June 20, 2011

where YOU lead: a much bigger lap

the angels in heaven are eating
tomato-flavored puffs tonight
because of the new, little arrival
that GOD just chose to invite.

the LORD just received a blameless gift,
a perfect person without a hint of sin.
and who could really blame HIM
for wanting a perfect, little person to come on in?

andrew's 3 years of life were harder
than ours might ever be.
and it didn't seem fair that something so perfect
had to suffer from HIV.

from battles with dehydration
to the infection on his skin,
he was born into a battle
that he would never be able to win.

and just a week ago
he sat in our small, little laps,
living his life of tomato puffs,
bath times, and naps.

but he was not meant for this earth,
you could tell by his frown.
and he wasn't going to let anything here
try to keep him down.

he was meant for heaven.
he was meant to fly.
he was meant for perfection.
and so he had to say goodbye.

he was meant to sit
in a much bigger lap
and to be able to play all day
without ever taking a nap.

he was meant for never-ending tomato puffs
and back scratches by the hand of GOD,
so the fact that he had to leave us
isn't really that odd.

and there are no naps in heaven.
there is never ending play
and sitting in a bigger lap
to have your back scratched all day.

there are no feeding tubes in heaven.
there is no such thing as HIV.
nobody needs any oxygen
because being with GOD is how you breathe.

and andrew just needed
a much bigger lap
with infinite tomato puffs
and no need for a nap.

so he went to heaven
desiring to find his need.
and he found the gigantic lap of GOD,
the lap he'll never leave.

and as we cry at our loss,
deep down we all know
that he just went to the bigger lap
where one day we will all go.

and there will be no naps in heaven,
only never ending play
and sitting in a bigger lap
to have our backs scratched all day.

we were meant for heaven.
we were meant to fly.
we were meant for perfection.
we were meant to say goodbye.

June 19, 2011

where YOU lead: my babies

bright is my little, wild man. he lives with the older boys at eric’s house and thinks that he owns the place. whenever he sees me, he runs and jumps into my arms for a gigantic hug. he is my church buddy and sits in my lap or beside me every sunday. he likes to dance to the songs, and it is a miracle if we make it through the service without any disruptions. bright was brought to the haven as an infant, and his only remaining relative was his grandfather. his grandfather said that if bright’s HIV tests came back negative, he would take him back home and raise him. it turned out, however, that when it was proven that bright didn’t have HIV, his grandfather never came back for him.

hamilton is my little boyfriend, and we spend a solid hour together every day. he is the most handsome, little man ever, and i love to give him kisses. we were born just 2 days apart and were basically meant to be best friends. i like to dress him as a baseball player whenever i change his diaper. last summer he had failure to thrive and almost lost his life. last night i got the sad news that hamilton has bilateral cataracts and is losing his vision. i cried for a long time realizing that this tiny, beautiful child who almost lost his life is now losing his sight. he will be having surgery in the upcoming weeks hopefully to fix it, and i would appreciate your prayers. if i could take a child home with me, he would be the one, and i will love him forever no matter what situation he is having to overcome.

maureen is a precious little girl with a twin sister named memory. memory is very expressive and vocal and babbles all of the time, and i believe that since memory does all of the talking, maureen doesn’t feel that she has to. it has been my goal to get maureen to start babbling, and she has gone from being nonverbal to making all kinds of sounds. giving her the attention that memory so often gets has started to bring her out of her little shell, and i’m hoping that from here on out she’ll be giving little memory a good run for her money.

this experience has taught me that i am a huge fan of the underdogs: the weak, the sick, the quiet, the abandoned, the hurting, the broken, the powerless. i am amazed when i realize that we have given the children of zambia a voice. with the production of a sound, there is hope that that sound will turn into a word which will turn into a phrase which will turn into a sentence that might change the world.

one day when i return to zambia, which i will, i hope that when i walk the path to the haven the silence and peacefulness of my walk will be disrupted by the sound of 70 individual little voices breaking out into sounds, words, and songs. the melody of those tiny, little voices would be sweeter than that of any song, and i believe that when i return i will be greeted with the sound of zambia’s voice.

