Friday, July 31, 2009

More burials...



Please pray for the Whitfield's, our ACTION team members... I included a letter from them to their supporters. As for us, this is the third "preventable" death of a baby that we have endured in the past three months. It is hard.

Dear Friends

It saddens us to have to inform you that our house helper, Pauline Sakala, lost her youngest daughter Lizzy this past Sunday. Lizzy was born a couple days before we arrived back in Zambia in May. At only two months old, she died, per the official report, due to an infection of malarial and bronchitis. Although our time with Lizzy was brief, she had already attached herself to our hearts. Emma, was especially fond of her and would capture any opportunity she could to hold her for a few moments during the day.

Over the past few days our family has been exposed to an aspect of Zambian culture that is unfortunately all too familiar to most of our Zambian friends. The funeral in the African culture may just be the most significant way to honor and pay respect to someone or a particular family. You can be excused from missing a wedding but everyone shows up for the funeral, even if you’re not invited.

Yesterday was spent making arrangements for the burial today. Pauline’s husband Norman, and Luke spent the morning collecting the infant casket and burial permit. Transportation for around sixty relatives from the village and surrounding areas had to be arranged as well. Most importantly was the need to purchase two fifty pound bags of corn meal, cabbages, cooking oil, two live chickens and two fifty pound bags of charcoal all used to feed those relatives and friends who came to mourn alongside the family.

Today there was the need for flowers and a wreath to be placed at the burial site(in the picture you will notice the flowers are broken at the stem….this is done so people attending later funerals will not steal the flowers from the grave of your loved one). And lastly, the grave diggers (who dig while you watch and wait) needed to be compensated for their efforts.

Earlier this morning we joined Norman and Pauline in laying their two month old child to rest. Pictures could not describe what it is like to be surrounded, literally, by thousands of burial mounds, some large and some no bigger than a loaf of bread (all the mounds you see in the pictures are actual grave sites). As we were waiting for the grave to be completed we noticed a family nearby digging a small grave and watched as they laid a small towel wrapped corpse in the ground. And of course we wept, as we listened to our dear sister Pauline cry out the name of her dead baby and watched on as she and Norman lay a wreath on the fresh grave.

Why are we sharing all this detail with you? We wanted to share this because all of you, directly or indirectly, were used by God to bless this couple today as they mourned the death of their little baby girl.

Paul reminds us in Galatians 6 that we are to “carry each other’s burdens” and “as we have the opportunity, to be good to all people, especially to those that belong to Body of Christ”. You were a part of living Galatians 6 out in the lives of Norman and Pauline and we just thought you would like to know that because of your prayers and support we were able to cover all of the funeral cost for the Sakalas. To them it was a monumental act of kindness, but you may be surprise to know the total cost for the funeral was $220.

Many of you may never get a chance to meet Norman and Pauline until we get to Heaven, but we know if they could, they would thank each one of you with a hug and smile.

If you are interested in helping out Pauline and her family or simply would like to write them a word of encouragement (we can print your responses and give them to Pauline) during this time please let us know. They will continue life with their three other girls and we ask your prayers for this grieving family.
God is good all the time and we thank Him for what He accomplished through His body today. We love and miss each of you. Thanks again for being obedient to His voice; we could do none of this without your involvement.

His Servants

The Whitfields <><

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mwape's Birthday



We are blessed to have a gardener/guard who is just the coolest guy ever. He is the ultimate worker: faithful, on time, shows initiative and cares about our family. He has taught me so much about how to be a servant of God by how he serves our family. He is hard working, even when I am not watching. He is thorough, working hard until the job is done right. He sees what needs to be fixed or cleaned or moved, and does it, whether or not I ask him to and whether or not I am around.

When I think of the verse from Colossians 3:23-24

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

I think of Mwape.

Well, Mwape had a birthday last Friday. He has been borrowing my bike for the past couple years, and we decided that we would buy him a new bike for his birthday. But, before he got his bike, we decided to do a Zambian birthday tradition:) Check out the video below!



