Monday, March 31, 2008

Meet Our Team

I know we have talked a lot about some of our team members, but we thought we would use this post to formally introduce you to the team. These are our family away from home. Starting from left to right:

Megan Bloemker (black shirt, 2nd from left)
Megan is a single missionary who has been here 2 years. She is from Illinois. Currently she is working with community schools. She is our AskJeeves of Zambia. If there is something you need to know, no matter how trivial, she probably has the answer.

Luke & Elise Whitfield (far left and standing behind Megan)
Many of you may or may not know, but Luke and I served a summer in Kenya with Teen Missions International back in 1995. Luke and Elise have four children (Macie, Emma, Payton & Marley).  Marley, their 6 week old, also has a Zambian name - Taziona, which means "We have seen it!"  They have been here a little over one year and are also from Illinois. Luke is a gifted evangelist.

Tim and Andrea Hilty (next couple from the left): 
Tim is our field director and oversees the C.R.O.S.S. project for Action Zambia. The C.R.O.S.S. Project is the HIV/AIDS ministry which stands for Churches Ready to Overcome Silence and Stigma. They are parents to two children, one adopted (Ireene) and one born just weeks ago (Ian). They have been here for two years.

Us: You know us already.

Steve and Stephanie Allen (to the right of us)
Kerri and I met the Allens at orientation a little over a year ago. Steve is a gifted teacher and works on the Pastor Leadership and Development team. He is also a gifted writer. If you get a chance, check out his blog: The Allens are about to be parents to 4 (Kamryn, Bradyn, Julia & ?). They will be traveling back to the States in June for the birth of their baby.

Tracey and Karen Singleton: 
Tracey and Karen arrived on the field a month before we did. Tracey was a senior pastor back in Illinois. He has also come to serve on the PLD team. He will be spearheading the development of a Bible Institute aimed at educating pastors here in Zambia. Tracey and Karen have 4 grown children back in the States. Their youngest is in college.  They are the only grandparents on our team!  

Glenn and Liese Ripley: 
The Ripley’s are our veteran couple. They opened the field for ACTION close to 7 years ago. Glenn heads up the Pastor Leadership and Development Team. Liese has a thriving women’s bible study. They are parents to 3 sons back in the States and 2 adopted children (Gift & Grace) here in Zambia.  We are constantly benefitting from the Ripley's knowledge and experience as Glenn is conducting our orientation classes and Liese our language classes.

Manyando – The Ripley’s dog:
The name is a Tonga word meaning “Trouble.” She wasn’t supposed to be in the picture, but snuck out of the gate at the last minute.

Graham and Sarah Melville: 
Graham and Sarah are our only non-US couple. They are originally from the U.K. but had been living in California before they came to Zambia. They are parents to two children (Phillip and Rachel). Graham & Sarah are the office gurus (not necessarily by choice). Graham also serves on the Pastor Leadership and Development Team helping to train Zambian pastors. The Melville’s have been here for 6 months.  We love it when Graham says, "I say..."

So, that's all of us!  Please pray for our team!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Prayer for Our Neighbors

This weekend, elections are being held in Zimbabwe. I don't know if it is a result of being closer to the situation, or not, but my heart has been burdened to pray for the people of this nation and to ask others to do the same.  I found a good article, which discusses some of the challenges that they face. Please be in prayer for our neighbors to the South.

In an Online Article from the Washington Post:

"What distinguishes this election from the previous ones is that we have 150,000% inflation. We have never had an atmosphere where people are so desperate. Even some of the security forces are openly refusing to salute Mugabe. Within the security forces themselves, there are divisions and fissures.

In eight years, Zimbabwe's once-prosperous economy has been destroyed, primarily through Mr. Mugabe's policy of seizing farms from 4,000 white farmers and distributing them to the elite of his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party.

Once the bread basket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe is now a basket case, with the world's highest inflation rate, unemployment at 80% and critical shortages of almost everything.

A loaf of bread costs Z$25-million, about half a farm worker's monthly salary. Basic supplies are so expensive and scarce that housewives are said to buy carved-off slivers of soap, and cooking oil is sold by the spoonful.

A quarter of the population has already fled the country (and cannot vote), while one in three families depends on remittances from relatives abroad. The UN's World Food Program says more than three million Zimbabweans cannot feed themselves.

'If Mugabe wins, you can expect a huge exodus of people into surrounding countries,' Mr. Shumba said. 'We may need international intervention to prevent a disaster.'"

To read the full article go to:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Night Rider

I was driving home the other night and contemplating the roads here in Zambia. The roads during the day are quite difficult to navigate, but at night, they are chaotic. Not only do you have to be on the lookout for pot holes that can rip the suspension right out from underneath your car, you have to be on the lookout for Zambians walking & riding bikes on the sides of the road--often in the road. You also have to dodge oncoming traffic who is also trying to dodge potholes and walking/bike riding Zambians.

