Friday, June 25, 2010

{Africa. Day Twelve.}

(My favorite orphan... it really does take a village to raise a child)

*Written on Tuesday, but I JUST got back from the mountains today!*

Hi hi hi  I am currently up in Pinetop – likely one of my favorite places in Arizona! I’m in the backseat of my grandparent’s Jeep on our way to Hannagan Meadows. We’re currently chilling (waiting on road construction) RIGHT next to the sunrise ski slopes. Oh how that brings up stressful memories (me + skiing = baaaaad idea!). Anyhow, It’s about 65 degrees and gorgeous up in the mountains, and we are just about to leave the asphalt for some fun on the dirt roads! I love it. Moving on…

Wednesday May 26th ~ Early morning and day in Chikudzulire.

One of my most special memories happened this morning! No, I’m not talking about squatting in the African bush, nor am I referring to waking up at 4 am after having only 5 hours of sleep, I’m talking about what happened after we woke up and emptied our bladders... We gathered again under the ramada in the Community Center and began praying until sunrise. It was so special. I had Godbumps (not to be confused with goosebumps) about the entire time!


Each prayer would begin with the Youth Leader announcing a topic (salvation for the village, revival in the hearts of the villagers, pursuit of holiness for the youth in the village… and the topics went on), we would then sing a song of thanksgiving and praise, and then we would all begin praying – collectively – for the designated topic. It was beautiful, and it was such a special memory we got the pleasure of making with the youth. I tell you what, I had yet to hear such fervent prayers – these youth were passionate! It was as if they knew that all they had came from God and their prayers were prayers from desperate people. They were desperate for Him, for His presence in their lives and in their villages. It was truly a privilege.

Once the sun rose, we broke into groups and began doing the “morning chores.” I was designated to the sweeping team and that was a hoot! A handful of us used their brooms (they’re really just brush bound together – with no handle), bent over and swept the entire community center. Another group collected firewood, still another mopped (after we had finished), Kelsey’s group cleaned dishes and Chris’ group made breakfast. It was fun and forget the whistle, we sang while we worked!

For breakfast, I joined Dorris, my eating partner, for a special treat of white bread and sweet tea. Both are delicacies in the village, and both are only enjoyed once a year on Christmas morning. Our sleepover was grounds for celebration (at least that’s what Dorris said), so they were generous enough to provide us with the best. As for the tea (it was thick like syrup), they boiled tea bags in water and placed a few stalks of sugar cane in for the sweetener. And the bread, well each set of eating partners received an entire loaf to split (this was bad news for me because I was still full from the night before!). Again, I was lucky enough to have Dorris, because I only had to eat 2 pieces of bread, and drink ¾ of my tea. I was SO full but didn’t want to offend anyone by not finishing my meal. Dorris laughed and excused me. Boy was I lucky! Some people on my team had to finish an ENTIRE loaf. I’m pretty sure I would have been sick!

(Isn't JP the cutest?)

After breakfast, we all cleaned up and headed over to the girl’s secondary school to do some repair. The guys were able to build screens to hang over the open windows and thus help prevent further cases of malaria! In Malawi, the majority of the schools function in a manner resembling boarding school. The kids are sent away to school, live in the dorms during the school year and go back to their village during breaks. In the case of these dorms, the girls (50+ of them) live a building about 2/3 the size of a QT (I was trying to think of something to compare it to and this was all that came to mind… ha!). In other words, there were a LOT of bodies smushed into a decent size space. Their bathrooms, well… I’ll just post a picture of their bathrooms to give you the full effect.
Picture this: A decent size building with concrete floors, no electricity, no running water or functional windows (that can close). Then put over 50 girls ages 14-18 in this and stack them in. The room was crazy! The girls were loaded with smiles and giggles and it was then that I remembered how well I have it. They didn’t understand why Americans sleep on alters (beds). They asked why we had to sleep lifted up and my mind was so boggled! I slept on the concrete for 1 night (last night) and was in dire need of a chiropractor, yet these girls are so full of cheer because they are privileged enough to come to school! This was a crazy change in perspective for me! Camping would have been more comfortable than their living arrangements. I am digressing…

Our team was able to build screens which keep the mosquitoes out, but still allow fresh air in, and we were able to hang over 50 mosquito nets in the girls dorm! They were singing with excitement! I spent the last small portion of our day just sitting and watching the kids. I have come to LOVE the village life. I really think (if it weren’t for the bathroom arrangements and concrete floors) that I would almost prefer their simplistic lifestyle. The children all play until just before dark, the women sit in the shade of trees and simply share life; the men sit under the ramada and play a game with dice and beans and there is no agenda, no where to be, no pressing duties. They are free to be and THAT is beautiful.

(Note the spider)

As we pulled away from the village this afternoon, I was exhausted but more than that, I was full. Yes, I had feasted on bread and tea AND nSima, stinky fish and greens, but that was definitely not what I mean. My soul was satisfied. The kind of satisfied in which there was nothing lacking in my life. I was full. I am full. Do you know the Jesus? Do you know that He can be your portion and satisfy you in a way in which nothing – not even the remote villages of Africa – else can? How great is our God?
We ended the night with a wonderful dinner! We cleaned up at the lodge and headed for The Four Seasons in Malawi. We ate well and had such a wonderful time as a group! Sleep had never been so sweet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


More on my trip tomorrow! I am just so excited that I have to share with someone... anyone! I just found this ministry and something just feels so right. Maybe this will be incorporated into my future somehow? I feel like that's a yes!

