Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Somethin’ to Think About

If you pay any attention to the news media, in the next several days you will be bombarded with all that has headlined the news for the past year. Each network is doing 2011 recaps. Our local paper has been repeating past national and global news articles each day, as well as local news stories from 2011.

Much of the coverage leaves one feeling discouraged and somewhat hopeless. There is so much that often gets lost in that cacophony! (Okay, I did have to look up the word to make sure that I was using it correctly. Cacophony: 1.A harsh discordance of sound; dissonance. 2. A discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds.)

For those that journal, you have a record of the challenges faced, the emotional roller coasters you’ve endured, and the “ah-ha” moments when God revealed His truth to your soul. If you are not a good journaler, like me, it may take a bit more effort to revisit your personal journey. Let me encourage you to not let any of it go unnoticed or unaccounted!

In this short season of reflection, what stories need to be remembered and revisited? What inner knowledge or personal growth has been attained, and now marks you as a changed person?

I am different than I was a year ago. Of course I am a year older, and I see how my personal appearance reflects that. But the real me, the me on the inside looks different too. There is a good work that God is doing in me. And unless I acknowledge that and proclaim it, it stands to be lost in the cobwebs of time.

For the past year or so I have adopted an abbreviated form of journaling by using spiral bound note cards. When a quote or a scripture verse or principle seems to speak right to me, I write it down. Then after pondering it a bit I add how I am affected by it or offer a prayer of commitment or thanks.

Not surprisingly the theme for much of this past year has been obedience. But as I return to words written a few weeks ago, I can see that God has been teaching me quite a bit about love as well. Just that word: “Love”-- conjures up different thoughts and feelings now than it would have months ago. 

Love looks different now than it did to me.  Oh, I would have told you a year ago that I love well, that I see & affirm the good in others and easily encourage them to continue on that path that leads to hope and healing. I would have testified to loving all those that God puts in my life. But what He has now suggested to me is that those that have betrayed or rejected me, who have turned against me or worse have turned others against me, those who have sought my demise. . . those I have refused to love. In fact, I have become quite proficient at cutting them out of my life. If I no longer give them access to my life I don’t really have to respond as God calls me to, right? That’s not what God says:
“This is love: not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is perfected in us”. 1 John 4:10

If God lives in me, then His love is perfected in me. Perfect love doesn’t pick and choose who to love. Perfect love isn’t conditional: I’ll love you if you love me back. No, perfect love sees and loves the goodness in each one. Period. I don’t have to worry about how to love those that don’t love me; when the time comes God will show me. All I have to do is be obedient to Him.

This is a time to recognize, revisit and celebrate His goodness in your life. What God has been doing in you, you can count on Him to continue to do.
I don’t know about you, but that gets me excited!
Happy New Year!
Love, Kathy

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

This Is For You, Too!

This is probably the most common sight along any road.
Before we left Macha, many were asking when we’d return. Some Zambians even boldly announced “You are to come back and stay here with us”. Now that we are back in Wisconsin, we are asked what our future plans are for Zambia. We keep saying, whatever God asks of us, we will gladly respond in obedience.

There is so much that needs to be done in Macha and at MICS that even if we return, it would not be enough. We found ourselves compiling a list of holes that need filling:

Office manager: Someone who is organized and task-oriented to keep the office up-to-date and knows where everything is located. This person could very easily keep track of the tuition payments and prepare invoices for those who are behind in their commitments.

If you are fortunate, you have transportation like this ox cart.
Nurse or health care person: After treating many students and adults each day from mild headaches to wounds requiring a trip to the Outpatient Department, it became apparent that a nurse is needed. This person could also teach health and hygiene topics-something badly needed. Would not need advanced education, just a knowledge of basic healthcare.

Driver: Whether running an ill student home, or taking maize to be ground at the mill or filling water containers, this person would be kept busy all day, and thus free up someone to address other needs.

Handy man : There is always something that is broken, missing or unfinished, add to that keeping a close eye on tools and equipment so that  they don’t disappear. With one more building nearing completion a property manager is needed.
Donkey carts are common too.

Boarding parents: While  MICS does employ Zambians as house parents, they could really use people to mentor how to lovingly affirm or discipline without the use of shame. For boarding parents that never experienced the love and care of a family unit, it is difficult for them to create that environment themselves. But if you know how to reward good behavior, how to read books or play games with children you are qualified. As LeeAnn said recently “if you have ever been a babysitter you are well trained to be a boarding parent & mentor”.