This particular night, the roads were much darker than normal--so much that it caught my attention. I was on one of the main roads, which by Zambian standards is well lit, but by American standards was not. This is an understatement, but I was having a hard time seeing the road. When I reached the roundabout near our house, I turned off of the main road onto one of the back roads. It was at this time that God revealed something to me about why Zambia was so dark at night. I had my headlights off. Just thought you would appreciate my moment of great revelation.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Laundry, Laundry Everywhere

The Roberts family, in order to avoid the Putsi Flies and in the absence of a dryer, have resorted to hanging laundry wherever we can find a spot!
Here in Zambia we have Putsi Flies which like to lay eggs on damp clothing.  The larvae will hatch when in contact with the warmth of your body and burrough into the skin.  You then develop what looks like a big zit, but when you squeeze it, out comes a worm!!  

Because of this, if you must hang your laundry out to dry (which we do because our dryer has been backordered for a month!) then it all has to be ironed to kill any putsi eggs.  It's very time consuming to have to iron everything you wash - including underwear - so we've resorted to hanging some of our laundry inside!  Those bars on the windows sure do come in handy!

Safari Monday

Monday was a Zambian holiday.  So, Kerri and I decided to take the kids to a Safari about 30 minutes from town.  The name of the place we went was Protea.  The kids really enjoyed the trip.  They got to crawl into the cage where they kept one of the male lions.  We were literally 2 feet away from a fully grown African lion.  Of course, there was a nice steel gate between us and the lion, but it truly was a memorable experience.  In fact, when the lion saw Maddie, he perked up a little as if he were about to get a snack.  Anyways, here are some of the pictures from our trip.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Party Slideshow

On Easter Sunday, we had the privilege of assisting other ACTION missionaries in throwing an Easter party for two separate orphanages here in Zambia.  Take a look at this slide show of pictures taken at the party.  Click on the link below.  You will be taken to the Allen's website.  The video is at the bottom of the posting.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He Has Risen!

Happy Easter? No, Glorious Easter! This morning in church, we listened to Abusa Jaffett (Pastor Jaffet) preach on our risen Savior. Pastor Jaffett is the associate pastor of a small church in the Chilenje compound. In his sermon, the pastor said, “He has Risen. That is Fact!” I then went back and read Mark 16:9-13. Listen to the account of Christ’s resurrection: “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…She went and told those who had been with him and who were morning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.” These same men who had walked with Jesus, seen his miracles and experienced His love, did not believe that he had risen. And what was their reaction? Hopelessness. It says that they were morning and weeping.

I then started thinking about the disciples after they finally did believe that He had Risen, and after they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter who had denied Christ 3 times at the crucifixion, preached with boldness and eventually suffered a martyr’s death. In fact, 11 of the 12 disciples suffered death for refusing to deny their faith in the risen Christ.

What changed? Why did these scared 12 who were initially in hiding because of their associations with Jesus turn into the bold 12? Because He had Risen. There is no other explanation. What I was reminded of is that without the resurrection, there is hopelessness, but with it there is Faith. Without the resurrection there is mourning, but with it there is Joy. Without the resurrection there is fear, but with it there is boldness.

That then got me thinking about my own walk with the Lord. What if the fact that He has Risen was at the forefront of my thoughts? What if it guided my every action? I must confess, a lot of my days are not lived in the reality that He has Risen. But what if they were? Wouldn’t I look different? Would I not approach life differently, with a joy that surpasses comprehension and a boldness that is willing to lay everything down for the sake of the gospel? These are just some of the things that God has had me thinking about as we celebrate our first Easter in Zambia.

May you be encouraged this day that the grave is empty and He has Risen.

Quick Posts (03/23/08)

Morning visit to the orphanage:
Being that tomorrow will be Easter, we thought it would be a good idea to do a small devotional with the orphans at the Bill and Bette Bryant Center. The children and I rehearsed the story of David and Goliath and then performed in front of the orphans. Since most of the children only speak Nyanja, the house mother, Eva, translated while Kerri read the story. They all seemed to enjoy the reenactment. After David and Goliath, we read the Easter story.

Afternoon Birthday Celebrations:
Today, we celebrated Caleb and Maddie’s birthdays. Caleb is now 7 years old and Maddie will be 1 next Sunday. Kerri baked a couple of cakes and invited some of our fellow missionary friends and their children over to play. It’s hard to believe just how fast children grow up. It seems like yesterday that Caleb was just a baby.

