Monday, December 14, 2009

Guess Who's Back!

I’m always just a little bit apprehensive when returning to Africa. What can I say? It IS my home now, but every time we come back I worry that I’ll have changed my mind, that it will be a struggle. Always, always, always, once we’re here I feel like I’ve been here my whole life and I put leaving as far from my mind as if it didn’t exist. But that first week is sometimes filled with homesickness, frustration, and even fear. Fear of the unknown. Of what I can’t control.

I can feel it changing every time. It’s just a bit easier every year. Our first year, I sobbed every night for the first two weeks. Our second year, I was despondent (very privately, of course) for about a week. Last year, it took me a few days to get over the huge spiders all over the place and the unidentifiable gnats in my bed. This year, I’m enjoying being in Jo-burg, but I jumped for joy when my midwife and OB jointly approved us to go back to Zambia for about 5 weeks over the holidays! Never before has Zambia looked so sweet! And all because I was threatened with not being able to go back. With being forced to be in a first world city for awhile longer. With being in the near vicinity of shopping malls and coffee shops and overall conveniences. NOOOOOOOO! Please let me go back to Zambia! To my friends! To my own bed! To my tiny chalet with no washing machine!

Funny how things change….

Thank you, Lord. It’s through you that our thoughts are changed. That our minds are changed. That our whole lives are changed.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Great Country Switch

I have tried to write a blog about switching countries about the last 3 times that we've done it. The problem is, the actual switching always gets in the way of the writing.

I'll be honest, "country switching" with a family is not the easiest thing on the planet. It's character building, to say the least. When we come to the U.S., we're wrapping up responsibilities and projects in Zambia, turning over jobs and communicating everything. When we're leaving the U.S., we're doing all of the little errands that you do over the course of a year, desperately trying to sort out what we will need for the months to come (which somehow always looks different.) There are a few sure things you have to hold tight to until you have your feet on solid ground again. Here's the advice I give myself everytime I feel like I'm losing my mind:

1. I am NOT in control.
Of course, the trick is to try to BE as in control as possible. Make as many plans ahead of time (car rentals, accomodations, flight arrangements.) After planning carefully...GIVE IT UP. I'm really convinced that the most important thing is just putting yourself on the wave and letting it ride. People love to ask, "Soooo...are you all packed and ready to go?" Just so you know, until I get IN THE CAR to go to the airport, the answer to that question is: NO.

2. No time for sentiment.
This sounds terrible, of course. But our last weekend at home is not really the time for sentiment and tears. It will be hard not to see our family and friends for a year, impossibly hard sometimes. But it doesn't help you to get ready if that's all you're thinking about. And they're WITH you right now, so don't waste time being sad.

3. Sunda is #1.
Jake and I are okay with the country switch. And so is Sunda, really. But, it really helps to take the pressure off of my own emotions and focus them properly when I remember that she needs a lot of support in order to make it through the traveling and adjustment period unscathed. It's important for her to know that nothing is changing other than certain parts of her environment. Mommy and Daddy are still the same, our routines are still the same, our rules are still the same. We talk about how exciting it is that we're going back to either place. And we try to make the traveling process as much fun as possible for her (new toys to play with, special treats for the airplane, etc.)

4. Whatever can happen, will happen. (And it usually does.)
This morning, Sunda has chest congestion and a fever. She may need to see the doctor this afternoon. We're still not sure what's causing my major anemia. We're not sure if we'll be able to travel back to Zambia, or if we'll have to stay in South Africa because of the higher risk of delivering while anemic. There are questions and complications involving Sunda's citizenship that must get sorted before she can spend an extended period of time in South Africa. There will probably be a few other things that happen before we go that we will have to choose to deal with or not to deal with, based on importance. If I continually listed these things out in my head like I just did here, I would go crazy! It's so important to deal with what you can deal with and take one day at a time.

5. The job is usually smaller than you think it is.
Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by packing that I convince myself to procrastinate. But, I've found that if I just go ahead and spend an hour sorting and washing and packing, I've made it much farther than I could've imagined. And I feel so much better if I'm a couple of days ahead of schedule. When we leave the States, we just pack up everything in one big sweep. But when we leave Zambia, I usually make myself a schedule that fits in with our work schedule. I'll pick one thing to clean, organize, and pack a day. For example, one evening I'll sort through, clean, and pack up the things we need from the bathroom. The next night, I'll work on the kitchen.

The one major thing that has saved Jake and I's marriage during these times has been to have specific roles and jobs that we each work on separately. And we know who holds which job.

Jessi's Jobs
Manage clothes, personal and toiletry items for the family, and everything for Sunda.
Do required cleaning.
Handle the return of any borrowed items.
Shop for medicines, toiletries, clothes, etc. that we need before we go.
Arrange visits with family and friends.
Decide what needs to be thrown away, donated, or stored.
Arrange for any storage needed.
Put stuff into piles for Jake to pack.

Jake's Jobs

Handle all reservations including flight, car, and accomodations.
Acquire and keep track of all documents needed.
Shop for electronics, camping equipment, or outreach materials we need before we go.
Acquire all pieces of luggage.
Pack Jessi's piles.

It's nice after a few years to know who does what. We used to argue every time we packed and moved, because we couldn't agree on what needed to be done when. And that was before we had a kid! We knew it would just get worse if we didn't get ourselves sorted! Now, we function pretty smoothly because we know whose job is whose.

In the airport, Jake is in charge of all documents, tickets, and luggage. And I am in charge of Sunda and everything we need for the flight. So, we never question who has Sunda's blanket (I do). Or who has the passports (He does).

I'm sure you guys all have similar systems when it comes to going away for the weekend, cutting the grass, or handling the Christmas shopping or taxes. It saves us a lot of arguments and a lot of stress.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Showers of Love!

My amazing Mother-in-LOVE and my best friend Jenn threw me the most BEAUTIFUL baby shower this Saturday. It was such a lovely *surprise* and just blew me away. They worked so hard! I am so grateful to them and to all those who came and sent gifts. Amazing!

I'm not gonna lie...I'm getting more and more excited to have this baby. I mean, that's what opening newborn size sleepers with matching beanies will do to a girl!

Sunda with a "baby in her belly." The baby was born effortlessly about 30 seconds later. Complete with diaper and onesie. If it were only that easy...

Opening one of many amazing gifts.

Me at 30 weeks. I feel bigger even today. I'm just now at the stage where I'm imagining that this could get a leeeetle uncomfortable in 4 weeks or so. Baby stretched yesterday and I felt like I couldn't make enough room for him/her. I'm pretty sure this only gets exponentially stronger in the next 10 weeks. Suck it up, Mama!

We're having "Christmas in November" for Thanksgiving this week. Four more church visits and two more weeks...and we'll be back on a plane for South Africa. This time absolutely FLEW by. I don't think I've ever been so ready to get back to Africa, but so hesitant to leave the U.S. I feel unprepared and overwhelmed in terms of packing, shopping, and making plans. This is mostly due to the fact that most days I'd rather just take a nap. Aren't I supposed to feel energetic, fantastic, and like Wonder Woman in my 7th month?????

Monday, October 12, 2009

Really? Two MONTHS?

How did that go so fast? I'm telling you, I don't think about blogging for a week and it turns into a century.

Here's an update about what we've been up to since we've been home:

Gettin' smart at preschool.

Gettin' full from yummy American food!

Gettin' wet at the Children's Museum.

Gettin' a ride from Pappy George.

Gettin' pretty with Uncle C. at homecoming.

Gettin' friendly with our new pet bunny.

Gettin' more and more preggo. Me at 25 weeks...which is now!

In addition to that, we've been speaking at many area (and not so area!) churches and have enjoyed sharing our hearts and the heart and vision of Overland Missions with our supporters and others. We've had a great time so far with friends and family and are looking forward to our Florida trip next week. See ya soon Mom!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Yummy Recipe

I probably didn't really make up this recipe. But I tasted a similiar version once and tried to re-create it on Saturday since we have an abundance of tomatoes and basil in the garden at the moment. If tomatoes are still in season in the States (I have no idea any more!), you should try it!