Check it out:

Special note ~ they have a branch in South Africa! Other special note... they have a need for a nurse in South Africa. Oh my oh my. My heart is just so full!

Pray with me over this one?

Love you you all
heart Kel

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

{Africa. Day Eleven.}

*This was written last night* God is good. ALL the TIME. I don't think 10 blog posts could do justice to my past week. God has been faithfully stretching me and growing me here -- on my own turf -- in the past few days! From hearing His voice last week talking to my heart about waiting, to Evan finishing his bone marrow transplant and being, quite possibly, the fastest person to engraft that the Dr's have yet to see! From God answering my prayer for guidance on how to get plugged in at my church with "I'll make it obvious on Saturday" to Sun Valley having a kick off for their new prayer team on Saturday(an announcement was made and I immediately sought out the leader and am going to be able to participate!!! Prayer is my favorite.). From getting the nurse extern position (I start on the 28th) that 200 people applied for, to seeing God answer 10 months of prayer in fasting in this evening, God has been so faithful in my life and my heart is just so full. Know that He accepts you just as you are and that He craves your love. Do you know Him? Is He your portion?

Tuesday May 25th ~ Day and NIGHT in Chikudzulire (first white people to ever stay the night).

This blog post has haunted me the past 5 days, merely because I know how much there is to say about this day and night! Here I go...

Tuesday started out with tasty food (I'm all for eggs, bacon and toast) and morning devotions with the team. One of my favorite devotions that I had heard was on waiting upon the Lord. Keta, the right hand gal at Somebody Cares, spoke a word that had been probing her heart and her words RANG with truth and excitement. She talked about positioning yourself to wait upon God. The analogy she offered was that of playing ball. In order to catch a ball, you must hold your hands out, be expectant and take a supportive stance (plant your feet). She compared this to waiting for God. If there is something in your life that HE is asking you to wait for, are you expectant for its arrival in your life? Are you preparing yourself to receive it? Are you bracing yourself in prayer and petition for its approach? She then challenged us... If, we know that God is a good God, why is it that so many times we check out of the game, throw in the towel and refuse to wait? Why then do we doubt God's timing, see Him unfit to orchestrate our life and take matters into our own hands? How many times have you forfeited waiting upon the Lord (be it for impatience or really anything for that matter)? How many times have I? Her challenge to us was this: prayerfully ask God if you can rejoin the game. Take your position on the field and be committed to sticking it out, persevere and WAIT. With quite certainty, I will tell you that the wait WILL be well worth it!

(The view from the Community Center)

Moving on, after devotions, we loaded into the van for a long day and night! We arrived in the village and it was buzzing with excitement! We were greeted by the typical welcoming committee and a new addition of 30+ youth. Somebody Cares had taken it upon themselves to bus in youth from other villages -- all to have a sleepover with the Azungus (white people)! Our sleep over was likely the equivalent of a church "lockdown" -- so fun! After singing and dancing for quite a while, the 3 girls on our team began setting up for the vision clinic. Jeff then began working through the line of people and we then would find the perfect pair of glasses for them. By now, we had done 6 vision clinics, and seen over 600 people! This was our last day for vision and Jeff managed to see everyone in line (that was always a plus)! Around 3, the youth coordinator for Somebody Cares, Edward, in junction with the youth coordinator for the village, Ezekiel, summoned us for lunch! I was the first one in the room (I never pass up an opportunity to eat ;) and quickly learned the rules... there was enough food on each plate for 2 people, and there couldn't be 2 Azungus per plate! I then went and introduced myself to the girls in the village and asked one, Dorris, to be my meal partner. We ended up eating 4 meals together total.

(Dorris -- my meal partner -- and I!)

Now you have to understand that Nursing School has kind of spoiled my view of germs. I wouldn't consider myself to be a germ-a-phob, I still believe in the 5 second rule... but when it comes to washing your hands, contamination and wiping everything down with alcohol pads, well I fell right at home! So, eating with a partner, quickly became a challenge for me to overcome. Prior to meals, everyone gets a small amount of water poured over their hands (and let's be honest... just to have clean water to WASH your hands there is a luxury!). Knowing what I do from school, fecal matter and urine (I'm just getting started...) don't rinse off with just water. To have clean hands, one has to wash them with soap! Have I mentioned that there are no such things as utensils? So, with dirty (mine weren't -- thank you hand sanitizer) fingers as forks, my partner and I began touching an entire plate full of food (2 really, if you count the nSima) and placing it in our mouths. The only thing I could think of was Cholera -- the route with which you get this nasty disease is fecal-oral transmission!

(Kelly and Steve's meal partner Loveness ~ great dancer too might I add ;)

After the meal was over, Dorris excused me (this is a custom in which the host of the meal -- in this case any non Azungu partner -- gets the authority to tell you when you may be finished... some even told you how much you had to eat before you could be done!). I definitely lucked out with my partner. I didn't have to eat the entire plate full of food, and I was able to save my leftovers for some of the younger kids in the village -- win, win!

(Kelsey and her meal partner Ezekiel)

After dinner (5 pm), we began the festivities. We danced, we SANG and we prayer until 11 pm that night. Oh, and add to that a fun and competitive game of Bible trivia and going on a hunt for black mambas. I took a break from the crowd and went with a few men "down to the river." I had mentioned to them that I wanted to see a black mamba, and their response was "if you'll find one anywhere, it would be on that path." So naturally, I wanted to tag along! Half way down to the river, I realized that there really was no such thing as a "path", rather, we just ran through fields (the brush was literally up to my armpits and I COULDN'T SEE MY FEET!) creating our own openings. It was then that I said "guys, I don't think this was such a good idea!" They all began to laugh and said "duh!" haha! Luckly we didn't stumble upon one (I very much want to see one, but after that I decided that I'd rather be in the car driving by one than running and hunting for one!).

