Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Zambia trip- June 2014

When I went to Zambia for the first time in 2011, I knew at that moment that I would be back in the years to come. This June (2014) I had the opportunity to return to Gripps Farm in Zambia. I have felt a calling for the village since I first laid eyes on it through pictures before my first trip and then again this summer when I stepped foot in the village. It is hard for me to put into words the feelings that I get when I am there and it is even harder to explain the reason behind those feelings, but I have realized that God has put this desire and this love in my heart and it will be my duty from now on to help in whatever way God leads me.

My friend Ellie from graduate school met me in Johannesburg so that our last flight to Zambia was together (she was coming from South Korea). This would be her first time to Africa and to Gripps, and I was so excited to be able to share this experience with such a close friend. I tried really hard to have no expectations for this trip but that was a struggle since I had experienced this place before. It was such a different experience from my first trip, but I fell in love with Gripps all over again.

Our first day there, Cosmas gave us a tour of the village. It was amazing to see the changes! There were so many more houses, and that made it much easier to get lost! I was very impressed with Cosmas and his obvious love for the people of Gripps. He talked to each person we passed and he encouraged the children to go to school if they were at their homes for whatever reason. We were able to see the old school building which is literally falling apart. We also saw the new school building which is much more suitable for the students. There is a second school building that needs to be finished and throughout our time there Cosmas continued to get estimates on the cost to finish the building. We were followed around by some little ones in the village and I loved seeing their faces.

We spent the next few days taking pictures of all the school children. My dad and I took their pictures for sponsors when we went three years ago. It was amazing to see how much the children have grown. The children came by class, and Cosmas and the teachers helped by writing down their information (age, family dynamics, aspirations). We had supplies to hand out to every child thanks to an amazingly generous woman that I have been blessed to meet. She donated ten boxes and a few bags of clothing, school supplies, toys, art activities, and hygiene packs. After the children had their pictures taken, they picked a few items. It was fun to see their excitement. Some of them put their clothing on immediately and were happy to pose for another picture.

We also spent time in the classrooms painting with the students. The generous woman had donated over 300 plaster figurines of safari animals along with paints and paint brushes. We were able to see pure joy on some of the kids’ faces as they painted their animals that they proudly named to their teachers. I loved their accents and it was so much fun to hear them shout, “Lion” or “Giraffe” out loud.

On Sunday, we went to youth group with Cosmas. The youth put on many plays and songs for us while we were there. It was encouraging to see their excitement about their futures. The youth know all of the things they need to make a better life for themselves. They know about the importance of education and about the real struggles they face with HIV, alcoholism, and abusive relationships. It is my prayer that they will put their words, songs, and plays into practice and will continue to see God’s will for their lives. 

One of the biggest blessings of the whole trip was spending time with Cosmas, Marijke, Liza, and Sophie. I cannot describe the love I have for their family or the impression they left on me. They are such great parents and they are teaching their girls to love God above all else. They love the people of Gripps and have their best interests at heart at all times. 

As I was trying to process everything that happened during the trip, I came across this passage from the book Dirty God by Johnnie Moore. The passage was in response to the questions we ask God about why things are the way they are. Why are the people in Gripps so poverty stricken and what is ever going to happen to change that for them? Why did God pick me to have such a burden for this place and why is Gripps Farm one of the places that makes me feel like I’m at home?
But what of the second typical response to these issues of human suffering? How do we deal with our tendency to accuse God of negligence when the world is in such dire shape?
Actually, I think when we look at the sky and ask God to do something, he says back to us, ‘I am doing something. I’m burdening your heart with this need. I’m allowing your life to collide with this crisis, and I’m giving you this burden for one reason—so that you can be my hands and feet to do something about it.’
I believe with all of my heart that we are often the answer to our own burdens. The causes that make us cry and work and complain and plead and raise money and raise awareness and take red-eyes to other countries and sleep in huts and risk disease and danger are the same causes that God has assigned to us. They have become our responsibility--and it’s our call, our turn, to make the difference that we’re expecting and hoping others will make.
Compassion means action. It’s not enough to just be moved by the fact that people are dying for the absolutely unnecessary reason of lack of food. It’s not enough to cry over the terrifying plight of child prostitution or forced labor. It’s not enough to look at the guy beaten on the side of the road and feel sorry for him. 
We have to do something about it. True compassion means that we care enough to effect change. When the Bible says Jesus was ‘moved with compassion,’ the word compassion in biblical Greek implies a movement from the inside out. You are physically pained by that you see, and you almost have to do something to change it.
We are the answers to the problems we’re most concerned about.

