Wednesday, March 30, 2011

" Why else would you be here?"

Today has been a good day. School with Protasho and Patrick went really well- not so much that they blew me away suddenly knowing English or anything... but we had fun and laughed and I could FEEL them learning things. I have learned to make everything.... EVERYTHING a competition for those two- and it tends to be quite humorous. The victor cheers himself out of class, and then the next day it's the other one and so on....

Also, we will be building soon for our ministry house. That may seem like a little thing but talking about it today Maureen, Fanny and I just cried! It has been stressful having some boxes piled in my house, boxes and bags at the Williamsons, and trying to do school out of two houses disruting their days...  this ministry house is SUCH as huge answer to prayer. I am more than excited about it... just to  have a small building that will be common ground (and to stop tripping over piles of books in my room!)

Tomorrow we take Wisdom to start him on his life long daily medication. We had his Cd4 count (white blood cell) count taken, and he was at 250. He should have been on medication when he got anywhere near or below 300- so this low number accounts for his frequent illness. It was a struggle to get his results (the first place lost his results and lied about it for 2 months, and the next place had "technical difficulty" but 3 tries later we are getting him settled with that tomorrow. )

This morning I was driving to work and in a roundabout, or circle, this woman- who was white- pulled right out in front of me out of turn and I slammed on the brakes and so did she cause she got scared so we were blocking traffic. To the man behind and the woman beside her, both Africans, she mouthed "sorry" and made a sad face while they beeped at her. When she turned to me, she got a smile on her face and waved. I thought this very odd. It was like she felt because we were both white we had some sort of secret comrodary. I was irritated (and also beeping) and she got almost a look of offense that I was not smiling and waving back. I was baffled. I have been thinking about it since. Should I have had some sort of connection to her? Honestly- I don't think so. I didn't see colour, I saw wreckless driving. I would have beeped if she was chinese or arab or made of skittles it didn't really matter.

It's weird to think about these things. On saturday I went with my freind Chanda to an art exhibit at the Swedish Embassy. Every single white person we saw smiled and said "hiiiii" to me like we were long lost freinds, but ignored Chanda. The only person who said anything to Chanda was one of the workers who greeted him in Nyanja but ignored me. I think this is still kind of racism. It may not be hateful or vengeful but it is classification due to race. Why can't the worker say "muli bwanji" to me? He has no idea if I've lived here a week or my whole life. Why should I determine my interaction level with someone based on race. In the states you say hello to people you know and not to people you don't. Imagine if someone went around greeting only the people of their same race in the US- it would cause an uproar.

It's just funny to me how people assume here. There are men who sell CD's on Cairo Road in town. They come to your window and say the names of the CD's they have. The other week, one guy was walking toward us and shuffled his collection then when he got to the window he said "Madame, Gospel??" Chanda laughed, and I asked why he was laughing and he said it was because he purposely put all the gospel in front of the rap and all the other stuff, because he knew I was a missionary.I asked... "What? How on earth could he know that??" And he said "Why else would you be here."

God is working in my heart as I deal with missing home and some relationship issues here. I caught myself feeling sorry for myself a bit and missing life as it was before- but that never seems to last long. I still feel a bit blue and I'm having some insomnia issues... but God has a plan and He's working it out His way. Thank goodness for that. I am considering this trial joy- it is producing endurance.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I shall not want.

Wow. It has been quite some time since I have blogged. Time keeps passing in this whirlwind of activity I tell myself I will update and then all of a sudden two weeks has gone by. I have been busy busy with the work here.

I am still regularly teaching Protasho and Patrick- they are doing so well, and are almost reading. Today Protasho spelled "apple" without any help! It can feel slow at times, but they are even communicating with me, or trying to, in english now. When we started "hello" was about all we could say to one another and now we are singing songs, playing games and reading books. They call me "Madam Mommy" (Mommy and Auntie are very respectful terms here) and once a week they buy me a fritter (which usually are covered in dirt and I can feel the sand gritting in my teeth when I eat them- I am sure they will be the death of me but I have yet to find it in my heart to say 'no thanks', so I muscle them down every week.)

Things with the other kids are going well. Teaching and tutoring can be tiring, especially with so many kids and so many different ages and ability levels, but I am soldiering on and praying for fruit. We have still had a few coming down with sickness here and there but thankfully nothing serious.

I am really looking forward to next week. A freind of mine, Daniela Ando, from when I was little and attending Albany Baptist Church is coming for the week to volunteer at a nearby clinic. I am really looking forward to having a girlfriend come and getting the opportunity to catch up and reconnect with the States.