June 15, 2011

where YOU lead: hakuna matata

"it's our problem-free philosophy...hakuna matata." timon & pumbaa

today qualifies as one of the most amazing days of my life. after 4 weeks of hard work, our group has been privileged enough to get to spend 4 days here in livingstone, zambia. and so this morning we set out on an incredible adventure.

we had to shuttle here from namwianga in 2 groups because of our transportation, and i was fortunate enough to make it onto the first shuttle. we left at 9 and arrived at 10:30 to one of the most beautiful hotels at which i've ever stayed. after a short time of settling in, our group followed dr. weaver and started walking through livingstone. she led us to a fabulous italian restaurant called olga's, and by the end of the meal olga the restaurant and i were best friends. her ravioli was out of this world, and it seriously felt like we were eating in italy instead of here in africa. we ate 3 different appetizers, drank coke light, and ate italian food to our hearts' content without having to spend a single penny of our own kwatcha.

as if that weren't enough, we then were taken just a few hours later to the royal livingstone hotel for high tea. as we drove in our land cruiser, which we affectionately call khaki jackie, giraffes were grazing in the front yard and were literally 10 feet away from our vehicle. it was like the jurassic park of africa, and we hummed the theme song as we drove to the parking lot.

we went out on the veranda and got to order any kind of tea that we wanted while eating all the food we wanted from the buffet. a man was playing the piano incredibly well inside and when we went in to watch him we realized that he had no sheet music and was playing completely from memory.

we then went to watch the sun begin to set on the veranda when suddenly we noticed a small animal darting across the grass. soon all kinds of monkeys joined us on the veranda in order to eat our leftovers. they were the cutest and at the same time scariest things i may have ever seen in my life. they would jump on our tables, in people's laps, and wherever they thought the food was. we enjoyed chasing them and playing with them for a really long time.

we then left high tea to finish watching the sun set at one of the 7 wonders of the world: victoria falls. we just stood in silence at first, taking in the majesty of GOD'S creation. then i could not help singing "i stand in awe of YOU," and i later learned that dr. weaver was singing the same song to herself at the same time. we then watched as a lunar rainbow formed over the falls from the reflection of the moon which rarely ever happens. it was one of the most beautiful things i've ever witnessed, and i still have chills from just pure awe.

so after a day of great food, giraffes, high tea, monkeys, the sunset, and 1 of the 7 wonders of the world i can say that i am completely content and amazed at the power of GOD. tomorrow we are going on an all-day safari where we will see lions, hippos, more giraffes, elephants, and more. i wish that every single individual could experience this, so i hope that my writing is giving you a somewhat accurate image of what i'm seeing. thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers during this journey. i love you all!

June 14, 2011

where YOU lead: the delivery

“LORD, take my life. Make it YOUR home. LORD, live through me for i am not my own.”

you know it’s going to be an interesting day when you look out of the window and see the family. there they are sitting on the front porch staring at something tiny in their hands. you wonder what their tiny package wound up in a blanket is until you hear the soft whimpers and the teeny cries. and that’s when you realize that their tiny delivery is their child.

maybe a parent died. or maybe both parents died. or maybe the family simply isn’t financially able to support the child. but for whatever reason, they decide to put this brand new, perfect, little life into your hands. and then they walk away, sometimes grieving from the realization of the gravity of their decision and sometimes relieved from the tiny burden that was just released from their care. but when that tiny and perfect package is delivered, you can’t help but accept the delivery.

on april 25th two little girls were born, one in america and one in africa. the american girl was born into a home with 2, loving parents. the african girl was delivered to the haven’s front door. the american girl was born exactly on time and experienced no problems in her growth or development. the african girl was born premature, weighing under 2 pounds, and when given IVs to preserve her life, all of her veins collapsed. the american girl had her whole life ahead of her. but it appeared that the african girl was about to lose her brand new and perfect, little life.

but the african girl’s life was saved by the help of the hands of the aunties at the haven, megan holly, beckie weaver, and our team here. we decided to fight for her, unwilling to abandon her as her own family had. we took turns feeding her and discovering ways to preserve her tiny and perfect life. and today when she was weighed she went from 2.3 pounds to 3.1.

