Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sunset of 2011

What a year 2011 has been! At the beginning of the year we had 17 children in our care. We’ve now grown to 22 children. I will be writing up a Year in Review post in the next week or two. That's going to be interesting! 
Be sure and come back tomorrow also for pictures from our Children's Christmas Day Party.

You all have made an amazing difference in what we've been able to do here at Kazembe Orphanage. Because of many of you, we now have 100 chickens providing fresh eggs daily. Because of your help and support, we could give Denny, Ana and Ephraim a home during a time when we considered closing our doors to new children.
We would like to give you an opportunity to help once more as 2011 draws to a close. As you consider all the blessings you’ve been given this past year, would you think about making a donation to Kazembe Orphanage to help us finish this year strong and get a great start for 2012?

Some specific needs:
1. We’ve outgrown our fridges with all the new children. We need $1500 to purchase a large fridge unit.
2. Timothy and I will be traveling to the States this year in the spring. Timmy will be wrapping up his 10 year service to Zambia and heading off to college. I will be traveling around the U.S speaking about the amazing work being done here at Kazembe Orphanage. The air tickets will cost around $3000 total.

It is so easy: You can donate by clicking on the button on the top of the page. If you're reading this via email or a reader, click on the title of this blog to go to the main website. Any donation whether $25 or $50 or $500 will make a huge difference in what we can accomplish this coming year!

Again, thank you for all you’ve done to help us this year. We look forward to working together with you to do more and more in 2012. May God bless and keep you this coming year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Secret Santas

Christmas is not a really big deal here in Zambia. It's an official holiday, government offices are closed for a week or two in December, and all the shopping malls and grocery stores are covered in decorations and play Christmas music starting in early November. But, as far as the average person celebrating the reason for the season, it doesn't really happen. 

That doesn't mean that people aren't well acquainted with the commercial side of Christmas. It is common to be greeted with, "Where's my Christmas?". In all the years we've lived in Zambia though, we've never had anyone give us a Christmas gift. Not that I'm really looking for gifts, but it would be nice to have some give along with the take.

To that end, this year I decided to teach my staff what a blessing giving to others can be. I started our weekly meeting one Tuesday with talking about what Christmas means, where the holiday originated, how Santa Claus came to be, etc.
Then, I offered up the suggestion that each of them could draw a name of a coworker and exchange gifts at our next staff meeting. I promised to provide cookies and juice as my gift to all of them. We agreed that the names would be drawn in secret, but then the gifts would be given publicly so that gratefulness and giving thanks could be part of the lesson learning also.

A few days later I had to explain the procedure to an employee that wasn't at the meeting. I explained that there was a price limit of K15,000 (about $3) so that no one went crazy and made others feel badly about their gift. "But," this staff member wanted to know, "what if I spend K15,000, and the one I'm exchanging with only spends K1,000??" We had to hold our laughter in. It was such a cute and human reaction. I spent time talking with him about the joys of giving and how the act itself blesses us.

The day of the party arrived and everyone was so excited. They came clutching their little parcels. We started with one lady and then whoever she gave a gift to would give the next gift to the name she had drawn and on it went. They all did a really good job. The top two gifts? Local cloth and underwear!

After the gift exchange, they performed a song in Bemba (the local language) that they said was a Christmas song. It definitely had the word Bethlehem in it.

Then it was time for the food portion of the party. We served peanut butter cookies, decorated gingerbread cookies and some peanut butter popcorn.

During the original planning meeting I had put spices in a bowl to show the ladies what Christmas smells like. Then at the party I told them that the gingerbread cookies are what Christmas tastes like.

Almost everyone put a portion of their snack into a bag to eat later--whether to make it last, or to share with friends or family, I don't know.

They all seemed to have a good time and are looking forward to next year's part already.

Exactly One Year Ago: Gifts from the Heart

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santa Visits Kazembe

And now for the back story:
Ever since our second Christmas here in Kazembe back in 2008, Tom has been excited about sharing a bit of Christmas fun with the children in the village.