After we got him thoroughly wet (though I totally missed and Owen, on the roof above, did too, we had pancakes for breakfast and told him about his present. We took him to a place called Zambikes, (check out the website) a business geared to helping get quality bikes to Zambians and help provide jobs and care for people. Needless to say, he loved the bike. We were able to give the other bike to Daka, our former guard who we have been helping through this time as he is finishing up construction school. It was a great day for giving!



Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ordination

A few years ago I was ordained as a pastor. I loved my time being ordained and I learned a lot during that experience. It is interesting how ordination differs within different denominations. I went to the ordination of two of our pastors, James Chiwuswa and Alfred Mulenga, within their Anglican denomination. It is a really great group of Anglicans who are committed to teaching the Word, reaching the lost and caring for the orphans and widows. In my class that I teach, I have three Anglicans who are in the class who also live on the same property as Tracy and Karen Singeton, our ACTION missionaries. I put together a little video for you to see what I experienced. The Bishop was from South Africa.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Safaring it a bit close I would say...


A friend sent this picture. Not sure if it is legit, but it sure looks legit... Either way, glad it isn't me.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Checking out my intern's blog!

Just thought you would like to see what my intern is learning these days! You can find his blog here: Enjoy!

Thoughts on Church

So far it has been interesting to visit the compound churches here in Zambia. I have been privileged to visit five congregations so far, each from a different suburb of Lusaka, ranging from 20 people in attendance to more than 300. Each experience has been different, but I have noticed some interesting common denominators that each church has shared so far.

(1) Church is between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 hours long. One of the services I went to began at 9:00 and ended at around 1:00.

(2) When the leader of the congregation says, "Let us pray now for..." or "we are going to pray that...", what he/she means is that EVERYONE is going to pray out loud to God at the same time. So everyone audibly speaks their prayer to God together at the same time, the effect of which is a sort of a loud amalgam of voices.

(3) Visitors (or maybe just Muzungu's?) are given seats at the front of the congregation, sometimes with their own small table, and bottled water.

(4) When church is over, the pastor (or "man of God") exits first and stands at the front door of the church. Then the guests/muzungu's exit, shaking the pastor's hand, and form a line behind the pastor so that everyone in the congregation shakes everyone else's hand.

(5) Services are divided up into different chunks, and not everyone comes to everything. The first part is usually intercession -- church leaders meeting before the service to pray for the day, for the people as they make their way to church, and so on. Sometimes there is a Bible study after intersession, which is a time for the pastor or teacher/elder to lead the core of the church in a more personal "teaching" environment. There aren't a lot of kids or families at this if it happens. Then, as the women and children begin to arrive, there is a time of worship (sometimes led by a choir, if there is one), an offering, and a set of announcements (just like in the states) in no particular order. At around 11:30 there is a sermon... or two. The day's offering is usually announced at the end of the service.

(6) At one of the churches I went to there was a separate youth church, but it took place during the teaching time before worship. For the most part, the kids just hang out with the rest of the congregation for all three hours of church.

(7) Worship is usually in Nyanja and English. Sometimes the pastor will give the sermon in both languages at once -- speaking one sentence at a time in each language -- and sometimes the pastor will have an interpreter. Worship music may or may not have instrumentation apart from clapping.

(8) I have not yet had communion with a congregation here. Luke mentioned to me that there is often an afternoon service where the congregation will break bread together, but it is hard to tell if this happens in smaller, more impoverished congregations. If they do take communion, I have yet to determine the frequency -- is it once per month like in my congregation back in the States? Or only if/when they can afford bread and drink for an entire congregation? An issue like this is very interesting to think about in the context of poverty,

(9) There has not been as much "crazy stuff" as I expected, even in the pentecostal churches. No one has been slain in the spirit or anything like that -- the most common thing has been speaking in tongues. Women will occasionally holler during prayer times.

