Thursday, July 17, 2014

Farm Friday

One morning last month I saw something I hadn't seen in awhile. It's been over a year and I kind of missed seeing it. What was this marvelous sight you ask? My breath. With the succession of chilly mornings here it's becoming a more common sight. I mean we are in the midst of an African winter here ya know! Even though the mornings start out cool, once the sun comes up, it gets hot in a hurry! But as soon as the sun drops again, it is cold! Our family is currently engaging in an ongoing debate over whether we should break down and buy a heater or not. The discussion continues.

The new field is on the brink of full scale production.
Harvest is just in the very beginning stages. The amount of berries gathered by the ladies will slowly increase until we are in full production again August through November. This will be our family's second Zambian harvest season.
First fruits gathered from the new farm. may be wondering...just what exactly do you do as you wait for the berries to start producing heavily? Well here it is for you, off berry season in pictures.

We build berry barns. And get to know someone new, our summer intern Jonathan Pelsey! Thanks Jon for all your help. We are blessed to have you with us for a couple months. These small booths will be set up different places in town for our farm berries to be sold.
Meet Cowboy. (sorry for the bad pic) Erik has introduced Gift to the old time cowboy of the Wild West. The stories have captured his imagination and he showed up for work one day with this hat. A new nickname was born. Here Cowboy puts up shade netting for gooseberries. 

Trellis blackberries. And irrigate, irrigate, irrigate because it's dry season again.

Plant new gooseberry fields.

Study human anatomy. Make cool snacks that reflect what you are studying.

Catch frogs in the orange orchard. Lots of frogs, like 30 or so. In 1 hour.

Build a toolshed

Decide to raise pigs in the backyard. I knew Erik wouldn't be able to live much longer without raising some sort of animal in the backyard.

Have a berry consultant visit the farm and scout your fields. Thanks to Brian Windsor (from South Africa) for his time and expertise to our Lifesong family.

Taste the berries that are coming on quicker and heavier daily!

Fish in the reservoir. Check to see if the tilapia we added have gotten any bigger.

Laugh like crazy when you go in to town and see trucks loaded with chickens drive over speed bumps and potholes.

Learn a new language.

Gain valuable cultural experience. Smile while doing so. Larissa told me she has been dying to carry home a chicken in a plastic sack since we moved to Zambia. The farm ladies told me today that I wasn't a good wife unless I could kill a chicken in 5 minutes without it making a sound. (too bad for Erik, huh?)

Cover up tight in the cold winter mornings of Zambia

Try to keep cool in the hot winter afternoons of Zambia.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Riss's report on malaria

Today we have a special guest blogger, child number 4, otherwise known as Larissa.

Hi everyone. I just turned 8 on May 17th. On my birthday, I drove the Kubota, went swimming in the reservoir (which we now have fish in!!), had a yummy supper and a cool butterfly cake that mom made. I shared it with dad because his birthday is only 2 days after mine. The very best part of my birthday was that Grandpa and Grandma were here. 