(Our lovely little room... I took the spot in the corner without the cushing -ha- of a bamboo mat!)

Another plus to the night was seeing God in the elements. When we began praying around 5, it was bright and sunny. As our worship continued, a dark cloud came over the community center and began pouring rain! It reminded me of the Old Testament -- where God led his people the Israelites by a pillar of cloud during the day, and a pillar of fire during the night. Another way in which I saw the faithfulness of God was when a family of bats flew into the community center (think of it as a VERY large ramada where we held all of our meetings and get togethers) and stayed there... eating mosquitoes! It was an answer to an earlier prayer -- a prayer of protection against malaria during the night. How great is our God?

(All the single ladies)

The night ended with a "snack"... aka a full meal. And we then segregated into 2 rooms. All of the ladies piled into a tiny room and crashed on the concrete floors... not before Loveness showed my how "real Malawian women dance" and removed her clothes. The girls wanted us to go streaking with them, but being in a room full of windows AND having the guys' room (full of windows too might I add) right next door, I settled onto the floor and pretended I was asleep. And sleep couldn't come fast enough.

(Even though we never found a Black Mamba, we DID find a millipede!!)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

{Africa. Day Ten.}

Good morning :) My heart wants to sing today! My fighting friend Evan is doing so well! He went in a few weeks ago to begin the process of Bone Marrow Transplant, and was expected to have to remain in isolation (can't leave his hospital room) for 100+ days! Ever since he'd heard that prediction, he asked me to join him in praying for 20 days. I've been praying, he's been praying,really everyone has been praying for 20 days and as of today (day 12) they (the medical staff) are BLOWN AWAY by Evan's results and think that he'll be good to go home by Monday -- day 17!! Amazing right?? How great is our God?

Monday May 24th ~ Day in mGona.

This was a good day too! Forgive me if I've already shared this, but my three goals for the trip were these: one -- to see a black mamaba. two -- to have an African baby strapped onto my back. three -- to come back affected.

So, pulling into the village of mGona this particular morning, I was excited -yes- to help out with the vision clinic, but more than that, I was excited to be with the people. While preparing for our day in the slums, we were anticipating the day to be chaotic (more so than chetemba), but much to our surprise, our vision clinic in the slums was perhaps the most peaceful! We started the morning off with song and dance (surprise, surprise) and I got to sit with a handful of adorable boys while listening to the chief welcome us into the village :)

Not long after our first patient was helped, I wandered over to where the widows were and began sifting through all of their merchandise. Somebody Cares (the organization we partnered with for this trip) has a special Widow Empowerment program that helps struggling women get back up on their feet. One really neat thing that they do for the women is provide them with one -community- sewing machine! In addition to that, they TEACH them how to sew and even provided them with material for their first batch of merchandise. I got a pretty sweet purse from them, and while I was shopping, I noticed that they were all wearing these super cool black beanie looking things... I asked one of the women if they sold those (only because I wanted to fit in with them too!), and she plopped down on the ground and knitted one for me while I was waiting! So cool :) She then handed it to me (in exchange for the US equivalent of 3 dollars) and I thanked her. She quickly stood up and shook her head side to side... I was confused!? The widow then grabbed the knitted hat out of my hands and pulled it down on my head. I laughed and she smiled -- all of the other women did too! She was then puzzled by this whole notion of hair (most women just have fuzz) and began taking my wavy locks and shoving them into the hat! It was hilarious! All of the women broke into a chorus of laughter and one even fell over onto another she was laughing so hard. Soon though, my hair was tucked in and I matched! :)

Soon after that, I found Kathryn (my favorite African friend) on the side of the building holding a cute little baby! Kelly was over there and had beat me to the chase... she got to hold him for a while (which was a super huge treat considering the fact that most children were afraid of us!) and then handed him over to me :) I was oh so excited! Shortly there after, Kathryn remembered that having a baby strapped to my back was on my to do list and she grabbed a chatingi! Next thing you know, I have this adorable little tike cinched onto me! The women of the village were in hysterics (they thought I was hilarious first with my hat and then with the baaaaaby)! He was such a tropper -- he chilled on my back for a few hours while I helped out with the vision clinic and made relationships with the locals. I loved it.

Another highlight from my day in this village was when our interpreter, Steve, approached me and told me that there were 5 girls on the side of the building that wanted to talk to me. He said that they had been watching our team help out and they picked me out from the group and desired to talk. I was kind of excited and, with the baby in tow (literally), made my way to the back side of the building! They were all there and giggling at the sight of me. I was able to sit with them and talk for nearly an hour. They had learned English in Secondary School (high school) and wanted to practice with an American. We talked about everything from family to relationships. In the African culture, many times these girls have to choose between going to school or settling down. Doing both is UNHEARD OF! Seriously. Not only that, but often times if a girl chooses to educate herself and go to school, she can't find anyone to marry her because the men in the village don't want their wife to be smarter than them! So sad. Another highlight was when 2 of the 5 girls told me that they had made the decision to go to school, and that they hoped to be a nurse someday. My face lit up and I quickly ran for my stethoscope! I was then able to tell them my story... in nursing school, chose education, single, and totally at peace with God's will for my life. I was also able to teach them how to take vital signs (minus blood pressure and temp)! It was truly a special time!