(10) There is no problem at all here with women pastors. It is very interesting to me how this happens everywhere in the world, when God's word is so clear on the issue. Just like in the States, I have seen far more women in the churches than men.

God is good... (echo: all the time!). All the time... (echo: God is good!).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Preach it up!



It has been a full and fun couple of weeks speaking at different places. I have been loving it.

It started two weeks ago when I spoke twice at Baptist Conference meeting on discipleship. The next day I spoke to the Seminary students on prayer. That Sunday I preached at a compound church on Guarding your Heart.
Then the next week I spoke at homeschool convention to about 200 hundred kids, speaking on being a light to the world. I then spoke a few days later to a pastor's fellowship in Ngombe. This was in addition to my three days a week teaching that I have been doing and the youth group that I teach on Sunday. I am now preparing to give two talks on August 5 and 6 for our pastors conference on Building Biblical Marriages. This type of schedule is not typical but some months are busier than others. It has been fun to have the opportunity to meet new pastors, churches, parents and students and I continue to be challenged to study and preach in a way that encourages people. Thanks for your prayers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

C.R.O.S.S. Project Graduation


About two months ago I was asked to take oversight of our CROSS project ministry that trains leaders in HIV/AIDS. Our two Zambian leaders do a great job teaching and it makes my job really easy. I mostly just provide support to both John and Eta and help think through ways to share their ministry. In August, I will be taking my first trip with the CROSS team down south to a village to train 15 pastors in the HIV/AIDS curiculum that we have used in over 30 churches this past three years. A little over a week ago, I was privileged to speak at the graduation as well as give certificates to those who had completed the five month course. It was a cool experience, literally. If you look closely you will see hats and heavy jackets. It is indeed winter here!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Well, this is long, long overdue, but absence makes a heart grow fonder, right? Anyway, I wanted to give a quick update of our little Jennifer Rhoda and then share the background behind her name. First of all, I'll take a quick tidbit from an email Stephanie sent to a friend to share how the past two weeks have been with our daughter, Rhoda. Stephanie wrote, "I feel like she has really bonded, adjusted, transitioned really well. I don’t know how it could go any better. Let’s hope it’s not just the honeymoon. She really does give the BEST hugs, and she is such a snuggle bug. Her favorite place is in my pack!! I really couldn’t be happier. I think having her has made me a better mom, at least for the time being. Since I am being so consistent in my discipline of Rhoda, I’ve really tightened up in my discipline of the other girls as well. The home is always happier when this is the case. I still have some fears thinking about the future, her future, prejudices she will face, etc., but one day at a time." I feel the same way. Her smile just brings me such delight, her little giggle is contagious, watching her run is joy-filling and her hugs give me life. Today I called her beautiful and then I asked if she knew what that meant. She said, "Yes, like a princess." Yes, she is one of our five beautiful little princesses. So, thank you for your prayers. The road ahead will have its challenges, but we are so thankful for a great start.

Now, regarding her name. About 5 years ago when we moved to Bellingham, we met a family who we over the years have become great friends with, the Collin's family. Jamie served as the elder over me at Northlake and became a great friend and confidant during my time there. Their firstborn, Kyle, is a "special" needs child. He is super special alright. We love Kyle! They adopted two other kids, Kara and Nate, who have become great friends with our kids. It seems every story that I tell at night has them in it somehow. Stephanie and I have enjoyed their friendship so much, but we also have been challenged by them as well, especially by the seriousness of their commitment to love orphans and "the least of these." It is already a full time job to take care of Kyle as well as their two other children, but in the middle of an already full life, they also foster babies until they are ready to go to other homes (Landen is in the picture and has since gone to live with his father). It is a difficult, emotional, thankless job but such an important job. I remember a conversation with Jenny one time where she said, "I might be the only one who ever prays for this child." We have been so challenged and encouraged by their example of living for eternity and the sacrifice of what that means here on earth. Time would fail me to share some of the amazing stories that have already come out of this decision to love the forgotten and neglected children in their community.

