Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fight the good fight...

Hello everyone! I hope and pray that all is going well with you. I apologize that it has been so long since i blogged, but i just wasn't in a good writing groove as of late. Things on the farm have been going well aside from the three occasions that elephants have come through destroying maize fields, gardens and guava trees that have been here for years! That's one thing that you just have to deal with...shaking a stick at those creatures isn't the wisest thing to do! We have a work team here right now from Hatteras Island, NC that has come to serve and love the Zambians in any way they can. Their pastor, Billy Rutledge and I went for a 3 day trip this past weekend that was a blast. Billy and I have quickly bonded and share a lot of the same passions and have been "raised up" by a lot of the same heroes of the faith (Keith Green, A.W. Tozer, etc.) We started our trip to Lusaka (roughly a 5 hour drive) and had a shopping spree for the school kids. We bought soccer spikes, balls, jerseys, flip charts, atlas', notebooks, water paints, etc. The next day we woke up and headed to a village called Siachatema where Rev. Mwikissa (our 88 year old bible school professor) lives. We had an awesome traditional meal prepared by his wife and then they toured us around their place to show us all of the fields his wife (77 years old) had plowed, planted, and cultivated! It was unbelievable. She had several acres of land filled with the healthiest maize I have seen in Zambia. She smiled with her 3 remaining teeth showing and said "God has been good to me." What a humbling experience. Rev. Mwikissa went on to tell me that the six ladies that we had prayed for about 2 months back (5 with hearing disorders and 1 who couldn't walk) all gave testimonies the day after we prayed that they had been completely healed!! The lady who couldn't walk has joined all of the women's ministries and now leads the group of women who dance and sing every morning at church (i got to witness this with my own eyes). We serve a miracle working God. We serve a God who is alive and's not just some hobby and I'm not in this for something to do...i believe in Jesus Christ and that He came to show us the better way...a way of faith and love...of laying our lives down for one another and I tell you that though there is trial and suffering for those who follow Christ, there is fullness of peace and joy! We spent the night in the bush and Billy preached in church the next morning. Afterwards we had lunch together and then we set out for Sons of Thunder farm. I stayed up late last night pondering what it means to follow Christ. Realizing that His call is not simply to say you believe and feel good about going to heaven, but to LAY DOWN YOUR LIFE for a God who has pursued us though we run from Him and opened His arms for all who will turn from their own ways and surrender to Jesus Christ...i am a nobody...full of pride and worldly passions, but God in His mercy and love has redeemed me and given me desires that I never is the highest priviledge of our (Jessi and I) lives to be able to serve God and our brothers and sisters here in Africa...we aren't here because we are better than, but because we are less than these Zambians. They are able to continue loving God through hunger, sickness, no shelter, walking miles for water and yet in the States we stop believing God loves us if we don't get the big promotion...I am so aware of my shortcomings, but more aware of God's ability that He gives all who call on the name of Jesus Christ! Even now I am in tears that we would all humble ourselves and allow the cross to have its full effect on us so that we could rise and say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in this body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20

I truly love all of you and Jessi and I are both looking forward to seeing you soon and encouraging each other to fight the good fight and run this race to the finish.

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Disappearing Virus...

Two weeks ago Jacob and I took twelve blood tests to Lusaka. These blood tests were from the twelve chilren in the orphanage who have, at one point or another, tested positive for HIV. I think I explained the whole process in a previous blog. But the short version is that you can't trust an HIV test from a child who is less than 18 months old, because the child carries their mother's antibodies for that long. They may not actually be infected with the virus, but they could show up positive with the kind of testing that we have the ability to do on the farm. When we found out about this advanced testing in Lusaka, we decided to test all of the children to find out who was actually infected with the virus, because those that weren't were being poisoned by unneccesary medications.

Last night, we recieved the test results! Of the twelve children that were tested, two were indeterminable and had to be retested. Three came through as true positives. And SEVEN were diagnosed HIV NEGATIVE! This means that the majority of children that previously had a death sentence on their lives will be able to live long and healthy lives, especially once we are able to wean them off of the medication that they have been taking since birth. This is a huge praise! An especially awesome thing about it is that we had a set of twin boys, Bright and Bruno, who were born of an HIV positive mother. They both tested positive at birth, and because their mother was so sick, they were put into the orphanage. Sal and Renee found and rescued the dying mother and started her on HIV medications. She is now healthy and happy, still HIV Positive (as she will be for the rest of her life.) But able to live well with the help of the medications. The twin's father is still alive and the mother and father are in the process of getting married. They really wanted to take their kids out of the orphanage, but they couldn't afford the medications that the children were taking for HIV. Well...both of those twins tested negative! That means that as soon as we can get them weaned from the medication, they can go back to living with their natural mother and father. A family reunited!

