Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"A few cards and letters and some long distance calls..."

Dear Friends and Supporters,

*Warning: This blog may be cheesy and sentimental.*

I warned you. The reason for this blog is not a revelation on the status of poverty in Africa, or the report of a medical miracle, or even an update on what’s happening here. In fact, it is being written because as I sit here at our computer, I am completely overwhelmed with emotion. Let me tell you why:

This afternoon, I mentioned to my loving husband that I would be cleaning out our office area this week (which, believe it or not, has accumulated a TON of stuff in a 10 month period.) We need to distribute random donations that never got distributed, file farm receipts that haven’t been filed, type up handwritten lists of policies and procedures and make a handbook, and other things of that nature. Besides all of that, we just needed to organize and downsize so that everything could be stored while we are in the States. After mentioning all of this to my loving husband (did I mention he was loving?) I realized that I may have just made the biggest mistake of the day. My reasoning said, “Tell Jacob what your plans are for this week so that he can be prewarned that he will soon have a pile of STUFF to sort through.” Good reasoning, right? Wrong. My hardworking and industrious husband decided that RIGHT NOW was a good time to completely destruct the office and clean it out and distribute all donations. So we did. Actually, we are. I’m sitting in post-office destruction now. He is distributing. Think someone is a little excited to come home? This marriage thing…I tell ya. Just when you think you have it all figured out (I was really proud of myself for communicating my plan and my need) they turn it around on you and hit the fast forward button. I will probably be praising my hyperactive husband’s smart thinking when I don’t have to do this job later in the week. But right now, I’m a little overwhelmed with the mess. Onto the real story.

Every card that we received this year was put into our bottom desk drawer. I would get it at the post office, rip it open, read it immediately, display it on the table, dresser, bookcase, etc. for a long time (reading it often) and then put it into the bottom desk drawer for safe keeping. I started to clean out this desk drawer, and lo and behold, treasures beyond measure! I had forgotten about so many of those cards that were sent in August, or the Christmas cards from December, and the ones from Valentines Day, or just anytime that you decided to send cards, letters, pictures, and recipes. It was like Christmas all over again as I sat and read through the letters, picked out pictures to leave here with the kids, and marveled at the beautiful cards. I have never been so touched or affected by all of these cards as I was today, the fiftieth time I had read many of them. I hope that I thanked you individually every time that I got a card or letter from you, but I fear that I may have missed quite a few. You might’ve wondered if it got lost in the Africa Triangle (a few probably did!) But usually they didn’t! They came all the way to Zambia and brightened my day and sometimes my week, and they just did it again. Thank you so much! I am so thankful in fact, that I have decided to give out E-awards to those faithful card senders who make the mission field so much brighter and easier to handle!

To The Momma and Papa Schwertfeger: By far, you are awarded the Cutest Card Award, and The Best Pictures Award. I believe you also sent the Most Useful Packages (with contents including air freshener, Big Red Gum, and the only foot cream that works.) Thank you so much.

To my Momma: You are awarded the Most Creative Package Award. Your packages have kept my home interiorly decorated for every holiday except Zambian Independence Day (we’ll work on that next year.) However, you are also awarded Best Caller Award, which I’m sure you wish came with a cash prize for all the money you’ve spent on phone cards!

To my Daddy: You are awarded the Sweetest Package Award. Your packages have kept me properly balanced. Before your packages at Christmas Jake and I’s bodily sugar stores were starting to get really low. You are also the most popular package sender by the kids, when I was generous enough to share.

To Beth and Jenn: The Most Indulgent Package Award. Who else sends you sweet smelling soap and pedicures in a box? None other than the best girlfriends in the universe. Beth, you are also awarded Most Beautiful Homemade Card Award. I have to keep your cards because they are works of art!

To Jennifer: I have to say, my beautiful friend, that out of all parents, grandparents, and friends, you are awarded the Most Cards and Letters Award. I couldn’t count all the envelopes that I pulled out of my drawer with your return address. And you’re not just a card signer, oh no, you wrote full 5 page letters for most of your mailings. Jake and I fought over who got to read your letters first. What would we do without you? Thank you so much.

