6.30.2008

Your Troubler

I'm still reading, "Daily with the King," so you might be on this journey with me awhile if you're reading my blog. Today I am reading about relationships. It says in the book, Next to the problem of self, the greatest problem I will have as a disciple is my relationship to others. When that relationship is pure, there is no greater joy; when sour, no greater heartache. But what do I do when a friend becomes a "holy irritant?"

I read the verse in Ephesians 4:2 that mentions "Forebearing one another in love." To forbear means I will accept others the way they are without rejection.

We tend to pick friends who are most like us, or sometimes we just find ourselves with friends, and we try to change them to become more like us when they rub us wrong. But we all need a person that we allow to be our "troubler." Someone who can tell us like it is, regardless. If you can find this person and build up the level of trust and know that they love you no matter what, then this person will do wonders for your heart. BUT, you have to grant this person the right to exist in your life and say their piece, so you can learn from them and even be molded by them.

The book says, God deals with me in strange ways, none stranger than my troubler. He may be God's velvet glove to smooth away the crustiness of my heart.

I know I have a few select friends that I am their "troubler," mainly because I speak truth and I speak it pretty boldly. These friends have allowed me in their life and have come to realize that whatever I speak, I do it out of love for them. I love them too much to NOT say the difficult things. I love them too much to lie to them. These relationships with these people are sooo rare, and I know they are for a lifetime.

I also have a troubler. She is one of the most encouraging people in my life, I love her dearly and she will always, always, always be in my life. But she doesn't back down in asking me the difficult questions when she needs to. I love that about her. Sometimes she will ask me a difficult question because she thinks she sees something and she might be wrong, and at those times I could get ticked at her, but I don't...because I know her...I know she is asking me those questions out of sheer love for me. So I can respect that. Other times she has seen something, and she was correct, but instead of dismissing her or acting out in anger towards her, I respect her and she makes me think about it in a different way. I have learned so much from this person, she has made me a better person.

So if you don't have that "troubler" in your life....or you have it, but you aren't embracing it and trusting that the difficult questions are out of love....then change it. You need these people in your life. They make you better.

6.26.2008

Simplicity

Keep looking for more info on the Africa trip. I am processing right now and will have some updates on that soon. But it is so great to be back. I have missed worship here at Community of Faith. I am the program director for our services, and I've really missed it. I hated that we came back midday on a Sunday, so I have to wait all week for a weekend service. So I'm pretty excited that it's almost here.

I was reading today in my book, "Daily with the King." The title of this chapter is 'Unadorned Worship.' It says, God is the most complex being in the universe; yet when it comes to His relationship to people, He wants utter simplicity. The altar the Israelites were to build for God was to be of unhewn stones, with no tool or cutting instrument used upon it (Expdus 20:25).

The message is clear. God knows man's tendency to adorn, to artify, to decorate a thing until man's talent overshadows the instrument itself.

I am thankful that COF doesn't try to "flower" things up in our services. It's neat to try to be excellent, but simple; so that we don't mess up God's message that He wants to get through.

There's this fine balance we must all find. We want all the nice technology (which I think we have). We want to be creative (which I think we are)....but we have to make sure we don't do those things to show OUR talent off. And yes, we have plenty of talent at Community of Faith, I am astounded by it at times. All the way from our pastor's to our worship leaders, our band, our tech people, our greeters and parking lot people...they are all amazing. But we have to make sure that its not our talent that shows, but our relationship. It's about our motive: we have to make sure that we want people to want the relationship we have with God, not the talent we have. Hopefully, when people see our relationship with God, and how simple it is to have it, then hopefully they will want the same.

6.18.2008

Prisca's Story

Today has been another hard day. I want to share another child’s story with you so you can pray for her. Her name is Prisca:



She is 10 years old. Prisca lives with her aunt because her father committed suicide last year and her mother just died on Saturday. She has one baby sister who has also moved with her to her aunt’s home.

