Monday, October 31, 2011

We’d been waiting for this day!

Elifer, Wize and Westone
On Friday afternoon when school got out at 1pm, Grace (house manager and Krauses’ personal employee) had the 3 kids that we sponsor come to the Krause's. They had no idea what was going on. They came in and sat down, and they may have thought that they were in trouble! :(

Using Grace as our translator we revealed that we were their sponsors. We told them that we’d brought some things from the States for them, and we wanted to see where they lived and meet their grandparents. There were smiles from the boys, and all three said "thank you". We gave them each a backpack and a large black plastic trash bag. filled with goodies, and we set out.

Elifer led the way. It was about a 10 minute walk. She is the oldest of the three and she kept a pretty quick pace. She never looked back at us like the boys did. She was quite emotionless.

When we got close to their home we could see Grandma was watching us. We were sure she was afraid that the kids had done something wrong and were being sent home for the term with all their school belongings in the bags! 

She invited us into the round, grass hut, pulled out Tonga stools for us to sit on. The space wasn't much bigger than our bathroom! We explained that some time ago we had been talking with the Krauses' about sponsoring students, and shortly after that their grandfather came to the school asking to enroll the kids. We also told them that we had prayed about this and felt God wanting us to send their grandchildren to school.  

We also explained that we were here to take over for the Krauses for the rest of the term, and since we were coming to Macha we had brought gifts for the children. She couldn't stop thanking us. Then Wize (pronounced Weez) poked his head in and we invited him in, then Westone did the same and he came in. Then after a few minutes Elifer came in. They still had their backpacks on their backs. They pulled them off and had their fingers on the zippers. We said "go ahead, you can open them." They tore into them like it was Christmas!

One by one they pulled each item of clothing out of the backpacks! When they got to soccer shorts and shirts, the boys cheered! Quietly Elifer looked at each item, paused to look at and run her fingers over the graphic t-shirts with Tinkerbell, sequined stars and butterflies.

We opened the plastic bags and showed them the towels, fleece blankets and sleeping bags and they were all grins. We later found out that the children most likely sleep on the ground without any kind of bedding. 

We took photos outside the hut with the kids and Grandma. The kids immediately went back in the hut, to look at their gifts! We chatted with the grandmother for a few minutes. We said “good-bye” to them, and Greg leaned into the hut and said "we love you!" They shouted back "I love you!" It was quite a moment. The boys were all smiles, and Elifer let a "half-smile" crack her face, and there was a bit of softening in her eyes.

So, now we watch and look for the Lord to give us opportunities to get to know them, speak into them, and love them.

As we were leaving we saw the grandfather off sitting under a tree in the shade. We stopped by and spoke to Grandpa. He looks very old and frail. Greg explained who we were and why we’d come to his home. With tears pooling his eyelids, he said “thank you” in a very quiet, raspy voice.

We had asked the Krauses if they knew how the children's parents had died. Ronda hadn’t confirmed the story that had been circulating, but she’d heard that one parent had killed the other and then killed them self.  Whatever the manner, the children have suffered a great loss and clearly have been traumatized. Ronda told us that in the time they have been coming to MICS they have already improved 100%!

This is their home. The kids likely sleep in the tent or the flat roofed hut.

Greg, Elifer, Westone, Kathy, Wize & Grandma

Grandma's kitchen

Greg with Grandpa

Our hearts are wrenched; there are so many vulnerable children that we could become overwhelmed. While we can’t help them all, we can help those that God presents to us. So that’s what we are doing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Survival is the Name of This Game!

As of today we have been in Zambia for one week. We would love to report all the things that we have experienced and accomplished, but we mostly are learning “survival”. 

The first thing we were lacking was a good internet signal. We learned that we must wait and check every so often to see if it has improved.  Sometimes the connection was restored shortly, and sometimes not.  Even when the signal is a strong one, only one person or laptop can be connected at a time. There is no loitering when there is a connection. We must each hurry to check our emails and then log off so the next person can get to their business. We never know when we will have an opportunity to check our messages again.

Then, when water is not flowing from the tap we learned the importance of keeping the reserve bottles and containers in the kitchen filled, and how to fill the clay filtering system for clean drinking water. In the bathroom there are five big pails that are kept filled at all times to be used for bathing and flushing. Since we arrived a week ago, the temps have been anywhere from about 95 to 110 degrees so drinking water and bathing water are vital! The Krauses’ have told us that since the beginning of July they have had only 5 school days with water. Can you imagine 150 people on the campus and no water?

Electricity is another unreliable commodity. It comes and goes, but mostly goes. This past week we only had power a few hours a day, and one day we no power at all. Yesterday we had to cook up all the meat that had thawed and moved it to a home that had power. This morning we cleaned out the rest of the spoiled food from all the freezers & refrigerators and burned them in the refuse pit so that no one would eat it and get sick. We learned that a transformer had burned up and after many conversations with those in charge, found out that a new transformer was arriving soon. 

This is how life works here, or should we say doesn’t work? We spend much time and energy keeping things working that many other things don’t get attended to.  Fortunately all this has happened while Gil and Ronda are here so that we can learn what to do, who to talk to, and how to make life go on at the school and boarding house. 

