Monday, November 29, 2010

Me, of little faith.

One of my most prominant sins has always been worry and anxiety. I never categorized it as a sin until I heard Pr. Jim preach about it when doing messages on the book "Respectable Sins". I have always worried about the future and what was going to happen. I was always a "grass is greener on the other side" type- I jumped from one situation to the next seeking that comforting feeling of security and peace, but no matter what situation I found myself in I was always worrying. I find it so funny now, looking back, because in my American life of weath and ease and comfort- with my house and my car and whatever I wanted RIGHT at my fingertips, I never had anything TO worry about.

I have felt, in the past few days to a week, that sin of anxiety and worry creeping back in. I have wanted so many things in my life and have had so many goals and aspirations. Coming to Zambia and beginning the work here has fulfilled so much of that and I HAVE felt more at peace here- knowing that I am for once in the right place at the right time than ever before. I finally reached that goal of contentment and yet somhow I've let myself start worrying again about the future. How many orphans will we take on? Will we make the right choices about the house? Are we making the right choices in who we are sponsoring? Are we doing enough? Should I be doing more... giving more? Am I saying the right things to them? Am I making the right relationship choices? How long will I be single? Should I marry a Zambian with all the work and cultural differences that will bring or is that to much to ask of the man? Should I be thinking about marraige at all- or should I be focused on the mission here... can you do both? If I DID get married here, how would the wedding work- how would we raise the kids, where would we live... it's exausting. Mainly, my worries of the past week have been that age old issue: MONEY.

I have never been poor. I have never felt that want or need. I have never gone without. I have been so lucky to have been raised by the combination of a man who taught me the value and payoffs of being a hard worker and making the most money you can, and a woman who taught me how to save and the meaning of "waste not, want not". It was an interesting mix, as far as parents go, and I am lucky to have gotten my father's work ethic... almost to a fault, and my mothers budgeting skills. Unfortunately, I did NOT get my dad's laid back attitude, but rather my mom's constant worry about the future (but I did get her good looks so that makes up for it :) ). I have never looked in my bank account and been scared or shocked (except maybe once or twice in college, and that was because of my own frivolous spending and I knew there was always someone there to back me up.)

This morning I looked at my bank account statement and just stared at it for a while. It's scary- for the first time. I look around and I am so thankful for the things that I have. I have a house to live in and a bed to sleep in and a dresser for my clothes and a fridge and a stove... more than many of the people I deal with on a day to day basis could ask for. I also have a car on the way, which is what most of this money worry comes from. I can not think about the car without tearing up. It is such a necessity for my life and work here, and I think about how much I took having a car or access to a car for granted before. The original price was quoted at 8,000 USD, and so I was given 5,000 and I decided to go ahead with the purchase knowing that God would provide. He had provided more than half, and this car will be used primarily for my work for Him here and I have full confidence that He was blessing my decision to get the car. That price soon shot up to 10,000, with all the registration and everything included, and so I was nervous but decided that even still, I would go ahead with the purchase knowing that half of that was given to me out of generosity and love. I had the money transfered (which cost another 45$). On Thanksgiving day, I found out that it would be another 300$ because of exchange rate issues. At this point I just wanted to cry. My bank account was dwindling, then with the holiday expenses it was even more scary.

I got sick Monday and have been feeling quite under the weather since. I started to get really down knowing that I will be pinching pennies and not buying any gifts for the people I want to buy gifts for, and not doing some of the things I had planned for freinds here. That's just the thing though, they were MY plans and MY ideas. This work is everything for me. My focus got off track with missing home at the holidays and feeling sick and then feeling sorry for myself because I'm broke. I stopped realizing that God has given me EVERY thing I need for the work I need to do here. I realized I was worried about money and things, when all I need is my Bible and prayer. As I laid there all I could think was "do not worry about tomorrow..." I got my Bible and looked up the passage:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
  “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

In that same chapter was this: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." I have let my heart get distracted and worry. I have had so many conversations this week that centered around my future and money and relationships and where I'd be a year from now... all I can say is that I hope in a year my heart has done nothing but grow. If my bank account does not grow, so be it. If my pantry or stomach are not full that's fine. But if my HEART has not grown... I will be in trouble- for out of the heart comes our treasure, our words, our actions... my work here is worthless if I am not focused properly.

I hope that God does not let me forget this. I hope that whatever state of riches or poverty the future brings my way I will remember to live each day with joy in my heart and feed on God's word and rest my cares upon Him.

In addition to all of this worry about money, I haven't got my visa yet. I sent my fingerprints to the states for a background check almost two months ago and have heard nothing. I am at a loss for what to do... and nervous about the reprecussions of it taking so long... or what will happen if they don't come.

