Thursday, January 15, 2015

Who Needs Walmart?

While my brother Jedd, his wife Marsha and their family were here, we visited the marketplace in town. The market is huge. It stretches over several city blocks. Within its depths you can find everything from toothbrushes to suitcases, plumbing parts to avacados and hair extensions to the latest curio item available from Malawi.  Before we departed on our grand adventure that day we tried to prepare them for what they were about to experience. We couldn’t come up with a very good description. We ended up using inadequate words like interesting, crowded, and different. “It’s like something you have never experienced before.”  

We set off for town, taking 2 vehicles to hold all twelve of us. I have mentioned in earlier posts how our kids hate going to the market, but today they were keen on showing their cousins the craziness that is now normalcy. Driving across town, we realized that some of the boys had neglected to listen to their parent’s advice to wear boots or tennis shoes. I smiled to myself realizing they might discover their parents know a thing or two.

Upon arrival we piled out, Erik was to be the leader and I was to close the pack. A sandwich, so to speak, to ensure we didn’t lose anyone. It was the day after Christmas and each of Jedd and Marsha’s kids had some kwacha as a gift from us burning a hole in their pockets. The amount was equivalent to about 16 US dollars. For most people in Zambia, about 3 days wages. Erik began to weave and dodge through the crowds on the outskirts of the market. We followed behind like a long snake turning this way and that avoiding bowls of live chickens, sellers of pirated DVDs and various fruit and vegetable stands, and  sundry merchandise sellers, each person laying their wares on rough tables of pallets or just attractively arranged on the sidewalk. The sounds and the smells began to blend into the cacophony that makes the market what it is.

Before we got very far, we stopped by the curio market. This is usually as far as we take our visitors. We spent some time here looking at the interesting items for sale. The vendors all do their best to get you to buy from their stalls.
“Looking is free, Madam.”
“Sir, come see, I have many nice things.”
 “Ah, my friend, you bring many Americans with many US dollars, yes?”

The Rocke kids are set loose to begin searching and bargaining for some special item to take back with them in remembrance of their trip to this colorful, crazy place. There was no power so we all held our phones up as flashlights to make out the indistinct shapes of carvings, statuettes, jewelry, wooden bowls, toy cars, semi-precious stones, paintings, nativity sets, slingshots, various beaded items and soapstone figurines to name a few.

Upon finishing there, we again set out, this time intent upon giving the kids a real cultural experience by taking them deep in to the market. As our line begins its weaving, vendors step to the front of their stalls whistling to let their friends down the way know that muzungus are in the marketplace. Friendly faces with brilliant white smiles beam from dim stalls. Overhead, tattered tarps and feed sacks sewn together attempt to form a protective cover from the rains of the season. Beneath our feet, slime and muck is everywhere. Thankfully someone had the foresight to place random rocks, pallet pieces or different lengths of timber to form a random stepping path. If you miss, the black sludge oozes onto your feet (and between your toes if you’re wearing flipflops…boys!) and you know you will be taking an unplanned special memorial of the market home with you.

In the main aisle-ways, there is just enough room to walk and get around others. If you turn into one of the lesser used “arteries” of the market, the path becomes narrower. Stagnant water pools in empty spaces.  It is dark and close and you get the feeling you are in a labyrinth with no way out.  The booths are small and without number.  It is hard not to feel out of place, like we are in a place only for locals.

As you pass the food section, it is tempting to stop and buy fresh fruits and vegetables, but a little further on you hit the dried fish section. A rather unpleasant smell fills your nostrils as vendors wave the flies from the piles of fish. Blend this together with the smell of unwashed bodies, questionable liquid pooled here and there, chicken cooking over charcoal fires, cornmeal boiling in pots to make nshima and not only is your vision overwhelmed by all your seeing, but now your nasal cavities are having a really hard time sorting and identifying as well.