The first year, he put on a Santa hat and walked through the village carrying a pillowcase filled with hard candy. He passed it out to every child he saw. They loved it and he had a really good time.

The second year, the kids were ready for him. They knew he was going to come around on Christmas Eve and they were all determined not to miss out on a chance to get a sweet. Crowds formed around Tom and our two sons almost as soon as they drove down to the village center, parked and began walking down the road. 

Trouble was, it wasn't just a few sweet, innocent children. It was teenagers and even grown people as well. Before long, a near riot had begun. Tom and the boys had to make a run for it, tossing candy far off into the distance to create a diversion. Tom left Timmy behind to toss candy and keep the crowd occupied while he made a break for the car and started the engine. As soon as the car was running, Timmy threw the remaining candy into the crowd and ran for the already moving vehicle and jumped into the back. Tom promised himself he would never do that again!

In 2010, Tom came up with an excellent plan. He would creep through the village in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, scattering candy on the ground near the houses for the children to discover upon awakening on Christmas morning. He would be just like the real Santa Claus.

To avoid problems, Tom let the police know what he was planning and at 2 AM Tom and Timothy headed out into the darkness with 3,000 hard candies ready to cover the ground like modern day manna.

He came home tired but so happy as he thought about how pleased the children would be. He slept in that morning as visions of colored candies danced in his head.

Around noon on Christmas Day Tom got a call from the police department. He was told that all the candies had been gathered up by the villagers and turned in to the police. The villagers were convinced that the candy had been left on the ground by Satanists. When the police explained that it was Tom, they said, "No, he always comes in the daytime!". Nothing would change their minds so the police made out like bandits in the candy department that year.

This year, with a new Santa suit to play with, Tom had a new plan. He would sit outside one of the shops high up on some steps and have the kids come up one by one to get their sweets. Knowing that crowd control can be an issue he hired some young men (along with our teenagers) to help keep the kids in line--literally. To avoid anyone getting candy and then rejoining the line, permanent markers were purchased to draw a line on each child's hand.

The day approached and Tom was so excited! As you can see from the video, he rode a trailer into the village, hoisted his huge sack filled with 10,000 candies onto his back and prepared to make the children of Kazembe very, very happy. 

I wasn't around to witness what came next. So, here is Timmy with the account:

Well, first, I jumped down from the trailer and began pushing my way through the crowd forming a path for Santa Claus. Once I thought there was a bit of order, my dad pulled the bag of candy off the trailer which excited the children and they began to swarm toward him. I pulled kids and pushed them away, allowing Santa Claus to walk up the stairs to the porch where his chair was.
The children's excitement was almost too much too handle as they pushed and shoved trying to climb up the steps. I continued to push them back leaving a clean line for Santa.
This was the first year where we would have an orderly system of passing out the candy so the urchins did not know what to expect.
Santa Claus teased the crowd by lifting up handfuls of candy and allowing them to fall back into the bag. By this time, the crowd had grown to around 7,000 children.

Santa gave the order and I looked into the crowd for the first child that caught my eye. I found a small girl around 7 years old, with torn brown clothes and a shaved head. I held her hand over her head to identify my actions to the crowd. They all observed in noisy amusement as I drew an X onto her palm. I then pulled her up onto the porch and Santa gave her a handful of candy. 

Not a second after that, every child in the crowd realized the key to getting candy and charged toward Christina and I holding out their hands for the 'mark'. That was the trigger that caused the chaos. It became a blur of screaming children. I tossed children right and left trying to protect Santa Claus. The kids began climbing onto each other and it looked like a scene from a mosh pit.

Just when I thought the area was secure and clear of children, I looked behind me and saw 5 children who had climbed up and were scrambling for candy right out of the bag. I ran over and started pulling kids off. For every child I pulled off, two more took his place. I grabbed one very large child and using great force managed to pull him off the candy only to find it was a grown man with a scruffy beard. He said, "Don't worry about me. No, no, don't worry about me!" I let go of him in my surprise and he dove right back into the bag of candy. 