but the reason that this incredible, little delivery has made such an impact on my heart is because i am the american girl born on april 25th, the day that little baby ellen and i both entered this world. and every time that i see her or hold her i thank GOD for my life and pray for hers.

and as sad as it was to hear the soft whimpers and teeny cries on the day that the tiny package came to the door, i realize that she would not be alive today if she hadn’t been delivered into our greater hands, the hands that knew just what she needed. and it is then that i realize that neither will we live unless we allow our lives to be delivered into the greatest hands, HIS hands that know just what we need.

we were bought at a price, and we were delivered into HIS hands, the only hands big enough to hold us. and then he chose to remove our impurities and imperfections and restore us to our once brand new and perfect lives. HE chose to die in our place so that we might have life and have it fully. and despite our ugliness and imperfection, HE chose to accept the delivery.

June 13, 2011

where YOU lead: the village people

the past few days have been incredible. on friday we finished therapy for the week and celebrated that night with a party thrown for us by the staff here at namwianga. we ate nshima, chicken, and rice and drank bottled cokes. our cook, leonard, has baked us about 10 cakes in the last week, and we have graciously eaten them all.

on saturday i went back to choma with mark and tyler and a couple of the girls, and we filmed part of the documentary there in the market. we bought some more souvenirs, had a picnic lunch, and went back to the museum. when we returned to namwianga, mark and tyler interviewed me for almost an hour and a half and asked me questions about speech pathology and life that i had never thought about before.

whenever i step back and realize what exactly we’re doing here, i am overcome with emotion. the fact that we are learning and growing as clinicians while saving and changing the lives of 70 children is overwhelming. realizing the personal fears and limitations that we have conquered in choosing to live and work here is empowering. and staring into the faces of those little people whose whole worlds we are changing is one of the most unbelievable feelings i’ve ever felt.

sunday brought a whole new meaning to the term “the village people.” we woke up and drove out to a village in the bush called kasibi which can only be found by following the correct land cruiser tracks in the dirt road. we piled into our land cruisers and off-roaded for about an hour in order to get to this tiny church where leonard is an elder.

worship was excellent, and after it was over we were serenaded by 2 groups of kasibi singers. we then sang for the church in tonga and were cheered for like none other. they told us that no group has ever learned and performed songs in tonga for the people here, and they were completely overwhelmed that we would do something like that for them.

but it was after the worship service that the village people truly came to life. we walked up to leonard’s house where he had prepared a meal for the entire church. his house was surrounded by tiny huts which enclosed the animals that he breeds, kills, and prepares for the food that he cooks. and it was after eating the lunch he had prepared that the party started.

leonard’s band set up in the middle of the yard and began to play their music, and soon children, one by one, started coming up and dancing. and before we knew it, there was a whole circle of people rotating around the band, the africans legitimately breaking it down and the americans flailing about in our best attempt. but honestly, my celebration with the village people was one of the happiest experiences of my life, just another lesson proving that true contentment is rooted in simplicity.

today i had to finally say goodbye to my friends from the pharmacy program as they are heading back to america a little earlier than we are. i must say that i have sincerely enjoyed every moment i have had with them and have loved getting to know their hearts. seeing my friend justin’s ability to take things as they come and go with the flow, always with kindness and steadiness really encouraged me to keep calm and enjoy whatever comes. seeing cameron’s passion for what she does and her willingness to be the only girl in a group of guys and go wherever she was needed was always inspiring. and seeing brian’s love for GOD and people, which is so contagious, made me love the people here even more, and i know that this experience would not have been the same without him.

tonight we had share time where we discussed many things as our time here is about to come to a close. it is crazy to look back and realize everything that GOD has done through us, and it’s exciting to know that there is still some time to continue our impact. i am going to be enjoying every second of my final 9 days here. we leave for livingstone on wednesday, return to namwianga on saturday, and leave for america next thursday. i may never realize the difference that my time here has made, but i know that because i knew zambia, i have been changed for good.

