Friday, December 29, 2006

Are You Who You Want to Be?

I was pondering this question a few hours ago this morning and even last night as i struggled to go to sleep? Am I who I want to be? I have, at best, 100 years to live. In the light of eternity...that's nothing..."a breath in the wind." One thing I have learned for sure, especially being here in Africa: living to please me is a foolish mistake. God has set up the absolute perfect scenario in this life, namely, that i can lay my life down, deny myself, so that Christ might live through me and by doing this, I may gain true life. What a paradox? Give up your life in order to gain/experience true life. It is true though. The more i hang on to my self and my rights...the more that endless hunger grows in my spirit for something more, yet the more i let go of my self and surrender to the life of Christ...the more i experience that "abundant life" that the book of John talks about. The determining factor is ALWAYS whether or not i will embrace the physical/temporal suffering. Choosing to deny self is painful! The heart is not quick to give up its toys! I fail every day. I don't always want to give money to people, or live in a place with poor electricity and low water pressure. There are days that i don't want to think about anyone else but myself...have you had those days? The truth is though that i don't have a choice. You see, I've made a committment/ signed my name on this new covenant(agreement) and i can't turn back. The Christian mandate is quite clear in the Bible - Jesus said, "You MUST deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me." Why are so many people confused about Christianity? I believe it's because so many Christians are confused about Christianity! God is not a blessing machine, though He desires to bless us. The Bible doesn't say "come to Jesus and you won't experience another day of trial!" In fact it explicitly says, "as a Christian you will suffer." But that is the joy of it all! We are not suffering in vain, but we choose to suffer because we know it is revealing the face of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who came and demonstrated true "denial of self." I believe God brought me here to Africa so that I could GET OVER MYSELF! What i have begun to experience though is that as I choose (out of voluntary love for Jesus) to deny myself, I am suddenly filled with an awareness of truth that satisfies everything. He came to show us the better way. I used to dream of being a hero. The guy who everyone looked at and said, "what a guy!" Now i know who i want to be. I want to be a friend of Jesus. Jesus' friends are those who follow Him and to follow I must deny myself. There is trial. There is hardship. But there is joy and glory beyond any comprehension on this earth. Are you who you want to be? Better yet, are you who God wants you to be? You don't have to be in a third world country to deny yourself. Oftentimes it's harder to do so in your own hometown. Join me in a prayer today...Lord help me to forget about myself and live to please you! I guarantee that if this becomes a prayer from your will find yourself on the road less chosen...the road of Jesus Christ. The important thing is this: Do it for love for the One Who rescued you because He delights in you! One of the purest forms of worship is servanthood...this makes the heart of God smile.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jessi's Fear Factor