After losing Jedd and Marsha once, (sorry we stuck you guys at the back of the line!) we finally arrive in the chitenge section. The girls have been looking forward to taking home some cloth to wear as skirts. As they begin to pick through the tall stacked piles of myriad colors and patterns, the boys search out a place to wait.

Two young Zambian boys chattering excitedly step forward to shake hands and greet us. They seem particularly taken with Jonas and my nephew Trevor who have decided to dress identically for our trip in to town. When Jonas gets a chance he hisses into my ear, “Mom…his breath reeks like paint!” My heart falls and I say, “I know, you know why.” The street boys that roam the streets of Kitwe will often carry empty soda bottles with a bit of jet fuel in them. They will huff the fumes regularly to stave off hunger pangs. It is heartbreaking. Many, many of the boys struggle with this addiction for the rest of their lives. This particular young man insists on having his picture taken with Jonas.

The girls take their time choosing. The Zambian boy keeps saying the same phrase over and over to Jonas and all the adults are smiling and laughing. It’s not a phrase we recognize but we later found out he was saying that what he was experiencing was like something from a storybook.

After the girls make their choices we make our winding way back out of the market. Its funny to watch heads turn as they count our long line of white people traipsing through the streets.  When we finally reached the van, there was a sense of relief.  Everyone survived.  What fun exploring what so many find to be a normal part of their life, but for us an adventure in culture.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

wild animals we have known (and found): Guest Blogger!

Hi. Today you will be hearing from Jonas and Larissa about different animals that we have caught or observed here in Zambia.

(note here from Mom...Everywhere we go...somehow word gets around that we like animals, which I can't say I even really do...but because of my association with my husband I embrace the science opportunities that have been presented with gusto. This embracing has led us on baby snapping turtle rescue from a pool (thank you Rita), taking care of baby birds fallen from a nest (Thank you Carla), rescuing helpless damsels in distress from garter snakes (thank you Christy), various turtles and fish and snakes caught around our house (okay maybe that was my fault) and many other adventures which we don't have time or space to share)

When I, Jonas, was at the airport checking in to move here to Zambia, the lady at the counter asked where I was going and I said "to Africa." And she said, "You are going to have lots of adventures!" I said, "Yes." and she said, "Yes. You are."

She was right. The very first animal we caught in Zambia was a chameleon. When we first saw it we were all excited. Chameleons cost a lot of money at pet stores in America. We quick scooped it up from a tree and put it in a box. Then we took it to the house. It wasn't doing very well. It was actually dying. And then it did die. On a banana leaf. On mom's kitchen counter.

Some time later, we got three chameleons. It was so cool to have them, Chameleons like to be in trees in the daytime. Around evening time, they sometimes come down and hunt, at least that's what I have observed. When the rains start, all the termite colonies' eggs hatch. It's a chameleons favorite time of year because first one termite comes out, then another and another and pretty soon they are swarming everywhere! It's a great feast for the chameleons and sometimes the birds join in.
sorry. this is a little bit gross. but we wanted a picture of our first chameleon we ever caught.

a video of our chameleon catching a bug

Hi everyone. This is Larissa. Today I want to tell you about our cat Figs. This is what happened. One day Jonas was going outside and Figs ran in the house. He didn't know what she was doing and he just let her go in. Awhile later when we were playing with our friends outside Jonas came out and said, "Figs is having babies!" We ran in the house to our bedroom. Figs was in my underwear drawer having kittens. We all crowded around. She started feeling worried about her babies. Jonas told us to give her a little rest, but no one wanted to leave. Finally we all went out. She had three kittens we named them Marlee, Si, and Ocie. They grew pretty fast and soon we could hold them. But awhile later, sad news had come. Duma, one of our dogs, had killed Marlee. So we buried her that night. We kept the kittens for awhile, but my mom always says we are a one cat family. We had to give the kittens away to some friends who renamed them Simba and Nala. 
newborn kittens!