I don’t know what my future looks like with Gripps Farm, but I know that God has placed this love on my heart for a reason and I am excited to see what the future holds for Gripps. God is there with them and that is the most important thing. I am so thankful to everyone who supported this mission through prayer and/or financial decisions. I will be forever grateful!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Back to Zambia...Where feet may fail

It's been almost a full year since my last blog post on here...It's really hard to take the time to sit down and write about my little ol' life but here goes nothing.

I'm going back to Zambia. Yep. Back to Zambia. By myself (unless something changes). In less than five months. It's going to be scary. It's going to be emotional. It's going to be great!

God is working on this trip. He has been since the beginning. I just reread the post I wrote after I got back from Zambia the last time. You can read that post here. My prayer at that time was that I could get back there again, and now it's happening. 

There have been several answered prayers surrounding this trip. My first prayer was for God to start showing my signs that HE wanted me to go and not that I just wanted to go. I prayed for two things 1) Luther would be supportive and want me to go (you can't exactly leave your husband for a couple of weeks without him being on board), and 2) for a clear sign that God wants me to go. One day when Ellie was here, Luther agreed that I should go back. I thought, "Okay God, that's one...but you have to do more than that!" A few weeks later, we got some junk mail with a penny on it. I took the penny off, put it on the counter, and threw the mail away. A few weeks after that, I found the penny again and realized it said ZAMBIA on it. I've never even seen a Zambian penny. That's when God really got my attention. Maybe it was a coincidence but I'm choosing to believe that God was involved in that random junk mailing to be sent to my house with a Zambian penny on it instead of an American penny.

So then the planning started. My first idea was to have a yard sale. I didn't think it would be that hard and I didn't think I would raise a ton of money but it would be a good start. The first mistake was thinking it wouldn't be that hard. Oh. My. Word. So many people from work, church, and family donated items (like over 3,500 items) that I (for whatever reason) itemized and put on a spreadsheet. It was such a huge blessing that all of those items were donated because I could not have been as successful without them. Our guestroom and my parents basement were COMPLETELY packed for over a month. The more items I saw come in, the more I started praying that the weather would be nice and that people would come. What good is a yard sale if people don't come? I was hoping for around $300 from the sale. I jokingly started praying that I would raise at least half of the plane ticket. God wasn't joking- and I raised more than half:) The morning of, some good friends came over and stayed most of the day to help which was a good thing because it took nine adults two hours to get all of the items out (I told you it was a lot)! By lunch time, I had raised over $900. People steadily came to the sale from 7 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. I didn't raise the full cost of my plane ticket but I think the yard sale should go down as the most successful yard sale in history!

So here's the plan:
I'm leaving in June after I get out for summer break. I am going to be updating the pictures of all of the school children that my dad and I took three years ago for their sponsors. I'm also going to be working with the youth group some and helping the main contact we have. I'm probably going to be using my counseling skills with some of the youth and the women from the village. That's the plan we have made. Who knows what more God's plan will include but I'm excited to find out! I get a little nervous about going at times (mostly being on the plane for that long by myself) but I know that God is going to do something big. He hasn't brought me this far for nothing. I'm excited to see all that He has in store. I've raised about two thirds of the money so far and I'm trusting God that the rest will come in.

Oceans by Hillsong United is my new theme song for this trip. I have heard it a few times in the car and then we sang it in church on Sunday.  Here are some excerpts from the song:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Check out the whole song here

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bad dreams...help wanted!

I keep having bad dreams! As a counselor, I would say that is one characteristic of having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I haven't had any traumatic experiences that would warrant this type of dream. Last night's dream alone consisted of robbery, shooting (seeing other people die and me getting shot at), explosions, running from scary people, helping an injured cat, heart attacks and surgeries, etc. What in the world? This happens at least four times a week on average, although not always as extreme. I don't watch violent tv shows or movies for this reason. I even turn away when it is a violent commercial. I may just have a very wild imagination but I'm wondering if anyone knows anything about certain foods that cause this more than others...maybe caffeine or something. If you know of any tricks, let me know!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Answered prayers

So first of all, I'm really bad about blogging. I get an idea and think, 'I should blog about that' and then I never do. Well here's a short one...

Sometimes I forget to pray about little things...pretty often actually. I'm usually quick to act and try to take care of things or just stress about them for hours or sometimes even days and then ask myself why I haven't prayed about the situation yet. Last week I tried to pray about little things or things about which I had no control and God answered them! Here are some examples:

I prayed Brian and Cate would feel better so that my sister and her family could come to Virginia and surprise my parents on Christmas...they felt better (or decent) and they drove down on Christmas Day.

I prayed that Tara would get to my parents house before my parents did on the night of Christmas...and they did, by about ten minutes.

