Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Immunizations and Blood Tests...

Any young mom that has ever had to take her little bundle of joy to the doctor's office for his/her immunizations knows that the child usually comes back unusually whiny. Not just from the pain of the shot, but because the immunization usually causes some discomfort and a mild fever. This makes for a whiny, uncomfortable baby. my case...TEN whiny, uncomfortable babies. As I was running around the orphanage yesterday evening, trying to shove Tylenol down them as they screamed at me and spit it back up, I realized that I can't wait to have my own whiny little immunized will be easier than 10 or them! Praise God that we have immunizations though, and Praise God for Renee who is so capable and willing to handle them with the orphanage kids. These kids are healthy because of the technologies the clinic donors and other orphanage donors have brought to the farm. I am grateful for that.

Yesterday was also blood test day. This isn't a normal immunization occurance, but a very special one. Right now, there are 12 kids in the orphanage who tested HIV positive upon admittance. For many reasons, (mainly because of being off the breast, which allows the mother's antibodies to disappear out of the body and the child's to take over), at least half of them later tested negative. Because they're all taking HIV medicine, we can never quite know for sure which ones are REALLY positive. This is a problem, because it's dangerous and expensive to keep kids on medicines they don't need. SO, the Lord led us to a place in Lusaka that has a grant-aided, one year program from Johns Hopkins...this program actually has the machine needed to test the DNA for the Zambia for one year only! Problem is, they needed about 5 ml (one tsp.) worth of blood on a card for the test. What's the easiest way to get 5 ml of blood out of 12 children under 6? There isn't one. Sal bravely got out his tiniest syringe and searched their dark skin and skinny arms for a miniscule vein, often going by feel. At the end of the day, we got them all! Only one child (the chunkiest one, ironically) had to have his finger stuck. Okay, it was actually 3 fingers and a heel before we got enough for the card. And he screamed the whole time and will probably never come to me again, as I was the one holding him down. But, this test could definitely save the lives of the ones that are taking medicines unneccesarily...and so it will all be worth it! I should know sometime next you can look forward to the update! We may have 6 LESS HIV positive children!

I am working on manners with the older kids. Not interrupting, not screaming for no reason, sitting still while I'm reading a story...that kinda stuff. The oldest ones are two weeks into grade 1, and they seem to be doing really well. It's amazing to me how much they know compared to the village kids, who haven't ever been to school before. These kids have a big advantage with having a school room and a teacher from the time they were 3, they are also the only ones that can speak fluent they've just gotta work on Tonga a little bit!

Ringworm seems to be breaking out again...stink. If I come home with a shaved head for all of my best friends weddings, you'll know why. Let's just believe God that He'll keep me from getting ringworm even though it gets smeared all over me all day! Speaking of getting sick, I blamed Jake for the fact that my nose is a little runny and I have a cough. He said, "Jessi, I have a sinus infection, you have probably kissed 100 snotty faces in the past week...whose fault is it?" I guess you just don't think about it...they're too cute to stay away from!

That's all for now, just a normal update about the kids. Send me any suggestions you have about manners...I need all the help I can get.

Love you guys!


African Uno

Since we have been here in Zambia, there have been various creatures we've had to encounter, some more dangerous than others, but none more ANNOYING than the african stink bug...It's a seemingly harmless bug about the size of your thumbnail that has no other purpose than to march around with its friends until the day of its death. At any given point of the day you can usually find 30-40 of these things crawling on the walls, on your shoes, in your tub and in many other places. Killing them is a mistake because of the awful stench they put off when dead so you just get used to them being around. Now in the past few weeks a transformation has taken place and these brownish, walking bugs have turned into bright green, flying, buzzing menaces! Last night we decided to take a break from everything and play a game of uno (everyone loves uno, right?) The game began and within a few minutes it was clear that we were going to have many bright green spectators overhead. But these weren't even the normal flying ones! They seemed to have been put on a mission to disturb and end our fun game of cards as each of them took turns at dive-bombing our heads (at this point there were about 15 doing this) and it seemed they were multiplying as they crawled out of the fan overhead. 10 minutes into the game our director called to check in on us and as Sal (clincal doctor) talked to Jerry on the speaker phone we went to war with the stink bugs! Jessi grabbed a candle holder, I grabbed a towel and Renee was in her battle stance...the plan was simple: I was to climb on the table and smack these things out of the air with the towel so that Jessi and Renee could crush them with fingers, shoes, candle holders, etc. After killing about 30 of these things (and causing a lot of ruckus and stench as Jerry spoke with us about ministry details...sorry Jerry!) we began to think our quest was a bit hopeless. Jerry hung up and we went back to playing cards when suddenly the next obstacle came...Zesco went out! So there we were, in pitch dark, rushing to find candles while the stink bugs took advantage of our handicap and began settling down all over the table and cards. We lit up the candles and that became the stink bugs new attraction. They would fly into the wax and then we would have to dig them out so that the candle didn't carry their smell! It was quite a comical scene! We started up the game only to stop again because of a knock at the door. It was some of the orphanage workers coming to let Jessi know that there were no candles in the orphanage (they neglected to tell her when they ran out the last time power went out) so we took another 10 minute pause to get them some light. After she returned we ended up finishing our game of uno in a romantic candle-lit fashion and just as Jessi and I were about to head home Zesco popped on and we were able to see our major mess. There were well over 100 stink bugs surrounding and covering the dinner table and we all had a good laugh about the "added factors" of playing a simple card game in Africa!
We love you guys and are glad you have enjoyed the posts thus far!
Jake and Jessi