Next thing I knew, my father and his 'bodyguards' started throwing the candy into the crowd where the children scrambled around on the ground picking it up. With the kids distracted, we ran for the car, clutching the empty sack, and drove away grateful that no one had been hurt.

I wonder what plan we'll come up with for next year......

Related post: Christmas Candy Toss (2009)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Week

Merry Christmas!

I hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas. 

We had an interesting week. It involved a staff Christmas party, a children's party, two appearances by Santa, a hospital visit for two of our kids, and so much more. 

I will work on recapping all the news over the next few days. Some of the news is happy and some will break your heart. That is life in Africa. It's all part of the adventure that God has laid out for us.

Christmas last year: Christmas in Africa

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Little Elves Were Out in Force

Last week we held a crazy assembly line of Christmas card construction. We bought some handmade Zambian cards with designs made of either banana leaves or African cloth. Some of the paper was even made from recycled elephant poo.

To make the cards even more awesome we had the tiniest kids add a handprint or footprint. 

Not all of them were thrilled with it. Jack had a positively worried look on his face the entire time.

Is this not the cutest thing ever?
Then we wrote a message and the cards were signed by one of the bigger kids. 

We let the preschoolers trace over their names that were pre-written in pencil. 

The kindergarteners could write all by themselves. 

We had a German couple staying with us all week. After putting in some good card-making time, Sabina and Georg would read Christmas stories to the kids. The kids loved all the special attention.
If you sent a donation any time in the past year, you can watch your mailbox for a card anytime in the next month.--Gotta love African mail!

Are you sending out snail mail cards or e-cards this year?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree

Last Monday we decorated the tree in the dining room. This is a new addition to our holiday decor. I apologize in advance for the quality of the photos. The kids weren't exactly holding still much during this activity. 

Queenie helping to straighten the branches

 We bought an artificial tree from Lusaka--only way to go out here--and a few simple decorations to get it started. We're sure to have plenty of kid-made treasures to fill it up as the years go by.
Elias stretching up to wrap the lights around

Timmy and Christina helped the kids set up the tree and then Timmy supervised the decorating.

Nathan helps tidy the tinsel
He did a really good job of corralling 16 preschoolers and making them all feel a part of the experience.

Beauty and Theresa working together

Janet adding the silver beads

After a child or two  had a turn at stringing a garland 'round the tree, or adding a bobble or bell, Timmy would call for a round of applause.

Even little bitty Lizzie got to add something to the tree.

Putting the star atop the tree was the grand finale. Queenie was chosen for the honor and loved being hoisted all the way up in the air.


Less than one week 'till Christmas. If you are as behind as I am, take a moment from the hustle and bustle to look on the lighter side of life on my side of the world:

Exactly Two Years Ago: My Tatas are Tired

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Father Christmas made the his first appearance of the season in Mansa yesterday. Not many kids came to the store to see him, but every customer made sure to take a piece of candy. They all left with huge smiles on their faces.

It's summer/rainy season here in Zambia which means very hot and humid. Poor Tom was a puddle of sweat yesterday afternoon. 

Not that that has anything to do with Santa's appearance......
I have it on good authority that this will not be the last time children get to see Jolly Ol' St. Nick. I'll keep you posted when & where it happens next.

Exactly One Year Ago: A Puzzle and a Prize --I'm watching this movie as I write tonight

Exactly Two Years Ago: Happy Birthday to Me! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where Do I Start?

I feel like every other post is saying "aren't you glad to see me again?" At least I'm not wearing out my welcome, I hope.....

Right after we got back from Lusaka we discovered that our internet was out. Again! It took a week and we don't know what the problem was, but we're so thankful to have it.