Tomato-Basil Fettucini

1 pkg. fettucini
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small red onion, finely minced
1 handful fresh basic, finely chopped
1 cereal bowl full of chopped tomatoes (cherry tomatoes are the best)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup butter
salt and pepper


1. Boil water for pasta.

2. Chop up all the veggies.

3. Cook pasta.

4. Heat oil and butter in a skillet.

5. Cook garlic and onion in the skillet until tender. Cook on low heat and be careful not to let it burn.

6. When the garlic/onion mix is tender, take it off the heat and add tomatoes and basil to the hot pan. Let them sit for a minute while you spoon the butter/oil mixture over them.

7. When veggies are a bit wilted, dump everything into a big bowl and add the cooked pasta. Toss together. Add lots of salt and pepper.

P.S. I just want you to know that the fact that I was able to focus long enough to write down this recipe is a great testament to how yummy it was. I can't even remember where I put my glasses these days.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Just plain ol' MEAN

So, whether it's the fact that I'm pregnant, busy, tired of people, unbalanced, or just plain ol' mean: I have NOT been myself lately. I feel like I'm trying to teach lessons all over the show and make people understand their mistakes and why they're making them. All the while ignoring the things that I'm not doing in hopes no one will notice.

Maybe I haven't been walking around screaming at people. But in my head, I've been screaming. In my mind, I've been teaching lessons. In my thoughts, I've been judging people for the very things that I'm lacking in.

Quite a confession for a Friday morning. I know. The internet tends to listen pretty well. :)

So, I found a CD this morning (who listens to CDs anymore, right?) that I listened to constantly in college. (Beth and Jenn, you would recognize this RIGHT AWAY if you heard it...I probably tortured you with it for two years.) It struck me so sharply as I was working away at my computer.


Who gave you the right to judge me?

Did we not come from the same seed?

Was it you who gave the sea it's boundaries?

Is it your wrath that could expose me?

We are set apart by one thing only...unfailing love...and I accept it.

Those who thought they were sowing wheat will reap thorns. You've become rich and powerful, fat and sleek. You're gonna fall backwards.

by: Unspoken


God forbid that I ever become so "rich and powerful" in my knowledge and ideas of how things should be done on the mission field that I start to judge others and fall backwards.

Instead, let me not forsake my first love:

"Seeking Jesus, His steps I measure. My eyes on Jesus, no thoughts of turning. He's got me wasted, I'm drunk in love with You."

"Thinkin' of You"
by: Unspoken


I don't know if you've ever heard of Dr. Rodney Howard Browne. He's a pretty well known charismatic evangelist that is friends with our director Phil and the ministry. He came to visit the base this week and said (roughly) this about sharing the Gospel with people:

"We don't need discouraged people sharing the love of Christ. We don't need joyless, hopeless, pessimistic people sharing the love of Christ. We need joyful, free people. We need people who laugh and smile and who are not under a burden of religion."

How easy is it to get religious in our "service" for the kingdom. And how carefully we must guard against it!

Some old pictures:

Sunda when she was about 15 months old. Oh, how she has changed!

Me and the group of LIFE teachers that I work with and train on a regular basis.

Hope you have a lovely weekend!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Just Trying to Get a Coke!

One of the lesser known facts and definite benefits of living in Zambia is definitely the Coke. Zambian Cokes are made with real cane sugar instead of corn syrup, and they come in glass bottles instead of out of a can, bottle, or fountain. People who don’t even drink Coke drink Coke in Zambia. It’s just better here.

The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to find Cokes in town. There have even been months during our stay here that we have experienced a major Coke shortage. (Gasp! Boo! Hiss!) Those times have been dark and discouraging, but we’ve pulled out okay. Just making sacrifices for the Kingdom ;)

The way you get hold of the Cokes is to buy a crate with 24 glass bottles inside. You pay for the crate and the soft drinks that are inside, and then you take all of it home. When you’ve finished the drinks and replaced the glass bottles, you take the crate back to town and exchange it for a filled one from one of several vendors in Livingstone. The crates themselves cost about $10, but the refill on an exchanged crate is only K40,000, or about 40 cents a Coke. You can get other Coke products if the vendor offers them, the most common being Sprite or Fanta.

Now, you would be showing your lack of experience in any third world country if you thought that you could just go to the same place that you buy your bread and milk to stock up on Cokes. No ma’am. We in Zambia have separate buildings where we sell Cokes. Separate Coke warehouses, if you will. These warehouses are usually delicately placed in a dark, narrow alley where the flatbed Coke truck piled precariously high with clanging and swishing bottles is parked. Or, even better, they are placed right smack dab in the middle of a busy street where nobody with any sense would park if they valued their paint job (And we definitely don’t take the paint jobs too seriously, so this is not too big of a problem.)

Today (Friday), I had the pleasure of refilling 3 cases of Coke for a function that we are having here at the base this weekend. The Livingstone Coke shortage is looking to be in action this month, and all of the vendors are quickly running out of stock. In desperation, I went to the place with the longest queue (line): Standard Sales.

Once inside Standard Sales, I had to quickly evaluate something: Is this worth my time? Normally, the answer to that question would be: Absolutely not. The answer would especially be no if I had reminded myself that I am actually not really drinking Cokes at the moment due to the whole “I’m-pregnant-and-trying-not-to-drink-caffeine” thing. (I really am trying, people…) However, I knew that the benefactors of these Cokes were to be our Zambian staff. We’re holding a staff picnic and Appreciation Day on Sunday and there will be Cokes all ‘round. So, I felt pretty selfish walking out just because of a long line. So the saga continued… (Are you tired of it yet? I am.)

I waited in a pile of people and pushed toward the counter to gain the attention of a man who was appropriately titled, “The Man in Charge.” He was begging for people to be patient with him, they were ignoring his pleas, and he was obviously becoming very overwhelmed with the thought of continuing to be the Man in Charge. I waited and pushed, pushed and waited, for about 20 minutes before getting to place my order: “TWO COKES AND ONE SPRITE!” I yelled over the din. He wrote it down, slowly. “What’s the name? “ He asks. Oh geez. Here we go. “JESSI.” I yell. “Justine?” He asks. “YES!” I immediately affirmed. Whatever. I’ll be whoever you want me to be. Just get me some Cokes already.

I pushed my way back out of the pile of people and into another line. Oh, you thought that was it, didn’t you? No ways you get Cokes that easily, my friend. I waited in the payment line for a few minutes, receipt and money in hand. I paid the lady behind the glassed in counter (we’re not jokin’ around with the security at the Coke warehouse.) She leisurely wrote down my receipt number and my payment and stamped the receipt, directing me to a third line. I waited in the third line, was recorded and stamped by the man behind the desk, and seriously considered pulling out my hair. I then waited for the Man in Charge to recognize that I had a receipt in my hand. When he did notice me, my receipt was stacked with the rest of the orders being filled. I waited for a few more minutes as cases of Coke, Sprite, and beer flew past my feet on the way to their owners. (Don’t be confused about the beers. Even though Cokes are delicious and popular in Zambia, a place with this much of a crowd is a full-on drinks distributor.) Finally, the Man in Charge yelled out, “JUSTINE!” That’s me! I rushed to get my order. I quickly realized that I couldn’t carry 3 full cases. I called for my 2 friends. We then rushed out of that place as fast as possible. End of story.

I don’t know how long the whole thing took, but I do know that my friends that were with me actually had license plates made for their vehicle in the time that I was in the Standard Sales. Oh my.

Get this. I’m not even drinking an icy cold Sprite right now because all of the cases got unloaded at the main center and I chose to write this post instead of dragging myself back to the main center to get one. This has been therapeutic though. Maybe I can pretend like it was worth it, just for the story.


Happy Saturday! We’ve got a birthday party today and a cookout afterwards. We’re headed out into Nyawa for a Women’s Conference on Monday and will stay through Wednesday. After that we’ll greet a team who will be here for the next month doing a building project. And when they go home…so do we! We’ll see you so soon it’s like we’re just here on vacation! HA!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

There's A Good Reason For This!

Okay, I can’t take it anymore.

We’ve been trying to wait.

Okay, we haven’t been trying that hard.

There may still be 3 or 4 people on the planet who don’t know.

And you may be one of them.

We're havin' a baabbbyyyyy!

I was waiting to blog about it until I was 12 weeks (Or, out of the first trimester for those who aren't counting their life in weeks like obsessive pregnant women.)