Monday, January 8, 2007

A very wise man once said this, "Just when you start to think that you're a very spiritual, godly person, you get married and realize that you're not spiritual, you're selfish and lazy and impatient. Then, just when you get used to being married and start to think you're very spiritual again, you have kids. I haven't felt spiritual since."

I kind of feel the same way about Africa. You live in the United States, and go to church and Bible study and prayer meetings. And you feel spiritual. So, you decide to be a missionary. And then you come to Africa. And you may never "feel spiritual" again. Am I exaggerating some? Maybe. I have no doubt that The Lord called me specifically to this place at this time. And I have no doubt that He is working in me by the day. But I'll tell you what...I don't feel very well behaved!

Zambia has this way of wearing on you. Your patience, that is. I think that I had previously been described as a patient person. Now, I'm liable to get angry at the post office, a restaurant, or the grocery store. My sheltered American mind cannot fathom why they can't just GIVE me the package. I can't understand why there would be five items on the menu if only one is available. And I will never get why there would be something on the shelf at the grocery store that is not priced or registered, so therefore cannot be bought. These things are funny for awhile. And then there not that funny anymore. Unfortunately, that's the exact point when they need to be laughed at. It seems to me that if you are going to do a job, it should be done efficiently and as quickly as possible. And if you are serving someone else, you should bend over backward to make sure that you are not inconveniencing them in any way. Guess what? That's not how it works here.

At home, it's a GOOD character trait to be able to do things quickly and efficiently. Here, it's rude to not spend the first 5 minutes of a conversation in greeting, no matter what you have on your mind. I have a feeling that I am not going to change the mindset of a people group on this matter. In fact, I have a feeling that I am the one that has to change. I can no longer attribute my "efficiency work ethic" to good character. In fact, it is just plain impatience. I don't expect or like to be inconvenienced. These people don't worry too much about convenience. They've never had it, so they don't expect it. I have a choice. I can spend the rest the time that I spend in Africa (this month, this year, this lifetime) being angry and inconvenienced. Or, I can give up the way that I have been raised and groomed to think, and just relax. In this way, I won't miss out on a million good conversations or a thousand oppurtunities to pray. I do believe in doing things well, and so hope that I can pass that on by example. But I will no longer assume that 5 wasted minutes is a national tragedy to every culture that I come across. It isn't. And I am certainly not going to continue to be the kind of person I don't want to be just to prove my point..."You should go FASTER!"

Because all of the missionaries here complain about this thing, it's easy for us to assume that "God would agree with us." Isn't that funny? Trying to blame God for our impatience? "Well," we say, "God wants us to do things with excellence. That means with efficiency. That means crossing off everything on our to-do lists." Actually. We are wrong. It says this in the Message version of the Bible, "Even if someone lived a thousand years--make it two thousand!--but didn't enjoy anything, what's the point?" Ecc. 6:6. I am tired of compromising my relationship with God because of impatience. Keep me accountable. Ask me how I spoke to the Post Office guy or how often I've stopped to dance with the kids today. Don't let me slide on this one. I'm no longer willing to be impatient. It just isn't worth it.

Dear Lord,
Help me to be more like you. You wait for me when it takes months, years for me to hear you. You waited for the Israelites for generations, and you're still waiting. Help me to love a people, and to laugh when I am inconvenienced. Help me to change, to be who YOU want me to be, and not who I think it is important to be. Bring the dross to the service, and don't let me hide behind good behavior. I am tired of good behavior, I want my heart to be changed. Help me to be more like you. Amen.

"For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." Psalm 90:4

Sunday, January 7, 2007

From now on I'm taking the Bus!

