Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Crucifixion



What must it have been like to give the One you love more than anything in the world over to human brutality and wickedness?

As I imagine that day that Jesus was condemned for innocence, to be not only my Savior but the Savior of the world, it is very difficult to get my mind around.

The horrific beatings You endured, even to cutting flesh and bone, nerves and tendons...
The continual mocking of those who feared and hated you...
The humiliation of being beaten ragged and spit on and snarled at....
The splinters rubbing and cutting into your already dissected flesh...
The exhaustion from physical pain...

Knowing you are INNOCENT....and we are completely guilty before the Throne of God.

Your mother, Mary Magdalene and John weeping over an unrecognizable Son, Savior, Friend...
Nails piercing nerves...
Thirst...
The crackling of broken ribs and broken bones...
The heartbreak and betrayel of a loved one...
The humiliation of the Roman soldiers...
The scoffing of the criminal who doubted your identity...

And so much more that I can not imagine. How any other that is not you would have been utterly crushed by such an experience. But what was your response in that moment, Jesus? In your power and obedience you...

Blessed.
Speaking Your love to the criminal, "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
Forgave.
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
Provided.
Safety and provision for His mother in John the Baptist.
Loved.
By giving your life that I might be reconciled to My God. "It is finished."

You payed the price and fulfilled God's plan for all time. In the midst of your broken heart...broken over the sinful and rebellious people you created..you chose LIFE for me. Out of your broken heart, you fought for and defended me as God poured out all of His wrath on the Son.

He chose it because that was God's will. In LOVE, God created us and His love was perfect and never failing. He loved me so much that He willed to crucify His most Beloved. And although my mind doesn't ever fully grasp that, I know that I reap the benefits of that act everyday. Everyday that I am free to come before my Heavenly Father and plead with Him, thank Him, praise Him. Freely, without guilt and condemnation. To commune with Him. It is an unfathomable Joy.

If He loved me that much, how much love must He have for His son? He has no limits...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Heroes


The Mothers of Matero
Jamie Baldwin
guardian.co.uk
At an age when most women may be thinking of retirement, a small group of Zambian grandmothers have embarked on a mission to help their fractured community in the fight against Aids and poverty. In the country's largest and oldest compound, the 19 women volunteers who make up Kwasha Mukwenu work tirelessly feeding families and educating orphaned children.

Steam rises from the freshly cooked nshima porridge as the famished kids patiently wait their turn in the queue. Three women are bent double serving ladles of the porridge from a huge vat to children who may wait another 24 hours before the next, and the same, meal. Rosemary Phiri, a retired primary school teacher, is a firm believer in a hearty breakfast. "The children must eat before class starts or they do not learn. You can't learn anything on an empty stomach."

Mama Rosie, as the children affectionately address her, explains that despite being a mother of five and a grandmother of four she has decided to start teaching again. "If the children don't go to school they look as though they're missing something. Now they are comparing themselves to the school-going children of Matero – its good for them. We only have one blackboard and a few donated books and pens but they enjoy it."

Class begins around 9am with the children huddled round the blackboard reciting rather anomalous English words, each chorus echoing around the tiny room. It is perhaps the archetypal image of an African education, but it is one that belies recent statistics. According to the UK Department for International Development (DFID), primary enrolment rates in Zambia have been falling for some years: in 1996 the gross enrolment rate was two thirds that in 1985. It is estimated that some one third of the country's children fail to attend primary school. The underlying cause is always the same: poverty and Aids.

"Kwasha Mukwenu: it means to help a friend in need. And there are plenty of our friends that are in need," explains Rosemary, one of the founding members of the group. "It's not easy to care for children that are not yours, but because of that love towards them and all our neighbours, we can manage." And today, they support 536 families and over 2,000 children in the Matero compound, which lies to the north-west of Zambia's capital, Lusaka. It is a sad irony that the community, out of which Zambia's independence was born and then realised in 1964, is now home to so many families dependent on others for survival.

The women's headquarters is a shell of a disused scouts' building, in the heart of the district. The one room still intact serves as office, meeting room and classroom for the sixty youngest children who come to the centre everyday. Where the larger NGOs within the HIV/Aids sector have leaflets on anti-retro viral drugs, vehicles handing out boxes of free condoms and the financial support of Western governments, the women of Kwasha Mukwenu have nothing but hard work and love.

In 1991, 120 women came together to help absorb the increasing number of children being left without parents, relatives, food and an education. "We saw a continual process of people dying and leaving children. So we got all the women in the community together to discuss this issue and said yes, something needs to be done", says Elizabeth Chilala, the original father, and mother, of Kwasha Mukwenu. "And we are still here. Anyway, how could we stop when the number of children coming to us grew every day?"

Understanding the impact the Aids epidemic has had in Africa is difficult to fathom. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa no neighbourhood has been left untouched, as Elizabeth points out: "we may not all be infected, but we are all affected". The statistics are frightening. Eighty per cent of Zambians live in poverty, the nationwide infection rate hovers around 20% and the country has one of the highest levels of orphanhood in the world. Nearly half of all children have lost a parent, while three quarters of Zambian families are caring for at least one orphan. Currently there are 850,000 children who have lost both parents due to Aids, by 2010 it is estimated that this figure will be close to two million.

For a country often seen as an island of peace around a sea of chaos – Zambia borders the Congo, Angola and Zimbabwe – their cohesive community spirit has been dealt a cruel blow by the Aids pandemic. "In the past, if your sister died then you would take in her children, they just come in because it was like their other home," explains Rosemary. "But now because of Aids, poor conditions and poverty, people cannot cope. Most families have reached a saturation point, they cannot take in any more orphans. So, Kwasha Mukwenu is the big family because we have to be."

At its most common denomination it is simple mathematics that reveal the true impact of the Aids pandemic on orphans and vulnerable children. It is when a guardian cannot take in a dead sibling's offspring or cannot give the orphan children as much food as their biological children. As Rosemary puts it: "If I have five children and my sister, who has maybe four, dies, who is going to look after those children? They are all going to come to me. I now have nine mouths to feed but only food for five."

Increasingly, caring for Zambian's children is becoming the domain of the elderly as a whole generation of young adults, the sons and daughters of these guardians, disintegrates. As Mr Mayeche laments, "too many people are dying too soon". Funerals have become daily events and mourners queue at the city cemetery to bury the dead, leaving behind those who must feed, educate, care for and love the next generation.

As I leave the women to stir nshima and stitch rugs, Rosemary calls after me: "We Zambian women have a voice you know. We are mothers with a voice and we are using it." The rest of the women laugh uncontrollably at this. Yes, they do have a voice and thank God that they do.

Thank You, Regents!


This next week, I will be finalizing the book collection and hopefully shipping the books off to Destiny by November. Thanks to everyone who has played such a huge role! I will be acquiring my final donations, from Regents School of Austin tomorrow.

Overall, people have donated close to 800 books, a mix of adult, child and adolescent. This is amazing and I know the community of Matero will be very blessed by them.

Despite such a successful book drive, my heart can't help but break for my friends and family there that need so much more than books. Please lift the school of Destiny and the church up in your prayers, and ask for God's divine favor and provision for them as they struggle through the daily challenges of life.

To my Zambian friends visiting me here on this internet interface, I love you so much and think about you everyday. Nakuyewa, nikukonda. Nali ku temwa sana sana. Shalenipo Mukway. Our God saves.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Once an Arafat Man



I just finished this very inspiring story about an Arab-American man who was once a sniper in the PLO under Yassar Arafat. The book is his life story about how he grew up an enraged, renegade rebel persecuting Christians in the name of justice to becoming an advocate of reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians. How, might you ask? The only answer, Jesus. Along the way, you will learn an incredible amount of history regarding the regions of Israel/Gaza Strip/Jordan as well as gain much insight to the origins of the tensions between these people groups, and what the Bible has to say about it all.

Awesome read!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Everything is Spiritual



This will BLOW your mind...



*images taken from google

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Library Blessings


I want to thank all of those who have given to the Destiny Library Project! I continue collecting books until the end of October, but I think that continued thanks is due to what the Lord has done through you!

Special thanks to New Hope Community Church and the Charity Girls for being such a driving force behind this project! Also, a few folks from the local chapter of Room to Read(http://www.roomtoread.org/) are putting together a book drive that should be completed sometime in the next month. Trudy Marshall has been an overwhelming help in the logistics of this project. Megan Bloemker (of ACTION International: http://www.actionintl.org/) has generously and unselfishly offered her limited time to acquire some Zambian books in Lusaka to add to the library, making it much more relatable and useable to the community. And I am grateful to the Lord for bringing all of these wonderful souls across my path. He truly is the author, the sustainer and the finisher.