June 9, 2011

where YOU lead: GOD'S gift

i shed my first african tears today. honestly, i don’t even know how to begin this story.

every summer the HIZ-path group goes to a huge rock called jordan’s rock for a cookout where they watch the sunset and just enjoy the evening looking up at the stars while eating hotdogs. i have been excited about going to this event for the past year when i first learned what it was.

our cookout on jordan’s rock was tonight, and on top of it, it was the birthday of my dear, little friend ian, one of our professor’s sons. and after a long day of walking 5 miles, missing my pharmacy friends, filming my portion of the documentary, and doing 5 hours of therapy, i absolutely could not wait to have a beautiful evening with our group on the rock.

we were to leave at 4:30, and so as soon as we got home, jill and i immediately went into our little bunkhouse, changed our clothes, and grabbed our flashlights to head out the door. but when we got to the driveway at 4:30, all of the vehicles were gone. we walked all around the houses looking for people, but no one in our group was to be found. it turned out that we had been left at the house by mistake, with our classmates each thinking that we were in another vehicle.

if you know me at all, you know that i have a stubborn and strong will and that i absolutely was not going to be missing this party on the rock. so jill and i started walking, having no idea where jordan’s rock was, and we began asking random zambians in namwianga how to get to the rock. and i just started praying that GOD would keep us safe and help us find our group in the middle of the african bush.

after walking for a mile and a half, we finally ran into my 2 favorite aunties from the haven, beatrice and gertrude, who were on their way home with the other aunties, and we told them our dilemma. they told us that jordan’s rock was about a 20 minute drive through dirt roads and bushes from where we were, and that we would never make it in time by foot. but all of a sudden one auntie went into action and flagged down a truck driven by 2 guys about our age, and we knew if the aunties trusted the guys to take us there that we were in very good hands.

so i can now say that i hitchhiked for the first time in my life in zambia, africa, and GOD could not have taken any better care of us. HE provided us a vehicle out of nowhere driven by 2 guys who knew exactly where this rock was in the middle of african plain. it turned out that these 2 guys taking us were the missionary’s adopted sons and that they drove us completely out of their way so that we could be there. i cried the whole way to the rock, realizing that these young men who had nothing compared to what we have were taking us a total of 40 minutes out of their way just because of the love in their hearts. they were so kind and compassionate towards us and truly sympathized with our situation. and when we got out of the bed of the truck and i asked the driver to tell me his name, the irony blew me away. the name of our driver was gift.

June 8, 2011

where YOU lead: never be the same

it is unreal to realize that i have been living in africa for a month. the time has passed so quickly, and it’s hard to believe that it’s about to come to a close. in the past month i have walked approximately 100 miles. i have lost 10 pounds. i have learned the names and personalities of 70 children. i have completed around 70 hours of therapy. i have partially learned another language. i have made a best friend. i have grown closer to my friends and ultimately closer to my GOD.

after this experience i will never take hot water, clean water, or any water for granted ever again. i will appreciate electricity and internet reliability. i will appreciate clean houses, clean streets, clean stores, and really anything that’s clean. i will appreciate the shoes on my feet, the clothes on my back, and the food on my plate. i will appreciate my health and the fact that i was born into this world free of disease. i will consider it a miracle that i was born into the country, the family, and the circumstances in which i was born. and i will return with a new purpose, knowing that GOD made me to go into the whole world.

this week’s therapy schedule looks like this:

9:30-11:00 i help teach the same toddler language stimulation group that i taught last week. we read stories, sing songs, and engage in various play activities to stimulate the production of language.

11:00-12:30 i work with children ages 9-12 months on language stimulation through interactive play. we work on tummy time for the first half of the session and allow the babies to strengthen their muscles and increase trunk control through time on their tummies on the rug. we then have a similar session as the first hour and a half with them and sing songs and read books.

2:15-3:30 i work with a special needs child named kritz who demonstrates high-functioning autism. his receptive language (understanding) skills are intact, but he is almost completely nonverbal. we play, read books, and sing songs in order to support the production of language. he has completely won me over.

3:30-4:15 i work with the child of my choice and just interact and encourage language production. the child of my choice is a little 13-month-old baby boy named hamilton who is pictured above, strapped on with a chitenge. he almost died last year but survived and is thriving by the grace of GOD. he is a biter and already has a receding hairline and basically has completely stolen my heart.

