Monday, June 20, 2016

Wow. It's embarrassing to break this silence. It's been too long and it feels awkward. So, just pretend I haven't taken a blogging hiatus for almost a year and act like this is the most natural thing in the world...And while we are pretending, imagine we are meeting over a cup of coffee or spicy chai and taking some time to catch up on each other's lives.

One of the most exciting things that has happened recently is Savannah's baptism. In May, she shared her testimony with our international church family in Zambia and was fully immersed. It was a special day for her as she made a public profession of the inward change God had made in her heart a few years ago. When you see her next, please feel free to ask her to testify of His goodness in her life. She is preparing to start high school this fall. It's been a flurry of selecting curriculum as she begins to map out her higher education.
Savannah on her special day with another dear sister in Christ baptized on the same day

Jonas is fast becoming a young man. He loves spending time with Erik on the farm. When he recently did a career survey, he came out with a strong engineering bent. Not that any of us were surprised by that since he is always rigging some contraption up to aid us in our daily life. His ingenuity is always a pleasure to observe. He recently said goodbye to his best American friends as their family moves back to the States to pursue other ministry options. It's been difficult for him, but he (and myself!) trust God will help him find some new friends.
another day, another contraption

I think Claire would be the first to tell you that she has seen God answer prayers. Firsthand. She prayed for a baby brother or sister. When she heard Jayde was on her way, she was thrilled! Then, when it was time for baby's arrival she prayed fervently for me and the health of our baby while I was in labor and then through my emergency c-section. God is growing this girl in big ways. She has the courage of a lion and the heart to go with it.
reading at Lifesong school

Larissa is excited to have my niece Kaitlyn here for an extended visit. It is sweet to have an older person show the love of Jesus to our children. (Thanks Kaits!) Larissa said goodbye to her best American friend this past week as our teammates, the McBrides relocate to central Illinois. You will be missed Kaytie Grace. This gives our family the opportunity to encourage Riss as she has us. She is always loving each of us well with her little notes, spontaneous hugs, and relaxing hand massages. Also, being a big sister is an absolute dream come true for this girl! She can often be found cuddled up with Jayde, a warm blanket and maybe even a good book.
Turning 10 is awesome!

Birthday party with friends

Jayde Temwa took her first breath of Zambian air February 27. Nearly 2 weeks past her due date, her arrival was filled with drama. As mentioned earlier she was born via emergency c-section after about 20 hours of labor. Her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and there was a tight knot in it as well. Being born in Zambia is an exciting experience, to say the least. This little one is a charmer. Everywhere we go she flashes her little blue eyes and toothless smile and instantly has best friends. It's so amazing to see how this small child is being used by the Creator already. She has increased the faith of many by being an answer to prayer through her healthy arrival, she brings joy to even the grouchiest, and she is teaching each person in our family the blessings of sacrifice and service.

Erik would share with you how he is continually reminded that Biblical principles transcend culture. If a believer is truly living according to the Gospel, there is a true fellowship and kinship with all other believers. Challenges abound for Zambian believers that the average American may never experience. Whether it's marital difficulties, money issues, conflict with one's employer or fellow employees, all the solutions can be found within God's word. How amazing is that? It brings fresh appreciation to the aspect of the Living Word. He also continues to juggle all the aspects of running a business in Zambia. Recently he has been helping to plan for the future of the Lifesong Vocational School.

As for myself, I am receiving a refresher course in true Gospel living. I am thrilled to have a new baby again, but had forgotten the sacrifices that come with having a little person in the house. Sometimes I don't serve with joy. I sure would love to be a part of that pick up volleyball game with the boarding students or to teach class regularly with our farm ladies. After all isn't that "ministry"? Sometimes I can even allow myself to become bitter at what I don't get to participate in. But as I said, what is truer to the Gospel message than laying down one's life for another? I say this not to lift myself up, but to encourage each of you whatever stage of life your in. Maybe you feel as if your life is hidden in the daily grind of motherhood. Perhaps you feel as if you are impacting no one as you change yet another dirty diaper and soothe a crabby toddler. Or maybe you put up with angry attitudes from your preteen or teenager. Maybe you feel like your boss and co-workers don't appreciate anything you do. Be reminded that just as your life is hidden in acts of service, so your life is hidden in Christ. Let all that you do and say be His actions as you serve those around you. Remind yourself that He sees every act of self denial. Take time to appreciate the way HE gave up ALL for you, and let your heart be drawn to worship. That is true Gospel living.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Green Roofs and Village Life

Five years ago, our kids were 8, 7, 6 and 4. We were invited to an orphan awareness event at our good friends’ house. Many rooms of the house were set up to help the kids who were there visualize what life is like for an orphan. Most of the activity centered around contrasting how different things were for an orphan. In the bathroom, we talked about how most orphans didn’t have running water in their homes, let alone HOT water in their bathroom. Or a nice big bathtub with Jacuzzi jets!