us being goofy with one of the kittens

Back to Jonas: One of my most favorite pets that I have had here was a mystery animal when we first got it. It was my mom and dad's anniversary and they were leaving the house to go out to eat. As they were leaving, they saw some boys on the road. They were carrying a little creature that looked like a mongoose. My dad asked them what it was. They called it a Bemba name we had never heard before. Dad called me out of the house and the boys said they were going to eat it. I bought it for 10 kwacha, which is a little less than $2. I got a little box for the boys to put it in. When I brought it inside it had a sound like a kitten. It was the softest and fluffiest animal I have ever felt in my life. Since we didn't know what it was, I got out all our books about Zambia trying to figure it out. I was home alone so I had nothing else to do anyway. The last book had an animal that looked similar. It was called a serval. We sent pictures to our family in the States over whatsapp and everyone was trying to figure out what it was. Which was really funny. After some more observation, we discovered it couldn't be a serval. Our animal was only the size of a month old kitten, maybe 5 inches big. Serval kittens are way bigger than that. Plus our animal had a really long tail, longer than it's body. The next morning we were all laying in mom and dad's bed discussing what it could be. Finally, mom found a picture that looked identical. It was a genet. It was only a baby. In Zambia there is no pet formula. We really wanted to take good care of it but didn't have anything to feed it except for human baby formula. She did very well for a few days. She would ride on our shoulders while we did our chores and our school work. She would purr a lot. Then if we would lay down she would curl up beside us and fall asleep. She was really curious and she hid from us a lot. Everytime I would set her down and try to go do something, she would come running after me crying for me to pick her up. She was so cute. I wanted to keep her forever. A few days later she seemed like she wasn't feeling well, and was acting very weird. She just kept getting weaker and weaker and her breathing got slower, and slower. She ended up dying. I was so sad. I hope we find another genet soon. I am having my grandpa and grandma bring me over some kitten formula when they come to visit so I can be ready next time.

Back to Riss...
Another really cool pet we have are Meyer's parrots. These birds cost a lot of money in America. They are pretty colorful. They are blue, yellow, black and gray. Our parrots stay in a big cage on our screened in porch. In the morning they whistle and chirp for a long time. They are kind of like an alarm clock. 
We have had so many different pets stay at our house since we moved here that we can't even remember them all. Sometimes we do take pictures. Here are a few of them. These were taken with our kids' ipod which only has a front camera so sometimes they are kind of fuzzy and stuff.
tadpoles we caught in the reservoir, now its full of frogs!
The snails here sleep a lot. But they get really big! We find them a lot in the rainy season on trees or in wet sand.

This is a tree frog. They like to curl up and hide under leaves. We catch them a lot in the orange grove here at the farm.

 This is Barney. He is an African land tortoise. He is the third biggest species of tortoise in the whole world. He is pretty small right now but he can live to be 100 years old so he has time to grow. He eats mushrooms, raspberries, cucumbers, and peaches.
Hunter thinks he owns all the farm equipment. Right now, he thinks he is king of the skidsteer....

until...Figs rains on his parade.

These mice are named Ricky and Tilly. We caught them while Mom and Dad were in Zanzibar. We flooded them out of their holes that they were living in in the ground. They eat sunflower seeds. And mostly hide in the dirt all day long. They come out at night to eat.

This is Gunner, our new dog. He is new to our dog pack. We kind of rescued him from death.

This is how tree frogs curl up when they are under leaves.

We call this a crawler toad. We don't really know what it is so we just gave it a name. To protect itself, it puffs up like a balloon. When you put it in water, it looks like a big innertube. It uses its two back feet to paddle. We also sometimes call it a burrowing toad. 

Thanks for reading about our animals. If you move to Africa, this might be helpful to you.