Evening Outreach:
This evening, Steve Allen invited me to go with him to Kanyama. There was a local church that was showing the Passion of the Christ video for outreach. Steve and I were there mainly to help setup and provide the projector and movie. A small miracle happened while we were there. The DVD player we were using had no remote and we were unable to turn on the subtitles for the DVD, Being that the movie was in Aramaic, the people attending probably wouldn’t be able to fully keep up with what was going on. After about 30 minutes, someone arrived with another DVD, but this one also had no remote. The neat thing is that when we turned it on, it defaulted to English subtitles and voiceovers. The event went really well. There were about 300-400 in attendance. One of the pastors gave a gospel presentation after the video to which several people responded.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bill & Betty Bryant Center (03/15/08)

This morning, we went as a family back to the orphanage. We took balloons and coloring books. This time most of the children remembered us. Lydia was one of the first into the room and ran over to greet me. As the children came into the room, we began blowing up balloons. Caleb and Gracyn handed me balloons while I tried to blow them up as quickly as possible. Kerri went over to the table in the living room and broke out the coloring books. As the children got a balloon, they would then head over to the table to color. It was fun watching these children who have nothing light up when we brought them something as simple as coloring books and balloons. It was also fun watching our children interact and minister to these orphans. Gracyn really enjoyed playing with some of the younger children. She had a few little boys who she was chasing around and tickling and they loved it. They just kept giggling. And Caleb was Mr. Helpful. He would fetch new balloons when the children popped the ones that we first gave them. He also got involved in a game of chase outside with some of the older children. Seeing our children involved in ministry was truly a blessing and one in which we probably experienced too little of back in the States.

One of our fellow missionaries and friends here recently expressed a similar sentiment about his children being involved in ministry. I thought it would be good to highlight his thoughts from his blog, as they are some of the same thoughts that God has been bringing to my heart and mind. In his blog, he wrote:

“This got me wondering about how strategic we are in preparing our kids to serve and minister when they get older. We have soccer and horseback riding and music class and this club and that club which are great. But, I just wonder how will they learn how to love the poor and serve the hurting and minister to the world if it isn't a priority of our family growing up. If all they have ever known was serving the poor, being uncomfortable and watching God work through them, I think they would be adequately prepared to live out Ephesians 2:10! I was challenged by this because I think sometimes I try to entertain my children and give them opportunities when I should be not only giving them lots of opportunities to serve but also showing them how to do it as I serve right alongside them. (”

Next week, we will be going back to begin to teach the children some of the stories from the Bible. Caleb and Gracyn will be acting the stories out while we hope to get one of the house mothers to translate for us into Nyanja. Please pray for us. Pray that our children would come to a fuller understanding of the gospel as we minister to these orphans and pray that we would clearly communicate the love of Christ to these children. Pray also for our interaction with the house help and social worker. Pray that we would be able an example of Christ to them as well.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day by Day (by Day by Day)

Many of our friends back in the States have asked us what does your typical day/week look like. Well, this post is meant to describe just that…

Since arriving, the AZ team has been really good about giving us time to settle in. Everyone has pitched in and helped us with many things, from buying furniture, to transportation to and from various meetings, to simply praying for us and for that we are extremely thankful. We thought that once we got here, we would immediately be ready to plug into ministry, but we’ve had to learn to adjust to a non-western, non-task oriented way of thinking. In my mind, we had a checklist: arrive here, move into our home, buy a car, adjust to the culture and then begin ministry—and do this all within 2 weeks. That’s an acceptable amount of time don’t you think? (Maybe in the U.S.) In reality, it was more like arrive here, be broken of our dependence upon things other than God, slowly move into our home, wait on our vehicle to clear customs & wish buying a car wasn’t so difficult, realize just how much of a learning curve there is for this Zambian culture, and fall at the feet of God for help in learning how to live here. And this only took 5 weeks. 

So what about ministry? We have tried to get involved when and where we can (weekly visits to the Bryant Center orphanage, evangelism and outreach downtown, etc…), but there are a few other things that are vying for our attention in these first few months. Currently we are going through a 2-month orientation and language training program. We are meeting three times a week and studying the language on our own 7 days a week. I am also helping out at the office. The AZ office is trying to prepare for an audit and is in the process of switching accounting software. This means the entire fiscal year for 2007 must be reentered and reconciled. Because of my experience in business and accounting systems, I am now assisting the director of operations with this process. Kerri has resumed home-schooling the children, which takes up most of her mornings and early afternoons. This Thursday, she will be singing with two of our other missionaries in an Easter program. And next week she will begin attending a ladies bible study out at the Ministry Center. This study is lead by Liese Ripley and is attended by many Zambian women in the Kasupe community. All-in-all, we have a pretty busy schedule.

Please be in prayer for us. This Friday, after team prayer and worship, we are having a meeting with the field director. We will be discussing our ministry here in Zambia and how we can best assist the team. Our desire is to help the team the best that we can with the gifts and abilities that God has given us. So, please pray for wisdom and vision.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Celebrating 1 Month (03/12/08)

Well, we’ve now been in Zambia for a month, but it feels like much longer. A lot has happened over the last 30+ days and God has taught us a lot in just this short period of time (our kids included). We thought this would be a good time to summarize some of the things we’ve learned, seen, missed & enjoyed.

Things we have learned: 
  • In Africa, things take time. Plan on getting one task done in a day instead of four or five.
  • Our knowledge of the culture and language is small
  • How to say various greetings and phrases in Nyanja.
  • How to eat Nshima
  • How to drive on the left side of the road while shifting gears with the left hand.
  • Living without a TV—what a blessing!!!