They both sleep on the floor in the sitting room. They do not get breakfast or any dinner. Sometimes they will get lunch. She says she is very hungry.

I also asked her if she attended church and she said she attended Zion Church and my Zambian partner told me that this church is part of a cult.

She cried a lot today as we talked and prayed with her. I sobbed thinking how this little one just lost her mother a couple of days ago and her father just last year from suicide. Now she is hungry, sleeping on the floor and not sure if she is going to be taken care of.

Please pray for Prisca. I did see her smiling a little towards the end of the day today.

Pray also for me. This is a very emotional thing we are doing. God has entrusted us these children for one week to try to make a difference in their lives. I don’t just want to give them one, good, happy week. But I want to give them something that will change them on the inside. We feel sooo helpless because we can’t do much to change their circumstances, but we do have the power to help change what happens to them on the inside. We are sharing Jesus with them through our own stories…pray that she will receive and understand the message of Christ this week.

I am still pretty sick. I have run fever all day and feel like I have the flu, but I think it’s just a really bad sinus infection from all the wind and dust here. Pray I get better before the plane ride home. I am on antibiotics now.

Thank you for sharing in these children’s lives with me!

6.17.2008

Prosperity

Yesterday we started a new week of Camp Life with new children. I got another group of girls ages 9-15 this week. Here they are.





These children are very different from last week. They are soooo sad, there is nothing I do can get a smile from them. I can tell just by looking at them that their little lives are difficult.

I want to share with you Mulelengi’s story.



She is a little girl about 12 years old. She lives with her aunt and uncle who have 5 boys because her aunt took her from her mother and father and brothers and sisters because she did not have a girl. She wanted a girl to clean the house and mind the house for her. Mulelengi was taken away from her mother in the year 2000 and has not seen her since. She misses her family very much. She shared with us that she wanted to go to church every week, that her aunt and uncle go and take their children, but leave her at home because they tell her to watch the house. She never gets to go to church.

Mulelengi never has breakfast, nor dinner. She says that sometimes she has Sheema for lunch. Sheema is just a corn meal mixture that has no taste. Most of the time she says she is very, very hungry. She says that she loves camp life and that this is more food than she has ever had.

Mulelengi sleeps alone at night in the sitting room, on the floor.

During our time together she began to cry. In Zambia it is not typical for a child to show their emotions this way. She hung her head low and sobbed. I told her to look at me. She would look up and then look away. She wouldn’t make eye connection with me over 2 seconds. I kept trying because I wanted her to see the love in my eyes. Finally I got her to make eye contact and I told her that it was ok to cry, and that what was happening to her was a terrible thing, but through all of this that God is with her.

On Monday, we wrote each girls name down on a roster sheet and I took down Mulelengi’s name and noticed that it was a different type of name. In Africa all names have meaning, the people here are very specific in what they name their children. There are several Zambian people here with the name, Blessing, Righteous, Innocent, etc.

I asked my Zambian partner if she knew what Mulelengi meant, she said no, but that she would find out. This morning she came and told me that she found out that her name meant, “that she would never own or have anything.”

So during our time together I asked Mulelengi if she knew what her name meant, and she knew exactly what it meant. So then I told her that I would be changing her name. I asked her to give me a little bit of time and then I would have a new name for her.

Then my Zambian partner told me that she kept noticing that she has scars all over her face, her arms, her legs and even on her chest. She told me that this was a covenant. She called them tattoo’s. She said that they take knives and put herbs on them and then cut her all over, as they give a curse over her. My Zambian partner mentioned that it was probably to declare that she would never have anything (her name).

I took Mulelengi in my arms and held her as she sobbed and I prayed over her for a very long time. After I prayed for her I told her that I was changing her name to Prosperity. And I explained what her new name meant.

And I finally saw a small, little smile from Prosperity.

Pray with me for her as this week goes along, that she would really grasp, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” this week (our camp theme). That she can know Him in a very personal way. That He can be the light in this child’s very dark world.