However, at my first ultrasound today we found out I am actually 13 weeks along, which qualifies for legal blog publishing...I believe.


Jake and I have been hoping and waiting for a baby for a while now and are so excited to give Sunda a little brother or sister. Obviously, the details of being pregnant and having a baby are a bit more complicated when you live in a 3rd world country. So, we’ve been spending a lot of time reading, researching, praying, and considering our options.

We will be traveling home in September to do our annual furlough and support raising. It will be a shorter trip this time because we have to get back on that long flight before I get too big to take it!

We have decided to have the baby in South Africa. A beautiful clinic and midwife are already in the works.

We’re also SO excited about the fact that both of our families have decided to travel to Zambia to visit lil’ baby Schwertzy soon after he/she is born. My mom is coming very soon after the baby comes, and Jake’s family is coming in March. (I’m due at the end of January.) We knew there’d have to be something drastic to get them here, and it looks like we’re hit the jackpot on this one!

Like I said, I got my first ultrasound today and it was such a miracle to watch this little BABY moving and kicking and somersaulting around. The tech said, “Can you FEEL that?” I said, “No!” She said, “Don’t worry, you will…very soon.”

Sunda loves the idea that there is a baby in mommy's tummy and will occasionally ask: "Mama, that baby come out yet?" Not yet, Sunda...but are you in for a surprise when it does!"

I have felt pretty strong during this first part, and would humbly admit that it has definitely been an "easy" pregnancy so far. I'm grateful for that, although I'm wondering if I should start taking better advantage of the best excuse there is to have an afternoon nap.

Goodnight for now, friends. Thanks for being so patient about such a long wait.

(I mean really, WHAT was I going to talk about if I couldn't tell you I was preggers?)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Not MIA...

...just contemplating LIFE

This title has a double meaning because of course I’ve been contemplating Life, as in the life I live. (Or rather, I’ve just been trying to keep up with it.) But, I’m also working mainly with the LIFE Project right now (LIFE stands for Living In Family Environments). We always joke that we have so many acronyms in this ministry that we might as well be the military. Let me just give you a few: We got our AMs working over the CLLs, who manage the LCFs and the LCAs. Clear as mud. Right?

On to similarly uninteresting and just as menial things:

I have to make a confession. Sometimes I really struggle with the things that I’m not. It’s like I have this picture in my head of everything that a good woman or a good mother does. And there are so many of those things that I can’t even begin to comprehend doing. For example:

I’m not a gardener. I have never had any use for planting flowers or growing things. When I was a kid, we used to plant tomato plants and flowers and things every spring. So, I know how to do it. My mom loves that stuff. I’ve never had any use for it. I mean, I appreciate it. I love having a garden. I love fresh veggies and lovely flowers. I just can never seem to get the motivation to learn the names of plants and actually plant any in my places of residence.

I’m not a sewer. Again, my mom is a brilliant seamstress. I never learned. I think I burned up a sewing machine or two in home ec class. I mean, I can sew on a button or fix a seam. But, when it comes to sewing machines, I’m basically worthless.

I’m not an athlete. Sure, I occasionally like to do yoga and tai-bo and such. I may even go for a (painfully slow) run every once in awhile. But I’m not the athlete that my dad and two brothers are. Nope. Not at all. I think I sometimes surprise people when it turns out I am actually slightly more athletically capable than they expected me to be. This is probably because I have grown up around athletes my whole life and then married one. I pretty much know all the rules and theory and may have actually learned a few things by osmosis. But, I hate being hurt and I hate knocking into people. This pretty much rules out every sport I’ve ever played.

I’m not a shopper. Lord help me, I don’t like to shop. Not for clothes. Not for home d├ęcor. Not for electronic equipment. Rarely even for Christmas presents. However, I love shopping for food. Let me loose in a Whole Foods or a Farmer’s Market and watch me go. Everything else, I can do without.

I’m not a scrapbooker. My best friend, Jenn, tried to get me into scrapbooking while we were home over the holidays. She’s so diligent and encouraging that I was almost converted, just so that I could spend more time with her. But that’s my only motivation. Time with my best friend. Left to my own devices, my children will have their childhoods chronicled in approximately 100 pictures from birth until graduation. Probably 85 of those pictures will be random artistic shots of obscure moments and forgotten memories. Only 15 will be from events that actually needed to be documented. I still only have about 2 of my wedding pictures printed and framed. ‘Nuff said.

I’m not a motorcycle rider. This has come up recently because Jake rides his motorbike a lot and it would be nice if I had the guts to learn and go with him. He tried to teach me last year. I almost ran into the side of the building. Now, he’s glad that I don’t want to learn because he’d rather me be in one piece. (Somewhere, my dad is reading this and thinking the same thing.) Anyway, riding a motorcycle kind of just increases that possibility of getting hurt and knocking into stuff. Two things I don’t like to do.

So anyway, I’m not a lot of things. Not a gardener, or sewer, or athlete, or shopper, or scrapbooker. These are things that people DO. For FUN. Why don’t I really enjoy any of them? I mean, okay, if you invite me to go shopping with you, I’ll probably go. But because it’s with you. And because there’s a chance that we may run into a Barnes and Noble and a coffee shop.

For some reason, I really struggle when I’m not everything. Do you do that too? Does it bother you when you can’t say that you fall into a group of people who seem to have it together enough to plant a garden, crochet a scarf, run a 5K, find a great deal, and document it all in a beautifully scalloped edge scrapbook? It bothers me. I know, right. Get over it.

So, as I’m hitting my “mid-twenties” (GASP!) I’m realizing that I need to just be okay with who I am and what I like to do. To actually be grateful for who God made me to be and to “boast in my weaknesses.” And stop worrying about who I’m not and trying to make myself like things just because other people like them. Here’s what I do like:

I love to make music. Any kind of music. I like to make music with Sunda. I like to make music in Zambian church. I like to sing to Jesus alone in the car. I love to stand in a 200 person choir and sing the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

I love to teach. Anything. And not just formally. Don’t know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich? It is the delight of my heart to break it down into manageable steps for you. I know. I’m a complete nerd. I’m especially great at butting in to teach things where it’s completely unnecessary for me to teach them. People can learn things on their own. In fact, people were doing it for generations before I was even born. I’m getting better at keeping my mouth shut.

I love to read. The Bible. Fiction. History books. Children’s books. Ridiculous magazines. The back of shampoo bottles. Encyclopedias. It’s ridiculous. Reading is like a drug for me. When I settle down and really start reading, I feel this amazing sense of calm come over me. My absolute favorite thing to do is to be near anyone I love and read a book. In one sitting. (They don’t have to be reading a book for this to work, as Jacob will tell you. He often watches soccer, rugby, or 24 as I read. I count it as quality time. I don’t know if it really does count.) I love to read so much that when people say, “Yeah, I’m not a big book person.” I honestly think, “Really? Then what do you do to relax?” Well, Jessi…probably any one of the above activities that you are absolutely unskilled in.

I love to talk. A big surprise to most of you, right? Hahaha. I’ve been kind of dreading everyone coming back to the base and it getting really busy here. Not because I don’t like the people being around, but rather because I just get so distracted by so many people to talk to. I find myself getting less done. Getting Sunda in bed later. Now, if I could only figure out how to talk and read at the same time…oh wait…I think that’s why I also like to write.
Thanks for reading my nonsense (if anyone out there still does, being that I tend to disappear for months at a time.) 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Out of the tent...into a House!

This is basically a post so people can see some pics of our house and Sunda jumping on her new trampoline!




Our Home!

Sunda's Room! Small, but perfect...


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Novel of Life as of Recent

Wow… It has been entirely too long since my last blog entry.

So much has happened in the past few weeks that I hope I can recount the events in proper fashion.

I’ll take us back to over two weeks ago when Jessi, Sunda and I loaded up the Toyota Landcruiser (a fellow missionary friend’s vehicle) and started off for Nyawa for the weekend. It had been raining steadily for several days prior so we knew that the roads were going to be rough. The trip takes me about 2 hours 30 minutes on the dirt bike from our base so we allotted 5 hours in the vehicle because of how slow you have to take the choppy roads.

Our estimate was nearly correct.

There were a few spots on the way there that we had to put into practice the “rocking” technique (you put the truck in first then reverse and continue that until you rock yourself out of the muddy area). Other than that, we had an enjoyable trip to Nyawa. Jessi managed to get a few great shots of the truck in its prime.