On Saturday I had one of the nine pastors on our farm ask me if I would preach at his church in Masunda. I agreed and, feeling a bit adventurous, told him we would ride bicycles (as he always does) instead of taking a vehicle. His eyes grew a bit (this should have been my first hint), but he smiled and said ok.
We started off at 8 in the morning on Sunday with some nice bicycles the farm just bought for the nationals. Before leaving he told me that it would be a "bit more difficult" because it had just rained and the short-cut was washed out so we had to take the long way - making the trip roughly 2 hours to get to the church. We started off (at a pretty speedy pace) and within 30 seconds I thought my legs were going to fall off. What was I thinking? I hadn't been on a bicycle for years...since my injury in college I haven't run or kept any real good physical shape...and we were about to be riding on bush tracks full of hills, rocks and create-as-we-go paths. I had to laugh at myself - always overambitious! The trail immediately turns into a fairly large incline and by the time we made it to the top we were both dripping sweat (it was probably 80 degrees this day).
For the next 2 hours there were times i was sure my legs couldn't pump one more rotation on that darn bike! I would say "Are there any more big hills?" Peter would assure me "no sir, no more hills," only to find that just around the next bend was another monster (a few of which we had to push the bikes up because of damp sand that seemed to eat our tires...) We arrived at church just in time to begin the service and they immediately wanted a speech from the Makua(white man). They probably thought i was drunk as i walked toward the small mud and straw church (my legs felt like noodles)! We held the service - which was great - and were able to really get into a good discussion on being born again. We prayed for lepers, blind, and some others with ailments and had a great meal of nshima and eggs.
I felt bad seeing their short water supply so I gave them my water jug that was still half-filled with water. Peter and I said our goodbyes and started back, although this time my legs hurt from the moment we started pedalling (hahaha...stupid boy). About an hour into the journey back (we were making much better time b/c most of it was downhill) - I saw a chameleon and jumped off of the bike to grab it before it scurried off. These creatures are beautiful! They change colors by the moment and have some really wild eyeballs that are on the ends of cones that extend from the sides of their heads. I played for a minute (a good alibi for catching my breat) and then we were off. I was so hot that I took my shirt off for the journey back (biggest mistake of the trip). We had one more hill to climb (about 4 football fields long) until we were all down hill for the next 2 miles that runs us right into the farm. I had convinced myself that after the hill all of my problems were done...we made it to the top and had a small strech of straight rode when BAM! Peter's tire blew. We had to walk our bikes down the hill and into the the time we got back i looked like a giant lobster. Nationals were pointing at me and asking why i was so red. We all had a good laugh. I walked into the house and collapsed on the couch as I yelled to Jessi, "never again!" I wanted to go for the experience and I felt stupid knowing that Peter makes that trip 2 times a week to fulfill his role as a pastor. I was humbled, but encouraged knowing that we have faithful men on this farm who sacrifice a lot in order to lead even a small amount of people to Jesus Christ (there were just 20 people at the church).
So the next time you are in Africa and someone tells you to join them on a bike ride, take my advice and offer to drive! Thought you would enjoy this story...just another Sunday in Zambia...

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Crazy Kiddo's

One thing I am sure of is that you CANNOT visit Africa without absolutely falling in love with the children here. Each morning as I make my way out of the house to start the day I am greeted by 30 voices singing “Jacob and Jessi…Jacob and Jessi” or “Jacob come get [insert any one of the 54 kids here at the orphanage]. I can’t help but grin from ear to ear when Pezo, one of the four year olds, sees me every day and acts like we’ve been separated for years as she sprints, arms wide open and dives into my open arms (I’m convinced that if I didn’t open my arms and catch her she would get seriously injured!) Then you have some of the two year olds who are still struggling with english that greet me every day with “HEY! I get you…” Then they all run from me terrified of the big, white makua (white man) coming after them.
My major soft spot; however, has come in the form of the tiniest little one in the orphanage. She arrived on the farm the day before we arrived and within a few weeks she was placed in our house as an “emergency baby” after one had died just a week prior of similar complications. Her name is Mukansunda (which means Mrs. Sunday in Tonga…because she was born on a Sunday). She came in, literally with the face of death (eyes sunk in…cheek bones sticking out…absolutely without life…not enough strength to move…she looked like a small newborn and she was 8 months old. Within a few days at our place she was looking like a new child. Gaining weight, an occasional smile, picking things up with her little fingers…what a miracle it was to see! 3 months later and Mukansunda is a force to be reckoned with! She is a toy stealin’, speed crawlin’, loud talkin’ little girl (although still the smallest) with a talent for mimicking just about anything I do…The picture I supplied above is a major rarity…the little thing will not sleep unless lights are off and she is in her crib, but I finally wore her out one day and she zonked out on my chest.
If anything in Africa is to be held responsible for stealing my heart – it begins with these little ones. Thinking about the fact that these 54 vibrant, beautiful, smart, unique, and lovely children would all be dead in the bush – having had no one loving on them – absolutely paralyzes me. The face of God is in every one of these and it doesn’t take long to see. Even as I sit here writing this I can hear some of them singing “Blessed Be the Lord our God of Zambia from everlasting to everlasting!” I'm headed out to play for awhile! Peace...