Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

Thanks Daddy for always supporting my dream to come to Africa. Thanks for always saying that I will be the safest if I am living inside of God's will even if I am in a dangerous place than if I was out of God's will and in a safe environment. This is something that has stuck in my mind and I have quoted you on this several times in response to people asking me, "what do your parents think of you coming to Africa?" I hear of people who struggle going out onto the "mission field" because their family is so against them going. I have never gotten that from you and I am very, very, thankful. Your support means so much and I usually fail to thank you. Thank you for trusting God with my life and dedicating me to Him. Thank you for praying with me and for me. Thank you for rejoicing with me and for encouraging me even though finances can look scary sometimes. I am on the journey of learning to trust Him. Thank you for being such a faithful father. You have taught me a lot and have helped me grow in my relationship with my Savior. Your reverence to Him sticks out in my mind. Keep imitating our Heavenly Father. I love you!

Happy Father's Day!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Everyday Life in Zambia

Here are some fun cultural observations and experiences that I have had...

Learning to greet many, many people, both friends and strangers. Greetings are much more valued here than in some places in the West. Even when walking out in public it is common to greet people as you pass each other. I don't think that the phrase "Don't talk to strangers" is commonly taught here. One of my favorite Bemba phrases is now "Mwashibukeni" which is "Good Morning." "Mulishani" is another common greeting which means "How are you?" Then, almost every time, the response is bwino, "fine." Also, they are not always asking how you are doing, sometimes they are but other times it is simply part of the greeting. I've said hello (in English) and the person will say that they are fine without me even asking them which shows how it can be just part of the greeting. And then I also remember being confused when I first heard someone say to me, "you are fine." Sometimes their words are switched and they do not always raise their voice when asking that question. But saying "you are fine" is the same as if I said "Are you fine/doing well?" Also, their handshakes are much cooler than ours are.

Having an abundance of awkward silences. For many Zambians its not as awkward as an American would think it is. I'm getting used to it.

Having the electricity turn off almost every evening, in the place I'm currently staying, usually for an hour or two. Even though it can interfere with cooking and the gas stoves have to be pulled out and turned on, there are certain things about the electricity being off that I am beginning to love. Some nights we have storytelling which is when one member of the team shares their life story/testimony. Just so you know, it's much better by candlelight. We have all of our meals and story times out on the porch around a picnic table and the weather in the evenings are wonderful.

Walking through the villages and hearing shouts of "Mazungu!" from the children is something that makes me smile. That is not really how you spell Mazungu but it basically means "white person." Its kinda like "Where's Waldo." The kids start shouting and pointing when they see a Mazungu. Even though most are excited and happy about seeing a white person, there are some smaller children who scream and cry because they are scared of us.


Having crowds of children watch you do things like they are watching a movie. Last week when I was in a village, me and a few others were cutting vegetables outside of a house and lots of kids just come and stand in front us and stare. This is many of many experiences of being intently watched by little children.

Trying to get used to using Kwacha, the currency in Zambia. Its a little over 5000 Kwacha per US dollar. So something like a small jar of peanut butter might cost around 16,000 Kwacha.

Washing clothes by hand.

Eating nshima and rice, nshima and rice, nshima and rice...and then actually craving them when you don't have nshima and rice. Kind of strange...

Riding on the public transport called a "mini-bus." From where I'm staying, it costs 2500 Kwacha (50 cents) to hitch a ride to town which is a couple of miles down the road. You just walk to the main road and wait for a mini-bus to come and you hop on and tell them where along the road to drop you off. Sometimes the buses are already packed but it's funny how many people they still let in. One time I sat on a friends lap because it was so full. Also, seatbelts and safety are not so much the thing here.

Going "off-roading" as one guy joked about. Sometimes, when driving a vehicle, they will swerve way over to avoid the potholes, even swerving off the road. Its fun to go zig-zagging down the street.

Riding on the left side of the road messing with my brain because it's so backward.

Trying to get used to saying "I'm going to use the toilet" instead of "I'm going to the bathroom." Very awkward.

Calling cookies "biscuits."

Being scared when someone said that they had "the flu" and hoping that I would not catch it. Later I found out that Zambians call the "flu" what we call a "cold." I was very relieved!

Realizing that I will not see rain for two and a half straight months.

Seeing hundreds of people walk or ride bicycles alongside of the the roads every day wondering how there are not more accidents. It is not uncommon for vehicles to pass pedestrians coming within inches apart from each other.

Swimming, bathing, and washing dishes in Lake Tanganyika is a very unique experience.

Getting electric shocks when touching the shower nobs is quite exciting. Last week someone even said that the water in the pot that was used for cooking was conducting electricity so I stuck my hand in, and yep, it was. And some of you know that electric shocks are not exactly my thing.