2 of my good friends from undergrad, mark slagle and tyler jones, are here to film a documentary of our work. tyler and i have been friends since we were 12 and studied in italy for a semester together, and we are beyond excited to have the opportunity to work on this project right now. filming begins in the morning, and i will be leading the guys through my new home here in namwianga. they will be interviewing me, members of my group, and local zambians in order to get a realistic view of this incredible program. i am so excited to be a part of such a ground-breaking experience.

i am just so grateful to GOD for the million life-changing moments HE’S given me in the past month, and i will absolutely never be the same again.

June 5, 2011

where YOU lead: the walmart of zambia

“fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are MINE. when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned; and the flame shall not consume you. for I am the LORD your GOD, the HOLY ONE of israel, you SAVIOR.” isaiah 43:1-3

in zambia there is no walmart. there is the market, and the market is a warzone. our nearest market is in kalomo which is about a 15 minute drive from our house, and we go into town once a week to pick up anything that we might need.

in the walmart of zambia, there are no clean and tidy aisles. the streets are compiled of dirt and garbage and broken plastic and broken glass. the aisles are lined with dried, dead fish staring at you or plastic bottles filled with vegetable oil or bags and bags of rice. the employees in the walmart of zambia are the poor, the hungry, the tired, the starving, the weak, the wretched, and the worn.

in the walmart of zambia, i am called “makua” because i am white and foreign. i hear “makua, i like you” or “marry me, makua” on a regular basis. in the walmart of zambia, i am asked my named, and if i were to give it, it would be passed to every single worker in the market so that they might call it. in the walmart of zambia i am followed by people begging me to buy from them just to give them enough money for their next meal, and children approach me asking for treats or any money or food i might give them.

in the walmart of zambia, i have witnessed unimaginable things. in the market in choma, a little 3 or 4-year-old girl held a pistol in her hand while i bought a chitenge from her father. as i was entering the kalomo market yesterday i noticed the man beside me rolling up a joint of marijuana and offering it for sale. and right after that, another man who was drunk in the mid-morning threw a beer bottle against a rock, and the glass shattered right in front of me, right where i was about to stand. he then threatened the man in front of him with the broken half of glass bottle that remained in his hand.

but in the walmart of zambia, there is hope in the midst of struggle. in the middle of a warzone, in the middle of a battlefield, there is a sense of triumph in the hope that one day things will change for the poor, the hungry, the tired, the starving, the weak, the wretched, and the worn. and as i left the walmart of zambia, the picture above is what i saw.

June 2, 2011

where YOU lead: the mark of friendship

the mark of friendship in this country is when a local zambian comes to you and decides to hold your hand and walk with you. in my time here, i truly hoped a zambian would deem me worthy of that level of friendship and demonstrate it by taking my hand. and yesterday my hand was taken.

beatrice is a 38-year-old zambian woman, a widowed mother of 6, and an auntie in haven 2. she works all day long caring for every need of the toddlers in the second haven. she cooks for them, cleans them, and sings to and plays with them. despite losing her husband 4 years ago, caring for her own 6 children who range in age from 4 to 19, and working countless hours to meet the needs of children who aren’t her own, beatrice is always singing, laughing, and smiling.

beatrice and i were friends at first sight because we both are in love with a man named JESUS CHRIST. we made an instant connection and friendship even though we come from 2 totally different worlds. after learning songs in tonga, her second language besides english, i decided to sing them and see if she knew them. she knew all of them and taught me more, and every day we play with the children on the playground, singing songs to them in tonga.

but it was yesterday that she chose to give me the mark of her friendship. we had just finished singing a song to the children when she grabbed my hand and asked that i help her prepare the children’s lunch of nshima which is ground corn meal with a tomato gravy, the typical meal of every zambian every day because it’s all they can afford.

i helped cook and cut up the nshima and distribute it to the babies, and i have decided that it is a simple task i will complete every day. i can’t describe the extreme honor and excitement that filled my heart when this beautiful, zambian daughter of GOD chose to give me the mark of friendship, but I know that my heart changed when she took my hand.