Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Bernard asked me if I had any extra money to help buy shoes for three of the children who had no shoes for school. I gave him money so the children could go buy their shoes. I have taken pictures of many of the children's shoes and will post when I get home. The children's shoes are old and falling apart. Most have 2 or 3 pairs.
Hannel is the sweetest boy and SO smart. He writes me stories and loves to do long division. He loves to pray and reads the Bible more than any other person I know. He went today and bought his new shoes with Bernard. I have NEVER seen a child smile so big. He was so proud of his new shoes and showed them to me with such joy. He said they were the perfect size for him and that he was going to take good care of them. He did not know that I was the one that paid for his shoes. I was so happy that I could do this for him. It was greater than any Christmas present I have ever been given. God totally blessed me today by Hannel's new shoes.
If you are interested in buying shoes (or anything else!) for the children, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will give you all the information. They need anything and everything!
Friday, June 25, 2010
God seems to continue to surprise and bless me in the most unique ways. While I have not had any "mountain top" experiences, I feel that this experience in Africa is slowly changing me over time. Its like a long hike with a slight incline and a beautiful view. This afternoon I sang worship songs with the children and had the most fun. Its moments like those that are simply perfect.
I preached this past Sunday morning which was a wonderful experience. It was interesting because I only had 3 weeks to understand my congregation and the Zambian context. Services last from 9:30-11:30/12:00 which is long but they seem quick and full of energy. I preached about healing and asking God for healing in our lives - Mark 1:40-43. I hope it was meaningful to everyone. Bernard translated for me so the people that only speak the local language could understand me.
Zambia (and most of Africa as I have been told) is a very relaxed place. If you are told to arrive at 9:30, you can arrive at 10 and still be on time. The same is true with leaders in the church. This past Sunday the youth leaders did not show up and I had to teach the lesson without any prior knowledge.
One of my favorite sayings from the children is "Can I carry this for you?" At first, I wondered why the children always asked to carry my things. But then it hit me, they want to carry my Bible because they dont have one. They want to hold my jacket because they only have one. It reminds me why I am here. I am here for them. I am here to minister to them and show them the love of Christ. In return, they have shown me how joyful life can be with or without material things.
I am so grateful for the amount of prayer, rest, and relaxation I get here. Everyday I lay down for an hour in the middle of the day and either read, watch movies on my laptop, or take a nap. This time has reminded me how important Sabbaths are in life. While this is not a typical "Sabbath" being Sunday - the day of worship and rest. But it is a time of rest for me. I pray for 15 minutes before I relax. It has been the greatest spiritual and emotional journey for me. On Wednesday three American came to tour the Orphanage so I did not get my hour of rest. The rest of the day just felt "off." However, it was good to speak to other Americans for a few minutes since I havent seen one in 4 weeks. I am trying to figure out more Sabbath time in my life once I return in August.
I am still tutoring and teaching...and love it! I have identified the children who need extra help. They bring me their books everyday and we study. I require alot of the children to read out loud to me to help their reading and English skills. I have found they LOVE to read. Most of the children read more than I require everyday. I am so proud of them!
I have started attending the women's meeting at the Church everyday Tuesday and Thursday. It makes me feel like I am back home in the US at my own small group. I lead a Bible Study this past Thursday for the women.
Today I went to the Farmer's Festival. The festival had all the farmers bring their finest crop for selling. I bought 8 oranges and 3 tomatoes for 2 dollars! Yum! I got sunburned...bad! Most of the children had no clue what was wrong with me. I explained to me how my skin type can get burned and that it would be back to normal in a few days.
I have had a headache for the past two days and pray that it goes away soon!
I am sure next week will be another wonderful week! Until then...
Friday, June 18, 2010
Love you all dearly. Thanks for all the prayers and support :) I am SO glad that I am here. I love Zambia and all the children!
(Be shocked!) I have been helping with the cooking alot. In fact, I have gotten good at cooking Nshima. Look this up online. Its a traditional African food. I do not do alot of cooking in America because I simply dont have the time.
Most nights everyone bows their head and prays out loud all at the same time. In my tradition in America, I have never heard 35 people praying out loud at the same time...but its beautiful! I enjoy hearing a room full of noise talking to God. It makes me think that Heaven might sound something like this.
I have noticed that when I walk to the market with some of the children I see people looking at me. I am sure they are wondering where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going. In my head I say "Those People are giving me 'The Look' " It makes me laugh :)
I want to tell you about three of the children that I am so proud of!