Things We Have Seen: 
  • Our children change from not wanting to come here to thanking God in prayer for bringing us here.
  • Suffering: Families who have lost their homes to excessive amounts of rain this year, a son who lost his mother in a robbery and now lives with his aunt and uncle, various everyday people who are struggling to make ends meet. 
  • Critters: A chameleon, a snake, Rats, Extremely Large Snails, Geckos, Spiders (large and small), frogs. Our daughter has gone from crying in fear at the site of such things to trying to catch them all (Spiders, Snakes & Rats excluded of course).

Things we have missed: 
  • Our friends and family. We miss being able to goof off with our buddies and hanging out with our parents whenever we want.
  • A Vehicle to drive. Even though our van was one of the worst vehicles we ever owned, it did work. Here, we’re walking or taking minibuses everywhere.
  • Dining out—Zaxby’s, Grecian Gardens, Chili’s, San Jose, etc…
  • Our Dryer (Still don’t have one)
  • A Dishwasher, our hands are getting tired and skin is drying out from the bleach.

Things we have enjoyed: 
  • Family Time (Devotions, Games, Playing outside). This has been a welcome change.
  • Learning the language and culture—though we don’t know a lot, it has been fun learning the little we have learned.
  • Building relationships with Zambians—very friendly people who are relationship focused.
  • Building relationships with other missionaries. We’ve been blessed with a good group of believers who have treated us like family.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bill and Betty Bryant Center (03/08/08)

This morning, Kerri, the kids & I took a taxi to a nearby orphanage—The Bill & Betty Bryant Center. This particular orphanage is home to toddlers anywhere from1 to 5 years old. The house, which is about 1100 square feet, is a little over a mile from our house. It’s tucked in a small community kind of off the beaten path. It has a living room, kitchen, a room for schooling, and two bedrooms—one for the boys and one for the girls—each filled with bunk beds. When we got there, the housemother, Grace, invited us in. 

When we walked into the living room, the house seemed rather quiet. I don’t know where the children were at the time, but a few minutes later, all 11 children funneled in to greet us and the noise level picked up. When they came into the room, most of them were shy and initially tended to keep their distance by staying on the other side of the room. But there was one brave little girl named Lydia, who made her way across the room. In fact, it didn’t take long for her to muster the courage to climb up into my lap. She was such a cute and quiet little girl. She just sat there in my lap as we spoke to the housemother about all of the children and the orphanage in general. 

As we were talking the other children began to warm up to us being there. Caleb and Gracyn took some of them outside to play with a soccer ball. Once the other kids saw them playing, they all poured out into the driveway to join in, all but Lydia who wouldn’t let me put her down. Kerri and I sat for a few more minutes talking with the housemother and then we joined the fun outside. As the time passed, it was neat to see how each of the children started warming up to Caleb and Gracyn. And it was neat to watch how Caleb and Gracyn reacted to the children. 

After a little more time of playing, it was time for the children of the Bryant Center to eat lunch and it was time for us to leave. So, we said our goodbyes and headed out. We plan on visiting again next Saturday.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Date Night (03/08/08)

Kerri and I had a date night tonight. Date nights in Zambia are a little different than those in the U.S. Whereas in the U.S. you have many choices of where to go and what to do, here, we only have one—Arcades. Arcades is a shopping center about a mile from our house. There, you can watch a movie or go bowling. Since we didn’t feel like having too much of a southern date night, we chose the movies instead of bowling. 

The theater here is comparable to ones in the U.S. except in cost. For the two of us to get tickets it cost 23,000 kwacha—about $6.00. What’s funny is that our cokes and popcorn cost almost just as much—20,000 kwacha. And while everything else is so slow in getting to Africa, apparently the movies are not. So, no, we didn’t go and watch the sneak preview to the Goonies or ET.  We watched a new release. After the movie was over, Kerri and I both commented to each other on how weird it is to have such a westernized experience and then step back outside into Africa.

A special thanks to the Allens who watched our kids and let us borrow their car. We couldn’t have had date night without them.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

City Market Evangelism (03/04/08)

This morning, Luke Whitfield, a fellow missionary, invited me to go with him into Soweto to do some street evangelism. Soweto is a part of downtown Lusaka, where the city market is located. It is not common for Mzungus (White People) to be anywhere in or around Soweto. In fact, as we were walking through one of the congested streets, one Zambian man made the comment “Mzungus in Soweto,” because he was so surprised to see us. There were street vendors on top of street vendors selling anything from electronics, to live chickens, to kapenta (dried out fish minnows). There was enough trash, mud and other debris on the ground that you had to watch each step so you didn’t trip. But there also were so many people that you couldn’t look down for too long or you would run into them. The smell was also rather putrid because of all the rotten trash on the streets coupled with the fly infested meats being sold out in the open. 

