Monday, March 23, 2009

Back Home

Just a quick entry to let all of our blog-readers know that we are back home in the States. We left Zambia on Wednesday March 18th, after several tearful days of good-byes, and arrived in Minneapolis on the 19th. The trip was long and tiring, but we were relieved to arrive back at home with no mishaps.

It will take some time for us to adjust back to life here and figure out what comes next, but we are grateful for the experience we shared in Zambia and we take comfort in knowing that our six month journey was just the beginning of a story. We are just beginning the many relationships we developed in Zambia, and there is only room for them to grow here on out. The projects we were a part of during our time there are only in beginning stages that will continue to impact people's lives for years to come.

Thank you for your prayers, words of support, and reading eyes. It has been so nice to know that so many people were with us on this journey. So much is happening in Zambia through Hope Ministries and Spark Ventures. To stay involved and up to date on what is happening, visit

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Final Stretch

This week we celebrated our sixth month anniversary of being here in Zambia! As I look at the calendar I cannot believe how quickly this time approached itself. We celebrate the length of time we have spent with our Zambian friends and family, but with this celebration also comes sorrow as we will be leaving our home soon. In all things, we remember that God gives both the times of celebration and the times of sorrow, and even in the difficulty we must remember to praise Him and thank Him for all He has done.

During these last few weeks we have been busy with several projects. Roxanna and I stopped teaching about three weeks ago so we could focus more fully on a few projects. Our main focus was on an attendance project. The school has been having difficulty with the attendance of the pupils at the school. Often kids will stay home on account of illness, helping out at home, or the weather. Parents know education is important for their children, but sometimes the needs at home can overshadow it. The attendance project is intended to give pupils a visual of what attendance actually means. Roxanna and I created attendance charts, and if a pupil attends school everyday for one week they get to put a sticker next to their name. The project will hopefully hold the pupils accountable for their attendance and stress the importance of coming to school on a daily basis. We helped implement the project last Friday and both the teachers and pupils responded very positively. Several pupils told their teachers how they are going to attend school everyday so they can have a sticker next to their name!

We have also spent a considerable amount of time at the orphanage with the kids and the house mothers. They truly are a blessing to each of us. The orphanage just received a refrigerator and a DVD player, so enjoying ice cream and movie nights has become a common event for us! This last Monday we had our last birthday celebration, as each month we recognize those who have a birthday and bring a gift and a treat to share. This last celebration was meant for all those whose birthdays we won’t be here for. Two days later when we visited the orphanage, we were delightfully surprised by the kids and mothers, as they presented the four of us with birthday gifts and songs! It was great to see that they’ve all enjoyed those times of celebration enough to share with us as well! Mama Jacqueline has told us over and over how we have planted a seed in the house, and that seed will germinate and bless others. In it’s a reciprocal message, for we know each of them has blessed us and planted a seed in us, which we will share with those around us, and the blessing with which it has!

Yesterday Tom and I took one of our final walks throughout Twapia, where the school, orphanage, and church are. It’s a township just outside of Ndola. We walked through a section called Overspill, which is the poorest area in Twapia. In this area people make and sell an illegal brew, called Kachasu. They then sell it for 500 or 1000 Kwacha, which is equivalent to 10 or 20 cents. Many people, especially men, find it easier to invest in this brew to ease them of their worries, than to buy necessities that will help their family grow. This brew is so strong, that one small portion of it will make a person drunk. That person often becomes violent and abusive after they drink it. The Head Master, Teacher Ng’oma, told me this occupation only breeds hopelessness. Several of our pupils live in this area, and as we walked through the area we saw several homes with the big barrel drums brewing this drink. There are bars and taverns close by, and as we walked by them around lunch time, music was blaring, making them appear to remain open all day. To me, walking through this area and knowing more about it, brings a new meaning to Hope. Pupils come to Hope to receive an education, but they also come there and receive hope itself. Instead of only living in the hopelessness that is being planted, pupils can see a life outside of that and experience the joy and happiness and the potential that their lives have. As Tom and I were walking through Overspill, I heard my name being yelled in the distance. As I turned around, one of our pupils, Helen, came running up to me and threw her arms around my waste. She walked with us the rest of the way, and as usual in Twapia, when musungu, or white people, walk around, they tend to attract a crowd and soon many of our pupils and other kids were walking with us. I know that people see hope through us, and they believe in that hope, I just continue to pray that that hope will remain long after we leave the school and the community.

