Thursday, October 20, 2011

Remember the way Joseph cries even when he's singing.

Last night I had a dream that Megan and James had a reminder board in their office and each week we put up a sentance that reminded us of why we are here. In my dream, on this imaginary board was written:

"Remember the way Joseph crys even when he's singing."

I woke up with tears streaming down my face at 3 AM. The truth is, Joseph IS sad. He lost his father and his brother in the same year. He lives in extreme poverty. He looks depressed. He's a little tiny boy, and his only freind is a grown blind man who comes and sits on their porch. He doesnt laugh and play with the other kids, he sits with this man and they talk... or don't talk. He doesnt smile. He's sad.

These kids have real struggles and real heartache that I never knew when I was growing up. Heartache I still don't know and I am a grown woman. They have pain inside of them, but they also have the love of God inside of them too, and each one of them has a chance, through our guidance and care, to find that hope and that joy and that peace in Christ.

Sometimes they do things that irritate me. Sometimes they do things that dissapoint me. Sometimes they make the wrong choices, or their guardian makes the wrong choice but I refuse to give up on them because no matter how hard headed I am and how much I make the wrong choice, God has never given up or walked away from me.

These kids, all of them, consume my life. My wheels are always turning. I find myself thinking of Everlyn when I am making breakfast or worrying about Barbara when I am driving or laughing at something Christian said when I am washing the kitchen floor or tearing up at night knowing that they are all going to sleep on the floor or the dirty ground or on inch thick foam mattresses....I am struck with guilt as I realize I have more than one pillow and then I fall asleep coming up with plans how to get them beds. How to get them more soap. How to get their guardians pots and pans... how to take care of them more... Then I think about their neighbors and the kids I give high fives to when I'm driving the older boys to school.

I don't count sheep. I count needs.

I just feel helpless in the MAGNITUDE of need- that is utterly indescribable.

I decided to make one of these reminder boards, but I realized I was immediately flooded by a thousand things I don't want to forget. I'll think of a new one each week and impliment this idea in my dream, but here are a few that came to mind right away:::::

I don't want to ever forget what Amos's face looked like as he buried his face in his new blanket and grabbed up his bag of soap and blanket and mosquito net like he just won the lottery.

I don't want to ever forget his sister putting her head down in her lap and just saying over and over: "awe, awe AWE" ("no, no, no") in disbelief that we were giving him shoes, a mosquito net, hygiene products AND a new blanket- it would be months and months and months of work for her husband to be able to afford all that and it was in their hands all in one day.

I don't want to ever forget the feeling of pain but also love and sisterhood when we told James and Mary's cousin we were sorry her baby died this weekend. It was her first born. When I saw him last week he was the size of my forearm and was only taking shallow short breaths and Fanny told me it didn't have long... she was right.

I don't want to ever forget how EVERY morning, without fail- Protasho and Patrick walk up to my car, I roll down the window, they shake my hand and say "Morning Madame", I say "Morning  guys" and then they say "Madame, we missed you." and get in the car. Every school day since January.

I dont ever want to forget the way Annie smiles.

I don't ever want to forget Richard and Maurice riding the bike Reece bought him for Christmas last year down the road. They never knew they'd meet when he bought that bike and to see them riding together laughing and smiling without a care in the world.... was amazing.

I never want to forget the way the kids get so excited when I pop in on them unexpectedly. Like today when I saw Philip at home and he specifically thanked me "Thank you for coming to visit me, Miss Kat.", or how Nathan asks me to "surprise" him at work or how Barbara begs me to come to church every Sunday- and when I do it, they act so happy and proud.

I never want to forget the once a month text messages from Kaumba. "Hello Miss Kat. We just wanted to greet you and tell you thank you again for everything, and we will see you soon. May God greatly bless you." Every month, always the same message but with different wording. He has taught me a lot about gratitude.

