Just realized though, somehow, I didn't end up getting to taste any of it...
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Just realized though, somehow, I didn't end up getting to taste any of it...
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
My sorority "family" has gotten so big! This is us at chapter retreat
(I'm a great great grand big now!!)
And finally, a day off at the parks where we met Lucy and Ricky!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
I have spent this last week at the hospital and AIDs clinic as well as with friends. Monday and Tuesday were holidays here in Zimbabwe. The days are called "Heroes and Villains day" however, I have yet to hear a solid answer on what exactly these days off mean. But, regardless, they were nice days off where just about everything in the city completely shut down (kind of hard for many of us to imagine; even on Christmas Day we can usually find some grocery store open at some point!). But this gave me a good chance to visit with friends I've made here and get out into the fresh air as we climbed the hills surrounding the dams of Bulawayo.
The hospital and AIDs clinic continue to both bless and break my heart. Seeing the things that go on daily here are difficult to stomach sometimes. Caring for a set of 5 year old twins with the flu seemed pretty run of the mill, until I learned their story:
I learned that their father works at the hospital, making a ridiculous 60 US dollar a month. This is hardly enough to feed him with the country's high inflation rate on food, I thought, much less his two daughters, and now they are sick and needing medicine too!? I hoped their mother had a well paying job. As the consult continued, however, I learned that their mother had died of AIDs several years ago. Their father was HIV positive too as was one of the twins, and these girls were not the man's only children, not to mention the nieces and nephews that had begun to collect in his house as his siblings passed from the disease. Several, if not all of the other children were likely HIV positive as well. My heart burned for this family as I pictured the medical bills to keep these children on the proper drug regime,the tremendous cost of food that would incur to feed these children even one meal a day, and the heartache that loomed in this family's all too near future. How long could he provide the medical care they needed? How long would he survive as he more than likely neglected his health out of necessity to provide for his children? And what would come of the lone little girl who, by some miracle, had not been infected as her twin, siblings, and parents were? These are the questions that, as the days go on, I sometimes must prevent myself from asking.
Now I share this story, with much hesitation. Not because it is or should be hard to believe because it is happening and is incredibly real for so many all over this country and many others here, and not because I am reluctant to paint this grim picture before the eyes of any westerners; this is the truth and it is irresponsible and, plainly, stupid to ignore it or pretend it's not happening. I hesitate because I don't wish for my life or my words to be another feed the children commercial. I don't want to make you feel sorry for them and guilty about your life as you are reading this; sorry and guilty but still so far away. I don't wish to flash images across your minds of naked African children with swollen stomachs and flies all over their faces (FYI, the flies all over is really unavoidable in most parts of Africa I've been to; there just seem to be more of them here! don't let those pictures fool you; we all have flies on our faces here! You get used to them; ;-)
So then, why do I share this with you? I watched a movie not too long ago that made the statement "We each have to find a purpose in this war, because neither side is going to win." The first part of that I agree with wholeheartedly: We each must find a purpose. We are all here; all on this planet. Whether you're in what the west considers THE world, or the third world, whether you cry yourself to sleep over the heartache we find on this planet,or ignore it completely from the comfort of your own home; you are here and you must spend your days here doing something. There are plenty of causes to fight for, plenty of goals to achieve, plenty of trophies to win, and we have a choice, we have been given our free will by Him who created us, to choose as we please. The difference between the world war of this movie I saw and real life is that one side IS going to win! It seems to me that the difference in the 2nd line of this quote makes all the difference to the first. We still each have to find a purpose in this life, we each still have a choice; but doesn't it make sense to base that choice on who the winner is going to be?
And, saying that, I am brought to the reason I share my stories with you. Am I asking you to end world hunger? Cure AIDs? Send money? No...no to all of those. I am asking each of you still reading to look around at the truth of this world, realize who is going to win the war, and make your choice. What will your purpose be? Where does your purpose lie? What does this world need of us, or rather, who does this world need?
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Hello again from Zimbabwe, Africa!