Anna - She is one of the nicest girls you will meet and a little quiet. She is in early high school and has been having issues in math. We have spent hours working on problems like (-1) - 3 + 4 =? or -9 + (-8) - 7 + 10 =? If you want to know how to do these problems when I get home, let me know and I will come over and teach you. Anna was determined to learn it. Frankly, she wasnt catching on. She would come find me to get help even when it wasnt time to study. We worked, and worked, and worked. And she got it! I am SO proud of her! She can to any problem I give to her! Way to Go Anna!
Sandra - She is a sweetie but has problems paying attention. We have been working on memorizing Bible verses. She has been working on memorizing John 3:16. Today she was able to say the WHOLE thing without my help! We had not worked on this verse very much so I was shocked that she could remember it.
Chinyama - He is the funniest and nicest boy. Every morning he practices reading with me. He is in 4th grade. Today he was able to read the entire story without my help! :) Every word was pronounced correctly and he even knew the tough words.
I am so proud of them! :)
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I want to introduce you to children every few days/post. Joseph and Jacob are the first two. I teach a class every morning from 8:30 to 10:30. Both of the boys are in my morning class. They are excellent students and so well behaved. Jacob and Joseph are twins and they have an older brother and sister who also live at Front Porch. Their mother is still living but is mentally handicapped. She comes and does laundry at Front Porch to earn money for food. Before the boys, brother, and sister moved to Front Porch, they lived in a run-down house and had very little to eat. There was no money for clothes, school tuition, or anything else. Today they are healthy and happy! Jacob's smile is so sweet and he cracks me up. Joseph is an excellent reader for his age and the sweetest boy. It breaks my heart because each of them have about 5 outfits each. Their clothes are worn out but they dont seem to care. I promise to show you pictures when I figure this thing out. They love going to school and love God. I love hearing them pray. It brings tears to my eyes.
So lets be honest...I was hoping to see a monkey while in Zambia. No such luck. I was busy doing the dishes when Obian asked me to come see his special surprise. It was a living pig. I told him I would not get within 5 feet of the pig. The pig is no longer living. I have also seen dogs, cows, goats, and tons of bugs.
The wonderful people of McKendree UMC donated many old t-shirts from a variety of youth retreats, VBS, Great Day of Service. I bought the shirts to Zambia and gave them to the children. They were SO grateful. Every day I see at least 10 of the children wearing their shirts. (It makes me feel like Im home again) Bernard, the director, told me that typically they get more clothes donated for girls. They have several shirts. However, the boys only have a few outfits. It breaks my heart to see the little amount of clothes they have. I remember my closet back home that is full.
All the children are amazed by my hair. They think its so soft. One child admitted to me that he thought it was a wig. :) They attempt to make new hair do's for me.
Another child named Monica writes me letters everyday. I always write back. Two days ago she wrote me a whole page. She talked about her childhood, her father's death, and how she was sad not to have a father. She and I talked later that day about she would see her father in Heaven again and that she has 35 brothers and sisters here. She also was sad that she didnt have a brother and wanted to see a picture of my brother. She seems sad alot and it breaks my heart. Her mother is still living but has no way to provide for Monica, or Monica's sister Mary. Her mother comes and visits the children once a month.
I spend about 25 percent of my time working at the Church connected with the Orphanage. I went to a "Section Group" which is where several family members of the church gather for prayer, devotion, and support. Their stories amazed me, their faith inspired me, and their wisdom was divine.
When I went to bed on Saturday night the only thing I thought I would be doing at Church on Sunday morning besides attending was leading the devotion. I found out Sunday morning I would be teaching Sunday School and leading youth fellowship. I did some quick planning. I taught the youth group the game "Charades" and we talked about the verse 1 Timothy 4:12. I taught about Jonah in Sunday School. I had fish stickers so it was the best story I could think of in 2 minutes to plan. :) I find it interesting that EVERY time they meet they collect an offering and everyone tries to give. These people have alot less than "We" (Americans) have but they give everything they can to the church.
75 percent of my time is with the kids. I tutor and teach alot. I check their notes, school work, and homework every day. All 35. This is no easy task and takes a long time. I help the ones that need help if I understand the subject. (I know nothing about the government of Zambia, woodworking, or the local language) Alot of the children LOVE learning and are frustrated with their schools. The teachers dont teach all the time and they simply dont have enough work to do. I bought notebooks and in my free time create worksheets for the children to do. They LOVE them and fight over who gets to do the lessons. I teach Bible Study with them, lead prayers, and do alot of pastoral care with them. We might be simply playing a game and one of the children will want to talk about something in their life.