I shipped a small box containing 87 books as a test run, as well as some library keeping supplies with a manual of instructions on library keeping and they have successfully arrived! I plan on sending the rest of the books in early November. We are also currently looking into purchasing some metal locking bookshelves. Besides books, there are many wonderful tools I have been able to collect, including:

Two sets of Encyclopedias
Bible Study tools/books for the church
Sunday School curriculum for the church
Stormie Omartian Power of a Praying Woman CD Study
Gary Smalley Premarital Counseling CD/book set for the church

As you can see, the church is also benefiting a great deal from all of the donations, and I am very excited about that. They are beginning the process of trying to train up leaders within their body, so please pray for this! I love you all and am so overwhelmed by your love and support of me, the kids in Zambia, and the local church in Zambia.

On another note, please also pray that the Lord would provide a way for the school to have food assistance, as it is a struggle to find food on a regular basis. Some of the kids there live in shantys without parents and without anyone to provide for them. When we pray and trust in faith, He will provide and I am praying and hoping it will be soon.

The Hope in Sin


There are days when I don't take my sins with the seriousness that I should, because I know that I am a child of God and forgiven. And I am thankful for that forgiveness, but this isn't a correct view of God. I am forgiven, but that doesn't mean that my sin doesn't cause some detrimental problems in my life, and my relationship with God.

After the Israelites conquered Jericho, the Lord had instructed them not to take any Jerichoan treasures or devoted things. They were for the Lord. But one Achan did take treasures for himself, and it caused a loss to his entire people. As the Israelites pressed on in life, they found that they did not achieve victory in their next battle over the land of Ai. Joshua felt humiliated and "tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground." (vs6). The Lord's response (vs10), "Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?"

Now, this would not be an uncommon posture towards God, often indicated worship and submission, but the Lord instructs him to stand up, and then questions his purpose. Then we see God instruct Joshua that Achan had defiled the name of the Lord, "Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen; they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction." (vs13) "You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it."

Essentially, God is telling Joshua:

1) Your people have sinned against me and have violated my covenant.
2) They have tried to take control over what is mine and made it their own.
3) This separated them from me.
4) Your sin is why you do not have victory now.
5) You will not have victory until you rid yourself of it.
6) Now, quick stand up...get off your face and get rid of the sin...now!

This got me thinking. How many times have I sinned by trying to take control of what is God's? How often do I feel a pressing urgency to repent? How much does my God love me that he desires my obedience and will do anything to get it? Why do I keep expecting victory in my own life if I do not confess my sins before the Lord? How often does my sin keep me from taking hold of all the Lord has for me? Victory over sin only comes in my life when I am intimate with the Lord...confessing each and every time I sin against him, allowing him to redeem me over and over again.

Achan's sin brought defeat for his entire people and his family. Sin is not a private battle, other people sometimes experience the consequences of our sin and that grieves me even more than hurting myself. In the end, Israel was redeemed once again but they lost a family in the process. For the Lord required not only the death of Achan and everything that he owned, but also of his entire family. They were stoned to death and then burned and buried in a place called the Valley of Achor (or trouble).

There are many times where the Bible talks about forgiveness of sins, and that is all true. But it does not mean that we can take our sin lightly. The weight of this is on me today, and I am truly thankful for the Cross. Thankful that my God no longer requires my death to make right my sin, because Christ has already taken that for me. Instead, now I have many opportunities for HIm to use me in showing HIs glory. I will experience defeat, I will hurt people in the wake of my sin, but hope stands. Hope that the only God worth worshipping has given me life...every minute of everyday.

Lesson: Get rid of sin as fast as you can, ask God for a repentant heart.

Hosea 2:15
"I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope."

Isaiah 43:11-12
"I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed-I, am not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the Lord, "that I am God."

Isaiah 44: 24-25
But you have burdened me with your sins
and wearied me with your offenses.

25 "I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Charity Girls

Let me tell you about a group called the Charity Girls.

A 4th grader by the name of Maddie wanted to create a way for girls who know Christ and those who do not to come together and do something for the greater good of their community. So, she gathered some friends she knew that wanted to make the world a better place and share the love of Christ with those who don't know Him, and hence was born The Charity Girls. They serve on various projects, and they were kind enough to help me out with the Destiny Library Project, collecting a load of books to send to my sweet children in Zambia.

I love God that uses anyone who calls on Him with a pure heart to further His kingdom and show the love of Christ. I love that He gave me a beautiful 4th grader named Maddie to show me His glory and His love for the children of Zambia. And I love that I get to share it with you! In one simple act, God connected the hearts of His children across the globe. I hope that I will get to return to Zambia and see the library and photograph my kids amidst it, and be able to return home to show that to this beautiful group of girls.

There is absolutely nothing that disqualifies us from the love of Christ or that He is not able to use for His glory. And I'm so thankful for that, because I mess up....ALOT.

Thank you Charity Girls! Keep Shining!

Monday, September 15, 2008

More Pics





Several people have requested that I post more pictures on my blog from my short stay in Africa this summer. So, i thought I would hop to it as well as give an update on the library project.

The Lord has blessed this project immensely, and I am so excited to get the books over there to see what the Lord will do with them in the community of Matero. So far, I have collected around 400-500 books and will continue to collect until the end of October. At that time, I will then begin shipping books to Zambia. There have already been three individuals that have offered to pay for the whole of shipping costs, which was such a blessing beyond measure.

Also, people have donated alot of different booklet bible studies that I will be able to give to the church. I think this will be a wonderful way to help the church members walk through deepening their faith in Christ. What a wonderful thing the Lord has done through all of you! What a blessing you are to so many children (and adults) who will soon have access to these books!

Thank you a million times over. I hope to be able to post another update soon!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Library Update

Hey Y'all! Just wanted to send a quick update on the Library. Thank you to everyone who has already donated or has offered to donate their used books! I am so thankful that the Lord has stirred your heart for this library.

So far, I have collected about 175-200 books with more people still promising to give. A majority of those are children's books and they are AWESOME! I am still collecting books for all ages-children, teens, young adults, adults. I wish I could see the faces of the Destiny children when those first books arrive! I will try to send the first shipment some time next week.

Several people have asked me how many books I am planning to collect. Let me address this with: as many as you have to give. All of them will be used (as long as they pass the Stephdar (Steph radar).

So, thank you a million times over for giving my sweet Destiny children and the Matero community the opportunity for knowledge and books! Keep them coming!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Help Me Start a Library



While in Zambia, I frequently became overwhelmed by the need that surrounded me. Honestly, it becomes easy to focus on the need rather than the sufficiency of Christ, but with the Lord's grace I tried to keep a healthy balance.

But there is something that the Lord has laid on my heart. SOmething that will bring God glory and help the community of Matero. Matero is the community where the school that I work with calls home. The school is called Destiny. That school is also a church, of which my friend Peter is the pastor. The has no textbooks, which in itself is a problem. But Peter expressed a desire to start a library in the school.

The beautiful thing about the building serving as a school and a church is that the library will be beneficial to all-children of all ages, young adults, parents, elders. So I would like to start seeking resources to begin building a library. I will send books there as I make collections.

I know you are burning to know if the children read English. The answer is, some of them do. Some of them are learning, and some of them might learn if they had a library of something to read from. My hope is that this will serve as a resource for them to learn English, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

I am asking you to consider looking through your bookshelves. Maybe there are books you've never read or have just been sitting on your shelf for a while, untouched. Consider donating them to the Destiny library. Please don't give me your trashy romance novels or inappropriate material (not that any of you have those laying around). But let's make this a library that will not only deepen the knowledge that the Zambians have about God, but strengthen them in faith and hope of Christ.

I need:
1) Books for all school age children, including materials for teenagers.
2) Fun books
3) Books related to spiritual growth-for women or men.
4) Books on spiritual leadership

I appreciate any help that I can get, and I know it will be such a blessing for my Zambian friends. Books are a rarity and a great expense.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The City to Come


Thank you to everyone for all of your warm welcome homes! You are a beautiful gift from the Lord, and He really reminded me through each of you the love and care that He has for me. I can't describe the ways that I have been able to see His faithfulness and preparation in my life, but I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.

