Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christmas Pictures...Grrrr...

So, I am trying really hard to make sure that this is a wonderful holiday season for Sunda and the rest of us. I am not a naturally good "holiday planner." However, I also tend to make huge last-minute demands of myself to make sure that it comes off nicely. In the process of me running around on Christmas Eve Day baking 12 dozen cookies and making centerpieces, my husband tends to suffer. I have vowed that Sunda won't have to go through the pain of a stressful holiday because of my disorganization. So, I've started early. Making my lists and checking them twice. Like I said...trying really hard.

One of the most important parts of this whole process is, of course, the age old struggle of getting a good picture to send out on a Christmas card (preferably before Christmas). I remember when I was young that the first Christmas card my mom opened (usually in the few days after Thanksgiving) was the one that reminded her that we needed to get on the ball and get some pictures taken so that we could send out our own card. There would then be the scramble to find coordinating clothes and get all four of us kids smiling long enough to snap a shot deemed worthy of hanging on the refridgerators of our families and friends. By the time I was in highschool, my mom had tired of the process so much that we stopped going to the professionals and started using whatever decent photo of the four of us that had been taken in the course of that year. Little did I realize what I was in for. And I've only got one!

So, this morning was spent trying to figure out a picture for a Christmas card. I had this cute idea that involved bundling up and going outside, taking a picture that implied that we were "waiting for snow." But, the rainy, dreary day didn't really cooperate with me. So, changing lanes completely, this is what we came up with:

Cute, right?


The problem is this: I hate posed photographs. Something about them just doesn't capture the essence of me or my family. Something about it says, "Haha...we have it together and got our our picture earlier than you. Aren't we cute?" I know, I know. I'm being ridiculous. I just wish that I could make a Christmas card of some of these pictures instead:

A little more true to life, I think.

All I know for sure right now is that none of these pictures are what you will see on your Christmas card from us. I just need a compromise...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jessi and Sunda's Florida Trip

"Ummm... could someone get me some milk? And put one of those little umbrellas in it!"

Sunda and I spent Halloween at my mom's house in Florida. What an absolutely WONDERFUL time. I can't tell you what a blessing it was to be with "the fam." My stepdad Riki, my sister Jayne, my brother Henry, and of course, my mom. You don't realize how much you're missing until you get with the people who know you better than anyone. Since Jake, Sunda, and I have returned home from Zambia, there has been tons of the love and attention focused on my lovely daughter (which has been a good thing!)But I have to admit, that as a new and semi-immature mom, it was so good to get pampered by MY mom. This probably feels good at any age!

Sunda had an absolute blast with "Gamma Masha" (Gramma Marsha). They were fast friends by the end of week, with my mom even taking over the bedtime routine one night so that I could kick Henry and Jayne's butts in Monopoly (Yeah right).

Some of our experiences in Florida included going to Downtown Disney and Sea World. Sunda was absolutely overwhelmed with everything at Downtown Disney (this is not the park, but the free attraction that is outside the park) and by the time we got to the Rainforest Cafe for lunch had had enough of Disney's animation antics. When she caught sight of a motorized talking tree in the Rainforest Cafe I thought she was going to lose it. She kept looking over her shoulder to make sure it wasn't following her. She looked at me as if she was thinking, "Mom, this isn't right, and you know it." Poor thing. Even though she is VERY adapted and not afraid of too many things, I sometimes forget that she hasn't really been exposed to the magic of Disney or animated talking trees yet, so we'll take it slow.

Sea World was definitely the highlight of our trip, and Shamu took the cake in Sunda's book. The child that won't sit still for ANYTHING sat mesmerized on my mom's lap, with her mouth open, for the entire 40 minute show. Now, if I could only get Shamu to visit when I want to get dinner started...

There were so many other great things that Sunda got to do: Play in the freezing cold pool, go to the local "My Gym" for kids, go trick-or-treating, experience one of my mom's famous Halloween theme parties, and of course, bond with her family. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, and neither of us can wait to go back in December.

Amazingly enough, Sunda and I survived our solo plane trips just fine, with no potty accidents and little to no crying. You really feel like you've accomplished something when you travel alone with a child. It's a little bit of a mission to wield a stroller and a backpack and the passports and take off our shoes for security. But we made it! And I'm confident enough now to take her anywhere...we travel well together!

Sunda's Halloween costume. She's gorgeous and she knows it!

Because we're missing the Overland Crew...Love you guys!
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What a Beautiful Day...

It's gray and windy outside. It feels almost bitterly cold to me, meaning that it's probably not more than 40 degrees. It's only 5 o'clock, but the whole day has been so dim that it's practically dark already.

It makes me want to stay inside, with slippers on. Drink tea and eat potato soup. I want to be able to tell Sunda, "No, it's too cold to go outside...let's stay inside and read books."

I will be sick of this in approximately 2 weeks. I will be in tears about it by Christmas and will not want to get out of bed. I will be absolutely thrilled with the perfectly sunshiney, boiling hot weather by the time I get back to Zambia. But right's an absolutely BEAUTIFUL day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My, how the time has flown...

Yesterday, I was cleaning out and organizing some of the things that I left here at the Schwertfeger's last year when we went back to Zambia. I found a journal from our first year in Africa. At the beginning of the journal was an entry and a "poem" that I faintly remember writing. I had almost forgotten the transition that came from adjusting to life in a third world country. It seems humorous to me now. There are so many things that I thought were strange. At this point, they seem absolutely normal. The reality of Africa is a good reminder to me today, as I sit in my American living room with everything I could ever need at my fingertips.

Dated September 14, 2006:

"How different I am in such a short time. Nothing like being in charge of an orphanage to help you grow up pretty quickly. My concerns have changed, and I am constantly fighting any urge to have concern for self. Instead, I'm attempting to put those concerns toward Jacob and the kids [in the orphanage]. My dreams these days are haunting; refrigerators with too little food. Fields with too little green. Not enough clothes for the orphans. Not enough milk for the babies. Not enough. Never enough. But I know that there WILL be enough. That the Lord gives us free access to his "storeroom" when we use it for His glory.

(A prayer that I wrote under the journal entry:)

I pray against the spirit of scarcity that has come over me. I say, Jesus, that because you have died...there is always enough. Oh Lord, I give up my rights, my possessions, my heart. Strip me clean, O God. All of You is more than enough for all of Africa. All of this is Yours to do with as You please. I give up my heart, my mind, my personality, my opinions...I have no rights except to trust in You. No choice really. Hide me in the cleft of Your rock. In you. Make me strong and courageous.

(I continued on to write down some of the things I'd been through in a short 3 week period. Please excuse the terrible form and nieve ramblings. It was so real to me two years ago.)

I am a spider killer and an ant destroyer. Stink bugs tremble at the thoughts of my mighty flick.
I am a bush fire fighter and a motorcycle mama.
I fear no buzzing bees or screeching owls.
I have named the rats that scamper across my ceiling.
I make tea on the fire when the power goes out and I bathe in the bucket when the water pressure is low.
I can carry babies on my back and push start the truck.
I am getting stronger everyday.

I can climb into a Land Rover while wearing a floor grazing skirt.
I can shop for 55 children and sell oranges by the bushel at the same time.
I am a shrewd business woman in the market.
I buy tomatoes, onions, and nuts from the same smiling, toothless women every week.
I have learned to use the bathroom in the same room as my new husband even though only a bamboo wall seperates the bathroom from the bedroom.

I have seen women in silent labor and HIV patients with 105 degree fevers.

I have had malnourished children melt into my arms. I have had others scream with fear because of my white face.

I have seen more pussing, oozing rashes than I ever wanted to know about.

I have been the sword bearer (or rock finder) for my husband as he pelted the 5 foot cobra that slithered in front of our feet.

I like nshima, cabbage, and chicken more than hamburgers and apple pie (mainly because I don't really like hamburgers and apple pie).

I have dressed the body of a child who died during the night.
I have delivered that baby to his family and listened to them weep.
I have wept to myself, thinking, "What else can I do?"
And I have decided. I can love the ones who are still hanging on. Strapping them to my back while I work and laying them on my chest while I rest.
I can teach the good women who love them about dehydration, sanitation, and loving attention.
And they will teach me:
How to build a fire and cook on it.
How to polish a dirt floor smooth.
How to work harder and carry more than the men.
How to balance a 5 gallon bucket of water on my head.
How to make empty candy wrappers into a wreath to hang on the door.
How to sing for joy because of having just enough. Food. Water. Shelter. Happiness.

(End journal entry)

Obviously, Jake and I are no longer working at the orphanage. The wonderful Jaime took for a year and now the Zambian supervisors are caring for the kids.

Everyone always wants to know what we do in Africa. It's so easy to give pat answers: "Oh you know, we do administrative work. We minister in the bush. We teach people stuff." After re-reading this journal entry, I'm convinced that I've learned way more from Zambia in the last two years than it will ever learn from me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I're going to fall over from the shock and awe this post will produce.


A picture of Sunda on her first day in America...with her new baby doll!

Mama's hair handiwork

Sunda and her "Uncle C."

Painting pumpkins.

Honestly? I now feel like a REAL blogger and a proper mother since I have summoned up the effort and the courage to post pictures. It is a big step for me.

Gotta go, it's family game night. Pizza and Yahtzee with the Schwertfegers...can't beat it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wife, Mother, and Hairstylist

I posted before about the drama involved with managing Sunda's hair. I mean, I rarely write about things like this...and never more than once. So, you know it's serious.