The scene kind of reminded me of our own standing before God apart from His Son Jesus. His Word says that we are dead in our transgressions and sins. There is nothing good inside of us. Our hearts are like this rotten atmosphere in Soweto. We are without hope and without God. 

As we walked through the alleyways and busy aisles we eventually came to a row of street shops that was a little more out in the open than the rest of the aisles. At this point, something rather interesting happened. Luke was talking with another gentleman, when a man named Kaela Musonda, approached me. He said to me “You have a message which I must hear.” I was kind of caught off guard, but more than happy to share with him the message of Hope. After talking, he shared with me his desire to want to begin a relationship with God through repentance and faith in Christ. Please pray for Kaela. Pray that his profession would be authentic and that the seed that was scattered was on good soil. Pray that he will find a local church to plug into and be fed by God’s word. Pray also for Luke and me. We will be going back to Soweto every Tuesday & Thursday in hopes of sharing the gospel & building relationships with some of these guys that we are meeting. Pray concerning the spiritual warfare we know will come our way as a result of proclaiming His gospel in this area of Lusaka. Pray that God would also raise up some Zambian nationals to join us in this ministry.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shopping for Furniture

In the States, when you think of shopping for furniture, you think Haverty’s or some other furniture outlet. Not in Zambia. A couple of weeks ago, Kerri and I had to get some dressers and bookshelves to begin the furnishings of our home. Before today, all of our clothes, books & school supplies have been stacked in cabinets or on floors. So, this purchase will definitely help us to de-clutter some of our house. Anyway, in Zambia, there are very few furniture stores and most of the items in these stores are way too pricey. So, for missionaries, furnishing homes is usually done by shopping on Kalingalinga Road. There, furniture vendors make and sell the furniture on the side of the street and usually at a good price.

Kenyama School and Orphanage (03/03/08)

This morning after staff meeting, I went with Megan to visit Kenyama School & Orphanage. Kenyama was started by an ACTION Missionary 4 years ago. Currently, there are close to 220 children (mostly elementary aged children) from the surrounding community who are attending this school. The school also serves as an orphanage. When we visited in 2005, it was home to over 30 orphans. We’re sure that number has grown, but we don’t know exactly by how much. ACTION now assists this school by doing teacher training, providing biblical curriculum when available, paying teacher salaries and funding a feeding program. While I was there, I walked around the property and spent some time with the children. It seems that they love taking photographs. They were eating lunch in the church when I walked in with my camera. Every time I took a picture, whoever managed to get in the picture would erupt in applause. After taking several pictures, I sat down to show the children the pictures. Several of the children crowded around me just to get a glimpse of themselves in the photo. After spending a few more minutes talking with the children, finding out their names, ages, who was the best football (soccer) player, I scooted out of the side door so as not to disturb their lunchtime any longer. I honestly don’t know who had more fun, me or the children.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Zambian Critters (03/03/08)

Three critter stories from a week ago. The first incident involves our street pup Chiku. I was visiting a compound church with one of the other missionaries, Steve Allen, while Kerri and the kids were back at the house doing church with Stephanie, Steve’s wife, and their children. Kerri was in the living room looking out of the window when she saw Chiku jerking his head back in forth as if he was playing tug-of-war with something. When Kerri got out there, she realized that Chiku had found his first rat (Yeah Chiku!!!). In this case, the rat was already dead, but that didn’t stop Chiku from decapitating the rat and eating its head. Yuck!!!

Incident #2 happened a little after Steve and I got back from visiting with a compound church. All of the kids and adults were in the backyard, when Kerri realized something moving beside the house. It turned out to be a snake. I don’t know what kind, but I don’t think it was poisonous. At least I hope not, because at one point I grabbed it with my hand to keep it from going under the house. After a short struggle, the snake was dead.

Incident #3 involved another rat. Kerri and I were sitting on the front porch just chatting when Kerri saw something out of the corner of her eye. A rat ran across the yard and made his way into the guardhouse. I decided that I would take the initiative and try to do away with this one. I cautiously snuck into the guard house and started moving boxes trying to find the rat’s hiding place. After moving a few boxes, the rat decided he would make a run for it. The only problem was that I was standing between him and the door. So you guessed it, I came flying out of the guard house tripping over everything. The rat made his way out and then escaped over the wall into the next yard.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Zambian Minibus Experience (02/29/08)

If you didn’t know, minibuses are the major form of transportation here in Zambia. With only 5% of the population owning a vehicle, the rest of Lusaka takes a minibus, rides a bike or walks. Our house is about 5 miles from downtown Lusaka. We have a bus stop about 3 blocks from our house. So, this morning, Graham (another ACTION missionary) and I hitched a ride on a minibus. The minibus initially wasn’t as bad as I expected (I had heard horror stories). When we got on the bus, it wasn’t full, which allowed us to choose our seats. We ended up sitting in the back row. As we drove to town, they kept stopping and picking up more and more passengers. I was amazed at how many people they could fit on just one bus. By the time we went over the bridge to head into downtown Lusaka, we were on the back seat with three other people. These busses are not wide. In fact, they are very similar to a Volkswagen bus. Three people fit comfortably, four is a stretch, but five people on one row was just crazy. I later found out that the record for passengers—as observed by ACTION missionaries—was 22 people on one minibus at one time). So, I guess I have no room to complain. As we pulled up to the bus stop, the driver decided to try and cut in line. He went around the left side of all of the buses right up until the entrance where he forced himself back into the line. At this point, two police officers stopped the bus and got into the front seat. I was told later that they would probably be trying to take some kind of bribe from the driver instead of just issuing a traffic ticket. All in all, it turned out to be quite an adventure.