In Zambia, the homes near where we live, there are rarely bathrooms in the house at all. In most back or side yards, you will find the family bathroom. A hole in the ground is usually surrounded by a simple structure. Sometimes privacy is afforded by some termite block and a covering of tin, but most often just bamboo poles and feed sacks and open air are all you need. 

In the kitchen we talked about how many different pots, pans, dishes, silverware, and utensils there were. And all the different food choices in the pantry! Amazing! As opposed to an orphan who would generally eat 1-2 food items that had probably been cooked outside over a fire, once a day. If all was well. And they probably ate with their hands! (Although this tidbit was met with mixed reactions…seeing as all my kids prefer to eat with their hands…still)

Here, most cooking is done outside in the open air. Everyone cooks over charcoal in small braziers. As mentioned in other posts, finely ground corn meal is the staple food here and it is eaten at every meal.

In the bedroom, we talked about how most would not have a bed to sleep on and certainly very few toys.  There most likely is no night light. Often, there is no one to sing/pray with you before you settle down for the night. And they would probably share a room with many other people.

Having your own bedroom is very rare. Having "stuff" in your bedroom is even more rare. Some children do have a parent who loves them very much, or an auntie who may have taken them in after their parents died. There is no electricity, so no nightlight is there for comfort. 

please note...this shot was taken during the project mentioned below,
so it isn't set up as it usually would be, but you get the idea

All of this was difficult for us to visualize, but after some time living with kids in this situation, we realize the descriptions are very accurate.

So, just how bleak is the life of an orphan here in Zambia?  Even though the descriptions of their living conditions are largely accurate and sometimes worse, there is another side to the coin.  As you walk through the village here, you will notice the children very quickly.  Mainly because they flock to you to stare and laugh.  Their clothes are ragged and their dark skin lightened by patches of dirt.  Teeth gleam in big smiles.  Some have homemade toys.  As you spend time watching, you will see them laughing, playing, enjoying life.  This is what amazes us about children.  This is maybe one reason why Jesus said we should be like little children.  No matter how desperate our situation, there is still time to laugh and play and wonder.

Recently, we launched a small project called Tin for Tikes. In rainy season we receive around 3 feet of rain in 4 months time.The purpose of the project was to raise a few funds to put new roofs on about 8 houses so that kids could stay dry in the rainy season.  We evaluated the needs of the widows working for the farm and chose the most needy.  God had even bigger plans.  To date, we have the funds for about 50 homes!!  We never expected to have this level of support. Green tin roofs are popping up around the village and our farm ladies are so excited.  They have never had a roof that didn’t leak.

As Christmas nears, we are encouraged to see so many people willing to give to those in need. We are blessed to see first hand how your gifts in the name of the Father bring joy! We pray you will be blessed in return as you give in His name. Below you will find pictures from one of our worker's homes. Mary lives here with her elderly mother and her 6 children.



Still working....

Still working...

Here we added a 2 liter bottle filled with water and a little bleach.  The sunlight is diffused and gives off as much light as a 40 watt bulb!
Pretty much finished!


A beautiful sight seen while working

Riss takes the opportunity to get her hair plaited. Ouch!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Termite Mound Baseball

I suppose there have been hundreds of posts and articles written about how fast kids grow up and being too busy to spend time with them.  And yet, somehow, the whirlwind of life sucks us in and blinds us to what we know to be true.  Kids grow up too fast and time is irreplaceable.

I realized this a couple of days ago when my kids were sitting at the kitchen table watching old videos we had taken with a digital camera.  It was later in the evening and I was still busy at my computer after 12 hours of the "whirlwind".  Their laughter attracted my attention and I went over to watch.  And we watched and watched and watched and laughed and remembered.

