starr the only way I would is if there was a video camera to record it so I could prove it to all of you. Maybe this week will be the week!

Thanks for reading my updates and for remembering us in your prayers.

Have a blessed day and try not to worry too much about the election results. Remember, our hope is in the Lord and only one man: Jesus. What a glorious day it will be when we won’t have to worry about elections and God’s kingdom becomes established forever in our midst.

Much love and peace from Zambia…