To Gramma Moninger: You are awarded the most “newsy”letters award (which was very much appreciated!) And, the Most Recipes Award. I get requests for your Texas Sheet Cake once a week! Also, your first letter was the very first one we received in Zambia. Way to be on the ball!

To Gramma Cain: You are awarded the Most Homesick Card Award. Something about your cards always made me want to come to your house and eat chicken soup and watch the Steelers on TV. See you soon!

In all seriousness, I just can’t think of a way to express how deeply thankful we are, how thankful I am. You may have thought it was “just a card.” But really, your cards, letters, and packages made all the difference in the world to us. Thanks for taking the time, giving the effort, and spending the money to keep in touch with us by sending stuff and by calling. We are very spoiled missionaries. Even those that emailed and left comments on our blog are so very appreciated. I can’t express to you how important it has been for us to know how much you care about what God has us up to. I am thinking of the 10 or 15 people that sent just one letter, which is still enough to bring tears to the eyes of someone far from home!

We are getting pretty excited to come home. Still trying to focus on Africa and finish well, though. Mostly, I can’t wait to tell so many of you a hundred stories about Africa and hear a hundred stories about how your year has been. (Can we talk at Starbucks though? ‘Cause I could really use a Chai Tea.)

Love you guys! See you soon!


Monday, May 14, 2007

Palaces, Tents, and Chief Musokotwane

Last week, Jake and I had the opportunity to do a favor for some friends of ours. We babysat their kids for a day and night so that they could get some much needed “Mommy and Daddy time” in a nearby lodge. The school system in Zambia runs on a year-round schedule, so the kids have off the month of April, the month of August, and the month of December. Well, their three very active kids had been hanging out at home for the whole month of April, and as April drew to an end, mom and dad decided they needed to (understandably) get away for awhile. These friends are a couple in their 30’s from Kentucky who pastor a church in town. They are missionaries too, but their life is a little different from ours. They live in a very beautiful house in town, and their schedule is much like you would expect from a pastoring couple at home (if you know what that looks like.) It was nice to spend some time in their home and with their children. The kids are 6, 8, and 10. Two girls and a boy. Adorable, smart and hilarious. We had a blast playing hide and seek when it got dark and going for a ride to the big baobab tree in the safari truck. I had a really good time cooking in her wonderfully large and well organized kitchen and bathing in their large porcelain tub that has a seemingly never ending flow of hot water. As Jake and I fell asleep that night, I thought, “I could do this. I could take care of 3 kids and live in a house like this. Hmmmm…”

Fast forward a couple of days. Jake and I also got the opportunity to visit a mission on the other side of town called Overland Missions (look it up online, they have a great website). They are a mission organization committed to training up pastors and discipling people in seldom reached places. Just now they have brought in a whole load of American, Canadian, and South African young adults for a school called “AMT: Advanced Mission Training.” The school runs for 3 months and its participants take a slew of classes. A lot of them are Bible training and leadership courses with a few doses of cultural anthropology. But some of them are entitled: Diesel Mechanics and Repair, 4x4 Driving, Bush Living, GPRS systems, and Welding. Scary and fascinating all at the same time. The mission is set right on the Victoria Falls gorge and the view is something a fancy lodge would pay millions for. The land, however, was given to the director by a friendly chief (refer to sidenote) who believed in what they were trying to accomplish in Zambia. The mission is based quite far out in the bush, with no electricity. They sleep in tents, have a generator for the darkest hours, and pump water for washing from the gorge. Drinking water gets hauled in from the nearest borehole well. It’s a well-run and refreshing organization, and Jake and I had a blast hanging out with tons of folks our age who have the same heart for throwing all the plans away and just going for Jesus. That brings me to the irony I wanted to illustrate. That night, as I was falling asleep next to Jake in a tiny two man tent, wrapped in a load of blankets and trying to find a place on the ground that was not quite as hard as where I was, I thought, “I could do this. I could live in the bush and cook on the fire and fall asleep in the fresh air every night. I could definitely do this.”

