Monday, October 29, 2007

Siachatema Outreach

Jessi and I just returned this past weekend from our first overnight outreach in Siachetema. Siachatema is located two and a half hours from our farm and it is a very strategic point for us because it has deep foundations in Christianity. In the early 1900’s, a young woman named Ms. Peyton, packed up her belongings in the States and made way for Africa to be a witness for Jesus Christ. She planted herself in the Siachetema community and immediately began taking care of orphans and raising them up in the Lord. Many of you have heard of Reverend Mwikissa, the 87 year old evangelist who taught at our Bible school. He was one of Ms. Peyton’s orphans. She seemed to leave quite a mark on this community, which has put out many strong leaders and gifted men and women. Our reason for making Siachetema our first area of focus is because we believe God has anointed leaders there who will be catalysts for revival in Zambia.
Our two days were well spent as we met with some key leaders (District Superintendents of churches, clinic officers, pastors, etc.) We brought two wonderful Zambians with us on the journey who will continue to accompany us on these trips. Lena is a widow that lives on our farm with 2 children and she has a big heart for discipling children and women. She was one of our discipleship students last year and will be acting as a teacher and translator on our outreaches. Tom is a 21 year old young man with a big heart for evangelism. He has been traveling on his own throughout Zambia after graduating from grade 12 and preaching the gospel wherever he can. He has a huge passion for seeing youth stand strong in the Lord and he believes very strongly in the vision to establish leaders in the rural areas.
Jessi and Lena stayed in an extra room in Rev. Mwikissa’s home and Tom and I tried out a new 2-man canvas tent I purchased . It is much smaller than the one we are bringing in from South Africa, but it was perfect for a two-day trip. We enjoyed some good traditional food and were even invited to attend a traditional wedding involving some friends we know. One interesting part of the wedding was when it came time to present the gifts. Instead of having a table everyone set them on they set a table up in the middle of all the attendees and asked each person to individually come up and present their gift. If it was 4,000 kwacha (one dollar) then they announced, “4,000 kwacha has been given by…” or if it was three new pots then they announced “three new pots have been given by…!” I could just imagine us doing something like that for a wedding at home…yea right!
Sunday morning I preached on God’s plan for building leaders in Siachatema using scriptures in Isaiah 37:30-32 and John 12:23-28. We spoke of how God desires to raise up men with “deep roots and good fruits” and that the way to becoming a leader is by dying to self and coming alive to the heart of God. Several men and women stayed after the service to share how they were impacted by the message and they felt they were called to be leaders in this thing. That was a huge blessing and confirmation. I also got to visit with a lady who I had prayed for about 10 months ago. She was the one who was not able to walk and after prayer she was totally healed and joined the dance team. She told me that from that day she has walked with no problem and no pain! Hallelujah, we serve a miracle working God!
By the end of it Jessi and I felt like we could have stayed forever (with the exception of missing Mukansunda like crazy) which brings us to our next topic! As most of you know God has led us to adopt a beautiful 20 month old Zambian orphan named Sunda. We are waiting for the final paper to arrive from our home study the States and then we will be going ahead full force with the adoption in Zambia. For all of you who have been asking about our little girl, she is doing very well. She is a non-stop talker who seems to pick up new words every minute (she has now mastered water, mama, daddy, kitty, cheetah, bee, bird, mmmm, yummy, and many others). She loves to dance and sing especially with songs in tonga (the language here in this area of Zambia) although her favorite song is the hamster song on a musical card my parents sent. The first hundred times she listened and danced to it was cute, but Jessi and I are now praying that she figures out a way to break the thing!
We just want to let you all know that we appreciate the prayers and love you send us through e-mail, letters and finances! God is doing awesome things in this place and we love having you all as a team to correspond with and co-labor with in God’s kingdom.

Our prayer is that God would give you all a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus Christ!
Peace and Love,
Jacob and Jessi

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Weather (among other things)

Don't get confused, because of lack of internet access, blog was written on Thursday, Oct. 11. Posted on Monday, Oct. 15

The weather has broken today. I woke this morning to a cool breeze blowing through the window and a cloud covering the piercing sun. Usually, in this season, you are awakened at sunrise becomes it becomes too hot to stay in bed. But today, I slept past my alarm and didn’t even hear Jacob stir when he got up to start the day. I thought it was still night, because I was still comfortable. The breeze feels nice. Days like this make me think of home. Why, I wonder? Maybe because so often, West Virginia days are gray just like this one. Everything feels quieter and more manageable when there’s a breeze blowing through the leaves and the smell of citrus trees waft through the window screens. But, the breaking weather brings about another season…rainy season.