Home Life Adjustments

Kerri here! I wanted to share some of the adjustments that our family is making as we learn to live here in Zambia. There are many, many things about the society and culture that we are learning, but in this post I wanted to tell you about some of the everyday things we’re learning on the home front. There are so many little things we took for granted as Americans coming here that are just different in other parts of the world.

First, we are getting used to sleeping tucked under mosquito nets. The kids think it’s neat and haven’t resisted at all. We don’t have a huge problem with mosquitoes where we live and we have the advantage of being able to spray our yard periodically. However, we want to be as safe as possible when it comes to avoiding malaria.

Also, having clean drinking water for our family is an issue. We have city water, but this isn’t necessarily safe. First we boil the water, then we run it through a filtration system to take out any additional impurities. We bottle this water and use it to drink, cook and brush our teeth! We do bathe in the water from the tap and we have had no problems with that. So far we’ve been very healthy!

Another adjustment is washing dishes. Apart from the fact that we don’t have a dishwasher and it feels like we’re doing dishes constantly, there’s also a little added dimension here because we have to rinse our dishes in bleach water after we wash them. This is to kill any bacteria from the water. This is also true of our vegetables and fruits. Before we cook or eat any of them we must soak them for about 20 minutes in bleach water to kill anything that we wouldn’t want to ingest. Then we rinse them with the filtered water!!

Yet another adjustment is meal preparation. In addition to having to bleach all of our fruits and vegetables, it is also necessary to cook most things from scratch, as it’s very difficult to find anything “pre-made”- even spaghetti sauce! So, as you may have guessed, preparing meals takes a bit longer here than it does back home. I’m getting used to it and learning a lot, but I’d appreciate your prayers!!

Pray also for our neighbors, those people who live all around us who struggle with all the same things but do not have the means to do anything about it. Pray for their physical as well as spiritual needs. They need your prayers much more than I!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Street Pup (03/01/08)

This morning, on a walk home from purchasing home Internet access, I passed a street kid near one of the major intersections near our home selling a puppy. Earlier in the morning, Caleb asked me to be on the lookout for a puppy for him and Gracyn. So, I made an impulse purchase. Since I bought him from a street kid, I convinced myself that I was saving him from a life of crime—the puppy that is... Isn’t he cute? The main language spoken here is Nyanja. So, we wanted him to have a name in Nyanja. I even enlisted the help of our guard, Charles, in naming him. Charles came through in the end. His name is Chikumbuso—pronounced “Chee koo mboo so”—which means remembrance. We call him Chiku for short. The kids were TOTALLY excited this morning when I showed up at home with Chiku.

A Theft

Glenn Ripley, a veteran missionary on our team and head of the Pastoral Leadership Development team was burglarized. He was driving into a compound to assist with a pastor’s conference when his SUV got stuck in the mud. The compounds here can be really tricky and getting stuck in the mud is a common occurrence. When he realized that he was stuck, he got out of the car, locked the hubs in on the front tires to put the car into 4-wheel drive, and then got back in to try and back the car out. The car backed out of the ditch on the first try. He took a minute to pick a better route in which to get through the muddy compound street and it was at this time he was victimized. One of the bystanders, without Glenn knowing, opened the back door of the Cruiser, reached far in and took Glenn’s brief case. The Brief case had all of Glenn’s important documents, his digital camera, an I-Pod and 2,850,000 in kwacha (about $750 USD). He drove a good hundred feet before he realized what had happened, which was too late. 

The neat part of this story is what happened at the police station. Glenn along with a Zambian pastor went to the police station to fill out a report. After filling out a report, three plain clothed detectives, one with an AK-47 came out and said let’s go, meaning that Glenn had to take them to the crime scene. In Zambia, most of the police officers do not have vehicles. So they rely on the willingness of the victim for transport when doing detective work. So, Glenn, the Zambian pastor and the three detectives went back to the scene of the crime. Once there, the detective with the AK-47 stayed in the car with Glenn and the pastor while the other two detectives interrogated street vendors and other onlookers. By the time the two detectives got back in the car, they had a name and a location of the suspect. The story has somewhat of a good ending. A short time after they got this guy’s name, they apprehended him at a bar on the other side of town. Still in his possession was Glenn’s briefcase with all of his documents, his camera, I-Pod and 1,200,000 in kwacha. The police think the guy hid the other half of the money somewhere before getting caught.  So, even though all was not returned, a great amount of it was which was more than expected by anyone on the team.  Praise God!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Walking the Perimeter (02/26/08)

