Saturday, January 30, 2010

We're Home

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We made it home safely after a two week vacation in Zanzibar. We want to say thank you again to the grandparents for making this trip possible. It was such a wonderful Christmas present.

It was a marathon of a vacation. To get there, we drove 3 hours north to Kaphiri Mposhi to catch the train to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. After the 46 hour train ride, we hailed a taxi big enough to carry our 12 passengers and all of the luggage and tried to make a mad dash to the port to catch the last ferry to Zanzibar Island, but arrived 10 minutes too late. So, after a bit of discussion, we chartered a small plane over to the island. After arriving on the island, we boarded a taxi and drove the final hour of the trip to the east coast where our lodging was located.

This trip was full of adventures and we made many family memories that will last a life time. It was also a great time for rest from ministry and a chance to recharge our "batteries." I won't bore you with all of the details, but here were some of the highlights:

Beautiful Beaches:
We spent 10 days on the eastern side of Zanzibar Island and then the last 2 days back in Stone Town. The beaches were amazing! The water was clear and it had a very long shelf, which meant that the kids could go as far as they wanted out into the water and it never got over their heads. This worked out great for the little ones.

Village Rental:
The home we rented was on the edge of one of the larger villiages in Zanzibar, Jambiani. As you can see from some of the pictures, many of the children from the villiage would come to the beach in the afternoons and most of them were interested in the Mzungu (White people) children. Most of the time when it was time to come in for dinner, we would have children peeking through doors and windows. Only in Africa.

Portugese Man-O-War:
This time of year turned out to be the Blue Bottle or Portugese Man-O-War Jelly Fish season. These organisms are clear on top with blue tenticles and they hurt like the dickens when they sting you! Half of our group was stung at least once. For the Roberts, it was me, Gracyn and Maddie. For the Whitfields, it was Luke and two of his children - Payton and Macy. The good thing about these jelly fish is they tended to come during the afternoon high tide. So, if we stayed out of the water during that time, we were ok.

The Naked Swimmer:
Another interesting tidbit from our trip was the Naked Swimmer. Every morning at sunrise, about 50 yards down the beach, one of the men from the village would walk out, take all of his clothes off, walk into the water, dip himself several times in each direction, walk back to the shore, pee (sometimes poo), go back into the water, do another 7 to 8 dips, walk back to the shore, then put on his clothes and leave. We asked several of the villagers about him and they told us that he was Falla (crazy).

Midnight with Ali:
Zanzibar is prodominantly Muslim. Someone told us that it is approximately 98% Muslim. So, needless to say, we didn't meet many followers of Christ. The last night before leaving, Luke built a fire on the beach and we just sat out and talked. As we were talking, two locals joined us. One of them was named Ali. During our conversation, we got to talking about the Koran and the Bible. We talked about how Islam is about works and how Christianity is about grace. And we had the opportunity to share the gospel with him while leaving him with a New Testament. We encouraged him to search the scriptures to see who Christ really claimed to be. So, if you think about it, please pray for him. Pray that God would use that brief encounter to bring him into His kingdom.

Being in Zanzibar was refreshing in many ways, but I'm glad to be back home in Zambia. Our time there really helped us to refocus and appreciate Zambia in ways we haven't in the past. And it was great just to spend some quality time with the family without any interferences. Thank you to all of you who prayed for us as we traveled. Blessings!

Monday, January 11, 2010

On Holiday

Just wanted to let everyone know that we will be on vacation for the next few weeks. So, posts to the website will be sporatic. Our family and the Whitfields will be taking a 40 hour train ride to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. I think the kids will think it is an adventure, but the adults will be trying to endure. After the train ride, we will catch a taxi to the port and then embark on a 3-4 hour ferry to Zanzibar island. We're taking the kids to the beach!

The funny thing is that we learned just this week that the island lost power on December 4th and it has yet to be restored. So, we're probably going to be spending our vacation on the beach during the day and in a dark house at night. But we're going expecting to have a good time.