This past week has proven to hold some amazing blessings! Since I've last updated, It seems He has put so many wonderful experiences and people into my life! I guess I'll start at the beginning:
After spending the previous week and a half out in the bush with a volunteer team, we had a nice weekend to relax, clean up all the camping equipment we used, and do some neat things as well. One of which was visiting a, I guess you would call it an "animal shelter" though they call it an "orphanage". But, in Africa, how different an animal shelter is! They have everything from warthogs, to antelope, leopards, lions, baboons, monkeys, owls, eagles, black mambas (big snakes), monitor lizards, crocodiles, and more! They are either animals rescued from poachers, bought as pets that got too big, found injured and nursed back to health, or taken as babies when their mothers were killed by poachers. But it was a great experience seeing His creation and some of the people here's respect for it, petting lions, and feeding baby monkeys and baboons with bottles :-)
Then, Sunday, we attended a meeting here in Bulawayo. It was a combined meeting with all of the meeting areas in the city. What a wonderful time of singing! We sang for about an hour, everything from old English stuff, to songs written in Ndebele and Shona (two of the more prominent languages spoken here), to things we sing in the states from popular artists! The passion in singing here is amazing! I loved so much being in a meeting that literally danced to Him as His word describes! We then ended up the weekend with a weekly gathering of some of the Ms here to fellowship, watch a DVD of meetings from America, and, of course, eat ;-)
Monday, we then went out to the "squatters village" which is just what it sounds like. It is made of people who used to have homes, but were destroyed when it was determined that it was an "eyesore" to the city, forcing these people to make new homes out of anything they can find in the city. Many of the people there feel much like outcasts and have a difficult time finding places to meet that are close enough that they feel they "fit in" and are accepted among. So a group goes out on Mondays to help lead in singing and to teach from His word, so the people there have a place to learn if they have never heard, or to grow as many are new to Him. It's so sweet; there is even a young woman who comes with us who leads the children in song, games, and simple stories just outside of where we meet. We often take for granted having a place for our children to go and learn while we sing, but this is one of the firsts I've seen in Africa, especially in such a rural area. The kids come, not only with their parents, but walk for miles in groups to attend, even if their parents are not interested; it's wonderful to see the kids excited about that!
Finally, starting on Tuesday, I've been working with one of the local Doctors here. She is an amazing young doctor with a passion for her patients, and, more importantly for Him. We've been bouncing around between the hospital, an outpatient clinic, and an HIV/AIDS clinic. Oh, how much I have learned from each place, and how much I thank Him for every opportunity! Not only are we able to care for physical needs (as much as possible with the very limited resources), but there is no kind of restriction on how we may care for spiritual needs as well. The Doctor I am with is an excellent example of how to both talk to Him about the patients, and to talk to the patients about Him. She never ceases to amaze me with her faith in what can be done. When it seems impossible for a patient to get the medication or treatment they need, she is ever trusting that He will find a way, as she should be! Because He always does through this servant I am so privileged to work with!
It is hard, I admit, to see the people in such great need for medical care and trapped in such limited and often hopeless situations. The HIV/AIDs rate here is staggering as are the often curable in the States, but possibly deadly here diseases that plague the people here. However, I find encouragement in His love for them and in how it is being displayed through His servants and their care. My only heartache is that there are not more here to shower His love down on these broken and often very open and searching people. But the joy is obvious on the faces of the ones who serve Him here. They are continually blessed to be a part of His harvest and delight in guiding the lost to their King. It sometimes almost makes me hurt even more for those who know Him back home, and yet, for whatever reason, never get to be apart of this harvest, of this light for Him.
Anyways, I continue to cherish the opportunities He gives and ask for continued prayer that I would do nothing but glorify His name while I'm here. I ask for prayer for all the workers here and for the hearts of those they are working on. A little more than a week and I will leave this place, and my prayer is that what I leave behind is not of me. Thank all of you again, who intercede on the behalf of the people here, your impact will never be known on this earth!
"Our service and love is not first to the harvest, it is to the Master of the harvest!" - D.S.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to post. Communications in and out of Zimbabwe are a little less than reliable ;-) But, I'll give all of y'all a quick update on what I've been up to for the past week and a half.
The flight here was...interesting to say the least. My first flight to D.C. was uneventful. I arrived and got ready for my flight out of the country (but not before taking the wrong shuttle several times and getting myself sufficiently lost only to find, in the end, that my next gate was directly next to the one I had just gotten off from ;-). I waited in line for my boarding pass for at least an hour, it gave me a good chance to get to know some of the people on my flight. I found that I was one of the very few Americans on this flight, and the only female American. I sat next to a seemingly irritated Ethiopian man who said about 7 words to me the entire 14 hour flight. They ran out of baggage space, so I sat with my very large backpack on my feet the entire way. The plane had to stop to re-fuel in Rome. As we were descending the pilot warned us of upcoming turbulence and had everyone buckled in, including the 16, that's right, 16 infants on our flight. No sooner had the flight attendants buckled into their seats did the plane free fall several hundred feet. Though everyone was very vocal about the experience and some bags got thrown around (mine was fine, wedged in so tightly between my legs and seat ;-), amazingly, everyone was strapped in and no one was hurt.