We had that wonderful experience meeting former President Bush in Lusaka and then actually had a bit of downtime for the next couple days as we waited to take care of some business while we were in the city.

The next few days were filled with hustle and bustle as we rushed from office to office filing paperwork for our soon-to-be official charity here in Zambia. There were some interesting things that happened that could fill a book--in fact, you'll just have to read about them there--and by the end we were just oh, so glad to be getting on the bus and heading home to Kazembe. 

We had guests along for the ride on the bus. No, don't worry, they were human--no goats or chickens or monkeys this time. A sweet German couple, who are traveling around Zambia, heard about our project and decided to raise money before their journey and they also spent a week with us to volunteer.
They helped continue the construction on the goat barn, and also helped us make Christmas cards with the kids. What fun!


Speaking of Christmas cards, if you sent a donation any time in this past year, you can expect a card to show up in your box anywhere from 3-5 weeks from now. Happy New Year!  Ha ha!
As I type this, I'm also mentally packing my suitcase because Tom and I are off tomorrow to attend the annual Policeman's Ball. Since my birthday is on Saturday it will be a type of celebration as well. We're performing our dance again, but we've improved on the waltz section--hopefully! You can be sure I'll tell you all about the fun we're sure to have.

I will end this missive here with the promise (as God wills) that I will be back tomorrow and every day after that as I try to catch up on all the adventures we've been having.
Until then, may God bless you on your adventures today and always!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Moment for the History Books

Living in Africa has brought me some unusual, unique and often once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, but I was still unprepared for the phone call that came near the end of November when Tom and I were invited to be part of a small group of Americans that were able to attend a cocktail reception for George W. Bush and his family right here in Zambia.

Tom and I traveled down to Lusaka Thursday by bus. I’ve been sick (my darn ulcer again!) but nothing was going to keep me from that trip. Thankfully, I took some medication and slept most of the way down. 

In preparation for our first ever meeting with a head of state, Tom and I both purchased President Bush’s latest book Decision Points. Tom got the audio version and I got the Kindle version. Tom listened to President Bush read his book for seven hours straight--a perfect way to pass the time on the bus. I only managed to read the first couple chapters with all the sleeping I did, but I was really impressed by what I read. President Bush spoke clearly and honestly about his faith. This came out later when we met him as well. 

Friday afternoon we got dressed up. This presented a challenge: the invitation read ‘business casual’. According to the internet this was khakis, polo shirts, business dress for women with a scarf or jewelry added. But, we know that here in Zambia people tend to dress up a bit more. Tom decided to wear his three piece suit with the knowledge that he could strip off layers if needed. I wore a simple, longish black dress with red belt and scarf. I was glad we dressed up a bit—all but a couple men had on suits and the women all had nice dresses. Whew!

We left for the reception 1 and a half hours early for the 6 PM event because the invite said that the doors would close promptly at 6:20. Tough! Of course we were 1 hour early so we popped around the corner for a small pizza—later we were glad we had because we were way too busy networking to eat any of the hors d'oeuvres.

Arriving at the location for the reception was exciting. We were just a short time away from meeting our former President. It was such an interesting combination of formal and friendly. Our invitations and IDs were carefully checked and we were escorted to the outdoor area, but inside everyone was friendly and helpful. 

There were so many dignitaries! Former (and first!) president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, several high ranking ministers from the cabinet and parliament, and our U.S Ambassador to Zambia. The room was filled with leaders in the charitable organizations community. Tom and I were able to do some fantastic networking.

Soon, there was a buzz in the room! President Bush was on the move. A crowd gathered around him as everyone flocked to meet him and get a chance to shake his hand. Tom and I moved over to one side knowing he’d eventually get over there.

Then, right in front of us was former First Lady, Laura Bush! We got in line to meet her. She was so gracious and chatted with us for several minutes. After explaining what we were doing in Zambia she asked if we were a faith based organization.  We mentioned our love for her hometown of Midland(Odessa) and we spoke of the current drought happening there. She said she had just been there for Thanksgiving visiting her mother. Too soon, her assistants gently moved us along, “everyone wants a chance to meet her”. 