It is difficult to describe all the things we are beginning to process as our departure date comes closer and closer. God has indeed done marvelous things in us and through us during our time here. We all can partake in the sadness of us leaving, but again, we rejoice for the time God has given us.

As we begin our last week, I reflect on something rather light, on our lifestyles we’ve adapted here, and the things we will have to do one last time!!

1. Buy two-20 liter containers of purified drinking water, to fill our water bottles with every night to place in the refrigerator for the next day
2. Wash my clothes by hand
3. Heat water for a “pitcher bath”
4. Eat our staple lunch meal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
5. Use hand sanitizer constantly
6. Sleep under a mosquito net
7. Drive on pot-holed roads
8. Drink Coca-Cola with real sugar in glass bottles, everyday

Although these may seem like strains and a stretch from lifestyles at home, we have really grown accustomed to them. In fact, when we went to Lusaka and had showers at our guest house, I almost felt like I needed to find a pitcher to bathe with because I wasn’t getting clean in the usual way! In life, we do what we have to do to survive, and when we look at the end result of these things, the means to them begin to fade away. It all rests in our ability to be flexible and obedient to the means, so the end result will happen!

On behalf of everyone here, we’d like to thank all of you for your continual thoughts, prayers, and words of encouragement during our stay here. We feel completely blessed for all of your support, and know that you have blessed more lives than you know!

God’s Peace,

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Pix are up!" -rj

Hey all,

Rich put up a few pictures that we've take from our time here in Zambia!

You can now view them at:

Click on that link, and then scroll down and click on the "Global Interns" (56 pictures) for your viewing enjoyment!

Have a great day!

-The "SGI's"

Friday, January 30, 2009

Some Fun and Some Miracles

We're back at school and going full blast for our last couple of months here! The past two months have held many different things: a break from school, many visitors from the States, Christmas and New Year's, and many new challenges and developments. Here's a list of some stories and realizations that have transpired.

*Mama Maureen (one of the house mothers at the orphanage) told me a story about a recurring dream she had shortly before Christmas. In her dream there were some visitors from America, but it wasn't the four of us. They came to say good-bye, and everyone was very sad, but they had many large suitcases filled with something to leave for the kids, she thought maybe some clothes. She had this dream two nights in a row and took it as a sign from God that something wonderful was going to happen. So she told the kids about her dream and encouraged them to pray for this thing that God was doing. Just a day after that we went to the orphanage to get the clothing and shoe sizes of all the kids so some people at Spark Ventures could prepare a gift package of clothes and shoes for each child. Funny how God works in such intricate ways across an entire ocean.

*One day during our break from school, the four of us visited the baby AIDS orphanage here in Ndola. It's a place for orphaned children under five who are HIV positive. I remember when we came here in May of 2007 as the North Park group, many of the children were small for their age and very weak. Some of them couldn't even stand on their own or smile. This time when we went there the children were full of crazy energy. I remember many of their faces, and now most of them are nice and plump, more social, and very healthy looking. One boy had so much energy that he threw a book at my head when we were playing, and now I will forever have a scar on my forehead from a little child in Zambia. One of the older girls has an amazing story. She came into the orphanage HIV positive and since being there for some time now, all her tests come back negative. Miraculous.

*Aaron, Amanda, and I also went to Lusaka for a little trip for a few days in December too. It was great to go there and see everything. It is much more urban than here in Ndola. There are shopping centers and restaurants, more businesses, government offices and homes, and the busyness of a typical city. A few times I forgot I was in Zambia. There is definitely more developments, but the funny thing is there will be a wealthy residential area or a strip of beautifully landscaped government homes and then the next block there will be extreme poverty, just like we see in Twapia where we work. It was a nice little getaway, but the few short days we were away made us realize Ndola is home. We have a history and community here now. It was a nice feeling to come home to.