I have been stressing myself out about this hair since we've come home from Africa. I scoured the internet and didn't really find the answers I was looking for. I didn't need a guidebook...I needed a guru. So...

On Monday, I took her to a beauty shop that a friend at church recommended, and the wonderful stylist there showed me how to properly comb out, grease, and twist Sunda's hair into ponytails that will prevent the mess that her hair was when I walked into the place. When I expressed my immense gratitude for the help and advice, one of the white stylists said, "I thought it looked cute when they came in." The stylist that helped me said, "That wasn't cute...that was a MESS." Well. At least she called it like she saw it.

Needless to say, and to my shame...Sunda was a little less than well-behaved at the salon on Monday. And when I say a little less, I mean that she was kicking, scratching and screaming her way out of that chair. I was instructed by my wise hair sage that the right thing to do was just to teach her that she could not get her way out of getting her hair done. No way. No how. I will spare you the details of how you discipline a child who attempts to kick the hair stylist.

The simple and do-able style that I was taught on Monday has to be redone every couple of days, so today I embarked on my first challenge. A wide tooth comb. A tub of vaseline. A million rubber bands. And a sea of kinky black afro.

Guess what? I DID IT. The process wasn't pretty. And I pretty much didn't accomplish anything else all morning. She may have won a couple of battles in the whole process. But I definitely won the war. And when she started to act up I took care of it immediately. (It's amazing how a little hair pulling and a required 20 minutes of sitting still can transform a wonderfully easygoing, well-behaved child into a specimen fit for Nanny 911. I will never judge again.)

Bless her heart. She's learning. And so am I. You may wonder: "Why is she torturing that poor child? Can't she just cut it short and wait until she's older?" I assure you that speaking with anyone who shares my daughter's hair or skin color will convince you otherwise. It's important. For identity. For self-esteem. (Also, apparantly, for learning how to be a better Christian, as it takes MUCH PRAYER.) And I have promised myself that even though I have already spent more time grooming Sunda than I have spent on myself in the last 6 months, that I will do whatever it takes to make her LIFE, and the struggles that may come with it...easier. Because she deserves that.

Sunda is running a fever tonight and is not happy. So, sadly, no pictures for your enjoyment. Soon. As soon as my parts get straighter and I can get the barrettes to stay in. I'll be sure to remind her of this when she's eighteen, don't worry.

Maybe once I get really good I'll blog a whole SERIES about doing kinky hair. Probably not. But you'd read it...right? Yeah..right.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Important Request

Hey guys,

I have a really IMPORTANT request.

There are so many wonderful friends that have been commenting on our blogs that we don't have contact information for.

Can you email us your information so that we can get back to you????

Our email address, for everyone's purposes, is:

Thanks so much!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Take Me Home, Country Roads....

If you've grown up in the hills, you don't realize how much you miss them until you come back. On our way back from the D.C. airport, Jake and I were practically speechless as we realized how much we have missed the changing of the seasons, the endless fields of corn, and the rolling hills. Breathtaking. And everything looks so green compared to the desert wasteland that is Zambia this time of year!

We've been home since last Wednesday. A more joyful homecoming has never been seen! Sunda did fantastically and is already so attached to Jake's mom, "Nene", that I worry about tearing them apart in January. In our first 5 minutes in the house I burst into tears as I watched Sunda crawl around on the carpeted floor and open a new toy. It just seemed too comfortable to be true. A carpeted floor. A couch. A place where Sunda could play and not come back with stickers in her shorts and sand in her hair. The little things mean a lot sometimes.

It has been busy weekend and today Jake, Sunda, and I are just taking it easy. Nene and Pappy have gone to work today and Uncle Cody to school. Pretty soon Jake and I will be spending our days on the phone talking to supporters or driving around to meet with them. So, we're lounging in our jammies, amazed at how many channels are on TV,and periodically putting Sunda in a warm bath to play...just because she can!

I feel like I'm the one whom this transition is taking the hardest toll on. Sunda has adapted beautifully, as most kids tend to do. And Jake is so easygoing he just flows from place to place like there's no change at all. To me, I almost feel guilty being so comfortable. After 5 days of visiting, I feel like I should be doing something productive. I'm itching to be of use, somewhere. It's a different kind of busy here in America. A different kind of difficult. I can't really explain it right now.

All I know is that I had Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast, and there's a box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese waiting for lunch! Yum! (Don't judge me...I'm on vacation ;) )

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The End of a Long Season!

Phew...I can hardly believe that I am five days away from getting on a plane WITH my wife and daughter to come home to our family and friends! Jessi and I were talking about it yesterday and saying how it is such an amazing moment to be in for two major reasons. The first, and most obvious reason, is that we can hardly wait to show off our little girl to all of you who have prayed and waited with us for this adoption to go through. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for all of the prayer and encouragement you gave to us through this journey. I know things came through because all of you were interceding on our behalf.

The second reason is because this is the first time we aren't excited to go home because we need a break from our ministry here in Zambia. We actually are thrilled about what we are doing and when the time comes in January I know we will be thrilled to get on that plane and dive back into what God has called us to do in Africa. It really is amazing to be doing something you love and that you know you are called to by God with your family. I thank God every day for this opportunity. I guess I am writing this because I want you guys to know that in the midst of the trials, in the midst of lack of water and lack of electricity and everything else that we deal with here...we are truly happy beyond belief. I am actually battling through the final stages of malaria as I write this and I honestly am willing to deal with these stupid mosquitoes if it means that I get to keep this joy in our work here.

The Bible tells us in Prov. 3:5 "Trust the Lord with all of your heart and LEAN NOT on your own understanding. Acknowledge God in all of your ways and He will make your paths straight."

Let us remember that when God leads us to do difficult things that we should not shrink back when the fiery trial comes at us. That is the very time for us to pull up our boot straps, run towards the storm and KNOW that God is holding our hearts and He will sustain us as He has called us.

We cannot wait to see you ALL when we get home on October 31st. We will be staying with my family (Norm and Jeannie) while we are home so if you need/want to get a hold of us you can call at (304)737-1415.

We love you all and will be seeing you soon.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beginning Our Sector Work

So we have been finished with our Advanced Missions Training for a few weeks and already the excitement has begun with our sector work in Nyawa and Masukotwane Chiefdoms. The program we are focusing on implementing in the outlying villages right now is called the LIFE Project. It's function and purpose is to create a human network within the villages so that all of the other endeavors can work. We are making relationships with the chiefs, headmen, school teachers, clinical officers and other leaders in the area. Once we get their permission to operate in an area, we begin to visit the families and learn their particular needs. We take every opportunity to preach the Gospel, pray for the sick and teach the word of God. The Life Project exists to build leaders in every village so that no orphan, widow, HIV Positive individual or any other neglected individual has to be on their own. LIFE stands for Living in Family Environments and that is exactly what we are striving to maintain; family life.
After our large outreach in Masiye, I took a motorcycle trip out to visit the families and see how things were going and the six villages in that area have quite literally been turned upside down! Drunks have been challenged to quit drinking and get into church, communities are uniting and discussing how they can pioneer projects to help their at-risk individuals in their communities, men and women are rising up to lead these initiatives and the word of God is going forth in power! They even had a letter waiting for me when I got there that held the notes of a meeting where 90 people gathered together to discuss how they were going to begin different projects for the community. The most exciting part for us was that this all happened WHILE WE WERE GONE! That is the heart of this vision. That we can come in, spark a fire, and watch the community run with what God puts on their heart.
I just took another trip into a place called Nyawa and had an unbelievable chance meeting with Chief Nyawa himself. This man is the chief over 400-500 villages and is the most powerful man to be in contact with in that chiefdom. We spoke for nearly an hour at his home and he gave his full approval to our humanitarian projects and to our desire to spread the word of God. He offered us land to operate a base on and also offered to build Jessi and I a permanent home in his chiefdom so we can stay for longer periods of time. The exciting part about working in his chiefdom is that it is a vast area of scattered villages that are hugely unreached. He said that there is still a pride of lions that roam in his chiefdom!
We will be making a trip to Nyawa and Masiye again next week and at the beginning of September we will be doing a week long outreach and Chief Nyawa is going to spend some time accompanying us with the outreach. Having his stamp of approval on the LIFE Project is an immediate help because the villagers in any chiefdom highly respect their chief.
Please pray for these two areas. Pray that we have discernment to identify good, faithful men who can carry on the work as we go back and forth. Also pray that we would continue to choose the right areas to venture into as we begin our work in Nyawa. And, as many of you have been praying, continue to pray that our adoption is finished quickly so that we can purchase our plane tickets and hopefully be on our way home by the end of September.
We love you all and are looking forward to seeing you soon.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

It Takes a Village...

Everyone has heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child." Little did I realize how much I would live this phrase by raising an African child in Africa. A day doesn't go by when a Zambian woman doesn't stop me on the street and say, "You should put more Vaseline on her face." or "Her hair needs to be combed out." or "Shouldn't you get her ears pierced?" Before she was potty-trained it was, "She's STILL wearing nappies?" (In Africa, they potty train their children practically from birth.) I handled these comments, but started to feel a little self-conscious. Not just for me, but for Sunda. Poor kid. She runs around with ashy knees and dreadlocks because her white mama can barely keep up with grooming herself, not to mention her two year old black child. So, regardless of whether I keep my own eyebrows plucked and toenails painted, I decided to try harder to gain approval with the Zambian women who assume that if you're not grooming your child, you're not caring for her.

