Thursday, September 29, 2011

An Opportunity to Help

One of the ongoing themes of our life in the bush is finding ways to grow, raise or find what we need locally. As we've shown with the solar ovens, we've been working on harnessing alternative energy. This has saved us so much in gas costs!

Aside from saving money, another concern is that we live in a country where service can be easily interrupted. In April there were riots in Mansa--the only place with a grocery store for miles around--which meant we couldn't shop for a couple weeks. This month we were concerned with the election violence. Thankfully, our area was not too badly troubled but other sections of Zambia suffered serious violence.
We want to make sure we have supplies available to keep us going in case we have to stay put for awhile.

Two years ago we bought 50 laying hens to provide eggs for the orphanage. Not only does this provide us with eggs but when the hens are laying well we can pay our staff partly in eggs as well which benefits them by providing an inexpensive protein. We also don't have to worry about whether the shops have eggs or worry about them breaking as we bring them home over pothole-ridden roads.

Look how little Troy was 2 years ago!
Over the last two years we have lost a few chickens here and there from disease or pests. We are down to 40 chickens. Additionally, now that these chickens are old, their production has slowed down. At peak production, a hen lays an egg every 30 hours. As they get older, the time between eggs is farther and farther apart. Since we have to feed them the same amount of food regardless, this makes a difference in our profit.

Aren't brown eggs so pretty?
We have noticed that there is a big demand for eggs in our community. There are only two other farms in this district (county) that have hens. Eggs are in very short supply. We've decided to double our chicken population. This will provide not only enough for everyone at the orphanage (over 30 people) but will also allow us to sell trays of eggs to the community. This extra income will help to offset the cost of feeding the chickens.

Now, here is the opportunity! There is a truck coming up this weekend delivering hens to our area. Since the truck is already coming our way, we are being given a discount on the delivery costs. The company selling the chickens is also cheaper than the one we used last time.

Each chicken only costs $11, which includes transporting them all the way from Lusaka. Would you like to help us purchase these 100 chickens? You can help with one or two or twenty. Your choice! Maybe your office could come together to purchase a dozen? Your Sunday School class could help purchase a dozen or two. This will really help us to feed the kids better, reach out to the community, and provide yet allow us to be more self sufficient in case of emergency.

If you would like to help us with this project, you can click on the Paypal donate button up on the right-hand sidebar (if you're reading this via email or reader click on the title to get to the website) and easily send a tax-deductible donation.

For other options for donating, please write me at

Thank you so much!!

Exactly One Year Ago: Comments Regurgitated

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Coat of Many Colors

We've started holding a Sunday School class with our kids every Sunday just before lunch. We don't have a church here in the village that we can attend because of the language, culture and socio-economic barriers. For this reason we as a family watch a telecast of a pastor in California and then have prayer time together afterward.

Now that the kids are older, we want them to get in the habit of doing something special for the Lord on Sunday. 

We gather everyone in the dining room and start off with some songs. 

Then Tom and our teenagers act out a Bible story. This week it was Joseph and the coat of many colors. 

The kids watch attentively, laughing at the antics of the characters and answering questions as we go along in the story.

These two mattresses represent the pit that Joseph was thrown into. 
Tom (playing Joseph) was being very dramatic and calling for someone to come help him.

Peter was worried about Daddy (Joseph) being hurt. I'm not sure who was having more fun last Sunday, the kids who got to see familiar Bible stories dramatized, Tom and crew getting to be extra dramatic, or me getting to watch the kids' reactions.

Next week we'll finish up the story. Poor Peter is going to see his daddy thrown in jail. Oh, dear!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sundays in My City--Update and Flashback

Unknown Mami

Thanks to the prayers of many, the announcement of a winner (and new president) in our recent elections went off without a hitch. The former president conceded gracefully and his supporters accepted the majority choice without any violence.

Saturday we were able to head to Mansa and get all our shopping done. On the way we gave a ride to two Peace Corps volunteers who were also traveling to Mansa and on the way back our closest Peace Corps volunteer neighbor rode home with us. It was nice to have some company in the car.

Shoprite was being restocked as we shopped so we were actually glad we had delayed our trip by a day. We may not have found anything on the shelves otherwise. 