Well, spurred by this example of love, we, too, considered fostering babies or children or something. (If they, having a legit excuse not to foster, are still willing to foster, we, who have no excuse, shouldn't we at least consider it?) Well, as it happened, we end up moving to Zambia. And after coming to Zambia and going home and then coming back to Zambia again, after praying about adoption and taking steps to prepare ourselves for adoption, and then having a beautiful little girl dropped from Heaven into our laps, it was so easy and perfect for us to name her after our friend, Jenny Collins. And what was even more perfect was that we got our little girl on July 4th, the same day we picked for her fourth birthday, which is also the birthday of her namesake as well. Pretty cool how God planned that! For those who followed us on this at times agonizing wait for Jennifer Rhoda to join us, the timing, as we knew it would be, has proved to be all too perfect.

So, her name is Jennifer Rhoda Allen. Rhoda is her only link to her past life. She has no history, no family records, no last name. So, we definitely wanted to keep that name in her name. The name Rhoda means "rose" and it may have connections to Rhodesia which was the name of Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) before their independence. We are going to continue to call her Rhoda until she gets older and can make her own decision. But, if you ask her her name she will tell you it's "Jennifer Rhoda Allen." It is so sweet to hear her say her full name. She loves her name. Today we went through every member our family saying their first, middle, and last name. She beamed with the insight that her last name is the same as ours.

So, thank you Jennifer Collins, for setting the example of what it means to love unconditionally. Thank you for your patience, your endurance and your sacrifice. Thank you for modeling for us how to live true religion by loving the orphans with your whole life. It is because of your example that we have a little girl in our lives who will proudly carry your name. We pray that all our children will follow the example that you have set for us and you will be blessed and encouraged to press on every time you see our little Jennifer Rhoda, that your labor is never in vain and that at least one more child has a family because of you.

Thank you Jamie for your tireless giving of your life for your children. Thank you for partnering with your wife, for standing in the gap when Jenny has been up all night with an infant or Kyle, and for sharing your wife with so many others.

Thank you Kara and Nate for loving your little foster brothers and sisters. Thank you for helping your mommy and daddy when they need a break and for having a good attitude when the baby is always crying. I pray that you will fully understand how special your mommy and daddy are to us and to God. We can't wait for you to meet our new daughter that has the same name as your amazing mommy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Street Kids Ministry (for fun)?!?!?

A few weeks ago I joined some friends of ours whose ministry is to the street children in Lusaka. Though it is not our ministry per se, (I call these kind of excursions "just for fun" ministries) I have a huge heart for these broken and abused children, so we asked if we could just join them for the morning. And they obliged! We attended a church service to encourage, hug and love on the least of these in Zambia. I "borrowed" this blog from my teammate Brent because he was there and because it has a picture of Owen and I in it and because he does such a great job summing up all the emotions and feelings of our outing. If you want to see an additional video that he posted on his blog during a night feeding, check out his blog, here!

Last Friday, several of us went out with another ministry here in Zambia on a street kids outreach. Our friends, the Moraleses and the Carrs, head up a ministry that reaches out to these vulnerable children. We really didn't know what to expect. We all met at a coffee house in downtown Lusaka and then walked through town to Saweto (a district of shops behind city market). Once we got back in Saweto, we had to make our way through these small alleys between the shops to the back of Saweto. As we arrived, it seemed like the children came from out of nowhere.

As they came, the leaders of the group we were with, started gathering them towards the back of Saweto along a fence that borders the area. Charles, a once street boy and known criminal in Lusaka, shared with them how Jesus Christ had changed his life. Charles used to be one of the leaders on the streets. He spent a lot of time in prison and was even used by prison guards to "thin out" populations when they got too full. It was amazing to me to see how God had invaded such a hopeless situation and changed what many of us would deem a lost cause.