I never want to forget my first English conversation with Mary's grandma, Veronica. Last week, we joked in Nyanja about holding all our meetings with her in "Chizungu" or: English. She laughed and laughed cause she doesn't know a lick of English. Today she came up to me and said "Hello, how are you? How are you feeling?" with her coarse hand in mine, and still a bit shocked I said, "I am feeling fine, how are YOU feeling?" she said: "I am feeling very well thank you" and then broke out in a LAUGH that should be bottled and sold.... She apparently did her homework and she was as proud as a peacock.

I never want to forget the way Harrington cried on Tuesday. These kids need love.

I never want to forget Patrick begging me to teach him the song "This is the day the Lord has Made". He sings it under his breath all day.

I never want to forget the day we were so tired in class, and everyone was so hot and so worn out we decided to have a fly killing contest instead of doing math. The kids thought it was the coolest thing ever and still talk about it today.

I never want to forget the way Richard always makes me gifts and presents and hides them places- he made me a necklace out of straws and a matchbox car, another out of a rusty key and grass, clay figurines, and once he ever decorated my kitchen with flowers.

I never want to forget who Morgan used to be and how clearly I can see the change between then- and who he is as a Christian.

I never want to forget the meeting we had to announce the business startup with the guardians. The joy and gratitude was tangible and powerful. Writing this now, I have this bubbly feeling in my stomach just remembering the atmosphere.

I never want to forget how overwhelmed I was swallowing tears the first time I sat in the Tembo's house. I am there all the time now, and it's become very familiar- so I don't want to ever become numb to their situation.

I never want to forget Peggy's house. It's impossible to accurately depict it using words or even pictures. I was there, sitting on the floor and talking with her mother today. The claustrophobia, the smells, the feeling of the flies all over me, the realization that if I had stretched my legs I would have been touching both walls at once- the dead rat on the ground outside the door, the flea, tick and disease infested dog laying next to their laundry, the fact that my brain started trying to calculate at which angle on the dirty floor her mother must lay in order to fit horizontally at night... not to mention with four children in there.... the fact that she has not lived anywhere except that miniscule room in 30 years.... thirty years.....

I never want to forget what a crowd of kids screaming BYE BYE BYE when we leave looks like. They all need what we are giving their neighbors. It hurts.

I never want to forget Tisa's confidence when she sings in front of the whole group. She has a slight stutter and is VERY shy and soft spoken but as soon as you ask her to lead a gospel song she turns into Mariah Carey.

I never want to forget Barbara's "strut" the first time she got her hair braided.

I never want to forget seeing Mpando run. It was painful to watch him limp around just walking, and it was amazing to see him run for the first time with all the other kids after he got his corrective shoes.

I never want to forget the day Maggie made me a meal to say thank you for taking her to the clinic when she had pox. It was disgusting  and I can still taste the sour milk on my tounge but I ate it happily, and I am greatful for that meal still today.

I never want to forget the fact that Fanny has these kids in her home every day. She comes with me and Maureen every day when we make our rounds doing various things. She goes out of her way to assist, and translate, and relate, and WORKS... and she does not make a dime. The heart she has for these kids is the heart any ministry worker needs, and I look up to her and strive to model her attitude and generosity. God will give her what she deserves- if not in this lifetime then the next. She will wear a crown of solid gold.

I never want to forget the way Prisca's hand feels inside mine.

I never want to forget how strong Maureen is. She is a single parent, living in a compound, facing illness and she takes it all in stride and gives what she can. She makes it work when many in her situation would give up.

I never want to forget the joy Lawrence has depsite the fact he is facing the odds. All the odds.

I never want to forget Geofrey's humility. He came to us at age 20, asking for a shot at making a life for himself. He is struggling through grade 8, but he is more determined and more of a man than many I have met in my life.

I could keep writing these for hours. It's good to remind yourself why you do what you do.

"For the needy will not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor will never perish." Psalm 9:18

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

There is no doubt in my mind, these kids are a gift.