I was looking through my photos and found a cute one from July that I hadn't shared with you yet.

During Mutomboko Tom was just chilling on the front step watching people walk by. Peter decided to join him, and I served them both a drink. Seeing them sitting together--both with long sleeves and long pants--just having a dad and son moment was really sweet.

Right after this, I took Peter with me as I went to check on the pit roasted pig. As we rounded the building at the edge of our property, he got a look at the arena next to us where there were dozens of cars, trucks and buses parked in the field. 

Peter loves cars and trucks and got so excited at the huge variety parked right next to him that he started to hyperventilate: "Cars! and trucks! and cars! and trucks!" It was adorable.

And, it reminded me how we need to make a plan to get the kids out of the house more to accompany us when we go shopping or run errands nearby. We don't get out much ourselves--Jasmine's trip to Lusaka was her first since the beginning of February--so we can forget how isolated it can be out here.

I have another 'Baby Peter' story to share in a couple of days. I love that kid! And, speaking of kids I love, I'll have some new photos of Joseph to share with you also.

Exactly One Year Ago: Life Skills--Feelings Edition

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursdays This 'n' That

We are in the middle of elections here in Zambia. The election day was Tuesday, but the results have yet to be announced. We're anticipating the announcement to take place tonight. It will be good to have the campaign season done. Most of the campaigning was done via loudspeakers and honking horns since people out here in rural Zambia don't have radios or televisions to be able to hear the speeches and announcements.

I won't say much about the elections aside from the fact that we are praying for peace and safety, and for the right candidate to win.


Tom, in his capacity as a police reservist, served as a peace keeper on election day. Things went smoothly during the day but once the polling stations closed and counting started the wheels began to come off. Tom had to stay for the entire process and as the counting carried on into the night, the crowds got more and more restless.

By 2 AM things were getting bad enough that the police had to begin shooting into the air in an attempt to ward off the crowds. I can't begin to describe to you how nervous I was to hear gunfire and not know exactly what was taking place. Thankfully I could contact Tom via text messages and I wrote him to ask what was going on. Tom wrote back: It's getting bad down here. Certainly not words that comforted me. 

Tom was stationed at an elementary school where the counting was being done. The crowd got more and more impatient and eventually began throwing bricks onto the roof of the building. Tom told me later that at this point he got really nervous. 

Finally, about 4 AM, the counting wrapped up and the announcement of winners for local offices was done. (The Presidential announcement had to wait) Upon hearing the winners, the crowd ran off to 'celebrate' in the village center. Since the celebrating involved more brick throwing the police had to bring in tear gas. 

Please pray for peace to continue especially as we wait on the big announcement. Life could change depending on who wins, so we are definitely praying for God to look after things.

Joseph is doing so well. He eats like a champ now and is settling into a schedule. We have so much fun with him. One thing he does particularly well is burp! I love holding babies just after they've eaten and when I rub their back and pat firmly they bring p those adorable little burps. Not so Joseph, When he burps he does it with his whole heart and belly. His explosions of air go on forever. I'm always amazed at how much wind is contained in such a tiny body.

How does this section about Joseph's hot air relate to the above two sections on elections? Well.....

Exactly One Year Ago: A Tale of Two Shoes

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's a Party!

Welcome, everyone to my special day! I'm so very excited to be able to open my home to you today. When I found out that I was going to be featured on the SITS website, I screamed out loud. Which, in retrospect wasn't the best thing to do since I had just finished screaming over a very real threat

SITS is a community of bloggers that offers support and training. I've learned so much from them and made a ton of friends. You can read my interview here.

For all my new friends, please feel free to poke around and get to know me. Please forgive the dust. Since it's the dry season and the roads are unpaved, dust is our constant companion.

Wave hello to my kids. They're probably deep in a geeky discussion. That's fairly normal 'round here.

Shout howdy to my hubby. He's a Texan at heart. He keeps my life interesting. Don't believe me? Check out that list up on the left sidebar. Scary! He also has his own adventures.

As we keep walking, you can meet some of Our Kids. They're a friendly bunch and will keep you laughing with their shenanigans. Getting them all to sit for a portrait is quite an adventure. Some of them have had really interesting journeys. Click on the Our Kids label to get to know them.