*We went to a wedding for someone from our church on Christmas Day, and right afterward there was something called a kitchen party. It's the equivalent of a bridal shower back at home, although the celebration is far from the same. There are no dainty finger foods and chairs set up nicely in a circle for everyone to chat. This was an all out, crowded, crazy, estrogen-filled, Zambian dance party. I have never seen a group of women so nuts. When you give the bride your gift, it is customary for you to do a dance as you present it to her. Being the only white girls in a group of about two hundred women, Amanda and I were bound to get pulled up to dance, and dance did we. I don't think I've ever heard so much cheering in my life (and I'm sure there was an equal amount of laughter in there too). Needless to say, it was a Christmas to remember.

*On New Year's Eve we went to the orphanage for a little while to hang out with the kids, and as we were leaving we joked saying "We'll see you next year!" Their faces went blank, and they looked at us in shocked confusion about ready to panic. But when we said it again with a smile on our faces, they got the joke and laughed happily. I was surprised to see how concerned they got when they thought we were leaving them. It's a sign to me of how our relationships have grown from the first few weeks of not really knowing where we fit in and them not really knowing how to act around us. Now we're used to seeing each other nearly everyday and have built lasting relationships that really will be hard to leave when the time comes.

But we're not there quite yet. There's still lots of work and fun to be had here. In just about a week the four of us are heading down to Livingstone to see the great Victoria Falls, do some safari-ing, and relax. Hopefully our bus ride down will be uneventful...but that wouldn't be very Zambian, so we'll just have to see.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Right on time for 2009! ...well, sort of...

Hey all!

Sorry, it’s been so long since I’ve written. I admit that I’ve been a slacker when it comes to writing on this blog but at least the girls are good at regularly updating it. However, I wouldn’t want any of our readers to feel overwhelmed with the amount of information that they have to keep up on in our lives here. Too many posts means more work for you, the reader, so think of it as me doing you a favor; I’m trying to help you simplify your life, ok? You’re welcome. Moving on…

It’s been quite a whirlwind of a month, and the New Year has gotten off to a pretty fast start. The kids had the month of December off of school, so we spent a lot of time at the orphanage playing games, singing, dancing, celebrating birthdays, and thanking God for the miracle of Christ and Christmas! The kids are a constant joy, and we see God and His love in each and every one of them every time we hang out. They are definitely a blessing to us all.

On Christmas Eve, we got together as a family and exchanged some gifts and ate candy. What more could you want? Plus, I got socks and underwear! Some things never change. Mothers will be mothers. The material is actually really comfortable, you should get some.

Christmas was fun—we attended a wedding for a couple in our church, and I even helped officiate the service! (Watch out couples everywhere!) It was a privilege and an honor. And last I heard, the couple is madly in love and are going to spend the rest of their lives together serving God. One for one, baby.

Then a couple of days later, the “Alpaca Master”, Chad C. came to visit. This guy is awesome. He traveled over 9,000 miles on three different planes, and almost lost one of his bags, just to come hang out with me and check out life in Zambia. We had a lot of fun and made it down to Livingstone to see Victoria Falls, some sweet animals, go gorge swinging, and relax a little. Thanks for coming man, hope ya had fun, it was good times for sure!

At the same time Chad was visiting, the group from North Park also made it over for a couple of weeks. It was awesome to see all of them, and of course to receive the wonderful gifts that they brought with them from home too! So here go the “Thank yous...” In alphabetical order…

Amanda D.- I bet you were behind the pictures and the frame/stand they came in…not because Jon’s not creative…but, well it was just a “you” thing. If I’m wrong, pass along the thanks, but if I’m right, well then thanks!