Jo and Riss

(note from mom...see?!?!? What's a mom to do? It just keeps happening...every single day. Sigh.)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The brilliant red flowers of the flamboyant trees made their appearance within the last month. Now the purple of the jacaranda trees is beginning to peek through the green leaves. Walking the dusty red roads of Garneton beneath these trees for the second time brings a sense of permanence to our lives here. Things we have experienced before are happening again and out of that experience comes a sense of belonging and peace. Despite the fact there is no snow or dropping temperatures, we begin to have a few new environmental clues as to the approach of the Christmas season. We have been streaming Christmas music from our favorite radio station in the States this weekend. I will confess as I stood at the sink washing dishes left over from our Thanksgiving feast, tears began streaming from my eyes as the familiar melodies filled the air. May all of you sense His love in a new way this season.

The days continue to feel scorching and zap us of energy. We eagerly await the rains.

We had the opportunity to attend a celebration for the Grade 7 and Grade 9 at Lifesong School. Here in Zambia, a national test is issued at the close of these two grades. If a student does not past the test, they do not move on to the next level. All of these students had taken their test and were awaiting the results to be received as to whether or not they had passed. It was really special to be able to watch them in their joy. I had to laugh to myself as I imagined my own nieces and nephews celebrating in the same way. Not going to happen!

The kids all danced into the cafeteria in lines. They clapped and swung to the rhythm as they jumped, twirled and kicked their way toward the front of the group. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends and caretakers waved chitenges as they gave out excited, triumphant sounding calls by quickly placing their tongue on the back of their top teeth and saying "ah-la-la-la-la-la" (go ahead and try it...move your tongue as quickly as possible for a more authentic sounding cry). Even though I don't know many of the kids well, I still felt a lump rise in my throat as we had the opportunity to reflect how far some of them have come. They have worked hard. Some have lost a parent during their schooling, some of them have lost a grandparent. Things have been difficult. Life isn't always easy. I am so proud of them. There are times when the fog of uncertainty about what in the world I am doing half a world away from what used to seem familiar to me clears away. This was one of those times. We are humbled to be a small part of what He is doing by managing the farm and being present in the community. I wished that all of you could have been there to share that moment with these kids. Their lives have been blessed because people like you have invested in them. And early this week we received the good news that all of the grade 7s had passed their exams! The wait for the grade 9s continues as they receive their results in February.

In regards to blogging, I waffle between sharing life in sweeping generalities and sharing every tiny intimate detail. To name a few:

It is not unusual for us while driving at night to have to dodge people lying on the roads who have passed out drunk.

The rains bring out my riotous humid hair that embarrasses me.

The struggle we have as we try to understand the grip witchcraft has on the surrounding community. Our western mindset has to stretch when we hear these things. The way Satan works here is completely different but his ultimate goal of death and destruction is the same.

Our family loves to escape to the farm reservoir. An amazing water slide has been created using old water tanks.

The crowds as we go in to town overwhelm our kids and they all avoid going grocery shopping or marketing with me like the plague. They still remember America's predictability and long for it but they get a true sense of what it is to be a minority.

The frustration as we try to source things for the farm. Running a business in a third world country is challenging. Stopping 5 different places for one item seems ridiculous. And our success rate on locating some items is 50/50. But it's our reality.

When something in the house stinks, we began searching for dead rats we may have missed during our cleaning.

Our personalities have grown new dimensions. Moving to a new culture stretches us in ways we never anticipated. For example, whenever I hear African drums, my new self feels the overwhelming urge to dance. Which is really bizarre if you know me well.

The excitement we feel as new crops are planted. As they begin to establish we pray God will increase their bounty so we can provide more jobs in the community and more profit to give to the school.

The curiosity and wonder mixed with repulsion as we encounter new and frightening LARGE insects.

The challenge we face as we attempt to balance being a profit seeking business and a ministry.

The surge of satisfaction we feel when we reflect on the fact that in Lifesong Farm's peak season we employed 70 workers. We often wonder if we will be able to turn a profit at the end of the year, but knowing that for a short time an individual was able to provide for their family, have a sense of belonging and self-worth makes our time here well-spent. Thank you Jesus.