The last Sunday that I was in Zambia, I attended my favorite local church, pastor by my friend Peter Kaunda. During our singing worship time, my heart became so overwhelmed with thankfulness at all of the friendships and opportunities I had while in Zambia. My only response was to fall to my knees, and thank HIm for his faithfulness. To thank Him for the grace I receive every time I sin, that He reminds me I am forgiven and that I am a masterpiece in progress-everyday. And even if I never get it right, I am still forgiven, and that doesn't keep me from being used by God. I am always loved by my Jesus. The congregation prayed over us to send us home, as did Peter. At the very end of the service, one of my own girls (Dorothy) came up to pray over us as well as another church member. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. Not only to have a "church home" in Zambia, my second home-but to have one of my own that I love so much come and pray over me. I know the girls didn't want me to go, but they sent me well.

So I am home now experiencing all of the mixed emotions that one feels when they are not sure where they belong, except in heaven...one of these days. I have truly understood at a deep heart level Hebrews 13:14 which says, "For here we do not have and enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." I praise God for the day I will have all of my friends in one place and we are sitting in the presence of I AM.

I am so thankful that the Lord has joined me with the Flenniken family, who I am now staying with in Georgetown. They have so warmly and deeply opened their home to me. After living in such close quarters in Africa, it feels so good to come home to a family that loves and seeks the Lord and shares the same passion for missions that I do. I am truly blessed. Patricia and Greg (mom and dad), Noah (2 years old) and Keilah, Kelsea and Krista (12th grade, 10th grade, and 8th grade) make up the Flenniken family. They have already been such a blessing to me, and for however long the Lord enables me to remain I am looking forward to this time with them.

I am in no rush to hurry back into a job which will distract me from seeking the Lord's next steps. I know without a doubt that He has given me a heart for Africa, for the people and culture. I'm not exactly sure what that looks like in the future, but I trust that God does and that He reveals when He is ready. So much of life is preparation, so I am resting in that and trying to learn all I can. I love you all! Thank you for your love, prayers, and believing in me!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Saying Goodbye


That sickness really took me to the ground, and very much put me behind on my blog. I feel like so much has happened that I'm not sure what subject to write about. There have been multiple visits to my kid's homes; fun times at camp with John, Paul, Erin and Elaine; not having a kitchen for a week and washing our dishes outside in the tap, and many other things.

I'm sorry that I have been quiet on the blog. I look forward to writing alot more when I return home and have more time (now that I am unemployed). I have been busy preparing to say goodbye to all of my wonderful friends here, who feel more like my family. The Lord has really showed His grace and goodness in the midst of goodbyes. Today was the last day of camp, when all of the Zambians encircle the Americans and sing and prayed for us. For the first time in four years, I didn't cry. And not because I wasn't sad, but because the Holy Spirit filled me with so much joy. I clearly heard the Lord telling me, "I am not done with you in this place yet." I felt so comforted that I could only smile and think of how I can see the Lord preparing me for bigger things. My friend Pastor Raphael found me today and said that he just really felt led to pray for the Lord's blessing over my life, and then he did. I can see so many ways in which the Lord has blessed me and I can't imagine what more He might have in store, but look forward to living it out.

So this weekend I will be visiting with many friends, and seeing my kids for one last hoorah. They are always sad to see me go, but I've asked them to pray for my return with God's blessing. It is always sad to say goodbye, and makes my heart long all the more for heaven where we will be together singing praises to our King. But some part of me is ready to come home too, in order to see where the Lord will take me next.

I am so thankful for my Saviour, who loves me more than I could have ever imagined. That He takes care of me, comforts me, strengthens me and leads me. This will be my last post from Zambia, but look forward to seeing you all again very soon and sharing with you in person. Thank you, a million times over for your prayers and support. I definitely could not have made it through the summer without you.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kapenta

One food, one word. Four days in bed. Kapenta.

Kapenta is a staple food here in Zambia. What is it, you ask? Good question. Small, tiny, dried fish with little poking eyeballs. Now I can't be sure that this is what left me vomiting up my toes for four days, but I ate nothing else out of the normal. And so began my four days of misery. I've never felt worse in my life.

But rest assured, I am feeling better now and back to happy self. Our electricity has been going off for longer than usual recently, as much as 7 hours everyday. So, on the last day of my illness, my great roomate Alissa built a fire outside of our house using a car cigarette lighter so that she could heat up my soup. What a blessing to me because I hadn't eaten anything in three days, and as my appetite returned I was pretty starving. Aren't my roomates fantastic?


All that said, I just wanted to let you know that this is why my blog has been suffering. I'm also pretty exhausted. My friends John, Paul, Erin and Kent are here this week, and also my cousin Elaine. So these next two weeks will be quite busy but I hope to post again very soon. Love you and miss you guys so much!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday with the Kaundas

I had the immense privilege of spending the entire day Sunday with a family that is very dear to me, The Kaundas. Precious and Karen Kaunda have been in my small group at Camp Life for the last 4 years. They are beautiful children, and I have been in love ever since I met them. Precious memorizes scripture like no body's business and is very gifted in evangelism. She has a heart for people, very similar to her father's. Karen is quite shy, but one of the most empathetic people I have ever met. They are both beautiful children. They are how I came to know the Kaundas. Their father, Peter, is a pastor and a man filled with the Spirit. He and his wife, Beatrice have been an incredible encouragement to me during my time here in serving the kids.

There are 8 all together, 6 girls. Peter, Beatrice, Natasha, Joy, Mapalo, Karen, Precious, and the newest member...Victoria. I shall post pictures soon, but I can't be sure what happened to my camera. I'll find it, I loose and find it often.

First, I arrived at their house in the morning so that we could all go to church together. Peter pastors a church, called Destiny. My good friend Paul surprised me by showing up at church to also spend the day with us. There were approximately 40 people in the service, and I found the intimate setting to be very refreshing. Of course I always enjoy Zambian worship. Acapella voices minister to my heart. We all had a beautiful time, and I love dancing in church.

After church, we walked back to the house to have lunch. I was very excited for Karen to teach me how to make Nshima (the main staple food in Zambia). This process was quite funny. At first, Karen had difficulty actually teaching me. Making Nshima is so commonplace to her, that she couldn't understand how I didn't know the process. I would stir, and she would grab the spoon from me and say, "No, auntie stephan...you don't stir nshima like that, you stir it like this." She would then proceed to show me. In the end, I kind of got the hang of it. The maize product used for nshima is very unlike anything you can find in the states. It takes quite alot of strength to make nshima. After we prepared Nshima, we then proceeded to prepare the lettuce type vegetable side that one eats with Nshima. Then we all sat down and ate a meal together, while everyone carefully watched me roll my nshima between my fingers, as one is supposed to do. I think they were observing for correct form. I passed, thank goodness.

After eating, I proceeded outside to help Karen wash the dishes. This was my favorite part. As we were washing, I wasn't doing it the exact way that she normally does, so as we were washing she asked me: "Auntie Stephan, have you ever washed dishes before?" That made me laugh out loud. She thought that because I had never eaten Nshima that I had never washed a dish before. I then had to explain to her that I lived alone and always washed dished, because if I didn't do it, then no one did.

After washing, we went to surprise a few of my kids at their homes for a visit. It was the best day I've ever spent in Zambia. I was sad to return home, but hopeful for the visits I had planned for later in the week with other families. I hope to write about those soon.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kabulonga Market

Yesterday (on Saturday) I had the most wonderful experience. We shipped all of the Americans home yesterday, not counting the summer staff, so I finally had an afternoon to myself. Afternoons to myself is definitely a coveted idea in Zambia. I slept in late (till 9am) and then woke up and spent some beautiful time with the Lord on our front porch.

The mornings are so beautiful here. They are very cold, but I like to sit on the front porch with my blanket and my coffee. You can watch the sun rise, and as it does the temperature warms from about 34-40 degrees to about 60 degree (layering here is definitely necessary).

I had made some preparations to spend Sunday with my friends, the Kaunda family. Two of the Kaunda girls have been in my small group for the last 4 years, and I have come to know and love the rest of the family as well. Peter and his wife, Beatrice have five girls...can you imagine? Peter is a pastor, also the director of the school my kids go to. He also happens to work here in Mulungushi as an electrician, but his calling is definitely pastoral.

So, after that time in the morning I decided to head over to Kabulonga (an area of town) to the Dutch Reform Church. Another friend that I have met here, Megan informed me that there is a Saturday market there at the end of every month. I knew I needed to pick up a few things in preparation for my visit on Sunday. I have come to find that in Zambia, gifts are a huge deal. They don't have to be expensive gifts, it is just a representation of honor. So I first jumped over to Spar (the supermarket) to pick up some mealie meal. This is the corn based substance that Zambians use to make Nshima, their staple dish. After purchasing the bag of mealie meal, I went to Kabulonga.