I played with this pic and added the text...thought it summed up our commitment to the neglected. I had a good time driving!

We had an excellent weekend of ministry. Jessi and I both spent some time teaching in the church during various times over the weekend. Of course, Sunda kept everyone entertained when we weren’t conducting our meetings. Just before we had sat down for a lunch we noticed that Sunda was leading a bunch of kids into the church building. We followed the crowd to find that she was organizing her own church service. “Ok, you sit down…I’m going to preach,” she told the kids who were all older than her. She went on to tell them “Jesus loves you” and she sang them a few songs to which they all stared in awe… It was priceless.

Above is a pic of Jessi and Sunda carrying water after pumping it out of the borehole.

We tried to get out into one of the more remote areas for an evening service and got stuck for over an hour in thick mud. After getting the truck out of that jam, we decided to turn back. I had some of the guys in a nearby village help me by laying branches over the muddy area so we could ride over it without getting stuck again. The only problem was that I didn’t notice the man who threw part of a tree trunk in the mud instead of a branch…never a good thing. So, naturally, when I sped over the branched area I hit the stump which shot into the side of my tire and whoosh…goodbye, tire.

It was a sidewall puncture so there was no use in patching it. We put the spare on and made it the rest of the way back to our Nyawa base. The next morning we had a great Sunday service where several people committed their lives to Christ for the first time. We said our goodbyes and left in order to get home before nightfall.
The road was basically the same as when we had arrived so we remembered which areas to maneuver around and managed to stay un-stuck for the majority of the trip back.

We were just one kilometer away from getting onto the main road and one large mud puddle away from being finished with “mud bogging” when disaster struck. A large water spot that we had easily plowed through on the way to Nyawa stopped us dead in our tracks and left the bed of the truck filling with water. We had water coming into the driver side door and no amount of rocking helped. We were truly stuck.

Several villagers came within the first 20 minutes, but no amount of pushing helped. We finally had to restort to calling the Overland base and having Arthur (the owner of the truck) and Jeff (another missionary with a Land Rover) come and pull us out of the hole.

We came to find out that the night before, two large coal trucks got stuck in the same spot and made the hole extremely deep, which is why we made it through no problem the day before and got stuck this day.

Arthur and Jeff arrived and after using a Hi-Lift jack to prop up the four corners of the truck, we put lots of rocks and rubber mats under the wheels and then pulled the truck out of the ditch with the help of the Land Rover and a chain. All of this took nearly 5 hours.

Needless to say, we were all ready for a good night sleep when we arrived at the base past midnight.

The next "blog-able" event happened just the next day. I was asked to rush into town in order to pick up a fan belt for one of our trucks because it was broke down in a nearby village and the shops were about to close for the day (you don't want to leave your trucks anywhere overnight because of theft). I threw my helmet on and made way for town. At one of the tougher spots, I geared down to 2nd and let the dirt bike crawl down some large rocks that lead to a small stream. As I was crawling over the rocks, a wingless wasp (we know them in the states as cow ants) crawled onto my hand and stung me...OUCH! I instinctively threw my hand off of the handlebars and at the same time came off of a large rock. The handlebars shot to the right and I went hurtling over the bike. A few rolls and umphs later I came to a stop and did a quick inventory. I had busted my hand open and my arm was scraped up, but there were no major problems. I jerked up the bike (now quite frustrated) and made it the rest of the way into town in time to pick up our spare and get our vehicle out of the village.

The next day I jumped on my dirt bike and left for Nyawa again to continue my Tuesday teachings that have been occuring over the last month (and will be occuring for the next several months). The trip took just about 2 and a half hours (mostly off-road), but I didn't get hung up in the mud like the truck did (oh, the joy of being able to use the footpaths). We had a great time of teaching and then arranged to have an evening meal in one of the nearby villages. The people were so excited to have me because I was the first white person to share a meal with them in their village. They had been preparing some meat for me over the last few days (they leave it out to dry for a few days, boil it and then serve it like jerky). The only problem is that they must not have boiled it long enough because I woke up very early in the bush the next morning feeling very, very sick. It is not fun to be sick out in the bush.

After realizing that this was not going away any time soon, I chose to leave earlier than planned that morning and I started off on the long journey back to the base on the bike. That was a long bike ride! I finally got the mess out of my system a week later.

After that crazy week, we decided to take a relaxing weekend with our friends, the Combrink's. It was a wonderful weekend. We kicked back, enjoyed the company of our friends, and Sunda enjoyed her best friends Michael and Kent. She is starting to get brave in the pool these days...

The following week I made my weekly trip to Nyawa and was excited to see that it hadn't rained the past week so the large, muddy areas were finally drying. We had an excellent time of ministry and teaching, but as the meeting ended the storm clouds rolled in. We quickly visited a few villages, prayed for the sick and I looked at their water situations. Here is a very typical situation for the Nyawa chiefdom.

This is what the people of two villages drink out of (along with their cattle and any other animal that wants to). It is full of disease. They need a borehole.

This particular village was so excited that I was coming, they literally built a shelter for me to sit under as they corporately denounced Satan and agreed to give their lives to Jesus Christ. Can you imagine 20 families dancing as you arrive for the first time at a village and seeing all of them standing together and publicly denouncing the devil and offering their lives to Christ. It was amazing. We shared a meal together (no meat this time!), I preached to them about God's great love and desire for wholehearted followers, and we headed back to Pastor Sweyn's house.

I decided that I was not going to spend the night and instead I left at about 7 pm to try and beat the coming storm. That decision turned into one of the longest nights of my life! The ride in the dark didn't bother me because I had done that before, but it was a bit tougher on the bush roads at night. After about 15 km's into the trip, I noticed that my front wheel was a bit flat so I stopped the bike and used a hand pump with a CO2 cartridge to bring the pressure up. I started off again and made it to Zimba, where the road gradually gets better until you hit Lusaka Rd. (the main paved road). There is another 15 km's of dirt road before you hit the paved road, but it is much smoother and easy to ride on. I was about half way on that dirt road when my bike tire began to feel strange. I pulled over to find that it was completely flat. A quick inspection of the tire showed that a large nail had found my wheel and penetrated through both sides of the tube. I pulled all of my patch kit and tools out from my tool bag that I carry and went to work at pulling the tire off of the room (a job that is not easy or fun at 10pm with little light and no assistance). Using my kick stand, I propped the bike and pulled the tube out. It was a badly damaged, but I managed to patch the holes with three patches. Next, I went to fill the tube with air to see if the patches were working and the valve came completely off of the tube. Now I was in big trouble. When your valve tears off, you need to just pitch the tube because there is no use. My only problem was that I had no other options. So I forced the valve back in the tube, opened up a nut at the bottom of the valve and I forced the rubber between the base of the valve and the nut. I tightened everything, laid hands on the tube and prayed for God to seal everything. Next I put air in the tube and to my astonishment, the tube grew was holding air! I worked the tube back into the tire and fit the tire back onto the rim. I was good to go.

I made it to Livingstone at 1 am and stopped to get a drink and some food at the 24 hour diesel station (this is a new 24 hour service...hallelujah!) I arrived at the base past 2am and collapsed on my bed...I couldn't believe I had made it back.

The next day I woke up late and worked on the bike all day. We were planning on leaving at 3am the next morning to drive to Zambia's capitol, Lusaka, where I was going to purchase a trampoline for Sunda. We made that trip without any issues and Sunda has not stopped bouncing since!

Phew, I'm out of breath just typing this thing. I know it isn't told as wonderfully as my wife can tell a story, but it does give you a good picture into what life is literally like around the clock here in Zambia as sector managers.

I'll work on getting you all a pic of Sunda bouncing on the trampoline.

Love you guys...


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 10-An Accomplishment!

Okay, this is honest. And open. Even for me. And I'm feeling a little venerable and exposed. But still really wanting to share. Please don't judge...