I prayed that the apple store would replace Luther's phone with no issue since the button had stopped working a week before and he dropped it in water before we could get to the apple store for the button issue. First of all, the phone turned back on with no problem (answered prayer) and the apple store replaced it within ten minutes of us being there. Praise God!

I prayed that the 'storm' coming Friday night and Saturday morning wouldn't be much at all so that the rest of our family could come visit while Tara was down...the storm missed our area and the radar map literally showed a split in the storm that caused it to miss us completely. It turned out to be a beautiful day and we got to spend the day with my aunt and uncle and cousins from South Carolina.

God answers prayers, big and small, especially when we ask him:)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bye Bye Summer

How many times have I heard that time will go faster that older I get? Well, I believe it! Not only did the last school year go fast, but summer seemed to FLY by. I went back to work last week and it seriously seemed like I was just there! I know I have seven weeks off which I will never complain about but time goes so quickly that it is a little scary! Summer started with spending some days by the pool with a co-worker. At the end of June, we took a trip to a beach in New Jersey. I so needed a beach trip. It seems that I hit a wall just about every March when I am so emotionally spent from my job that I crave the beach and relaxation that summer can bring. Since we went to New Jersey, Tiffany, Tristan, and baby Jaxon were able to come stay with us! We also had friends from home drive up for part of the week too. Luther was a trooper since he hates the beach and the sand while I soaked in every minute possible. We got to spend a few days at the beach and hang around in the town. We also all took kayaks out which was a lot of fun. I was sad to see that week end and I'm already excited about the next beach trip, whenever that might be!




After the beach, I spent a few weeks at home not doing too much. At the end of July, we went to Montana for Eric and Andrea's wedding. It was definitely a whirlwind week with a lot of busy activities but it was a lot of fun being together as a family. It is sad to me that both of my siblings live so far away because I know that we won't have many opportunities to all be together so I try to take in the few times that we do have. Montana was pretty but I definitely call Virginia home! I think the thing that was most shocking to me was how spread apart the cities are. We joked that we dread going to the next town over which is only about 10 miles when it is hours to get to a lot of the places out west. I'm thankful for all that we got to see and do while we were in Montana and I am so happy for my brother and new sister-in-law.

Group shot at Bear Tooth Pass
Before the wedding at Springhill Pavilion, Bozeman, MT

The Newlyweds!

And while I didn't get to go back to Zambia this summer, I have been trying to put forth effort in continuing to grow in my faith and my experiences with Christ. I read a couple of books this summer to help with that, Kisses from Katie  and One Thousand Gifts . I'm looking for studies or books that challenge me but that aren't way over my head (any suggestions?!?).  I still think about Zambia every day and wish I could go back but who knows what God has in store for me. Whatever it is, I know His plan for me is better than any plan I could have for myself.

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What can I say?

So I realize that I haven't posted anything since I got back from Zambia...the main reason for this is because since I have returned from Africa, nothing going on in my little world seems nearly important enough to write about. I don't get through a day without thinking about what I witnessed there and truly wishing I could move my whole family to Zambia so I could just live there and do nothing else. That was definitely an experience that I will never forget and my heart continues to yearn to be with those people each and every day.

Besides my outlook on life, nothing else has really changed for us! I went back to work in August after having the summer off. Things continue to be really busy at work. I took a second job as a crisis counselor for a local children's advocacy center and I really enjoy it. I get to practice all my clinical skills and work with big and little people:) It is a nice change from the kiddos I see all day. I'm finishing my internship this week and will then be submitting all of my paperwork to be licensed as a school counselor!!! My LPC is probably not going to be done until the next school year but I'm still working on it:) Luther and I are thinking about putting our house on the market in mid to late spring and have been looking around at open houses to see what we want in our next house. We also got to visit with friends in North Carolina a few weeks back which was very refreshing for me. I made some awesome friends at grad school and I am sad that everyone has returned to their lives in separate places!

I'm going to list some things I'm looking forward to in the next few weeks/months:
1) Eric is coming home for Christmas!!
2) Mariely is coming home for Christmas!!
3) Snow days
4) Meeting Tiffany's baby:)
5) Putting our house on the market
6) Summer break
7) Kara is getting married
8) Eric is getting married- Vacation time in Montana!

That's all I can think of right now! I am always looking forward to the time I get to spend with friends and family :) I would love nothing more than to travel back to Zambia with more friends and family but that isn't on a to-do list yet!

Merry Christmas to everyone! I'm sure I won't be writing anything else before then!