What I found there was a divine treasure. It was basically like a farmer's market, but with African crafts. There were vendors cooking sausage, samoosas, spring rolls, chicken...all kinds of yummilicious delights. There were also vendors selling fresh produce, and I picked up some avocados (yes, I did bring guacamole mix from the states...I'm desperate for some tex mex). I walked around for a while until I found three beautiful shitenges (the brightly colored material that the women use for dresses, skirts, bags, and blankets). I chose one for each of my girls, and for their mom. I knew they would be surprised, and excited by this small token of my love. I found two stuffed animals for the smaller girls. I picked up some lunch on my way out, and was very satisfied with my afternoon.

I didn't even mind going all by myself, and I had some great discussions with the vendors over the upcoming American presidential election and the election going on in Zimbabwe. Those are the two most popular topics of conversation around here, and everyone is very interested.

Overall, a very satisfying day. I hope to do it again next month, when they have the market again. I wish you all could be here. Malita, I thought of you. I know you would have loved this!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Paul Update

So, this week we changed the location of camp due to a double booking at Dunamis, our current location. This created quite a distressing situation for our friend Paul, whom I wrote about last week.

He arrived to camp on Friday afternoon, very cranky and upset. I greeted him and he started yelling at me in Nyanja, and I therefore could not understand what he was saying. One of the Zambians approached and informed me that Paul was saying he was feeling very sick, he was very tired.

You see, what Paul had done on Friday was this: he arrived at Dunamis and found that we were not there, so he then proceeded to walk on foot to every previous location of camp. This is no small task, as we have had camps all over Lusaka and he must have walked 30 miles (hours and hours) only to find that we weren't at any of the previous locations.

He finally arrived to our new location, GO Centre, late in the afternoon on Friday just before the kids were dismissing. He was quite personally upset with me, as he thought it was my doing that camp had been moved. I quickly apologized to let him know that I did not decide where camp happened, but that we had missed him tremendously (which was true) and that I was sorry. He complained of a headache, so I quickly obtained some lunch for him, and wet a bandana for his head. He felt quite warm. He didn't seem very interested in talking to me during his lunch, but we sat quietly outside on the front porch of GO Centre. I finally walked him outside (still not talking) and he fell asleep on the floor while I scratched his back and made him drink lots of water for rehydration. It's quite cold at night (around 30 or 40 degrees) but during the day it is quite warm. The sun beating down on Paul's poor body all day had exhausted him.

In the end, all was well but I went through tremendous pains to explain to Paul that camp would not be happening next week, so he need not show up or he would be disappointed to find no one.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sai's Celebration

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being invited to attend a function at Destiny. There is a Japanese teacher there who has been teaching at Destiny for one year, his name is Sai. He was sent to Destiny by the Chinese government. So, there was a big ceremony to celebrate Sai's one year anniversary.

There were some very big attenders to the event, including members of the Zambian Social Welfare department, a member of the Japanese government who is in charge of Sai, and several other Japanese volunteers who work in the area. It was quite exciting, and an honor for me to be invited.

The best part was how simple the celebration was, but how it meant so much. The "streamers" that hung in the school were actually pieces of toilet paper, pink and green. Peter's wife made a delicious cake, and the family member of the kids prepared a meal of rice and chicken. Overall, it was a beautiful time and I really enjoyed myself.

I was able to spend several hours with my kids, which is always a blessing. I was able to be a part of celebrating Sai's volunteering in Zambia for one year. Although I've only had a few brief conversations with Sai, I know that he loves the kids and has a huge heart for them. He is a buddist, and has frequently talked about worshiping the sun. But the greatest thing for me, is to see the joy in his eyes when he is talking to the kids. I heard a report that he was actually ministering the Word to the kids one day when they were in the middle of a quarrel. He told the kids, "Jesus said to do unto one another as you would have them do unto you." Great I tell you, great! Through several Zambians, he has been powerfully moved by the Word of God, even though he doesn't confess Jesus as his Saviour. I am looking quite forward to being able to minster to him, and I know the kids have already been doing some of the same. I believe that God is after Sai's heart, and he still has one year left in his volunteer contract! Imagine what will happen in another year.

It was quite a good time, I again had a glimpse of what it would be like when I get to heaven and all the nations are worshiping before him. During this time, it was Japan, America, and Zambia. I was so filled with joy. God has truly give men a heart to see his name glorified within all peoples!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New Favorite Things

My new favorite Zambian-English word is "cycling." For those of you that are a little slow, that's another term for "riding a bike." Whenever I have to call the maintenance men, they tell me they will meet me at our destination and they always ask, "Are you cycling?" They ask me this because they want to know whether I will arrive quickly or slowly.

Another thing that I have termed "affectionately Zambia" is the fact that everyday the power turns off from 12pm-2pm. It's super awesome, because that's right about the time I feel myself getting hungry for lunch. So, I have had to retrain my body to eat earlier because once the power goes off I can't make anything (except dreaded peanut butter and jelly). It's great.

Zambia doesn't have enough energy for the country, so they have scheduled downtimes in order to share power with the rest of the city. They are having to buy energy from other countries, mainly China I think. Because I have been staying at the villas to take care of maintenance issues, I have had the pleasure to spend a considerable amount of time with the maintenance workers. They're great. I've also learned alot about electrical work and plumbing in Zambia! One thing is that Zambia doesn't manufacture anything of it's own, so they import all of their electrical components from China. But what I've found is that China is exporting their most cheaply made products (of inferior quality, according to the Zambians) so things break around here quite frequently.

Seriously, we replaced an element in the geiser (hot water heater) and the next day it broke again. It makes me a little angry because I know that the Zambians are getting taken advantage of. They have no other product options, so they are forced to buy Chinese products that aren't worth a dime (literally).

But I have had quite a good time with the maintenance men here. So far, I have counseled my friend Nonde on his smoking habit (40 years running) and we've discussed what behaviors would bring about the most success for him to quit smoking. I've also learned that he LOVES crossword puzzles. I've also had to have multiple conversations with them about a biblical view of marriage because they all want to know why I am not married. I've discovered that here in Zambia, people don't necessarily marry for love, and they get married at an early age because the life span is so much shorter. So, all of the Zambians a)can't believe I don't have a boyfriend and b)that Americans don't just find someone their age and get married. It's been quite the debacle. We have these conversations just about everyday, and they think I should be miserable because I'm not married. It's humorous. And then, I've gotten several marriage proposals. Life is certainly quite different here. Don't worry, mom and dad...I haven' accepted any. I've also counseled another one of the plumbers about starting his own ministry, and then my friend Peter Kaunda (the electrician) has actually been encouraging and counseling me. It's great.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Professional Wrestling


This is Paul. Cute, isn't he? Let me tell you about him. Paul is a camp life alumni of several years now. I don't know much about his home background, but in the last few years of camp demons have supposedly been cast out of him on multiple occasions (not implying this is true or not true, simply that I don't know). Last year, I did witness him having a seizure, again supposedly in the middle of a demonic attack. The physical and the spiritual are so inseparable here that it's almost hard to distinguish between the two sometimes, which I think is Paul's case.

Anyhow, Paul attends a community school called Mapodi Boys. Mapodi Boys is scheduled to come for Camp Life week 5 (that's sometime around July 6-12). Except that Paul spotted my friend Alissa (the photographer)on her first day here. He kept asking her, "When does camp life start?", "Where is camp life?", " Is uncle Greer here?" Needless to say, these kids never see Americans so Paul was smart enough to know that if he had seen one, there must be others around, which must mean camp life is coming. Alissa gave no concrete answers, so Paul decided to show up the very first day of camp. And everyday after that.

The first couple of days we tried to send him home. We explained to him that it wasn't yet his time to come to camp. Well, Paul is sort of the definition of persistent. He showed up the next day, and we tried to send him home. Then he showed up the next day and we told him he could stay around for a while but then he had to go home. But being the definition of persistent as he is, he showed up everyday after that. And stayed the entire day. And threw a fit when we wouldn't give him all of the things the other kids were getting. Titus actually had to carry him out of Dunamis because his tantrum was so horrific.