Fear is an interesting thing. There's a lot things that don't scare me. Snakes, for example. I killed my first snake the other day in the orphanage yard. I didn't hesitate. I wasn't breathing hard or trembling. I just picked up a rock and walked over to where the orphanage worker was standing, (she was paralyzed with fear), and smashed its head. They think it was a "puff adder" which is a highly poisonous snake that isn't very fast. Now, would I be thrilled about a cobra in my bedroom? Absolutely not. Would I scream if a viper slithered across my feet? Absolutely yes. But my biggest battle has been against all of the crawly and flying creatures that seem to be everywhere.
I've been forced to face my fear here. I can't believe how stoic I've become about things I used to scream about 5 months ago. For example, I was getting something out of the cupboard, and I saw a mouse move right by my hand. I jumped back and gasped, and then rebuked myself for being such a was just a mouse! At home, I would've given myself permission to call the exterminator and spend the night somewhere else! Frogs, mice, lizards, large millipeds, huge wasps, and beetles are just a normal catch/kill or catch/release experience around here. My first week here, the sight of a normal honeybee on my bed pillow forced me to tears. I now chase around huge wasps with a broom to smash them before they escape! My 2nd scorpion kill was met with nothing other than, "Jacob, look, another scorpion...SMASH."
I'm not regaling you with these tales to impress you or make you feel silly for screaming about a cockroach. Rather, I'm saying that I am still afraid of the same things that I was afraid of when I got here. I still gasp when a grasshopper lands on my head or a wasp flies up my skirt. It's just that I've had no choice but to face my fear instead of run away. Jake's not always around when there's something to kill. And sometimes that thing is putting other people in danger. So I've got to take care of it. Also, women here don't scream nearly as much. They just walk over to the offending creature and smash it with their fingertips or barefeet (something I have yet to attempt) I wonder if I'll revert back to my old "wuss-dom" when I come back to the States.
Don't get me wrong, I have my methods. Many of them. That's how I can tell that I'm still just as afraid of bugs as when I came. I just have a better way of dealing with them now. I keep a pair of shoes in every room, and close by in the living room, so that I can smash whatever large crawling thing decides to make the migration from under the couch. I put the mosquito net down over the bed at 5 o 'clock so that by the time the bugs get swarmy at night, my bed is protected and clean. My dad will be glad to know that all he would've had to do to get me to turn lights off at home would be to introduce a hundred small flying insects that invade the house after dark. I make SURE to turn all lights off in unneccessary rooms. You never know what's gonna make it through the screens. Some words of advice for any of you that might be forced into bug extermination in the near future:
1) Bug spray is overrated except for large swarms of ants. Bug spray just makes flying insects fly sporadically and flop around everywhere before they die. When I spot a huge bug, I want it to STAY in that spot until it can't fly away (like into my hair, which still gives me a heart attack.)
2) Crickets (and we have huge ones) are FAST little buggers. And you MUST kill them because as soon as you go to bed it will start to sing REALLY loud and you will contemplate suicide. The best method is sneaking on them from above, and dropping a heavy object on top.
3) Ice tea or pop spilling is annoying in the States, but here, it's devastating. I dropped a gum drop on the ground by the front door, and picked it up and threw it away. By the time I came back, black ants had swarmed the place where I dropped it, fighting over the grain or two of sugar that remained on the ground.
4) The worst are the security lights at night. The moths and gnats and mosquitos LOVE them. Just put your head down, run through the cloud of bugs...and pray.
5) Take a flashlight to the bathroom at night. You don't want to step on a scorpion. I've heard they hurt REALLY bad.
My last advice to you is this: Don't ever wear a head lamp. It might seem like a good idea when the Zesco goes out. But believe me, unless you're partial to huge bugs smacking into your forehead, you're better off without it.
If you're not afraid of bugs...this is a great place for you. If you are, it's still a great place for you. You get over it, believe it or not. The payoffs are too big to miss out because of fear. I'm glad I figured it out (okay, okay, so before Jacob calls me on it, I'm STILL trying really hard not to be afraid.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas on the Farm (Jessi's Version)