I started out small. Putting lotion on her face 3x a day. Cutting her finger nails and cleaning the dirt out from under them. Washing, conditioning, greasing, combing out, and sitting through the painful process of having someone braid her hair to her scalp. Doing it all over again 3 days later when she rubs sand in her braids. However, I went to town all day on Tuesday and came back to a whole new level of beautification.

While I was gone, the ladies started to actually put child's extensions into Sunda's hair. They were convinced that it would look adorable and so actually purchased the yarn to make the extensions and started while I was in town. They obviously underestimated Sunda's ability to protest sitting still for any length of time. It's two days later, and my lovely daughter is currently sporting a half-afro, half-yarn extensions MULLET. Oh how I wish that our internet was fast enough to load a picture for your enjoyment. To top it all off, she's wearing a pipe cleaner necklace laced with foam dinosaur charms that fits her like a choker (from the birthday party on Saturday.) A yarn mullet and matching dinosaur choker. My daughter the fashion plate.

We've been going through some mild therapy regarding the extensions. Everyday we start with, "Sunda, are you going to sit still for a bit and let auntie plait your hair?" Quick reply? "No Mommy." "But, it looks so pretty." "Okay Mommy, pretty." Then she sits for 15 minutes. And gets a little bit more of a mullet. This is the same child that is on an earring kick and begs me EVERYDAY, "Airplane...Up up...America...Pappy and Nene...Go...Earrings." (Her way of listing the things that are going to happen when we come home.) (The reason for the earring kick is that she recently made a friend with a 3 year old girl who has Minnie-mouse earrings. It was all over from there.)

So, I get it from all sides. I'm sure all the Americans are now thinking that I'm cruel for making my young child go through so much hair braiding. When I presented this to my Zambian friend, she said, "No, no...'tis MUCH better to braid a fussy child who has 2 years than a screaming child who has 5 years. She will have to be plaited for the rest of her life. Now is when you teach them."

Poor kid. And I thought sponge curlers were bad.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Lovely Saturday

I have to admit to you that I felt rather guilty after reading some of the comments from the last post. Everyone was so grateful for their air conditioner and their toilet and it made me feel like such a self professing martyr. I never want that to be the case. Life in Africa has its hardships...of course. And spending a lot of time in the village also has its struggles. But, there are also some really amazing things about living in a place where there is instant community with people that have the same heartbeat. Whether Jake and I are hanging out with missionaries during a praise and worship service, or catching dinner with local business people, we always feel like we are in good company and have a common bond with anyone who chooses to live here.

Today was such a wonderful, neccessary, normal day that I could've closed my eyes and ears and imagined that I was hanging out in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. We had a cup of coffee and some cereal this morning (the little things make a wouldn't believe how American it is to eat cold cereal.) And then headed off in the Land Rover (with Sunda in a carseat,which never happens here because we're always riding in big trucks with no seatbelts.) We headed off down the road to visit our friends at Sons of Thunder, which was a huge blessing. We got to chat with Sal and Renee, visit with our Zambian friends on the farm (including Linah B., which was obviously Sunda's highlight), hang out with the kids, and greet Jeff and Lisa, who were fresh off the plane from some time at home. It felt great to be there just visiting, and even better to remember that we will always be close to those people as long as we are doing ministry in this area...which is so close!

After a few hours of visiting, we changed clothes and got ready for a dino-themed birthday party! Our friends and co-laborers Arthur and Leizl threw a beautiful birthday party for their boys, Hugian and Louie. It was completely dinosaur themed (they have some family in the States that sends all of the materials), and absolutely amazing for the kids and adults alike. Leizl runs her own school here in Zambia and is a true teacher at heart. She organized a million games and activities for the kids and it was a blast to jump on the trampoline with Sunda and watch her hunt for "dino eggs." Otherwise, the kids were all busy and happy as "the big kids" sat in the gorgeous garden and sipped punch and ate lemon meringue pie. Bliss!

At the party, we were able to connect with our wonderful friends, the Combrinks, whom we haven't seen in several weeks due to a chicken pox outbreak at their house and busyness all around. After hanging out at the party and helping to clean up, Jake and I headed out to a local restaurant with Dave and Bundy and their 3 boys. The glorious part about going out to eat with three spirited boys is that they kept Sunda busy the whole time! She was in heaven, eating up their undivided attention, while Jake and I caught up with the Combrinks and enjoyed our meal.

We just recently arrived back at the base, put the sleeping Sunda into her bed, and have rounded out the evening by watching the Olympics. See? Not such a hardship after all!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Outreach in Masiye

Last week, as a final AMT expedition, we traveled into an area of the Masokatwane Sector called Masiye. It was a 9 hour ride by truck deep into the bush. Any guesses on how far it actually was from the tar road? Less than 100 km! A trip that could be made in an hour at home took us 9 hours of dodging tree branches and navigating through riverbeds! Sunda did great in the truck and even slept for almost 3 hours of the ride (just like her Momma…why be awake in the car when you can sleep?)

We arrived at our campsite (just a cleared out area of bush that the previous Overland group had set up) at about 6pm. Under my husband’s expert guidance, the camp was unpacked, tents set up, the fire blazing, and chickens boiling by 7:30. Ahhh, I remember the days of camping at Atwood Park with my dad and brother. The stereo blaring country music from the power hook-up, washing dishes from the tap right next to the tent, taking hot showers in the community bathroom. Oh wait, that sounds like my life NOW. When we’re bush camping? No water. No toilet. Tiny tent. A toddler. What an adventure.

Our water source for this adventure came from a hole dug in a dry river bed. Sand actually acts as a wonderful filter for dirty water, and so water can usually be trusted when it is dug out of the bottom of a riverbed. When we gathered water, it was a kilometer hike down into the riverbed, where we scooped water out of the hole with bowls and carefully poured them into our gerry cans. 15 people use a lot of water! This had to be done at least once every day.

Our bathroom? Do you even have to ask? Actually we made quite a cool invention from a stool with the bottom cut out. Get it? Grab your shovel and make the walk of shame as far away from camp as you need to!

The boys don’t like to bathe in the bush, but I still consider it quite important. Not that it isn’t a mission to get clean. It definitely is. Jamie and I heated water in a kettle over the fire and poured it into a big basin before traipsing off far into the bush with our Dove Shampoo (a girl’s gotta hang on to something!) The only problem is, by the time it’s dark it’s also COLD. No fun getting a splash bath in the open bush when it’s 55 degrees. But I still can’t stand to go to bed dirty. Sunda has it a little easier. We bathe her in her own bucket while it’s still light and she stays close to the fire. She loves these community bath sessions where she can show off in front of everyone AND splash water everywhere. What an exhibitionist.

We usually eat pretty well on these bush missions. Grilled chicken and mashed potatoes, beef stroganoff, spaghetti, things like that. However, we ran out of sugar on this trip. Ugh. Try choking down plain nshima porridge in the morning. Not so great.

Speaking of a lack of supplies, it was amazing to be so far in the bush that people literally live without sugar. Without tea. Without cooking oil. Sometimes, without salt. It’s easy for us to imagine people having no food. But it’s so hard for me to imagine living for a year with no sugar or oil (especially after trying it for a few days.) These people are so far from town, and the road is so hard, that they literally live on exactly what they grow. This is usually limited to nshima and vegetables that they gather in the bush or grow in their gardens.

Every morning, when we set out for a day of ministry, we walked over an hour in groups of 2 or 3 with a Zambian translator. Sunda’s definitely getting heavier, especially carrying her for 4 or 5 miles one way! We passed her around on the shoulders of the group until she finally fell asleep on my back. Whew! That’s a long walk with a sleeping child in a chitenge.

We walked so far because there are so many people whose homes are on tiny bush paths. They never get visited, or encouraged, or prayed for. We talked to people who had never seen a white person outside of their yearly trips to town. It was an amazing trip.

We had a big fellowship one evening and ate all together. Nshima and cabbage. I helped the ladies cook nshima on the big pots and the guys taught others how to dance the Macarena. I can’t tell you what a blessing these times are. All the days of taking care of finances, or having meetings, or dealing with people in town just float away as I am reminded of why I came to Zambia in the first place…the people.

The ride back from Masiye was a little more uncomfortable than the way there. Sunda was worn out and whiny. So were her parents. It’s always such a good reminder of how blessed I am to live in a tent with a toilet just a few yards away and a generator at night. Everything comes into perspective when I hang out with smiling, talkative, accepting people who haven’t tasted sugar in over a year.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Welding, GPS, and the 21 Irrefutable Laws....(with a side of Beef Stroganoff)

As we’ve said before, Jake and I are really enjoying being students again. Especially because the subjects are often regarding some of our favorite things: people, God’s Word, African culture, and bush living. Today, we had such diverse classes that I felt like I just had to tell someone about it.
The day started at 7am with prayer and worship. It is about 45 degrees Farenheit here in the morning, and when you live your life outside…that feels frigid! I got up in the cold today and Jake stayed in the tent with Sunda to wait for the sun to come out a little stronger.

Breakfast, oatmeal porridge, was ready at 8am. By 8:30, Sunda was playing with her nanny and Jacob was having a meeting with our director.
9am-the school bell rings!

This morning we sat down to a DVD lecture series by John Maxwell on his book, the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. We are completing the workbook and studying the text as well as listening to the lecture series. It was really fantastic! I can’t believe that I’ve never taken the time to read that book before now. Maxwell says that now everyone will be strong in every law and that there will be some laws that you will definitely be weak in. I can think of many that I’m very weak in. But so far, it seems obvious that I’m a “Navigational Leader.” That means that I’m someone who knows how to get from point A to point B and how to make a plan to get there. I don’t have a whole lot of visioneering or plans for busting up the system. I’ll have Jake get back to you on his thoughts, but my conclusion is that, since Jake is definitely a visioneer and not a navigator, if I just followed him around with a pen and paper, we’d get a whole lot accomplished in Zambia!

