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.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Flat Stanley in Zambia

Maybe some of you have heard of Flat Stanley and his adventures. If not, let me explain. Flat Stanley is a children's book about a boy he gets flattened by a bulletin board. A little gruesome I know but lots of children's things are actually somewhat frightening  (how creepy is the song about the old lady who swallowed a fly? but I digress.) Because of his flattened state, Stanley is then able to be put in an envelope and go visit his friend in another part of the country. 

Inspired by Stanley's adventures, teachers all over the United States have taken to having their classes produce "Flat People" that are then mailed all over the world. A letter is sent with Stanley encouraging the receiver to take pictures of flat Stanley doing cool stuff. We received a Flat Stanely recently and since I already had everything typed up, I thought you might enjoy reading the letter that we returned. 

Note: For anomymity reasons, I do not name the sender. But dear sender, please note this letter isn't identical to the one I sent you. The words have been changed a little. 

Dear sender of Flat Stanley,

I am sure you have been wondering where in the world Stanley has been. Well, let me tell you…he has been on an adventure. Stanley’s journey got off to a slow start because he spent a lot of days forgotten and neglected in a postal box in the town of Kitwe, Zambia. When he was picked up things started to get a little crazy. One of the first things he noticed when he finally got out of his envelope was the fact that people drive on the opposite side of the road here! Weird! He ended up staying with the Wiegands most of the time. But they have had quite a lot of flat people visit them since they moved to Zambia. So, they passed him to one of their team members to take for a few days. 

Our team is a group of Americans who are all working in Zambia to run both a farm and a school. Stanley’s first night was spent getting to know our team. Here is at our weekly team Brinner. (having breakfast for dinner) The people on our team are from Indiana, California and Texas. He even spent some time riding a pretend camel while the adults had a meeting and prayer time.

Zambia is an exciting place but there are some things that made Stanley scared and sad too. First off, there are snakes in Zambia that can hurt you. Once while Stanley was here we saw a spitting cobra in one of our farm fields. Stanley wouldn’t even go outside because he was so scared! Lots of kids here are very poor. They often don’t have enough food to eat or nice clothes to wear. Many of them don’t get to go to school. They live in small houses and lots of times they are orphans. We know one place where 7 boys live together and they only have a small twin bed in their house. There isn’t always great medical care either. And lots of people get malaria. That made Stanley feel really down. But he noticed that the kids still smiled a lot. They built cool toys out of the things that they had. Like empty milk containers, pieces of wire, and other things.

And visiting Lifesong School made him very happy. The kids there are able to get an education for free because people in America love and support them and because the workers at Lifesong Farm sell berries to pay for everything they need! Also, the school feeds the students twice a day. That made Stanley really happy! He spent a day at the school and helped cook lunch. You can see him helping to stir a giant pot of nshima, the staple food in Zambia. It’s made from cornmeal. You have to be really strong to stir this big pot!! Then of course he had to help clean up. He also met the headmaster and had tea time with some of the teachers. He also learned that Lifesong has a nurse to take care of the kids when they are sick. Everywhere Stanley visited in Zambia he was met with smiles and laughter. People thought it was really fun to take pictures with him and to see us taking pictures of him in different places.
Having tea with some teachers

stirring nshima
Cleaning up after lunch with Mama Jennifer

Meeting Headmaster Luke

One of the very first things that happened to Stanley at the school was he got put through a laminator. It is rainy season here right now, so he kind of had a permanent rain jacket! Also, we really wanted him to be protected from malaria carrying mosquitos and crocodile bites. Which we weren’t sure how much it would really help, but at least he stayed dry!

Soccer is a big deal in Zambia. Everyone plays it. Not everyone can afford to buy a real ball though. Sometimes, balls are made out of garbage that is found lying around like plastic sacks or old clothes. So of course Stanley had to watch a match while he was here. While he was watching he saw some boys doing flips off of an old tire and Stanley felt like he had to try it out. The boys were nice so they decided to help him do some flips.

Where the members of the Lifesong team live, it’s not very busy on the streets and there aren’t too many stores close by. One day, Stanley went in to the town to the open air market. It was a little overwhelming for him, but he smiled the whole time anyway! It was really incredible to see all the things you could buy there! There was chitenge (which is cloth that ladies here use for skirts, balancing things on their heads, carrying babies on their backs and all kinds of other things!), carvings, clothes, shoes, watches, vegetables, fruits, suitcases, books, electrical parts, plumbing pieces, gardening hoes, garbage cans, and even TV remotes. 

He had to watch for traffic. The bank was interesting to him. There weren’t any American dollars there! Only Zambian kwacha. He looked at the exchange board and saw that one US Dollar is equal to about 6.5 Zambian kwacha. At the end of that day, Stanley was really tired, so the team took him out for pizza. Sometimes, when you are visiting a country different from your own, it is so nice to eat something familiar.
Waiting in line...er queue (as they say in Zambia) at the bank

Stanley was surprised to see much new construction in town when in other areas the people are so poor.

Working stoplights! Yay!

Watch for cars!


Stanley’s adventures were drawing to a close. He really enjoyed his pizza but a day or so later he noticed that something wasn’t quite right. He had a terrible tummy ache! This happens A LOT to travelers and it seemed as if Stanely had maybe eaten or drank something that didn’t agree with him. So, his new friends gave him some medicine and he felt tons better.

Before he left, Stanley had the opportunity to worship with Zambian believers. He was a little nervous at first because it felt different than what he was used to. The drums were very loud and he really isn't much of a dancer. (it's hard to dance when you are stiff from being laminated!) Plus, he didn't understand iciBemba which is the language they speak here. The longer he was there, he realized that the Spirit was in that place. He remembered the verse that talks about "settling on the far side of the sea" and He smiled because He knew God was with Him even in that place.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:9-10

Riding in the back of a pick up to church. This is not illegal in Zambia!

Greeting everyone at the end of the church service. 
Stanley ended up flying back to America with a friend from California. His protector was Dr. Judy Johnson but the Wiegand kids sometimes called her Dr. Strawberry. She visited Zambia from Plant Sciences, Inc. The whole team was so grateful for her consulting advice. She spent time encouraging the farm ladies too! A team from Texas was here at the same time and things were crazy for a little while. The workers in Zambia love to have teams visit to see what God is doing in Zambia. It is an exciting and encouraging time for everyone.

It was a long flight back to the States and so Stanley just slept the whole time in his envelope. His new California friend slipped him by the post office and then he traveled back to you! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to get to know Stanley and teach him a little bit about Zambia! I hope you enjoyed hearing about his adventures.                                                    

From, The Wiegands

p.s. I thought you might like to see some photos from when another "flat person" was visiting. This young lady came all the way from Colorado.

Riding in our van during rainy season and experiencing the potholes for herself.

Hitching a ride with some young mango harvesters

Enjoying a traditional Zambian meal at one of our worker's homes

eating caterpillars!

meeting some new friends in the compound