Knowing that I don't have "African eyes." Many Zambians can see and walk in the dark much easier than people from the Western world can.

Realizing that no matter how much someone might protest, cultural values, ideas, and practices are deeply ingrained in people. Going to another culture helps me see this a lot more clearly than I did before.

Congratulations to those of you who read through this whole list. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

From Leaps to Steps

Imagine going to Africa for a summer and coming back without a huge, impressive story to tell. Something that I want to be able to say at the end of the summer is that my trip was absolutely life-changing, that God worked in incredible visible ways, that my spiritual life grew in leaps and bounds. These types of things have been on my mind recently. And they are wonderful to pray for, but I was getting to the point that I was worried and felt stressed out that something crazy-out-of-the-ordinary was not happening. Yes, I'm enjoying exploring different aspects of the culture, meeting lots of great people, and getting my feet wet in various areas but I was letting fear hinder me. My fear was that I would finish my trip and not be able to report that it totally changed my life. I feared that maybe it would be mediocre or that the trip would be less than I expected it to be.

As I was travelling to a village by boat a few days ago (I will post about that experience soon) I had a good conversation with a Zambian gentleman who challenged me to concentrate on the small things. He didn't know it but he talked through some that I had been struggling with. It was basically a mini-sermon on the boat ride. It was great. He was passionate about helping others grow in Christ. During our conversation he mentioned how people tend to want to jump to do BIG things for God. We want to go to Africa and be used in incredible ways that impress others and that make us feel accomplished! He was right. I was convicted but was also encouraged to focus on the small things and to be faithful with them. This removes some of the pressure of waiting for something huge to come along. Maybe God wants to work in ways that are not so obvious or that just take longer to realize how he is working. Yes, God is working in wonderful ways here and he is growing me in my walk with him but I cannot be obsessed with waiting for one or two incredible events to happen. I might miss out on the beauty and blessings and growth that happen in daily life. And God uses seemingly small things to change our lives such as some of the conversations I've had recently. The man I talked to used the illustration that if we try to take huge leaps we will be clumsy and off balance. If we are willing to take small steps toward what God is preparing for us then we will be steady on our feet and will learn how to humbly and passionately live for Him.

This is not supposed to be a disappointment or a downer even though that is what it feels like sometimes. It is meant to be a reminder and a challenge to seek God without being distracted when there is a lack of "fireworks" events. Praise God that he works in other ways as well! I love my faithful God. And whatever He continues to do with my time in Africa it will be rich and beautiful and I want it to honor Him with however He chooses to work. Please pray that I will learn how to faithfully walk closely to Him even if the steps seem small.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ray of Hope

I want to tell you about one of my experiences that I had last week. It was on a sunny Tuesday afternoon and I was joining the team that was in charge of the sports ministry. This ministry has organized sports teams, such as soccer, for young men. They also go out into communities and play games with children. So last week we climbed into the back of what they call "the long-bus" which is simply a pickup with a cover over the truck bed. In Zambia they are not as concerned about seat belts so we just hopped in the back and sat on the mattress that is provided for comfort. We went across town to the largest village in the area. It has a population of about 90,000. When we arrived we got out and started handing out copies of the gospel of John to people that were near. A friend and I got asked to dance by a drunk man, we declined his offered, and continued passing out Bibles as we walked on our way. A few minutes later we got to the place where we were greeted by a group of children who were eager to play games with people who cared about them. The program was very simple. We played a few games, sang songs with them, and helped them memorize a bible verse. When I was observing one of the activities, one of the leaders of the sports ministry took me aside and explained further about the community, about the lives of the children, as well as how the ministry has had a tremendous impact on the lives of these children and teens. Alcohol addiction is a serious problem for many of the fathers and some of the mothers. This leads to thousands of children living in the villages who are fatherless or who don't receive proper care from their fathers. Many of the children grow up in desperate need of guidance while their fathers are spending their time in one of the many pubs that are sprinkled all throughout the villages.
Lazarous praying with children in Makalulu during Global Day of Prayer
The men at OM who faithfully venture out into these communities seek to guide these children and desire for them to know Christ. They act as fathers to many children and teens who need love and attention that is not always received at home. I was somewhat depressed as I walked through the village and saw the poverty and thought about how many people were in need, physically and spiritually. There is so much need among the thousands of people living in just this one community. But that afternoon, as I observed the activities and learned about the lives of the children, I caught more of the passion that these men had for them. They offer a ray of hope in the midst of what sometimes seems a hopeless place. Please pray for this ministry that God would use even these few men, ministering throughout Kabwe, to introduce these children to Jesus Christ, who is the only one who can give them life.