It has been another busy week here. Last week, in addition to teaching, Maureen, Fanny and I went through bags of clothes that were Megan's kids. We then went out and bought more so that we could have each child having two full outfits. Then we went out and distributed the clothes to the new families and had some time to visit wit them again.

It is always so great to see the different reactions when we give a gift, especially one as substantial as this. Amos came in and kneeled on the ground to greet us, as is the custom. Fanny handed him the bag and he smiled SO BIG and then JUMPED up and ran out of the room. I think he was embarrassed cause he was so excited and didn't really know what to do. When we gave James his bag- he wouldn't open it  but was desparately trying to see through the bag. We asked him to take a walk with us and he looked so torn between his gift and us, and finally came..... bag safely clutched behind his back. He was NOT letting that thing go!!

On Monday, after teaching in the morning, Maureen Fanny and I went shopping for HOURS searching for the cheapest mosquito nets. Unfortunately, they are not cheap and we couldn't find them for less than about 10 bucks each. We bought them so all the families now have a net, and we also got all the food for Saturdays pool party (we went from having 20 people to cook for to almost 50 when you include us staff and all the W's!) We also got each family laundry soap, soap bars and from donations we recieved I was able to also include hand sanitizer, socks, chewable multivitamins,  toothbrushes, toothpaste, lip balm and some sweets.

Tuesday again I taught in the morning and then  we went out to shop for shoes. We got all of the new kids pairs of shoes which was great. After that, we went to Tisa's older sisters house to talk to Harrington. He has become very discouraged in school because he has a speech impediment (a bad stutter) and he has fallen behind on his reading because if it. He was getting to a point of not wanteing to go to school because he might get called on to read out loud and get laughed at. It was painful to be there and see him try to explain how he was feeling. The more he tried to explain it to us, the less he could finish his sentance and he became very frustrated and depressed and just started crying and having shortness of breath. We talked to him for a long time, reassuring him and letting him know I would take him out of his tutoring group and give him separate personalized tutoring. It was a long and emotionally/physically tiring day.

I am really looking forward to my trip home. I definately love what I do and I am happy to do it for as long as God gives me breath but the work has piled up and with such few staff and the amount of work to be done it can become overwhelming. I look forward to the break.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

200% growth increase= 3x the work, and loving every minute.

Well it was yet again another month since my last blog. These past two months have been a fluster of activity and political activity and all sorts of other things.

In September, there were elections. I can say, I have never seen or heard anything like that in my entire life. People were stampeding and mobing in the streets (I got caught in TWO in Chipata) and there were rocks thrown, fires set and people beated. Police came in with teargas in some areas to control the situations. Luckily, our little neighborhood was quite quiet. I was off work for some time while the violence was going on (it was worst in town and in the compounds, where I usually work from) but I was keeping up with what was going on outside my little fenced in world here through news, radio and friends. The opposition, Micheal Sata, won, and there was a TEN hour celebration of cars, parades and people screaming and yelling in the streets (it started at 12:30 in the morning and ended well into the next day). Our kids in Ndola were on "lockdown" for a bit, as police were dealing with vioolence and set off teargas bombs in the streets- and everyone was instructed to stay in with their windows and doors locked.

Luckily, everyone was safe and life has continued on. I have since gone back to teaching and am still steadily working with the boys. One morning, Protasho came to school wearing a hat and said "Madame, my head is not good." He took off the hat to revel all the hair and a good chunk of his skin missing, in an open pink wound. What had happened, was that some drunk men were arguing over political issues and knocked over a bottle of oil that was on sale at Protasho's mom's business- and it shattered. Protasho stood up to them telling them they had to pay for it. They began to beat him, and then threw rocks at his head when he was down. He had 4 stitches, but is healing quite nicely now and the hair is growing back in. I felt so bad for him, but so proud that he was "man" enough to stand up to the men.

Their school is going well, but I believe Protasho has a lot of the learning disabilities as Barbara. Patrick will understand something at a grade 5 level in two tries, and it takes Protasho about 2 weeks to get the same concept... and if we don't review each day he has lost it in a week. This is frustrating for him, as Patrick is 3 years younger than him.