Even writing this, I got a note that my mom's package came (a huge pick me up from  the "down" week), and a call that my car is on it's way from South Africa and that tomorrow I am going to go get the package and (finally) my water filter (yes, I am worried about money, but my sister and brother in law sent the money for a filter. I had thought yesterday about waiting until after the holidays to get it when my money built back up but then after reading those verses I realized No, the money was sent for a filter, and so a filter I will get. I will not worry about money anymore- Tomorrow will take care of itself.) I will spend the time I normally spend worrying and planning and fretting and anxious instead praying that my needs will be met, knowing that He has promised to meet them. I am His daughter, and I am doing what He called me to do. He's not going to let me perish and if He did it would be because He had a greater plan and purpose than anything I could think up.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Full house, full stomachs and full hearts.

Today was simply wonderful. I got up early and it was nice and cool out, so I set to work in the kitchen. I have never made even a little bit of a Thanksgiving meal before.... let alone a turkey... or two. I made the stuffing and then set out to make the turkeys. As I kept cooking I was "collecting" soux chefs seemingly from nowhere... It was very crowded but honestly nice to have the company all morning. (Notice I called it company and not help... :) ) Well as nervwracking as it was... I made two turkeys and they turned out fine! What a stressful morning though- I will never understand how my mom did it without absolutely having a heart attack. It all came together, though and was delicious.

We had over Maureen and her four kids: James, Richard, Mwansa and Jack, as well as Perjuite and Enock with his wife, son and two of his neices. It was a full house, but a very happy house. We all ate and toward the end Encok said "I think from now on I will be dreaming only of this meal." Mission accomplished.

After we ate, the kids all put on a play for us that told the story of the Native Americans and Pilgrims. Then my class did their memory verses and read their lists of what they are Thankful for- and following all that we all said what we were thankful for. I could feel the lump in my through rising as I heard each person speaking, but I lost it completely with Maureen. She said some really wonderul things about me and my work with the kids and also to the Williamsons, and you could just hear her honesty and genuine thankfulness. Even Enock gave me a "shout out" in his saying he also was thankful for "Madame Katreen".The underlying theme was that we all live and work together... every single day... as family. We all come from different backgrounds and different places but these people are my family. My brothers and sisters. Maureen and Megan said they were thankful for me, but I am equally, if not 10x more thankful for wise and caring sisters here who I can go to and tell them what's going on in my life and they give counsel or even just listen. I am thankful for James and Enock and Perjuite who have taken on the roles of father/brothers and make sure I am taken care of and doing the right thing. I am thankful for all the kids who bring me laughter and teach me lessons and care about me and want to include me in things and the example of the WIlliamsons especially. As I was sitting there I just had milions of things running through my mind. Exactly why I am thankful for Ian and Sarah and Caleb and everyone. Every person in that room has shown me or taught me something in the past two months and I am greatly indebted to them. Of course it was my turn and I was crying and could barely get out one sentance... but God sees my heart.

I thought it was interesting that James (Mulenga) wanted to speak up. He got here two days ago. Maureen had fallen on hard times and had to send her kids all over to be taken care of. Slowly she has been able to get them back, and James was the last peice. He was sent money on saturday and was supposed to leave Sunday, and get here monday. All day Monday we heard nothing. The night passed and all day Tuesday we heard nothing. Maureen didn't know if he was alive or dead at that point, a young boy traveling alone a great distance- it is very dangerous. He finally got here Tuesday night and there was so much joy and rejoicing I almost felt like I would explode. Just to hear them through the wall- their happiness and thankfulness. It was wonderful. He has jumped right in to life here and is so obviously thankful to be with his family, regardless of what cement floor he sleeps on. Today when he spoke to us he said "I am so thankful for my family and for being here and for God's protection. I could have died on the way but He took care of me and I am thankful for what He is. I am so thankful to be here with you all" Powerful- from a 15 year old.

Enock even talked about the Williamsons kids and how he was thankful that they treated him with respect because alot of white people's kids talk to the workers like dogs and the kids call him Uncle Enock and treat him with respect. It's so sad to me that that goes on here.

Tonight I got to skype with my parents and two of my sisters and my brother, half brother (my brothers roomate), and brother-in law and neice and nephew. Regardless of the delay and fuzzy picture, it was so great to talk to them. They met James and Richard and Mwansa and talked with them too. My sister Gret said "Wow  it really sounds like you and my sister laugh a whole lot together" and James said "Yes why not! We are happy. We are one very happy family".

I got some hard news that I will have to pay another 400 dollars for the car because of exchange rates etc. I was already worried about finances especially with the holidays coming up etc... and my medivac insurance runs out in December so I'll have to renew that. James simply reminded me that the Lord will provide. Look at what he's done for me so far. I am thankful that today is the day he went to get the car, so I will have it soon! I haven't been feeling well all week, and I am supposed to be in the concert at church on Saturday. Of all times to get a sore throat, this is not the time. I am hoping it will clear quickly.

I have been so blessed in this life. I do not deserve anything I have been given. I hope I always remember that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It doesn't matter if I go with a left hook or an uppercut. I can't lose this fight.

