Wednesday, August 26, 2009

love in action yields a beautiful harvest

oh zambia. you've done it to me again. every time i visit you i lose a piece of my heart. the beautiful faces of your people capture me at first sight and draw me in. the precious smiles of your children chip away at this icy heart bit by bit until it's completely melted. the simplicity with which you carry out life intrigues me and calls this technical, complicated body to be still and reflect on what really matters. you always give me tears, but plenty of laughter, too. although you drive me crazy at times and make me shake my head, i still love you and i will return.

we left the village yesterday morning and once again i had to say goodbye to my friends (some new, some old, but all special). goodbye's really never get easier... in fact the closer you become to the people and places you are saying goodbye to- the harder it actually gets because those people and that place begin to feel more like home.

our time went way too fast, but i knew that would happen. 1 month simply isn't long enough and i'm left wanting more of what i can't have- time. sure i miss my creature comforts and sleeping in a bed last night (instead of on the floor of a tent) felt fabulous, but those are such minor things in comparison with what i've seen and experienced. every time i come here i'm overwhelmed by what little people have and the conditions in which they live 24/7. most don't know any different, but it still breaks my heart.

last week allison and i got a chance to visit a deaf school in town. they have 37 deaf students from around the district who come and live there 9 months out of the year to receive an education. the condition of the place where they live though is so sad. there are plenty of bunk beds, but no mattresses. kids literally sleep on the wood boards or some who are lucky bring a reed mad. there are literally only a few plates so the kids have to eat in small shifts which can take hours. plus, we are talking about deaf kids who according to the woman who takes care of them, can be very violent at times. it's an overwhelming job and this women does it for $40 USD a month. after i saw that i was overwhelmed with the feeling that something had to be done. i couldn't see it and just walk away. thankfully allison felt the same way and on monday we went back to town and purchased 40 plates, 40 cups and 3 pots. we trotted our way through town with our bundle of goodies, feeling a bit like santa claus. when we arrived at the deaf school and they saw what we had brought the tears and smiles started flowing. you would have thought we gave them a million dollars! i was so humbled and overwhelmed that this small act could bring such joy. plates? cups? really? REALLY! the caretaker through tears told our interpreter that many visitors come through her place promising to do something and it never happens. she was so surprised and blessed to see someone keep their word.

i tell you this story not to bring glory to me. i haven't done anything. i signed to her, "glory to God" because he's the one who deserves it all. it's only by His grace that i'm in this nation, able to love these people. i tell you that also to challenge you. how many times have you seen a need and wanted to do something? did you think, "oh i'll do it later" and then never get around to it? i know i have! let's start looking around us and MEET THE NEED! it could be as simple as purchasing a plate or as complex as opening your home to a stranger. let's be compelled to LOVE those around us in practical ways! love requires action!
ok, i'll get off my soapbox now...
there are countless other stories i could share with you and hopefully i will when i get home. tomorrow morning allison and i begin our long journey home. we arrive at jfk around noon on friday. i can't wait to see all of you!
God has and continues to show himself faithful. this trip has been incredible in so many ways and more stretching than i thought possible. it all draws me closer to Him, which is ultimately the goal, right?
with love from zambia,


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

zam update with photos

i'm in town again today running some errands so i figured i'd give a little update and attempt to post some pictures as well. we're buying some material for the women's sewing group and i'm hoping to bless my friends with the purchase of a new mattress as well. they have a twin mattress on a queen-size bed with 3 people sleeping there so you can understand the need.

last time i wrote i commented on the crazy wind and it has only gotten crazier. it's been freezing cold the last few days and the wind has picked up even more which creates these insane dust-like storms causing you to run for cover. allison and i keep laughing about the weather because everyone expects africa to be burning hot all the time, but it isn't. we've been layering ourselves with our clothes every night before we go to sleep... and earplugs are a must, otherwise the sound of the wind against your tent will keep you awake! i say that from experience! haha!

we've been having a great tim hanging out in the village, though. the kids come to our house daily and just want to hang out and play. they are so much fun to be around (although sometimes exhausting) and we do enjoy their company. they're quick to lend a hand when you're carrying a bag and quick to grab your free hand in theirs. it's nice to connect with them in that way and that they feel so free to be near you. the kids are definitely one of my favorite things about this country. if i could come here and just love on kids 24/7 i'd be just fine!

yesterday i met with some members of the executive committee and got some upates on different projects happening in the village. it was really encouraging to hear how things are progressing and the way this community is stepping up. the water project is progressing fast! almost all the trenches for the pipes have been dug and at the end of the week they are going to start building the platforms for the tanks. the village is so excited about this project and everyone has been doing their part which is really awesome.
the next couple days will be busy for us as we'll be working with the women in the sewing groups. we're hoping to purchase a couple more sewing machines with a donation we received. i'm asking the women to sew as many bags as they can before we leave next week so we can bring them home to the U.S. and hopefully sell them. they've been doing a great job and the bags are so cute! it's so amazing seeing these women learning a trade that they otherwise would have never learned. i love that we're able to give them an opportunity to learn and eventually help support their families. it's so incredible!!!
for all of you who have been asking, yes i am feeling better! the cold is finally gone- hallelujah! i've been really exhausted the last week or so. i think after the team left it really hit me. today i'm feeling ok so hopefully i'm on the upswing.
thanks for all the prayers! keep sending them our way! a week from today we'll be leaving the village and spending a day in lusaka before we head home. this month has gone by way too fast, but i'm thankful for the time i've gotten here.
thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