I found out first hand this Christmas how hard it is to be a woman, a grown-up, and in Africa all at the same time. My sincerest appreciation and thanks to all of the “grown-up”women in my life who have worked so hard to make every Christmas special for me, cause it about wore me out this year! Cooking, baking, wrapping, and making things special for two weddings and 54 kids (and trying to remember my husband somewhere!) makes me wonder, “How did my mom and Becki and Jeannie ever do it all?” Whew! So here’s to you…lovely ladies…you deserve it…Christmas is tough!
A few weeks ago, one of the Zambian men asked me how Christmas is celebrated in the States. I must have been feeling sassy that day because I immediately responded, “obnoxiously.” He had never heard the word before. I explained to him that Christmas in the States goes on for weeks and weeks, and that it’s often too much about food and gifts and parties, and not often enough about family, friends, fellowship, and worship. He still seemed slightly confused. Today, though, he stopped me at the clinic. “How was Christmas?” He asked. “Was it obnoxious?” I laughed. No. Definitely not. It was the least obnoxious Christmas I’ve ever had. I worked so fast and furiously, thinking that the standards here were the same. The gifts must be wrapped! There must be cards for everyone! I must bake delicious desserts and scrumptious side dishes! The house should shine with lights and smell like gingerbread! And I should be wearing a red checked apron and humming while I make candles! Uh-huh. Then I walked outside. And it was like any other day. Church would start soon, and there were people in the back cooking a big meal for everyone. But other than that, nothing was different. No one had new clothes on. The kids weren’t carrying battery-operated-right-out-of-the-package new toys. The ladies in the orphanage weren’t upset that they had to work Christmas, they were happy because it had rained the night before and their maize is growing. No. Not obnoxious. A little understated maybe. A little difficult for an American kid who wakes up early every Christmas and insists upon peanut butter balls and sweet potatoes while opening packages of new clothes and beautiful jewelry (yours truly).
We went to a potluck dinner with many of the other local missionaries. (Okay, let me just mention for one minute how intimidating it is to take food to a potluck where every woman in the room is a grandmother and has been living in Africa and cooking from scratch for 20 years.) They make their own bread, ice cream, and pickled beets. They have fresh cream from their cows and eggs from their chickens. They whip up layer cakes in a matter of minutes. I brought deviled eggs and cookies (my mom’s and Becki’s secret recipes, respectively.) They politely fawned over me. I wish I could spend a week with one of them just to learn how to whip my own cream and debone a turkey.
Maybe everyone should spend their first “grown-up”Christmas in Africa, without a mom to cook for you, and with 54 kids to entertain. Maybe we would all have a better perspective about what Christmas is really all about. I think maybe a couple more Christmas’s here and I might start to figure it out. Not about me. Not about my family. Not about my friends. Not about gifts or cookies or dinners or lovely Christmas dresses. About Jesus. About the birth of a Savior. About remembering what that means in our lives. I would love to say that there’s nothing wrong with the way that we celebrate Christmas at home…but I don’t know. I’m sorry if I’m getting all organic and un-American on you. But, here I am…supposed to be super missionary. Supposed to be reveling in the true meaning of Christmas. And I almost missed it. All because I was cleaning and baking cookies.
Did you catch it? Somewhere in the midst of running to grandma’s and the last minute trip to Walmart…did you catch it? I don’t mean, “Did you have a good time?” “Did you get nice gifts?” Maybe you’re saying, “Yeah. I got it. I sang in a cantata. I went to church. We prayed before dinner.” Maybe what you’re really saying is that you did the same things that you always do at Christmas, thus making you feel comfortable about having a good time and contented that you celebrated it for the true meaning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m downright jealous that you got to shop at Walmart and eat good turkey and be with family…you’ll get no false righteousness from me! But it’s easy to challenge when you’re here….(I’ll let you know what I think about the sparkling New Year’s ball next week ;) ) I love you all, and miss you terribly. Merry Christmas…for real.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day (Jake's Version)

Well it is 8:52 in the morning on December 26. Jessi and I had a wonderful Christmas Day that went pretty much as scheduled (i think this is the first time that has happened since we have been here) praise the Lord! I woke up just before 6 (i've always been an early riser on Christmas) and got her up and we were opening gifts by 10 after 6. We both got each other some fun surprises (candle making kit/new dishes/'hotel rwanda' biography/etc.) and we spent a very enjoyable morning together. At 11 we had a Christmas service in our church on the farm where Jessi led the choir in some Christmas songs and I preached. They had a big feast afterwards (goat/nshima/cabbage/rolls) and Jessi and I left to be a part of a missionaries dinner at a nearby farm. We had a very enjoyable time there and returned home where we relaxed for the rest of the evening. Now i know this is not a spectacular story, but that is the beauty of it...God gave us a wonderful, relaxing day for Christmas...with Zesco all day long in spite of the rain!!!
On another note...Saturday evening we went out to eat and right before we arrived at the restaurant in town an elephant came charging out of the bush and was inches from flipping our vehicle with his was the biggest bull elephant i've seen so far! He flung his head to catch our Land Rover and just missed was quite a moment to be in!
I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas with friends, family and above all, Jesus!
We love you all!
Jake and Jess
P.S. Included is a picture of our Christmas tree!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Electric Slide: The new evangelism tool of the 21st Century