My week has been... interesting. It has just felt "off". With relationships with friends, school... there have just been a lot of issues and it's easy to get 'down'. I have felt Satan's strong attack on me trying to get me off focus and it's been a tough fight. I wasn't prepared when he came swinging and it took me a few days to lace up my gloves and really start throwing punches back.

One positive thing is that the car process has been started! With the donation from Riverside I felt comfortable covering the rest myself and just starting the process, trusting in God to provide the rest soon. (Pray!) The money has been wired and God willing, the man getting it for me will be leaving Wednesday for South Africa to pick it up and drive it back. There's light at the end of the tunnel! Even traveling to a barbeque on saturday, a friend, Isaac, was with me and just said, "Man, it's embarrassing the way they act! I just want to look at them and say "Ufuna chani?!?!" ("What do you want!?") I think it's hard for even Zambian's to understand until they ride the bus with me and see- and when I have a male with me they are much more tame, so you can imagine.

I mentioned my difficulties in school in an earlier post. I had a talk with the WIlliamsons and it was extremeley helpful and encouraging. They reminded me that as much as I am soft and nonconfrontational, there are times when your yes has to be yes and your no be no... or else noone will take my word seriosuly. So no matter how much Richard pouts and I feel awful inside I have to stick to my guns. Sigh... being a mother must be so heartwrenching. I'll need a very strong and stern husband to even it out, because Lord knows I hate the word "no" and use it as little as possible. I was remembering how in my old job I used to be called "Milkn' Cookies" It was my nickname, and they called me that because when the kids needed discipline, I was always giving them treats and love. It's like instead of a time out I gave them milk and cookies hoping that showing love would convince them to change. I am slowly learning that "spare the rod, spoil the child" concept... but I have a feeling deep down I'll at least be a cupcake, if not milk and cookies :) (on a side note, the next morning Richard came up to me and gave me a hug and asked for forgiveness... thanks for your prayers for him. God has big plans for that boy.)

On Saturday I went to a Braii, which is a barbeque, and it was great. It was put on by the Mount Mukulu men's ministry for the youth. There was a seminar, and the speaker discussed sexual purity in an open forum. Very interesting to hear the cultural differences and see all that unfold yet the gospel truths hold fast. It was a good time to hang out and get to know some people better and I look forward to more Saturdays like that.

On Thursday, my trip to Kabanana was quite discouraging and we need a lot of prayer for wisdom in our actions from here on out.

We first went to the Dakas home. It was very frustrating and discouraging. Nelia is still refusing to go to Sunday School and is a part of the Catholic church. She and Joseph both refused to speak to us when we were there. They did not shake our hands or greet us- and neither of them said a word. This is week after week of this behaviour and we have been discussing, especially with Nelia, some consequenses. When we began this work we made it very clear that we would be visiting and checking on them and we wanted to get to know them and be able to talk and minister to them. We also stressed that the requirements of this support would be attendance at school and sunday school. Felix was not there, but his mother informed us that he is very ill and may need surgery. Fanny said that the place he's going is very untrustworthy and has a high fatality rate even for minor surgery. Megan and I will be taking him to get a second opinion and more acceptable care hopefully this week. We sense that there are unhealthy things going on behind the scenes in their home, and they need a lot of prayer.

From there we went to the Tembos. Mrs Tembo was outside with Memory's baby, and did not get up or greet us (that is VERY unusual for her, and rude in Zambian culture as a whole). When we went inside, Memory, Nathan and Morgan were there but none of them got up or shook our hands and greeted us. We felt as if we were imposing and forcing them to be hospitible when they didn't want to be. I asked Memory if she was excited to be out of school and how she was spending her time and she said "I haven't been good- I have a cough" That was it. It seemed as if it was negativity and complaints wherever we turned. Morgan then began asking questions, through Fanny and Maureen, to me. This was also rude, to me, because he knows English well enough and could easily have spoken to me, I was sitting next to him. He was asking about why Americans do this or that when the Bible talkes against it- as if to put me on the spot. Finally the conversation fizzled and we just left. On an encouraging note, Nathan was off getting paperwork done so that he could get a job and start bringing in income for the family.

On the way past, we saw Memory Z. She talked to us for a minute then started to walk away. We asked where Francis was and she said he was in the church building. She went in to go get him  and then came out and told us that he said he was busy and didn't want to see us. We were shocked. That is VERY unlike Francis and we were wondering what on earth was going on. Finally he came out but was speaking very softly. I asked him how he had been and what he was doing and he mumbled something inaudible. I just looked at him and he said "Maybe you didn't hear me, I said nothing." That was it. This was someone who normally chats my ear off until I am driving away and here he only had one sentance to say to me. Barbara was off on an errand so we didn't see her or Christian.