Most (probably all) of the boys were sniffing Stika the whole time we were there. Stika is a cheap inhalant drug peddled to these children by local drug dealers. The children put a little of the glue in a clear plastic bottle and inhale the fumes. It has a deadening effect on all of their senses. During the winter (which is now), it is the primary way that they endure the cold. So, I don't know how much of what Charles shared was received by these children, but I do know that God's word never returns void!

I think the one thing that God impressed upon me during these outreaches is how little it takes to show God's love to another person. Sometimes, something as simple as taking bread and tea to a boy in a hopeless situation is all He desires from me to show someone else His love!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blogger Down?


Well, not down, but crammed full while hosting Aaron and Megan for the five days we are here. We have done, well, everything. We safaried, visited churches, community schools, orphanages and more. They also went to the local hospital and are currently bus-ing it down to Victoria Falls for a few days away. It has been a full week of remembering memories and new memory making. I look forward to updating you all on some of the cool stories that has happened this week. But until then, enjoy these pics!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friends from afar


It has been fun, full few days with our friends, the Gibbs, here from the states for a few days. I have known Aaron since junior high and Megan since high school. They are now married and loving life and each other and Aaron's job because he works for Alaska Airlines so he can travel all around the world for very cheap!!!! Anyway, they are here until Tuesday. Today we head for a safari!!!! They came bearing presents, and jammies was just the beginning!!! Thanks Carol Gibbs and Grandma Gibbs for all your fun presents for us and thanks Aaron and Megan for your mule-like dedication to us for carrying them all here!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Life as we love it



Thank you for the prayers for our first week with Rhoda. I am not sure how to adequately describe what a joy she has been to us. Is there anything more sweet than that big white teethed smile? I looked at her today during dinner and just marveled at the reality that she is "our" daughter. You would think that bathtubs are the greatest thing in all the world by the way she smiles and sings and plays during her bath time. Life is still so new and different and at times, overwhelming for her. It is challenging and we are daily praying for wisdom. But, day by day, she is getting used to being Jennifer Rhoda Allen and day by day we are learning how to love her and parent her. (More on the name tomorrow... It deserves its own blog!) Thanks again for your prayers and kind emails.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A birthday to remember

Click on Picture to make it big!

From Collages


In case you haven't heard by now, we have been in the process of adopting a little Zambian girl named Rhoda for the past 3 months. Yesterday, we received what is called the "committal order" which names us as her official foster parents. With this piece of paper in our hands we were able to bring her home with us. Today was our first day with our newest daughter, Jennifer Rhoda Allen. (She has not been officially adopted yet, because Zambian law states that you must foster the child you wish to adopt for 3 months before you can even go to court and officially adopt. So, today marked the beginning of our 3 month fostering period.) We really weren't sure what to expect when we went to get her this morning. I (Stephanie) wasn't sure if she would be emotional saying goodbye to everyone there. Davern (her Zambian father for the past year and a half) led us in a time of prayer. I was very touched and quite emotional. Rhoda really doesn't like being the center of attention so she was quite subdued during that time. Most of the other kids happened to be at AWANA so the send-off was pretty small. After Davern prayed, Steve shared a few words thanking Davern, his wife, and the "aunties" for loving and raising our daughter during this time. We took a few pictures and then we left.

Rhoda was pretty stoic until we had been in the car for a few minutes and then a smile broke out. She smiled, and giggled a bit all the way home. When we got home, we gave her a bath. She played and played and played. I imagine she was never given the time to play when she lived at the orphanage. We had lunch, read some books and then went and got some ice cream to celebrate her fourth birthday. We decided to make her first day with us her new birthday. When Rhoda was brought to the orphanage no one knew what her actual birthday was, and so they assigned her a birthday in April saying that she was turning 3. But, it was pretty obvious to us and some others that she was not 3, but probably much closer to 4.

So, today was a day of fours. Her fourth birthday on July 4th into a family where she has four sisters and is the fourth of five daughters. She has four grandparents and four parents (two biological and two adopted).