I almost cried when I thought of how fast time has slipped away.  Our kids are getting older, becoming independent, but they still need my time and attention.  The needs here in Zambia are always at our door.  There is always more to do for others, ways to impact the community, all good things.

But, at what cost?  In the busyness of operating a business and ministry, I have neglected the ones closest to me.  I ignored the offhand comments they make about me being around but never ENGAGED with them.  Or the statements how I am always on the phone or talking to someone.

So, yesterday evening, I shut down the computer, put the business aside, and we all went out and threw a baseball on the site of an old termite mound in Northern Zambia.  It seemed strange to wear baseball gloves and throw the ball in such a place, but we had fun.  And I was not distracted.

I am still learning boundaries for my time.  My best teachers are my children.  I am committed to listening to their silent cries for attention and time.  I hope you can be committed the same way.

God bless.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015


To affect (someone) strongly

To cause (someone) to have too many things to deal with

To defeat (someone or something) completely

To overspread or crush beneath something violent and weighty, that covers or encompasses the whole

It seems an eternity has passed since I last ventured in to this blogging world. I know I have composed a hundred posts in my mind, and I even sat down at least three times and started typing. So much has changed so quickly.  We have been so many places and seen so many loved ones. We have been to America and are resettling back here in Zambia. Before we flew out from Chicago, I remember thinking the same word over and over: overwhelmed.

Now, I don’t want you to think that this word is all full of negative because that is simply not the case. When we hit American soil and the customs agents told us, “Welcome home,” I nearly burst into tears. I realize he wasn’t anticipating an emotional female on his hands by simply welcoming a fellow citizen, so I whispered thank you through my teary eyes and gave him a wobbly smile.  We quickly proceeded out of the line and around the last corner to where our family and friends were waiting. And I was overwhelmed. I was able to see a niece and a nephew I had never met before, blubber over in laws I hadn’t seen in what felt like forever, hug a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in over 2 years and exclaim over her children who had grown taller than me! I think I may have been weeping.  Security personnel continually tried to push us onward toward the exit, but we had too much to say and too many hugs to give!

We began to reconnect with things that seemed familiar. We ate foods we had dreamed and talked about probably every single week. We hung out at places where we had made so many memories and in the process filled our hearts full of new ones. We spent time in sweet, sweet fellowship as we renewed friendships and caught up on each other’s lives. We were filled to overflowing. Overwhelmed.

Erik and I had the opportunity to fly to California to learn more from the great people at Plant Sciences. We reveled in majestic mountain views, devoured fresh sea food, gorged ourselves on ginormous strawberries, avoided seasickness as we enjoyed deep sea fishing, surveyed beautiful fields from one of the most fertile valleys in the nation, watched the sun set over the ocean, hiked through the cathedral of redwoods, spent time thinking, dreaming and planning about the next few years ahead…and felt overwhelmed.

After we had spent about a month in the States, we received a big surprise.  

Obviously, again, overwhelmed.

We spent time at grocery stores and shopping malls, simply to see the amazing selection of things for sale. We meandered down aisles, shocked at the cereal selection and the varieties of chips and crackers. Even the pretzel choices were overwhelming! Twists, sticks, rings, waffle-shaped, honey-mustard, plain, not to even mention brand choices!

We packed all the activities we could in to the amount of time we had. (a fish fry, camping, cookouts, swimming, canoeing, tubing, bowling, baseball games, biking, long walks, long talks, late night get togethers, 4 wheeling, fishing, shark dissection session, church family camp, sleepovers with friends, just to name a few.) And we couldn’t believe it when departure day approached. As we hugged my parents goodbye, the tears began to flow. I can’t even drive by an airport now without shedding a few tears. Our hearts and minds were full of so many things shared, yet the knowledge of so many things we would miss. Again. Overwhelmed.

Upon arrival on Zambian soil, our kids felt some elation! Ah yes! They felt better than they expected to be back. And I was oh so thankful. In the first week we were back, we were reminded of the grip that Satan still retains on the community through the practice of witchcraft. It was a swift reminder for us of the battle that is still raging here for the souls of many.

In the month that we have been back, it has been oh so sweet to reconnect with the ones we love here in this place. Sharing the Word is always a blessing. Light always dispels darkness. Our girls enjoy helping with English classes. Last week, they pretended to be storekeepers as the ladies visited and “bought” fruIt, vegetables, and bartered, all in English. And of course, holding babies. There is a small baby boom in our area among the people we know. But, it hasn’t all been rosy. We have had some malaria (2 cases), a very serious bee attack, and a couple of cases of giardia (an amoebic intestinal infection). Overwhelmed by all that is our normal here.