We set off for home quite confused and irritated. In Town, between bus stops, Fanny, Maureen and I just stopped to discuss how the day went. We feel as though because now all of them are out of school and are not being financially supprted at the moment - they don't NEED us. They don't feel the need to be polite and hospitible because they aren't getting anything physical for the next few weeks. Also, we feel as though the mothers might be fed up with having us come each week and being forced to stop their work and show us hospitality. We are really looking forward to getting a house so that the kids can come to us, as opposed to us invading their homes each week. Please pray for their attitudes and apathy towards us, that they would learn to be thankful and show this through kindness towards us. Because of all this, we have decided during the holiday season while they are out of school to go every other week, until we get the house up and running. We also have decided that we may have to start showing consequenses for their actions. Unfortunately this will most likely begin with Nelia. She is the only one who will not go to Sunday School and on top of that she does not speak or interact with us. We hope that if we do stop supporting her it will be an example to the others that our "yes is yes and our no is no". If she came back and was willing to try again we would give her that chance, but we think they need to be shown that this is a privelege and not a right. As it is, Memory and Nathan have now graduated and are out from under the wing of our support. We know of countless numbers of children who need and want to be in school and learn more about Christ- and we want to give these opportunities to those who are willing to put in the effort. An hour of Sunday School once a week is not a lot to ask for school fees, uniforms, shoes, medical care and food.

We went to Kabanana today for church, and all of the kids were there except for Memory T. and Francis. We were told that Francis was sent on an errand by his brother in law and so he couldn't come. We got a chance to talk to the kids and especially Felix to find out how they were doing. Our reception was a little better today but most of them did leave quite quickly. Barbara hung around to the end and seemed eager to talk and told me she missed me on Thursday. It was interesting to see them in Sunday School. Christian was very engaged, listening and singing and clapping to the songs with vigor. Wisdom was a bit more apathetic, but I know he's had a cough and isn't feeling as well. Memory Z. seems to be very influenced by freinds and those around her who are doing bad or talking. We got a chance to meet a lot of potenial kids to "fill slots" of those who have graduated etc. One especially caught our attention. He is 15 and in 3rd grade. He works odd jobs to raise 5,000 kwacha (about a dollar) and is sending himself to school. He is someone who has shown is willing to do what he can to get an education, and we feel as though he deserves this opportunity.

Pray for us. We have a lot on our shoulders right now, between a trip to Ndola and a Christmas celebration there as well as a Christmas celebration here. We also need to figure out their school situation for the upcoming year and decide if and who we will be taking on in addition to the kids we sponsor now. Next week Megan and I will be doing Thanksgiving dinner for Maureen and her four kids, Enock and his wife and child and Perjuite and his wife and child. On Saturday I have a concert at Kabwata with the YP from Mount Mukulu. Today I was asked by Curtis, Fanny's husband, to head up the YP at Faith Baptist in Kabanana. We have had people in an out doing odd jobs and spraying for bugs, painting.... there just seem to be people everywhere, and James (Maureens oldest son) is moving into our house tomorrow... Its easy to fall prey to discouragement and anxiety and worry.... we have a lot to do and time passes so quickly. I also have been starting to worry financially again after haivng made such a big purchase but it's so rediculous even writing this now- knowing what he has done for me since coming here and what I am confident he will continue to do. We will continue to "not grow weary in well doing" and not worry because "tomorrow will take care of itself", but we will need your prayers to help us do that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Katryn "Chili" Belke.

This has been a very challenging past few days for me. I have had the girls living with me, and I haven't been sleeping. Along with that, it's just very challenging to have this many people in this house. Everywhere I turn there is garbage and other people's belongings thrown everywhere- it's hard to have your space being used, your things being used... right down to your soap and towel. It makes you want to grab stuff and put it in a pile and guard it... this is MY stuff. In addition to that, there is more garbage piling up (people often don't use garbage cans here, they seem to feel that the ground is sufficient) and dirty clothes are hung and strewn everwhere so now we are infested with hundreds of flies. I am trying to remember that everything I have is not my own, and be as giving as possible. The lack of sleep has made me irritable.

Yestarday I told Emma, Richard and Mwansa I'd take them swimming. Just us, since everyone else has been able to go when we are in school. We got out there and got in, and Mwapalo and Nikolas showed up. They cannot swim and I already told them that this was a special time for the four of us, and it was our turn. They refused to leave and said they'd just "watch". Soon their feet were in, then legs and they were standing in the water. I told them to hop out and please obey, and Nikolas decided to just jump in, fully clothed. I told him to get out, and that was very disrespectful and blatant disobediance. Just then their mother came and said "Who told them they could get in!?" Just as I was trying to explain that I told them NOT to get in.... she was saying "Well if you're going to swim then go get your suits on..." then told me that they couldn't swim and I'd have to watch them. I There went my swim, I was then stuck in the baby pool holding and watching the kids the rest of the time, when I had planned to be swimming with E, R, and M. I checked myself and realized this was selfish, and that I should let them swim with us if they wanted to. I regretted that. The more I said "do not" about anything, the more they did. I told them 6 times not to touch the hose, and they were spraying eachotehr and putting it in their mouth. I told them not to roughhouse and splash and it started a splashing war. I told them not to fight over the goggles and heard nothing but fights for the next 20 minutes.  I told Nikolas not to jump in, because he was hurting himself and everyone else, and he just got out and jumped in again- looking right at my face and laughing. I tried to be patient, knowing that they are all going through a rough time, but finally I was done with it all. I told them all to get out and three of them looked at me and said "No." .... I wanted to just get out and go home and leave them. It was the most fed up I'd been all week... and I've been pretty frustrated this week. I finally got them all out and asked them to all look at me. I asked them how many times did I tell you not to touch the hose? Now raise your hand if you touched it. How many times did I ask you not to fight over goggles or roughhouse? Raise your hand if you did. I continued with about 5 more questions then told them. For these reasons, we will not be swimming again this week. Most of them did not talk to me for the rest of the day and told me I was "mean" and made them "sad" (If they only knew how "mean" they were being to me....)

