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 on...you 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.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Guest Blogger...Child #3

Today you have the opportunity to experience Zambia through the 9 year old Claire Filter. Enjoy.

Zambia is awesome. We have everything we need. We have yummy food, cold water and awesome animals to catch and enjoy. Some of my favorite things to do here are, pick mangoes, catch chameleons, play in the mud at the farm and eat strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and gooseberries from Lifesong Farm. We have had lots of adventures since we moved here. I will tell you about a few of them.

Adventure #1 The Monkey
Us kids were at Lifesong Farm in the mango grove. We have a fort there and we play in it a lot. Once Savannah was pretending to make a salad with a Zambian baby named Mitzi. Suddenly she yelled, "Whoa! Guys! Monkey!"And sure enough there was a big monkey sitting in one of the mango trees. We chased it while baby Mitzi just stared. By the time it got to the bushes, we called the grownups and they came out. Caleb had a spear and was thinking about killing him, but we all said, "No!" We let him go. He finally slipped under the farm's electric fence and got away. We named him Strango. (Because that comes from strawberry and mango, that's what he likes to eat)

Adventure #2 The Chameleons
We were all at the new farm unloading the sea container when Miss Alisa came with 2 chameleons, a boy and a girl. The chameleons were married, but they fought a lot. The McBs wanted to keep the boy but we told them we would keep them both and give them the babies. So we took them home. We let them climb in trees and then they both got away. The boy was named Samson and the girl was named Delilah. Since then we have caught about 8 chameleons ourselves. What's awesome about a chameleon is it changes colors when you put them on a different tree. We put them on a green and yellow leafed tree and they turned the perfect color to match. They are pretty fast, everyone thinks they move slow and steady, but you kind of have to move fast to catch em.

Adventure #3 Hunter
At the new farm in the tractor shed, we sat talking with the McBride kids when Sis said, "A puppy!" There was a cute skinny puppy sitting on dad's backpack! Us and the McBs had a name meeting, we chose Hunter for his name. When Hunter was a little older he got attacked by mango flies. Mango flies are flies that lay their eggs in dirt or poop and then if a dog sits in that spot the mango fly larva burrows into their skin. One day we noticed Hunter had little holes on both of his sides. There are big dogs here too so we thought that he got bit by one but then we noticed there were all mango fly larva. They must have hurt really bad because whenever we would touch Hunter he would cry and cry. We didn't know how to get them out. At first Dad was pulling them out with a tweezers but there were too many to do that plus Hunter didn't like it he was howling. So Dad had the idea to drown the mango flies. Next day, we filled a tote up with hot soapy water and put Hunter in it. The mango fly larva couldn't breathe so they started backing out of Hunter's skin. We lifted him up and dad started pulling them out with a tweezers like crazy! It took a long time. After we thought they were all out, we got a big screen and dumped out the water on the screen. Us kids wanted to know how many there were. We counted 92 mango fly larva, but we had pulled some out earlier so I estimate that there were probably 125  in Hunter. I think that's about right. I think this story is really gross but kind of cool.
This is Hunter and Larissa right after we found him. He is lots cuter now but I don't have a picture of him.

This is the village we built in the mango grove

We have had lots of adventures, but there are too many to say all of them so I am going to stop with that. If you come visit, I am sure that we would have some more adventures with you.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Fascinating Production of Charcoal (amalasha)

I wonder how many times I have grilled over charcoal in the States and never stopped to think about how it was produced.  I just know that it somehow burns slow and hot and makes food taste great.  But since moving to Zambia, I have had the opportunity to observe the production of charcoal in what many would consider an ancient process.  And I think they would be right.

Most of the people in Zambia cook over charcoal in small cookers.  Most food is cooked in oil or boiled.  Since most of the people around us have no electricity, charcoal is very important.  In addition, it saves time in the gathering of firewood.

One of the large cookers used to feed the 320 kids at Lifesong School 2 meals a day.

A typical size used by people in their dwellings

As we develop our new farm, we have created a lot of wood for charcoal production.  So we offered the opportunity to utilize it to a father of one of the kids at Lifesong School.  Austin has been a Lifesong micro-loan recipient and he has a successful business raising chickens to sell.  He also produces charcoal for additional income, often traveling 8-10 kilometers (5-6 miles) into the bush to make charcoal.  I was able to stop by every few days to watch and ask questions.  So here is the process...

First, Austin and his son spent a week or so chopping logs into a uniform size.  They use axes to cut and trim the logs.  Austin tells me that only certain trees are fit to make charcoal.  They stack them up between two small trees as seen below.

Next, they begin digging damp earth from around the site using a hoe and building walls around the wood.  They must pack it tight using a chunk of wood to keep out oxygen.

The hole at the bottom of the stack is left so that they can light the fire.  The burn slowly moves up through the pile over the course of a few days.

After the pile is completely covered on the sides, they lay green, leafy branches on top and then pile soil over the top.  The layer of leaves will keep the soil from falling into the charcoal.

The completed pile after the fire has been started.

Austin must monitor the pile constantly day and night to make sure oxygen doesn't enter the pile.  This will cause combustion turning the wood to ash instead of charcoal.  So he is ever ready with his hoe to throw additional soil in the pile if a hot spot breaks out.  After about 3 days, it's time to start the harvest.  Austin breaks open the pile and starts to sort out the hot charcoal.  He will pile it until it is cool enough to put in bags.