The day after my birthday, mom started to feel bad. She went to bed. I was feeling a little bad but not much. I had a tiny fever so I laid in bed with mom for awhile.  We were supposed to leave for Victoria Falls the next day. When we woke up, we ate breakfast. We played outside for a little bit and then loaded up. Mom was feeling pretty bad and slept right up until we left and then climbed in the van. I felt ok. We had a 6 hour drive to Lusaka. On the way, I started feeling really bad. I had a tummy ache, headache, and just didn’t feel right. When we got to Lusaka, mom and I climbed into our hotel bed. Daddy was starting to get scared. We both had high fevers.  Mom’s was around 103 but mine was 104. He decided to find a hospital and take us there.  I really don’t remember much, but when we got to the hospital, we went into the waiting room. It seemed like an hour but maybe it was only 20 minutes. I felt really bad now, kind of like I might be dying. Finally they took mom into a room. Then we waited a little longer and then they took me and dad into a small room. They took my temperature and then they weighed me. We had to wait in the hallway then. A lady called us and we went into another room. There they asked me what was going on with my body. I told them about how I was feeling. She made me lay on a bed. She checked my heartbeat. Then I had to go to another room. There was still just one nurse helping me D addy sat down on a chair beside my bed. The nurse came up and dad told me about what an IV was. I didn’t know what it was before. When he explained it, I knew what it was and I started to get scared. The nurse told me it wouldn’t hurt for too long. First, she tied a glove around my arm to make my veins stick out. She stuck the needle in my vein on my wrist real quick, it didn’t hurt for too long. A short time later, one of the doctors who was a lady went coo coo! I think she was mad about my IV or something. She came stomping in and she asked if my IV was in already. Dad said yes. She got all bent out of shape and went running out of the room. A short while later she was stomping down the hallway yelling out words in a different language. Maybe Hindi or something. Awhile later, it was time for supper but I didn’t feel like eating. The nurse found me a room upstairs. They wouldn’t let me leave because my IV was hooked up and because I had too many malaria parasites in my blood. Dad kept trying to get them to let me leave, but they refused. We finally settled on me staying overnight. I was so scared and didn’t want to. I kept crying whenever Dad talked to me about it.

Finally mom came and climbed in bed with me. She spent the night at the hospital with me in the same bed. It was a bad night. I don’t really want to tell you what all happened because its kind of gross. But they gave me medicine through my IV all night. They would just barge in to my room and turn on the light in the middle of the night. In the morning, we got out of there, but mom and I still had to receive injections through our IV ports. We wanted to get to Victoria Falls! We went back to the hotel. We got all our stuff together and climbed back in the van. My port started to feel really bad. I think I ate some crackers that day but that’s about all.
Mom and I with our ports

When we arrived in Livingstone, we checked in. Dad was talking to the guy and he asked if there was a clinic or hospital nearby. The man told us they had a nurse there! At the hotel! We went into our room. I laid in bed. The nurse came to our room and looked at our medicine. She said she could take care of it so we followed her to her clinic. But bad news, my port was blocked because my blood had dried up inside of it. I didn’t drink enough water and I got dehydrated. Bad news again. She had to stick a needle in my hand for a new IV port. She put the medicine in. It stings when she does that! We went back to our room and went to bed. The next day we had to see the nurse again and she gave us more medicine through our IVs. We had to do that for 3 days. I think. It felt good to get the port off, but it was still a little sore. Mom told me about kids who have cancer and other diseases who have to have ports too.

While we were in Livingstone, we heard that a little boy at Lifesong school died from malaria. I felt so scared. I wondered if I would die too. But mom told me, that I was getting medicine for it and I would be okay. It made me sad that he didn’t get medicine quickly too.

When we came back to our house, I was all better.

And actually, I got malaria again just last week.  But it wasn’t as bad this time. It still isn’t fun. And mom gets scared when my fever is 104.6. But we have medicine and I am better and thankful.

Mom looked up these malaria facts online.

Every minute, a child dies from malaria
Malaria is a serious (sometimes fatal) disease that is spread by mosquitoes who have been infected by a parasite. The disease is spread when mosquitoes feed on humans.
Malaria exists in 109 countries around the world, making 3.3. billion people (half of the world population) susceptible to the disease.
About 90 percent of malaria-related deaths occur south of the Sahara in Africa. The majority of these are children under the age of 5.
Common side effects of malaria are high fever, chills, headache, and other flu-like symptoms. Severe illness and death can normally be avoided if the disease is properly treated.
In 2010, 216 million clinical cases of malaria were recorded worldwide. 655,000 cases were fatal; 86 percent of those were children.

Thanks for reading what I had to say about malaria. Sometimes its weird to think that I have had malaria when I know I can die from it. My mom feels guilty sometimes because we can get medicine so quickly. But the good news is that we have a cool Nurse at Lifesong School. Her name is Christabel and she has lots of malaria meds. She even has malaria tests that she does for the kids who she thinks have it. Dad says she is a huge blessing to have here and we are so thankful for her help.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Botswana Safari

I can see I am really bad at following through on posting when I say I am going to. Good thing Dad sent me a hint over Whatsapp today ;) Somehow...time just slips away. Please know that despite our silence we think of many of you often and our hearts overflow with thankfulness. Whether its by your example, kindness generosity, expertise, emails, or prayers, our lives our made richer by the blessing of your life. 