The humility and awe we feel that God has allowed us to be a part of what He is doing in Zambia. And it's because people like you have partnered with us. We thank you. Which sounds inadequate and can never really help you realize what your giving means to the people here. Or how your giving is furthering His Kingdom in Garneton, Zambia. God bless you.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Cultural Grafting

Ladies working in the heat of the day.
The ladies leave their shoes outside the door and quietly enter after a long day of work in the blistering sun. They greet each other with a curtsy or with an arm crossed over the chest and palm laid open on the opposing shoulder. Faces stretch into smiles and eyes shine as they begin to share conversation. We all settle down on the area rug in our family room; furniture is a luxury that some of them do without. The rug on the floor is comfortable enough.  The power is off making it somewhat difficult to distinguish facial features on dark skin as the sun streams through the windows. But you can always tell when someone is smiling as a flash of white teeth shines brilliantly in dim light. After waiting a short time, we are ready to begin. Everyone stands and someone begins to clap a rhythm. Soon bodies begin to sway, and one woman will begin a song. All the voices are in unison as we begin, a little further into the song, the beautiful harmonies begin, along with the continued clapping rhythm. Eyes are closed as each soul present strains to express the joy, the hope, and the love felt from our Savior. As the song begins to end voices become softer and clapping becomes quieter until the final note brings silence.  The silence remains for a short while until another song is begun. We continue singing a few songs. In deference to me, they always try to sing one they know that I know in iciBemba. Singing a song of praise in a different language with people from a different culture never ceases to affect me strongly. I can’t help but envision the time that is coming as we surround the throne with people from every tongue, tribe and nation, with no barriers, only one common goal in mind; to glorify our Savior together.  I can’t even begin to imagine with my finite mind what that will actually be like. I can’t wait and I get chills every single time I think about it. We pray together after we sing and then we do a short study. Currently we are learning how to be Biblical peacemakers. We talk a lot about how we can practice these methods with the young people that are living with them. Many of the ladies are caring for children who are not their own; children they have taken in to their own homes after the death of a friend or family member.  

After our study, a vote is taken on what to do next, English lesson, reading lesson or having someone share a testimony. English lessons win hands down. We all move to the kitchen table for the lesson. We continue to work on handling fragile things; glasses, babies, kittens, eggs etc. You can almost see the ladies’ brains working as they form different sentences in an unfamiliar tongue placed in an order that makes no sense in their own language. They place English pronouns together with English verbs and adverbs as they instruct each other to “Pick up the baby very carefully” or “Put down the eggs quickly”. Then they begin to ask questions of each other in English. Foreheads wrinkle, eyebrows furrow, occasionally eyes are shut tight, struggling to remember. Laughter rings around the table as the ladies recognize “bad English” mistakenly escaping from their friends’ mouths. It is a safe place for them to practice and learn, especially because many of them have never even been able to go to school. Time drifts quickly by as we move to reading lessons. New sounds are introduced as well as the words for different colors. Colored pencils are used. A couple of weeks ago at class I was delighted to watch the ladies put together a puzzle for the first time ever. It was hard to hold my smiles and laughter inside as they argued about what the best way to complete it was. Sometimes mystification filled their faces. Consternation and bewilderment reigned until they began to get the hang of how to put the pieces together. Then just like small children, they began snatching pieces from each other’s hands as they finally put the picture together. Complete satisfaction filled the group as they laughed and gave each other high fives all around.  Class is over all too soon.

