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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.