I have been a bit down of late. I am really missing home and my family and freinds from the states. I don't have many close girlfriends here- whereas I was in a sea of gabbing girlfriends and sisters at home. I am more than grateful for the many freinds (who I honestly have to call family) God has blessed me with here- two in particular have really kept me happy and strong and smiling every day- they are the most wonderful people in my life and I would be lost without them.

It is a weird feeling I have. It's like an inner turmoil. I don't want to go back to the states. I know that's hard for my stateside family and friends to hear but I really and truly have found my home here in Zambia and I have no intention of leaving. I sometimes with I could just teleport back for just a week or two to see my family and kiss my neices and nephews and shop at walmart... the little things. I have plans to come home for Christmas but it's weird to think I have not seen my family and freinds for 7 months and won't see them for another eight months.

I really... really wish I could dance with my neice Cora or hear my Mom's "I am way too tired but I love my family" laugh and hug my sisters and my brother.... You really do not know what you had right at your fingertips until you live in a place where it's not possible to see them.

I think a mix of stress and work and anxiety about the future etc has got me in some sort of blue funk but luckily it usually only gets me for a few hours before I get a text or message from a freind here reminding me of the many blessings I've been given.

I keep getting asked how on earth I left a place and lifestyle like what I had before to come here and live how I am now and do what I am doing for no pay.

I love my work. I love these kids. I love that I spend 7 days a week thinking about them, planning for them, helping them, ministering to them ... living 7 days a week for 21 other poeple (not including my freinds and "family" here who I also live and breathe for) can be stressfull and exhausting and challenging and scary but I would not trade it for my old house and car and bank account for the world. I made my choice and God blessed it every step of the way, I know He won't stop now.

Psalm 73:26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

My heart may be missing home, and my flesh may be tired and weary but HE is my stregnth and HE can never fail... therefore neither can I.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

physical to spiritual... (one of the best days I've had in a long time)

Where to even begin. Megan and I left around 7:30 AM and drove to Fanny's to meet up with everyone. On the way, I was still mentally preparing myself, forming the usual sheild of "Belke strength". When we got there we had to wait a bit for the bus and it was getting nervewracking... there was just a nervous and unsure air about the kids. Only one, Geofrey, did not come (he is brand new to the program and was very hesitant as he doesn't really know anyone or how we operate quite yet). Even Mrs. Tembo came along to support her kids.

We already knew that Wisdom and Memory were HIV positive. I was not there when they went to the clinic and found out, (it was before i moved here) and I have heard from both Megan and Fanny how difficult and emotional that was- and I was very nervous.

When we got there (the receptionist is a member of my church I didn't even know she worked there!) they had everything pretty well ready for us and they did a great job interacting with the kids, who were OBVIOUSLY nervous, and getting things done quickly and efficiently for us. We had them come in one at a time and they had a finger prick of blood taken and then they were sent back to the waiting room. After the last of them (22 total, because Geofrey was missing but  2 of Maureen's kids came) was tested we all sat in the waiting room for less than ten minutes and then they called us back for the results. Only Megan and I went back and I was starting to get a lump in my throat already. The man had the result paper in his hand and I was quickly scanning it trying to figure out what the 0's and 3's meant when he said OK... we need to see Memory and Wisdom for retesting, they are the ones who had a positive result. Megan litterally said "are you sure?" and he was like.... yea... she said "that's all, I mean... they are all negative?"

Every one of them was negative. Statistically- that's a miracle. One in four Zambians is HIV+, and yet we had 20 all negative....
Keep in mind that these are children who: most of them at least one parent died from or is living with HIV, and they are more vulnerable to the disease due to their heredity, family life, surroundings, upbringing.... so many factors. God.... our God is a God who answers prayer.

Afterwards we brought them all back home for pizza and cookies as well as games outside, a devotional led by Pr. Pizzino, swimming and a movie. It was honestly a day full of blessings and joy- and the kids left here with full bellies and HUGE smiles on their faces... what a day full of positive memories for each of them to have. Wisdom did seem dissapointed that his results had not "changed" but he has been a 'man' about it and has been mature beyond his years. It was great to watch him laugh and run around with the other kids having a great time. I can honestly say he left here a very happy boy despite God's plan of having him suffer from this disease. Memory is not old enough to understand what it means that she is HIV+, so she had fun regardless (she is one of our more shy girls so it took her some time but she finally opened up and played with the other girls).

It is a big and beautiful family we have, and I am proud to be a mother to each and every last one of them. God is so good to us. He has saved them all physically through the prayers of His people. Now please let's pray that he heals them each Spiritually- even all in one day. Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

...and THAT is how I know that God is real.