Today, I am walking home with them to visit and buy some vegetables from the market. Also we have some employees who are sick that I am planning on visiting while the ladies are with me so I can have an interpreter. After a flying discussion in Bemba that I followed hardly at all, I was asked if I would be willing to drive them home. Of course I agreed. They advised me to put a chitenge on because we would be going to a funeral.  I quickly complied, tying the long piece of cloth around my waist over my jeans as I walked out the door. We all piled into our van and left the farm. We headed towards the compound, home to an estimated eight to ten thousand. 
A termite block home

The roads are rough and difficult to navigate. 
We dodge small children walking hand in hand, chickens, stray dogs and very large potholes. Our first stop is at the home of one of our production team workers. We find her sitting outside on a reed mat with her neighbors. All of us ladies join her as her neighbors move aside to make room for our group. A few feet away, a young girl is being bathed in a tub by her mother. Little boys point and laugh as her mother douses her head with 
water. Her mother lifts her screaming and soaking from the tub and dries her with a chitenge. She carries her inside her home, away from the boys prying eyes. The crying stops as the mother enters the dark coolness of her home, built with mud bricks made from the clay of a termite mound. 

We sit and visit with our friend. She spent a day in the hospital last week with a bad chest infection. In her home, she allows children with TB to stay as she cares for those others are unwilling to spend the time or effort on. The medication she is taking leaves her feeling dizzy and exhausted. She brings her plastic bag full of prescriptions to us and in my limited medical knowledge I attempt to make sense of the unfamiliar names and read the fine
print on all the boxes, bottles and blister packs to decipher side effects. The older ladies in our group advise her to make sure she is not taking any medication on an empty stomach. I tell her through an interpreter to please take the time to be well before she returns to work. Often our ladies will come back before they are well because they are concerned we will give away their job to someone else who is just as desperate to provide for those in their care. Before we leave we all bow our heads and pray for her. Then at the close of the prayer, English words fill the air, “Heavenly Father, we thank you in Jesus name, Amen.” These words are met with hoots of laughter from the group as they were spoken by one of the more reluctant English speakers in our group. We shake hands all around and walk back to the van.

I unlock the doors and we pile back in to head all the way across the compound. I struggle to make sense of the foreign hand signals they give me. Pointing to show directions isn’t done here. The hand is cupped together and held in different positions to show turns, or the fingers of the hand all held together and pointed forward to indicate direction. They laugh at me as I try to imitate what they mean with my own hand. We finally pull to a stop outside the funeral house. (by this I mean, the home of the person who has died) One of the ladies neighbors has died. She still has 4 or 5 children living at home with her. The firstborn is 14 and the youngest is 4. Their father is still alive but has been unable to find work. As we walk past more termite block homes, we see all the funeral house’s furniture outside on the hard packed dirt. Men and boys sit outside the home. A large array of shoes sits outside the door as we approach. We all remove our shoes and duck our heads as we enter the home. The room is filled to the brim with ladies. Poly feed sacks have been stitched together and laid upon the dirt floor. Bodies shift to make room for more and some quietly get up to leave. Each of us finds a place to sit. The room is hot and close. Flies buzz incessantly. Young mothers nurse their babies. Small children solemnly sit on their mother’s laps their eyes huge in their faces. One of them reaches for me and I hold him for a short while until he inspects my white face closer. His face begins to crumple and he dives back to his mother’s lap. The room is filled with silence except for the shifting of the bodies. Then in a corner of the room, the family members of the deceased begin to wail and weep for their mother. The cries fill the room. The voice haunts me a little as I am instantly taken back to every loss I have ever experienced in my life. My eyes begin to fill and out of my periphery I see ladies dabbing eyes with their chitenges. The phrase from the verse, “it is better to go to the house of mourning…” fills my mind. Even though it feels foreign and unfamiliar to hear grief expressed this way, it also feels right and somehow holy and acceptable to be allowed to be a part of it. After sitting some moments in silence, one of the ladies in our group begins to sing. Soon other voices join in and begin to blend. I feel a healing balm pour over the hearts in the room. Another song begins. And then someone begins to sing What a Friend We Have in Jesus in Bemba. My eyes spill over. My heart constricts and I feel full of the grace of Jesus and so honored to know these ladies and to experience life with them. They have allowed me to share life with them even though at times the cultural barriers feel high and impossible to cross. I am grateful. Someone offers a prayer. Our group quietly files out and we replace our shoes. 