Sunday, the 24th, our fence alarm went off. For those of you who don’t know, our property is surrounded by a large brick fence with broken shards of glass and an electric fence on top. If something touches the electric fence, we have an alarm that goes off. It’s quite loud. This past Sunday, the 24th, I was in the dining area of the house when Kerri noticed that the monitor for the electric fence was not working properly. She decided to turn it off and turn it back on. When she turned it back on, the alarm went off. She quickly ran into the den to tell me she accidentally set it off, but it still scared the mess out of me, because I didn’t know she was doing anything with the system. The alarm going off meant that something must be touching the electric fence somewhere. This meant, yes more joy, I had to walk the perimeter of the property at night with a flashlight looking for anything that might be setting the alarm off. After removing some debris that was touching the fence, we tried turning the system on again, but the alarm still went off. We decided to leave the system off until the morning in order to find what was causing the problem. In the morning, we still couldn’t find the problem. So, we called the company who installed the fence to come look at it. They eventually came and fixed the issue. So, we’re now protected by Viper. Oops! I mean MEPS.

Handy Man (02/24/08)

When we moved into our new home this weekend, I learned that all of the outlets were English 3-prong outlets. The problem was, all of our appliances were U.S. 2-prong or Zambian 2/3 prong. To put it simply, we couldn’t plug any thing in. One of my team members Graham Melville, came over and showed me how to fix the problem without the use of converters. I cut the plugs off of all of the appliances, including my Mac power supply and replaced them with English 3-prong plugs. I was quite proud of myself because typically I would pay someone to do this for me instead of doing it myself. I guess I’m becoming a regular Zambian handy man.

Things We're Learning in Africa

  • You can cook dinner without electricity.
  • Bats make a sound like a squeaky toy – who knew?
  • Mosquito nets make great “princess canopy beds”
  • Babies can produce more puke than food they consume (not really about Africa, but about Maddie’s first week in Africa)
  • Flat Spiders are our friends and are somewhat indestructible.
  • We must coexist with flat spiders, geckos and ants. We have no choice.
  • Coke does not taste the same, but it sure is good!
  • Plugging something in is easier said than done – first it must be the right type of plug for the outlet (so if it isn’t you either have to switch it or find the right adapter or converter), then you have to find a spot in the power strip (since each room only has one outlet), and then you have to hope there’s power!
  • You cannot turn left on red.
  • “Pants” refers to underwear, so don’t say it unless that’s what you mean.
  • “You look fat” is a compliment.
  • If a man looks thin, it implies that his wife is not taking care of him (good thing Brent put some of his marathon weight back on!)
  • Cream of Mushroom soup costs $2.89/can. Those who know me know what a devastation that is to me!
  • When a Zambian child enters the room where his father is, he greets his father by kneeling at his feet. 
  • Showing proper respect is a BIG deal here. 
  • Nothing is done quickly here (VERY hard for us Americans to get used to, and a great lesson in patience and bearing with one another).
  • We CAN live without TV. It’s very refreshing. 

More to come…

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Language Lessons and Implications (2/20/08)

Kerri and I are in language training every Friday. We are in the early stages of trying to learn Niyanja—a Bantu language that originated from Swahili. So far, we have learned how to pronounce vowels & consonants, personal pronouns and some different greetings. We’re also learning that language is a good window in which to peer through to learn things about culture. One example is how Zambian’s say I lost my money. Instead of saying: “I lost my money,” a Zambian would say: “My money found a way out of my pocket.” This may seem subtle, but it has huge implications when it comes to teaching and preaching the gospel. How do you teach repentance to someone who doesn’t acknowledge fault for his or her own sin? It just showed us that we have A LOT to learn, but for that, we are eager. If you think about it, say a quick prayer for us in this area. Pray that we would be diligent in our studies, but that God would also give us the ability to learn this language quickly and well.

Bumpy Roads (2/18/08)

Last week one night we had to take Maddie for an overnighter at St. John’s hospital (a Zambian clinic). In order to get to the clinic we had to drive on the back roads of Kasupe, a community near the Farm. It was during this trip that God began to minister to my heart. He kind of revealed to me an illustration based on the roads we were traveling. He showed me that life is just like these dirt roads. Nothing is ever what we fully expect. Sometimes they are smooth and sometimes they are a little bumpy or even downright rough (a.k.a. trials & tribulations). He showed me that if life were always a smooth road, then we wouldn’t have to pay attention. We wouldn’t have to learn from Him. We would just cruise through life, emotionally detached and dependent upon ourselves. He also showed me that if the road of life were too bumpy, it would be unmanageable. We would become so consumed with our circumstances that the reason for life (to glorify God and take delight in Him) would pass us by.