After a couple of hours with John Maxwell, it was time for welding class. Blech. As of right now, I’m a terrible welder. I can’t get the arc started correctly and my rod always sticks. One of the tricks to arc welding is that you need a strong and consistent electrical source. This is kinda hard to come by when you’re working from a generator that is also powering what seems to be a constant construction site. I think I just need more practice, but I definitely don’t have the knack as of right now. So, if the chassis of your Toyota Corolla breaks while you're offroading on the turnpike, don’t call me to weld it together.
After a little lunch and some “Elmo’s World” with Sunda, GPS training was on the menu. The afternoon was filled up with learning how to plot points on a handheld GPS and plot it on Google Earth. Overland uses the Google Earth system to locate unreached people groups and….reach out to them! It is an amazing use of technology. Unfortunately, I’m a little technologically behind the times (I think my Ipod Nano is technical), so I was also a bit frustrated…no, let’s say challenged by that new learning process.

I wish I could stay longer, but it’s time to cook supper for 40 people. Tonight’s chef? Who else? The day needed to be a bit more diverse and challenging, so I’m the head chef tonight. The menu? Beef Stroganoff with linguine and a salad. Let’s hope I can get it done in time!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Home and Back Again


So my lovely wife kindly reminded me today that it has been quite a while since I last blogged so I thought it would be a good idea to fill everyone in on where we are at in the swing of things.

I just returned to Zambia from a crazy two and a half week trip to the States where I spoke in churches, visited familes, partook in weddings, and picked up 3 suitcases of stuff for Jess and Sunda (thanks family and friends...they were thrilled!) I also got to pick up our new laptop so praise God for that! We should have a little more regular blogging ability from here on out. For those of you I got to see who have been praying for us and supporting us along this journey in Zambia, it was a true blessing! All of the churches I attended welcomed me as if I was family and I really came out of my time home feeling spiritually refreshed.

Although I felt good spiritually I must say that I was physically "finished" by the end of my time home. I think I had one too many "late night hangouts" with Dougie, Johnson, Duda, and Mike as we prepared for two of their weddings. Not to mention getting to see Tyler, Jenn, Corey, Hank, the Baisdens, Glenn, Dan and his beautiful fiancee, and a whole slew of other buddies. All in all, as much as it was home, it definitely didn't feel like home without my girls. I missed Jess and Sunda terribly and I definitely made the decision to never be gone that long again unless i have to be!

When I got back home Jess met me at the airport and after spending a few hours in town doing some errands (welcome back to Zambia) I got to the base and found Sunda sleeping. She woke up and seemed a bit confused as to how I was home, but within a few minutes she was stuck to me like glue. For the next several hours, every time Jessi tried to touch me Sunda would say, "no mommy! my daddy!" That made me feel good. Sunda enjoyed her tickle me Elmo doll and Jess tried on about every pair of clothes i brought for her. It was like Christmas in June!

Just two days ago Jess and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary and we had a blast. Of course, with any special occasion, Zambia has to try and snuff our fun, but we have learned to battle and win. The day started with Jess and I heading into town to enjoy some time at the 5-star hotel known as the Royal Livingstone. About half way into town; however, the radiator decided to stop working and we spent the next 45 minutes (which is how long the whole trip should have taken)stopping and starting as things heated and cooled. We finally made it to the Royal and enjoyed some time at the pool just talking and reading. After that we had a wonderful lunch that was rudely interrupted by a hungry monkey! Jessi stood up to chat with her mom on the phone and just as she walked away, a star monkey jumped up on our table and grabbed two of our rolls. He stared there looking at me for a moment and when I saw that he wasn't moving, I grabbed the steel plate from under his legs and thwapped him on the head. He jumped down, rubbing his head, rolls still in hand and ran off. Oh the joys of Zambian outtings! Everyone around our table had a good laugh and I heard the whole scene replayed by people for the next 10 minutes. I then treated my wonderful wife to a full body massage at the Royal and we finished the day by getting "towed" back to the base and enjoying a nice movie on our new laptop in the tent. It was really a nice day together.

Things have gone back to being semi-normal at this point on the Overland base. We are still going through the Advanced Missions Training and it has been amazing. Jessi is an expert diesel mechanic now and Sunda has made friends galore. We are still praying this adoption through, and I really am believing that it will be over within a month. For all of you who have been praying for that...thank you!...and keep praying. We love you all and hope to be seeing you in September as a family!

in Christ,

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I Survived Without My Husband...Part I

Jake arrives back in Zambia tomorrow! Funny, I have been saying for three weeks that Jake is visiting “home.” I’ve also been saying that I can’t wait for him to get back “home.” We had a culture class this week about “global people.” Global people are defined as people who are happiest when they are in transit between one spot and the other. They’re not quite happy when they are in their home culture, Culture A, because they’re thinking about what they’re missing in Culture B. Yet, when they are in Culture B, they are missing the people and the opportunities of Culture A. Clear as mud? Anyway, as much as I am always seeking to be content regardless of my situation...that definition of a global person is pretty true. However, for the three weeks that Jacob has been visiting the States while Sunda and I are here, I haven’t felt like I’ve missed out on anything at all. My time here at Overland, attending the Missions Training Courses, has been so rich in experience and joy that I am grateful for being here instead of being home. I can’t wait to see what the rest of these months have to offer. And I am convinced that our time in the States after this training is all over will be even richer because of the hard work that we’ve put in here, waiting for it.

Speaking of waiting for it, I find that the longer I’m here in Zambia, the more a part of me belongs here. A huge part of me identifies with the people and understands, just a bit at a time, the culture and the mindset. I long more for my family and my friends, but less for the land that I used to be so attached to. Less for the things that I thought I would always miss...bottomless sodas, Target, convenience in all forms. People say that in being a missionary, you go through the same stages that people in grief go through. Starting with denial, ending in acceptance. I don’t know exactly where I am along that spectrum. But I think I’m getting closer to that acceptance bit by bit.

Besides all that, I can’t wait to get this adoption finished and get this little girl home to meet her family! I have to admit, I’m looking forward to the suitcases that Jacob is bringing with him. I’m so glad that Sunda will have little bits of everyone before she even gets to meet them.
Speaking of Sunda, she is the Overland Base darling. She charms everyone and is effectively better at memorizing names than most of the adults I know. She can identify most of the 35 people living on the base right now, and greets them all regularly. Life has been pretty crazy around here with me in school and Dad at home. But she has proven her flexibility and adaptability yet again and coped marvelously. Her nanny is fantastic and a gigantic blessing. We are headed out into the bush this week for more outreach, and one of the older women staying on the base right now asked me with concern, “Does she go with you into the bush?” “Absolutely!” I said. “She’s the best evangelism tool that ever was.” She’s a true missionary child who lays hands on the sick and prays, “Jesus, Jesus.” She sings and dances during worship. Now, if we could only get her to stick around for the sermon!

Just a quick update to let you know that we’re all well. Well, Jake is in the air right he’s as well as you can be crammed into a tiny airline seat!



Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mukuni Outreach

We just spent the past week on an outreach in an remote area of Zambia known as the Makuni Chiefdom. We travelled with a team of 18 Americans and 4 Zambian translators and it was absolutely phenomenal! Every day we spent time visiting the sick, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and just giving hope to a people who have lost hope. We drove two large DAF trucks packed with tents, sleeping bags, food, guitars and all of the other essentials for outreach. During the week we saw God's power come through in breathtaking ways. One headman followed us back to our camp after a time of ministry and asked us to pray for his left foot which had lost all feeling. He had the use of only his pinky toe. A few of us laid hands on him and began to pray and after a few minutes he began to say he could feel "electricity running through" his foot. Moments later he began shaking his head and saying "I can't believe it! I can't believe it! My foot is totally healed." He was moving all of his toes and looking utterly shocked. We prayed for him, encouraged him to give his life to Jesus Christ and sent him on his way. Another woman approached us as we were picking up some charcoal and was limping very badly. She was very old and said her leg was in a lot of pain. We began to pray and told her that she was going to be able to run on that leg because we believe our God is bigger than any injury. As we were praying she suddenly had a huge smile come across her face and she said that the pain was gone. We asked her to jump up and down, which she did with no problem and then she took off running back and forth from hut to hut to show how God had touched her. It was amazing.
We spent some time going through surveys with the headman in each village to understand how many orphans, widows and at-risk individuals were in each area. It is always disheartening to hear the number of orphans in such a small area. We also spent time ministering in a large school called Libala and at the end of our time of ministry the entire student body stood to commit their lives to Jesus Christ. When you read through the word of God it is almost hard to believe how so few people could shake entire nations, but I'm telling you that when you are walking in the power and presence of Jesus Christ there is nothing that can stand in the way of the redemption set forth on the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to redeem mankind. It doesn't matter how corrupt the governments are here in Africa, how oppressed these people have been, or how hard the devil is coming against the work of God - - there is nothing, nothing that can hinder the love of God pouring in and transforming the oppressed culture of this place. We're believing God for total community transformation. No more poverty. No more sickness. No more laziness or dying from lack of motivation. No more corruption.
I'm so excited that I'll be coming home in just a few days because I am pumped up. I am excited to share this vision we have here at Overland to reach the unreached with the gospel and see total community transformation. I am beyond convinced that we have a strategy that can and will work. I love you all and pray I will get to see you soon face to face.