I just got back from a trip to our capital city. It's a twelve hour drive on a good day, but the buses take 16-19 hours to make the journey. My adventures are too many to list here, but I try to keep my humor in all of it. 

With all the adventures we have, you'd think I'd be used to it by now--but no, I still get pretty freaked out. I hope that when people read how foolish I am, they will see that God is the one doing the work here--He just chose me as His unlikely vessel. I frequently pour my heart out in this space and I'm grateful for readers who support me.

I've done some question and answer posts so if you are interested in getting to know more about me, my family, and our work, send questions to and I'll try to include your question in a future post. Include your link and I'll give you a shout out.

My posts aren't always on a strict schedule as we battle power cuts and internet outages and sick babies, but I post just as often as I can and never run out of material. I encourage you to subscribe either via email or a reader. It will be worth it!

Exactly One Year Ago: Happy, Smiling Faces

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Birthdays and Reunions

Unknown Mami

This week Jasmine and I took a break from the orphanage and life in the bush and headed south to Lusaka. We were really blessed to catch a ride with a friend who was driving down. Any day we get to skip that bus ride is a good one. Since our friend had business in the Copperbelt (a province in Zambia) we took a shortcut through the Congo. We'd done this drive once before but it was during the rainy season so this ride was much easier.

A big reason for this mini-break was to help Jasmine celebrate her birthday. She turned 16 earlier this month. We had done the birthday cake part but she wanted time away from work and school.

On the agenda: movies, restaurants, shopping malls, and Munda Wanga. 

Munda Wanga is a botanical/zoological garden. Last December we took our rescued & then pet vervet monkey, Kanono to live in Munda Wanga with other monkeys and eventually be released into the wild with his own troop.

When we arrived at Munda Wanga, we met up with the Born Free representative, Zoe, who took us to see Kanono. After several months in a couple stages of quarantine and integration with a single monkey (as in one, not unmarried), Kanono was now in a large habitat and beginning to connect with a troop.

As soon as we approached the cage, Kanono ran right over and reached through the cage to hold Jasmine's hand. Zoe said that she could tell that Kanono recognized us. 

Jasmine spent several minutes grooming Kanono and stroking his fur. It was a really special moment.

Zoe was wonderful about letting us know how the program worked and how Kanono was fitting in with the troop. She said he is doing really well and is not top dog (sorry, monkey) but is also confident and friendly enough that he isn't the runt of the troop.

Here is Kanono (near the fence) with his troop's alpha male. While we were there, the alpha groomed Kanono which apparently shows how well loved Kanono is since the alpha male doesn't generally groom those under him.

Right now Kanono's troop has five monkeys but more will be added until there are 15 doing well together and then they'll be released into the wild under Born Free's supervision. This will take place in about 1 year. The supervision will continue for 1 year and then the troop will be well settled in the bush. 

It was wonderful to have that time visiting Kanono, and it was really wonderful spending the week with my daughter, just chilling and relaxing.

Happy Birthday, Jasmine!

Exactly One Year Ago: High Praise
(Almost) Exactly Two Years Ago: Litterbugs

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Days That Followed

Along with much of the world yesterday, I remembered.

I remembered where I was as I heard the first puzzling news about a plane crash.

I remembered where I was when the news turned into such a tragedy.

I remember crying for the many, many lives that would never be the same again.

But, what I remember most of all is the way our country pulled together. I sat on the floor of the blood donation center for hours. 

I wasn't the only one. 

And as I sat, I felt a kinship with my fellow donors like never before. 

I was proud to be a citizen of such a generous and caring nation.

Nearly two weeks after that terrible day, Tom had an idea. He thought we should travel up to New York City to help bring some encouragement, joy and love to those that were working so hard to recover.

We were between jobs and had been spending much of our time preparing for our move to Africa. We could do it. 

We used to perform as a family like the Van Trapps (portrayed in The Sound of Music) and, by an interesting coincidence, our latest costumes had a patriotic theme.

After traveling for three days, we reached Manhattan and spent the next three days driving from fire house to fire house to police station, singing a few songs and then loving on the wonderful men (& women) who had been through so much.

Everyone loved the 'little cowboys & girls'--they certainly caught people's eyes.