Mmk, I'm off... have an appointment to make! My day in mGona ended with bittersweet goodbyes. It had been a good day. That night, I was so tired that I skipped out on dinner and was in bed SUPER early! Good thing, because I'd need all of my rest for tomorrow...

(They were precious)

P.S. I totally forgot to mention that the widows made us lunch today! nSima, greens and stinky fish! Steve was the brilliant one and decided to *when no one else was looking* put all of the fish in his pocket -- so that his plate was clean when he turned it in! He didn't tell us of this brilliant idea of course until AFTER the meal! Eyes, scales and spines later... we had all swallowed them whole (or close to it). Oh well, it was a good memory :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

{Africa. Day Nine.}

Can I just say that I really miss blogging for the sake of blogging? I've had a few things happen in the past few weeks that I would just LOVE to write a normal blog about... but then my side margins would be all funny because I'd be like: {Africa. Day Eight.}, {Africa. Day Nine.}, Weeds, {Africa. Day Ten.}. It would just break my happy little system -- goodness forbid. Okay, I'm done now. Oh wait! No, no I'm not! I definitely had a WIN day yesterday :) It turns out that my domestic tendencies are pretty stinkin awesome! I baked TWO different kinds of bread yesterday (I was determined to get it right...) and both were so tasty! AND I made homemade mayo. Today, I'm making homemade pizza dough and next week, I'm doing cinnamon rolls! Pictures of that will come soon I'm sure!

Sunday May 23rd ~ Church and Dedza.

Sunday was likely one of my favorite days in Africa. It started with sleeping in (which is always a plus) and then attending a 10 o'clock church service. One really cool thing about the way churches in Africa operate is that there isn't a set time frame for when church ends. One person in the congregation even told me "I don't understand the way you do church in America. You put a time limit on worship and expect God to show up. 25 mins later, right as the Spirit is about to descend, you stop singing and call that good. That is not good! How can you watch a 2 hour movie and yet put a limit on God." I loved what she had to say! Man, I just ate her words right up.

So, we showed up at 10, and they have set songs for worship too, but the difference is that we just sing (and dance of course) and sing and sing until a large majority of the congregation is weeping or kneeling or seeming to encounter the holy presence of God, and then we pray. The message that followed was on the power of the holy spirit and was soo so good. I soaked it up.

While ending the service in worship (there's literally no time cap on their services), one of the songs we were singing was "Come thou fount". This has definitely been a favorite of mine for a very long time, but while singing it on this particular day, really struck my heart. *Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love* My heart was so convicted. For a time now, I felt like my heart had wandered away from God, and been distracted with things -- which started off with well intentions -- that I was doing for God. It was as if the actions in my life had somehow become the purpose. Case in point: Africa. Starting last fall, I felt like God was calling me to South Africa. For 7 months, I fasted and prayed over this and in February, I met up with the team from Mission. It was then that the change occurred... the purpose of the trip to Africa had changed from God to "doing." It wasn't intentional, but I had gotten so lost in the vaccines, packing, planning, that I lost sight of why I was really doing all of this in the first place. It was at church on Sunday, in unceasing worship, that God drew my heart back to Him. What a beautiful thing. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God. Here's my heart Lord, take and seal it for Your courts above.

After church, we hit up the Chicken Inn for some lunch and brought it back to the Somebody Cares headquarters. In Malawi, the power goes out a few times a week... it's a common occurrence there, with no sign as to when the power will go back on (often times it will be out for an entire day). So, with our plan of watching a movie with Theresea quickly swirling down the toilet, she decided to take use on a road trip to Dedza -- a super quaint little pottery place 2-3 hours South (even though I could have promised you we were heading North -- my compass was broken the entire trip!) of Lilongwe.

We drove hours, and as you can tell from yesterday's post, I loved EVERY minute of it! I soaked in the new sights and pondered life... mainly my future. We passed several hut villages, countless roadside stands -- selling tomatoes and golden potatoes in rich abundance, numerous people riding bicycles and even more baby goats. It was lovely. As we were approaching Dedza, it was obvious that we were driving right into a storm -- the clouds looked angry. I was excited! We climbed out of the car, quite relieved to be able to stand, and began shopping for handmade (and painted) pottery. I got Kevin a super cute coffee mug! We then were rained in and sought shelter in their little cafe there! It was so quaint :) the power was out, but they were able to boil water for tea and coffee over the fire, so we enjoyed warm beverages and cake while watching the rain POUR down. Talk about an adventure! I adored it. After spending a few hours there, we loaded up in the van and began the long drive back.
By now, the sun had set and all was black, except for the flecks of orange that peppered the roadside and represented fire. It was beautiful.

By the time we made it home, the power was back on and pizza was in store for all. It was a good night.

Monday, June 7, 2010

{Africa. Day Eight.}

(Mozambique from across the lake)

Hello :) Wow I still have 7 more days to blog about! Talking about intimidating... Off the topic, I have been inspired by my friend Mindy's blog lately and, as of this week, have given into my domestic tendencies. Ha! So apparently, my tendencies aren't so wonderful. I made my first attempt at homemade bread this morning and it turned into a brick :( wamp wamp. It definitely didn't rise and likely would have broken your foot if you were so fortunate as to have a $10 whole wheat, unbleached flour log fall onto your tarsals. Oh well!