Thank you for reading my stories. Also if you have a chance, pray for me. I have a really bad sinus infection (probably from the dust) and just started an antibiotic today, but feeling kind of bad. I really need to feel better, not only for the kids, but I don’t want a head cold on the airplane for 18 hours coming home.

6.14.2008

Our Orphanage in Zambia

As most of you know, Community Of Faith is building an orphanage with Family Legacy. Below is a couple of pictures of our actual orphanage:




Here is what a completed one looks like:

6.13.2008

June 13, 2008 - Lusaka, Zambia (Africa)

Yesterday, each child received a brand new pair of shoes, a new camp life tshirt and a bandanna with their school color. We had to get there early to get the shoes lined up. If you can imagine trying to fit 1500 kids in tennis shoes and tshirts in a matter of 3 hours….it was a huge undertaking. The kids were soooo excited! Most of them have never even received a gift before.





We spent a few hours after that doing a group session and a small group. Then after lunch we boarded the buses with our children and went back to their schools with them. They were even more excited to take us with them to their communities. Once we got to their communities we walked around and spoke with and met people. It was really nice. This little girl followed me around everywhere.



After that we came home and got ready for bed again because today was to be a very long day.

We got up early this morning to get to camp early before the kids because today we were assembling packages for each of our children. Each child was to receive a pencil, 3 bookmarks and a postcard, a cup, 2 book bags and a warm camp life fleece jacket. Greer, the camp director said that this kind of present to the kids is life changing for them. This will probably be the biggest gift they will get in their entire life. Also most kids are very cold right now because they don’t have good jackets, so this will be huge for them.

All week we have been singing a song, “The Lord is my Shepherd, He gives me everything I need….” I could try to explain this moment today, but words cannot do it…you will have to see for yourself. When I get home I’ll post the video. The kids were so excited when Greer just held up that they’d be getting a pencil today. Then he went down the line of all the giveaways one at a time. Once he got to the fleece jackets the kids screamed soooo loud and were jumping up and down, several crying. All the little ones ran up and overtook the stage jumping up and down and doing cartwheels and then they attacked Greer with hugs. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

As soon as we got them calmed down, we sang the “The Lord is My Shepherd" Song again. They lyrics are “The Lord is my Shepherd, He gives me everything I need.” I looked over at a girl singing in the line next to me and she had big tears rolling down her cheeks. I looked at her face as she sang and held her hands up, I could tell that she was really singing with all her heart that The Lord was her Shepherd and that he gives Her everything she needs. It was a sweet moment!

The video will come once I get home and can edit it! I can’t wait for you to see it! Below are my girls in their new shirts with their new tennis shoes.



I had to say goodbye to these precious girl today...probably forever, but they will always be in my heart! Next week is a new week of camp with new campers! So I'm excited!

6.11.2008

June 11, 2008 - Lusaka, Zambia (Africa)

Today again has been fun, but hard. It was soooo cold this morning we could hardly stand it. All the Zambian’s have gloves on….I wish I had a pair of them myself! We spent a lot of time with our children in small groups today. It was nice to see my girls so eager to learn. They are wanting us to teach them so much.

We have such a great time singing and dancing in large group. Each song, Greer, the head of the camp calls up American counselors to lead the song with motions on the stage. Today we were doing “This little light of mine,” but we had it in a kid’s version that was rap style. So Greer began calling up counselors on stage to lead and he called up Samantha and Laura Shook. It was hilarious to see Laura Shook do the running man, we were all laughing hysterically. She’s such a great sport!

After large group time, I had some more one on one time with my girls. One of my little girls, named Naomi, she lives with her sister because her father remarried and her stepmother was mistreating her. The sister is a policewoman and works most nights. Naomi stays at the house with her sister’s children. She refers to them as her brother and sisters. Naomi says that most nights her brother beats up on her and mistreats her very badly. She cried tears as she told me. For most Zambian’s they do not cry and they don’t typically share those types of things. She acted as if she really didn’t want to tell me, but I saw big tears rolling down her eyes when I asked her what makes her sad. She says that it is miserable.