In Christ,

The Botswana Shopping Adventure

On Monday, a group of us took the trek across the border of Zambia into Botswana. The reason? Zambia is so expensive that it’s better to buy bulk food in another country. There is a bulk food warehouse just across the border, requiring only a 90-minute drive and a ferry ride. Apparently, this is a trip that the Overland staff makes often. Having been in Zambia for two years and barely traveling anywhere outside of the country, I decided to accompany the group for the experience.

We loaded the gigantic overland truck at 4:30 am. If you’ve never seen an overland truck, look in a travel guide. It is a passenger truck with a lot of room for storage underneath and a high seating area only reachable by stepladder. Used for people who travel “overland” for African safaris. This is where Overland Missions got their name. Anyway, the truck had a bit of trouble getting started (apparently it didn’t like waking up at 4am any better than I did). But, at 5am, we finally got on our way. We drove VERY slowly, since it was a foggy morning, the road was terrible, and the truck was huge, and reached the border at about 7am. We loaded out of the truck to get our passports stamped. As we pulled into line to wait for the ferry, we discovered that the ferry was running late because of the fog. So, we made some sandwiches and sat eating our breakfast, not even fazed by the typical “Africanism” that does not allow you to dictate your own schedule. By 9am, we were ready to load the ferry, but not before our driver pulled an expert maneuver that got us in the front of the line. The concept of a queue in Africa is quite skewed. So, we’ve stopped trying to follow our Western ideals and just fight to get in the front like everybody else.

The ferry ride lasted about 25 minutes across the lovely Zambezi River. At one point you can view four countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana. It’s beautiful. Once across the river, you offload the truck, jump into it, and start to drive to the border post. Jump out again, wait in the queue, get passports stamped, get back in the truck. Drive about 50 yards, get out of the truck, step on a muddy carpet that’s supposed to prevent the transmission of foot and mouth disease from country to country, get back in the truck, drive to the food warehouse. Whew! It’s only 10am and you’ve already had a workout!

Once at the food warehouse, we set to work buying 7 huge dolly carts worth of food. 100 kg of sugar, 75 kg of flour, 100 kg of rice, etc. It’s a lot of lifting and a lot of currency converting. Nowadays, I think in Kwacha more than I think in Dollars. For example, I have a better idea of what sugar should cost in Kwacha than what it should cost in Dollars. So, I was trying to convert the Botswanian currency (Pula) into Dollars, and Dollars into Kwacha. It was crazy, and I don’t think I did a very good job. The African economy also doesn’t really account for bulk shopping the way that we understand it in the States. You could often buy 10 boxes of the smaller version of laundry soap for cheaper than you can buy the huge bucket. I guess they figure that they should charge you more if you don’t have to shop as often?

Once we loaded everything onto the carts, it was checkout time. Now, remember, we’re dealing with African time here. So, checkout took just over an hour. After that, an employee stops you at the door and checks every single item in your cart against every item on your receipt. This was not a quick “that looks about right” assessment either. This man checked and counted every can of baking powder before he was satisfied. You can imagine how much time we lost when we presented him with the empty soda bottle that we had already paid for and finished! It wasn’t so bad that it took an hour and fifteen minutes to check all of our purchases, because the credit card machine was broken. Because of this, we had to draw out cash for our 14,000 Pula purchase. It took all of our cards, a bit of luck, and a LOT of time before we had enough cash to pay for our purchases. After strategically loading everything into the truck (okay, this was the THIRD time I was lifting 10 huge packages of rice), we set off on our way for the propane station to refill our propane. It was now 1pm. We were filthy, sweaty, and tired. The truck smelled like diesel from being refilled and carrying canisters. And we had to be back at the ferry by 3:30 if we had any hope of getting over the border before it closed for the night. We were doing so well we even had high hopes of finding a coffee shop and having a cappuccino before heading home. We would have done it too…if not for the flat tire.

Needless to say, it was a mad dash. Between the propane, the tires, and trying to gather some food for us to eat, it was all of 4:30 before we were headed back to the ferry. By the time we got our passports stamped and waited in line (during which time I assembled avocado and tomato sandwiches on my knees) we were cutting it REALLY close.

Because of a $20 bribe in the right hands and an INCREDIBLE move by our famed truck driver, we got on the last ferry of the night. We were so tired we barely noticed the smugglers handing their purchases off to the canoes that pulled up to the ferry for that reason. Didn’t even mind wading off the ferry through the water. We just wanted to get home! It was another 2-hour workout to keep all the containers and purchases steady on the bumpy road. But, we did get our cappuccino! We stopped in Livingstone on the way home, had a coffee, and then jumped back in the truck for another 1 long drive to the base. We arrived at 10pm. What a day!

We slept late the next day before embarking on the next project: Putting thousands of dollars worth of groceries away!

Oh Africa, one of those places in the world that has the ability to make you tired before you’ve even done much of anything. I specifically remember it being the same way in China. Even going out to dinner was a mission. But, it makes for good blogging.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Overland Missions

There is so much about our lives that has changed in the last two weeks. There are new challenges and great benefits that have come with our shift to a different ministry. Our living situation has changed dramatically. I was used to living in an apartment with electricity, my own bathroom, and a separate room for Sunda. We are now living in a safari tent...enough said. Admittedly, this tent is the "Taj Mahal" of tents. We even have a little light rigged up for when the generator is on. So, we just flip a switch and we have light (a HUGE convenience when you're used to using candles). The bathrooms are about a stone's throw away, but they also boast lights, flushing toilets, and (usually) hot water. So, really it's not that bad at all.

The kitchen is communal, and we switch off cooking dinner for the 17-20 of us every night. We eat porridge for breakfast, nshima for lunch, and an "American" meal for dinner. We cook from gas stoves in the dusk until the generator is turned on and the kitchen is flooded with light from flourescent light bulbs.

The best part is that the main center is an open plan building with a thatch roof. Every night we eat dinner on the porch overlooking the Victoria Falls Gorge. The sunset is stunning, and the water roars and churns below us. It is such amazing beauty that I have to remind myself never to take it for granted. I am eating dinner just yards away from one of the natural wonders of the world. I am also rescuing my two-year old from going too close to one of the natural wonders of the world, but that is another story.

There are four other children here besides Sunda. Two of which are boys her age. They alternately play nicely together and throw fits at each other. But she's learning how to play with kids her age and older, and how to get along with people all the time.

It's quiet here now. But this week 15 more people will arrive at the base for the beginning of AMT (Advanced Missions Training). Jake and I are participating in this training, and are anxiously awaiting it. Our first week will be spent in "village immersion." In other words, Jake and I will get to go stay in a tent in the villages we were spending time in anyway. I think we're already pretty well immersed, but it will be neat to get the experience of being immersed with 15 others who aren't!

During that time, Jake and I will be performing double duty. Even though we're going through the AMT, we will also be scoping out the villages that we'll be doing a lot of ministry in when AMT is finished. Our first project involves making a shortlist of the villages that need special assistance and implementing the plan that we're working on with the project directors and managers. There's a really cool strategy in the works for empowering Zambians and raising the standard of living in places that have been previously ignored by aid organizations. We feel strongly that the heart of the project is in the right place with the right people working on it. So, we're excited to see what comes of it, and we'll keep you updated!

For those of you who were wondering, Sunda is really adjusting to her "auntie" (the nanny) very well. In fact, a few nights ago she woke up in the middle of the night and yelled for Jacob, "Daddy, Daddy, DADDY!" When that didn't work, she yelled for me, "Mama, MAMA, MUMMY!!!" When I also didn't move (a new plan that Jake came up with that avoids her coming into bed with us all the time and actually allows her to go back to sleep and sleep well) she got REALLY mad and yelled, "AUNTTIIEEEEEE!!!" So, we figure they're pretty tight if Sunda is resorting to begging her to come and get her out of bed in the middle of the night. (By the way, the nanny's name is Fridah and she does not stay with us, she lives in her own home in the village about a 40 minute walk away, she walks to work every morning and walks home every night.)

Well, there's the best update I can manage for now. There's so much that you become numb to after you've been here for awhile. We killed a cobra last night, but you're tired of those stories, aren't you? We haven't had running water in 4 days because of a broken generator, but you don't really want to hear about taking bucket baths, do you? Oh know what they say...This Is Africa!

Peace friends!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thoughts on the Cross

As of late, I have come to understand in a much deeper way, the true power and work of the cross of Jesus Christ. To simply say that Jesus died to take away our guilt of sin is to rob Him and the cross of it’s ultimate and final triumph against the devil. The Bible says that Jesus came to “destroy the works of the evil one” and He did that at the cross. He didn’t only become a sacrifice for our sins, but He also enabled us to overcome the very power of sin in our lives. That power is what keeps us bound in fear when finances, security, family and other things begin to spiral downward and out of control. The cross enabled us as Christians to stare death itself in the eye and say with Paul, “O Death, where is your victory, where is your sting?” We should have an ultimate assurance that the purposes of God CANNOT be thwarted in our lives whether or not we have all the money we need or all of the steps ready to move forward. Jesus taught us well in the garden before His injust, undeserved death as He resolutely declared, “Father, not my will, but Yours be done.” Things are difficult right now for me and my family, but one thing I know; the devil cannot stop me from accomplishing the purposes of God in my life. I know this because of the cross. Because though He died, my Saviour lives. Below is an excerpt of a book I am reading by Art Katz called Apostolic Foundations on the power of the cross:
The worst that could be brought against Jesus revealed the best that was in Him. Utter malignancy met utter magnanimity. Satan was made an open and public display. He was ridiculed and despoiled by the very submitting of Jesus to the worst fury and vengeance, animosity and violence that the powers know. Yet the Lord did not react in kind, He did not shriek out, He did not plead for his life—but prayed for them. Hell in all of its fury met Heaven in all of its humility, meekness and long-suffering—and Heaven triumphed. That triumph is complete, but the world does not know it because the church has not demonstrated it. Jesus bruised the head of the Serpent, but it is left to the church to ‘finish him off’ by making an eternal demonstration of the manifold wisdom of God, not just in this age, but in the ages to come.