Mutale had been coming for tutoring also, and we were considering sponsoring him in the next year. Unfortunately, on Monday he came to class drunk and was fighting with Protasho. We had to let him go from our program because of breaking the rules. I feel bad but he clearly wasnt focused and serious and there are so many kids out there who need our help.

Speaking of which- we have added EIGHT new kids!!!! That gives us a new total of 30 kids!! Many people like to read a short bio of the kids, so here they are: (check facebook for photos coming shortly)

James Stambuli was born in November of 2001. He is the youngest of three children. His mother died of HIV in January, 2004, and his father died the same year of HIV in December. When his parents died, James was often extremely sick so his grandmother, who had become is guardian, took him for an HIV test, for which he was found to be positive. His white blood count was so low that he was immediately put on ARV medication and has been on them since. He has been going to a free community school and is performing extremely poorly due to lack of resources, crowded classrooms of 70 or more kids, and also frequent absences due to his sickness. He struggles to complete grade 1 level, even though he is technically in grade 3. He lives with his grandparents, and 5 cousins whom the grandparents also look after. We are also sponsoring his cousin, Mary who lives with him. He is a very smiley boy and seems to want to do well and succeed. His living condition is simple. The family shares one bed and it is a small space for 7 people to fit in. We will be placing James in a closer school (his is quite far considering his health) at grade 3 and offer him advanced tutoring to get him caught up to his peers.

Mary Banda is a single orphan, living with her grandparents. Her father died in 2005, and her mother is still living and lives close by but does not take care of her children. Occasionally the mother is said to do bits of work but it does not pay for food, clothing or any other fees for the children. She lives with 7 people made up of herself, her grandparents and other siblings and cousins. She has a brother in high school, and another who failed out of grade 7 and never went back She herself has never been to school. We are sponsoring her cousin from under the same roof, James, who is HIV+. She shares a bed with all those in the home and her living situation is quite cramped and sad, as her mother is not taking care of her and her grandmother is stretched between 5 kids. She likes girly things and when we met her she was in a bright pink nightgown with clips in her short hair. She is very smiley and seems to be happy and proud to be involved and ready to go to school. We will start her in grade 1 at a nearby school.

Edina Phiri is a single orphan living with her grandparents. Her grandfather is very ill, as he recently had a stroke, and neither of the grandparents work. Her father died in 2007. Her mother is still living, and actually resides with her uncle two streets down, but does not care for her daughter physically or financially. Edina’s home is very small. She lives with her grandparents and 5 others. They have no bed or bedroom, and they all sleep together on a mat on the floor. One of the people she lives with is her sister, Agnes, who has down syndrome She was raped last year and has a small baby (Natasha) that she needs constant attention to care for as she suffers from “outbursts” and “fits”, which divides the elderly grandmother's attention between her and the ailing husband- leaving little left for the care of the other 4 ( Edina, Joseph, George and James). She completed school up to grade 3, but stopped last year due to lack of financial ability.

Emmanuel Tonga was born in 1998. His parents separated when he was born and his mother moved to Chilenge (a town about a half hour away) and got a job as a maid. She does not financially or physically support Emmanuel, his brother, Frank or his sister, Nelia. His father died in 2010, but Emmanuel was not associated with his father anyway, because he was left with his grandmother (who is also widowed) in 2004. His sister, Nelia, is 7 and has never been to school. We will be supporting both Emmanuel and his brother at this time. All three children were left by the mother in 2004 when Nelia was born and have been with their grandmother since. She lives in a one bedroom home. All four sleep on the floor in the main room as there is no bedroom, or bed. When first meeting him, Emmanuel came out with a folder where he had saved every piece of paperwork he has ever received that concerns himself and his schooling and handed us the folder. His grandmother says he is always that organized he claims it is so “people take him serious.” He is VERY excited to be going back to school. He made it to grade 5 at a free community school in a class of nearly 70 students, but stopped in 2010 due to lack of funding. We plan to send him back to grade 5 to a nearby school.