The theme of our camp is the 23rd Psalm. The portion we learned just today (right before I had this one on one time with Naomi) was “They prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” Greer gave an example in Large group how if you are staying at your Aunt and Uncles house and they send you outside with no food for no reason and they are being very ugly to you. Then you are outside and you proclaim to the Lord “The Lord…You are my Shepherd,” (the scripture we are learning this week…about choosing to follow after God). Then God will do 1 of 3 things. #1 He might use another person and send them by to give you food or provide for you somehow. #2 He might just provide you food by a miracle and it just showing up or taking the hunger away. And #3 He might choose another way. He might not give you any food. But even then, you say to yourself, “God, I’m still hungry, but I choose today that you are my Shepherd and you are with me during this difficult time.” Then he said you could sing the “The Lord is My Shepherd” song we have been singing. He began to sing it from the stage. He says, you sing that song and guess what might happen….your auntie and uncle might come out of the house and wonder why you are so happy and praising God in your difficult time. He said, no matter what….if the Lord is your shepherd, that means he will be with you no matter what you are going through. (Many of these children live pretty difficult lives.) After this they did a skit with the same premise, but the whole time the sister was being mean to her or she was outside hungry, there were evil people around. When she called upon the Lord, he came out and served her a big meal right in front of the evil people.

So with Naomi, I spoke with her about proclaiming that the Lord is her Shepherd. And that God promises that He will prepare a table for her in the presence of her enemy. That when she is in a situation she has no control over, such as her brother beating her every day, that she is to remember that the Lord is her Shepherd and to pray to Him. And he will prepare her a table. He might stop the beating through someone else, He might provide a miracle, or he might not stop it but use her in a powerful way as she proclaims Jesus through her difficulties. She cried with me and clung to me as I prayed for her. As we were finishing up I asked her what things I could pray for her and she said only one thing, that her brother would stop beating her. So that is my prayer. Please pray with me for this for Naomi!

I don’t want to always be negative in this! I have 8 girls total. I have had 5 of my one on one times so far. 3 of my girls are well adjusted children who have 3 meals a day, although they are very small meals. But they are doing very well. But it is on my heart to ask you to join in on this trip and pray for these little girls who are struggling with me.

Naomi is to the far right in the picture below:

6.10.2008

June 10, 2008 - Lusaka, Zambia (Africa)

Well today has been a good day! We ate breakfast and then got ready to board the buses and go to camp. We got there and Phoeby greeted me. She is my cultural helper. She is amazing! She was very excited about today. We stood together on the field where we hold camp and prayed together for the children.

Then the children started coming, bus by bus….singing their hearts out! They unloaded from the buses and we took our small groups out to a little circle and gave them a banana for breakfast and played a few games. Then I shared about Jesus with them by using pipe cleaners. I made a stick person to represent people, a heart to represent how much God loves us and a cross to talk about Jesus dying on the cross, and shared my story with them through this. After that, I made a flower and talked about how we grow up as Christians by talking to God, reading his word and sharing Him with others. My girls were sooo into the story. They asked tons of questions. Some of them were very difficult questions. Sometimes I wished they hadn’t asked me a particular question, but I prayed for God to give me the answers to them that they needed. There were times I just said I didn’t know.

My girls in my group are 13 and 14 years old, and very intelligent. They speak English VERY well. They asked me questions such as this: “When I am a Christian and supposed to be good, and I’m little, and someone in my home is big, and they are a satanist and they ask me to go and get blood (for a satanic ritual) and I don’t want to. Will God be ok with it if I do it because I’m scared, and if I choose not to do it, will God protect me from harm from the satanist and would satan harm me if I did not do it?” Whew….how would you like to be asked that question at 9:30 AM in the morning by a 13 year old?