The good thing about rainy season is that we have occasional gray, cool days. The bad thing about rainy season is that between rains, the weather becomes so stifling hot and humid it feels like your own personal sauna, here just to sap your energy. The rainy season also brings bugs like you’ve never seen before. Winged termites who arrive by the thousand, huge dung beetles, moths the size of small birds, and more ants than you can count.

Okay, that was just a warm-up. Onto the real story.

Yesterday, Lisa (on-field director Jeff’s wife), Jaime (new orphanage director), and I went to a ladies breakfast in town. The hostess had invited a Zambian woman named Milas to talk with us about some cultural issues that we may or may not be aware of. What a fascinating breakfast! One of the women at the breakfast has been living in Zambia for 43 years. Some have been ministering with the same organization for 15 years. And some, like Jaime, had been in Zambia a whole 2 weeks. Regardless of our individual knowledge and understanding of Zambian culture, all of us were surprised at some of the things that Milas explained to us. I would like to explain some of these traditional customs to you. But they are explicit, be warned.
When a baby is born, he/she is confined to the house for the first month of its life. This is because a popular Zambian belief states that the air outside the house is polluted (for a newborn). All clothes and cloth diapers must be washed and dried inside the house. Remember, Zambian houses are mud huts about the size of your master bathroom, with a lower ceiling.

The baby must be bathed in water that has been infused with various roots and tree bark. Often, this dirty water and lack of ventilation can cause an infection in the umbilical cord area. Babies sometimes contract tetanus and die because of this method.

The mother and father of the baby must not engage in sexual intercourse for the first 3 months of the baby’s life. The first time that the couple comes together after the birth of the baby, the semen must be spilled upon the baby. The ceremony is called giving the baby its “second birth.” This time of second birth is when the child is finally considered a human being. If the child dies before that time, the death will be accounted to the fault of the father, who will be assumed to have had an adulterous affair. He will often have to pay retribution to his wife’s family because he was “responsible” for the child’s death. Also, if the child dies before this time of “second birth” the women will be the only ones to attend the funeral because the child was not yet considered a human being.

If the child is a girl, she will begin to be taught about being a woman at age 10. At this age, the young girls will be gathered into one home and taught how to stretch their labia to an appropriate length so that they will be more desirable to their future husbands. They will work on this stretching for many years, causing cracks and tears in the sensitive skin that often leaves them more susceptible to contracting the HIV virus.

When the girl starts menstruating, her mother will hire another woman (sometimes a family member, sometimes not) to instruct her daughter in the ways of being a woman. She will be confined to a home for up to 3 months and taught how to serve a man and how to please her husband. If she is not a good student, she will be beaten by the women who are teaching her. Her mother plays no part in this teaching process, it is considered inappropriate for a mother to teach her daughter anything about sex. The daughter is not even supposed to tell her mother when she has started her menstruation, but instead is to go to another woman in the village who will inform her mother for her.

After this time of confinement, the girl is brought out into the world to dance and show off to the whole village. She is scantily clad and the men from the village come to watch and admire her. Premarital sex is not generally discouraged, so after being taught about all of these sexual methods and areas of responsibility, the girl is curious to experience the things taught her by her grandmothers. The men of the village are also interested to see what she has learned. The girl is taught to use herbs to make herself very dry [during sex]. This is supposed to allow for more pleasure on the man’s part. This also allows for more wounding, which, in addition to the torn labia, allows for extra easy HIV infection. Often, because of the taboos that do not permit a father to show interest in or affection toward his daughter, women are especially desperate for male companionship to fill the need for a male protector in their lives.