So, the question remains, which one? Should we build ourselves a nice house with shiny appliances and pictures on the walls? Or should we find a sweet tent that keeps out the bugs and the rain and make our home there? The problem is, I’m an adventurer about 6 ½ days out of every week. And that last part is when I just want a hot bath and a real mattress. If anyone finds a tent with a Jacuzzi attached…let me know…I’d be very interested.

*Sidenote: Okay. For anyone that’s interested, I wasn’t kidding about the chief giving away this million dollar plot of land to the directors of Overland Missions. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for chiefs to give away land or anything else to people that they like. And it’s their prerogative to do it if they want to. In the rural areas of Zambia, all of the land technically belongs to the government. But, according to custom, it belongs to the village chief of whatever village has claimed that land. Each small village has a headman who reports to the chief, who is in charge of all the villages in his district. The chief lives in a proper house made of blocks that they call “the Palace.” This is the case for most rural chiefdoms in Zambia. For example: The land next to our farm is entitled “Musokotwane.” Each village in the area has a headman, but “Chief Musokotwane” is in charge of the whole district of villages. He decides who gets what land. He decides what projects are important to his people, and he petitions the government and the aid organizations of their behalf. In our case, Chief Musokotwane is a regular patient at our clinic. He gets to come in when the clinic is usually closed and gets special treatment from everyone. If he would fall ill enough to have to stay overnight, he would get a private room. I’m not kidding. He’s a big deal. He wears a gold chain, a watch, and a tipped hat. The only thing that gives him away are the faded rainbow flip-flops on his feet and the holes in his trousers. He has the power to give us whatever he owns. At this moment, that includes allowing us access into his private lumber supply to select wood for the new orphanage furniture. Isn’t that wild? I was on my best behavior in front of the chief, pronounced the correct Tonga words very carefully, and made sure to bow a little bit and clap when thanking him for visiting. So, it’s a very big compliment to Overland Missions that their chief gave them his best piece of land for their projects. And it’s a big compliment to us that our chief comes to our clinic and invites us to his home. Who knows what can happen when a chief likes you!*

Friday, May 11, 2007


Wow! I can't believe it's been almost a year ago that Jessi and I landed here in Africa and began this journey. So many things have changed in our lives - God has shown us so much and has truly been our Great Enabler! I was just thinking about how many simple things have changed for us...like our vocabulary. Being exposed to soo many different cultures and people forces you to take on new words in your vocab. Here are a few I can think of off hand.

cheers mate - a term that means "thanks friend" or "good seeing you buddy"
"See you later." "Cheers mate."

lemon - a term used for someone who has a habit of doing unintelligent things
"Did you see that guy wrestling the gator...he's a complete lemon man!"

just now - a term that means you want something in a couple minutes, but can do without it for now
"Do you want some mashed potatoes?" "I'll have some just now."

now now - a term that means in a few minutes, hours or days (very descriptive, huh?)
"Is the food coming soon?" "Yes...it's coming now now."

oaks - a term describing a group of people you either don't know well or don't like
"Ah, you can get those tires from the oaks at AutoWorld."

a bit ok - a response to "how are you?" that usually means your are doing very well, but sometimes can mean you are recovering from an accident

chips - the name for french fries

cozies - bathing suits

mozi spray - mosquito spray

buggard - something that is completely and utterly messed up
"That raditor is buggard mate."

That takes care of just a few of the new phrases we have picked up here...so if you don't understand us when we return just look to this list and it should help you! haha...

On another note we just want to take some time to thank all of you who have been taking this journey with us. We've loved reading the posts on the blogs, the e-mails, receiving mail and getting phone calls. We treasure all of you so much and we thank God that we have such an amazing support group at home. We really do love you and we're looking forward to continuing this journey as God leads us.