Later I was asked by one of my kids, “What about if you attend church and your father passes away, and none of the Christians come? This happened to me and this hurts me….what about that?”

Again, I just wake up each morning praying that God gives me words! Please pray for our entire team. These are the types of questions we are asked and a portion of what these little kids lives look like. It’s an amazing place to be, and a place where you have to completely trust in God to give you the words to speak.

On another note: Something I want to say about what Africa is teaching me. I began this trip certain that I wanted Africa to teach me something, the African people, my children, my interpreter, etc. I’ve been to Africa before, but wasn’t in this mind frame because I was in Sudan and most of my mind frame was survival…but now, I am looking for what this place and these people can teach me. I found one today.

I am on staff at an amazing church (many of you are reading this blog). We pray….a lot! I feel so blessed to be a part of a church that really emphasizes prayer. We work at our staff meeting making sure we pray at least as long as we talk! It has been a huge blessing in my life. Often, my pastor Mark, will ask us to begin prayer with praising and thanking God out loud….not giving requests, but just praising and thanking Him.

Something I’m learning from African Christians is…they certainly know how to Praise their Lord in prayer. They are passionate about it. The majority, if not all of their prayers are nothing but praise back to the Father. If there is anything I can learn from them, is how to praise my father back in prayer….telling him how wonderful He is. I am challenged to do more of this. God already knows He’s amazing, but I’m sure He’d like to hear His child tell Him that back more often than I do.

Thanks for keeping up in your prayers! Its wonderful to have a team at home that is praying for us….you are vital to what is happening over in Africa!

And for those of you who are still wondering where in the world is Mark Shook? Take a look at the Shiek Shook. We wondered if he could do anything with the cost of gas:



No, he’s not in the middle east, but he’s keeping himself from a serious sun and wind burn! LOL! I had to show you this!

Oh, yeah! I almost forgot something really important! Samantha and I got to go to a place tonight called, "The House of Moses." Its an orphanage for babies. Here is a photo!

6.09.2008

June 9, 2008 - Lusaka, Zambia (Africa)

We arrived here on Saturday morning. Our hotel is nice! We have all laughed because I kept saying that I’d never had it this nice on a mission trip before and then once we got into our room several issues arose. We had no hot water (everyone else on the team did), our hairdryer doesn’t work (everyone else’s did), our safe doesn’t work and sometimes you can get locked in the bathroom and can’t get out, and most days we don’t have any towels at all. Derek says they rigged our room for this because he wanted me to feel comfortable! I think it’s kind of funny that it’s all the luxuries that don’t work, that most folks wouldn’t dream of having in Africa anyway!

On Sunday we had church, which was a great experience. Then we went to this place called the arcades. We had lunch and did a little shopping. On Sunday evening we had a group meeting and did some ministry projects and spent some time catching up with Mark, who had been in Africa 3 weeks prior to us coming.

Today (Monday) we got up and got ready for our first Camp Life day. The theme of our camp this summer is the 23rd Psalm. The camp director had already prepared us for some of these children. He said that a lot of the children have lost either one or both of their parents to AIDS. Also many of them are beaten, sexually abused and sometimes taken out in the night by the witch doctor. The director says that we will teach them today this phrase, “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want,” and talk about when the Lord is our shepherd that he guides us, takes care of us and that no matter what we go through that God will BE with us through it all. That He will be our comfort in times of trouble. I did not know what to really be prepared for. My prayer was that I could learn from every child, they are little survivors and there is truly something that every single one of these children could teach me. I am convinced that by the time the end of the week is over that I can name each child and what they taught me this week. I’m actually looking forward to that! My prayer is also that they would open up to me and my Zambian helper quickly so that bonds can be formed between us.