These traditions vary from tribe to tribe. The methods are not all the same. But, across the board, educated or uneducated, churched or un-churched, there are Africans who are continuing in these dangerous and painful methods. Maybe you are “disgusted” or “shocked” at these facts. I may have been at first, but it only takes switching on a TV in the U.S. to confirm that we suffer from the same barbaric methods-we just put lipstick on it and call it a Playboy bunny. Our 13-year-olds run around scantily clad, attracting the attention of whoever will look. Our women pay thousands and thousands of dollars to surgically augment every part of their body. In my hometown the strip clubs on Main St. outnumber the grocery stores, flower shops, and banks combined.

Milas said that she discovered that the traditional methods were a lie by asking the white woman who came to speak at her church about it. She was really interested to see how, if the white people didn’t follow these same methods, their babies lived and prospered and their children married and lived happily. She encouraged us to use our own testimonies, and hers, as proof that witchcraft and traditional medicine do not improve quality of life, but only plunge the user further into fears and bondage.

Is this relevant to our American culture? Could it be true that our culture’s manic frenzy toward “sexual freedom” is actually more related to barbaric African customs than it is to a modern, educated society? What kind of truth are we seeking by telling women to “be comfortable enough with their bodies” to display them on the internet or for a video camera? Often, our living rooms serve as the same kind of classroom the Zambian mud huts do, but our teachers come in the form of vulgar TV shows that openly display sexual techniques and make light of extra-marital affairs. Are we finding the truth, the improvement that we’re looking for, in the form of this “it’s all relative” view of morality?

Just asking…

Because here, in Zambia, the only way that people are being set free from witchcraft is to hear and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When the truth of God is planted deep in their hearts, the Holy Spirit gives them the power to stand up against the fear of man. They are given the courage to say to their grandparents, “You won’t bathe my child in herbs and roots.” “You won’t teach my daughter about sex.” “You won’t tie charms on my son or on me.” And I won’t die [because of rejecting these methods], but will live, and live to the fullest. And they find that their children don’t die. And they find that they don’t have to live under a burden of fear and worry. But instead, they can live with joy and with purpose.

Are we living under the restrictions that our culture places upon us? Are we [as Christians] dressing, talking, acting, or working a certain way in order to make the people around us comfortable? Are we trying to make a gray area between right and wrong instead of just declaring that it is black and white? The Bible says that God would rather us be hot or cold, but not lukewarm. We are not the judgment makers, that job falls to God. However, I’m willing to stand up in a culture that is not my own and declare to those people that they don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Am I willing to do it in my own country, in my own state, in my own hometown? Are you?

My heart is breaking for women. And children. And people who are living under a system that they think is giving life. A system that they think is the only way. But it’s not. There is another way. Zambian, American, Indian, European. We must turn from our ways and see the peace, freedom, joy (and trials) that come with serving Jesus Christ.

What a blessing it is to be truly free.

And what a blessing it is to you that I am finally done with this blog. Thanks for sticking with me.


Now, I Live...not i, but Christ who lives in me

I’m sitting here right now thinking about what it is to be alive. To really live. I’m not talking about having a pulse. I’m talking about that feeling you get on Christmas morning - that “I can’t wait to live this day” feeling. I’m making a resolve this year in Africa to wake up every day with that same knowing – that each day, no, each moment is the greatest moment of my life. And why can I wake up this way? Because I have been redeemed and grafted into the family of God – my Father, King Jesus! His thoughts for us each moment are greater than the sand on the seashore. God is always up for conversation – always waiting with anticipation for His kids to draw near to Him just to love Him and be loved on. I’m done looking at every difficult situation as wasted time – God set me in this place, to be involved in this story and to effect my surroundings for His glory. I praise God for my wife. I thank God that He gave me such an unbelievable woman to share my story with. I don’t thank Him enough or let her know enough how much she is appreciated. I love sharing this journey with her. And how awesome that God’s greatest desire is love!!! That He wells up with joy when two of His kids are joined together as one in marriage because it is a foreshadowing of our ultimate union with Jesus. I feel like God is showing me how to let my heart live. Showing me how to experience that life that only those who have committed their lives to Christ can have – ABUNDANT LIFE. Satan has stolen enough of my moments and convinced me they were wasted. He is a thief and a liar.