Saturday May 22nd ~ Lake Malawi

Boy oh Boy (looking back in my journal now, I've noticed that most of my entries start with that!!)! By the time Saturday rolled around, I was exhausted -- mentally, emotionally and definitely physically! We were able to sleep in until 7 this day, and after a hearty breakfast, we changed and loaded into the van ready for Lake Malawi! One of my favorite things to do (both in the States in abroad) is to load into a car and just drive. My grandpa took both my brother and I on a roadtrip last summer, and I would spend hours with my face pressed up against the glass, silent, and taking in new sights -- things my eyes had never experienced before. I love it! So, 3 hours of driving to the East was quite the treat for me! We even played a fun Bible game that JP introduced to us :) 2.5 hours into our drive, we were able to pull over and hit up the Malawian equivalent of a strip center. I made out with some pretty fun things -- all for a pretty great price (oh the joy of bartering!).

(Where we shopped!)

Before long, we had arrived at Lake Malawi, the eighth largest lake in the world. Lake Malawi has over 300 species of fish that cannot be found anywhere else in the world and was said to be the habitat of more species of fish than any other body of water on the earth! So cool! So, when pulling into this place, I was surprised to see that it looks more like the ocean than a lake! It was beautiful and truly a treat to spend the day there! We dined at the buffet (I was just happy to have a salad after all of the nSima and greens from the week!), sunk our feet in the sand, climbed rocks, and the guys even went in the water -- even after we were cautioned that parasites live in the water, and they will go up ANY open orifice and grow inside of you... Um, NO THANK YOU! ha!

I spent the day soaking up the sun and catching up on solo time. I loveed it! After spending a few hours there, we loaded back into the van and began our long drive home. On our way home, we stopped off the road and hit up a street vendor for sugar cane and "golden potatoes" aka Malawi's version of french fries. In all seriousness, they are the yummiest fries you have EVER tasted! No joke. We munched on our treats all the way home and I thoroughly enjoyed spitting my used up cane out the window! It reminded me of driving through Montana with my grandpa last summer, spitting cherry pits out the window at 70mph. Memories I won't ever forget. One particular time, I had bitten off a large chunk of cane and when I spit it out the window, I accidentally hit a unsuspecting cyclist traveling on the opposite side of the road! I felt so bad, but couldn't stop laughing! It was great, I was a sticky mess, but my heart was full. My life was full.

To touch on what I was talking about in my first post, prior to leaving for Malawi, my soul was stirred and there was NOTHING I could do to ease it. To put it to rest, to calm it down. Solitude, fasting, prayer... nothing. It was this day, Saturday, that I realized that the restlessness was gone. The stirring had stopped and I hadn't done ANYTHING. It was on the drive home when I realized that God was stirring my heart for this Country. It was as if I had stepped off of the plane, and stepped into His plan for my life. This night, as the sun was setting, I realized that without a shadow of a doubt,this is God's will for my life. He had met me with Himself here and that was enough. Serving, praying, caring, loving... this was His will for me, and Africa was the place. Like I said, my heart was full, but more than that, my life made sense -- something that I had yet to experience before. I'm writing this with a smile plastered on my face, because I am so excited for what the future holds! We ended the night with a late dinner and then climbed into bed. What an adventure, what a day!

(Open air bar)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

{Africa. Day Seven.}

Today has been a lovely day! I slept in until 10 *which is the latest I've slept in since starting school last fall*, laid out by the pool and listened to the Ted Decker book "Black" on my Kindle, talked on the phone with my dear friend Jasmine, came inside and made homemade mayo to go on a tasty lunch wrap, and now I'm sitting in the library sopping wet from the swimming pool. (how's that for a run-on sentence?) I've spent the last 30 mins swimming, and trying to teach my annoying dog Riley to stop trying to drown me. He thinks it is pretty comical to pounce on my shoulders while I'm in the water and watch me submerge in the water, only to scramble to the surface -gasping for air- and starting the cycle all over again. My solution for this: hold onto his hips and let him drag me around the pool for 30 mins until he's too tired to mess with me. Just another day in the life of an Alpha She-male! haha Totally kidding :) Moving on!

Friday May 21 ~ Day in Chetemba (pronounced CHA-TIM-BA)

5:45 came bright and early. I suppose now would be a great time to tell you about the sunrise. Ah! Talk about beautiful! When the sun comes up, the sky was fiercely orange, which provided a gorgeous contrast to the intense blue skies. In addition to that, we woke up every morning to birds singing AND tropical weather. I'm not typically a morning person, but for some reason, waking up early was effortless when I knew what was waiting for me outside my window!

We arrived to the Somebody Care's headquarters around 7:30 (as usual) and took part in "Team Building Activities" instead of devotions -- it's a Friday tradition, apparently. Let's just say that our team lost (unfortunately) in a game comparable to Taboo. For the record, I don't really see how it's team building because it seemed to be more of a catalyst for division than unity... but I ate my share of humble pie along with Steve and Keta and all was well. :) After losing by 2 points, we loaded up in the car and headed for Chetemba ~ Theresea's village (she's a chief there).

The drive out was beautiful as usual, and the welcoming committee we had was the largest one of the entire trip! Hundreds of people lined the road, all ready to greet us! It was lovely. After singing and dancing for a while, we began pulling out the glasses to jump start a vision clinic.