The thing about Paul is, he just wants to be loved. He's very bright and understands perfect English. Everyday he runs up to me and gives me a huge hug with this same adorable smile. And he says, "Auntie Stephanie, I love you." Now before you are very impressed by this, just know that he says this to every American he meets. It's still cute, nonetheless. Everyday during Greer's teaching session he sits in my lap for maybe 15 minutes while he asks me if I know any professional wrestlers. We go through the list of professional wrestlers one...by...one. After we determine that I don't know any professional wrestlers he gets up and wades through the crowd of kids (while Greer is still talking). He disappears for another 10 minutes and then wades back through the crowd of kids to find me. Then he sits back down in my lap and strokes my hair and tells me I'm beautiful for another 10 minutes. The entire scene is quite hilarious.

The terrible thing about Paul is that he is horrifically awful to the other kids. But he's so cute, isn't he?

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Visit to the Clinic

I wish that I would have had a camera with me today. Alissa, Dr. Ellis and I visited a clinic in Kalingalinga today. The clinic also had an inpatient ward, and I was appalled at what I saw. There are four wards, separated by curtains. They literally have TB patients breathing the same air as immuno-compromised sickly patients. They were all so sickly and thin. Alissa took it upon herself to filter through the patient log book (and no one stopped us) and almost every admission was due to malaria.

On the bulletin board, there was a hand drawn graph of the 5 leading causes of death among Zambians. In order:

1) Malaria
2) AIDS
3) Pneumonia
4) Tuberculosis
5) Diarrhea

The second thing that I saw which I found striking, a poster that talked about the benefits of circumcision. I repeat, verbatim:

1) It decreases the risk of STD’s
2) It decreases your risk of getting AIDS
3) It decreases the chance of your partner getting cervical cancer.

I couldn’t make this up. It made me so angry. This is a clinic that is funded by the government, and they are massively misinforming people. Alissa also told me that she went to a clinic downtown and there was another poster that was informing people that AIDS was created by Americans in a lab in New York City in order to kill off all of the black people. Amazing. Amazing, I tell you how much education is needed here.

Mulpa Wa Yesu

I am blessed by my children most days, even through difficult situations. But today was pure joy. Let me tell you about it.

All the girls were anticipating being very sad on Friday, because they all knew it was the last day of camp. But this was not just any Friday. This year, in addition to new shoes, a new bandana and a new t-shirt, they also received a new green fleece jacket, a cup, and two bags-one for them and one for their caretaker. I am going to try to post a video I took of their response to the news.

They were so incredibly excited. For them to have not only a bag for themselves, but one to give to their caretakers is a big deal. Because they are so poor, and because they are certainly not in a position to give their caretakers anything. But the giving wasn’t the most beautiful part. It was how they received it. They rejoiced with a beautiful song that I had never heard before. You can’t catch this in the video, but probably about half of the group started crying midway through the song.

The words to the song are simple, uncomplicated…but the name of Jesus is powerful. The words to the song translate to…”I am covered in the blood of Jesus, covered in the blood of Jesus.”

My sweet Rabecca led the girls in song, she has a beautiful acapella voice. She is definitely one of my leaders, and I was so proud to watch her. As she started to cry, so did the other girls…and then I followed because it was just so beautiful I couldn’t help myself. I know I can never duplicate that day, but it will forever be in my memory as one of the greatest moments of my life.

The day ended, and the girls were all in tears. I assured them that they didn’t need to cry because I was going to visit them next Friday. Their response? “But auntie Stephan, we won’t see you every, every day.” How could I respond to that? I couldn’t. But it made me so happy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Back in Matero





Thursday was another successful shoe day! It's amazing that these kids have now received new shoes four years in a row and every year, they are needed. Every year, their shoes from the previous years are destroyed because of all of the walking and dancing the Zambians do.

But the best part of the entire day was not giving away the shoes, the best part was watching my girls share the gospel in Matero, the compound where they live. Matero is a rough neighborhood. The major problems their are crime and witchcraft. There are also alot of pubs, so there are a large amount of people walking around drunk even in the middle of the afternoon. We encountered a few of those and one man was yelling at me, "You, young English woman, I want you" over and over again. Although the man was quite offensive, I never felt frightened because my girls were always protecting me and telling me, "auntie stephan let's just go, let's just go." Of course Paul was also with me and nicely explained to the man that we were there to do the work of God. We finally walked away and he went in the other direction.

The smell of sewage in Matero is wretched, and I had forgotten how bad it was. The school has been repainted and has a new roof that was made possible through the Father's Heart Program. So everyone that has sponsored one of my kids, thank you. One child told me, "I used to be embarrassed to go to school, but now I am very proud." All because of a new roof. This isn't even a nice building, it's a few cement bricks. But this boy was so happy.

But the girls amazed me. Where once they were shy and never wanted to leave my side, now they immediately begin running down the street to share the love of Christ with their neighbors, not at all worried if I am in eyesight. Dorothy surprised me most of all, which I will write about in a separate post. We encountered some very tough people, who asked my kids very difficult questions. But they all responded wisely and accurately. I am so amazed that my girls have learned so much, most of which has not come from me. They truly have grown in their faith, and they are excited about it!

We encountered a man, Simba, who was a Jehovah's Witness who we sat with for quite a long time, about 45 minutes in all. I sat on the ground, and my girls gathered around me and they shared the gospel with him. He was doubtful, but told us that he was asking questions because He really wanted to know about this God we were discussing. It was good, even for me to be challenged by Simba. The girls explained to him that we know God through His word. He kept telling us that he needed someone to come and teach him about the Bible so that He could know God. He repeatedly asked, who is going to come and teach me? They were a little stumped at this, but I encouraged him in two things:

1) That the Bible is sufficient in and of itself to reveal God through the power of the Holy Spirt, which we receive when we accept Christ.
2) The importance of being part of a community that seeks God together, and how we can learn and teach each other.

Precious can pray like nobody's business, Rabecca and Karen have the courage to walk up to anyone. All the girls have really grown remarkably in their faith and that is a testament to ME of what God does when we plant the seeds of faith.

The Universal Woes of Teenage Girls


Wednesday of last week all of my girls arrived at camp in a sour mood. None of them were smiling, some were crying, some would just remain silent.

We sat down early in the morning to talk about what was bothering them. They all kept telling me, “karibe,” which means “nothing” in Nyanja. It kept on this way for quite a while until finally they all began to answer at one time. It turns out that a few of my girls were making fun of Dorothy before school and Dorothy was crying and upset.

As you can imagine, instead of talking about the subject for the day-though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…we talked about love and forgiveness instead. I encouraged them not to be each other’s enemies. There are too many enemies in the world for your friends to become one also. I encouraged them to talk to their friends about how their feelings were hurt. Afterwards, we talked about the importance of forgiveness, and how to forgive…both in yourself and in another person. There was a lot of talking, done mostly by me. When I didn’t think they were listening anymore I suggested that we stop the teaching for the day and a play game.

To my surprise, they told me that they did not want to play a game that day…that they would rather learn and understand the teachings of Jesus. At this point, I didn’t know how to continue because I was so shocked! We then changed gears and had a very difficult discussion about purity. All in all, it turned out to be a great day! I hope and pray that these girls will continue to learn about how to love each other as women.

Some issues are the same, no matter where you go, and one of them is that teenage girls can be just plain nasty to each other. I am praying that God would continue to grow them in community, that they may lean on and trust and depend on one another together in their walk of faith.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Camp Life-Day 2

*I have written several blogs throughout the week but have just now been able to post them. So, this is a week old now but I still wanted to share with you.*

As you know, yesterday was the first day of camp…and it was a great one! I have been feeling a little uneasy about being here over the last week, but today when my kids stepped off the bus and flashed their beautiful smiles my way, I had at once forgotten all about it.

There are definitely lots of changes in my sweet girls. When they got off the bus, they didn’t run to me immediately. Not because they weren’t excited but because they have lost a little of that child-like excitement. I have enjoyed watching them grow and change. They bring me so much joy and I find it hard to believe that anyone could love them more than I do.

Many of the girls have much improved their English, and I have improved some in Nyanja so that it is easier for us to communicate. My sweet Rabecca is even able to read in English now and I can’t wait to give her the Bible that my Aunt Shirley bought for her. I know Rabecca’s mother is not very good to her and sometimes refuses to feed her so I have been giving her my extra food every day. Sara, my easily distracted quiet one has been attached to me for the last two days, and when I look at her, the corners of her mouth turn up and she flashes me the greatest smile ever. She constantly wants to hold my hand and play with my hair…and I let her. Dianess, my other quiet one is able to understand me almost entirely in English and she has also become quite vocal. I credit this to the discipleship leaders, who have been in the schools all year long. Alice Phiri is the woman who is at Destiny (my school). Alice might be the only consistent person that is in the life of any of these children who is loving them everyday. When the girls share with me about what is going on in their lives and they ask me questions, it indicates to me an increase in their self confidence. It has been such a blessing for me to see them come alive.