School has been rough. It has been slowly getting more and more out of hand. I have had talk after talk about obedience and respect. I've read bible verses, I've prayed with them... I've given examples and we've talked about it.... and day after day they've (richard especially) been giggling, talking when I'm talking, fighting, arguing, yelling.... just plain being rude. We can't get anything done when it's like that. Yesterday I had a big talk with them and told them exacly how i felt and how they were behaving. I told them they were gonna be sent home each time they acted up until they got it under control. I spent the last 15 minutes of class talking about respect, and how to treat others and especially your teacher... It was a long time coming and I was pointed and stern. Richard said "Miss Kat, you are chili... chili burns your mouth... the things you are saying are burning me on the inside." The truth hurts so that we do something about it. If it felt good to our conscience, we wouldn't have any reason to change.

Today was not any better. I was talking to Megan and James during break and both of them have told me- Kat, it's time. You're gonna have to send someone home so they know you are serious. It's easy to make the threats but I hate confrontation and don't want to have arguments among us.... As soon as we got back from break, Richard was back at it again, so I told him to leave for the day. He got angry and started telling me No, and that he'd be good. I told him I gave him too many chances and it was too late- he could try again tomorrow. He refused to leave. I had to go get Maureen and drag her into it and she got him to go home, crying and fuming angry. Mwansa then got angry at me for sending him home, and was frowning and barely talking. She continued to do her work, but with a nasty attitude. I told her because she wasn't being disruptive she could stay, but that she needed her attitude turned around before she came back to class this afternoon.

I am very encouraged at the work they are accomplishing, but their behavior is going downhill- part of it is because of our living arrangements, and the addition of Nikolas and Mwapalo (who are EXTREMELY misbehaved) and part of it is my own fault in letting it get this bad.

I have also been thinking about my time here, and the time I've been given on earth to do God's work. It's easy to be fed up with these sorts of things and want to just be cranky and depressed about it. We are told to not grow weary in well doing. This was my devotional this morning. I've been reading a book my Aunt Ruth sent me that has some great little quotes, stories and encouragements in it. I've been thinking a lot about Time. How I've spent my time in the past, and how I am spending it now.... Time is a gift. He did not need to give us any, and yet for many of us we get year upon year upon year of food, clothes, gifts, family- and most importantly, time. How we spend our time is how we give our thanks to God for his gift to us. Do we spend it on ourselves? Do we waste it making excuses? Do we let time pass us by and not do what is right before God?

Each night, before I go to sleep I think about the day. Did I spend my time laughing or crying? Yelling or smiling? Helping others or living for myself? God is paying attention to each decision we make and how we spend every second. He knows our thoughts, and no matter how much we convince ourslelves that what we are doing is a good use of time... will He agree?

Are you spending time reading the word and praying? Are you spending time cultivating Godly friendships and relationships? Are you spending your time teaching your children and raising them up in God's love? Are you ministering to others, giving to others, spending time with others or are YOU living for YOU. What a short amount of time we have to do the right thing, to see the places we want to see  and to love the person we want to love. There are so many songs about time, Bible verses about time, quotes about time.... "The past has come and gone, the future's far away and right now lasts for one second. One second..."

Here is one quote from the book: " Do you love the gift of life that was given to you? Then do not squander your time... for that is all that life is made up of." Time is what we have. Breath in our lungs and blood pumping through our bodies gives us time. Time. What do you do with yours? Here is the short story.

A woman once had a dream that an angel was giving her a message. He told her that each day, 1,440 dollars would be deposited into her bank account and she could use it ANY way she wanted to, but at the end of the day, any balance left over would be cancelled. There would be no carry over and no intrest.... but each morning, a new 1,440 dollars would be deposited.

She woke up to realize that there are 1,440 minutes each day. What you do with that 1,440 minutes is important because at the end of the day, it's over. At the end of each day, we should be looking at our "ledger" to see if we spent these minutes wisely. When you use your time unwisely, great opportunities and lessons pass you by.