So, if you don’t hear from us for a while you will know that we do not have power or internet or both. That should be a clue that we need your prayers more than ever!Thank you for sticking by us, praying for us, and sending us encouragement! We need you!
8:00pm Thursday—UPDATE!
The transformer arrived at approximately 6pm, and amazingly was installed immediately! As typically guys, Greg & Gil dashed off to watch the process. (See photo.) And just as we were concluding devotions with the boarding students the few, dim lights that we had went out—we all groaned—and then . . . all the lights came on, the refrigerator started up AND the toilet started filling! We have full power and water! Thank you, LORD!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

We Made It!

We arrived in Macha on schedule with all our bags in tow! That was a miracle in its self.
You see, once we left Minneapolis every leg of the journey seemed to get us a little bit behind. By the time we would arrive at each destination on our flight itinerary we found ourselves literally running to the gate to catch the next flight. Each time we would flop into our seats and pray “Lord, please have favor on our bags, that they would make it to this plane.” When we arrived in Lusaka (capital city of Zambia) we were surprised and delighted that all of our checked bags appeared on the carousel!  God’s Favor was so evident.

Once we located our bush pilot, Guillermo, with Flying Mission, we were back out on the tarmac and soon on our way to Macha. Visibility was diminished by the smoke from many wildfires. We’d found out that there hasn’t been much rain since April and most of the landscape is a dry, tinderbox. From the air we could see the fires and their damage. At night the glow of fires can be seen off in the distance. This is something that everyone is aware of but until it is close enough to threaten, no one gets too worked up over.

Adjusting . . . Takes More Than You’d Think
For the past two nights we have found ourselves sleeping 12-14 hours each night! It’s crazy that you can wake up in the morning well-rested but just a couple hours later need a nap. We really never even saw the students on Friday as we’d slept through most of the school day.

By 1:30 we were off to Choma to buy groceries for the next week. It’s now a one hour drive to Choma, now that there is a blacktopped road for two-thirds of the journey. When first arriving in Choma we immediately went to a small convenience store to buy beverages. It is difficult to find public restrooms, so by purchasing our drinks we were entitled to use their facilities. Then off to Spar, the local food store chain. Much smaller than what we are used to, and packed with people, made it difficult to manage three filled-to-overflowing grocery carts. It was a good thing that there were seven of us to help push and then load. This is just one of our responsibilities for the next two months. Clearly we will be recruiting help for the weekly shopping trips.

Today, in about 100 degree heat, we have toured the school and boarding house facilities, taken a good look at the new dorm building that is targeted to open in January with the new school year. We also visited the Redicopps that live just a couple hundred yards away. Guillermo Redicopp was our bush plane pilot.

We are learning our way around the house, the kitchen, how to find water when none comes out the taps, and internet. We’ve become friendly with Zaka and Boya, the Krause’s two house cats. We are babysitting Merrel and Elmo, two Dutch students while their parents are in South Africa for a conference.

We have yet to go to the local market to buy tomatoes and other vegetables today. As I have been writing to you, the others have slipped away for a nap. Looks like I need to get moving and get mine before we are off again!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This is a Great Way to Leave

We are feeling so loved. 

On Sunday, our church prayed for us at all three services. Friends are telling us how exciting this is.  My co-workers are taking on some of my work so my mind can be on the tasks at hand. The support we have received personally, and church-wide is so encouraging. This is a great way to leave. 

Last night in our overseer meeting we talked about how Valleybrook Church is going to Macha, and will leave a part of who we are, as a church there. Valleybrook will mark Macha, and Macha will mark our church for the future. This has settled deep in me. I can’t wait to see what God will do to mark both Kathy and I, and we will carry that into our daily lives.
God has prepared our path. We really don’t know what is ahead of us, but we are ready for the task. We have decided our faith is not in our ability but in God who is faithful to take us step by step. 

Well, our bags are packed, we are changing our out-going voicemail and email messages, last minute work details are complete, we are ready. This truly is a great way to leave.

A friend told us that they were having trouble leaving comments on this blog. If you have trouble or would prefer, email us. We’d love hear from you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

To Everything There is a Season

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

As I took Sasha, our 4 ½ year old lab/pointer mix out for her morning run, I became aware that the autumn season was upon us. A brisk chill in the air, leaves turning color, pumpkins on many doorsteps and some neighbors getting a new roof not only reveal the season we are in, but also the season that is quickly approaching.

Over breakfast we’d reminisced with a long time friend; recounting events of the past that had marked our lives in significant ways. This friend had introduced us to outreach ministry 23 years ago. That season led us to know God, hear His voice and respond to Him in obedience.It made me realize that we are always in a season of some kind or another; a time of change, of growth, of preparation. Seasons mean change. God always intended for our lives to be in the middle of change. Seasons were meant to come and go, to be replaced by the next season.

God says in Ecclesiastes that there is a season for everything, and a divine purpose for that season. Whatever season we are in, God is in the middle of it. He is using that season to mold and shape us for His glory now, but also for the next season.

So what season are we in?
What could God possibly want to be teaching us?
How does He plan to shape us through it?

Some of that we know and some we don’t . . . We know that we are to go to Zambia, we are to leave behind what is comfortable and secure, we are to trust God in ways we have never had to before. Clearly we are to have compassion on those from a different culture and love them in real, authentic ways. We know that in order to do this it requires that we are totally dependent upon God to speak, move, reveal, provide, and protect. While we don’t all that He has planned to do with our time in Zambia, we know that it has great purpose and impacts eternity.

So, what season does God have you in?