Greetings from Zambia! I'm sure everyone is getting excited for Christmas Day! I know I definitely am although it feels a bit different when the temperature is roughly 90 degrees outside! Besides that, our home feels "christmassy" with our tree and "fake snow" that has been sprayed on it. Marsha (Jessi's mom) sent a bunch of wonderful Christmas decorations along with some others we purchased and received from my family so the house has a nice feel to it.
I just returned from Siachatema (a village roughly 2 hours from our farm) and I had the most wonderful two days there. I stayed with Rev. Mwikissa (our 86 year old bible school teacher who I took home for the break) and his family. I have been pondering the scripture in Thessalonians that says "we shared not only the gospel with them, but our lives..." and I believe that this sums up what a missionary is to do. We had some wonderful times of prayer and sharing the word of God, but we also had some wonderful time of fellowship where i got to experience their world. We went to the man-made lake and learned how to catch fish with nets (which we then ate that night with our nshima - very good). I learned how to tell when different fruits are ripe, how to pick them and more importantly, how to eat them (some need cracked open on rocks and others have much more complex methods).
The greatest part was at our worship service last night. I began teaching them some songs and playing guitar (which they love) and then i asked for them to teach me some music. Well, of course, they can never just sing, but there is a dance that goes with every song. After teaching me for quite some time (I'm a slow learner when it comes to dancing), I decided that they needed to learn a dance that I knew. I started singing a song "Takwaba Uabanga Jesu" (There's No One Like Jesus) and slowly taught them the electric slide to it. As they caught on it was the hit of the night! We worshipped God to the electric slide while singing tonga was a really beautiful thing...really. I hate religion...the dry, legalistic form that the Pharisees and Sadducees tried to mold people into...I love Jesus...He is alive and always showing us how to get to someĆ³ne's heart. I made true friends last night with many people including a head man (the guy who owns all the land in a particular village) who invited Jessi and I to come and spend some time in their village. Christianity is not constrained to a is a way of life with the utmost purpose being to glorify God. It's focus is relationship...first with God...then with people.
Even now tears come to my eyes as I think about the reality that the greatest gift the people in Siachatema will have for Christmas is a Makua (white man) who came and taught them the electric slide. Look around your neighborhood and see who you can bless this holiday (not neccisarily with gifts- but with yourself). Jess and I love you all. We are praying for you and wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Africa: The Animal Kingdom

So I just wanted to brief everyone on what the animal life is like here in Zambia. Since Jess and I have been here we have seen the following animals (not in parks, but just around): baboons, hippos, elephants, eagles, snakes, monitor lizards, scorpions, frogs, killer bees, many small bugs, and i'm sure i've left out several other interesting creatures. Thus far we have several encounters (some exciting and some we'd rather forget about). Jessi has killed 2 scorpions now in our home. We have spotted that there is a family of monitor lizards living outside of our guest house (the mama is 6 foot long and these things are pretty dangerous!) I just had a swarm of killer bees fly right over my head a few days ago as they f0llowed their queen to their next hive. We have taken out 2 killer bee hives around the farm. I believe we are now at 20 kills for various snakes on the farm. Our most interesting encounter was at night when Jessi and I were on our way inside our home. A 5 foot Mozambique Spitting Cobra was going right past our door and we were able to kill it before it spit anything at us! That was a bit intense! (Jessi fed me the rocks while i tried to hone in on my old baseball skills...haha.) The picture you see is the morning after our battle. I know people always ask about animal life in Africa and so we just wanted to give you all a quick glimpse into what day-to-day animal life is like in Africa.