Below is a blitz of nature photos from our safari with Dad and Mom in May. (What?? an entire month has gone by??)  We spent the first part of our safari in a boat exploring the river. Jonas is helping me remember what we saw that day. Hippos, elephants, nile monitors, crocs, really cool birds (like bee eaters, African fish eagles)

crocs sun themselves on the shore

Elephants wading through the water and grazing on the water grasses

Cape Buffalo with a cattle egret passenger

hippos at a distance

Savannah kept saying, "oh I wish an elephant would just swim right in front of the boat! That would be so cool!" She got her wish. :)
 At this point, we disembarked from the boat and enjoyed a buffet lunch at a nearby lodge along the riverfront. After dessert, we headed to Chobe National Park to take a driving safari through the park.
elephant leaving the river

I wish you could tell how close we are in these! They were right in front of us!

I am kind of in love with this tree...

So that's how they do it with those looong necks! 
The lions were chilling in the shade while a baby elephant they had killed was waiting for them to feast on in the sun. 
One of the highlights was being able to watch a leopard stalking some impala. It was incredible. She was unsuccessful but watching the drama play out was exciting. Viewing her as she stalked was amazing. Lots of times we would lose track of her even in the spare grass until she would make another slight movement, creeping ever closer.

 Sometimes the mother in me gets really down when I think about all that our kids are missing out on the States. No piano lessons, organized sports, vacation Bible schools, dance lessons, etc. But then I realize they are being provided with other incredible experiences and I am thankful. This is one of those times.

While we were in Livingstone, we received word that one of our Lifesong School students had died from malaria. He was being cared for by one of our farm ladies. During the month of May, there was a huge outbreak of malaria. Malaria is always a big deal, but this May was worse than usual. Daily, funeral trucks would drive by our house packed full of Zambians singing on their way to the cemetery just down the road from our house. It always haunts me a little to hear the funeral processions go by. I wonder how old the person may have been, what sickness did they have, were they able to afford medical care at all...And most haunting..did they know the entire plan of Salvation? Do the people attending have hope? Do they understand and remember that there is more to come?

Please continue to pray as our family and team work alongside the beautiful people here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Grandparents and Vic Falls

Why is it that something you anticipate for so long comes and its awesome and then afterward you realize the time went by so quickly you're not sure it even happened?
70+ paper chain links ago, we started the countdown till Grandpa and Grandma arrived. On the way to the airport, the kids were giddy and excited although somewhat fearful that the flight would be delayed or worse yet...they might be stranded in Ethiopia (which is what happened to our last visitors). As the arrival time drew near, 4 little heads kept constantly poking into the secure area to check for "muzungus". The girls faces lit up as they caught their first glimpse of Grandma clearing security. They ran back to us breathless to report. How good it was to give Dad and Mom big hugs! And then...time went in to warp speed. 15 short days later...we returned from the airport in a silent car with occassional sniffles. And again, we were able to have those types of discussions that draw us closer to each other and closer to Him and Home.
But those 15 days were a blast! Despite the run in that Larissa and I had with malaria. (another post, another time!)
Half of our time was spent traveling to Livingstone, Zambia. We were able to explore Victoria Falls at its highest volume of the year. Going on safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana was also a long awaited experience.
Erik says less words...more pictures...
This is just the very edge of the falls from the Zambian side

The amount of mist was incredible. As we got closer to the falls it was like a torrential rain! We were absolutely soaked!