Goats, cattle and chickens run freely everywhere.
 Mentoring Teachers: Most Zambian teachers come with minimum training & experience.  American educated teachers that could come to Macha for a  term or maybe even a year could help train the teachers to do their jobs well and expose them to the fundamentals that would enhance the quality of education at MICS.

If you are intrigued at all with the opportunities in Macha, or if God has been at all tugging on your heart, feel free to contact us. We’d love to chat with you! ( or 715-579-8970)

What’s Next?
Market area. Something like our Farmer's Market.
On Sunday, we reported back to our home church, Valleybrook Church, in Eau Claire Wisconsin, on our nearly two months in Zambia. We were so excited to have our good friends, and school-administrator-mentors with us, Gil and Ronda Krause.  

Ox plows are most commonly used.
As we reflect on the past several months, the resounding theme is “obedience”.  From early in the year when we’d heard about Gil’s lymphoma diagnosis and the Krause’s invitation to step in as directors of MICS until now, the desire for faithfulness hasn’t changed. At first we weren’t sure we were the right ones to take on such a daunting task; but we knew that if God was calling us to go He would make a way for us. So the real question was “God, are you in this?”

It took months of praying, talking, and waiting. Once we felt that we were to go we began telling others and asking them to pray with us. Then came the day when Greg needed to share this with his employer. Instead of being met with hesitancy, Mark Rose became excited about this opportunity and said “we will make it work”. Mark and Lisa became two of our greatest cheerleaders as they too responded to God in obedience!

Charcoal sold along the road for cooking over open fires.
Now that we had the freedom to go, we let our family and friends know about this new assignment. And again we were met with excitement and provision. You helped us not only raise the funds to fly but you supplied us with many extras that would meet the needs of those we would serve. You gave us shoes, clothing, school supplies, gifts of watches and jewelry, personal care items, backpacks and blankets.  Did you know that we only took the minimum clothing for ourselves and filled our airline-allowed bags with what you had given us? It took one very large suitcase and three army duffel bags to carry the blessings!

This man is hauling roofing material.
Many of you told us that God had prompted you to give; even specified funds to be spent on the orphans or for a weekend getaway so that we wouldn’t burn out. Some of you shopped for kid’s clothing, some gave your grandmother’s vintage jewelry to give as gifts, and others gave backpacks filled with new shoes or markers and crayons. As God tugged on your hearts, you responded by being obedient.

Then came the time for us to go. As we blogged, you replied and encouraged us. When we shared our needs, you prayed. Some of you wrote to tell us how God had put us on your hearts and that you prayed throughout the day for us. Quite of few of you told us that you prayed as couples or families or as small group bible studies. When we asked you to pray for rain, you did and guess what? It rained!  

Every day we’d pray and ask God to give us supernatural eyes and ears. We asked Him to let us see the people, know their hearts and be able to speak His Truth to each one. There were several occasions that we were asked to give things that God had not released us to give. It would have been easier to give the money or the things that they had asked for. In obedience we had to say no, just like parents have to do from time to time. We may not have always been popular or given the answers hoped for, but we were committed to obedience

Obedience is a lifestyle God calls us to. He knows what He is about to do and He knows how good it can be, if we agree with Him and choose to conform our lives to His. So, what’s next you ask? It’s obedience, of course. Whatever that looks like!

For more info check out these sites: 

Monday, December 5, 2011

On Our Way

Tolland and Greg say good-bye on the last day of school.

Chabonwa, hanging out with Kathy at the house.
It is Tuesday morning, in Lusaka, the capital city Zambia. We are enjoying the hospitality of Flying Mission’s guest house at their Chilongola base. In just a few hours we will be driven to the airport and begin our 32 hours of travel back to Minneapolis where LeeAnn and Tara will be waiting for us.

The original plan was to fly out yesterday but our airlines sent us an email saying they’d cancelled our Monday flight and put us on the Tuesday flight. The problem was they neglected to change the rest of our connecting flights; when we read through to the end the total length of our trip was -9 hours! We thought “we're traveling a time machine!” 

It took most of Sunday to correct the error, but we finally got it all squared away. Talked with our bush pilot, Guillermo, and decided to fly out of Macha on Monday, and stay at the guest house overnight, then fly out of Zambia as now scheduled on Tuesday.

Thinking back, we've experinced a mixed bag of emotions. First when we found out that we couldn’t fly out on Monday, I (Kathy) was disappointed to tears! When the time came to go home, I just wanted to get there, without delay! But then when we finally started to taxi down the airstrip, with friends waving good-bye, I was sad to leave.