I feel like I should have something earth-shattering to tell you on my tenth day of blogging/journaling about the adjustment that I felt in coming back to Zambia this year. But I really don't. I do know that today, my self-proclaimed day of being "fully adjusted", I had a harder day than many of the past ten. It wasn't because of bugs or water shortages, but rather due to simple "job stress" that tends to occur when you take on more than you're sure you can complete effectively. Does it sound silly and far-fetched to you that someone who is living in a foreign country and ministering the Gospel as a career has job stress? I think that, three years ago, it would have sounded far-fetched to me. After all, we begin our days with worship music and start and end every meeting with prayer. We trust God for money and don't have to worry about a raise or much job competition. This should be a cake walk, filled with people speaking encouraging words to each other and making decisions effortlessly. There should be a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day. "Today, I have HELPED people." Right? Riiigggghhhtttt.

My mom had a phrase she always used when I was young. (Have I shared this before? Sorry for repetition.) Anyway, being an ER nurse, my mom tends to deal with emergencies quite well. And every time I would come home from school, work, voice lessons, play practice...etc. with a DRAMA that I just couldn't see the way out of, my mom would look at me and be all like, "Jessi, you're not saving lives at Brooke High School." Or, "Jessi, you're not saving lives at Krogers." Get it? Meaning...chill out. Forgetting to load a bag of groceries into someone's car did not prevent them from taking in oxygen and surviving. It just wasn't that big a deal.

Sometimes this is hard for me to keep in perspective. Because I feel like it's one thing to give money to an organization doing good things for the under-privelaged people of the world, and to feel a sense of satisfaction. And it's one thing to come here on a short trip and proclaim that "the beauty of the African people changed me way more than I ever could have changed them." And to really feel like you did make an impact. But I feel like there's such a responsibility when you're the one here making the promises to follow through to completion the things that we say we're gonna do, when we're gonna do them. And when we don't, we don't just disappoint ourselves, we let down people who have been let down by people and circumstances for their entire lives. It's just difficult to comfort myself with my mom's standard phrase, "You're not saving lives..." Because, what if I am? Not to mention the saving of souls, what if I could have saved the lives of the 10 kids in Mukuni who died from malaria this rainy season? What if it was as simple as going around with malaria tablets and showing people how to use them? What if...a million times over. Every project is not mine to complete. And nothing is mine to complete anyway. Especially if I'm gonna do them using the "footpumps of Egypt." Meaning that we'll get nothing done laboring in the flesh...

So, believe it or not, it is a stressful job. A rewarding job? Yes. Many times not like work at all? Yes. And no, I do not for one second feel like I'm making some sort of unfair or unneccesary sacrifice. And I never forget the fact that there are people working jobs they DON'T enjoy and sending money to Jake and I to be here. We live in appreciation of that. In the Kingdom, no job is more important than the other. It's not like the missionaries get up to heaven and are told, "Hey, you get first bid for the master suite since you slept with bugs for 20 years." Other people experience way more stress in their jobs and don't get to experience any thanks at all. But there's a lot of responsibility that comes along with privilage. And just when I think I'm hits me.

I woke up yesterday and looked at myself in the mirror. It took me 4 months in the States, as well as lots of lotion and hot showers, to reverse the effects that Africa had on my face last year. It took 10 days to undo it. I look like I'm 24 going on 44 again.

I feel like in some ways I spent 10 days complaining about Africa. You know those old women who complain about their husbands with a gleam in their eye? That's how my heart feels about Zambia. I love these people so much it brings me to tears. I LOVE the culture, the music, the dancing, the food, the language. I am so blessed to be a steward of this cause. How did this ever happen to me...this opportunity? Why is it that I get the privelage of being the one worrying about how to feed the widow instead of how to make my house payment? I will never be able to express how much I feel that we are truly living the dream...

And after living this dream, I'll never be the same again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bush Beginnings

We are finally back out into the beautiful Zambian bush! I took off Monday morning at 9 a.m. on the dirt bike and drove out to Nyawa which is roughly a 3 hour drive covering 150 kilometers (in a vehicle this drive takes nearly 6 hours because of the extremely difficult terrain.)

I wasn't sure what to expect for this first trip after spending a significant amount of time in Nyawa last year, specifically with a pastor named Sweyn. I arrived around lunch time to find Sweyn and his family sitting down for a meal. As is customary to wonderful Zambian hospitality, they cheerfully asked me to join them and we sat down to a nice meal of nshima and rape. After eating we began to discuss how things were going over the past four months that we had been gone and I was left absolutely amazed at what Sweyn has accomplished.

I selected Sweyn to be a CLL "Community Life Leader" last year under the LIFE Project which is one of our initiatives that targets widows, orphans and the neglected. Our goal through the LIFE Project is to see every widow, orphan and elderly individual taken care of through their communities by empowering them with education, training and above all, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sweyn is a crucial component in that he has been chosen to oversee all of the work taking place in a 5 village spread. Not only does his work involve seeing that no one is neglected, but he also carries the important task of seeing that the word of God is proclaimed through these villages and that those who have a desire to be disciples of Jesus Christ get the opportunity to do so.

Sweyn presented me with a comprehensive list of every member (man, woman and child) of the five villages including which ones were widows, single orphans and double orphans (which helps us to determine which initiatives need to take place in each community). He also was pleased to tell me that he has been discipling 10 individuals (2 from each village) and that those individuals were leading 2 Bible Studies a week in their villages. Within an hour of arriving at his home, word had spread and there were 20 adults waiting outside to hear if I was going to share the word of God with them. As we were getting ready to start the service, a man passed through that Sweyn flagged down and after a short conversation we found that the man was headed to a "professional witch doctor" in Zimba. This man had been sick for three years and said that he had been to clinics, hospitals, and witch doctors with no change. We asked him to stay with us and began to share God's word with him about God's authority over sickness and also about God's plans for this man to have a future full of hope. The man,Charles, literally broke down in tears because he was so tired of this physical ailment and he pleaded with us to pray over him. Sweyn and I spent some time praying and afterwards he looked up with a smile and said that all the pain had gone except some pain in his shoulder. We prayed again and Charles testified that all the pain had gone. He immediately grabbed his wife and said that he wanted his family to commit their lives wholly to God. We prayed with them and then headed straight to the church to meet with the eager villagers.

The meeting turned out great as they all showed a lot of excitement that I would be coming every Monday, spending the night and departing on Tuesday afternoons. We decided that each Monday we will hold two meetings where we will be teaching the word of God and then on Tuesdays we will go out in teams to the different villages and visit homes, pray for the sick and preach the word of God.

Now I understand that this may sound like a bunch of numbers and hodge podge, but it is thrilling to see the effects of empowering faithful men and women in our sector to carry the light of the gospel. Our vision is to see this very thing happen over a spread of roughly 800 villages (Masokatwane and Nyawa). I believe with all of my heart that this is the ONLY way to impact a nation. It's more than putting just food in a person's stomach, which we will be's ushering them into an unbreakable hope. No drought, famine or disaster can take this fact from them...they are loved by God and have been chosen before time began to glorify God and enjoy Him forever! This is our portion in life.

This Scripture hit me the other day and has totally transformed the confidence I have day to day:

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2Cor. 2:14)

I love this Scripture because it is a promise. I don't have to doubt whether or not I will spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ...this passage tells me that in Christ I am ALWAYS led in triumphal procession and I am ALWAYS spreading the knowledge of Christ to the earth.

We MUST live with faith. We must live with a confidence that is rooted in the word of God. Let me ask you. Do you expect to always be lead in triumphal procession in your day to day activities? You cannot lose with Jesus. Do you realize that you are spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ in your work place, at the grocery store, around your family, at your school? Let us thank God this day for giving us promises that cannot be thwarted by any thing on, above or below this earth. The only thing that can keep us from these promises is unbelief. Let us stir up our faith today and build the kingdom of God on this earth.

Please be praying for Sweyn and the ministry taking place in Nyawa. I am going to begin a series on "Bush Survival" and take you guys through some of the "survival skills and tools" that I've learned to use over the last couple of years here in Zambia. (i promise lots of pics on the next blog...)

We love you all. Keep praying for us. Please let us know how we can be praying for you.


Monday, February 16, 2009 pictures! Day 8

I am LOVING the internet speed!

Jake is in Nyawa for the next couple of days (tear). But, we had a great day today. Worked in the office this morning, went to town with Sunda for base shopping in the afternoon, and helped lead a youth meeting in the evening.

Sunda and one of the three kittens that are currently living in the office. She's afraid to hold him from underneath because he, "cratches me, Mommy."