We quietly walk past a few more houses until we arrive at the home of one of our processing ladies. She is the young wife of one of our farm managers. Erik took her to the hospital a couple of weeks ago. At the time, she was so weak, her husband carried her out to our van and gently placed her inside. She remembers nothing about her time in the hospital because she was so weak and disoriented. She is shy with us. She self-consciously hides her face and giggles as we tease her husband who is quickly escaping his home as it fills with women. We sit inside and visit yet again. My mind is blown away as I think about how often these women’s emotions have to fly between grief, joy and sometimes fear living here in this place. As mentioned in other posts, life here is raw. But the Zambian people are filled with resilience. I know that their experiences affect them deeply. They are acquainted with sorrow and grief, which of course reminds me of a Man I know. And I am filled with peace knowing that He can meet their needs and that He is sufficient. And I rejoice that I have the opportunity to be here and share with them all because people like you, are supporting and praying every single day. We finish our visit with another prayer and we all head to our respective homes for the evening.

Later that night, I am reminded of something that I wrote traveling on a bus to Lusaka with Erik a few weeks ago…

I have prayed a prayer for years that goes something like this:

Help me to see this world with your eyes, break my heart for the lost, the hurting, the hungry. Help me to see people as you see them. Help me feel the repugnance of sin, to understand the gulf Jesus spanned between my filthiness and your righteousness.

In the past year, I have sensed God answering this prayer more every day. And quite honestly sometimes it scares me. I am sure many have felt this for years, but the intensity I am beginning to feel is overwhelming. And it hits at the oddest times. Occasionally it will happen when I am driving down the road. It may be triggered by the homeless man wearing and carrying all his belongings as he trudges alongside the road barefoot or the two young boys, too young to be alone, holding hands as they walk to who knows where, or seeing a little girl drinking from a filthy puddle surrounded by litter. Sometimes it happens when I am taking care of my own children when they are sick, or taking them to the clinic. My eyes begin to tear up and I physically feel as if my heart is being squeezed. Father, why? Why was I born into a rich family? How much longer does all creation have to await your return? What do you want me to do in response to all the hurting you keep exposing me too? What do you want me to teach my children in this? What I am I supposed to do to help the lost? I am not eloquent, I am only one person, I can't begin to minister to all these individuals. My heart is breaking for what breaks yours but now I don't know what to do.

And as I run through this thought progression time and time again, I hear Him gently say, I know you are one person, but you are part of a body. A huge body, that spreads across this world. Each and every member does their part. Continue to see the world as I see it, work hard with My grace at what I have given you to do. Pray for the things you can't accomplish on your own. Encourage others as they work in what I have given them to do. Stop seeing what you are doing as inferior (or superior, depending on the day). Remember in the Kingdom, others gifts are your gifts as well as you all work toward the common goal of making Me famous among the nations.

Thanks for walking this journey with us. And thanks for allowing your emotions and heart to be touched as you listen to His voice.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Things are busy here on the farm. Strawberry harvest has created more jobs for more caretakers at Lifesong school. Vulnerable children, widows, families and orphans are being provided for because of  your support. Thank you for partnering with us.

Sometimes we forgot that people may not know just what exactly we are doing here on the other side of the world in sub-Saharan Africa. Larissa and I were talking about her friends the other day and she was wondering if they remembered her or wondered what she was doing. So, she decided to take a quick walk around the farm with me and grab some pics so we could share with you.

Our family lives right on the farm now. While I wash dishes, I look out on the gooseberry fields. When Erik works at his desk he can see across to our orange grove. Upon stepping out the door, you can see more gooseberries, raspberries, and just a glimpse of the blackberries. As you continue to walk out of our yard, you will arrive at the entrance to the processing building. Inside these walls, berries are checked for quality, weighed, labeled and stored in our walk-in cooler until delivery. Also, berries are processed washed, decapped, and made into puree for jam. Jam is cooked and bottled. Honey is bottled. Whole berries are frozen and packaged. Green beans are weighed and packaged. Jobs are received. Hard-earned wages are given. Delivery vans are loaded...sometimes before the day even begins to dawn. Market ladies come with their babies tied to their backs with chitenges to buy berries to sell on the streets of Kitwe. Hands are busy. Feet and backs get achy from standing so long. Laughter is shared. Meetings are held. The love of Jesus is shown. 