Please pray for us as we travel. There is always the chance for thieves (especially on the trains) and when traveling with 4 adults and 8 kids, anything can happen. Pray for our health. Right now, Caleb has been battling pink eye. So, we're hoping it doesn't spread to any of the other children. Pray that we will enjoy some time connecting as a family and that we will be refreshed both spiritually and physically before returning to our ministry here in Zambia.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

One Year Later

Yesterday marked one year since I was rushed to the emergency room and diagnosed with a stroke resulting from a blood clot that had formed in my brain. It's hard to believe a year has already passed, but I am SO grateful to have made it to this day. There's been a lot of healing along with some minor stuggles as I've adjusted to a new standard of normalcy. God willing, things will continue to improve and with time I will be totally back to normal. However, the majority of what I have been going through over this last year has been less physical and more spiritual and emotional. Recently I was sharing with Brent a journal entry I wrote back in October and he suggested that I share it with all of you.

We both truly believe that God has us here, not only for the work He is doing through us, but also for the work that He is doing in us. And in addition to that, we believe that what He is teaching us should be used as a means to encourage others in their pursuit of Him. So, I hope some of my personal reflections will be of some encouragement to you and will bring glory to the One who has been and continues to sustain me.

Journal Entry Dated October 6th, 2009

This morning I was listening to a song by Christy Nockels and these lyrics really struck me: “I may live and I may die; either way You’re glorified…”

These are words that I would have said or sung without hesitation before I actually had to deal with the thought of dying. Now, if I say those words, I'm not so sure if I mean them. If I get down to the core of my heart, I have been living in fear of death! Even though I’ve been dealing with this now for ten months, and constantly preaching the truth to myself and rehearsing God's promises, I still feel like I’m gripping my life. I’m saying to God, “Yes, I give You my life - I trust You with it and I KNOW that You know what is best,” but in my heart I’m feeling like, “BUT DON’T LET ME DIE!"

I remember right after the stroke, when I was so fearful, Brent and I were talking about what we really believe. I DO believe that God’s purposes are greater than I can know; I DO believe that His purposes are greater than my life; I KNOW that He loves my children and my husband more than I ever could and He already knows what every moment of their lives holds. I really have NO control! I had a moment where I felt the Holy Spirit asking me, “If it required you to lay down your life for your children to come to salvation, would you do it?” And of course, I have to say, “Yes Lord, I would.” His kingdom and their eternity is SO much more important than my life, which God’s word says is like a blade of grass.

But, the truth is, I LIKE my blade of grass and I’m SCARED of death! I think it comes down to a problem of unbelief! I always hear that voice of unbelief saying, “Do you really believe that you will be with God for eternity? Do you really believe in Heaven?” And I think I have to combat those doubts and lies with what I know to be true. I can only come to the Lord with a broken heart and say like the father of the demon possessed child, “I believe. Lord, help my unbelief!”

When I focus on what is true I know that God does not work in fear. He does not give us a spirit of fear. In fact He tells us constantly throughout His word that we should not fear. I really believe that if He were going to take me from this world, He would lavish His peace on me. But I DO feel like He is calling me to lay my life down. To stop gripping and fearing and to lay it all in His hands. I need to have that hope and that peace. I need to have that eternal perspective and that longing to be with my Father. (Lord, please help me to lay down my life without picking it back up and running away!)

A couple of years ago the Lord used this scripture to confirm His call to Africa and to give up my plans for my life, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever lays down his life for my sake will find true life (Matthew 16:25, paraphrased).” I think now God us using this to challenge me to pray:

Lord, I lay down my life - not just my plans for my life and what I do with my life, by my very life itself. I want You to have complete control over my life. I know that You already have the control but I want to release my grip on my life! I believe Your word is true. I believe that Your purposes are greater than my understanding and that they WILL be accomplished. I believe that it is not Your desire for me to be fearful. So, I ask You to take my fear away as I cast my anxieties on You. Give me hope for eternity. Help me to love You so deeply that I desire Your presence over all other things. Give me a desire for Heaven. Give me peace!

I pray as I have prayed and journaled before that You would give me long life, that I might declare your goodness to the next generation, that I may see my children and even their children come to salvation - that our family’s legacy will be one of submitting ourselves to You and being changed by Your Spirit - raising up a generation that will glorify Your name and advance Your kingdom. Thank You, my Father for the comfort I find in Your word and for ministering to my heart even as I write. Let me not hold onto anything! Let me trust You with everything. Let Your will be done and help me keep my heart and mind stayed on You! For You have promised to keep me in perfect peace. I love you, my Lord!