It says here that the Church has not demonstrated it. What he is speaking of is the resilience to say “though God may slay me, yet will I follow.” Is that your statement? Lately I’ve realized that the things which keep me so upset are those idols which I have yet to lay before my King. Do I really need a laptop? Do I NEED a large sum in my savings for emergencies? Do I NEED the comforts I grew up with? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to do/have these things. I’m saying if you’ve done everything in your ability to be wise and a good steward, yet you only have the means to survive…do you worry? Or do you stare the devil in the eye and joyfully proclaim “I am free!” God will have His way in the end! The resurrection of Christ forever secured that we win. I’m not saying we won’t die in the process or that we won’t suffer. I am saying that we win. God’s purpose will go forward in full glory and triumph. The triumph of the cross is our greatest glory, but to embrace that triumph, to live that victory, to feel that freedom, costs us EVERYTHING.

God’s purpose in every life is that we bring Jesus glory and honor by representing Him as He is on this earth. Not to ensure that we all get a nice house and car. Not to ensure the safety of our families. Not to ensure us that we have an easy life after 65. It’s not that God wants you and your family to suffer, but He is willing to let you for His name sake. Have you dealt with that reality. God might not have an easy life for you. But is He worthy of you suffering to make His name great? Besides, THIS LIFE IS NOT OUR POSSESSION OR OUR END. I will gladly give my life as an offering because I know He Who promised is faithful and true. I have an eternal and abiding life awaiting me after this one where there will be no more tears and no more darkness. Until then, I will labor with all of the heart and passion I can muster for my King.

I tell you that I am willing to lose everything, if only I may have that same freedom that Paul had when he was able to dance with joy after being undeservedly beaten for His faith in Jesus Christ. I am so short of being that man. But as Paul also said, “forgetting what lies behind, I strain forward to what lies ahead.” I don’t want this year to be the same as every other one. God, I want to know the power of the cross. To share in your suffering that I may also attain the resurrection from the dead.

Have you wrestled to know the depths of the cross? Are situations in your life imprisoning you to think only of the difficulties and circumstances presently surrounding you? Fall before the cross. Allow the victory of the cross over the power of sin to permeate your life, and JOYFULLY stare at the devil, the world and your flesh and declare that God’s purposes will be fulfilled in your life.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

I love you all with the love of Christ!


Nanny 911

A new adventure is quickly approaching for the Zambia Schwertfegers. We are moving (or shifting in Zamglish) to our new home on the Overland Missions base on April 21st, which is just a week from now! Our “Advanced Missions Training” will begin on May 3rd (a great birthday present!) So, we decided to make the move a bit early in order to get ourselves and Sunda settled and take care of a few details before we enter missionary boot camp for the next 3 months. We had the opportunity to visit the Overland base last week and chat with our director for awhile, as well as hang out with a few of the staff members. We left even more excited about future ministry with Overland, and anxious to get started with the Missions Training. I got a chance to speak with our director’s wife, Sharon, about quite a few practical issues (which always sets my heart at ease.) I had been prepared to hire a Zambian woman to care for Sunda during some of the day so that I could attend class for the first 3 months that we’re on the base. But Sharon quickly reminded me that it will be a bit more than “some of the day.” We won’t have a lot of freedom during those first three months, and classes are packed pretty tight. In other words, I need to find someone to care for Sunda from 8-5, Monday-Friday. Just like a normal workweek. We will be participating in the training earlier and later than that each day, but we really need to be focused and on target during the meat of the training, which will happen between 8am and 5pm. I didn’t expect this news to be as difficult as it is to swallow. I mean, many kids are in daycare while their parents work. We will still see her for every meal, get to say hi often throughout the day, and have our evenings and weekends with her. But it’s such a change from both Jacob and I being with her all day, every day. And, it won’t be daycare. She will be cared for by her own personal nanny . Just her. Not 15 other kids vying for attention. So...why did I burst into tears when I realized that getting a nanny was my only option?

Well, not it’s really my only option. I could opt out of the training. I could spend the whole day playing with Sunda and wandering around the Overland base, trying to catch what snippets of information I could from what the rest of the class was learning. But I really feel like it’s important for me to get this training. I feel as if I’ll regret it later if I just put it aside. There’s so much good teaching that I’m going to have the opportunity to absorb in the next 3 months, and I know that I’m doing myself a disservice to opt out. And, I keep telling myself…it’s only 3 months. A child isn’t emotionally scarred from not spending enough time with their parents for 3 months, are they? But, you know, she’s two. And she acts a little crazy sometimes. Is she gonna know that she can get away with stuff with her nanny and then be totally off every time we get back around? Or, is she going to grow socially from a situation where she isn’t around the same two people all the time? I realize this whole dilemma might sound very funny to all of you who haven’t even known Jacob and I as parents yet…because we’ve been here. But this little girl has been the biggest part of our life for the 7 months that we’ve been back in Africa. And I personally have not spent more than 4 hours away from her since she came to stay with us in late November. So. It’s a little emotional. But, this is probably a good thing. It’s forcing me to admit to fact that I absolutely cannot do it all. If I want to attend this school in order to be a better trained missionary, I am going to have to give up some of my ideals as a mom. At least for a few months. That doesn’t make it any easier. On the other hand, Jacob and I have put many, many days of fulltime work in, amidst caring for Sunda all day. It’s quite a challenge to keep her out of the village fire, water supply, and away from the dogs while teaching Bible study and leading worship. We spend a lot of time juggling, trying to keep her entertained and complete our to do lists. So, maybe this opportunity will be good because when we are with her, we won’t be working. We’ll just be with her. And when we’re not with her, we’ll be able to focus completely on the task at hand instead of trying to do both at once, which is probably not good for either party. It’s quality time that matters…not quantity…right? Anyway, at the end of day, we’ll be back to our normal lives after 3 months. (I’m not exactly sure what constitutes a normal life for us…but, you know what I mean.)

This week, we’re busy wrapping up business at Sons of Thunder. Organizing, packing, storing. I’m hoping we can forgo goodbyes since we’re not really going, just moving. If we had acquired the tourist VISA for Sunda, we would be eating Drover’s wings on the 21st of April, and I would be depending on grandparents instead of a nanny. Just saying.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Happy Easter!

Greetings to all of you in the name of Jesus Christ! We apologize for the LONG delay in posting anything new, but this has been one of our toughest months to date. As many of you had probably been told, Jessi, Sunda and I were planning on coming home at the beginning of May to visit home for a few months. It was going to be a time of updating our churches and supporters as to what we are doing here in Zambia as well as a time to show off our daughter to anxiously awaiting grandparents and family!
After many trips to Lusaka and a lot of fees we had finally secured Sunda’s passport (in her current name since the adoption is not yet finalized) and we made our trip to the US embassy where we had been previously assured that getting her a tourist visa was our best option. Upon arrival, all of those hopes came crashing down when the US embassy denied Sunda a tourist visa due to Jessi and I being volunteers and not owning enough in Zambia to ensure we would return with Sunda (since the adoption is not finished). This was very hard news for us (not to mention the grandparents), but what could we do. It wasn’t tragic news because we weren’t being separated from Sunda, but our plans were definitely changed.
In this month’s upcoming Sons of Thunder newsletter there will be an article updating our future plans in Zambia. After much prayer and contemplation with several close friends and family, we have decided to transfer our work under a new ministry here in Zambia called Overland Missions. Though the reasons are many, our greatest is that our heart is to get out into the bush and disciple followers of Jesus Christ. Overland Missions sole purpose is to reach unreached people groups all over the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have a base just outside of Livingstone (one hour from our present location) and they have been mobilizing teams in unreached areas all over the world for ten years now. While Sons of Thunder is doing a tremendous job with the orphanage, school, clinic and the families on the farm, we were having a difficult time building a new outreach program when there is a fully developed one just down the road with Overland Missions.
Sons of Thunder has given us their blessing in this transfer and understand why we have decided to move. With that said, I’m sure many of you supporting us would like to know a bit more about Overland Missions and our particular assignment with them. The following is Overland Missions mission statement:

Overland Missions is a missions organization committed to empowering the third world indigenous church and bringing the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth. Through expedition-style missions we lead teams into locations that would otherwise remain neglected or unreached (a condition usually caused only by an area's lack of accessibility). Based in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Overland Missions' motto is, "Any Road, any Load, any Time". We believe this statement to be indicative of our commitment and our approach to meet the needs of the third world. We utilize the best equipment technology has to offer, the expertise of over 15 years of reconnaissance experience, and the revelation of the New Creation purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. Overland mobilizes young adults into more than 30 nations. We take God at His word and believe by faith to see the book of Acts continued in the earth today. We claim every nation, every island, every tribe, and every soul within our jurisdiction to reach, teach and empower with the Gospel.