Frank Tonga is the middle child of 3. His older brother, Emmanuel, is also one of our sponsored children. He also has a young sister, Nelia. They all live with their grandmother who was widowed years ago. His father died in 2010 but Frank was not closely associated with him, as his parents were separated. His mother dropped the kids with their grandmother the year Nelia was born and has not come back for them since. She works as a maid in a town about 30 minutes away but does not physically or financially care for the children. He and his brother, sister and grandmother sleep on the floor in the main room as there is no bed or bedroom. Frank completed grade 3 but stopped attending school last year due to lack of finances. He seems shy but very smiley and excited for the opportunity. We will be sending him to grade 3 at a closer school in 2012.

Amos Mumba is a double orphan being kept by his sister. She is married and has a small baby of her own. He grew up in the bush, but last year moved to Kabanana so his sister's husband could find work, however, he has only found odd jobs, and it is not sustaining them. They are living in a two bedroom home that they share between 9 people. He has not gone to school since 2010 but had completed grade 3. He seems very shy but willing and ready to get back into school. We plan to send him to a nearby school in 2012

Peggy Simangola is the first born of four. Her siblings are Steven (7) , Beatrice (4) and Boniface (1). Her father died in 2007. She has attended a community school up to grade 2 but according to her mother it is “as good as not going to school at all” as she was in a class of over 60 students. She stopped attending in 2010. Her mother is often sick and is unable to work due to severe chest pains and weakness. A recent Xray showed “spots” on her lungs. They live in a one bedroom home and the mother was born in that room and has never lived outside of it, and is now raising her children there. Their home life is VERY sad. They have no shoes, no bed, and rarely have sufficient food. They often go days without eating at all. Their home is covered in flies and cockroaches and is in very tight and unsanitary quarters. We plan to send her to grade 2 in 2012.

Steven Simangola is second born of 4 children. He has never attended school. His father died in 2007. Her mother is often sick and is unable to work due to severe chest pains and weakness. A recent Xray showed “spots” on her lungs. They live in a one bedroom home and the mother was born in that room and has never lived outside of it, and is now raising her children there. Their home life is VERY sad. They have no shoes, no bed, and rarely have sufficient food. They often go days without eating at all. Their home is covered in flies and cockroaches and is in very tight and unsanitary quarters. We plan to send him to grade 1 in 2012
In the next few weeks we have a lot coming up including a Pool Party, Christmas Parties for both the Ndola kids and also one here and a few other events. I can say in the past week I've been getting increasingly stressed and overwhelmed as I am planning my trip home, presentations when I get home... adding these new kids and all the background work that goes on, preparing Barbara for her big grade 7 exams, tutoring all the kids in preparation for end of the year exams, budgeting for the next year.... there is a lot on my plate. On top of all that, Protasho has tonsilitis, Barbara and Memeory have intestinal worms and I was told I have dysentary.

I have about 2 months to go here before my break... pray that God sustains me and gives me the strenth to do what needs to be done. November through February are our busiest months, and with 30 kids now (we had 11 last year at this time) I have tripled my workload.

I love the work God has given me to do. I can honestly say, tutoring/teaching isn't  my calling even though it takes up so much of my time. My favorite days are the days when we go shopping and bring food or clothes to a family. I love going out and meeting new families and looking for opportunity. I even like the days we spend taking kids to the clinic and making sure they are heathy- knowing that otherwise they'd never get treatment... but my ultimate favorite is just... hanging out with them. I am given the chance to be a positive influence DIRECTLY in 30 lives. That is not something I take lightly. I want to talk to them and sing with them. I love coloring with them and hearing about who Barbara thinks is cute or what dream car Morgan has or what Patrick wants to do when he grows up. These are my kids... they are real kids with ideas and souls and plans and hopes- and I can facilitiate guiding them to be the men and women they will become. It's simply incredible, and worth the purple bags under my eyes.