Just as President Bush came along to our side of the room, it was time for his speech. He stood directly in front of us as the Ambassador welcomed all the special guests and introduced him.  Before he got up to speak, one person after another came to stand next to President Bush for photo-ops. Since we were directly behind him, we probably showed up in tons of photos. I tried to have a picture-perfect expression on the whole time. ;)

Finally it was time for President Bush’s speech. His reason for being in Zambia is to kick off his new health initiative which is pairingup his very successful AIDS aid with cancer work. His speech was inspiring as he praised the work that small, especially faith-based organizations do on the front lines in fighting HIV/AIDS. 

At the end of his speech, he talked about meeting a group of AIDS orphans in Rwanda and how after speaking with these 50 young people he threw out the phrase, “God is good!”. Without hesitation, the young people chorused back, “All the time!” He said that if children who have lost their parents can say that, how much more should we, who have so much more in our lives, shout that out. God is good! All the time!

I loved seeing how open and genuine President Bush is about his faith in God. 

After the speech President Bush shook a few more hands on his way out of the room. Thankfully we were right in that path! 

Tom introduced us and we told him what we do here in Zambia. He was very sweet and thanked us for our work. I told him that I had read in his book about his decision to follow his calling to be president despite his girls’ concerns that he would ‘ruin their lives’, and how he told them he had to ‘to live his life’. I told him how much that meant to me as I’ve often struggled with what my kids might be missing out on by living in the bush with us as we follow our calling. He leaned over to me and said, “And, you’re teaching them how to serve”. Yes!

Sorry the picture is poor quality. We took it with Tom's camera, but won't be able to download it until we reach home. This was taken off the camera screen using my phone and then uploaded to Facebook and downloaded to my computer. What an ordeal! LOL I'll fix it when we get home.  

 Later on, I spoke with Jenna Bush and gave her a copy of our promotional DVDs and a brochure. She thanked me for what we do. Who knows whether this small contact will grow to anything more—it was just an honor to have been part of such an esteemed group of people.

The entire Bush family seemed so genuine, and so concerned for the welfare of people around the world. I’m so grateful we got to meet them.

Book Review: The Wonder of Your Love

I wanted to publish this on Saturday, December 3, but didn't have internet access. Therefore, my links at the bottom relate to that date. 

The Wonder of Your Love by Beth Wiseman
Publisher's Description:
Settling in to her new life in Canaan, Colorado, Katie Ann Stoltzfus gives birth to a beautiful baby boy.   This child comes to her late in life following the death of her estranged husband.   She resolves to play the role of both father and mother to the child.  Ivan was her one true love and despite his infidelities, she mourns his loss and vows never to trust another man.   But when a meddling--but good hearted--Englisch woman plays matchmaker for Katie Ann and Eli Detweiler who just arrived in Canaan, they both need to restructure their expectations of the future and step onto the new path God is paving for them.

My take:

I found all the characters to be fairly predictable. We've seen them before, there were no real surprises, but, they're still pleasant to read.

The book was sweet and simple--like a nice bowl of chicken soup--which was good because I read it while in bed with bronchitis. I needed a book that warmed my soul.

I didn't feel a strong pull toward any of the characters, but  I enjoyed seeing them find love.

One thing I did find interesting was the addition of more 'modern' items in the Amish households. Plane travel, cell phones and solar panels all played a part in this story. I had wondered how the Amish people were handling change in their communities.

It was also nice to have the bonus of Amish recipes at the end. I'm always on the lookout for healthy, and simple recipes.

This book is part of the Land of Canaan series but can stand alone.

I received a free digital galley from Thomas Nelson. The opinions are mine alone.

Exactly Two Years Ago: My Crazy African Life--What do you know, that cookbook (mentioned near the end) is still at the top of my Christmas list.

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