Did you know that the heart is the most addressed subject in all of scripture? No wonder there is a great battle for who gets control of it…God or the devil. One is out to destroy our hearts and the other has gone to hell and back in order to rescue our hearts. I’m glad my God is a warrior. He fights for our hearts. He wars for us. I just want to say to all of you. WAKE UP. LIVE. LISTEN TO JESUS. He is the desire of your heart. You get right with Him and your heart comes alive. There is no other way. It’s not in a new job. Not in an affair with that beautiful woman or handsome man. It’s not around the corner after this financial problem passes. It’s in the moment you choose to acknowledge God as Sovereign and let Him have control. He has not given up on you! Read Hosea…even when we have prostituted ourselves to the world He comes to us and rescues us from the filth and says “Be mine again!” Live your life in such a way that the world has nothing to say but “I want what you have…” That’s what Jesus did. That’s what we are called to do.

I love you all and am praying for you with tears,

Saturday, October 6, 2007

"Ja-cob and Jes-si! Ja-cob and Jes-si!"

Well, we’re here! Jake and I arrived in Zambia on Friday, Sept. 28th. We got such a wonderful welcome from the people on the farm and from the kids in the orphanage. There’s nothing better than arriving back to Meshack jumping in your arms screaming, “Jessi! Jessi! JESSSSSIIIII!!!

The kids greeted Jacob by saying, “Jacob! You’re back! Mukansunda! She’s here!” We would have preferred to ease into scooping ‘Sunda up into our arms (for her sake), but the kids would have none of that. The older ones immediately ran off to “get ‘Sunda,”so Jacob had ahold of her within 5 minutes. Needless to say, it has been quite a process to get her to open up again. Yesterday she smiled for the first time in our presence. Today she has been talking and repeating what we say. This afternoon she even kissed me voluntarily (a rare occasion). As much as you try to prepare yourself for it, you’re never quite ready for a child to cry at the sight of you when she used to run into your arms giggling. It has been as much of an adjustment for Jake and I as it has been for her, I think. Actually, Mukansunda is not staying with us at the time being. Jake and I are in the process of working on our apartment in the tobacco barn. Until that’s finished, we are staying with Jeff and Lisa in the guest house. We want to have our own space and schedule before we bring her into the mix. Also, we are trying to do everything under the law and in good order. So, we decided not to have her stay with us full-time until we have Zambian social service permission, which requires the U.S. home study papers to go through. We are hoping that this is a healthy way to go about everything, trying to keep her life simple and loving. She is familiar with the orphanage and feels safe there, so the fact that she is still eating and sleeping there is okay right now. Hopefully, by the time we are able to have her stay with us full-time we will have everything ready in our apartment and she will be ready to make the move, without too much of a schedule or life change. That’s the plan. We’ll see. And hope. And pray.

Things are running beautifully on the farm and it has been a pleasure to get to know Jeff and Lisa better. There is also a woman here running the orphanage for the year. Her name is Jaime and she is a couple of years older than Jacob and I. She is doing a great job of identifying needs in the orphanage and it’s good to have her here. What a job! She seems up for the challenge.

I mentioned above that we will be living in the tobacco barn this year. We lived in a tobacco barn apartment for a short time last year, before things shifted and we were able to use the bigger, nicer clinic apartment. Well, the last work team that was here worked really hard to convert two apartments in the tobacco barn into a big apartment, just for us! We have some things to finish up (an understatement; really, the electric, the plumbing, the floors, the windows…). But it’ll be really exciting to have our own place to decorate, that’s what I’ve been longing for. Plus, it’s something for us to concentrate on and work toward while we’re waiting for things to come together for our bush ministry and the adoption.

As far as ministry, we just need to get a tent before we can head out into the bush. The good tents come from South Africa and are too heavy to come with us on a plane, so Jacob will have to make a road trip to pick it up. After that trip, we should be on our way to getting out into the villages, and we’re excited about that. It has been good to reconnect with our Zambian friends and hear, “Yes! That is just what Zambia needs!” (referring to the work that we want to do).

It’s hot here. Comparable to West Virginia in August. But, even West Virginia in August is nothing compared to what we’re in for! It’s still comfortable in the mornings and evenings. Not to fear, the temperature will reach miserable heights soon enough! For right now, we’re just enjoying the rare cool breeze.

Forgive me for such a non-innovative, informative blog. I thought an informational update was in order, and hope that you enjoy it! Enjoy the changing of the leaves and the cool autumn breeze!