I must add some words because pictures can't do it justice! The falls are over a mile wide. At the Zambezi River's highest point, 197,000,000 gallons of water per minute are cascading on average 328 feet over the edge. I know you can't even fathom that, but it is A LOT of water! The sheer power of the water is astounding. The roar can be heard from a long distance away. While standing near the falls, not only is the water cascading down, but it is blasting up from below as well because of the sheer force of that volume of water. Of course we couldn't fully appreciate all this awesomeness standing next to it so Grandpa insisted we see it from the air! Yep, you got it, we took a helicopter ride!
ummmm....they forgot to mention they would be leaving the doors open the ENTIRE time. Not gonna was a little freaky. Mom was clinging to her seat the whole time :)

During the entire flight, rainbows were dancing over the falls
We stayed at a great lodge that was within Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. Mosi-Oa-Tunya means the smoke that thunders in the local language, refering to the Falls. There was plenty of wildlife just where we were staying. We were told to be sure that our sliding doors stayed closed at all times because of the monkeys. One morning, Jonas and Claire watched as a monkey got in someone's balcony sliding door. They ran over to watch. The monkey came out with what he thought was a sugar packet...It was actually coffee. He dumped it out...right on to Claire's head!
Just hanging out at our hotel...WITH SOME ZEBRAS!

We were a five minute walk from the falls. This rainbow over the falls greeted us the day we arrived

I will never get over how weird it is to have to stop your van to let giraffes pass by. When they go by your window all you see is their knees. Weird.

These things are almost creepy.
We were so blessed to be able to experience these beautiful sights. We wished we could have experienced it with all our friends and family,

The kids and I will try to post more pictures later this week.
Blessings to you and yours.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Here we are again. Blogging about what's happening here on this side of the world. If it wasn't for my parents gentle (sometimes not so gentle) reminders...there would probably be no blog. I tend to shy away from any type of social media. Just recently I read an article declaring that the new word of the year for 2013 is "selfie." I'm climbing up on a soapbox so bear with me a moment. Selfies bother me. A lot. As the author explained, every image shared seeks an audience to share what they think about us. To tell us how we are doing, to let us know if we measure up, to let us know if we have any value. I totally fall in to this trap. All the time.

I hesitate to blog because in the next few days after posting I find myself frantically checking it to see if anybody reads it, or to see if anybody comments. Does anybody think I wrote well? Does anyone think what I shared has any spiritual insight? Or maybe someone might think I am a really cool mom!
Aren't I pathetic? I don't know why I am writing this.  Maybe to share with you the fact that I am really not a special person. I am really not doing anything more amazing than you are.  Trying to focus on what He thinks of me is way more important than what the rest of the world thinks about me!  Our Father is just as active in your life as He is in mine. He is just as present in America as He is in Zambia. So please when you read this, know that the only reason we are able to do what we do is because people like you are praying for us and supporting us. And honestly, I think all of you are pretty amazing.{stepping down from soapbox}

We have moved for the third time since stepping foot onto Zambian soil. Since our last post about the bridge, we have begun to feel solid ground beneath our foot. The home we are in is a huge blessing to us. Pray we can use it willingly and selflessly to bless others and to share the love of our Father. The children are all doing well and are continuing their ever constant pursuit of new and amazing creatures to catch. The coveted pet is currently a mongoose. We have seen several but only from a distance. All they can think of is Rudyard Kipling's portrayal of Rikki-Tiki-Tavi. I have no idea what I will say/do if we actually manage to acquire one. The children also continue to be as active and as curious as ever. This week someone got curious about razors and managed to shave off their eyebrows. Imagine the shrieking upon looking in the mirror to discover that razors do indeed work. Shouldn't we be past this sort of experimentation? Apparently not.

Strawberry production is just beginning. A nursery in South Africa shipped 100,000 plants. We were able to hire about 42 ladies to get them in to the ground. The ladies worked from dawn till dusk. After several long days they were finished. Our hearts filled with joy to see them skipping and hollering like little children away from the farm with their pay in hand. :) These ladies are often widows or the sole bread winners in their families, some of them supporting up to 9 or 10 people on only $38 a week. Pray with us that as the farm continues to prosper we can help more people to rise above poverty level. We truly desire to come alongside these women and their families to help them more fully understand their value in the eyes of our Father.