Erik and I are both gearing up to take on more daily responsibility; myself with accounting for the school and farm and Erik with marketing.  Caleb Hoerr is training us to take over for him. He has blessed us this past year by doing all the marketing and accounting. Harvest is in full swing. Since June, our workers have harvested around 12 tons of strawberries. More ground is being broken to plant in 2016. We are preparing beds under tunnels so we can continue to harvest in the rainy season. Blackberries should be ready to harvest in December. We continue our orange tree trials.

Lifesong School began a new term this week. Lots of students are returning to receiving regular meals and reliable healthcare, something they don’t always receive at home. Our teachers covet your prayers as they seek to disciple and teach.

The kwacha is weakening. Zambia’s economy is a little shaky. There is a shortage of electricity so we experience daily power outages, usually 8 hours. Sometimes less, sometimes more.   

Yet through it all, He proves Himself ever faithful. The Spirit brings this verse to mind:

From the ends of the earth will I cry unto thee when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 
Psalm 61:2

And we are at peace.

Thanks again for loving us so well. We are truly humbled again and again as you show us His body in action.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Farm Friday

Having a new bed former arrive early this year was really exciting. The farm is moving forward in the area of mechanization! We will be able to form amazingly awesome beds this year....or so we thought...

This rainy season has been one of the strangest on record. We have had long dry stretches. And now, when the rains are supposed to be finishing we have had the wettest April that many Zambians ever remember.  With some anxiousness we wake in the night as the rain pounds on the tin roof wondering when in the world we will ever be able to prep the fields for this year's 100,000 strawberry plants. Rolling over with long sighs, we realize that God has it all under control and there isn't a whole lot we can do about it. But as the rainy days drag on, we have decided to hire workers to form our beds. If we don't have them do it, we may be waiting for weeks. Weeks that we don't have. Because at this moment, our plants our sitting in cold storage. If they stay there too long...they will remain in a vegetative state and will not produce berries. 

Hesitatingly, we finally agreed to our farm manager's advice to round up some of the Lifesong School mamas to form the beds. "We will try it and see how it looks," Erik said. He was pleasantly surprised and even amazed at how quickly and efficiently they formed the beds by hand using crude hoes and persistent effort, even in the rain! After 3 days, 3.5 out of 4 acres of beds are ready. Each row is over 300 feet long and they have done over 150. (For those who care, that's over 45,000 linear feet!!) This is serious progress and work.

The ladies operate a hoe like we drive a car.  They can talk and interact without any thought of what they are actually doing.  Granted, they don't eat fast food or apply makeup while hoeing, but they can have fun and still get a lot done.

 The ladies are excited to have work which equals income which equals food for their children for a few more weeks.

As the beds are completed, some of the ladies break off bed forming to stretch irrigation drip lines down each row, cover each bed with plastic, and hoe in each row so there is enough soil to hold down the plastic. On Monday, they will begin punching holes in the plastic and planting plants in each hole. The plants will be dipped in fertilizer and insecticide right before they are planted. 

Our family has anxiously awaited this time. We knew once the new baby plants were all snug in their beds, we would be heading for America. As of today there are only 25 days till departure. Our emotions are mixed. My good friend Amy expressed the way it feels so well. The analogy she shared on her blog keeps running through my mind and has been very helpful for me and our kids to put words to what we are feeling.

In America, we were yellow. 
We thought yellow, we talked yellow, we dreamed yellow, hey, we even ate yellow!

We really like yellow.

In Zambia, we are blue, or at least try to be.
We find our minds stretching to think blue, interact in the blue way, and occasionally we eat blue.

We really like blue.

But we really aren't either blue or yellow...we have become a shade of green. 
And we like green.  We think.

Green feels strange.  What is familiar?  What is normal?  What if we act blue in a yellow situation?  For instance, eating rice with our hands.  Or forgetting to wear shoes in public.  Or, driving on the wrong side of the road.  And these are the obvious ones.  Who knows what will go through our green minds.  But, we look forward to the adventure and certainly will have many laughs and embarrassing moments.  Isn't that what makes life interesting?
Here is yellow me operating a blue tool and doing a green job of it.