Today, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We got to camp early and met up with our Zambian helpers. My Zambian helper is Phoeby. I will tell you more about her in a future blog. After about 45 minutes we could hear buses coming down the street and could hear little voices singing to the top of their lungs. As they pulled up you could hear them more clearly. Phoeby told me they were singing, “We are coming, we are coming…” and then when they drove into the camp area, they changed it to, “We are here, we are here…here we are.” It was adorable. Then they began piling off the buses. There were over 1500 children there today. It was crazy. The children were divided by the school they attended and then put into lines by their size and then in lines of 12. Then they were counted. They did all this in a matter of minutes (1500 children) all the while singing and dancing. It was hilarious! After that we were assigned our group of children for the week. I have a group of 8 11-16 year old girls. They are all adorable….and lucky for me they all speak English pretty well.

We spent the day getting to know one another…teaching them songs and them teaching me songs and games. Then we had 2 group sessions where they learned about the 23rd Psalm. Then we had small group times where we discussed these things. It was a great time. The girls aren’t very talkative, but I feel that they will open up over time.

One of the things we are to do over the week is have a one on one time with each child (along with your Zambian partner who can translate for you). I only had time to meet with one of my children this afternoon.



Her name is Mary. As I talked with her I asked her many questions. A lot of the questions are for information for Family Legacy to have to use for future ministry. So I began to talk with Mary to get to know her a little better. I asked her who she stayed with (lived with). She told me her sister. I asked her where her parents were, and she said that her mother could not afford to keep her, so she is now staying with her sister on the couch in their living area. She said that she misses her mother very, very much. She only sees her once a year and it’s the happiest day in her life when she is able to visit her. She told me that often her sister and brother in law tell her that she is eating too much and acting as if she belongs with them. Mary told me that she never feels at home in her sister’s house. I cried big tears for this little one who, not a single day feels like where she lives is her home. She also told me that she does not have a breakfast or lunch meal ever. She says the first time she eats every day is at 2PM when the school provides a snack for her. Then she told me that today, her first day at Camp Life was the best day she’d ever had in her life! I was so broken over this child and I know I will continue to be broken as I speak with the rest of my children. Sometimes we take our lives so for granted.

I asked Mary if anyone had ever told her about heaven. She said no. I spent a bit of time with her telling her about Jesus and what he did for her and that one day she will have a place where she lives forever that she will always, always, always feel like it’s her home, that she will never feel like a burden or out of place. After that we prayed together and she sobbed her little heart out and wrapped her arms around my neck and wouldn’t let go. If I think about her for more than a second, I am in tears. What a brave little soul!

When you go to bed tonight, think of her. Think of the children around the world who this is their life, and be thankful!

I will try to do better in writing! We don’t have the best internet access, we are having to pay for it….so I am typing this in a document on my desktop and then just cutting and pasting it! But I’ll try to force myself to be more regular about it!

June 9, 2008 - London

I haven’t had time to really write yet. On the way to Africa we had about a 7 hour layover in London, so a few of us decided to take the underground from Heathrow into London for a whirlwind tour. We came through security and then went over to exchange some money. Then we went to change clothes. We then went to a place called Left Luggage (yeah, I know….good name huh!) and dropped off our carryon bags that we didn’t want to haul around London. Then we went to purchase a day pass for the London underground and boarded a train for a 45 minute ride into London. We had about 4 hours to kill, so we decided to eat at a street vendor instead of burning a lot of time that way. We had some kind of pastry that we were told was a local treat. Then we took off. Over the course of the day we visited, Big Ben and the London Eye, Parliament House, Westminster Abbey, The London Bridge, and Buckingham Palace. Whew...I’m tired just thinking about it! But it was a ton of fun and now I can truly say that I’ve visited London now!

While we were sitting in the airport waiting for our flight to Africa there was a British lady there and asked what we did in London and we told her all we did in 4 hours and she said that we’d seen more of London than she has! We laughed! We were just exhausted enough to sleep on the plane to Africa, which was perfect to get on the African time schedule! Check out some pics below.

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