Time is God's gift to you, and what you do with your time is your gift to God.

Hopefully I can learn this myself, and then pass that knowlege on to the kids.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

If you're white and you know it clap your hands.

Well it looks like I should be getting my car soon! We met with the guy who is going to South Africa to get it for me this morning, and he is saying it will be between 8 and 10 thousand. I should have it (if the money from various checks clear  in the next week) within two weeks. It was funny, before he left he told me to be thinking about what colour I wanted etc. I had not even thought about it! Honestly it could be pea green with pink stripes and I'd be happy, I just want it to have locks on the door and be able to drive. 

This week,  Maureens neice fell on some difficult times. They (her, and her two children) came to live here with Maureen until she can find a place to stay. Maureen's space is very small, and she already has a family of four living in one room with one bed. With this addition, a room big enough for 1-2 people would now be  holding 7. I went over today and told her to send Mwansa and Blessings (her neice's daughter) over to sleep in my bed with me from now on until they have somwhere to go. Pray that the sister gets her own place soon because this guest house is small and very hot with the metal roofs and we just keep adding and adding. I do not mind sharing, not one bit but it will change the dynamics of heat, space, privacy etc for a while.

On top of that, I haven't been feeling 100% the past day or two. Today was the day we visit Kabanana so I we went to the house of 4 of the kids and the mom had prepared us a meal.  It was pumpkin leaves (chibwabwa) with tomatoes, nshima, another relish and fish. Like a fish with eyeballs and scales and bones and a face and fins... lookin' at me. Megan and I took the tails so as to avoid faces and eyeballs and teeth.... she only had two real plates so Megan and I got those and the rest were eating off of broken plates/bowl things. Maureen asked her to lead a Bible study for us since she fed us physically she should feed us spiritually (thought this was a good concept to hold on to, for hospitality refrence). I had been thinking how different it was. We were two white faces in a room full of brown. We ate unfamiliar foods and heard unfamiliar languages and jokes. We had unfamiliar traditions and different lives all sitting together in that room. As soon as the Bibles opened I could not think of any differences between us. I couldn't put my finger on anything that separated us all that much. We're not Zambian people or American people or rich people or poor people... We are His people.
After that, we went to see the Tembo's breifly and I am happy to say they all looked much healthier, filled in and happy. The boys were even outside with freinds! As we left their mother said "God bless you... we love you." Megan said "We love you, too." And that was all I needed to hear. It can be discouraging to give to people and instead of saying thank you they ask for more. This seems to happen more often than not, but at the same time- we aren't in it for the thank you's and it's a good thing because if we were we'd all have packed up and shipped out by now. We don't need to give eachother much more than love, because that's the greatest gift that was given to us.
Despite my stomach issues, I ate almost all of the lunch prepared for us. I am still feeling ok I just am praying that I stay ok especially with 8 people living in this house now, and 3 in my bed. (watch for our pics on facebook... we are having fun girl time :) )

School is going really well and the kids are doing WORLDS better than they were when we started. It honestly shocks me when I think about it... They have now learned cursive (they could barely write print when we began), they can spell, read and write English, we've done a ton of science learning the bones and muscles and digestion etc, and mastered long division and multiplication with triple digits (they could only add when we started.) It's encouraging, and tiring, and trying and i learn a lot about patience every day.
We looked at another house in Kabanana that we might get so that would be great if we did. It's in terrible condition, but the man basically said if we wanted to fix it up we could just fix it and that would be "rent". I really want to be more into that work and as soon as we have the house and my car I can go into that 100%.

On another level, it's been difficult here making friends. The men often have the wrong motives, and the girls see those motives and then don't really like my company for that reason. In the church it's better but it's way more effort than in the states. My money, my skin, my hair, my clothes, my shoes... everything all works against me. I've never had to go to great effort to tell people I am just like them, same issues same fears same wants and hopes.... I just want them to talk to me freely but there's this invisible barrier.  

It just gets tiring being stared at and looked at and noticed all the time, and it's embarrassing for my freinds and even Maureen and Fanny to have people looking and watching all the time. It doesn't matter who I am with, male, female- but especially towards the compounds and even sometimes just walking down the street here I just want to scream STOP! STOP STARING AT MEEEEEE. You don't realize how nice it is to blend in with your surroundings until you are like a snowman on a california beach in the middle of august. No one knows what to make of you- why you're there... you don't fit.