The rest of the flight through Rome and into Ethiopia was uneventful. However, when we finally landed in Ethiopia I was slightly taken aback when, as we touched down, rolled past first, a field of donkeys, then what appeared to be a crashed airplane, then a wrecked bus, and finally settled down next to an outhouse. At this point, we were running about an hour late, putting me very close to my connecting flight. So, after finally communicating my issue to the flight attendant (who's spoke very little English) she said she would arrange for someone to get me off first and to my flight on time. Little did I know that these "arrangements" really meant me and a heavily armed member of the Ethiopian military sprinting down the side of the runway to my plane. But I made it and sat next to two very talkative Zimbabweans for the rest of the flight. We had to refuel, once again, and pick up some passengers in the Congo. It was quite interesting watching the on-coming passengers, and I was quite thankful I was not one of them as their bags were completely emptied on the runway, and then they themselves were patted down and all but strip searched. When we were finally loaded up, we made the final hop over to Zimbabwe. Surprisingly, I had no issues with visas or customs. My bags were not even checked and I just walked right out. (which some of the teams cannot say, they had laptops taken, candy eaten, and slim jims confiscated (my slim jims made it just fine:-))
After being picked up by the Ms and spending the night in Harare, the capital city, we headed to their home town, Bulawayo. We were soon joined by a team from Kentucky and we then headed out to "the bush", which was, in our case, a town called Binga. Binga has been hit hard by the economical downfall and lack of food in the country over the past few years and many people have barely, if enough, to get by. However, HE is at work in Binga. It was really great to meet with the Zimbabweans there who are passionately working to spread the gospel in that area. They are making very good progress on their own and are beginning to build churches. This is always the best way to see churches begun, with local people on the forerun. They are doing great things and really trusting their Father with their work. They, however, are in great need of teaching and leadership instruction and are so eager to learn! We had some opportunities for the guys from the team to do some teaching with them and it was very well received. We got to be a part of the makings of 2 new meetings getting started. They are not there yet, by any means, so please pray for the potential meetings of the Binga area. That they would remain faithful, that they would form a loving community together, and that their leaders would be able to guide the meeting in a wise and fruitful direction.
That's all for now. I hope to be able to update you again soon as I begin to explore possible medical opportunities while I'm here. Thank you everyone for speaking for me and your interest in the people of Zimbabwe.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I leave, exactly 8 1/2 hours from when I'm writing this, for Zimbabwe. It may be my 4th trip to Africa, but...the "night before" always feels the same...as if I'm about to embark on a great adventure! And yet, it doesn't quite feel real...I'm going where? It'll sink in about 2 or 3 plane rides in...
I spent today packing, which was a huge mess, but I got it done, and with just a few lbs to spare!! lol
"Look at the nations and watch—
Sunday, July 5, 2009
It was definitely not me who spent most of the week eating mostly frozen pizza, lean pockets, and instant pasta dishes because I was too lazy to cook for myself.
It was not me that pretended to refill a child’s cup of water by just walking out the classroom door, standing there for about 15 seconds, and then walking right back in when he refused to drink the “old” water that he had taken only 1 sip of (that had been sitting on the counter for no more than 10 min).
It was certainly not me that wrote an entire paper, got an A on it, but could not tell you, even 3min after writing it, what in the world it was about.
Of course, it was not me that used the wrong character’s name all the way until the end of my Sunday story, realized it, and had to stretch the story out so I would have time to gradually switch the name and ask enough questions of my students to convince myself that they had, in fact, learned the correct name.
And finally, it was soo not me who got her foot so stuck in the mud while 4 wheeling last weekend that I almost completely lost my shoe to the mud pit.
Happy Monday Everyone!!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
But still, I did change it… a little. Someone is a little less confused and scared and feels a little more unworthy; a little more loved. And it did change me… a little. I’m a little simpler, searching a little harder. And, thank goodness; I’m a little more broken.