In Christ,
Jake and Jess

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Beauty of Simplicity

I was just thinking about Christianity as a whole this morning and how i would sum up the scriptures if someone were to ask me. A verse immediately came to mind from Psalm 18:19 which says "He (God) rescued me because he delighted in me." There are two main themes in this small verse which I believe give a clear call to Christianity. "He rescued me" - we are not complete in ourselves...there is always something lacking, something crying out from inside that there has to be more and we know from scripture that it is because of our fallen nature due to sin...the truth is that the human race needs rescued...we need a hero! Jesus Christ has ALREADY RESCUED US at the cross...he brought sin to the grave and offered us new life in Him to be received by all who believe and experienced by all who lay their lives down to take up His life..."because he delighted in me" - Why would God do such a thing? Why did Christ come? The truth is that he delights in us! He came and rescued us because of His overwhelming desire for us (even in our weakness and sins). He didn't rescue us once we got our act together...he rescued us in the midst of our filth and impure ways...that is the God I serve...the One who came to me in my darkness and pulled me out because he so desired me! And what is it that he asks of me now? He wants me to be with know Him as a honor Him as a draw near because I love Him and He loves we have our Christian creeds down perfectly...our few scriptures memorized...our doctrines organized...none of that matters if you are not drawing near...Jesus Christ rescued you because He delighted in you...He still delights in you and is waiting even in this moment for you to draw near by faith in His blood alone (Heb.10:19) (not your performance in the past week)...let's be concerned with God's heartbeat and that heartbeat is for you...your presence...before the King of Kings...praise God for this glorious behold the King for eternity!!!
I love you all...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Life in Africa (a one day glimpse)

Hello everyone! So good to hear that many of you are tuning in to the site and that you can come along with us on this journey. After yesterday I felt the need to give you a glimpse of what a typical Africa day is like.

Sunday @ 6:00 a.m.

I woke up to a man yelling through our bedroom window "Jake...power is off and the water tanks are empty..." Jumping out of bed, I was not alarmed being that this is probably the sixth time it has happened in our 5 months of being here. Zesco (our company that keeps us going with electricity) goes out several times a week for atleast a few hours. We have spent 2 days without power, but that's another story... The major problem was that one of our workers forgot to fill the tanks through the night (we operate off of engines in bore holes) and so we had no water in our tanks. I made the call to Zesco letting them know that our power was out and ran out to ask the worker why the tank had not been filled...whoops!! After getting these things settled I was notified that a large amount of water was found lying on a cement slab by one of the tanks. We had men break it open to find that there was a large hole in the hot water line and that is where our water had dissapeared to. It was patched as Jessi and I got ready for church and went over to check on some of the beautiful orphans next door. I walked into church, ready to get fed with God's word and some nice fellowship when one of the men visiting our farm came running in looking a bit panicked..."Jake...Sal just called and said he is broken down in Monze!! He needs you to go get him now..." MONZE!!! Now for those of you who aren't familiar with the area...haha...Monze is a 3 hour drive. The largest problem however is that Sal had the only working vehicle. We push started one of the other vehicles which has a flat tire and a broken starter, threw a tow bar and some chains, I grabbed two of my friends (two nationals) and we started of to Monze with Rascal Flatts playing on the cd player! We arrived to Monze after making 2 stops to fill air in the tire and found that there was no where to connect the tow bar to the Land Rover. We improvized and used the chain to hold the bar as secure as possible and made our way back to the farm. Half way there the chain came apart and we had to very carefully get off the road without getting hit by the enormous trucks on the road and without Sal (the medical missionary) rear ending me as i pulled the Rover. We managed to secure things and get back to the farm (this was 7 hours and 30 minutes after i had left in the morning before church)...I crawled out of the car and was greeted by Jessi telling me that Zesco was out again and we were going out to eat! Though i was hungry...spending more time in a car was not my idea of a good time...but we left within 10 minutes and took off for town where we had a wonderful Indian many people would look at this as a terrible day, but i can honestly tell you that yesterday was a success! We got the Rover back...everyone was safe...i hear that Church was excellent (our new pastor George preached a powerful sermon)...God was glorified...we had a great dinner...and i got to relax in the evening with my lovely wife (though there was no Zesco still - really HOT!) Just think about the next time you want to complain about your day...hahaha! I love you guys and look forward to sharing the joys and frustrations of Africa!!!