New and exciting things are happening here as well. Our teammate Sheila has done an amazing job getting our production building up to code for food processing. The team is working on developing a line of jams. Erik had the opportunity to visit the Congo with some of our Zambian teammates. Lubumbashi is just across the border. It is a large city and the marketing opportunities are numerous.

Well Dad and Mom, I did it. This one was for you to show you I intend to pick it up again to let people know what's going on. Even if you are the only ones who read it;) And if anyone would like to pray for my parents...they depart for Zambia TOMORROW!! We are quite ecstatic and can't wait till they get here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Last May, our family enjoyed our stay at Mission Training International in beautiful Colorado. As mentioned in a previous post this time was invaluable for our family. During one of our training sessions we had the opportunity to role play the experience our family would go through as we transition to living somewhere completely different than where we came from and adjust to a culture unlike our own. I found myself volunteering to represent the "mother" of the group.

We proceeded to strap on safety harnesses used for rock climbing. We all had hooks attached to our belts. Our instructors began attaching ropes and cords to each of us. With separate bindings I was attached to the father, son, daughter, and a single team member. Each of the members of our group were also attached with cords to each other individual. It was tangled and messy. Things felt a little close, a little too personal, and honestly, constricting and awkward as we tried to shuffle around together.

We were to represent a missionary team navigating the bridge of transition during the adjustment period of adapting to a new culture and place. We were to walk across this bridge to help our group explore the way we would feel as a team during this time of intense change. Climbing up on solid chairs we began to cross the bridge. The next step was called the "unsettling" stage. We wobbled a little as we crossed this section as all the chairs were set up on small blocks of wood making them unstable and shaky. I began to feel a little stressed and stretched by all my bindings. Those in front were pulling me forward as those behind kept pulling me back. Frankly it was uncomfortable! Looking in front of me with a little excitement and a little apprehension, I wondered how our little role play group would mange the "chaos" part of transition. This had been represented by large exercise balls loosely held together by a bed sheet. I found myself somewhat annoyed at "father" as he fearlessly plunged ahead. My consternation continued to mount as "son" leaped into "chaos" with abandon. Didn't they realize they were affecting me personally with every jolt and move they made on the bridge? Finally, it was my turn, I stepped onto the balls and immediately rolled sideways. I regained my balance, but only to crawl on my hands and knees slowly forward. The ropes binding me to the others were tight and uncomfortable and I couldn't get away. At this point, the instructor yelled "Pause!" We all tried to hold our precarious positions. We discussed how each person was in a different stage yet we could all feel what the others were doing or where the were because of the cords tying us together. "Hey Mom!" Our instructor said, "haven't heard from your family in awhile, when are you going to send an update?" I jokingly replied, "I sure hope I would have communicated to others beforehand that we might be a little tied up trying to cross the bridge!!"

So here is my apology: family, friends, church family, prayer warriors, even casual readers of this blog, we have been on the bridge. I didn't take my own advice and let you know beforehand we might be unavailable for awhile. We have hunkered down as a family and put all our energy and focus into getting "across". And we have kind of been stuck in chaos. Not all of us at once, but we all feel it when the other one is in chaos. And, it kind of stinks. We don't love dwelling in chaos, but we must all go through it to get acclimated to our new culture and living overseas. Now, don't get me wrong, Zambia is an awesome place to live. The people are warm, super friendly and caring. The land is gorgeous. Everything we could possibly need is readily available. It's just that when the people you have walked with and lived life with as well as all the places and things you knew and could predict are stripped away, things are shaky, and a little scary. But the beautiful thing is, He is here in the midst of our chaos. We have never for a moment been out of His care or keeping. At times, I have forgotten this but my family members were here to remind me.