Sorting out the finished charcoal and allowing it to cool.

After the charcoal is cooled, it is bagged in poly weave bags.  They pile the charcoal above the top of the bag and then fasten it with strips of bark from the Mutundo tree that becomes very strong after it has been soaked in water and dried.  They will then transport it by bicycle to the market.  Austin sells his charcoal to Lifesong School for 50 kwacha per bag (about $9 per bag).  I have purchased a bag of charcoal like this for as little as 20 kwacha ($3.60) along the road.  Austin tells me it is more of an art than science, although there is a lot of science to it.

Austin and his son with the finished product.  They managed to get 10 bags after two weeks of hard work which will provide them with about $90.

A common sight along the roads.  The way they balance that much on a bike is amazing.

A man living near Lifesong Farm after a hard days work.

With the opportunity to go to school a rarity for most, people look for any way to make money they can.  Many men make their living exclusively in charcoal production.  It is hard, hot, dirty work with little return.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little about the charcoal making process here in Africa.  I appreciate the hard work it takes much more now than I did before.  God bless.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Farm Friday

Happy New Year to our loved ones and Lifesong supporters!  While much of the Midwest is buried in snow and ice, we are busy planting, harvesting, and building.  Our family really misses snow, but the kids love being able to go swimming every week in the reservoir.  Between rains, the temps climb into the upper 80's making for great swimming and sweating.  This picture was taken when the team was here from the States last week.

Erik picked up the berries in Lusaka and cleared them through customs, a learning experience for sure. He arrived home on New Year's Eve. We gave our workers the day off on New Year's Day and then began planting on the 2nd. The planting went well. The blackberries were just roots with stems less than an inch long. After 2 days, the bulk of the blackberries were in the ground and we were ready to start on the strawberries. The strawberry beds were already formed, and the irrigation was laid. The beds were also covered with plastic to prevent weeds and to retain moisture. Another 3 days and the planting was finished.

Final bed formation and laying the irrigation

Measuring and applying the fertilizer

Finished beds with strawberries and tunnels going up in the background

The tunnels have come a long way since our last post. 4 are completed. They look great.

Our raspberries continue to produce well in spite of the rains. We hope to install shade netting soon to deflect some of the rain.

The taste of our raspberries has continued to improve!
At the new acreage we are able to start in earnest on our Capital Expansion Plan due to contributions from generous donors. Currently a security fence is being installed, the pump house is being built for the irrigation system, and we are converting the sea container into housing for a security guard.  We hope to have everything ready for planting in late March. At that time, we will be receiving 100,000 strawberry plants thanks to the help of Plant Sciences, Inc. www.plantsciences.com/

In spite of the busyness of the farm, we are thankful to be able to share life with our workers as we labor
together. We know He has promised to be in the midst of even just 2 or 3 that gather in His name. 
Sometimes the language is a barrier but we are slowly learning more iciBemba. Before we left, someone
provided our family with a Proclaimer. It has been a huge blessing to our workers, most of who are unable
to read. When they heard the Bible in their own language, their eyes lit up and they all requested their own
Proclaimer to take home! http://www.faithcomesbyhearing.com/proclaimer  

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support.  May God be glorified for all the good that is
happening in Zambia!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

shot in the arm

When I rose from bed this morning, I realized that the past week had been exactly what this title says. A team from the States was here to help us with the construction of our house. It was amazing to have fellowship with friends and family. My sister Abbie was along and my oldest brother Jedd. Time spent together playing guitars, cooking, playing games, working, laughing and reminiscing was really great and gave us encouragement to continue. Our kids were thrilled to be able to show someone all the things and places that have become their new normal.

The team built all our kitchen cabinets and roughed in all our plumbing. The freezer at the farm is packed full of strawberries and raspberries waiting to be made into jam. Our jam maker which had been sitting silent for some months in now wired up and ready to go. The sea container that brought so many things from the States is well on its way to being converted into housing for a security guard at our new acreage. All thanks to this amazing team!

While the team was here they experienced the dichotomy we live with each day. The poverty that abounds is shown in stark contrast to the development and growth in the surrounding areas. Eating a meal in a nice restaurant in town compared to eating a meal in the compound is an incredibly different experience. Yet in each of these meals, God was glorified and present as we were able to fellowship and share in the goodness of His name with each other and with the people living in the compound. And best of all, the team got to taste local Zambian food and experience the way they live.
Restaurant in town

One of our farm ladies' houses in the compound

Is this what your kitchen at home looks like?

mmmmm! caterpillars

everyone loves to see a picture of themselves!
As you can see, we had a blessed time. But as with any other "shot in the arm" there is a little tenderness after the fact. This week, our family has experienced anew the pain associated with separation. Please pray we continue to use these feelings of loss to draw closer to Him who is acquainted with grief and sorrow and that we continue to draw strength from His presence so we can serve where He has placed us.

If you are interested in more pictures, check out those amazing shots our new friend Sarah took. Thanks Sarah! http://aglimpseintimephotography.pixieset.com/africa2014/