Sunda and Auntie having a coke in town. This place may look like Mickey D's. But believe me, there's no comparison. Coke, however, is better in Zambia. I'm convinced.

That's me in the Texas hat (what?!) I've lost my 30th pair of sunglasses, and this was the only hat I could find to keep me from going blind in this sun.

This was a youth meeting called "Youth On Fire," led by our friend Jack. The kids were so much fun. They're always so surprised when I greet them and sing songs that they know in Tonga, Bemba, etc. Little do they know...I don't know much else!

I drove today for the first time since being back. Oh, these roads. I have to show you a picture of the road that we drive on everyday. Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle is always a challenge for me. But, I made it today!

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spiritual Ponderings-Day 7

Since being in Africa, there are a lot of things in Scripture that just make a whole lot more sense:

The Plagues in Exodus 8, 9.

Flies and Gnats feel like a daily plague. It just depends on what time of year it is. In the dry season, the flies are out in full force and with a vengeance. We joke that you can tell an African fly versus a non-African fly because African flies just DON’T GIVE UP. In rainy season, the gnats come in droves. Leave any body of water in the open for any amount of time, and it becomes a breeding ground. This includes cups of water, the leftovers in the kitchen sink, and the puddles you make with your feet when you get out of the shower.

Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. [John 13:12]

I would LOVE IT if someone would come and wash my feet at the end of the day. It’s a process that takes work. What a humble and beautiful Lord we serve.

The cool of the morning.
[Gen. 3:8]

Okay, so this is a stretch because this verse speaks of God walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the DAY. But, there really is a cool of the morning, at around 4 or 5am, right before the sun rises. Sometimes, it’s the only time in a restless night when you can feel the cool breeze coming through the windows. (By the way, what are you doing with your windows open? This is Malaria Country! Yeah well. It’s either get sick with malaria or die of suffocation. I haven’t had malaria yet (thank you Jesus), but I’ve come close to the suffocation part. So, I open the windows. Settle down. We sleep under mosquito nets. 

Esther: The year of beautification before she went before the king.
[Esther 2:12]

This always seemed so ridiculous to me. How can you spend a YEAR in the spa? But Esther was a hard-working Jewish woman: Washing the clothes, scrubbing the house, de-feathering the chickens. I’ve seen these unbelievable Zambian women scrub a pot with dirt (it works!) until their hands are bleeding. They could definitely use a year at the spa (and I wish I could give it to them!)

In the Song of Solomon, when the woman says to her beloved, “I’ve already taken off my robe and washed my feet. Do you want me to come back out [and answer the door]?
[Song of Sol. 5:3]

I feel your pain! Once you’re in bed, appropriately dressed in the coolest attire you can manage, with clean feet, and the mosquito net hung nicely down, you don’t want to get up for ANYTHING.

The innumerable stars.
[Jer. 33:22]

I’m talking STARS. Like you’re never seen them before in your life. Like you’re going to get swallowed up in the Milky Way. Unbelievable.

Speaking of stars, why am I staring at my computer screen when the Milky Way is calling my name? Goodnight, and Happy Sunday!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

10 Easy Steps-Day 6

How to go about killing a spitting cobra: (most information acquired courtesy of the “snake hunter”, Jake Schwertfeger)

#1) Train your 3-year-old to tell you when she sees snakes by saying, “Daddy, there’s a snake there. Go kill it.”

#2) Tell Paul, who is about to walk into the snake’s path, to go the other way.

#3) Run the 3-year-old to safety with mom, who continues making the bed, but stops to say, “If you’re gonna kill a cobra, at least wear something over your eyes.”

#4) put on plastic Nerf goggles from Sunda’s new toy guns to avoid painful and unnecessary trauma when the spitting cobra aims for your eyes.

#5) Find the biggest rock in the near vicinity.

#6) Back the now angry snake into one of the outdoor bathroom stalls and prepare for the kill.

#7) Use your Little League skills to beam the snake (preferably near the head).

#8) Once the snake is appropriately injured gets close enough to hack off its head with a machete.

#9) Come and show your wife and daughter the headless, still moving, snake.

#10) Get pictures (for the blog, of course).


#11) Don’t let the dogs eat the snake. It just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

I have one more thing to add to the “I Can’t Promise” post:
Sunda, I can’t promise that we won’t see a snake or two. But, I CAN promise that I will absolutely BELIEVE you when you say that you see one.

Thanks Sunda-girl, it would have been no fun nursing your dad through a cobra bite. And I’m glad we remembered to give him those Nerf sunglasses of yours. Putting a grown man in a headlock and flushing his eyes out with milk while he shrieks in pain would not have been my idea of a Valentine’s Day date.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sunny, Breezy, and 80 = Perfect

It’s perfectly mild and beautiful outside right now. How funny that I am such a fan of the heat during the day, but absolutely hate it at night. It’s just so hard to sleep when it’s STILL 80 degrees outside. I’m not sleeping well yet. It takes me forever to fall asleep and then I wake up restless. I know for sanity’s sake I should just lay down with Sunda when she sleeps in the afternoon. But, even in the middle of Africa I’m too American to nap in the middle of a work day. So, maybe I’ll get so exhausted my body will forget that it has trouble sleeping in the heat and I’ll just collapse at 7 o’clock one night.

Tonight Jake and I are leaving Sunda with Auntie for a couple of hours to go (literally) next door, to the neighboring lodge for dinner (our Valentine’s Day, a day early.) It’s about 5 miles away, and takes about 15 minutes with both of us on the motorbike. I can’t wait. The lodge is right on the gorge like we are and the sunset will be gorgeous. And the batteries on my camera are dead. Figures, right?

Tomorrow is a day off! Jake and I have decided that we are going to take Saturdays as a family day. It’s really easy here to run around without getting much done, but hard to really take a day off. I really feel like not having a day to do something fun as a family makes us all irritable. Sunday never works because if we’re not traveling into the bush, we’re often leading worship or Jake is preaching. And when we have church here on the base there is always massive cooking to be done ( In the kitchen. All day.) We’ll see how Saturdays work out. It’s just so nice to be able to work hard on Friday knowing that tomorrow is a free day!

On one of our Saturdays off, we might end up going to the movies, because…


According to rumor, the Livingstone Cinemas have Saturday morning movies for kids (for REALLY cheap). They show fairly old flicks. Tomorrow is Shrek 2 and Happy Feet. Apparently, there is also a Wednesday night showing which you have to “dress up” to go to. A consideration for date night!
It doesn’t really take much to entertain us. In fact, if they have air conditioning and popcorn, I would pretty much sit through anything. I miss going to the movies, but how can anyone afford it in America anymore? Jake and I ran over one evening after we put Sunda in bed (Nene stayed with her), and they had raised the prices drastically since we’d been to the movies last. The Livingstone Cinemas might be my only chance to see it on the big screen.

It’s true that there’s not always a lot to do in the entertainment department here in L/Stone. But, somehow, we end up with plans almost every weekend. Why? People here actually entertain in their homes (like, informally, and without reason.) It’s not something we do all that much of in America anymore. But here, there is always a barbecue or a dinner party going on. I love that hanging out with people is just not always centered around an activity or a function. But rather, just because. You don’t have to do anything together. Isn’t the company enough? It is such a cool way to get to know people.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A couple of pictures

I haven't been able to post pictures at night. So here they are, in the morning!

Sunda eating "offals" and nshima for lunch. Offals are the insides of a cow. She loves them. WHAT?!

Sunda with Churchley, Carl and Megan's dog. Churchley is the world's most gentle, patient dog. Yet he still runs from Sunda after awhile. I used to call her the "Dog Whisperer." I think it's more like the "Dog Torturer."

Selfish Generousity

Jake left at the crack of dawn to head out to Nyawa for the day. That's a 7-hour roundtrip on the motorbike. He swaggered in at 6:30pm, filled with mud and sand and looking like he was going to fall over. And then he sat down with his spaghetti and tried not to fall asleep into it.

I just have to say, I think my husband is really cool for biking all the way out to a little reached area through the mud and the muck and almost impassable roads. He said he took 3 falls today. That's something he wouldn't generally admit to or be proud of except for the fact that there were mud puddles the size of swimming pools covering entire sections of the road. He rode out, met with and encouraged local pastors and leaders, and came back to me in time for dinner. What a champ. I definitely would have burst into tears and pushed the dirtbike home after the first fall. That's why we take a Land Rover when I go.