Ever since I had first stepped foot outside of the van, I noticed one girl in particular. She was likely 10 or 12, had a slender build and a pretty purple dress on. She was cross eyed, and in a severe way. I can remember pointing her out to Jeff and telling him that I really wanted her to be seen. He agreed.

(Driving up to the village)

Our of all of the villages, Chetemba was the scariest for me. Up to this point, I hadn't had reason to be fearful, but in this village, my heart definitely went pitter pat. I had survived my time in the slum and even though I was told not to be more than a step away from the group at all times, even there I wasn't fearful. This village seemed chaotic to me. One reason for Chaos was the glasses themselves. You see, up to this point, we had always had a contained (and typically indoor) setting with which to store and dispense the glasses, but in Chetemba, we had to set up the glasses outside -- among the people. Admittedly, I didn't know much about what was going on outside, because I was helping Jeff inside of the Chief's hut. My job was to be the muscle. Ha, i know, I laughed when he told me that too! "I'm just a little white girl" was my response!

(Welcoming Committee)

My job was this: to keep the room dark (with the help of blankets and what not) and to regulate the flow of patients. Simply, I would crack open the door, fight off the crowd of people that were now on the porch and wrapped in a line around the main part of the village, and let only ONE person in. It was hard! But I did it! It's called being assertive, and it is one nursing character trait that I have NOT had the best luck with. So, slowly but surely, we began to make a large dent in the line and were able to help a lot of people! We took a break for lunch, which consisted of nSima (pronounced ZEE-MA), greens and chicken. The chief of the village was so kind as to prepare the meal for us and we even got to eat in his house (the same place we were using for vision assessments). It was a 2 bedroom hut, and the main room was LOADED with tobacco plants. I thought that I was going to get high off of the fumes (they were so strong), but I survived!

(Kathryn was one of my favorite Somebody Care workers! She is a widow, has 5 children -- all grown now, and asked me to come back to Malawi when I have my first baby so that she can teach me how to tie it to my back with a chatingi!)

After lunch, the crowd outside the door became rather rowdy. I soon began to notice that those who were next in line prior to lunch, were no longer on the porch and were replaced by a handful of younger, stronger men. I then began to watch as younger men would muscle their way to the front of the line -- pushing aside, and away the frail and the old (who could really benefit from glasses). I became irritated and can remember thinking, where is the justice in this? I found myself loathing and detesting these men, the more the appeared. Towards the end of the day, Jeff gave me the heads up that we could only see a few more people, so I opened the door, resisted a young man who tried to force his way in (I may be small and scrawny, but I'm not to be messed with ;)), jumped off the porch, grabbed the girl in the purple dress by hand -- as well as an older woman, and escorted them past the front of the line and into the hut. My heart was pounding. Pitter pat, PITTER PAT, and as soon as I closed the doors behind us, all h-e-double-hockey-sticks broke loose! Evidently, I had upset the young men and it was then that I realized how foolish I had likely been. They could have easily jumped me, or at least overpowered me... they could have hurt me, but soon after the craziness on the porch, the chief stepped and settled them down. I was happy to leave the village, I was glad to climb in the car. I was shaken from the fear that had since caught up to me, but helping the girl in the purple dress was well worth it.

On the hour drive home, I was silent. I leaned against a window and thought about justice. Justice is getting what you deserve. I replayed the day's events over and over again in my mind and decided that the young men, who intimidated their way to the front of the line, they didn't deserve to be seen over the elderly and the ill who had been waiting for hours. They didn't deserve it. And then I remembered... if I were to get what I deserve, if God would grant me that much, I'd be forever removed from Him. Jesus didn't just come to give me mercy -- not getting what I do deserve, He brought me grace -- getting what I don't deserve. For the remainder of my car ride home, His grace held my mind captive. How fortunate am I that my creator foresaw my failures, saw me in the midst of my ugliness, recognized that which I do warrant (eternal damnation) and then chose to give me that which I could never deserve -- for free. How great is our God? Lesson learned: delivering justice isn't always bad, but the power lies in dispensing mercy, and grace if you're able.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

{Africa. Day Six.}

My oh my! So much to say :) I just got back from the Farmers Market on Power rd and can I just say that I had a blast?? Pick your own peaches AND fresh kettle corn equals too much fun for one Saturday morning (Kevin didn't happen to think so... but he was being a stick in the mud! lol I hope you read this Kev)! Mmmk, moving on to Africa!

Thursday May 20th ~ Our day in nMgwangwa (try saying that 10x fast!).

Our Thursday morning started the early like the rest, and it also included devotions at Somebody Cares. After our precious time of singing, praying and dancing, we loaded up in the vans and headed for the remote village of nMgwangwa (the N is silent)! On our way there, we stopped and purchased more sugar can -- talk about a party in your mouth! After an hour of munching on this stuff, we arrived in the village -- buzzing with energy and a case of the giggles. When we arrived, the widows were in the middle of a Widow Empowerment meeting (a weekly support group) and the young children were all in class -- to give you a picture of what their classroom looked like... it was outside, on the side of the building, with a half circle of 80+ kids trying to sit in the shade of a large African tree. The teacher was going through their ABCs and somehow held all of their attention ~ impressive!

(To give you a glimpse of how many glasses we had...)

