Twenty twelve! What can I say about this year? It had it's share of ups and downs but even still I can only see God's grace as I look back on this year full of major life changes for me. Last year in December I NEVER would have thought I'd be writing most of these things and Thank GOD He's got a MUCH better plan than mine!
This year in the ministry has been quite fruitful. At one point we had 45 kids enrolled, but by God's grace and divine plan we are rounding out the year with 43. Quite a difference from 11 when I first arrived here!
We have new staff members (Fanny is now full time, Andrew who manages our finances (he actually does accounting- so the day he took that responsibility from me I almost did cartwheels in appreciation and joy!), and Mwidula who will have various responsibilities but with the orphans, mainly working with the older boys.
We had write a number of them writing major exams this year and we are anxiously and prayerfully awaiting those results. Fanny, myself and another part time tutor Mr Mulolwa also started weekly tuitions classes for ALL the kids, as opposed to me tutoring only a handful of them who were in desparate need last year.
We now have a (mostly) fully functional building, complete with a working kitchen! Praise God!!! It still needs a few things (floors and ceiling board) but it functions and it has been a HUGE advantage to us.
We have had many pastors, visitors and volunteers this year all of whom have been a great help in one way or the other. We also had our first Hope Kabanana Camp in the winter (summer for my overseas readers) and it was a great success- the kids had an absolute blast and we pray for an opportunity for a repeat in the future.
We had about 25 kids tested for HIV this year, and only 3 were positive. Statistically considering the economic and social situation of these kids, that is nothing but God's kindness and mercy.
Alex, who has severe cerebral palsey and many other mental/emotion problems, was enrolled in special classes in school and is THRIVING. We also started him on some medications to stabilize his condition.
Around 15 kids who had never recieved a Christmas present before got their very first one this year, complete with shiny new church clothes.
Just the thought that 43 kids are off the street and in class is a blessing. Such a huge blessing.
I could go on for hours about what has been accomplished this year.
We had a few sorrows and disappointments. One of those sorrows was the passing of Mrs Alice Tembo. She had become a freind to me, despite differing opinions the fact of the matter is she was more than entitled to those opinions. She is survived by four kids and a grandson who are out there in the world alone now, making choices and decisions every day. Never stop praying for them.
We have dealt with disrespect, ungratefulness, lack of commitment, fighting and all manner of issues that come with working with kids aged 7-21 every day. It's part of their humanness, and we wouldn't be here if they didn't need our guidance and unconditional love which we wouldn't be able to give them without God's example towards us. I hope they see that.
The major negative in my mind, despite any issues or problems that arose, is that this year we had no conversions or baptisms. I pray that 2013 is a year of spiritual awakening for the kids, I wouldn't care if they all failed out if we got to see more of them professing faith. Please pray in that direction with us.
In terms of my personal life, again it has been a year of ups and downs. I had many struggles with my health- including surgery/biopsies taken in March. The results were not perfect, but still promising. I have a follow up procedure scheduled in May, so please uphold me in prayer in that regard.
I lost three puppies this year. Two, Derbi and Lily who were sisters, I lost to parvovirus. They are apparenly a breed that rarely survives it. The other, Jules, I lost to what was described to me as "canine leprosy". The last one I lost to parvovirus was the hardest I and Sydney had a very special connection to her and I nursed her from home for 3 days before she finally passed. It was very hard to watch as she was EXTREMELY ill and in a lot of violent pain. I had her admitted and treated at two different vet practices but the virus took hold of her quite severely. Jayte, who I got for $2 on the side of the road and was the size of my hand and made of bones and skin (who also had parvovirus, but survived it)- has grown into a massive 8 month old beast who is the most loyal and happy dog. I feel bad he has lost all his buddies and amazingly, he took losing Lily the hardest too (even though he was with Derbi and Jules much longer). Yesterday he just laid on her grave and sighed/ whined. She was a special pup.
I moved out of the Williamsons guest house and into my own place early this year The house has been SUCH an amazing blessing and has allowed me to be able to show hospitality to people over the year, including Jacky and her kids, Catie Woodman and even an old college freind who was passing through with the peace corps (small world!) I was also able to host holiday dinners and a braii for my church's cell group.
I had theives come when I first moved in, but the Lord was gracious to spare myself and my car- and they took only stuff from outside in the yard. Since then, I have enjoyed the peace and safety of my home, and the oportunity to use it as a ministry.
Now to the good part- the most important and monumental part of this year- Sydney Bwalya Kombe. He proposed to me on October 6 and my life will never be the same. He has been nothing but a helpmate, encourager and best freind to me. I can not believe how well we fit together and how clearly God's plan has been mapped out for us. I know that I do not deserve him, and he deserves WAY better than me but I am thankful just the same. He is the most kind and ... for lack of a better term GOOD person I have ever met, while at the same time being strong and that leader I have been aching for. He has even seen me breakdown in tears over random stuff (including being yelled at by a passing motorist... teehee) at least 3 times and hasn't run away yet!
Our wedding with be in June of 2013 and I pray... PRAY that the days fly by. Lord willing, we will be going into ministry in Kasama which is about 12 hours from here in Northern Zambia. It will mean my involvement with LION will change, but I am not sure to what degree it will be left at this point, so we shall see how God wills in that regard. I know at least personally I will be in VERY close contact with my sisters working here, and whenever I travel to Lusaka for supplies I will be coming for hugs and checking up on my family in Kabanana!!
Please keep Sydney and I in prayer as we work out the logistics and paperwork of our union- it is by no means an easy task, as we are finding out, and we need a lot of patience, faith and trust in God's provision.
I have many hopes/plans/aspirations for next year. There is so much I see God doing and so much I know we can do with the strength He gives. I have not, and will not grow weary- and I know that this love and stregnth I feel has nothing to do with my human heart but everything to do with the fact that the Lord is by my side holding my hand. Some days I spit in His face with my sin. Some days I doubt His plans. Some days I shake my fist in His face but then I open my eyes and see all that He is doing for me, the financial and emotional support, the provisions, the ability- the breath in my lungs, the perserverance, and most especially all He is doing for this nation all for His glory and I come with my tail between my legs pleading for forgiveness, smehow all the while never feeling the warmth of His hand leaving mine.
I have grown. I feel God shaping and molding me each month and each year, and I see Him putting instuments of change and growth (Sydney) in my life. I don't deserve it, but my heart is joyful and thankful nonetheless.
Continue to pray for me. I am currently a missionary who is on a fast track to being a Pastor's wife. God has called me to it and I pray that I will be the support to Sydney that I need to be as well as an instrument in the ministries of the church and potentially, if that's what God wills, even LION on some level.
An unknown hymn writer says it clearly here:
I will follow wherever He leads,
Every problem, my Savior, He knows.
Though the path may be LONG,
With His help I'll be strong
I will go just wherever He goes.
HE MAY LEAD ME TO COUNTRIES WHERE TROUBLES SURROUND;
EVEN THERE- HE'LL BE WITH ME I KNOW.
... I PROMISE I'LL FOLLOW WHEREVER CHRIST LEADS ME AND SO,
I WILL GO JUST WHEREVER HE GOES.
When the sun starts to set in the sky,
I shall know I am nearer my home.
But until that great day
I WILL STILL TRUST AND I'LL PRAY
And I'll go just wherever He goes.
As I close out this year, I am nothing but thankful with the knowlege that at the end of it all GOD is in control and every wrong note in the orchestra was conducted by Him, so it still sounds sweet to me.
It was a year of heartache, sorrow, happieness, anger, joy, fulfilment, disappointment and celebration.... but then again, they all are aren't they.