As my next trip to Africa approaches very quickly, I've looked back on some of the things I wrote/learned after my previous trips. I wrote this the day after I got back from my very first trip. It was true then and it continues to be true after each and every return trip I've made...and I hope and pray that it remains true every time...
Sunday, June 21, 2009
5. He's willing to be crazy with me. Whether it's taking a stupid picture, dancing in the middle of Epcot's Morocco, skiing down a mountain slope that is way too advanced for us, climbing a waterfall right next to the "for your safety, do not climb" sign, or jumping out of an airplane, he is not confined to the "normal" way of thinking, just like me!
4. He can look closer and see the little things better than anyone else I know. A flower just about to bloom, a tide pool teaming with almost microscopic life, a thunderstorm just rolling in, the tiny parts of a car/radio/computer/etc. that make it run, a hawk swooping down in a field to catch a snake, he knows how and where to look for the amazing little things that I never would have noticed without him there to teach me how to see them.
3. He dose nothing "half-way". He is and has always been the kind of example that me and my brothers can look at to see how to do our best. Even something that is hard or way beyond what we think we can do, he not only encourages us to, but also shows us how to put our all into whatever we do. "Just enough to scoot by" is not how HE lived, and is not how we should either.
2. He is a leader and a protector. Always doing his best to lead our family in an honorable way, he looks out for our family and guards it as he would a precious jewel.
1. My Master and his Master are the same. Need I say more? He is honorable, trustworthy, respectable, and loving because of the One from whom all those attributes stem from. He would not be the father he is without HIM, and recognizing and clinging to that is what makes my daddy stand miles above others in my eyes.
Happy Fathers day, Daddy! I love you!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
1. 16 1/2 years old. I'm sitting at a red light, windows down...singing (Yes...loud country). A old biker with a very long white beard pulls up, unbeknownst, next to me. He apparently enjoys the country music also. He sticks his head into my window to tell me about it. All I see is, all of the sudden, an old creepy biker with his head (and beard) in my car saying in his gruff biker voice: "Hey, babydoll!". I scream and roll up my window...almost trapping his beard in the window, and proceed to stare straight ahead for another awkward 2 min while I wait to the light to change.
2. 18 years old. I'm singing (yes, again) and a bug flies in my mouth! Not just near my mouth or slightly in where I can spit it out easily...NO. IN my mouth. As in I almost choke on it and then have to pull this huge wasp looking thing out of the back of my throat with my fingers!! ewwww
3. 18 1/2 years old. The last straw. Driving through a construction zone...windows down...not singing this time. I stop to let a concrete flattener thing pass by...and...a bird flies into my car!!! YES! a bird! IN my car!! What are the chances?! It flapped around in my dashboard/windshield area for a bit. My first and only reaction was to scream and throw my hands into the air...yeah, I actually threw my hands up by my ears. It left pretty quickly, but from then on, I swore...those windows were staying up!
1 reason why I CAN'T WAIT to ride with the windows down:
1. There is no AC in cars in Africa. Like ever really. It is blazing hot and you get into a stuffy, often dirty taxi cab and you have one question in your mind..."do the windows go down?" And the most wonderful feeling in the world is when (whether you crank it, it falls, it never went up in the first place cuz it's stuck, or you use a wrench on a bolt to crank it down) the window offers a refreshing and glorious breeze to blow through your hair, across your face, and throughout the car. Putting the windows down here, I can almost smell Africa...wind, fish, the ocean, bakeries...I can feel Africa...I can feel the refreshing breeze coming across that same ocean and into my car.
And so I risk the birds, bees, and bikers, just for a little taste, a little reminder, of the country, I love :-)
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Mama doesn’t reply. She sits, perfectly still except for the sharp rising of her chest as she gasps for breaths between the sobs, and the tears that stream down her beautiful, chocolate colored skin. We sit in silence for what seems like ages. After a few feeble attempts to ask her what happened, I realize that I should probably be thankful she does not answer. It would only make things worse for her to want to open up and talk to me, and have to deal with my lack of knowledge of the language, and ask her to repeat her sad story over and over again, and then, still, quite possibly, not understand. I finally just lean over and hug the child. Though we had become friends in the few weeks I had been there, I still had been debating in my mind what level our relationship was at, and how to appropriately comfort her in this unheard of situation. My fears were proved illogical as she desperately hugged back, as though it was the first she had ever received. I periodically loosened my grip slightly, inviting her to pull away if she so desired, but she only hugged tighter, her sobs now increasing and her tears flowing freely.