So, with this in mind, we were asked to try and sneak by, so as not to be disruptive, and set up our vision clinic. This village had a community center as well and we were able to utilize 2 rooms -- 1 for Jeff to do vision assessments and 1 for spreading out all of the 3,000+ glasses! Soon after setting up, we had a line that going that filled up the (Ramada like) community center and then wrapped around the building! Us 3 girls and Steve (funniest guy ever -- I called him stretch master Stevie because he's finishing up his PHD is exercise and wellness) took on the task of hunting for the glasses, once given a prescription. We soon discovered that we didn't need that many hands for finding the perfect pair, so we would go in shifts, we'd tag team helping with the vision clinic and playing with the kids. Talk about fun! I ran races with the children (they were so fast!), accidentally lost control of my skirt at one point and caused a leg scandal (I was thoroughly embarrassed), and taught them all the chicken dance AND patty-cake!

One really neat story (on the vision clinic side) was centered around an elderly gentleman. He was blind in one eye and nearly blind in the other eye and we found him the perfect pair of glasses (they were pink and slightly feminine, but they were a match!). He put on the glasses and his entire face lite up -- like Tempe Town Lake on the 4th of July -- and he began shouting "I can see! I CAN SEE!" He then proceeded to shake each one of our hands (the 3 of us girls were manning the room) and he broke out into dance -- which isn't common for the men! All 3 of us girls watched him walk away and tell EVERYONE of his new-found vision. Every time her would pass someone, he's stop them and tell them of what we had done, and then he'd point the person in our direction.

(Our team posing with Sun City Specials)

All 3 of us girls began sobbing. It was so touching! AND it totally reminded me of the story in John where Jesus spits in the dirt and makes mud that he later puts on a blind man's eyes. The blind beggar soon could see and he went home telling everyone of what Jesus had done for him! So special. How great is our God?

(The Widow's Empowerment Group)

Another special moment came during one of my breaks from the vision clinic. I had swaped with Kelly and left our room for some fresh air and hopefully some relationships. Boy did I find both! After the widow's group hand ended, most of the women dispersed into the vision clinic line, but I found a small group of them still sitting in a makeshift circle, in the community center. I approached them and introduced myself to each lady. While shaking one woman's hand, she took my hand and placed it on her stomach. Unsure of what she was doing, it soon became clear to me that she wanted me to pray for her. Feeling honored, I knelt down to her level and laid hands on her stomach. Unsure of her difficulties, I prayed to the God of creation. To the God of life. I prayed for restoration of hers and petitioned for healing over her stomach. After finishing our prayer -- side note: isn't it funny to think that Amen is a universal word??, every other woman in the circle then took turns placing my hands on some broken portion of their body. I prayed, even though words felt inadequate, and beckoned God to come, pleaded for Him to heal in ways that only He could. As I approached the last woman, she placed my hands on her back in the most gentle way. I prayed, soon realizing that the groans of my heart were more powerful and offered more justice than my words, and when I finished, this woman stood up (with a baby on her back) and broke her sugar cane -- the one thing she possessed -- in two and gave me half of it. I was blown away! For someone who has next to nothing, to offer me half of what they do own, merely as a sign of gratitude... that made my heart open in a way that I have yet to experience. Again, it reminded me of the poor woman in the temple who tithed all that she had. Jesus saw that as beautiful, and for the first time in my life, I understood why.

The day ended with a looong drive back, in which we watched a man place a wheelbarrow on a woman's head -- because he was tired of pushing it down the long dirt road. We then got back to the lodge, showered and dined at the Copper Pot. Which I lovingly deemed as Porcelain Pot later. Figure that one out... :) I was wiped by the end of the day and slept heavily that night. Oh Africa.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

{Africa. Day Five.}

Ah ha! I figured out the mysterious quirk in uploading videos! Yesterday I skyped with my friend Tim. At the end of last summer, Tim and I met up for green tea at my favorite coffee shop and dreamed up adventures for this summer. We both desired to be used of God and we both wished to touch foreign soil. As of today, Tim left from England (the place that he's staying for the next 3 months of his summer-long internship with a Christian architecture ministry) and headed for Liberia! We both found our adventure -- and in the first month of summer too! God is so cool. Anyways, while I was skyping with Tim, he helped me figure out my problem... are you ready for this? Apparently my videos average 350+ megabytes (which I didn't understand but he explained it to me as a really, really large space eater) and most sites -- like youtube, or in my case blogspot, have a 100mb cap on them. Needless to say, the video diaries that I did at the end of every day won't make it on here (so sad!). BUT, if you have skype, and really want to see my cheesiness unleashed, then we can definitely screen share and I would love to show them to you!

Wednesday May 19th ~ Second day in Chikudzulire.

Today began like every other day, with a hearty breakfast and morning devotions, and progressed into the hour long drive for the village. Our goal for today was the same as yesterday, to go and serve the people of Chikudzulire. On our way there in the morning, we stopped by the side of the road and purchased sugar cane *side note, if you haven't experienced the joy of eating sugar cane and turning into a sticky mess, you're so missing out! Look for it in specialty food stores!* We had fun driving down dirt roads and spitting our used up cane out the window! :) Upon arrival to the village, we were again greeted by the welcoming committee and joined them in song and dance. Here is a snip-it from my journal entry that day -- sharing this is something I haven't ever done before, my journal is typically really private, so I hope you enjoy!

"One thing that has really stood out to me here, in our times of worship and rejoicing, is that these people, the villagers, have nothing -- literally nothing -- and yet they seem so full. Their hearts are filled with joy and their tongues with song. How fragrant their worship must be to the Lord. After seeing that today, I was convicted that God's grandness has been lost in the process of all of the stuff in my life. May I not lose sight of You, when it is well with me. My prayer is that my heart may be flooded with brokenness so that I might be zealous, passionate and dependent on God alone. Mercy, grace, hope, life; may they come from the Father, and may I walk in them all the days of my life."