Jessi and I have made a five year commitment with Overland Missions here in Zambia to oversee the discipleship of the Masokatwane chiefdom; a large area in the southern province of Zambia that is in great need of outreach, discipleship and evangelism. Our focus will be to establish relationships with every pastor in every denomination of this chiefdom in order to disciple and strengthen the foundations of those churches. Virtually nothing will change in the vision we have previously shared with you, which is to live with the people in order to reveal Jesus Christ to them through any and all means.
Overland offers an advanced missions training that will better equip us to thrive and survive out in the bush. The training offers courses in the bible, diesel mechanics, welding, GPRS navigation, off-road techniques, cultural understandings, and many other areas. As I am sure many of you may want to know more, please visit Overland’s website at . It is a very informative website that should answer most of your questions. I (Jacob) will also be traveling home on May 22nd through June 10th in order to meet with as many of you as possible and hopefully share at a few churches.

Overland Missions has set up a personal account for Jessi and I so the same process will work for those who have been supporting us. We are asking all of our supporters to please begin sending your support checks to Overland Missions beginning in April at the following address:

PO Box 566, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920

Please DO NOT put our names on the memo like before, but write our following 4 digit account Code on the check or envelope: #3027. Make the check out to Overland Missions. You will begin to receive a newsletter from Jessi and I beginning in May that will keep you updated with all of our endeavors here in Zambia.

If any of you have questions or would like to know more before sending to Overland then you can also send your support checks to my parents, Norm and Jeannie, who will deposit directly into our account as well. Their address is 290 Northview Rd. Wellsburg, WV 26070. In this event, simply make the checks out to Jacob Schwertfeger.

Jessi and I cannot stress to you how indebted we are for the continued support you have shown. We have been stretched beyond all seemingly capable limits this year in some ways, but it is because of you that we are able to remain. You must know and believe that you are enabling the gospel to reach the ends of the earth. THANK YOU!

We would also really love to begin an e-mail correspondence with all of you to better know how to pray for you and to better know you. Our e-mail is We are asking that you would write us an e-mail with your name so that we can keep in touch in a more one-on-one way.

Jessi and I will begin our Advanced Missions Training at Overland Missions base in Zambia on May 3rd and it will carry us through to August. During that time we will also be planning and preparing for the beginning of our work in the Masokatwane chiefdom. Please keep these things in prayer as well as the finalizing of the adoption (the government has banned all adoptions temporarily).

With all of that said I hope and pray that you take serious time today to celebrate and contemplate the fact that Jesus Christ laid down His life so that you could enjoy eternal fellowship with God. Man can’t hold him down, nails can’t hold him down, death can’t hold him down. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is worthy of us losing our lives to glorify Him in all things!

We love you all and look forward to seeing you in the States with our little one in God’s time!

Jacob, Jessi and Sunda

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Another Trip to Lusaka

Jacob is heading out for Lusaka on the night bus tonight. AGAIN. During this adoption process, we have had to make more trips to Lusaka than I ever thought possible or necessary. Jacob has been the one to make the quick trips necessary to sign a paper or fill out a form. I think this is trip number 6 or 7.

I never thought, in a million years, that I would be so dependent on the man that I spent so much time away from during our dating and engagement. However, I am absolutely despondent at the idea of him leaving again. Jaime brought it all into perspective the last time he went, saying, “You have such a good husband. He just makes those trips to Lusaka to deal with the adoption without question. And he never complains about it or hesitates to go.” Meanwhile, selfish me is thinking, “Why does he have to go???? I’m so BORED when he’s not here. And it’s HARD to take care of Sunda without a relief squad.”

Meanwhile, Jacob leaves at 7 pm, sits on a cramped bus that smells distinctly African for 7-8 hours, endures countless stops, and stays on the bus once it arrives in Lusaka because it’s not safe to be walking about until at least 6am. He then walks to the Social Services office to save cab fare and sits outside, waiting for the social workers to show up so that he can accomplish whatever he has been requested to show up for. Whenever he gets whatever he needs, signs whatever paper needs to be signed, or talks to whomever needs to be talked to, he grabs some lunch, checks email, and gets back on the bus to arrive home in the middle of the night. Because it’s 3am when the bus drops him off at our farm, he often walks the 3 km to our house (once carrying a mini-stove purchased in Lusaka) to avoid me having to leave Sunda alone sleeping while I pick him up in the car.

So, as you can see, he really has the raw end of the deal. But, it seems to me that every time he leaves, the Zesco (power) goes out and the water tank runs dry and I’m left hauling water up the steps. Besides, it’s SCARY to be by yourself in Africa. I mean, it’s really very safe. But, if a cobra would show up in the house, who would I call?

All of this has made me realize that I would be a terrible military wife. Or a traveling shoe salesman’s wife. It’s true that I don’t really crave “alone time” very much. To me, alone time is someone sitting beside me and leaving me alone. They don’t have to leave. As long as I can still read my book, then we’ll do fine. And Jake is great at that.

When I was young, I hated to be the last person in the house to go to bed. I would race up the stairs while Sam was still brushing his teeth so that I didn’t have to turn out all the lights and creep upstairs in the dark. Nowadays, with all of this living in Africa and power outages, I’m much better with the dark. But I still don’t like to be the last one to go to bed. And when it’s just me and Sunda, well…you know the rest.

Needless to say, Jacob is leaving for Lusaka tonight. I am not a happy camper. Can someone come and stay with me for a couple of days?

On much more important and less whiny news, we have had a terrible elephant infection on this farm. You know how they say that elephants have good memories? Well, it is TRUE. We had never had elephants on this farm until last year when a herd wandered through and discovered some maize in the Southern corner of our property. This year, despite the fact that the rains were heavy and there was water everywhere (which should have prevented them from coming this far away searching for it) they came again, in higher numbers. Just last night, a herd of 200 elephants completely trampled the fields of the villages in the Southern Corner, destroying their harvest totally. As Padmore, headman of Mubuyu village quotes, “You can now walk through our fields with no problem, as if there was nothing planted there.” The elephants were so many that they ended up walking their way through the actual village, among the huts and kitchens and fires. We just spent a week at this village…in a TENT. No one was hurt. It’s just so hard because it completely ruins your philosophy for helping people here. “Don’t give money, don’t give away food…TEACH the people how to farm. TEACH them how to make their own profit.” Well, now they’ve spent MONTHS laboring in their fields so that they can feed their families and maybe sell some crop at a profit. And one herd of elephants with a good memories have destroyed everything. Melodramatic? Maybe. Fact of life? Absolutely. But STILL. It pretty much destroys all of my opinions about teaching people to work hard and save money and be smart. If I worked my butt off for two seasons in a row and two seasons in a row my maize was harvested by elephants, I don’t know that I wouldn’t sit by my kitchen fire and talk about how “poor we are in Zambia” too.

The problem here is not AIDS, or poverty, or elephants…it’s hopelessness. Poverty (which I know nothing about living with) breeds hopelessness. Take the case of the woman who is in the clinic right now, nursing her 2 ½ year old back to health. What is the child sick with? An extreme case of malnutrition accompanied by edema (swelling of the skin), and a skin infection caused by sitting in her own urine for hours at a time. How does a mother let this happen to her child? My theory? The mother gets so wrapped up in hopeless poverty, she doesn’t even realize that she could do something to change, at least, her child’s situation. There has never been enough to eat. There has never been enough soap. There has never been anyone that cares. And so why take her to a clinic while there’s still a chance that she can recover? (the baby is still touch and go) It’s not your fault that the elephants ate your maize. It’s not your fault that there is no employment to be had. And it’s not your fault that you haven’t had anything to eat with your nshima for 4 days. It’s just the way it is, and there’s really not anything you can do to change it.

How blessed I am. Not just because I’ve never been really hungry. Never not had enough money to buy a Coke. But because, I’ve never been through anything that has made me say, “Oh, well, that’s it…there’s no more hope in this situation.” I come from a culture that lives on hope. I know that Jake and I have expressed before that really, that’s the reason that we’re here. To spread HOPE. Not in a liberal, “be who you wanna be” way, but in the way that Jesus is our hope. Poverty might not change. Sickness might not change. But if you have the HOPE and the PROMISE of the fact that God loves you and has a PLAN for your life, you have everything.

Recently, Jake and I have been feeling like the elephants have been trampling OUR maize. We’ve had a lot of trials these past months. But ultimately, I am persuaded. I am persuaded that He is able. And my problems seem really small next to some of my Zambian friends. Are your problems actually pretty small too?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Change of Weather, Change of Attitude

For now, the monsoons that plagued us for almost 3 months have ceased and abated and replaced themselves with only occasional storms. The sludge that dominated the better half of all of the walkways and roads has dried to form deep ruts and cracked soil. The roads aren’t any better to drive on, but you can effectively walk from point A to point B without needing a shower at the end of it. People are outside more (or maybe it just seems like it because we’re outside more.) Because of the early and heavy rains, the fresh maize that they pick from their fields before they harvest for the season is ready very early. Everyone is walking around with fresh roasted maize. A common gift is a few ears of maize that can be roasted or boiled. Jeff also has delicious sweet corn growing in his garden that we have been enjoying as if it’s August in the States. Sunda likes the roasted maize better than sweet corn with butter and salt. Typical. Very Zambian.

With the change of weather comes a change of attitude. In Jake and I, and in the people, it seems. It’s almost like the first week of sunshine after a long winter at home. Everyone seems...Happy! Happy that we can sit outside and chat with friends and neighbors. Hopeful that the harvest will recover from long rains and no sunshine. Relieved to see a little bit of color on our white faces. This is the season when visitors start to come. So, a long stretch of no “outsiders” on the farm will quickly transition into a bustling guest house and bi-weekly trips to the airport to pick up work teams and volunteers.