They all want to come home with me, or for me to come and stay with them. And a big part of me would like that too! At lunch today we played games together and it was so much fun. I was, as usual, on the winning team. J

The one thing I have been challenged by is trying to explain the concept of peace, our theme for this year. Their idea of peace is basically, lack of war. They haven’t quite gotten the idea of an inner peace that comes from trusting God but I assured them that it’s ok if they don’t understand it right away. We are now asking God to reveal His peace to us. Also many of the children feel discouraged because they have been praying for their situations to change and no change has come about. So we had to read through John 16:33 while I explained that knowing Jesus does not mean we won’t experience tough situations. God uses those situations to grow our faith and give Him glory. This is also quite difficult for them. I have to continually teach them that the Lord DOES answer prayers, we just need to persevere.

Overall, it has already been quite a challenging week….but a REALLY great one. These girls are the reason I am here. I am sorry to say that I have disappointed them severely by not sending them any pictures over the last year. They let me know about it and I profusely asked for their forgiveness. I know this is quite long already and I just have so much to say. I truly am so blessed to be able to be here in this place, with these people I love so much.

This is Dorothy Choongo



This is Dorothy Choongo. I first wrote about Dorothy last year when I met her at camp. She was reclusive, she wouldn’t talk to me. She never smiled, she often wandered off alone away from the group. She has a pretty severe stuttering problem.

She lives with her grandmother who is a witch doctor, and who Dorothy fears to no end. Dorothy believes that her grandmother’s magic is responsible for killing many of her family members. She lives in constant fear of the woman. Although she did accept Christ last year, sanctification is a process and her faith is not quite strong yet. I’ve tried to reinforce that Jesus is the perfect love and He casts out all fear, and that because she is a child of God nothing can separate her from the love of God. We’ve talked about how Jesus is all-powerful and how He created everything and has the power to conquer evil, but I’m not quite sure she understands it. Dorothy has been praying, but grandmother tells her that her praying will do no good because she already belongs to Satan. The grandmother chases her out of the house and tells Dorothy that she needs to find somewhere else to live because she doesn’t want her anymore. She has been told the same by both her mom and dad. Can you imagine?

She says all of the kids at school make fun of her because of the stuttering. They tell her she is stupid and was born to be stupid because she can’t even talk. It seems that no matter how much I encourage her, I fail. She says that she would just rather die. At the end of our discussion today she told me that she was finished talking to me and she wanted me to leave her alone, and so I honored her in that. I am praying for a changed heart, mind and soul. I am encouraged by the changes I’ve seen, but I know that the pit she is in is quite deep, and only the love of a Savior can help her out of it.

When I see her laugh, I thank God for the joy I see in her and know that it is a little blessing for me in a lesson of perseverance. Today while we were coloring, she just started singing, singing praises to God and that was a small miracle for me to see. It’s times such as these that I think God is revealing small changes for me to see His glory in Dorothy. She said she would want me to come and be with her always because I have helped her so much. What she doesn’t know is that I really had nothing to do with it, for it is the love of a King and a Great Rescuer that has encouraged her in such a way.

Please continue praying for her. She lives in a place of darkness and witchcraft, with no one to love her, but I know because Zephaniah 3:17 says that we have a God who is mighty to save, and I trust that He will do this too, for Dorothy.

Affectionately Zambia

There are a few things about life in Zambia that I have come to love affectionately. Here is a short list of things:

1) It takes three times as long to get anything done here. This can include anything from buying bread at the store to getting hot water, to having keys duplicated. For example, we are now on day 12 here in Zambia, and we might have hot water tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, the cold euro-baths have been AWESOME, but seriously…hot water is possible. Also, I went to have some keys made for our house so that no one would be locked out. It took three trips to the keymaker to get a working set. No, I couldn’t make this up. When I took the keys back, the guy just put them on the grinder and handed them back. No key machine, just a grinder. Incredible.

2) Zambian English. Let me give you some examples:
American English: I’ll be right back
Zambian English: I’ll be coming
American English: She has moved away.
Zambian English: She has shifted.
American English: Can I have a ziplock?
Zambian English: Me, I’m asking for a plastic.
American English: What is your schedule for the day?
Zambian English: What is your program today?
American English: Jenny and Becky are twins.
Zambian English: They are duplicates.

There are so many more, I could go on. It’s great.
3) I needed to do laundry today and the closest laundry is only about 3 blocks walking distance. As I was carrying my basket, I was inhaling loads of dust from the clothes stacked inside. Awesome, I tell you…awesome.
4) Chronically black feet…this is probably one of my favorite things about Zambia. There is something to be said for having really dirty feet. You feel as if you have accomplished something for the day. For someone who loves her feet so much, I’m not sure how I can appreciate this, but I do.
5) Being the fat lazy American…and anyone who sleeps past 5:30 am is considered one of these. The Zambians are astonished that we can sleep until 8 (or later if I was allowed).

6) Washing my hair and washing the water turn into red dirt as it covers my head...good times.

7) Week one and already our villa is discussing what we can add to Ramen to improve it's quality.
These are only a few items, but I am sure the list will grow longer as time goes on.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bats

There is one thing in Zambia that reminds me of Austin, even though I have never actually done this in Austin. Bats. Lots of bats....everywhere. At night when I walk through the village I hear them sqeaking. And then they swoop down and fly in front of you.

Well later today we will have a meeting with our Zambian friends, and I will find out who will be partner for this week. Tomorrow I will see my kids again, and that makes me very excited. I can't wait to give them all of their Bibles and start talking to them about what they have learned in my absence. I really hope to get them to open up and find out if they really know Jesus. This year I am going to stress the importance of living a life knowing him. Not just paying lip service but to really love Jesus with all their heart, mind and soul.

I am so thankful to be here for this time, to have fellowship with fellow believers in Zambia, with the children, and with other Americans. Please pray that the presence of God, His Holy Spirit will be heavy upon camp, and in each of the volunteers. I ask for changed hearts, changed minds, changed bodies, changed souls. Isaiah says the spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me and He has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor and the oppressed. I pray that I might me used by my king to share the love of Christ, the joy of knowing my Savior wherever I go.

I feel such a kinship with these people. I am grateful that the Lord has brought me here. I can't wait to share the stories of kids this week, and I look forward to throwing my arms around my kids and embracing them in the arms of Safety. PLease pray that I would be a woman who walks in integrity and breathes grace through the power of the Holy Spirit, every where I place my foot.

I hope to be writing you stories soon. I am sending much love to you!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Celebrity Status

This will be a quick post, but I wanted to update you on my celebrity-ish status here in Zambia. Living right next door to us is the minister of agriculture here in zambia. Because of this, the village is quite busy and they are holding many meetings related to his position. Frequently, there are armed guards just standing around on the streets (guys I wish I knew something about guns so I could tell you what kind of gun, but I do not). There is another cabinet member that lives just down the street whom I had the pleasure of meeting a few nights ago.

My friend that I met at the Zambian concert at Gateway church a few months ago has been in touch with me. They will be arriving in 3 weeks and I hope to spend some time with them while they are here, and possbily going to see their school and assist them in the work they are doing. The world is such a small place.

By friends! Na Kuyewa meningue! (I miss you very much!)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Things I've Discovered in Zambia

1) There is a rooster that crows outside my window from 1:30am-6:00 am. He definitely sounds like he is on his last rooster leg and needs to be put out of his misery. Luckily, I am usually so tired he doesn't bother my sleeping.

2) Random shutting off of electricity and water, which leads to...use of head lamps and me washing Rachael's hair with bottled water...awesome. You could also use the term "sponge bath," which would be appropriate.

3) Reuniting with my friends here in Zambia. I am filled with so much joy to see them. My relationships here are beautiful and it has been wonderful to visit with them again.

4) I have a great group of villa mates. I am looking forward to spending time with them. One of my villa mates is a photographer and will be working on a book documenting the lives of African children. Very cool.

5) Above said roomate discovered that the pound button here is called "hush." When Alissa was asking her driver which phone number to dial he said 225 hush. So, she sat there quietly for a moment, and then asked again. Again, he replied 225 hush, so she sat quietly a little longer. Finally he took the phone from her and pushed 225 pound...and the world was resolved and right again. Quite funny.

6) It costs about $100 to fill up a Toyota Corolla with gas. That makes the price of gas ~$9/gallon. And we complain about gas prices. (Remember a good job here will pay about $100/month).