don't let me blow away

i just wrote a long email that i sent out to a bunch of people regarding the trip and this computer won't let me copy and paste it. tia.*

the team left yesterday so now it's just me and allison and a village of a few thousand people. no biggie. haha. seriously though, it's good. last night it was so quiet that we almost didn't know what to do with ourselves. we were so tired we hit the sack at 8 o'clock. a few hours later we were woken up by the craziest wind ever. it felt like our tent was being sucked up by a tornado or something. we both woke up with our hearts pounding and then took a little while to fall back asleep. we woke up bright and early around 6am this morning so we could catch a ride to town. our food supply is pretty low and i wanted to get online and check some emails.

i got hit a few days ago with a cold that has progressed into a full out chest cold, complete with painful coughing and way too much mucus. sorry for the tmi, but it's true. one of my friend's moms here keeps checking in on me to make sure i'm ok. thankfully my mom left me with a z-pack so i'm hoping it knocks it out soon.

sorry for the lack of details but my time is short for today. i've already spent way too much time online catching up on my family's blogs. oh well, maybe next time.

thanks for the prayers! keep 'em coming our way!

*this is africa.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

village arrival

hello everyone!

i'm writing to you at the end of our first full day in the village. we arrived yesterday afternoon with few complications on the drive. we had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning because 3 team members took a bus to the village along with all 22 of our bags. God was so merciful to us and allowed the bus company to handle all of our bags for only $30. absolutely incredible!
the bus arrived in the village about an hour after the rest of the team who came on the mango tree minibus. we were greeted by a lot of children who were anxiously awaiting our arrival. as we drove through the village kids starting calling out my name and as you can imagine my heart swelled with joy at seeing them all again.

we took the team to see the mango tree and it's in even better condition than when we left. the employees have done an incredible job keeping up with everything. they work really hard!
last night we spent several hours around a campfire with over 20 children. we sang songs and danced and enjoyed getting to know each other. it's so wonderful having a team member who plays guitar. our worship times have been so sweet and it continually draws us back to the presence of God. when we woke up this morning you could literally feel God's spirit in our camp. it was so peaceful.

we spent the morning with the village at a big welcoming ceremony. there were speeches and dancing. it was a great time of hearing how things are progressing in the community and very encouraging. the women's sewing group has been busy making beautiful bags that we hope to take home to sell. we need to get them some more sewing machines though! there are a lot of women in this village who want to participate!

this afternoon the team is hanging out with some of the youth from the village. they're playing soccer and sharing testimonies. i came to town to get more water for the team and to send this update.

God is doing really good things. there is a great annointing on this team for ministry and we're only at the beginning of it! keep praying for God's eyes to see those in need around us. just this afternoon we prayed for an elderly man in the village who is often drunk. he ate lunch with us and we prayed for him. at the end of the prayer he was crying like a child and his countenance had completely changed. it was amazing. pray that the work God started will be finished!
tomorrow the guys will start digging trenches for the new water system for the village. in the afternoon we'll be spending a few hours at the local school doing a vacation bible school with 120 kids. we're excited about this opportunity to speak into their lives!

thanks for the love and prayers. keep sending them our way. we've only just begun!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

africa arrival

i'm writing from zambia! yay!!!!

it feels so crazy being here again. in some ways it's almost like i never left. i literally stepped off the plane with such joy in my heart. i started yelling, "i feel like i'm home!" this guy in front of me was chuckling but i was serious. in many ways i feel like zambia is a 2nd home to me with a 2nd family.

my reunion with some of my friends was exciting! we couldn't stop hugging each other and pinching ourselves to make sure it was real. haha. they were all so excited to meet my mom. they all call her "mama" which is precious. it's been really fun watching the team interact with them and we haven't even gotten to the village yet!

anyways, back to our arrival. we got here with no problems and only 1 bag is missing so far. hopefully that shows up today! our sleeping situation is a little more crowded than we intended but it's working out ok. the girls are sleeping in 1 room that has a double bed in it and then we had them put 5 mattresses on the floor. it's crowded, but cozy! it's helping us bond much quicker though which is awesome.

we all slept almost 12 hours last night which is good cause most of us were running off of 48 hours with no sleep! this morning i took the team to a great little cafe where we had a yummy breakfast and fruit smoothies! now the team is browsing around a huge craft market picking up some fun souvenirs. in a few minutes we'll be heading off to visit some friends of ours who started an NGO here in Lusaka. it's called Joy Human Development Centre. they are artisans who make crafts and use the funds to help children. they run soccer and educational programs. really awesome guys. i'm excited for the team to meet them and see their operation. we have a bag full of soccer balls and cleats for them which i know they'll be grateful to receive!

we need to get to bed early tonight because tomorrow at 6am we head up north to the village. it will be an 8 hour drive and then there will be many more exciting reunions with our friends there! from that point on we'll be sleeping in tents with no running water and no electricity. let the good times roll! haha! it should prove interesting! seriously though, this team is strong so they can handle it.

i can't explain how happy i feel to be back here and to be with this group of people. they are amazing individuals, each with incredible God-given gifts for this time and place. i can't wait to see the ways God will use that to bring glory to His name.

i love and miss you all!

in His love and service,