After our yummy ice-cream we went to a 4th of July BBQ with some friends. There were five families, and 20 kids that were 10 years and younger:) Yep, it was a bit crazy. Rhoda took a little nap in my Ergo baby carrier on my back....yes, this is the BEST baby carrier out there. I'm convinced! She is 4 and I can hold her comfortably on both my front and my back. Rhoda loves it!! We enjoyed a nice dinner, some fireworks and then came home. We snuggled up little Rhoda in some cute jammies, read some books, and then got her under a comforter with a pillow. I laid down with her and sang her a song and she was asleep before I even finished. Steve and I both sat and prayed over her and watched her sleeping peacefully. It will be strange to have a new baby in the house and not have to get up and feed in the middle of the night. (at least I don't plan on it...) It seems so crazy that she is finally here. Steve and I both have been experiencing waves of anxiety over the last few days and even now, we wonder, how it will all work out. But, God has brought us this far and his grace will lead us on.

Tomorrow we plan on staying home from church to spend time as a family. Monday is a holiday here, so we are planning on going somewhere....maybe the zoo?? We will keep you updated on our new family. It is indeed crazy what a year can bring. We have, not just one new child, but two, in under a year. Our lives are wonderfully full and blessed.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Finally bloggin' about it...

Check out our Intern #2's blog!!!
Pretty cool!

Today marks the three week mark of my time in Zambia. It has been really good. Here's a brief synopsis:

(1) Week One - All my flights went as smooth as they possibly could have. I got into Lusaka and was greeted at the airport by the smiles of Steve and Tyler before being shuttled around town for a bit. I stayed the first night with Tyler at a house in Makeni, which is a suburb of Lusaka, and was able to get a full night's rest, which was great. My first real experience with JetLag wasn't too bad, and I was ok on day three.

The rest of the week was spent with Tyler and Steve and Megan, just learning the city and learning what Action Zambia is doing in its various ministries. Public transportation here is pretty interesting, and I've got some great stories that I'll have to post later. All the missionaries here have been very gracious and generous with me so far; I had dinner with all but one of the families my first week here.

(2) Week Two - A short-term team from Vacaville, CA, came into town a couple of weeks ago to do some work with a farm we have called Cianjano ("Fellowship" in Nyanja). I hung with them for the week just digging 5' x 16' x 9' pit latrines, planting trees, and hanging out with kids from the local villiages. I love that stuff: kids are the same everywhere, it doesn't matter what culture they grow up in or what language they speak. We also tore down an Insaka (an African gazebo), and watched as ladies came from the villiage to make brooms from the straw roof as we tore it down. They'll sell them in the market later for 1,000 to 2,000 kwacha (20 to 40 cents).

(3) Week Three - The team took a trip down to Livingstone to see
Victoria Falls and catch a safari, but I decided not to go with them... instead I moved into Steve and Stephanie's guest room last weekend, and have been spending time getting to know the projects that I'll be working on the rest of the way out. I'm excited for this next month, as I'll hopefully be diving into the lives of 15 local pastors, getting to know them and their congregations, and just helping out the Action office wherever I'm needed.

More to come!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Progress

I stole this from my teammates blog... Thanks Brent!

(Grading of the Soccer Field)

Ciyanjano (Nyanja word for fellowship), is the name of our ministry center located just outside of town. About 8 months ago, we temporarily closed the property up in an attempt to control some of the monthly costs until we were in a position to start developing the property. Well, the time has come. This week, we have had a team from California visiting. Their project while they are here - start phase 1 development of Ciyanjano.

Action Zambia is a ministry that focuses on equipping local churches for the work to which God has called them to do here in Zambia. We see the ministry center as a key to reaching this vision. After development is completed, the property will be used for a variety of activities such as kids camps, pastor conferences, marriage seminars and possibly even some livlihood projects to help pastors and churches generate income.


Pit Latrine # 1

The team here has been wonderful. They've been hard at work planting trees, digging a pit latrine, tearing down an old insaka, etc... It's neat seeing a team from half way around the world catching onto and supporting the vision that God has given our team here in Zambia.