Anyway, Sunda and I had a great day here. One of the things that we did today was go through a lot of the stuff that we left here last year. I am almost obsessive about not keeping more things than we need. It was awful going through everything that generous people gave us while we were home. I gave away and threw away SO many things that we just couldn't afford to transport or store. Plus, my life is difficult enough in Africa without having to deal with clutter. So, I compulsively give things away. These shoes a bit too tight? Give them away. This shirt look a little goofy? Give it away. We don't this cereal? Give it away.

I am convinced that if people in America had people to give stuff to, they wouldn't have so much stuff. I mean, really, how absolutely ridiculous is it that we live in a country where people fill their houses with stuff and then rent storage spaces to house the stuff that they can't fit in their two car garages? One of the best things about Zambia is that I can give away anything and it is completely appreciated and put to good use. However, I'm realizing that I often only give away the things that I don't want or don't think that we can use. The things that are no longer pretty enough or good enough for me. It's really no sacrifice to give these things away. In fact, it's convenient. In a land where no one comes with a big truck to pick up the garbage, giving it away saves me having to start a fire.

So, I'm not really giving at all. I'm letting someone else be my garbage service. And they appreciate it. But I often feel like a shmuck. Because I have to actually think, STILL, before I just automatically throw things in the garbage. Sock that's stained brown beyond recognition? Pitch it. Doll that is missing half it's hair? Pitch it. But then I catch people that I love, respect, and work with everyday going through my garbage pile. Dying to get ahold of the stuff that is trash to me. One day I picked broccoli from the garden to make for dinner. Broccoli (just in case you don't know) comes in a head attached to lots of leaves on the outside. Like cabbage. I trimmed off the leaves and washed the broccoli, then cut off the big part of the stalk before I started chopping it for cooking. The housekeeper stopped me and said, "You mean, that is the only part that you eat?" I said, "Of course! You can't eat the other parts, can you?" She then proceeded to chop up all of the leaves AND the stalk that I had put in the compost and make a delicious, spinach-like dish with them.

I digress. You really don't want me to try and post everyday. I'll just ramble.

My point is that as nice as it is to be able to take something that you don't want anymore and see it be put to good use, it's really difficult to stop and think before you throw anything away. And it's even more difficult to figure out how to give it away fairly and without causing a fight. And it's even more difficult when I remember that I live in a third world country and I still think it's okay to have 10 pairs of shoes and 6 pairs of jeans. Let's not talk about the 8 kinds of lotion/perfume. And I give away shirts that I don't really like. I think I could manage to actually GIVE something every once in awhile. Instead of just using people as my trash service.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Things I Can't Promise-Day 4

The time that we spent in America was really good for me as a mom. It was so reassuring to be able to do things for Sunda that I secretly feel like I should be doing for her but am not able to do here because of circumstances. These things are not usually important or earth-shattering: Dinner with family on Sundays. Attending Uncle Cody's soccer games and Uncle Henry's football games. Going to the children's museum. Playing in the balls at McDonalds. (Although, you know that we just recently went to a Chuck-E-Cheese and there were no ball pits to be had? What has this world come to?)

That stuff isn't really that big a deal. But the big stuff does come up. I think about schooling and what it will take to provide her with a good education. What about activities? There isn't anywhere to take a dance class or get piano lessons. And there aren't any rec soccer leagues where they get to wear those cute little size 3T Umbro shorts.

I think about social issues. Once she gets older, will she have a hard time being in America while we're there? Judging people who don't understand the things that she understands? Will she misunderstand the things that kids her age take for granted and feel left out because she hasn't been given the opportunity to be in the "mainstream?"

I mean, I give myself perfectly good answers to the silly questions and fairly good arguments to my shallow points. But sometimes I think about the things that I'm not able to promise Sunda.

I can't promise that I'll make cupcakes to take to her soccer game.
I can't promise that we'll go to DQ after her first spelling test.
I can't promise that she'll have violin lessons and ballet class.
I can't promise that she'll be able to "fit in." everywhere that she feels like she should.

But, then I start thinking about the things that I can promise.

I can promise that her parents will always do the will of God and will do it with joy.
I can promise that she will always be involved in our ministry and will never be considered a burden, but always a pleasure.
I can promise that we will have friends of all cultures and backgrounds, and that when she doesn't fit in with anyone else, she'll fit in with them.
I can promise that she will understand how most of the world lives, and how blessed and fortunate she is to have enough food in her belly.

I can't promise that we won't have to run from a snake or two. But I can promise that she'll probably make a good baseball player from all the rocks we fling at them!

I can't promise that we'll always have cold Cokes. But I can promise that we'll never be thirsty (for very long at least.)

I can't promise that we'll always be comfortable. But I can promise that we'll always be with each other!

See, that made me feel better just writing it out. Sometimes you just gotta do that to remember how good you really have it. Count your blessings tonight that your belly is full and you are warm and healthy. I mean, I'm counting all three of those things as blessings tonight, except I might ask to just be a little cooler. ;)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day 3- It's a shame....

...because I really thought that I would have 10 days worth of adjustment to blog about. But for the life of me, I can't think of anything that's been weird or different about today. Can't think of anything that's been exceptionally hard. In fact, I am actually loving the base in it's near-empty state. Enjoying the lack of chaos and even the lack of socialization. Besides us, Jack and Paul are the only ones on the base right now...and it's been really nice. Paul is in the kitchen right now cooking us up some barbecued chicken for dinner. Can it get more normal than that?

Today we started off with morning worship, which was wonderful because I really missed getting to start every day off making a joyful noise to the Lord! (Name that Scripture, Bethie...Psalm 34:7? ;) ) I think the others did too, since they haven't had a guitar player since before Thanksgiving. Then, it was onto meetings with Arthur (our base director, immediate boss, and all around good guy.) It was great to catch up on the happenings of the base and the different projects while we were gone.

After meeting with Arthur, Paul got me up to speed with the finances so that I could take them over, and my afternoons of fighting with Microsoft Excel began again...

In the afternoon, while Sunda slept, I got a lot of unpacking and organizing done. We're now officially unpacked as much as we can be considering that we're moving into our chalet as soon as possible. But it still feels nice to have an organized room for now.

Sunda and I played "princess" when she woke up and showed Auntie Fridah pictures of the family and the snow. And tomorrow someone is coming to plait Sunda's hair...and Momma's on vacation!)

So, like I said....normal and uneventful. I'm going to try REALLY hard tomorrow to be freaked out about something so that I can share it with you. The most exciting thing that happened today was watching Paul's pet scorpion (I don't even want to talk about it) eat the spider that I mentioned last night. That was awful.

Off to enjoy a relaxing evening!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Morning Peace-Day 2

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way…” 2 Thess. 3:16

There is absolutely nothing like the peace of a morning here on the Rapid 14 Base. How did I go for so long without soaking in the sun first thing in the morning?

The entire time that we spent at home in the States, I struggled in the morning. I had to drag myself out of my warm bed and into the cold and often dark. It was a battle to get up with Sunda (even when she slept until 7:30 or 8 o’clock.) This morning, however, despite not falling asleep until 1am or later, it was easy to get up by 7am. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy to get out of bed in the morning in Zambia. But it’s definitely a whole lot easier than getting out of bed when it’s blowing snow and -5 degrees outside. When the sun is already hot, and people are walking past your bedroom window on the way to staff devotions, it’s easier to convince yourself that the day has started.

Back to the peaceful part: It’s still cool in the shade at 7:30 in the morning. Sunda is playing already, and I can hear the water from the rapids rushing below me as I sit with my Bible and coffee. There is a lot to be done today. But, no one minds if it’s not all finished today. In Zambia, as opposed to in America, I feel like I can work diligently for the day and then “knock-off”, satisfied that tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities to get stuff done. In America, I always feel rushed to complete the next thing…there never seems like there is enough time!
Amidst the difficulty of transition, I am remembering why I love it here so much. Also, I am reminded of why the transition is so difficult. While I enjoy not being rushed, being here means that I actually have to give up control of my plans. My schedule. My comfort. My home’s cleanliness. But that’s exactly what makes this morning so peaceful. Knowing that while I can try and plan today down to the minute, it probably won’t work. And that’s okay.