I am so glad for these children and can't stop talking about the goodness of God. In a country ravaged by AIDS...7 negative tests is something to sing about!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Jessi's Farm Update

This has been a week (or 3 days) of African extremes. Let me give you a breakdown of the last few days, as ya’ll seem to enjoy knowing about the daily happenings of a Zambian farm.

On Sunday, Jake and I visited a neighboring farm and had church in an old cattle pen with haystacks for seats. The people there haven’t been to church in awhile, so they didn’t know very many songs. I ended up being the worship leader (in Tonga!) We shared a good meal of nshima and beans with them. Then, Jake decided we should go fishing in the large dam right beside our “church building.” Since we are friends with the owners of the farm, we hopped into their leaking row boat, borrowed a fishing pole (or, more accurately, fishing stick) and set on our way. To get into the boat, I had to wade through the marshes in my flip flops and long skirt (hiked up a little too high for a Zambian Sunday) holding a can of worms. Probably would’ve been a Kodak moment for my dad, who hasn’t seen me hold a can of worms since he taught me how to bait a hook back in 2nd grade. We got settled on the wobbly, water-filled row boat, and Jake set about catchin’a fish, while I just tried to keep us from “blowing out to sea” by sticking the oar firmly in the mud (we only had one paddle, which would’ve made for difficult return had we drifted too far out.) What we didn’t know until afterwards is that there had been several crocodile sightings in that particular part of the dam lately, and that, as we fished, one happened to stick his head out of water and stare at us for awhile. Fortunately, the Lord blinded our eyes and blessed our endeavors, because Jake caught one big fish quickly and was satisfied. We hiked out of the boat and I posed for a picture holding the fish (GROSS). Fishing adventure finished, let’s move onto Monday.

Monday was not only normal, crazy shopping Monday for the orphanage here on the farm, it was 1st of the month crazy shopping Monday…which is 10 times worse. So, I spent all day in town haggling over cabbage and buying nappies and rubber pants. I always feel stronger after Mondays in town because of the amount of stuff that has to be lifted to the top of the Land Rover and tied down. I judge how much stronger I’ve gotten by what kind of food I can lift. 5 Liters of milk up above my head? Much easier now. A bag full of 15 cabbages? I can at least help. A 25 kg of Mealie-meal? I’ve almost got it! A huge feed sack full of beans? NO CHANCE! My best judge is when we refill the cases of soda. Coke here comes in cases of 24 glass bottles. The cases are heavy when they’re empty, but much more so when they’re full. I couldn’t carry a full one when I got here, but the other day I was forced to as the car was far away with no chance of a better parking space. Royce (orphanage supervisor and very STRONG woman) and I carried one case each through the muddy streets of Livingstone, about 1 block to the car. I was dying by the end of it, but I kept looking at her so that I could keep my facial expression the same. I even waited while Christopher (the driver) lifted hers to the top of the vehicle before mine. By the time he got mine, I thought my arms were going to fall off. But, it was all worth it when I asked Royce, “Was that heavy for you?” “Yes!” She said. “You are getting very strong…you will be a Zambian woman in no time now!” Now if I could just get that five gallon bucket of water on top of my head…

Monday evening was normal. Sal, Renee, Alissa (our visitor), Jacob and I had a quiet dinner of fish (of course). Then Pastor Jerry called for our weekly meeting. In the middle of the phone call, someone came to the front door and gestured for Sal. He pushed back from the table and was up like a shot. He yelled on his way out the door, “I KNEW she was going to deliver today!” So, Monday night found Alissa and I playing nurse as Bessie, an orphanage worker, delivered her 2nd baby. She (Bessie) was a champ. It only took an hour and a half, and I missed the actual birth because I left for one minute to pee. Her water hadn’t even broken when I left! Two pushes later and there was a baby! The baby boy (or musanqua) was beautiful and a healthy 7.5 pounds. I got to be the official time declarer and weigher. Newborn babies are REALLY scary to handle because they are so slippery and tiny. It really feels like you’re going to drop them. We were glad to get him cleaned up and confined within a blanket. I then acted as the town heralder, running all over the farm proper yelling…”Bessie, Musanqua, 3.4 kg…” Everyone was so excited! The women came out from the orphanage clapping and singing, and the men at the dairy were congratulating the dad and slapping him on the back. His first baby boy! After cleaning up the clinic (the not so fun part), I retired to bed…EXHAUSTED.