Monday, August 1, 2011


So the trip finally came...and went. I can't believe it's over already and now it's time to go back to work. I'm going to attempt to summarize the trip without writing a book but it was such an amazing experience that writing short comments about it won't do the trip any justice! Here goes nothing!!

We left Dulles at 10:10 p.m. (turned into 11:00 p.m. because our plane wasn't moving!) on Thursday, July 7. We got to London at 10:00 a.m. (but our bodies felt like 5 a.m.). Since we had such a long layover, we decided to take a tour of London. I had done my research before we left and had purchased tickets for The Original Tour to take us around London. Although we did not end up with much time in the city, The Original Tour was a great way to see a lot of things in a short amount of time! I had been to London when I was 13 but I do not remember many of the sites. It was a fun (and very chilly) way to see London before getting back on a plane!

We got back for our 7 pm flight (our bodies feeling like it was 2pm) and headed to Lusaka, Zambia. We arrived at 6 am on Saturday (our bodies now feeling like it is midnight) and we had a full day of events planned on little to no sleep! We were exhausted! We had an orientation and then took a tour of the Grippis Community, where we would be spending the majority of our time. The kids were so excited to see our bus pulling into the compound and came running from all over. They all grabbed onto our hands and walked around with us. I loved it!
Stella was the first one to take my hand. She is adorable. She is a double orphan and lives with a large family who cares for her.

Sunday we went back to Grippis for church. The thing I learned very quickly about Grippis (and probably Africa in general) is that the singing is amazing. The people are so lively and have so much joy when they are singing praise songs. That was one of the best experiences I had on the trip- listening and watching all of the different people singing praises to God. After church we headed into Lusaka for lunch and for the Sunday market. The market was the only chance we would have to purchase souvenirs. It was overwhelming because everyone reaches out to you and asks you to buy something from their stand. They give you a price and then you bargain. The money in Zambia is called kwacha and about 4,800 kwacha is equal to one dollar. Talk about confusing! They're asking for like 20,000 kwacha for a really small item and then you have to remember that 20,000 kwacha is only about $4! Kim and I mastered the market by the end of the time there (we had about 2-3 hours) and I was able to find something for my list of 20 or so people.

Monday we took a tour of the entire Grippis Farm Community. We saw and met families who are participating in the animal husbandry projects. Some of the families have been given rabbits and/or chickens as a business. The families are responsible for raising the animals and then they can sell them for money. Some of the successful families have about 20 rabbits. When they are selling them, they give 3 rabbits to another family within the community so that family can also have a chance to raise the animals.

One of the successful men showing us his rabbits! He had almost 20!
One of the biggest problems, if not the biggest problem, is the lack of support from many of the men in the community. There are 2 bars in the compound that start playing their loud (and fun) music around 8:00 a.m. The men take the money that their wives have made and spend it all on alcohol. They drink all day and then come home and beat their wives and children. It is so frustrating and my prayer is that these men will wake up and start seeing the success of the other families who are participating in these projects and making money. Maybe they will see their success and realize that they can also have the same success if they stop drinking.  After the tour of Grippis, we went to the location of the animal husbandry project. There we saw turkeys, chickens, rabbits, and even a goat. The students who are sponsored for secondary school ($50 a month) have to take care of the animals on Sundays so that they learn responsibility.

After our tour of Grippis, we went to the Kasisi Orphanage. That was one of the saddest parts of our entire trip! We took the tour of the orphanage and everything was so neat and clean. Then we turn the corner to the sleeping quarters and it smells terribly of urine. The kids are like leeches, starving for attention. We took a class of children to a patio to play for a couple hours. We taught them some songs (Father Abraham was pretty funny) and played duck-duck-goose! The children that held on to us first, never left. When other children approached us to also get some attention, the kids on us would punch and kick to get them off. It was so sad and overwhelming. We spent a few hours and when we got home, we felt so dirty from all of the urine and felt so sad from the emotional neediness of the children. That was my first experience in an orphanage so maybe that is pretty standard, but man is it heartbreaking. They have over 200 orphans at the orphanage and Zambia just recently opened up international adoptions; however, you have to live in Zambia for TWO YEARS before they will let you adopt a child.  The kids at Grippis are poor and dirty and some of them are orphans, but they are not as desperate for the emotional love and connection as the kids at Kasisi.
Our actual mission:

We started our routine on Tuesday and basically kept the same plan until Friday. My dad and I were responsible for taking pictures of the school children so they can get sponsors. Some of them have sponsors, but not many. For $15 a month, you can sponsor a child's food and education. The entire $15 goes to the community, unlike many organizations who are paying overhead and other costs. To become a sponsor, go to Grassroots Heroes and fill out the donate form. In the comment box, indicate that you want your monthly donation to go for a sponsorship and you will receive information on your sponsored child.
Jacob and Yvone. The two kids Luther and I sponsor each month. 
We had 2 translators with us to help with the pictures. Wisdom helped me by asking the kids names so I could put them on a dry erase board for the first picture. This helped us so that we wouldn't get the kids mixed up now that we're back home and organizing the information. Foster John wrote out the family information that I had requested from each student. If you become a sponsor, you will be given some information about the child, his/her family, the child's picture, and the family's picture. I have spent so many hours compiling all of this information and there have been times when I just start crying. I find myself getting frustrated and weary that these kids do not have sponsors or that the kids are orphans and it seems like there is little hope. It is at that time that I click on another picture and see another smiling, beautiful face. There is such a mix of emotions that I knew would happen but that I don't know how to handle. I feel frustrated and angry but also hopeful, joyful, and passionate about this mission. I want to do so much for these people but don't know where to start. The needs are so overwhelming. I start to feel burdened and then I get rejuvenated and excited for the challenge. God is there. His children love him. The kids and adults sing praises and are so passionate about the love they feel for God, despite their circumstances. They are hopeful and grateful for all things. They are amazing examples of faithful servants. Teams go to these places hoping the help the people when in reality, it is the people that teach and help the teams.

Back to the mission:
After the pictures and family histories were taken, I helped in the medical clinic. A pediatrician from our church went and over the 3.5 days of the medical clinic, 371 patients were seen. I helped give out the medications. Many of the people were experiencing headaches and backaches but they don't just have Ibuprofen like we do. Some people had malaria or HIV. Some had worms. The majority of the people were so thankful and did not get impatient even when waiting in line for hours to see the doctor.

On Friday, I got to hand out the dresses and flip flops that were donated by a co-workers mother. She made 49 little dresses with matching flip flops and she was so excited to find someone going on a trip who could give them out and take pictures. We ended up separating the flip flops from the dresses so that more kids would receive something. The boys were given the choice of soap or shampoo and they were thankful to receive something. It was fun handing them out but I was feeling really stressed that we would not have enough and I wasn't sure what to do if we ran out. I should have known that God would provide. He fed the 5,000 with little food so why was I even worried? Every school child received something, even if it wasn't his/her first choice. The dresses were a big hit and the lady who made them has already started on a batch for next year! What an amazing blessing that she is using her talents to bless others!
Wearing their new dresses!

Trying to size the dresses

For the weekend, we went on a safari. This was a good chance to recover from the week we had.  The Mukambi Safari Lodge  is a pretty incredible place. We went on 4 safari drives and saw hippos, lions, antelope, leopards, warthogs, baboons, elephants, etc. It was amazing. We stayed two nights and then returned to Lusaka.
Basil, the hippo, sleeping IN the lodge


Our last day in Zambia, we drove to Siovanga to give bibles to Chief Chipepo. We spent time worshipping with the pastors and we had communion with them. We had purchased 60 bibles in the pastors' native language. When we opened the boxes, they ran to them and were pushing to get their bible. Some of them hugged their new bible while others cried over receiving one. They were so passionate, thankful, and excited to receive a bible when we have tons of them in our houses that aren't even touched. I crave the desire and passion that they have. 

Reflections: So this was a very long post even though I tried to make it as short as possible! I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to go to Zambia. A special thanks goes out to all who supported us financially who made this experience possible. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to go with my dad. This was an experience like none other. I was filthy, covered in dust, peed on, uncomfortable, freezing cold, and sick for much of the trip but I was so blessed to be in their presence. The love and joy that they display and the way that they praise God in ALL things is just incredible to me. My mission for that village is far from over. I pray that God will continue working in the village and in my heart. He is definitely stirring things up and it is awesome to see His work. After coming home, I read Psalm 34 and was amazed at how much I am reminded of the people of Grippis when I read this passage. They are amazing people and I can only hope and pray that I will have the opportunity again to come face to face with them and share in the excitement and promise of God's love. Thanks to everyone who prayed and supported us to go on this mission. My life and my heart will be forever changed. 

Psalm 34:
I will extol the LORD at all times;
   his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the LORD;
   let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
   let us exalt his name together.
 4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
   he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
   their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
   he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
   and he delivers them.
 8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
   blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
   for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
   but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
   I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 Whoever of you loves life
   and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
   and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
   seek peace and pursue it.
 15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
   and his ears are attentive to their cry; 
16 but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
   to blot out their name from the earth.
 17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
   he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
   and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
 19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
   but the LORD delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
   not one of them will be broken.
 21 Evil will slay the wicked;
   the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD will rescue his servants;
   no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.