During our time in New York we performed 25 times. The people we met were so sweet and humble. It was such an honor to be able to give them something after they had given so much to others.

Some of the houses (stations) we visited had lost entire shifts of men. These were their friends and loved ones. And yet, the job kept on. None of them could stop and take time to just grieve. Emergencies still happened, as they do in cities, fires started and had to be put out. Sometimes as we were performing, a bell would ring, the men would suit up and pull out. It was sobering. 
We needs to remember emergency personnel still put their lives on the line daily. Take some time to pray for and encourage someone today.

Exactly One Year Ago: Lumangwe Falls

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jeepers Creepers

The other day, we had just finished having dinner with some guests who were visiting us for a week. I was enjoying myself and feeling pretty chill and happy.

I walked across our grassy area between the dining room and our living area on my way to my office.

As I opened the door to my office, right on the floor directly in front of me was one of my worst nightmares.

I began to scream and call for someone to save me, anyone!

My screams were enough to bring my husband running from the other building.

What could possibly have upset me so terribly?

Why just a six inch Imperial scorpion, that's all.

As I shivered and shuddered in a corner, my boys (hubby included) scooped up the scorpion and began to tease the cat with it, but all I could think and say over and over again was,

"It's not October yet! You're not supposed to be here yet!"

I guess the scorpion forgot to check his calendar. See, we usually get bunches, hordes, swarms? of scorpions right before rainy season. Just before the rains make their appearance, these 'spiders on steroids' begin to show up all over the place. Right on their heels come the swarms (I know that's the right word) of termites adn other insects. The scorpions are just part of the circle of life. 

I just wish they weren't so ugly and ominous looking.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pure, Undadulterated Joy

After the day I had yesterday, and the week I had last week (don't even ask....),  I need to take a moment to reflect on the reason God has us here in this community and look at some of the simple joys in life.

In August we had a team from Texas come out to do a bunch of different projects over one week. The men helped Tom with various building and construction projects. The two women who came with the team held a Vacation Bible School program for 3 days. 

Each day two groups of 50 children between the ages of 8 and 12 years old would come to hear Bible stories, sing songs, play games and do crafts. In the middle of each session we planned to have the kids play in the playground.

The first day the kids were escorted to the playground they stood in a line just staring at the playground. They were somewhat familiar with the trampoline, but had no idea what to do with the rest of it. Schools here don't usually have playgrounds for the school children. 

I had to lead the kids around to each of the playthings and show them how to play. I took two of the kids over to the see-saw and as soon as the girl lifted up into the air she flipped right off. She'd never been on one before and didn't know she was supposed to hold on.
Finally, I led a couple of the girls to the playhouse which has a simple slide, made from 3 barrels, coming off of it. I encouraged them to sit down and slide through it. The absolute surprise and delight on the first girls face made my day. 

She looked up and politely asked if she could go again. After I told her yes, she gave me a huge grin, dashed off and climbed up the ladder to get ready to slide again. 

The slide became one of the favorite parts of the playground.

How many kids do you know who can find such joy in simple, playground equipment. Sure makes one count one's blessings, doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I wish....

Last month two of our nannies gave notice. 

One is expecting a baby in November and one is hoping to go to nursing school. Obviously I will wish them well in their ventures....eventually. Right now, I'm just sad. I've invested hours in training these young women who came to us with very little education and no work experience. 

One of them hasn't even finished (or even started) high school but we took her on anyway and she has grown by leaps and bounds. But now she's leaving. And sadly, she's not even leaving to further her education....she is going to have a baby--her second. She's not married, although she claims she will be joining her boyfriend in another city. I wish she had made better choices or had better options in her life.

The other girl is planning to go to nursing school. I wish I had more hope for her future but in her high school classes she failed ALL her subjects. She claims she will study hard between now and October to pass the subjects in a new session of exams. At the moment I don't hold out much hope. I wish her the best and pray that she studies hard. Zambia does need nurses, but not ones who've bribed their way through already sub-standard courses.

I've been interviewing new candidates for nanny positions, but I wish I didn't have to. I wish we could find people who would partner with us and keep the kids' needs first in their hearts. I wish they would be here for the kids and not for the money--'cause Lord knows it's not a job for making money--ask me how I know...