Anders- Thanks for the card man. You sure do have a way with words… I’m still trying to figure out what “way” that is, but something transcendent happens when you put the pen to the paper. It made me laugh hysterically.

Anna- Thanks for the cookies! I feel privileged—I doubt too many homemade cookies get shipped over the Atlantic…they were awesome!

Dan- Thanks for putting that stuff together…I’m glad you love technology… Oh and I’m glad that you know Nacho Libre is the bombdiggity! Yes, I actually wrote that! And I don’t care because, “These are my stretchy pants!!”

Dad- Thanks for the books! Can you believe I used to hate reading? And the video too; it was great! Pretty nice pink sticky note on the world map too…

Grandma D. and Grandpa L. - Thanks for the card and gift!!

Jesus- Thanks for being born!

Jon- Thanks for the books too…I already read Rob Bell’s…simply a masterpiece.

Julie M. - It was so thoughtful of you to remember us here! Hope you’re loving the youth pastoring!!

Mical- What a nice letter you wrote! Thanks so much, except next time warn me before you write about a late hamster and I have to ask the whole group to figure out what you were talking about and Paul happens to be in the room and hears it and gets his heart broken. Sheesh. Don’t worry; I still think you’re great.

Mom- You know the way to my heart…thanks for the candy…the kids loved it too! J

Paul J. - Thanks for breakfast. Now I can live another day.

Rich- Thanks for the intellectually stimulating, awe-inspiring, brain-boggling, time-tested, scientifically proven, historically critical masterpiece of a book entitled, “Everyone Poops.” I have arrived.

I’m really sorry if I have forgotten anyone or anything, please forgive me. I hope that you all had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

After a short but definitely sweet visit from Rich and Brady from Spark, here we are…two months left. It’s hard to believe it’s almost the end of January…

The girls are back in school and staying very busy with teaching all of the munchkins. Aaron’s been a little sick, but he’s doing much better now, so we’re thankful for safety and good health for the whole team!

I’ll leave you with this story:

During the first part of December, we reinforced the church structure. One day we were tearing down the old lumber and taking out the nails so that we could use it with the new lumber in order to make the structure stronger. I was working with this guy named BaJohn and we were making some good progress when all of the sudden, I looked up and he was gone! I yelled out his name in a frustrated voice, and peaked outside of the structure’s walls, and there he was, walking down the road to the little stand that sells snacks, etc. I returned to my work annoyed and full of pride and continued working alone. A couple of minutes later, he came back with a package of cookies. I saw them, and thought, “Fair enough, a mid-afternoon snack. Everybody needs that once in a while.” But to my surprise, in his broken English, he said something to the effect of, “I got these for you. All of them.” Feeling rather sheepish, I graciously accepted a cookie and went back to work. He ate one and rested on a bench. Every couple of minutes he gave me another cookie, which I could not resist, and I went on pretending to care more about the work than about his gracious and generous act of kindness. This guy is about 60 years old. The average life expectancy for a Zambian man is 37, so he has outlived a very high percentage of his fellow men by a lot of years. He doesn’t have a lot of money. And he bought cookies, because he wanted to share them with his friend, Tom.
BaJohn rescued me that day. He rescued me from thinking that the work I was doing was more significant and more important than the people around me. I hope you can get something from this story too. So you’re ambitious and you have a lot of successful accomplishments? That’s great—but do you take the time to appreciate the people with whom you work and sweat next to every day? Don’t forget that…when you’re gone, people won’t care how much you got done if you didn’t care about them in the first place… I learned more about love, generosity, compassionate sacrifice that day with BaJohn than I have in many years combined prior. If there were more people who lived like John in the world, it’d be a better place for everyone, that’s for sure.

Grace and peace to all of you.

Tommy D.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It's hard to believe this month of December has already come and almost gone. It signals the halfway point of our journey, yet we still have 10 exciting weeks ahead of us. A lot has been happening this month, and God has really shown himself to us in remarkable ways.

