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.