All the kids we have here have already lost their families. We are trying to create a new family for them. But their 'aunties' keep leaving. I wish the kids didn't have to say goodbye so often.

Aside from the fact that I hate that the kids' hearts will be a little more sad and broken, there is the quality of care to take into account. Kids are just not cared for with the same standard that you and I would expect. This means that I have to do a lot of hands on training to get the ladies who come here to the place they need to be. This takes hours and hours of my time--time I really don't have. I wish I could invest my time more wisely--perhaps into holding and loving on the kids we have in our care.

Now I'm faced with training 3 new ladies in the next month or so. Yes, three! That's because in just the last few minutes yet another lady gave her notice. Only, she gave us a three day notice. Three days!! to find and train a replacement. We have one year contracts for formality's sake and they are all coming due this month which is why this particular lady felt she could skip the 30-day-notice clause. I understand that, but I wish she had practiced some common decency?

These are the children of Africa. The children of Zambia. Why is it then that mainly Americans and Europeans are giving of their money, time and effort to provide a new home for these children? Why don't I see the same commitment of spirit from most of these young women? These children are not just children of Zambia, they are actually even distantly related to some of these women. Where is the love?

Is my frustration leaking out onto your keyboard? I do apologize. I'm tired. Tired because I've been up nearly every night for the last few weeks with a tiny newborn. Tired because I'm carrying a heavy burden. Tired because I'm trying to carry it alone rather than give it over to the One who can carry it all.  

Would you pray for me today? Pray that I can trust in Him to be a Father to the fatherless.  To comfort all of our hearts. To make the transition time easy and painless. To bring in workers and caregivers who are committed to lovingly raising these kids God's Way. Thank you.

P.S He is already answering that prayer in one small way. Meg is coming back! Next summer, if God wills, and then (again God willing) permanently the following year. Please keep her in your prayers as well.
There are other volunteers who are already expressing interest in spending their summer with us. I'm grateful. Really, I am.

P.P.S Have a read through these posts of yester years and come back to remind me why I'm here. 

Exactly Two Years Ago (Yesterday): Adventures in Baby Care
Exactly Two Years Ago: Our Kids--Volume One--Jennifer

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Guess the Secret Ingredient

We finally got our gas bottles delivered earlier this week so I was able to bake a cake for Troy who celebrated his birthday in the third week of August.

When I asked Troy what cake he wanted he was very specific: Chocolate with Darth Vader's face surrounded by all the colors.

Colors I could do. The Darth Vader head stumped me a bit. Eventually I came up with a solution. 

I posted a picture of the cake on Facebook and had my friends try to guess what the head was made of. I'll post their guesses (and the correct answer) and see what you think. I'll post the answer at the bottom of this post.

Was Darth Vader's face crafted from: 
a. fondant
b. sugar cookie
c. dirt
d. play-doh
f. melted sugar in a mold
g. licorice
h. jello
i. pie crust
j. gum drops

I will say that it was an edible shape.

Past birthday cake creations of varying success:

Oh, and I kinda messed up this cake. When Troy said multi-colored he was envisioning more aurora borealis. Oops.

By the way, when you're done here, why not hop over to Unknown Mami's and see what all the other ladies (& gents) are up to this lovely Sunday. 

Unknown Mami

And now for the correct answer!

Drum roll please.......


Did you guess correctly? Thanks for playing this episode of Guess That Ingredient!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blog Critique

I was privileged yesterday to be chosen by Melissa from MomComm and Adventeroo to have my blog critiqued. Every Wednesday Melissa critiques a different blog. She also offers blogging tips and tricks during the rest of the week. All this while putting out her own e-book and keeping up a personal blog. Whew.

To say I was nervous about having my blog under a microscope is an understatement. I did all my own blog design and work so I wasn't sure what Melissa would have to say.

She was very kind and had so many great suggestions.

I plan to put them into effect as much as I can over the next few weeks.

This critique came at a very good time because there is something interesting coming up for my blog in a couple weeks. I'm very excited about it...

Head over to MomComm and take a peek at Melissa's tips and tricks for blogs. She has some really good ideas.

Exactly One Year Ago: Moments of Panic

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