(Sugar cane)

After an hour or so of festivities, we had some down time to just be with the people. I chose to go and spend time with the women, who were sitting in the shade up against the community center which Mission Community helped build. Even though we had different skin colors, and had obvious barriers in the realm of language, I was able to communicate with the women for a little over an hour. I learned all of their names and learned a few other tidbits of information -- like when they wave by touching their fingertips to the base of their palms, it means come to me now. So when I would wave to little kids like that -- meaning to say hello in English, I was really summoning them to come to me. No wonder the small children would take off in the opposite direction crying! That, and a common discipline tool that the parents use is threatening the little children that "the white people (Azungus) will come and eat you if you don't behave." The Somebody Cares staff filled me in on this nugget of information! ha!

(This man -on the right- so kindly gave us a beat for every song! Too bad I can't even clap on beat at church!)

While sitting with the women, I met one lady in particular that I really enjoyed. Her name was Margaret, and her son, a small toddler, laid in her arms for the entire time visibly and audibly sick. He was struggling to breathe and seemed to be fighting some serious disease. When a translator walked by, I was able to use their assistance and Margaret shared with me -- through the translator -- that her son had come down with Malaria and was really sick. After asking a few questions, I gathered that it takes money to have a child treated for Malaria, and in addition to that, it takes transportation to a hospital. Because these luxuries were not available to her, she would just hold him and hope to offer him comfort. That made my heart sad, but I transitioned my sadness into petitioning. Remember how I talked about the African (Malawian) way of prayer?? How they don't ask for things??? The only exception to this that I found was praying for healing. One local explained petitioning to me like this: "prayers are for offering up thanks, petitioning is for telling God that we acknowledge the current circumstances and we refuse to accept them." The one thing the locals love to petition for is healing. So, being true to their ways, Margaret let me lay hands on her son and petition for healing. It was a special time.

(Margaret is in the red -- at the end of our 2 weeks, her son was fine. No longer sick.)

Another special moment of my day occurred shortly thereafter, when I left the women on the side of the building and went to the back where the children play on the swing set. They mostly stared at me and smile, except for the little ones who thought that I was going to eat them -- they hid behind bushes and siblings. Out of a spirit that so wanted to earn their trust, I decided that it would be best to just sit -- in the dirt, in my skirt -- in the middle of their playground. It wasn't long after I had been sitting that I soon had a crowd. Next thing you know, I had over 40 kids sitting around me, forming a circle. I felt like I had lost at duck-duck-goose and was placed in the melting pot! I was now engorged in African children and couldn't have been happier. Shortly after this, I realized that they were expecting me to do something cool. "Uh oh" I thought to myself, "their anticipation will shortly wear off and the reality of how boring Azungus can be will soon set in if I don't do something!" So, with nothing to offer them but myself, I decided to teach them some songs.

(This is what the average hut looks like -- note that roofing is made out of anything they can salvage. They make bricks by digging for clay, mixing it with dirt and water, forming masses in their hands, placing them to dry on long strips of hand cut wood, and then they light the wood on fire to cure the bricks. Ingenious I thought!)

I covered everything from Jesus Love Me to Deep and Wide, from the B-I-B-L-E to When the Saints go Marching In(and put clapping to them). They were entertained, but mainly it seemed as if they thought I was just strange. I then decided to switch up tactics and I tried some dancing. Father Abraham, Chicken Dance, Hokie-pokie anyone? My attempt could have made it on the fail blog... I was losing them, and fast! The only thing I had left to offer was the Macarena. Lame, i know. But wouldn't you know that out of all of the bible songs I tried to teach them, and even out of the dances, this was the one they loved the most?? For the remainder of the day, kids would come up to me doing the dance and humming "duh da da da da duh duh da da da da duh duh duh duh da da da da da da da da HEY MACARENA EIII"

(On this particular day in the village, January, a proactive youth leader, gave each member of our team a Chichewa name. Mine means memory and for the rest of the trip, I was known as Chiki.)

It was enough to make me smile. :) The day ended with 75-100 additional people being outfitted with prescription eye glasses and it was quite the sight! A new phenomenon that we quickly ran into was the people's noncompliance with wearing the glasses. Someone would come, have their vision assessed, be outfitted with quality glasses, smile with excitement as though they had never seen the words of the bible before, thank us, turn around, walk away and remove their glasses. They would carry their glasses between their palms, covered like a frog that was at AWOL risk, and no longer wear them. When we started probing to find out why, the people said that they were afraid of something happening to their precious possession. They were afraid that they would get dirty or worse, scratched and they wanted to protect them. We soon had to educate about the effectiveness of glasses and let them know that they would only be helpful if they were worn on the face. Who ever would have anticipated needing to implement such teaching?? This brings up my last point (I've been writing for forever as of now and props to you if you've read this whole thing! woo hoo)...

The people here have nothing. Literally. So everything, from empty water bottles, to even one kid asking for my used dental floss, is precious here. These people so crave to have something, that they will cherish anything. Often times I would see kids with toothbrushes tied around their necks -- worn proudly as if to represent their golden prize. It blew me away. As you're brushing your teeth tonight, imagine not having anything, literally, anything in your name. In your possession. From the computer that you're using to read this, to your car, phone, deodorant, ipod... then imagine having nothing, yet having Jesus. Does that equate to fullness for you?