This seems like a lot of complaining, reading back on it, but I am very happy. I have had more great news this week concerning getting the car etc. and I am very grateful for what I have, and the opportunities I have here. Today as we were leaving Kabanana one of the girls, Barbara, who I haven't seen foor a week took my hand and whispered... " i missed you..". I wanted to just stay and hang out with her. I wanted to tell her that he loving me and wanting me around meant the world to me.
Later when i walked back to the back of the house Richard came bounding up and jumped into my arms and Enock, Perjuite and Maureen were there, and all the kids. As I turned the corner holding Richard they said "there's our missing peice!" to think that I was the one that was "missing" when they were all visiting made me feel really good. They were talking about how I was becoming "Zambian" and soon I'd be cooking fish and nshima for myself every night (I wouldn't bet the farm....) They have really made me feel like I am not different from them, and its refreshing and means more to me than they'll ever know.
His mercies are new every morning, I am going to snuggle up next to Blessings and Mwansa (I love that I can say I am sleeping next to blessings tonight.) and wake up tomorrow excited and determined and full of joy. I am ready to do. Whatever it is, I am ready to do.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Do you still love me?"

I wish words could express feelings. I have had so many strong and amazing revelations since I have been here but each time I sit to write about them my mind is lost for the words to describe them. My mind is reeling, my heart is full, my body is tired and simultaniously stregnthened...

I have been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving with the holiday coming up, and I have always considered it the day to give thanks... Recently I have had so much to be thankful for (I always have had, but have been blind to it). For the past few weeks I feel as though people have just been pouring mercies and kindness on me. I was thinking about the name of the holiday and feel it is more Thanks and Giving than giving thanks. We are given so much, and everything we are given is a gift and so we should be giving just as much back. I am gave up my freedom and car and apartment and job to be here, and people have been giving money and provisions by the boatload. I wanted to have opportunity to give back to some people who give to me even thought they have nothing.

Specifically, Maureen, Enock and Perjuite. They work for James and Megan and as such I am kind of out of their "juristiction". Enock has spent full days putting together my furniture or rewiring my electric so I can have a stove. He gives me advice on how to get away from the callboys and bad men in town, and I know he truly cares for me. Perjuite makes a point every single day to ask me how my day was and he watches over me and keeps me safe at night. Maureen has been a freind to me- she gives me advice, teaches me, helps me, protects me, and watches out for me. I opened my door yesterday morning to see her sweeping my doorstep.... She has been an example of giving,strength and hard work.

Although Thanksgiving is an American holiday, I've asked them to join me on that day for a meal and fellowship. I have never made a Thanksgiving meal before, but I will be away from my family and they have accepted me into their respective families and so I wanted to spend the day with them. I want them to relax and eat what I made for them as a token of my appreciation. A while ago I heard through the grapevine that Maureen had run out of Mealie and they were eating only bread. I took Richard and Mwansa to lunch and on the way home bought a bag of mealie. Maureen told me I shouldn't have done that and when I asked why she said "because I don't want you to run out of money buying things for us and then you'd have to go home." I explained to her that God gives to us and calls us to give to eachother, so while I am technically not "paid" while I'm here, I have been blessed and I fully intend to pass those blessings on to everyone else. We are provided for, especially when we are doing God's work. Today her hotplate stopped working so I gave her mine. God provided me with an oven last week, just in time for me to pass on my blessing to her. She has been such an example to me and I want to show her the same graces she has shown me.

At the begining of this week, I was babysitting the Williamsons and sort of set "in charge". We had a good time and I was so glad to see Megan and James get a break to recoup and rejuvinate. It was odd to have Enock, a grown man, come ask me for permission to do things. It is strange to be so close to the class separation in this culture. In the states, I'd respect and answer to him because he is a man and older than me. Here, he "answered" to me because I am white and have more money than him. We had a good time nonetheless and the rains began Monday night. We had a crazy thunderstorm Monday and Tuesday night which brought these big bugs (which I learned are flying termites). In the morning Richard and Mwansa were running around collecting them by the hundreds. They laid them out to dry all day and that night they cooked them and ate them- litterally manna had fallen from the sky. They offered them to me but I politely declined (no need to be THAT giving... ;) ) They showed me how the inside was white like a cockroach and the outside was "nice and crunchy"... no, but thank you SO much.... :)

On thursday we went to Kabanana and found that the Dakas and the Mbare/Mwamba/Zimba family were not home. It is a holiday for most kids and all the children were out with freinds and playing.

As for the Dakas, they are preparing for a memorial service for a teenage son and father died within a month of eachother last year. In the compounds where they live it is customary to have a huge feast and singing/prayer all through the night the day of the death. Being steeped in a Catholic background, they will be having the Catholic choir come sing and pray the men "into Heaven". I pray for the children, and their mother that they would see the error of this practice and learn what true salvation isa nd also it is a difficult time and they are grieving.

We found the Mbare/Mwamba/Zimba house closed and locked. The children were out playing with freinds. Thier mother left at the beginning of last week to go to another town and they have not seen her since. She could be gone for some time- leaving these small children to fend for themselves. Megan and I went to Kabanana again this morning, for reasons explained in the next paragraph, and we found Christian there home alone cooking his breakfast on a hot plate. He was supposed to be at the school building but told us he wasn't there because his trousers were dirty... Megan mentioned later "Of course- because little boys are not made to remember to wash their trousers and be ready for school or cook their own breakfast... that is what mothers are for..." Please pray that their mother will come home and will take care of her children. They are left alone for weeks at a time and Memory is very sick- it just isn't right. In terms of Christian himself though- he was VERY happy and talkative. We have had trouble getting him to speak and he had seemed so depressed and down for months- but we learned today that he knows more english than we thought and was very polite and happy spirited. It may have been the fact that noone else was around and he was happy to have this special visit all to himself. I said to Megan "I honestly didn't know if he had teeth or not!" I can't say I've ever seen him smile before today. That was very heartwarming and encouraging.