When returning home I want to help raise money for the children. There are several things on my "to do" list for them. They have no books so I would like to raise money for that and they hope to build another building soon. If you are interested in helping, please let me know. They also ALWAYS need money for food.
One final note - I am living with the director/pastor and his family. They are wonderful and have truly welcomed me. The food is good, bathroom is clean, and they give me enough privacy. Its fun to interact with the children (4 of them - 3 boys and a girl ages 14, 12, 10, 8, I think). I hated the food while in Japan but I can honesty say I have enjoyed every meal here. Its been fun learning to live with total strangers but we have quickly become a family. I am so grateful for that.
The people here find the most joy in the simplest things in life. By far, this would be my favorite thing here. It seems that life is slower, simpler, and not rushed. I enjoy going outside every night and simply staring at the stars for a few minutes and looking at the sunset every night. How often back in Atlanta do I actual go outside to look at the sunset? (And you can never see stars in Atlanta)
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I spent the morning and afternoon tutoring the children. I worked on math, english, and a little science. I was able to go to choir practice tonight for a few minutes. BEAUTIFUL! I have NO talent to sing, so it was a real treat to hear them.
Every night we gather for Bible study and devotion before bed. Last night I handed out all the t-shirts from McKendree UMC. That was a real treat!
Monday, June 7, 2010
I have arrived! Boy, it was a long long long trip! I arrived in South Africa after 17 hours of being in the friendly skies. The plane was full except for the seat next to me! Delta lost my luggage so I only had my carry-on which basically had nothing in it for my over night in South Africa. I stayed with the nicest women named Ruthie. We talked about churches, God, South Africa, and men. J
I took a plane to Zambia on Thursday and was greeted by Bernard and Dru. Bernard is the pastor in charge of the Orphanage. I exchanged money and got settled at Dru’s house for the evening. Dru is a wonderful missionary from the US. She runs a school for children and works very hard for the children of Zambia.
I left the next morning for Zambezi, which is my small village that I am living in. The bus trip took TWO LONG days! It was a bumpy ride and very crowded. It was tiring emotionally and physically. I arrived at the Orphanage around midnight on Saturday night.
At my site there are two primary ministries – the Orphanage and the Bethlehem Parish United Methodist Church. The pastor is in charge of both of these ministries. At the Orphanage there are 35 beautiful children and teenagers. The church (or parish as he calls it) has about 100 every Sunday morning.
I was most impressed with the youth group here, which is mostly members of the Orphanage. I have attended and helped lead the program, but almost the entire program was lead by the youth! One youth lead songs, one youth prayed, one youth did an excellent Bible study, and one youth lead games. Literally the only thing I did was offer words of encouragement, participate in the games, and lead a prayer. The pastor believed in the youth’s leadership and it has paid off! I was most impressed how they listened to one another.
I have LOVED LOVED LOVED meeting all the children and teenagers at the Orphanage. They are so friendly and sweet. I am tutoring every morning and afternoon. I will start my church duties next week which include preaching and teaching. I have worked on math homework, read, and colored together. Today I went to the school to collect a shoe that one of the children left at school. They are beautiful singers and pray the sweetest prayers. I spent the afternoon working on math with Monica, who is an orphan and has lived here for about 2 years. She doe not get a lot of one on one attention because of the large number of children. I hope that her math will continue to improve over time.
There is so much poverty here. It is overwhelming to me to see it at times. Most people live in mud houses that are a single room for an entire family. There diet is only foods they can find. The schools are two rooms and they have very few books – maybe 20 total. The Orphanage cant afford books for the children to read.
The staff at the Orphanage are amazing! They are true saints and do a wonderful job! I am so honored to work with them. They literally work 24/7 for the children. The pastor/director has worked hard educating me about Zambia, the children, and the needs of the community.
I love how most of the Zambian people have gardens. We have three gardens and most of our vegetables come from there. It is a great way to eat for cheap. People don’t use a lot of paper here either so there is not as much waste.
Random Zambia Fact – There aren’t really public restrooms. You have to pay to use the bathroom. Its about 20 cents.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
This will be the world's shortest blog post. Im here in ZAMBIA!! HOORAY! Things have gone wonderfully and I am doing good, except really really tired. Delta almost lost my luggage but it was found. I am so happy! I have seen the hand of God through my entire travel time. Everyone has been wonderful!!! :)
Happy side note - the entire plane was full on the way to South Africa (16 hour flight) EXCEPT the seat right next to me! YIPPPEEE. Ashley got two seats for the price of one!