LeeAnn had asked me what I would miss most about Macha. I told her that there is so much hardship in living there that “life in Macha” would be easy to leave behind. It is the emotional ties with people, the relationships that tear up your heart.

There’s eight year old Tolland. If any one of the kids could easily turn to life of waywardness, even crime, this little guy could. Greg would not look the other way when Tolland didn’t show up for school, he’d take a staff person and go to the market to find him and bring him back. When Tolland got frustrated and lashed out at others, Greg walked him through the steps to making it right before God and others.

Sweet little Chabonwa came one day to tell me that she didn’t feel well. With glassy eyes, and slight fever, she looked up at me for help. With panadol, a glass of water, a prayer and a hug, she went off to bed for a couple of days. Everyday I checked in with her and asked how she was feeling, did she need another round of panadol, gave hugs and prayers. Once she’d rebounded from the latest virus going around MICS, she was my buddy. She’d sit with me at devotions, read books in the afternoon, and hold my hand whenever possible.  I realized that she’d broken through the skin color barrier, and the others were wanting more attention and physical attention too.

There's plenty more: Mutinta who was always ready to fix a bike or help with a project, always helping a little one find their shoe or get to dinner. Luundu has the voice of an angel and the calling to be a missionary, Christopher is funny, charming, and hungry for God's Word. Justin, smart, listens closely and quick with an answer during devotions. And the list goes on.

Our farewell  party at the airstrip.
There’s the boarding staff that began to call us Mum and Dad. After school was dismissed on Friday, they each came to tell us how much they missed us, how we treated them like they were our own kids, taught them things from God’s Word that they had never known—some came more than once to say that they couldn’t bear us to leave! Many came to see us off at the airstrip.

So while we are very anxious to be home, be with family, sleep in our own beds and take showers whenever we desire, we're coming with a mixed bag of emotions.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Last Days

Reception class sings Yes, Jesus Love Me @ the hospital.
They are here upon us. We’ve known they would come; at times they moved slowly and other times they sped by so fast that it made our heads spin! These are the last days of our time in Macha.

From the day we came here, the students were working hard on their Christmas program. Each class had a part, as well as joint efforts from all in reciting scripture (whole chapters of scripture!), performing short drama, sign dancing and songs. This week we performed the program twice. The first was earlier in the week as our dress rehearsal for the parents, and then yesterday we performed in the hospital auditorium for anyone that wanted to come. Both times we performed before a packed house!

Chocho wins hair clips!
Last night, Greg and I gave a party for the boarding students and their chaperones. We played a vigorous game of Bingo, with lots of fun prizes! Some of you helped to supply us with those coveted gifts; things like pencils, gum, books, jewelry, calculators, watches, hair clips and more! There were still a few prizes remaining so during devotions prizes were given for correct answers to the story questions. There were lots of laughs, and a few emotional moments as the students express to us how much we meant to them.

We watched a Christmas video together complete with popcorn! And then we concluded our party with cake. A Zambian party is never complete unless there is cake!

Parachute game!
Grade 4 plays classroom games.
Today was the last day of school. The morning hours were spent turning in books, cleaning up the classrooms, removing posters from the walls and we later found out that many used the time to construct cards for us. Games, crafts and the gift of a Beany Baby was given to each student.  Our final half hour was spent together in the chapel, and was a tribute to us. Each class came forward to sing to us and present us with the cards they had made. They even gave personal testimony of how we encouraged and ministered to them. The teachers then sang us a farewell song and also told us personally how much we meant to them, calling us Mum and Dad. It definitely was a tear-jerker for both of us. In just a few weeks these kids & teachers have wormed their way into our hearts. 

Special Moment
Two of our kids: Wize & Westone.
We asked the three siblings that we sponsor to come see us before they headed home. We wanted to present them with their Christmas gifts, but we also wanted to have a conversation about enrolling them in the boarding house in January when school resumes. When we brought it up, the kids were all smiles and nodding their heads.

What’s so special about boarding? Most of the children in Macha speak Tonga in the home. Even in most government schools, the lessons are taught in Tonga. MICS is known for a higher standard of education because they teach classes in English, the business and education language of Zambia. In boarding, English is the required language. For children who only speak Tonga in the home, acquiring English is long and hard if it is only spoken a few hours each day at school. For those in boarding, they will pick up English much quicker and their composition improves dramatically.