P.S. My next blog is going to let you in on the creatures we've encountered since we were here...we'll throw in some pics too!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Greetings from Africa!!!

Hello there everyone!

Jessi and I are excited to announce that we now have internet capabilities on the farm thanks to Pam Dombrosky who gave us a christmas gift that enabled us to make the purchase!!! We will now be posting messages on a weekly basis on this site, which will contain pictures/stories/info on different nationals/and we may even get different nationals to write on this as well.

We just want to let everyone know that we are doing well. It would be wonderful if there was some way to fill you in on all that has happened in the past 4 months. There's no way we could ever include everything, so we will just start from now and try to fill you in as we go!

Right now, even during a slow season, there is a lot going on on the farm! Sunday evening, I (Jessi) was hit with an AWFUL toothache unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. It had admittedly been tender for awhile and bothering me, but I didn't know what to do about it here, so I was just hoping I could hold off until we got home in May. Well, my tooth was having none of that! Sunday night and Monday was filled with, hands down, the worst pain I've ever felt in my life. Any of you that have gone through this have a new empathizer! Whew! Jake made some calls and found a good dentist in Lusaka (the capital, which is about a 5 hour drive away from here), and so we set off early Tuesday morning for an emergency afternoon appointment. Really, it was the best road trip I'd ever had. By that point, I was on so much medicine I barely knew my own name! I definitely didn't feel any bumps on the pothole-filled Zambian tarmac (highway)! I was terrified to have an operation in a dirty, unprofessional office. But, of course the Lord provided. The office was lovely, the dentist was an English man who was trained in London and just happened to work out of Zimbabwe. He decided a root canal was best, and the whole thing was over in less than an hour. Praise the Lord! I have felt very little pain after that, so he must have done a great job!

The trip to Lusaka was beneficial in more ways than one. We were able to pick up the card that allows us internet access here on the farm, which is something we had been really wanting. Hands down, the best part is that we got to buy an air conditioner! Pastor Jerry told us (and Sal and Renee) that he would reimburse us for an air con. if we could find one...that was back in August! It took us this long to finally find them! I have really been suffering from lack of sleep being that the cool night breeze is 90 degrees. Last night, Jake hooked up the air con. and I slept my first night straight through and had to be woken up at 7:30 this morning. Another Praise!

Right now, Jake and I have got to go rescue a broken down farm vehicle in town (the vehicle curse continues!). Then, I've got to get out my medical books and figure out (for real) how to deliver a baby. Sal is in Lusaka and there's one on the way! Just a typical day on the farm! We are so glad that we have a way to communicate our stories to you! We hope that you enjoy reading and that it makes you feel connected. Whether you're supporting us financially, in prayer, or just by being a friend, we are thinking about you often and wishing that you could be here with us, even for a short time. We would take you to a village where we would eat nshima and chicken. Then maybe go to Victoria Falls and have tea and watch the hippos. We could visit with the sick people at the clinic, or hold the babies at the orphanage. Later, we could eat one of those cakes I've had to learn how to bake! As long as you're willing to deal with push starting cars, getting a million interruptions, and constantly brushing off insects...we'll have a great time!

We love you guys and can't wait to hear from you! As Pastor Jerry always says to us: Be blessed and be a blessing!

Love, Jacob and Jessi