Lastly we went to the Tembo home. I wish I could describe it in any way that could bring you the feeling I got. There was such an air of depression and sadness clouded over the house and in the room. Wisdom could barely lift his eyes to look at us and as they spoke, smiling looked painful. The entire family was home. I asked everyone why there weren't out playing and no one answered. Their bodies looked frail and weak and they just.... they were so sad. Their mother has been very ill and is knocking on deaths door. She refuses to take medication and will soon leave this world and her four children with nothing. After we left it finally came out that they have not eaten for around two weeks. Fanny said she has brought them what she can- but it was small and mainly for the sick ones. Their family was starving and I asked why we hadn't been informed of this and they said that the family was embarrassed and they thought the giving was for school only. If I had a car I would have gone right then and got them food- but using the public transportation with the sun setting it was unreasonable. I came home and told Megan and we immediately made a plan to get food this morning and bring it to them. Maureen made a list of what they would need, and Megan and I went today to buy the items and bring them food. I am happy to say they now have plenty to last them quite some time. Megan and I tried to explain that while we are primarily giving for school- we need them to be healthy and fed as well. My heart broke knowing that Memory and Nathan had their hardest week of testing this week and no food. When we dropped it off we stayed only for a short time (they were hungry, and Zambians don't just sit around and eat in front of other people, so we made it quick) and their mother thanked us many times and simply said "This is truly the work of God". How true that is. Pray for the mother (Alice), that she will relent and take medication and perhaps prolong her life to take care of her children. Pray for Memory and Nathan as they have one more week of exams (Memory ends the 11th and Nathan the 10th). Pray for the whole family to gain physical stregnth and health and as they do that their spiritual heath will multiply.

We are still looking for a house to rent to use for food, education and ministry to the children. We want to be able to connect with them, minister to them and feed them physically but most importantly spiritually. We need these kids to be taken care of and off the streets. Pray that we will find a house and soon (Rainy season has begun and it is difficult to find anything decent this time of year) and that we will have wisdom concerning the best place and items to buy.

Also, pray for Maureen and Fanny These women assist us in the ministry every week. I walk arm in arm with them each Thursday and hear their concerns and troubles in the walks from one house to the other. On more than one occasion they have defended me from innapropriate men and treat me as a sister. They are giving their time and money to children who have little more than their children have. Fanny told me this week that her husband was away and she was home with her two children when theives tried to break in. They couldnt get in and so they stole whatever they could reach- her curtains. She said at one point she was looking the man in the face and he was looking in hers as they litterally played tug of war with her curtain. What a strong woman. One of the concerns for them is that in being seen walking with me each week, and when seeing the white people come in and out when Megan comes monthly they become a target for theives, robbers, and ridicule and persecution. Maureen has been called a satanist and Fanny even worse, because of their faithfulness and assistance to us in this ministry. It is a very different thing to have the colour of your skin bring pain or suffering to your friend. I feel helpless.

Right now what is on my heart is getting a car. When I see a situation like the one on Thursday... how much easier it could have been to hop in the car, buy food and bring it back, but instead I was helpless again and at the mercies of public transportaition and the setting sun. Also, I am begining to get concerned about my ability to reach them during the rainy season. During very hard rains and storms we wont be able to walk around Kabanana (another reason both the house and car are necessities). I also would like to be able to get to more youth meeting, Bible studies, and church but I am at the mercy of the Williamson's availability (which I am very thankful for- they've made it a point to be available to me whenever possible and often I'm sure it is quite inconvenient but they've have been extremely generous), I'm also at the mercy of the availability of freinds to pick me up or ride the bus with me. It is a strain and extra expense for these freinds and for the Williamsons to be "responsible" for me. Not to mention how much more often I could go to Ndola if I had transportation.

Today  Richard was very disruptive and rude in class. It was hot, and nothing was getting done and I went home afterwards very frustrated. A knock came on the door and it was Richard. Without saying anything else, he asked me simply if I would forgive him. I said of course I would and gave him a wink ( we have a special wink... :) ). Before he walked away he mumbled something under his breath. I asked him what he said and he mumbled again. Finally I said "Oh for crying out loud, Richard, what is it?" He looked at me and asked "Do you still love me?"

I was dumbfounded. How often do we sin and fall short of the glory of God and yet we ask for forgiveness and it is given without hesitation, and we ask Him, "Do you still love me" and the answer is an immovable and unchanging "YES!".