On a sidenote: When people first come to Zambia, the smell really bothers them. After a while, you don’t notice it anymore. But, when I first got here in 2006, I definitely noticed. It was hard for me to be amongst lots of people, especially in church. Strong body odor mixed with harsh lye soap mixed with cooking fire and the sweet smell of wet thatch. Now, that combination of smells just smells like…home. When I opened my suitcases today and got out some of the candles and potpourri I’d packed, they almost smelled too strong. Too sterile. Very weird. So, even though the bugs still bother me…the smell doesn’t.

(On that thought, our friend Jack just killed a spider the size of my palm. Okay, so, the bugs still REALLY bother me. But, don’t worry, the Lord is “giving me peace at all times.” Also, don’t let that spider be the reason you don’t come to visit me.)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

10 Day Journal

Today is definitely a new day in terms of my perspective and attitude. 10 hours of sleep last night and a nap this afternoon probably helped quite a bit. After re-reading what I wrote last night, I decided that I am going to try and journal for the next 10 day about how we are re-adjusting to Zambia. (We'll see if we can even get the husband in on the blogging action.) It'll be as much for my own records as anything else, and should be interesting to see what the next 10 days holds.

So, like I said, it's a new day. There are still bugs in my bed. (This is due to the fact that in the rainy season, the damp thatch roofing attracts little tiny bugs that love any moisture, including sweat.) But, church was great. Jake and I sang our favorite praise song, "Ta Kwabaoowabanga Jesu" at almost every church we visited back hin the States. But today, we finally heard it the way it's supposed to sound. It felt like home to be in a tiny, dark church singing loud enough for the cows to hear.

How's Sunda adjusting? Does Sunda actually have to adjust to anything? She dove right in yesterday, rolling in the grass, taking off her long sleeve shirt, and cruising around on her little tricycle. "Look at da gorge, Mommy!" "There's da doggie, Mommy!" "Where's Auntie, Mommy?" I think we can safely say that Sunda is a true missionary kid, she goes everywhere happily with little adjustment period. Now if she can just get her Momma to catch up!

The internet is fast enough for me to post a picture (how cool is that!) So, here you have Jake and Sunda on their moto-cross mud adventure today. This was the first thing she wanted to do when we got back, can you blame her?

See you tomorrow!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Warning: It's dangerous to articulate feelings when you haven't slept in 48 hours

Okay, so...we're here! We arrived this afternoon with all persons and luggage (and minds) intact. Praise God! Our little chalet isn't quite finished yet, so we're stay in the guest room of the "big" chalet until it is. (Also a huge blessing).

So, like I said...we're here. But, if I tried to articulate my feelings right now, they wouldn't necessarily be positive. I hate to admit that I actually tend to have quite a difficult time transitioning from America back to Africa (not so much the other way...imagine...) It's so funny, because once I get my groove goin' I love it and am absolutely comfortable and at home. But after 4 months in the States, the heat and the bugs are making me crazy already! However, I haven't slept more than 7 or 8 hours in the last three days. SO, I suppose tonight isn't exactly the time to analyze my calling in Africa.

This post has no lesson or value or even information. It's only a slow sigh and whine from this American girl who just got thrown back into a country/continent that she loves, but always has a little bit of trouble adjusting to. Just want you to know. In case any of you have any sort of delusion that I'm really tough and faithful or that this is always a piece of cake for me (I won't speak for Jake, it pretty much is a piece of cake for him, but he doesn't really count, there's not much that ever bothers him). Besides the hardships that make for good stories, sometimes Africa is just plain hard because it makes you doubt the reason you even tell those stories...

However, tonight promises sleep (hopefully!) And tomorrow will consist of church in the bush (one of my favorite things to come back to). So, chat with me later. I might have a totally different attitude. Like I said, I don't know if it's safe to judge feelings when you're this sleep deprived.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

48 Hours to Go....

...and I've already lost my mind (that, or it's going, really fast!)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Down to the Wire

I have to admit, the next few days will be some of my least favorite this year. We're leavin' on a jet plane from D.C. on Thursday evening. Which means that we are renting a car from Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, and leaving Thursday morning to make the 4-hour drive to D.C. We fly for South Africa on Thursday at 5:40pm. We'll be on the plane for 18 hours, and then spend the night in South Africa. On Saturday, we'll arrive in Zambia at about 1:30 in the afternoon. Just in time for church on Sunday.

However, the reason these days are not my favorite is not only because of leaving friends and family. That part is really hard too. But the part that is REALLY stressful is trying to get everything together, packed into the appropriate number of 50-pound bags, and out the door so as not to miss our flight to Zambia. It's really hard to get motivated to do this. At least for me. "Will I want this?" "Will I need that?" "Do I need anything else from Walmart?" And then, the whole time I'm in Zambia, I think things like, "Would it have been so hard for me to bring some more Ziploc bags?"

On that note, I MUST get started. This is ridiculous. I'm stressing myself out just thinking about it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

You know your husband loves you...

...when he uses HIS Christmas I-tunes gift card to buy a whole season of YOUR fave TV show so that you can watch it in the African bush...

LOVE him.

(Sunda took this picture)

On our way back home

Sunda, why are you crying?

You say that you miss Michael? And Bundy? And David and Kent and Kyle? And the kitty cats? And the COWS?

Me too Sunda. I understand.

Well, listen. We're going back to Zambia in just over a week! And then you'll get to see your friends again. Does that make you happy?

'Nuff said, Sunda. I agree completely.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A day in the life...

...of Zambian missionaries (home on furlough)

People ask Jake and I all the time: "What does a day look like for you guys?"

I sort of answered that question by posting about a day a few months back. I'll try to answer it even better as we get back and get settled into our new roles and our NEW HOUSE! Woo hoo!

But, for now, I realized that today represented very accurately what we do while we're home on furlough.

7:45- Get up and get Sunda breakfast. Do the dishes that are in the sink.

8am-While Sunda is eating breakfast, Jake and I fill out a financial questionnaire sent from our ministry. Our goal is to try and determine how much support we need to raise and ultimately trust God for.

9am-(It was a LOONNGGG questionnaire) Respond to emails from co-workers and supporters.

9:15-Speak with our insurance company about our Stateside coverage and Sunda's package.

9:30-Start breakfast for Jake and I. Jake starts laundry. Sunda plays with Uncle Cody (who is fortunately off from school today!)
Sweep and mop kitchen floor

10am- Jake and I eat breakfast and respond to more emails regarding our Zambian work permit and where we should stay in Jo-burg.

10:30-Upload 100 pictures to Walgreens for Auntie Jenn's scrapbook!

10:45-Find our immunization cards and figure out what immunizations Sunda, Jake, and I need. Get directions to the Allegheny Health Dept. and call for information. Jake folds laundry (Sweet, sweet man).

11:15-Shower. Get Sunda dressed and ready. Finish up some housework.

12pm-On the road again!

12:15-Downtown Wellsburg, State Police Office. I need to get my fingerprints taken AGAIN to try and get my teaching certification. (My fingerprints were illegible the first time and lost in the mail the second...grrrr.)

12:45-Mail out fingerprints.

1pm-Start for the Allegheny Health Department for all of our immunizations.

2pm-Arrive and park. Wait in line for endless forms. Sunda charmed the whole waiting room.

3pm-Find out that Sunda has to get FIVE shots. Poor girl.

3:30-Sunda gets her shots after eating lunch from Arby's in the waiting room. She's a champ and doesn't even get upset until the 2nd or 3rd shot.

5:00-After fighting Pittsburgh traffic, we stop to get some (much deserved) ice cream for everyone!

6:30-Arrive back to Wellsburg. Sunda makes it very clear that she is not interested in being awake. We put her to bed. I guess tomorrow will be an early day!

The rest of the evening was spent making some phone calls and writing up a description of the process of our adoption. It's been really nice to have such a nice, quiet evening!

We're not this busy everyday. But we also don't get home [from church, bible studies, or meetings] so early all the time! The truth is: Everyday is different and usually happens on the fly. Sometimes we feel like we've been really productive and other days we feel like all we've done is talk to answering machines and chase endless paper trails. As crazy as Africa is, it feels good to get back there and have a little more stability and structure in an otherwise fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants life