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Friday, November 18, 2016

God With Us

The other day I was working in the office when Tom came in to tell me that a baby had been brought to our door. We were not really considering taking in new babies at this point because of our current financial struggles. (You can read our latest newsletter to learn more) 

My heart has been a bit fragile (more about this at a later date), so Tom offered to go down to the entry way to see what was up.

He came back to tell me that the baby was only 7 days old and his mother had died shortly after his birth after getting an infection following her cesarean section. Once the family had taken care of the funeral they took stock of the situation and realized they didn't have anyone to take care of this newborn baby. His father is crippled and has another seven children. The grandparents are very old. So the whole family agreed they needed to try to find him a home with us.

Tom and I both agreed that this was a genuine need, but wanted to check in with our Boss first to make sure this was the right decision. We sat quietly in our office to pray. 

Tom prayed a simple prayer of acknowledgement of God's grace and provision and our need for his guidance. Immediately I felt a growing peace in my heart that taking in this new baby was the right thing. Tom continued praying: "We know that this baby boy, Emmanuel, needs a family..." and right then I knew for certain that we were meant to take in this baby. 

Let me explain:

Last month I was struggling (I still am--again, more about this later) and an opportunity arose for me to take a break and attend a retreat for Global Women (AKA missionaries) in Cape Town, South Africa. There was so much good that came of this time that I could fill several posts (and may still do that), but in one morning session a part that stood out to me so strongly was that Christianity is the only religion where our God is named Emmanuel which means God With Us. We are never alone. We forever carry God in our hearts wherever we go. This filled my heart with comfort and I wrote that name large and underlined in my notes. 

So the moment I found out this brand new baby's name is Emmanuel I knew that God was leading us in this way. 

After the prayer I shared this with Tom and he said he had had the same reaction to hearing the name for the first time. Despite our financial struggles, despite the uncertainties of the future in this country, despite our human frailties, God is with us! and He will always be with us and with these precious children that he places in our home. 

Peter has loved helping to care for Emmanuel--once we reassured him that he hadn't been replaced that is.

Emmanuel is just the sweetest baby you have ever seen. And, yes, I know I say that every time (well, maybe not every time. LOL) He seems perfectly healthy and is eating and sleeping like a champ.

Emmanuel loves his pacifier--which I'm grateful for.

If you would like to help toward Emmanuel's expenses and those of the overall budget we would love that and you can simply click on this link to make a one-time or even monthly donation so that we can continue to help these little babies. 

A baby makes a fantastic accessory

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Country Boy Travels to The City

Last month Tom had to go to Lusaka to pick up supplies for a couple construction supplies. We were also expecting a new volunteer and Tom would meet him at the airport.

Tom had hoped to take one of our big boys who needs lots of extra attention, but at the last moment he broke some rules and had to lose the privilege. Elias, as the oldest child, was the next logical choice. He turns 12 this month. 

The trip was filled with many firsts. First trip to a large city. First long drive. First time to be completely on his own without his brothers and sisters. And, the list went on and on. First escalator and elevator rides. Tom loved filming and documenting all of Elias' adventures so the children back home could see it all later.

There were many first foods: first pizza, first Chinese, first hamburger, first fish and chips, first gelato, first Subway sandwich. Tom had him do the 'wow' face for each of them. Ha ha.

Another first was to see two movies. He watched the BFG in 3D and Star Trek Beyond. His impression of the movie theater was interesting: 

First I thought the room was small, but then I walked in and the room was big. I don’t know if it was a blanket or what, but they put it on the front wall And then they turned a light on and the light went on the blanket. And we put on glasses and things were coming out of the movie. We ate popcorn and drank slushies. 

Neat side story. The kids back home got to read The BFG with our volunteer while Elias was on his trip so they could all share the story.

A huge highlight of the trip for Elias was riding in a Go-cart. Here are his memories of that day: 

I was racing with some kids and I crashed. Someone came and told me how to drive it and where the brakes are and where to push to make it go faster. I crashed two times and went around 30 times.

Going on this trip and getting to have some great experiences, as well as quality alone time with Daddy, was amazing for Elias. Maybe we'll be able to do this for each child around their 12th birthday. It sure would be nice.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The End of an Era

From the beginning of our marriage Tom and I agreed on one thing wholeheartedly. No matter what we did in life to serve God (for that was another definite for us) we would include our kids. We wanted them to not feel sidelined by our life's calling, but an important part of it.

When we returned from our mission to Mexico--where we'd spent our newlywed years--with a newborn and twin toddlers, we didn't have many options, but we tried to use our time wisely, even if it was simply sharing the message of Jesus with people we met along the way.

As more children came along, homeschooling got busier, and Tom's responsibilities grew in his work, we kept our eyes on the prize. Tom worked as a chaplain for the Seafarers Center on his one day off each week. I scoured the newspaper for volunteer opportunities and took the kids with me to deliver Meals on Wheels or pass out Christmas cards to nursing home residents. 

From the very beginning we formed a tiny singing troupe and added kids along the way. 

Singing and dancing on the beach of Corpus Christi

"I'd like to be a Christmas tree!"

Child five added for another Christmas season

Even those that couldn't perform could still hug

Jasmine was a natural

Timothy was a champion at tenderly praying with everyone he met

Our kids have had amazing experiences along the way because of our having taken them along for the ride.

Food distribution at a Navajo reservation
Encouraging first responders after 9-11
Exploring Botswana
Meeting traditional rulers and Chiefs

When we got the call to Africa we made sure that any projects we took on would be able to include our kids. At the beginning it was working with a community school which was a great fit. When our work changed a few years later and became mostly adult education (Bible, health, leadership, etc.), we took our kids to volunteer at an orphanage so they would have their own work to do. This led to us discovering the great need for homes for babies and toddlers who've lost their mothers, and eventually to starting our own orphanage.

Our kids worked side by side with us from the beginning. Caring for sick babies, playing with the toddlers, teaching the preschoolers, offering cuddles and love, and just being all around amazing helps to us.

Jessica with Henry (2007)

Troy and Jennifer (2008)

Jennifer (2008)

Jasmine (2008)

T.J with Peter (2009)

Timothy and Johnny (2009)

One by one our kids grew up (as they tend to do) and headed off to college. Six became four became three became two became ONE. And now Troy, our youngest, our baby, our last is leaving home and moving back to the States to pursue God's plan for him. 

Troy has been a great big brother to all the kids

People often ask us if our kids will come back and join us in Zambia again. And the answer is YES--if God asks them to. At the moment they are fulfilling His plan for them, and continuing to serve God and others where they are right now.

We miss them terribly, but are so happy to have had many many years of family service together.

And now we are embarking on life as empty nesters.......


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Good Negotiator or Manipulator? You Decide

Last Wednesday evening I was cooking chicken soup and thinking about how close I was to the end of a very full day. I was looking forward to settling into bed with a good book and a glass of something refreshing. 

Tom had left for Lusaka the day before and would be away for a couple nights. 

As I chopped and stirred in the kitchen, Peter stopped by for a chat. The following conversation took place:

Peter: Mom, do you ever sleep alone?

Me: Sometimes.

Peter: Does it make you sad to sleep alone?

Me: *knowing full where where he is going with this* Why do you ask?

Peter: Well, I just thought since Dad is gone, I could sleep with you.

I was glad I had my back to him as I stirred the pot of soup because I was cracking up.

Peter has been asking to sleep with me for a few weeks now, but I always tell him no because "Mommy and Daddy need their privacy". And after I explained the meaning of privacy Peter had seemed to accept my decision. 

I guess he understood better than I thought and had simply bided his time. But rather than just ask me outright, he made it sound like he'd be doing me a favor. 

What would you do? Would you give in to the psychology that Peter employed?

Of course I let him spend the night with me. Creative thinking should be rewarded when possible. And it was fun to spend extra time with him.

One Year Ago: A Crazy 35-Hour Day
Three Years Ago: Some Mother's Child
Four Years Ago: Honey, Honey (another humorous parenting story)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Putting Him First

Once again I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday. This week's prompt is First.

My Bible study for the past several/many months has been To Live is Christ by Beth Moore which is a study of the Apostle Paul.

I've enjoyed so many elements of this study and learned more than I thought possible after spending my entire life studying and teaching Bible stories. 

The last video lesson was from the book of Philippians and one section focused on the verse: 

Philippians 3:12
....I press on to make it [Christ's righteousness] my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.

Beth marveled how amazing it is that God chose her first, and me first, and you first. Before even the earth was created God chose me and He chose you to have a specific purpose in life. 

And in honor of this privilege of being chosen first by the Creator of the Universe, God wants us to put him first above all else. When we do that, amazingly it creates room for the things that are important to us because our priorities are first focused on making Him and others happy and that makes all other elements fall into place. 

We love Him because He first loved us. Amazing Love!

I hope you know how much He loves you. 

Exactly Three Years Ago: A New Experience
(Almost) Exactly Four Years Ago: Garden Glories
Exactly Five Years Ago: The Three Stooges
Almost Exactly Six Years Ago: Fab Friday Foto—Vol. IX

Thursday, January 7, 2016

When Education and Exercise Collide We All Win

Last year I picked up FitBits for Tom and I. I wanted to keep track of my steps and was eager for Tom to be able to track his sleep as well as his steps, of course.

I've already discussed within these pages how competitive I can be sometimes. Tom and I began competing with each other, but it's been hard for me to win. He is constantly moving--even when he talks on the phone he paces--and I often have to stay in one place to do my work.

However, it did get me moving more. Where in the past I would call a child to carry items hither, thither and yon, I now run those errands myself. Multiple trips needed? Even better! Our property is spread out. Say I want to start dinner but still have office work left? Those two tasks are in separate buildings. So I can get plenty of steps in just getting up from my desk to check on a simmering pot every 15 minutes or so.
However, I was still finding it difficult to get to my goal of 10,000 steps. 

I've now begun walking in the mornings. One side benefit is that I take our dog Chewy with me and also Johnny. Both child and dog have similar issues--plenty of energy that needs dispersing. Johnny gets to choose one child to accompany us each morning.

This week my sister started a FitBit challenge. It's called Workweek Challenge and is designed to see who can get the most steps in from Monday to Friday. My morning walks took on even greater importance.

This morning I woke up to sprinkly, rainy weather. "Guess I can't walk today," I mused. (and inside I grinned--I didn't really want to walk so early in the morning) By my regular walk time the rain had stopped, but I'd already made up my mind not to walk so I snuggled back into bed and did my Bible study. 

Forty-five minutes later I was beginning to worry. Now Mike will definitely beat me. And Steph and Kerri are neck and neck with me. I can't afford to miss a day!!

But now it was school time. I had to go to work. Whatever could I do?

First was Assembly. And then Devotions. And then Snack. 

But then!

I lined up all the first graders and we hit the road. We walked out the gate--in two straight lines (name that book!)--actually in just one straight line, and up the hill. 

As we walked I shouted out math problems and the kids answered. We reviewed the alphabet and phonics sounds. We talked about geography. We counted by ones, twos, fives and tens.

Then, at our turnaround point we discovered Sandra's dad making charcoal just off the road. The kids ran over and got a lesson on charcoal making. They got really excited about maybe even making some on their own.

We ended up having a 30 minute walk where the kids could learn in a different setting, and I got my daily walk in. Win! Win!

Exactly Five Years Ago: Down for the Count
Exactly Six Years Ago: Christmas is for Kids

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Reason I Have To Win Kapya's Love Again

This month we've had a World Race team with us again. Last year was our first chance to work with AIM and the World Racers, and they are lots of fun to have here at Kazembe Orphanage.

It's great to have six extra pairs of hands around for those extra projects that never seem to get done. In anticipation of their arrival I jotted down ideas over the last few months of things that could get tackled. Things like inventory the storeroom, test the kids in their physical development, write up sentences for spelling words, etc. 

At the very top of the list was to get all our youngest kids medical records in order. Many times when we receive babies into the orphanage their health is not all that great and I hesitate to give them too many immunizations. I want them to receive them eventually, but I prefer for them to be on better immune-system footing.

This was the perfect time to get this taken care of. Two of the girls took all the kids' immunization cards, health notebooks and assorted papers and got them organized and listed in a spreadsheet.

We have immunization cards for the children which are issued by the government, and then we also have health logs in notebooks for them. The way clinics and hospitals work here is that when you visit them for the first time they ask you to purchase a notebook. This becomes your medical file. They write a number on the top and give you a scrap of cardboard with the same number. This is your ID for that notebook. Every time you visit that clinic or hospital you must bring the correct piece of cardboard so they can locate your 'file'. Trouble is that those books and/or scraps of cardboard are frequently misplaced and there is no running record. Or if you visit another hospital there is no way for doctors to know which treatment you've already had or what your medical history is.

My solution for this was to create my own notebook for each child and we take this with us wherever we go. So any tests run, doctors notes, etc. all go into the same notebook and travel with the child. It works so much better. (Unless I'm not there to supervise and a doctor from one clinic tears out the test results from another hospital. Grrr!)

Anyway, we discovered that several of the children and babies were missing immunizations and needed to get caught up. Fifteen children to be exact!

So a clinic day was organized and coordinated with our local rural health center. At the last moment Tom had to go somewhere else so we went down on foot. It's not a bad walk--about 15-20 minutes and the kids were very excited to go to the BOMA (town center). Little did they know what we had in store for them.....

I did try to explain ahead of time what would go on. "A doctor is going to put medicine in you to protect you from diseases." But they had no idea what that meant. I also promised them a treat when we were done.

Right after nap time we set out to walk to the clinic. The kids all chose partners. We made sure a grown up was in the front and out back and we were off!

When we arrived at the clinic I was happy to see that they were expecting us and we could get right down to business. I had a spreadsheet with the kids' names and the immunizations they needed and the doctor and I made a plan on which ones they'd get that day. We also decided to give HIV tests to some of the kids who had not yet been tested so we could have a definite answer. Not that we expected any of them to be positive, but it is a possibility here and one we definitely want to rule out.

Mary sat out in the waiting area with the kids (we gave them all Rescue Remedy to calm them down) and nannies, and two of the other volunteers came into the examining room with me and we began. 

 We started with the two oldest kids which may have been a mistake. Lizzy did alright. She just needed one shot and an HIV test, which is just a little prick on the finger--similar to a blood sugar test. Jack, however had recently had minor surgery and he knew exactly what needles feel like and he was having none of it! I made the mistake of saying the HIV test was simple and just like a malaria test (which the kids get frequently), but Jack misunderstood and fought tooth and nail not to get pricked. He kept shouting, "I don't want mah-yahr-eeya (malaria)." Ooops!

All the kids in the waiting room could hear Jack's screams and cries and their eyes grew larger and larger as they wondered what on earth was in store for them. Mary kept leading them in happy songs singing extra loud to dry to drown out Jack's cries. 

We continued to bring kids in one by one and for the most part they all did pretty well. Naomi (4) was the funniest. She walked in on her own power but just stood by the table with the largest eyes I've ever seen. No matter what I said I couldn't break her deer-in-the-headlights stare. Getting the shots was probably anti-climatic after what she was expecting. Poor girl!

Leah (3) was our absolute star! She didn't make a single sound despite getting two shots and the finger prick. 
Kapya and Humphrey (9 months) had to get two shots and they were not happy about it at all. I cuddled Kapya after to try to help calm her down and she responded by vomiting straight down the front of my shirt. She continued to cry whenever she saw me for a few days. I still don't know if she's completely forgiven me.  

Apparently Kapya loves Mary though!

The next day was pretty bad. Despite having given all the kids Tylenol, they still limped around the property and were mopey. At one point I saw Lizzy (5) leading Grace (4) up the hill to the dining room. They were both limping, but Lizzy was obviously taking care of Grace. They looked like two wounded warriors dragging home after a distant battle. 

Thankfully they are all better now and had recovered sufficiently to enjoy the birthday party a couple days later. That's an upcoming story. Stay tuned.....

And! The really good news?? No one tested positive for HIV!! A really wonderful thing!

Exactly Six Years Ago: Miscellaneous Musings Sometimes I forget all these adventures!
(Almost) Six Years Ago: Mayflies and..... (related to the above post and so relevant to this time of year)
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