7) The Zambians don't use directions, or say right or left. They refer to everything as, "this side" and then use a pointing gesture. This makes it quite confusing when giving directions, as I have to adjust and also use hand gestures coupled with "this side."

So far, mostly just preparations for the first week of camp next week. We have moved into our house, but we have no kitchen. Now I remember why I lost so much weight last summer. Hopefully that will resolve soon and we will have a place to make food. I am going to try to make it to Matero to see my kids on Saturday. I hope to post more soon, but so far have experienced trouble with my own computer and I am severely lacking the ability to get to the internet cafe!

Thank you for all of your prayers. My homesickness is quite better and I am in good spirits. Please pray for wisdom in communicating with people on this side. I want to uphold integrity in every possible way, especially with my words. I need your help in this because I know only the Lord may do that. PLease pray for the children that will come for camp, that they may know the Lord intimately, that He may touch them and experience a changed heart and mind. My own mind is so busy right now that I feel I am rambling. I will try to write again soon!

Love,
Steph

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Burning Brush

Muli Bwanji Muzangas?
(How are you my friends?)

I arrived safely to Lusaka yesterday morning around 6am. After another long 10 hours of flying, where I busied myself with watching Juno, Spinal Tap and Kite Runner, I found myself stepping off of the plane into a whole other world. It really feels like that. I took in a deep breath, already knowing that I would inhale the smell of burning brush...a smell that warms my heart to the memory of this place.

As soon as I arrived, I felt quite at home, but still missing my other home far, far away. I was greeted at the airport by my wonderful, long time friend Paul Mulenga with a huge hug and the best smile you have ever seen. Once outside the airport I also reunited with some other friends-Innocent (the singer), Raphael (the pastor), and Teddy (the quiet one). Some of our drivers I also recognized and they also greeted me with a Muli Bwanji?

Much of my Nyanja I have forgotten because I have not used it, but my friends were quick to begin speaking to me only in Nyanja so that my brain would relearn quickly. Although I find this quite challenging, I enjoy it so much and can't wait to learn even more this summer. The day was very uneventful as we were all travel weary, and adjusting to the seven hour time difference is quite a challenge. We slept almost all day and i awoke at 4:30 am feeling wide awake and ready to get going for the day. yikes.

I'm really looking forward to this summer, and will be seeing my kids in just over a week. To see their smiling faces will be such a joy. This week we will be busy with working and organizing things for camp, so probably not much to write to you about this week. But I will keep you posted on the comings and goings of the staff. We are definitely going to have alot of fun, and have a great group of staff members. We have already been praying and getting to know one another. We will actually be having a staff house this year, which I am grateful for and know will be beneficial for us. We can have a safe place to go to so that we don't have to be "on" all the time, and it will provide some respite from the business.

I look forward to spending some more time with my Zambian friends here, I have missed them so much. We are having our first meeting tomorrow. I must go for now, and will be writing again soon. still no pictures, as I need an additional adapter for my computer and have not been able to write to you from my personal computer yet. i am working on that....

Love,
XOXO

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ahmed and Kalil

Hello my friends!

I arrived at London HEathrow this morning around 9:30. Our flight was delayed for about an hour out of Dallas, which made some other passengers miss connecting flights, but I found it quite fine as it took a couple of hours off my waiting around here.

I decided not to go into London this year and just hang here at the airport. After the moving and running around and business of last minute preparations this week, I feel exhausted. I did however have a wonderful flight over. In the Dallas airport, I met the cutest little jordanian boys, Ahmed and Kalil. WE were instant friends. My friends Nate, Randy and I chased them around this big blue maze and then we boarded the plane where they continued to think that sticking their hands through my seat were utterly hilarious. I played with them pretty long time before they went to sleep. I affectionately nicknamed Kalil 'monkey,' as he likes to climb on things and he loves the monkey sounds-which he made incessantly. They were adorable.

And so alas, I've had my first child loving experience of the trip. Their mother was Hasi, I'm not quite sure of the spelling. She was lovely as well, and we chatted for a while in the airport. She was speaking to the boys in Arabic and as I listened, I realized what a beautiful language it was and found myself wishing I could speak it too! I really did want to take them with me.

Since I have arrived in London, Kalil, Ahmed and Hasi had to part ways and board a plane to Jordan. I have spent most of the day napping in the quiet room, and wanted to write you the first post from this side of the world!

I would like to send you my first prayer requests! Every year I think I know what I am walking in to when I return to Zambia, and every year...it's new! Oddly, despite my overwhelming excitement, I am feeling quite homesick already. I'm not wanting to come home so much as I am just really missing all of you reading this blog. That may dissolve when I arrive on Zambian soil, but I am feeling quite vulnerable. Please pray for strength and for the purpose of this trip to be at the forefront of my mind. There are so many who need Love out there, and I want to help them find that. The Lord has done so much in me this year, that I feel like a different Stephanie is returning to Zambia this year. The really crazy thing is, an even more modified version will probably return in August! Love you and thank you, as always...for your prayers and support.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bring It On

Wow! Time has really crept up on me (probably by wasting time with stuff like that last post). With only 4 more work weeks and 30 short days left until by departure for Zambia, I have been a slew of emotions. I have had multiple meltdowns. I've been happy, sad, apathetic, anxious, nervous, excited, joyful and everything in between. Welcome to the tragedies of being a passionate person...you feel everything...to the extreme! I am so thankful to God that He has created me with so many emotions because through all of them I understand and love Him more.

My house is now on the market going on 4 weeks, and I am praying that it will sell before I leave. Next week is my birthday, and that would be a super ridiculous birthday present from God. Although I am not terribly excited about moving out of my house, I know that God has better plans for me somewhere else and I look forward to finding out what that is.

Maybe it's because of my impatience, or immaturity rather...but it's not all that fun to wait on God. It's kind of frustrating, even though I know it is for me, for my sanctification. Well, I've told God in not so many words, to BRING IT! I'm ready. But I don't know what I'm ready for. Do you see how this gets confusing?

So, in the next month I will have alot on my plate...moving, packing, last minute preparations. I'm excited that all of you are joining me on this adventure and I hope to be reading your comments on my blog while I am in Africa. PLease write me comments, it's how I know you have connected with me half way around the world!

Prayer Requests:
1) God would ready my heart for the children of Zambia and show me how to love them
2) Psalm 23 is our verse for the summer, and I have been meditating on it. Pray the Lord really opens and unpacks that scripture in a way that it can impact the kids.
3) Pray for my house to sell before I leave.
4) Pray that my heart and mind might be quiet enough to hear God's direction for my future.
5) Pray for the strengthening of my spirit and faith during this waiting period.

Thanks, y'all!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Spoiler


One of my co-workers recently challenged me to "Google" myself. I first despised the thought, but in my ignorance was talked into this silly venture. And I kid you not, this is the first thing that popped up:

Stephanie Brown is the daughter of the Cluemaster, one of Gotham City's third-rate criminals. Stephanie's father spent most of her childhood in jail or away from the family, and though he claimed to be rehabilitated upon his return to Gotham, Stephanie was furious to discover that he was actually returning to crime without his need to leave clues behind. She decided something needed to be done.


Stephanie tailored a costume for herself, and called herself the Spoiler. She knew where her father was hiding out, found out his plans, and left clues so that the police and Batman could stop him. Robin tracked her down, and she joined in on the capturing of Cluemaster.

Each time Cluemaster would escape or start some new plan, Stephanie would don her costume again. Eventually, she decided she liked being a hero, and began regular patrols as Spoiler. This also brought her into regular contact with Robin, on whom she had a bit of a crush. The two worked as sometimes partners for a time, but eventually, romance blossomed.

That's right, a comic book character. The little kid, the feminist and the crime-fighter in me really loves that this is what popped up when I "Googled" my name. :)

Turtles Pt 2


I had the opportunity to watch a baby turtle make it's insurmountable climb to the top of a log the other day. I sat there and watched this thing for a good 30 minutes, easily. At first the turtle just kind of swam up to the log and contemplated the work it would take to climb it, and would sit there for a while. Then it would put one claw on the bottom of the log, and then when it felt secure it would put the other claw up...one by one until all four claws were attached to this log.

And then he began to climb. It was hilarious. He would put one claw forward, and pull himself a little, and then another. And then much to his chagrin, he would fall back into the water. Yet he would get back up and try again. One claw and then the other. He would make a little progress upwards, and then slide a little. A little more progress and then fall a little again, each time digging his claws in deeper and deeper...until he finally summited the log to lay with the rest of his friends.