Well, the trip to Ndola this time around was (mostly) a success! First of all, big news- I finally got my visa! It was a hassle, but it is officially in my possesion, and I am free and able to live and work until February 2013. We left early on Friday morning... much to the sorrow and dismay of my Friday students who took it as a personal attack that we didn't have school that day. The trip was... mostly... uneventful. There were something like 9 police checkpoints that I had to go through, and it was the second to last one where they stopped me and told me I had to pay a fine for not having reflectors on the front of the car. They are built in in the back, but not the front. He told me it was 170,000 Kwacha (which is almost 40 dollars) but "graciously" let me pay 54,000 Kwacha (something like 10 bucks). (PS, I went with a friend to pick up reflectors at the auto shop... they are 15pin... which is about 3 dollars.) I then continued on and for miles and miles there was no speed limit sign. It was free and open fields so I assumed it was 80 (as it is most of the trip) well... it wasn't. I was fined 180,000 Kwacha for going 80 in a 65 (I was supposed to have guessed the speed limit better). So 50 dollars (that I don't have to be throwing around) later- we made it safely to the lodge and checked in.

We met with about 4 of the kids before it started getting dark so we called it a night. Saturday we met with the rest of the kids as well as having a mini update meeting with Lister on our way to and from each place. Sunday Morning we went to the Sunday School with the kids and then to church at Grace Baptist, where the ministry runs out of and Kabwe Kabwe preaches. After that, we headed home and , thank the Lord, only went through 3 checkpoints and weren't stopped once. (I have 6 months to get a Zambian liscence from when I get my passport stamped and... lucky me... they stamped my passport February 24th when I got my work permit/visa, so starting from then I have 6 months to get the liscence. It is just another hassle of lines and cues and red tape and corruption and money that I don't have to spend.... a major headache basically.)

Most of the kids are doing well. They are almost all performing below average because of poor living conditions, bad health, poor nutrition and other environmental and emotional issues. There are, as always when dealing with teenagers and children, some challenges such as drinking, cheating, ungratefulness etc- and  I suspect serious mental problems with a few of them, and one in particular, named Esther.

She has a very bad attitude and is extremely rude and disrespectful. She has become increasingly bad in the recent months and tells her mother to "shut her mouth" when she is speaking with us. On this visit, she was asked to show us her notebooks (we check their progress this way) and she told us she had none because we don't take care of her and we buy things for everyone except her. (This is, obviously, untrue). She did not recieve her uniform yet due to a shortage (along with 4 of our other kids), and so she got the uniform reciept, threw it at Lister and told her to go get a refund because she probably stole the uniform from her anyway. She then began crying and pounding her fists and we asked her what was wrong and she said she know that we are giving the other kids more than her and "stealing" from her. Her Christmas bag was one of the ones that ripped open in transit, and she thinks that we have taken things out of it and given them to the other kids. She was raising her voice, rolling her eyes and calling us "liars" and "thieves". Her performance in school is terrible and she blamed this on us as well- saying we "owe" her more food and school supplies. She even said "I didn't ask for this but now you are here, so why can't you do anything for me?". I suspect from my backround in psychology that both she and her brother Patrick are suffering from severe mental disorders. She and Patrick both have moodswings as well as physical ticks (banging the hands against the legs, heavy blinking and unprompted bursts of laughter or noise). She needs a lot of prayer and we encouraged her to attend church (which she does not). She also has a letter that she wants to send her sponsors, but she refuses to let us have it because she doesn't want us to read it. She keeps asking us to give her the money to send it but we have a strict policy against that and she again began to cry and tell us we were cheating her. I told her we are here to help her and not hurt her and that we are praying for her. We walked out of the house to the car and she gave me a big smile and hugged me saying "see you next time!". It was a very emotional and sad visit.
These kids of situations, and others like our issues with Morgan and the Tembos, can prove to make this work very challenging and stressful- but I am thankful for the training God gave me in mental illness, psychology, child and adolescent development, family studies and education. I can see how he was preparing me for this work.

If you are interested in hearing the updates on the rest of the kids from Ndola (or Kabanana), I can forward you the email I sent their sponsors. I know that sometimes people aren't sponsoring but like to include one of the kids in their prayers each day. You can email me that request at

On Tuesday we went around to all the schools within Kabanana to get updates and reports on them. Overall, I was pleased with the reports and didn't hear anything I didn't already assume or know. We are having issues with school attendance for some of the kids in Kabanana. We plan to address this at an upcoming meeting with kids and guardians because we, as a ministry, can't pay school fees for kids who aren't going to school. There are litterally scores of children jumping to take their place and we need to stress that to them.