I guess that’s partly why in James 1:1 it says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

In a way only the Lord knows, this gave me comfort as we took our youngest to the hospital.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Gift and Grace

What a blessing we have had in Gift and Grace. Glenn and Liese Ripley, the veterans on our team have been our hosts since we arrived in Zambia. They are the couple who live at the Farm. They have two adopted Zambian children, Gift & Grace. Since we arrived, Caleb, Gracyn, Gift & Grace formed an instant bond and have been the best of buddies. This has really served to take some of the stress off of Kerri and me. Instead of trying to deal with the emotions of coming onto the field, while at the same time, help grieving children adjust to a new culture; we only had to deal with the prior. We are so thankful for the easy transition their friendship has provided for our children.

Muli Bwanji (How are you?)

In the U.S. whey you pass by someone and ask this question, you typically get a canned response “Fine, and you?” Well in Zambia, you get the same response. Bwino Bwangi. If you asked us this after our first 7 days in country, you would probably get a whole different response. One along the lines of “We are struggling, but God is good.”

We’ve been here for 7 days now & I can’t say that it has been what we expected. The flight from the States was somewhat better than expected. We were expecting Maddie to have the whole airplane awaiting our execution by firing squad with anticipation, but, instead, she did pretty well. There was only one 2-hour stretch of time where she was tired and crying, but other than that things went pretty well.

When we arrived in Lusaka, our team was there waiting to pick us up from the airport. It was good to finally meet some of the people whom we had only communicated with via skype and e-mail. After getting all of our bags together, we then headed to one of our teammates homes for breakfast. Kerri and I were both tired, but it was good getting to unwind from the trip by spending time with the team. Shortly after breakfast is when the fun began.

This is when we went to the Farm to unpack for our 10-day stay. Shortly after we arrived, the power went out. It turns out that the entire country of Zambia is operating on 50% power. So, that means we are getting about 4-8 hours of electricity per day (which occurs mostly in the middle of the night)—not very helpful when you need to do things like cook dinner, or bath kids without lights. We’ve begun to learn how to cook on a braiser (niyanja for charcoal grill). If someone would have told me to plan on an extended camping trip, I would have been more prepared, but I think my initial expectations were a bit high. Sound fun? Want to come for a visit?

After getting settled in, we’ve had to continue to learn to be flexible. The other day, we were riding with one of our team members when her car broke down in downtown Lusaka. In the U.S. this probably wouldn’t be a big deal, but in Zambia, it’s a little tricky. We basically had to enlist the help of our whole team (the Singleton’s to transport Kerri and the kids), Luke and Glenn to assist in towing the car to a local mechanic, and me to sit there and keep Meagan company as the whole thing unfolded. Everything eventually worked itself out, and we got the car to the shop, but not without costs. It turns out that in order to get a new radiator, it has to be shipped in from South Africa. The part alone costs nearly $1200 and will take a few weeks to arrive—not to mention what the labor will cost. So, please pray for Meagan. Pray that the mechanic will be honest in his dealings with her and that the work will be done properly and at a decent price.

Another issue we have faced has to do with our youngest daughter Maddie’s health. Since we have arrived, Maddie has been running a fever. When we left from the States, she had an ear infection. By the time we first had her checked by a physician here, the infection had moved to the other ear and she was showing signs of a respiratory infection. After a few days of monitoring her, the fever remained and her breathing kept getting worse. Finally, last night, we had to act. We chose to admit her to a local hospital and ended up staying overnight. Kerri slept in the bed with her while I slept in some rather uncomfortable non-cushioned Zambian made chairs. In the morning we finally got a diagnosis. It turns out that she has viral pneumonia and will probably have to let it run its course (approx 2-weeks). It also looks like she is cutting her first tooth, which doesn’t help. That coupled with Caleb having bouts with upset stomachs and throwing up has made this week rather challenging.

Even though at times this transition has been a struggle, we have also learned a lot during the process. We have learned the importance of the body of Christ at work. Our team here really has helped us during this transition. When we’ve needed to be somewhere, they have gone out of the way to make sure we get there. They have helped us with the practical things (i.e. shopping, housing, etc…) as well as the unexpected (doctor’s visit in the middle of the night). They have gone out of their way to make us feel like a part of the team, which has been a real blessing.

You have also blessed us. We have felt the prayers of the Saints surround us as we have gone through some of these early battles. We have been encouraged by your emails and phone calls. Thank you for holding us up before the Lord in prayer.

Though our expectations might have been a bit too high when we arrived, we are learning to adjust to life in Zambia. Would you please continue to pray for us. Pray for our children’s health. Pray for our upcoming move into our permanent residence. Pray that we will be a good fit with the team God has assembled here. Pray for our ability to learn the culture. Pray for our ability to effectively minister the gospel of Christ to a people without hope. Thank you for continually standing behind us as we pursue God’s calling in Zambia. We love you and appreciate your sacrifice.