I think the process of our sanctification looks much like that turtle's journey up that log. I think sometimes, as humans, and especially as Americans, we are always hurrying forward as fast we can. We want to know what we can do to get to the top as quickly as possible. We will do whatever it takes. We get frustrated when we fail and we fall back. I know I am personally overcome with guilt at times that I fail, and I am disappointed with myself that I should have known better. Because I can't do it well, and I can't do it fast, sometimes I want to give up. But sometimes falling in the water is part of our progress.

But as I watched that turtle, I heard God tell me that this is what my life will look like. A slow, sometimes painful climb to the top. God will change me, He will make me look more and more like Jesus everyday. Some days, when I am discouraged, or afraid or sad, humiliated or a really big sinner...I will just have to sink my claws deep into the log of life and keep going because I know that He has purposed it. Some days I will feel the weight of success and will be glad. But I probably won't see the progress each day. I'm pretty sure I will see the failures of each day. I usually see my daily failures at the expense of ignoring my daily successes, and that is something I want to work on. But with success, more than likely, one day I will wake up and think...when did I get so much closer to the top?

Sometimes those seasons of pain or sadness will be longer than I want them to be. Sometimes those seasons of joy will have me feeling so high, I will think life couldn't be better. But in any season, I know that God is there, He is holding me up and helping me forward...until the day that I will be united with My King. Until then, God's creations is painfully groaning and awaiting the time when we will no longer flounder around in the stream of life, but will make it to the top of that log and praise Him forever for bringing us there.

So today, don't focus on the failures. Forgive yourself, as God forgave you...and try to think of one success today so that you can remember it for tomorrow.

Turtles on a Log


I went for a run at town lake yesterday. I love running down there. Sometimes I think if I can just keep running for the entire loop, that I can keep running forward in life, too. (Obviously I'm not much of a runner, or that task wouldn't seem to big for me). But mostly I love running at town lake because I get to encounter God.

Sometimes I find myself tremendously frustrated at not being able to see God. The One thing I find all satisfaction and joy in, the One who loves me and holds me as a child, and who holds all things together, who grieves with me and who rejoices with me, the One who made a way for me....God is so majestic, and yet I can't seem Him. Does that resonate with anyone else? I can't physically interact with my greatest satisfaction which sometimes still leaves me feeling like He is far away.

But when I am running, and surrounded by God's beautiful creation, I can see a little piece of Him. I can see the creativity of an ENORMOUSLY CREATIVE GOD. I can see the creation that He worked out with such painful detail. Lately, I can find joy in the beautiful breeze and sunshine, and a little piece of me lights up inside. And somehow, that makes me feel closer to Him.

As I was winding down my fun, I stopped to admire a row of turtles sun bathing on a log in a side stream. I was kind of laughing to myself while I sat there and watched them just hang out. I saw two of them start to claw at one another. I'm not sure if they were playing or arguing, but once one was mauled by a claw, it would retract it's head into the shell, and disappear. A few minutes later, it would reemerge and claw at the turtle that had clawed him to begin with, and then retreat again for fear of retaliation.

I started thinking to myself that (even though turtles are a much simpler being than humans) turtles are a reflection of the way we react sometimes. Someone hurts us...says something rude and inappropriate, or breaks our heart, or cuts into our pride, condemns us...and we automatically retreat. We crawl into ourselves and refuse to let that person "harm" us again. Sometimes this happens after one offense, sometimes after repeated offenses, but our reaction is the same: to retreat. And usually the people that hurt us the deepest are those who are closest. It makes sense, those closest to us know our deepest vulnerabilities and struggles. Sometimes relationships get ugly. And by retreating we miss something bigger than the hurt we just experienced. We also miss the joys and blessings we could be having in that relationship, if we would just reconcile. We miss depending on God to bring healing and restoration.

No thanks God, I just don't want to be hurt again. I've had enough, not going through that again. So and so offended me...deeply...repeatedly. We retreat and so separate ourselves from God...and from friends. We are left alone to work out our hurt, or maybe to let it grow and foster bitterness. It's so much easier that way, isn't it? To be left to ourselves? IT takes so much more work to reconcile and flesh out emotions and hurts...and it usually gets worse before it gets better.

I am such a prideful person, and usually want to react the first way. To close up, and to shut out people who hurt me. But Jesus says in Matthew 18:21 that we are to forgive each other as many times as we need to be forgiven. Colossians 3:13 says forgive whatever grievances we have with each other, as the Lord forgave us. And above all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. This takes work for me. I don't think there will be a time in life when I won't struggle with needing to forgive someone at the expense of destroying my own pride.

But, I have also seen the Lord bring unparalleled reconciliation to some relationships in my own life, and that is a beautiful thing. Because I know that He restored my relationships because of His great love for me (and my friends). And it is what He has done, because I know that Stephanie is not capable of that kind of healing. He loves us so much, and wants us to love each other so much, that He can bring healing to us and to those we love, so that we may continue to love and serve each other in a way that glorifies His name.

I pray that if there is someone you need to be reconciled with today, that you would make the first step towards them in love, the kind of love that Christ offers us. I pray that He brings that kind of healing and restoration to your relationships, so that at the end of the day (like the turtles), we can all sit on the log together and bask in the light of a Savior that is gracious and good.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Christ's Suffering According to Luke

On my yahoo mail page this morning sprawled a huge "advertisement" for Easter. In the add was a picture of a group of bright, multi-colored chicks, which I frankly find pathetic. I don't particularly think of myself as an animal rights activist, but dyeing a bunch of small chickens for the sake of advertisement sort of makes me sick to my stomach. I don't even know what they were selling, to be quite honest. All I could think about is how so often, even as Christians, we miss the true meaning of Easter. It has never been and never will be, about brightly colored chickens, or eggs or even a bunny. Why do we as Americans have to have everything "marketed" to us so that we will find it appealing?

The cross is not appealing. Isaiah 53:2- "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." Nor does Jesus try to market His gospel or make it palatable for us to accept Him.

It is only to those whom God has revealed that we see the true beauty and glory of the cross. I was re-reading the gospel accounts of Jesus last days this week, and I was particularly struck with Luke's account. For His account is the only one that mentions Jesus sweating blood on the Mount of Olives. Luke was a physician and as such may have had a natural curiosity regarding that physiological process which could produce this kind of response. He also would have been a careful observer. But as I read, I also noted that His gospel focuses primarily on relationships and character, and he went through painstaking measures to seek out eye witness accounts of Jesus' life. Jesus character of obedience might be revealed as closely here as in any other gospel.

Luke 22:44
"And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."

One of the Austin Stone's devotionals for this week discusses the medical condition, called hematohidrosis, in which one is so overcome by mental anxiety and stress that the blood vessels surrounding the sweat glands burst and produce drops of blood. But that is not what I want to discuss. What I want to discuss is what caused such a response in My King in those last days of His life?

Surely as God, he foreknew the physical agony He was about to endure in His human body. He knew the exhaustion, the beatings, the dehydration, the pain from nails piercing His nerves in His hand and feet on the cross, the physical shock that He would endure from experiencing such raw pain. This would have been the worst possible method of capital punishment at the time. But as Jesus is crying out to God, (vs42)" Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but your will be done," I have a hard time believing that He is envisioning the physical pain He would endure.

For far more than the physical pain, He was divinely aware of the spiritual pain He was about to encounter. His purpose on this earth, that He has known all along, was to bear the sins of the world-past, present and future. Not only would He bear the guilt and shame of all peoples, He would also bear the ultimate outpouring of God's wrath. His Father, in this moment would not save Him but allow Him to experience, a hell of sorts, for all lost sinners. I think this is what caused Him such anguish that his sweat fell like drops of blood. For the pain and suffering of God's wrath is greater than any physical pain we could experience on this earth, for pain on this earth is only physical and temporary. But the pain of a soul's separation from God is internal and eternal.

But because of God's faithfulness, Christ was crucified, RESURRECTED and raised to God's right hand. Jesus (Isaiah 53:7) "was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." He WILLINGLY and OBEDIENTLY suffered that kind of pain, so that we might be reconciled to God and have LIFE! He endured the suffering of God's wrath, so that you and I might not have to.

Friends, if that does not bring you to your KNEES today, that should make you weep (mourn and wail). For no one can comprehend the depth of the cross unless they first realize how much they have to be forgiven. The love of the cross is derived from a heart that understands it's personal responsibility for what sent Jesus to such a painful end.

Isaiah 53:12
"Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with transgressors. For he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."