Back to our little role play, our "team" slowly continued to cross through chaos. I found myself constantly looking back to make sure that all the others were making it through chaos okay. I tend to be empathetic so I felt as if I went through it with them each time. This part of the role play especially rings true for me. Every time one of our kids has entered chaos, no matter where I myself am on the bridge, I find myself running to "chaos" to get them across. I find it difficult as a mother to just stand on the other side and shout back to my children to hurry across because it's better on the other side. And it gets a little exhausting running out there over and over. Again, I must be reminded that Christ is in the midst of chaos and He is faithful! Plus chaos does not last forever! As our role play team each left chaos we entered the "resettling" stage. Again, the chairs we were walking on were set up on wood blocks. I personally crawled to these chairs and felt as if I was slowly, desperately climbing to my feet, only to discover that I was still shaky and unsure. A few more chairs and we made it to the "settled" stage. Ah...relief...solid ground! Things felt secure, safe, predictable even! The chairs were no longer moving, we had crossed the bridge successfully!

I have included some pictures from our training session for your entertainment. Also included is a picture of what one of our children wrote while in the midst of chaos. As tears poured from my child's eyes, this was the only way we could communicate. Chaos has brought emotions and reactions to each of us we have never expressed or experiences before. I include this to help you understand and to know how to pray.

So faithful supporters, please know we earnestly covet your prayers. We know you are praying. I know it each time an arrow of His clarifying truth pierces my mind that His church is being faithful in lifting each other up. Thanks for your patience as our family continues to transition. Sorry you haven't heard from us in awhile...we've been crossing the bridge!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Farm Friday

It's hard to believe that February is drawing to a close. Temperatures begin to drop a bit here as our families Stateside report temperatures rising and snow melting away! It's odd to be living below the equator and experiencing opposite seasons. This month our family reached the exciting milestone of living in Zambia for 6 months. Time marches on, and rains continue to fall as rainy season reaches its peak.

Strawberry tunneling was finally finished yesterday. The strawberries are happy, happy, happy now.  And we are thankful it is done.
Aerial view of the tunnels ready for plastic
Stretching the plastic into place

Plastic on! Hopefully the berries will appreciate the drier conditions.
Raspberries continue to produce in abundance. After consulting with PSI, we discovered the reason for the lack of sweetness is due to the heavy rains. Apparently the rains somehow decrease and dilute sugar content. Our kids have been thrilled to gobble up the berries that are not selling because of this. Raspberries hang will be tunneled next!

Gooseberries are being harvested twice a week. These fruits are sold to a local grocery store in Kitwe. It is encouraging to finally have some income during the rainy season.

At the end of March we are hosting a food production specialist team who will be helping us set up our processing building to produce jam and bottle honey. We have over 6,000 pounds of strawberries in our freezer waiting to be made into jam (minus what the kids and I snitch on occasion). Getting the building up to food production specs is demanding our attention. The floor must be tiled, all the cracks in the processing room must be sealed. An air conditioning unit will be added to regulate the temperature of the room to keep our fruits stable. A water filtration system is also being added so we can process with clean water. We are looking forward to this new venture to provide more opportunities to employ workers; widows who will have a regular income to provide for their families. We pray that as the business grows, Lifesong Farms impact will be positive and long-lasting. 

Work at the new farm progresses. The pump house for the irrigation system is finished. As is the security fence surrounding the property. The sea container conversion to housing for our night guard is almost complete. Currently we are beginning construction for a cooler that will be used for our berry harvest in July. In the next few weeks, preparation of the strawberry beds must begin. We anticipate the arrival of 100,000 strawberry plants the first week in April. 

Maybe we should just move in here as we wait for our own house to be finished. hmmmm....

Pump house complete and ready for the irrigation system to be added!

Working in the mud to prepare a path for the security fence.
We are thankful to continue to see progress in spite of the challenges of working in the rainy season.  We are getting used to frequent delays due to rain, stuck equipment, and power failures.  It is certainly an exercise in patience and perseverance.  As we look back on the last few weeks, we can only thank God for His protection and blessings.  We are reminded of the scripture which talks about how we plant and water but God gives the increase.  We hope that our efforts and attitudes are pleasing to Him and trust that He will indeed give increase to Lifesong Farm.

Just another day.

A cobra measuring over 5' long killed a few feet from our future cooler on the new farm.
Our family and Lifesong Farm thanks all of you for your continued prayers and support.  We could not do it without you.  May our God richly bless you.