The sun has brought with it an important change in Jake and I too. It has been difficult to do outreach because of terrible roads and vehicle availability. And because of continued vehicle difficulty, it will remain difficult to leave the farm for long periods at a time. Not willing to be defeated, Jake and I have set up our tent in one of the villages on the farm. We are headed out this afternoon for a week of ministry on “The Southern Corner” otherwise known as “Graham’s village.” When we’re at home, we often get comments like, “Why do you go to Africa, there are people who need help right here in the United States?” True. While here, God seems to be drilling into us, “Why are you searching to go far and wide, there are people that need me right here on this farm!” Our schedule will include two daily teaching sessions and an evening fellowship time for our weeklong stay. It’s such a blessing to get to know the people that we have been living with for so long. And it’s wonderful to hope that they actually believe what we say because we’ve lived it among them before preaching it to them. I told Jacob the other day, “I think we can be confident that we are finally integrating effectively.” “Why?” He asked me. “Because,” I explained. “The women let me do the dishes now.” Isn’t that the universal sign of true friendship?

Sunda is growing like a weed and can now actually wear the 18 month dresses we brought with us. She’s even pushing her way into the 24 month ones! Her hair is long enough now to be plaited, so she has a cute new hairstyle every week courtesy of one orphanage “auntie” who can make her sit still long enough to do it. She has just enough vocabulary to make sure that we are obeying her every command. And this week, she has been introduced to the terrible “Time-out.” As with any especially talkative, clever, and enjoyable two year old, she can throw a fit with the best of ‘em. But, she is now learning that it doesn’t get her very far. The problem with being here in Zambia is that they are not the strictest parents. They don’t really believe in disciplining kids until they are at least 6 or 7. So, if she throws a fit in front of one of our Zambian friends, they immediately pick her up, comfort her, and give her whatever she wants (all the while glaring at me as if I’m an insensitive monster for ignoring her.) It’s kind of like having a bunch of grandparents around, all the time. 

I could ramble on and on…but what I would really like to know is: What are you interested in? Do you have questions about Zambia or the things that we do? I would love to share things with you that are interesting and relevant, but sometimes I take extraordinary things for granted. For example, I totally forgot to tell you about the elephant that was just roaming around in one of the fields that Jaime and I were walking by. When do you ever get to see an elephant just hanging around? Anyway, please feel free to post any questions or subjects you’d like to hear about. If nothing else, it will keep me from writing about Sunda’s poop stories, which you definitely don’t want to hear about.

Have a wonderful week…enjoy the sunshine…or, we’ll enjoy the sunshine. ;)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Trials, Scandals and the Grace of God

We are so sorry that it has taken so long to post a new blog, but after this entry I’m sure you’ll understand why things have been a bit hectic on our end!

First off I just want to say that I love my God. He is eternally faithful and He has always been there for us. I am daily in awe that He would look upon me with desire and love in spite of my continual blunders!

So here is another one for the books…Two weeks ago Jess, Sunda and I went into town to do some grocery shopping for our outreach to one of the villages on the farm. We parked at one of the busiest spots in Livingstone, the post office, and jumped out to go to a couple shops. Twenty minutes went by and I had enough bags in hand to need to return and dump them off with our Land Rover. Upon returning, I found that one of our windows had been forced open in the back of the vehicle. Well, you know how you get that sick feeling in your stomach when you know you’re about to hear/see some really bad news…let’s just say my heart was beating out of my chest. I unlocked the back door and to my astonishment found that someone had gotten into our vehicle, gone through our things and stolen our laptop. Immediately I jumped out and began questioning all of the venders who are set up RIGHT IN FRONT of our vehicle. Of course, their response was “I saw nothing…” At this point I realize that I’m going to lose control on someone (the great missionary that I am) and so I return to the vehicle and wait for Jessi. She returns and I give her the story and we sit down for a minute speechless. Now I understand that some of you are thinking…it’s just a laptop…but when that small machine operates as our database for ministry, music, and entertainment in the bush it had become a whole lot more central to us than ever before. Our first discussion revolved around notifying the police, which here is quite frankly useless (a day full of questions and paperwork in a Zambian police station would have only escalated my frustration). We decided to spread the word to some of our Zambian friends in town and let God bring it back to us if it was His will.
We went on to have an excellent, but difficult week out in Peter’s village. Excellent because we had some great times fishing, eating together and studying the word of God. Difficult because living in the bush brings on a whole new dimension of living. It is a “slower chaos” as Jessi puts it. It’s like putting all of your effort in a day just to…survive. Cooking takes a lot more time when you are doing everything over a fire and sharing that fire with other families. The chickens, dogs and cats constantly trying to steal whatever they can get also poses as a constant nuisance. Zambia has also declared a national emergency due to more rain than people have ever seen here so simply keeping out tent clean from mud was a chore (especially with a silly, excited 2 year old!) We returned from our outreach very excited and very worn out all at once, but we managed without a laptop and we knew that things would work out.
A few days after arriving home I arranged a trip to Lusaka in order to try and get our adoption further along. I arrived and after a long conversation with our social worker I had to accept that Zambia has simply put a temporary hold on adoptions. We are legally fostering Sunda right now, but the adoption will have to finish once the ban is lifted (please pray hard for this!) After that meeting I went to Lusaka’s nice shopping area and visited the internet parlor. I had spoken with a missionary friend who told me he had done lots of purchases off of eBay and that I should check there for a laptop. I had been doing some research and decided that Jessi and I were going to switch to an apple laptop because of several reasons. I knew the prices of most of the apple set-ups and so I began searching through eBay to find a deal. After just ten minutes of looking around I came upon a fully loaded, brand new apple laptop that was been sold a nearly a fourth of the price. The ad said the seller wanted to be contacted through e-mail in order to discuss things with the buyer. I contacted the seller and asked why it was so cheap and all of the details with the purchase. We agreed that we would only make the purchase through eBay, but the seller from Romania asked me if I could please pay using Western Union because of the difficulty with drawing money using Paypal (which we understand the difficulty drawing money thing). I agreed and received a confirmation email from eBay indicating the item had been sold to me and all of the directions for payment (all verified by eBay). The item was purchased at $1200 (a laptop at $4400 value!) and I sent the first $1000 through Western Union immediately. I returned to the farm that night by bus and the next morning I told Jeff, our director, all about my great purchase. I believe his first words were, “you didn’t send the money did you!?!” You know that sick feeling I talked about earlier…well it returned. “Of course,” was my answer. He went on to tell me about how anyone requesting to use Western Union on eBay is usually a scam. I assured him that eBay sent me a verification that it was all done through them and I was protected. He told me to check it all out. I went into town in order to check e-mail and I looked over the verification e-mail from eBay and was convinced that all was ok. I got onto my eBay user name and it said that I had made 0 purchases on the account. This was puzzling. eBay had sent me verification to my e-mail and yet my account said I hadn’t purchased or won any items. I began to open a bunch of the “common questions” on eBay to find that people are able to send “fake” eBay verifications to your personal e-mail and that you are only supposed to go through your eBay message board. As I continued I came to find that if you use Western Union then eBay has no ability to get your money back if you are swindled. So there I was, laptopless and now swindled of $1,000. I thought I was going to bust. GOD…WHERE WERE YOU ON THAT ONE…was one of my first thoughts. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME! Was probably a close second.
I went home angry and sad and confused all at once. But I also had another thought in the back of my head. It seems that every time these kind of catastrophes happen in life, we have a chance to learn something incredible from God who is never closer than at these times. I just spoke a message concerning the grace of God and how it is actually the grace of God in our lives at times when bad things happen to us. Well, this was one of those times.
I was preparing for a bible study the next day and totally clueless as to how I could teach anything with the way I was feeling. And then I had one of those moments. You know. The kind of moment where God reveals himself to you and “sobers you up” from that woe is me garbage. He simply asked me the question, “What really matters?” I was stunned and excited. I knew it was a rhetorical question that my Father was eager to show me. I sat there in silence and that inner voice began to remind me of a verse that has carried me through so many times in the last several years.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” -Phil. 3:7-8

To know Him. To be invited to gaze upon and know the One Who has no end. Paul had it all. Popularity, prestige, wealth, power. And what does he say? It is ALL rubbish compared to knowing Jesus. If everything I own is taken from me tomorrow, I can stand without offense in my heart because no one can take my knowledge of God. No one can separate me from my King. He even says in Bible, “No one can snatch them (his children) out of my hand.” God set me free in that moment. I have every ability to fall more and more in love with Him every day and I don’t need money or a laptop. I don’t even have to know the right words to say or pray. I don’t need to have a perfect theology. I just have to have a desire to know Him and follow Him. He leads me from there. He reveals Himself to the one who cries out to Him. I get to wake up every day and journey into the never-ending depths of God. Love Incarnate. Mercy, Justice, Truth. He is the essence of reality. And He has chosen to reveal Himself to me. To us! And this is my life: consumed with one thing, namely, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4). I will gladly lose everything that I may gain Him.

We had a great bible study. I was able to thank God for the mishaps because they brought that fresh, new perspective into my life. You can’t take Him from me. Hah! I win! God wins!
So with that long blog I invite you just as Jesus invites you:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I wil give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
If you can relate. If you are tired and overloaded. Cry out to Him. Just say God I want to know you! He is closer than you think!

With all of my love,