As we stroll on past the processing building we pass the raspberries and gooseberries. The raspberries are still looking rough. It's a trial crop here and so far they aren't big fans of Zambia. To our right are the blackberries, and they are looking good.

They are just beginning to blossom. (I think I need a new phone just doesn't take the highest of quality pictures. Thanks for your patience.) Hopefully, blackberry harvest will begin Decemberish. As we continue on around the farm we come up on our Chilean blueberry patch. These don't look great but they are trying. Another trial crop. They are currently full of unripe fruit but the actual plants aren't very bushy yet. We will see.

As we circle around what we call Plot 1, we go past more blackberries and gooseberries. Along our front drive, lemongrass plants are growing. A Peruvian woman told me last week that in Peru they make tea with lemongrass. It intrigued me and it is on my list to do more research into fresh lemongrass uses. (other than chewing on it of course)
I am guessing I need to get to the inner stalks for the best flavor. But somehow I don't think Erik will appreciate me destroying the landscaping. But maybe...I can have it packaged and sell it?? 

In the above picture you can see across the road to Plot 2. Behind the Lifesong teacher housing are more crops. On this side you will find: orange trees, peach trees (another trial), more raspberry trials, greenbeans (as a rotation crop), and over 20,000 strawberry plants. 

The peach trees are just coming out of their "winter funk". It has been fun to watch as each of them have been breaking dormancy at different times. When we arrived, these were so small and now most of them are over Erik's head.

Of course, the strawberries are the main attraction here at Lifesong Farms. They are doing quite well. We continue to search for new customers and new marketing opportunites to sell berries that are coming so quickly.

The orange trees look great. They are grafted on to lemon stock which is much hardier. Our kids find it quite amazing that if you cut off the trunk of the orange tree a lemon tree will grow back. Here's hoping they will take our word for it. I can just imagine them now setting up an experiment for this one.

That's a quick walk around the farm. We would love to share it with you in person. Let us know when you are coming to this side of the ocean! ;)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Remember when...

Today marks a monumental day for our family. One year ago today we loaded everything up in a giant van and took off for Zambia. This morning I said to Erik, "hey honey, remember this?" And then I showed him these pictures.

By the end of our walk down memory lane, we both were a little teary-eyed and choked up. The emotions we felt on that day were so strong and overwhelming! Having a year of firsts behind us is a relief. It is always difficult to begin new traditions without thinking of where you were the year before and not feeling slightly melancholy. 

We spent some time this week reviewing where we were one year ago. We had saved a list of all the things we had said goodbye to and that we knew we would miss. (categories being...places, places at our house, things, friends and family) We then made lists of all the things we had said hello to in a year's time in the same categories. Again, it was disheartening to see how small the "hello" lists were in comparison to the "goodbye" lists but also encouraging when we remembered how many years it had taken us to form attachments with all the items on our "goodbye" lists. We know the hello lists will continue to grow as we continue to sink roots into our new place. 

Thanks to all of you for your strong love and support for our family during our first year. And thanks most of all to our Father for His faithfulness.

This post is short and sweet due to our awesome visitors! We are having a blast with Erik's sisters, Julie and Christy and Erik's niece Ashlyn. We are carting them all over the place to give them a truly Zambian experience. You can check out Christy and Julia's facebook pages to see their pics. Jule and Ash fly out this Monday, but Christy will be with us for the entire month. She has been driving occassionaly but big brother Erik doesn't quite trust her in town yet...we shall see :)

Love to all of you,