For boarding students, time is scheduled for homework and their boarding parents are available to help if needed. Just recently we have acquired a volunteer offering tutoring to those students who need a little extra help particularly in math or phonics. The boarding students also have extra time in the library and computer lab each day. Students who live at MICS do better academically than the others.

Many of the boarding students would not receive the food, shelter and care that they need if they lived at home. Most are double orphans, and their caretakers struggle to provide for them. In fact, we had one boy faint during our Christmas program practice one Monday. When we called the boy’s caretaker, he said that he had placed the boy in the care of a neighbor for the weekend, and he was sure that the boy hadn’t eaten since Friday. So sad!

If any of this makes your heart beat faster, and you want to become involved, maybe even partner with us in providing boarding care for the three children mentioned, please let us know. The cost for one student’s boarding care for one year is $550 US.
Final Preparations

We have switched gears a bit now. The students are now gone, the classrooms empty, the boarding bedrooms have been cleaned out. We’ve moved electronic equipment to safe storage, moved some appliances for convenience and security, and emptied all trash containers in the burn pit. Our goal is to leave our refrigerator as empty as possible, so we are carefully planning out our meals.

Fortunately Mrs. Grace is here to let us know what all must happen before we close up the buildings for the summer break. She has been here all along and knows exactly what to do. We have been most grateful for her and she has become a good friend.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Doesn’t Look Like Much, But . . .

MICS new water tower
This morning we took a walk. It had rained all day yesterday, but the sun was shining now. This was a great chance to get some exercise and breathe some cool air. Since the rains started 10 days ago, the temps dropped considerably and had become very comfortable. (high 70’s to low 80’s)

First stop was the school office to return a few books to their proper place. Then we took the path that shortcut over to “Broadway”, the only named road here in Macha. Broadway takes you either to Macha’s points of interest, past Vision Restaurant, the roads that go to the radio station, the market, and the hospital, or going the other direction, to the airstrip.

We headed to the airstrip, peeked in the windows of the Flying Mission bush plane, and then took the path over to the Macha Works property. We chatted with Jonathon, the security guard on duty, before we noticed a new metal structure. It was the size and shape of a new water tank stand that Macha Works was promising MICS! It was currently purple and black, but most likely will get a finishing coat of green like the other towers around the village.

The tower doesn’t look like much, but to us it is the symbol of hope, of truth, of commitment; it is a statement of value. You see, for us, that tower represents water to cover all the needs. When water does not need to be addressed daily, it means other significant needs can be addressed and resolved.

It is the symbol of truth. When Mike and Geoffrey of Macha Works tell us that they are working to solve the problem, we can believe them and trust their word to fulfill their commitment to MICS. By their actions, Macha Works gives MICS value. They validate the mission of this school and boarding house to educate and train up young Zambians to walk in godliness and truth. The community of Macha sees the possibilities that could be realized when the next generation, these children, are given the opportunity to have hope and a future that would lift them from the bondage of poverty, disease and unemployment that comes with being uneducated.

Conduit of Blessing
Mr Luzutu had perfect attendance this year, he gets to go first!

Ms Chileshe dons her new specs!
A Krause end-of-the-school-year tradition is a party for the entire staff. The teachers, the teachers-in-training, the boarding parents or chaperones, and the cooking & cleaning staff come together to celebrate another successful year.  

Every Zambian party involves cake and punch. Part of this Krause tradition is to play games with the prizes being very large bags containing many random items like clothes, shoes and other practical items. The catch is each recipient will be able to keep a few things for themselves but are to watch for where God is at work and be a part of the solution by giving away the items from their bag. They are learning that no matter what your economical level, God wants to use you to bless others. This is a biblical principle of giving.

Bina Juster & her Mickey outfit.
At Valleybrook Church we’ve coined the term “conduit of blessing”. We recognize that when we walk in obedience with God, He will invite us to participate in what He is doing to make His presence known to others. God wants to flow through all of us into others; this is the primary way God works. The key is being in a personal relationship with Him so that you know His voice, and recognize His ways so that you can respond in obedience. When we see God’s invitation and we respond, the blessing goes on and on; in turn we are blessed as well.
Ms Mungo, Ms Mwiinga & Ms Siyumbelo show off their new apparel.

We are seeing that first hand as we serve here in Macha. God is showing Himself to others, His word has become powerful and has changed lives. Many that felt forgotten are visible, valued and their words count. What God intends to do in and through us is much bigger than we could ever do on our own!