Let’s see, Tuesday was a completely different experience. Last week, a formal letter was sent, inviting me to a meeting at the Sun International (the chain of large, expensive hotels in Livingstone). The Sun donated lots of stuff to the orphanage over Christmas. But then, they did a write up in the paper claiming that they oversaw the financial support for this and other orphanages, which is absolutely NOT true. Some people in town got pretty fired up and demanded a meeting. So, a meeting we had. The Manager of the Sun International flew in from South Africa to hear the concerns and how he could help the Zambian community. I was the only American, one of 5 white people, and the youngest by 15 years at the meeting. But, when he asked what the orphanages needs were, I didn’t hesitate to speak up, “FORMULA!” I explained my problem with searching for the understocked formula and paying outrageously for it. He nodded at his assistant and said, “No problem, we’ll ship it in from South Africa and cover all of your formula costs…next item.” The Hallelujah Chorus played through my head for a few minutes before I could focus on the meeting again. This is a huge blessing! The Lord finds some mysterious ways to provide (which sometimes involve missionaries dressing up and sipping tea in fancy board rooms), but He ALWAYS provides. I got to mention some other things about our ministry and farming projects, and the manager also offered to buy any vegetables that we can produce on the farm (for the hotel) at a profit for our people. This could really catapult the people living here into really successful farming, and they would be doing it themselves!

Tuesday evening, Alissa and I got the makings for a cake together and hiked off toward Alexander’s house. His wife has a wood burning oven that they found in farm storage, but doesn’t know how to use it. So, we taught her how to mix a cake together, wrote out a picture recipe, and got baking! The cake turned out great and the family was really excited to know how to make special occasions special now that they know how to bake a cake!

Today I need to do some administrative stuff but am hoping to teach the kids how to have a puppet show a little later. Bible study is at 14 hours (2 o ‘clock) and then Jake, Alissa and I are headed off to Abson’s village for dinner and fellowship. Not every week is this exciting or packed full of so much stuff. And I don’t always feel like such a missionary… a lot of times I feel a lot like you probably do. Just living, trying to follow the Lord and serve the people around me. The Lord is good to give us times of productivity and refreshing. I love you all and hope that I haven’t bored you with such an account. Have a wonderful week!

Friday, February 2, 2007

A Time of Refreshing

Praise God! We serve such a faithful, loving God! For the past 2 weeks a work team came from the States with several objectives in mind. Our director, Jerry Beall, came and we achieved many things. We had a few farmers come and set up some bucket irrigation kits for garden along with bringing many drought resistant seeds that will act as an excellent nutritional source for the nationals. It was such a blessed time of fellowship, hard work, and lifting up the name of Jesus Christ. We're making large strides toward building a brand new church that will hold 350 people on the farm along with converting several old chicken coups into nice apartments for long-term missionaries. Our small clinic on the farm is being converted into a large hospital and many medical supplies and large medical equipment has been coming in through donations all over the world. It's just so awesome to sit back and watch God's people building His kingdom. A kingdom that is not physical, but spiritual. The heart's of these Zambians are being changed as they see the genuine love and passion that God and His people have for them. I just want to encourage everyone today to keep in mind that you are Kingdom builders for the King of Kings. His kingdom is built as we embrace the Man Christ Jesus and His mission which is to SERVE and LOVE the people on this earth by standing on the Truth. It doesn't matter if we are teachers, government workers, policemen, preachers or nurses -- we ALL have a kingdom to build and we can all build this Kingdom as we surrender our lives to the king, Jesus, and serve Him with all of our hearts through "considering others better than ourselves." Jess and I really do love and appreciate all of you. Continue praying for us as we are praying for you.
"If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone; behold, the new has come..." 2 Cor. 5:17