Roxanna and I have had the entire month off, since school is out for the month. The break has been nice and we really needed it after all the planning and work that went into last term. During our time off we've been helping the office and school establish master lists of the students so we can better track them and attend to their needs both at home and at school. As we get further into the process of what it takes to run a school, I become a little overwhelmed, but am even more overwhelmed by the six teachers at the school, who handle all of the work on their own. They are incredible and dedicated people.

Spending Christmas in Zambia was challenging, as weeks prior to Christmas I found myself thinking about home quite often and wishing I could just be home for a few weeks. It has been difficult, and nothing short of it at times, but I'm thankful for international calling cards that keep me connected with family and friends at home, being able to share this Christmas with them through that. I have really enjoyed spending this Christmas with my new Zambian family though, and to know that this is where God wants me. It's been great to engage in the Zambian's traditions of the holiday while being able to share my own. The commercialization of the holiday isn't apparent here like it is at home, which has really expanded and stretched my understanding of Christmas and how we celebrate it.

Christmas time is different in Zambia for several reason....

1. The only place Christmas really looked apparent was in the supermarket and various other shops where decorations were hung
2. We didn't have a Christmas tree or other decorations hung in our house 3. I didn't really hear a lot of Christmas music, besides the Christmas CD mix I made for my brother Marvin, which I won't lie, is pretty awesome
4. There is no snow!!! I wear sandals, capris, and t-shirts everyday, which is definitely different than at home
5. We didn't have a large assortment of Christmas cookies or really many Christmas parties
6. The cartoon version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was not on the television Christmas Eve...

Those are only a few differences and since I didn't have a constant visual reminder of Christmas time, I was encouraged to look to other places to celebrate and partake in the holiday season, like Sunday school. Roxanna and I took two Sundays to teach the Christmas story to the children. We introduced them to Mary and Joseph and who they were. They were young people, who didn't possess much power and weren't termed "special" by this world, and really didn't seem worthy to be the chosen ones to bring the Messiah into the world. Yet because of their faithfulness to God, he chose them for this very purpose. It was because of their faith that they were chosen for such a special purpose. Faith in the Christmas story doesn't end there though. The shepherds and the wisemen also portray what faith means. The angels appeard to the shepherds bringing them the good news of Jesus' birth, and instead of being too afraid to act on the news that they brought, the shepherds acted on their faith and went to find the baby Jesus and rejoiced in his birth. The same goes for the wisemen. King Herod wanted them to return to him to tell him where they found the Messiah, but God told the wisemen not to. The wisemen acted on their faith in God by not returning to King Herod. This Christmas I was really able to focus and reflect on this story, this story that allows us to have a Christmas. It's not because of the commercialization of the holiday that allows us to celebrate Christmas, but it's because of the faith of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wisemen, who allowed the story of Jesus' birth to be told. We now can rejoice at his coming because God brought him so we could be reconciled with him.

I hope that during this Christmas season you have been able to experience the true greatness and faithfulness of God apart from the craziness of the holidays, and the peace he brought into this world at this time!

God's Blessings on this Holiday Season!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tom's Top 10

Ok, so I only have 9 minutes until the internet cafe closes so instead of writing a novel, I'll just have to settle for Tom's Top 10 Learning Experiences in the Last Month!

Here they are!

#10. You can get blisters on your hands when washing your socks.
#9. You can drip massive amounts of sweat from your brow...while washing your socks.
#8. A rusty nail can and will penetrate your shoe and foot if you step on it...
#7. If your foot is bleeding a lot, apply pressure and raise it above your heart.
#6. Mangos and apples are really good! (Doctors don't know everything...)
#5. Don't be distracted by people standing up and yelling "Amen!" while you're preaching.
#4. Don't go outside to watch the lightning! (I didn't get struck too bad...I'm kidding mom!)
#3. Don't smart off to immigration officers...
#2. If you get pulled over while driving, just keep your mouth shut and remain calm...

And the #1 Learning Experience for Tom in the last month is....

#1. I drank the water...and I was fine!

Hope you're all doing great!!! We love you all! Keep in touch!!