The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster. I had a hard time with teaching this week. I'm not sure why but its been really hard to get Richard especially focused and get them both back on track. It's so discouraging when you teach them over and over the same thing and at the end of the day they act like they've never heard that before in their life. They both speak English great, and are both smart kids but they cannot read or write English at all, and because they are smart and advanced they get bored of learning letter sounds and writing and then just check out... it makes for long days.
On Thursday after school Rick, Megan and I drove out to Kabanana (interesting fact: “Ka” means “little” so Kabanana means “little banana”) to visit the orphans. We first picked up Fanny and then went to her neighbor's house. Three of the children we support live there. We got a chance to talk to two of the children, Nelia and Joseph, and their mother but Felix was still at school. We then went over to see the Tembos. They are a fun family. I really enjoy talking to them and am looking forward to forming friendships with the kids. We found Wisdom in great health and acting goofy and laughing... what you want to see when you visit a child. Thank you all for your prayers for him. Rick's son Gabe has been writing Nathan so it was neat to get to see him meet and talk to the father of this pen pal he has- makes it all a little more real. We then went to visit the last family. Memory and Barbara were at school but we got to visit Christian and Francis. I really, really like Francis. He's 16 and wants to be a pastor. He is just one of those people who naturally seems to have a big heart. He's very caring and kind, and very personable, he'd chat for hours if you let him.
I am really looking forward to getting elbow deep in this work. I want to get to know them as kids, and have more chances to really talk to them and know them as people. Paying school fees is one thing but having someone counsel you and give advice and truly care about you as a person takes it to another level. It will help so much to keep them in contact with their sponsors so they can get to know them as well, and better know how to pray for them. All of them have major exams starting in two weeks. It's kind of the “do you move on or drop out” exams for a lot of these kids... keep them in your prayers.
I got home and checked my email expecting to write an email or blog explaining the new heart I have for this ministry and instead I got some very sobering news from home. A very wonderful woman from the church in New Jersey passed away. She was someone who assured me every single time she spoke to me (I say that without exaggeration) that she was praying for me. She told me before I left that she'd pray for me as I traveled and that I'd get here safely and everything would go smoothly. I have no doubt that these things happened because of prayers like this from her and others. She asked me to email her and let her know how things were going. I regret to say I hadn't emailed her once since I've been here.... puts things in perspective. She was a friend of my mothers, the wife of my dad's friend & fellow deacon and the mother of my friend. I feel for the church in New Jersey as they lost someone who's prayers and service brought so much to that church. She will be missed, but Heaven is a home I'm sure she would never complain about entering free of health issues she had battled for years.
As I thought of my mother and the women in my church losing a friend and role model, I just began to sob. It is such a different feeling to hear news like this over an email- you feel so isolated and so alone. I can't call and say anything to my mom, or hug my sister who I know was a good friend of hers... I don't know what to say to her only son who lost a mother and a friend- what can you say from so many miles away? I thank God that I had Megan here to give me hugs and let me just cry at the feelings of guilt and sadness and sorrow for friends and family. The kids seemed concerned at seeing me cry...Emma and Caleb and Megan prayed for the Dugle family that night and the kids and Pr. James have been praying in devotions for them.
Yesterday the kids knocked on my door. Each of them had made a card, each one with something inside it. Caleb's had a tissue, “in case I cried again” he said, and a packet of kool-aid from their America stash. Emma had picked me flowers and gave me one of her necklaces, and a tissue. Sarah's had a tissue and a reeces (more from the America stash). GraceAnn's had a tissue and a twizzler. Ians had nothing inside but words of scripture- verses to encourage you in times of grief. Richard saw them giving me the cards and got very upset. “You didn't tell me it was your birthday!!” I told him it wasn't and that these were sympathy gifts because I heard some bad news from the US. He looked at me for a minute then ran off. A half hour later he showed up at my door with a necklace. He had made it out of a vine and a matchbox car. This morning I woke up and he had made me another one- he cut up a straw into tiny sections and coloured some red (he used berries to colour them) and some white and then strung them onto a vine with a picture down at the bottom. I asked Richard all day, where is Mwansa I haven't seen her and he kept saying “she is just inside”. Mwansa had spent all day sewing me a tiny pillow out of her chitenge, with a heart on the front that said “For you, Miss Kat”. Tonight she came to me again with a purse she had made for me out of the leftover cloth from the pillow. She even made a pocket on the inside “for my cellphone”. It's those kinds of things that remind you that you have family and people who love you everywhere you go. I asked her where she learned to sew and she said “I just taught myself!” Later Maureen told me she has never sewed (or made) anything ever. She said she was so encouraged to see her daughter DOING something and making things (a valuable trade in Zambia). When she said I just taught myself- she meant I JUST taught myself!
This afternoon I took the kids swimming and swam with little Grace. That girl's smile is just amazing. After that I made myself dinner- my first time REALLY cooking a meal. I started to realize all the things I had taken for granted in the states... a stove, a microwave, pantry with spices and sauces in it...shelves, cabinets, drawers... I don't even have a kitchen chair. I sit on the floor with my back against the wall or go walk around the house to my room and sit on my bed. While these are all things I have on a wish list and I want to get eventually, it's a reminder of how much you really don't NEED.
Tonight Megan and I went through the Christmas bag's for the orphans. I can not WAIT to see the kids opening their bags. It's so fun to know the kid now and think, oh she'll be so cute in that shirt or oh he'll love that book. That is most definitely something to look forward to. This will be a hard Christmas for me. My first ever away from home... a zillion miles from any family member. It will be particularly special for me to be with those kids and see them open their presents and feel like I am with my family. I hope there's chaos and singing and trading and laughing and eating and WAY too much candy all around... just like home. I was happy to see bags there for Richard and Mwansa. I want to do something nice for them and Maureen and Enock and Perjuite... Not sure what yet.
It has almost been a month since I got here. Crazy.