On Saturday, we will be taking all the kids for HIV testing. I have been praying about this- that God will cause all of them to be negative, and if that is not His will that we will be emotionally strong and able to help the kids cope with these things. I am trying to mentally prepare myself for this.... These have become my own sons and daughters and I get a physically sick every time I think about hearing "positive" about any one of them. Unfortunately, the only child who will not be coming with us is Richard- and he is a. my special favorite and b. the one I worry has it the most. He has gone to stay with an auntie in Kabwe for a while and will be the only one not tested. In one way, it's a relief (I know, that's strange, but when I think about Richard being positive it actually HURTS inside) and on the other hand I want to know so he can be properly medicated.

Another Saturday this month, I have asked some of the older guys from my youth group to come and talk to/hang out with our boys in Kabanana. They see Maureen, Fanny and I every week- but none of them have any positive male role models- I know they have questions and things they struggle with and I want them to have older (but young enough to be relevant) guys to talk to and confide in.

I have been feeling really tired and overwhelmed lately. This week I took Monday off because I was feeling sick (I have had a flu since before I left for Ndola) and took a freind, Corry, to start the process of getting his passport. He doesnt have a birth certificate or the death certificates for either of his parents, so we ended up running around all day picking up forms and keys and getting information etc, without getting much accomplished. Tuesday we did school visits all morning in Kabanana and Chipata and then I met with someone from the Ministerial College in the afternoon to give him a tutorial on the finance record keeping programme I use, and then from there went to Bible Study and afterwards caught up with freinds from church that I didn't get to see over the weekend. I was still feeling sick, so I took Wednesday off and went with Corry to drop off his forms for his passport. It ended up taking from 8:30 AM until 3:30 PM (This is Zambia, remember) so... it wasn't much of a day off. Today I have been at the computer since 8AM writing reports, filing out profiles and making phone calls to get information etc. If I have a day with nothing to do (which I haven't for a long time) then I feel like pulling my hair out because I am stir crazy, but when my days are packed I go to bed frazzled from trying to pack so much into one day. It's as if there is no happy medium. I have been here now 6 months and the work gets more and more ivolved daily. I would like to take a short holiday to give my brain and emotions a break but money is something I cannot throw around with fuel prices (I have to pay somewhere near 70 USD a week in gas with all the traveling I do to and within Kabanana, Lusaka, Chipata and Chilanga)  That may be less than a lot of people, but when you don't have a stable paycheck- it's a fortune.

I am very appreciative of the prayers of the people in the US and UK who read my blog, know of me or are related to me. I can feel God working in me and shaping me into the woman he wants me to be. I have been so blessed the past six months it is almost unbelievable- but nothing should shock anyone when we are talking about God's work.

Because of God's love and sovereign plan, I was born to my parents. Because of His sense of humor- I was a handful and a rebellious headache. Because of my parents firm and unconditional love, I was forced to remain in a  Christian college when I wasn't a Christian. Because of my past experiences I decided to study Psychology and Education. Because of that college and my chosen field of study, I went on a school trip to Zambia in 2007. Because of that trip, I decided I wanted to live in Africa. Because of that decision, I went again in 2008. Because of my experiences in that trip, I was saved by the blood and love of Jesus Christ. Because of graduating, I moved to Kentucky to be near my sisters. Because of that move, I met the Williamsons who were planning to move to the very country I visited twice. Because of their move, I was encouraged and inspired. Because of a terrible experience at my former job in KY- I was renewed in my faith and reminded of the calling I felt so clearly before. Because of that calling I prayed, knew God's approval of His plan, packed my things, sold what wouldn't pack and moved to Zambia. Because of the quick and passionate spirit God gave me, I made the decision and moved very quickly. Because of that quick timing, I was able to be here during a time when Megan and James were overwhelmed with issues in their life and ministry and needed help the most. Because of the extra hands on the field with my being here, we have increased the amount of children we help, love, minister to and sponsor from 11 to 21 in Kabanana and from 23 to 25 in Ndola. Because of the love and generosity of a church in the US, I have a car. Because of that car, children get to the clinic when they are sick, go to church and school and meetings where they learn about the Lord. Because of people sending money for me to sustain myself, I am able to stay here and tutor, minister to, counsel and love nearly 50 children. Because of my training in Education, there are two boys, who did not qualify for traditional schooling, who are now learning English, math and science and doing devotions with me before school when they would otherwise be in the home of their alcoholic street walking mother, or walking the streets themselves. Because of this ministry and the people I work with and go to church with here, my faith is stronger now than it ever has been and I am growing in the name of my Father in Heaven, and because of my growing faith I am able to be a better friend and minister back to those ministering to me here in Zambia.

Every choice we make and every road we take- every interaction starts a chain reaction. We are each affected when we least expect is and it's all in God's plan.

When I hear people say God isn't real... I am dumbfounded.