After the hug had lasted several minutes, I pulled her arms off of me, and pulled her up onto my lap. Not wanting to leave her yet, I started singing. Softly, and in a language she didn’t understand, but about my master who loved this little child, none the less. As we rocked gently to the music, her sobs subsided, and her tears slowed. I nodded at Grace’s questioning face, telling her it was okay for her to go, knowing that the time she has spent sitting humbly off to the side had been filled with speaking for this broken child. We sat for what seemed like hours, as I did my best to cover her arms from the mosquitoes that had begun to swarm us. She seemed to have no desire to go anywhere, and I took joy in just being with her. Speaking flowed from my songs and my heart for this girl, wise beyond her years, and hungry for love. A piece of my heart became hers as we sat there, covered in bites, tears, and sweat, as praises and cries to the King lifted from a little compound in West Africa, cries for a little girl who needed her daddy.
I could not tell you how much time had passed as we sat there, nor, did it matter. With a tight squeeze, I turned the child around on my lap to face me. I pulled her downcast chin up towards my face, and wiped her tears with my fingers. The mixture of French and Wolof flowed, flawlessly, from my lips as I spoke the words I had come to believe she had never heard before: “Mama, don’t cry. Listen to me, and don’t forget what I say.” A slight nod, showed she followed my mix of her two heart languages. “You are so pretty. You are very smart. You are special. Do you know that?” she looked down and didn’t reply. I gave her a tight hug. This time she didn’t hug back, just leaned her head on my shoulder. As I let go, I sat her up straight and leaned my head down to her level, not wanting her to miss what I wanted so much to tell this child. As I looked into her big, brown eyes, my heart poured out to her; “Mama, do you know that I love you?” A slight smile and a confident nod melted my heart, but this was not what I really wanted her to know. “Mama, do you know that HE loves you?” Slightly puzzled, yet intrigued, her face turned up, and with a questioning look, asked “who?”. “HIM”, I replied, and she nodded. I knew that this was odd to her. I knew she had never been told this before. But her nod encouraged me; gave me a confidence in the remainder of our time in her compound. I left her that evening, sending her back into her house with her mother and 5 siblings, knowing that nothing in the world could now stop me from spending the rest of my time there pouring out HIS love on this beautiful little girl.
Monday, June 1, 2009
And it's a good thing I finally have some. Two of my very good friends are recently engaged, which means...bridesmaid dresses to pick out! And with one wedding sneaking up on us in December, we spent the day out trying on wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses and having measurements taken :-)
And, I must mention that I am thrilled to now have a new class from my meeting supporting me and the Ms that I'll be working with this summer! They are wonderful people and so thrilled to be involved; it really warms my heart. More to come on them as we get closer to the trip!
And finally...my birthday is very soon, and I will be.....skydiving!! That's right...am I crazy? We'll see...It's scheduled for this coming Saturday, so check back soon for pictures and a story!!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Now, It had been a while since I'd been to the science center and I didn't really remember what was going to be there, much less what our developmentally delayed, motor disabled students would enjoy, but I was cautiously optimistic that it would be a good day, and....
I think those faces speak pretty well for the day. :-D
There really was a pretty wide variety of things for the kids to do; things to feel, hear, see, touch, play with and do, so no one was left out regardless of their abilities.
Though we were in groups most of the time, we each had a child assigned us for the day (I was with the little girl in the purple who is in the first picture) for whom we decided which activities would be best and most enjoyable for them. And, though everyone had fun, and I may be a tad biased, but I really think that my child may have had the best time of all! (not because I was with her or anything, just her personality and excitement and willingness to try anything we did!)
We played in "kids town" in the water with the boats and waterfalls, which was fun, but very wet! We saw fish, turtles, alligators, lizards, snakes, and, a group favorite, sting rays.
And we went to an interactive center with sounds, lights, electricity, musical contraptions, slides, air guns, and something that (almost) everyone loved, the "hurricane simulator" (I know, in my state, right, haha)
This was probably #1 or #2 on our list of favorites right up there with the "stomach slide". We "rode" it, I think, about 5 times!
All in all, a good day.... My kids never fail to make me smile!