Saturday, June 21, 2014

Week 1: Haven on Earth

After walking to the Havens I look down at my feet. Sand mixed with dirt in every crevice of my Chacos possible. I step onto the veranda of Haven 1 and am immediately swarmed with smiling faces and outstretched arms. I sit down and in an instant I have 6 little ones straddling my legs. My toes are being used as personal pacifiers while my ankles are soaked from a little one’s wet pants. After being climbed over, cried at, hair pulled in every way, pulled, spit up, and drooled on for a few hours it’s time to walk back to Meag’s before sunset. On our trek back we follow the small trail of sand that has been formed from the feet of many many people who have made that same walk many many times. We make it to the porch right as the sun disappears. My feet are encased with dried slobber, dried baby urine, and now the dry dust. I take off my shoes and see what looks like a tan line but are actually outlines separating clean from the day’s journey. I scrub them from top to bottom and watch the dirty water trickle to and down the drain. Well, to some it may be dirty water. To me, it’s the evidence I’ve loved hard that day.


June 12-14, 2014

Well. Here we are.
A six-week internship to Kalomo, Zambia at Namwianga Mission where I studied abroad Fall of 2012.

This blog will serve as both a travel log (recounting the order of events that take place each day) and a journal to the day’s happenings (a more personal unfolding of what I’m learning and experiencing about myself and mission work in Zambia).

The traveling adventure began waking up early and meeting the co-interns, River and Aubrey, at the Memphis airport. I pulled up to the drop-off door only to find Daniel had surprised me with a visit to see me off. There’s so much I could insert here about the kind of man Daniel is and all he has meant to me over the past year but then this entry would become pages about him, and I wouldn’t feel good about it because it still wouldn’t express what I’m wanting to say accurately or adequately enough. It was wonderful being able to talk with him for a couple hours, just he and I before saying goodbye.

Once I made it through security and to the gate we heard an announcement that there would be a 2-hour delay because the plane hadn’t even left Chicago to come to Memphis yet. (Thank you thank you thank you to our travel agent for getting us flights with lots of layover time to leave room for these kinds of setbacks. Really. Thank you.) It was almost a relief we ended up being delayed because it gave us three time to unwind and sit for a minute. Our flight from Memphis to Chicago was smooth and we maneuvered the tram system with ease, making our way to the international gates with about 5 hours to spare and a bit more confidence in ourselves. The 7-hour flight from Chicago to London didn’t feel as long as I thought it might thankfully. We landed, sat, and waited for our next flight which was to take off 8 hours later to Johannesburg. We found out there would be another delay of about 2 hours making it 10 hours in the London airport. This delay made us a little nervous because we didn’t have our boarding pass for our flight to Livingstone yet so we thought it would leave us shorthanded on time in Johannesburg to get off the plane, check in with British Airlines, get our boarding passes for Johannesburg, and find the next terminal. So we speed walked our fastest (Jeremy would have been so proud of us) and we ended up making it with 45 minutes to spare. We flew from Johannesburg to Livingstone, cleared customs, and got our VISAs, putting an end to our 46-hour journey. We did it. We traveled the world!

River and Aubrey, my co-interns

We made it to Johannesburg!

We went to baggage claim and the only bag missing was one of my checked bags full of Haven goods. The great thing is, even if it doesn’t get here until much later all of it is Meagan’s to keep anyway, so it worked out pretty perfectly.

We walked through the sliding doors and were greeted by Meagan and JOEL. Yep. The one and only. We ran to meet and hug Meagan’s neck and Joel was left standing there just staring. Meagan called him over and he took a couple of wobbly steps and stood there watching us. We walked to him, bent down, and Meagan told him to give us a hug in Tonga and he did, one by one. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I just couldn’t accept the fact that I had Joel in my grasp again. But I did. I did.

I went to lost baggage in an office in another building, to give information regarding my bag, and met Meagan, River, and Aubrey and Joel back at Meag’s car. We loaded up and headed to the grocery store. We stocked up on food and things we need for lunch and dinner for the next week or so and then made our drive back to Namwianga. Meagan caught us up on recent Namwianga news and I sat in the back with Joel laughing and squeezing and just looking at him. He started dozing so I unstrapped him and held him until he fell asleep. Heaven on earth is a real thing.

We turned onto the Namwianga road and everything became incredibly surreal. Almost like this time it wasn’t the real thing and didn’t actually count, because we weren’t on a bus singing and laughing with the rest of our HIZ group. But it was real and we are actually here. We drove down the dirt road (just as bumpy as I remember) and pulled up to the Havens. Meag dropped Joel off and we made our rounds around the three houses for Meagan to introduce us to all the new babies. We were met by Seth and Carol and Mamma and Betty and Jennifer and all the familiar faces. There’s a completely new set of babies so I left feeling like it was the first time all over again. We picked up Mercy, a baby having some serious diarrhea and vomitting that will be living in Meagan’s house with us so she can monitor more closely how she’s doing.

We went across the street and went to Eric’s House to meet Jason and Cyntia for the first time. They moved here a year and a half ago so we didn’t have the chance of meeting them last time. Meagan chatted with Cyntia while we played with Bright and George, two boys we met two falls ago. We stopped in at Roy and Cathy Merritt’s house, found Cathy and chatted with her for a bit before coming back to Meagan’s house. We walked over to the Hamby to say hello to the HIZ-Path group and I saw Webster, a night watchman who was here last time. He was amazed to see us for a second time and embraced us so tightly. Walking back to Meag’s, the stars were out like crazy. I mean it’s not a few stars like at home. It’s galaxies. “Beautiful” is the only word I know but that’s definitely not the right one. We came back to Meag’s, cooked grilled cheese, and sat and talked about our schedule for the summer.

Here’s what it’ll look like as of now:

Every Sunday morning we will be traveling to the same village church and worshipping with Meagan and the people there. Every Sunday afternoon we’ll go to the Havens and pick up a baby we feel needs extra one on one time or just a baby we really have connected with. And then Sunday nights are dedicated to singing at the Johnson (heck yes).

Monday through Thursday mornings we’ll have language class from 8:00-9:30 and then around 10 AM we’ll go to the Havens. Each intern will be in separate Havens for a week and will then switch to the next when the new week begins. This coming week I will be in Haven 1 (newborns and infants), Aubrey in Haven 2 (walking toddlers and older), and River in Haven 3 (babies of all ages who need closer attention for medical reasons). Each day we are responsible for spending one-on-one time with every baby in our assigned Haven, working on their specific developmental needs. Meagan is going to give us a list of each child’s status and where they need to be. We were also each given an additional child (not in our Haven) that needs extra special attention due to physical ailments or needs extra therapy or whatever the case may be. I got Joel and will be working on some additional massaging and therapies for his CP, as well as trying techniques to increase his speech production. He’s incredibly smart and definitely understands what’s going on, we’ve just got to work on getting it out. I can’t believe I’m getting to apply what I’ve been learning. And apply it like now. It makes me so excited.

We’ll leave the Havens after 5 or so every evening and walk back to Meagan’s, cook dinner, and do whatever the schedule calls for that night.
Monday nights Meagan and us three interns are going to talk through a book called Now What. Meagan said it walks through the experience of going on a short term mission trip and how people come back usually left feeling like they want to do some sort of mission work but they don’t know how or what. So Monday nights will be our debriefing and processing time. I’m really excited.
Tuesday nights are still up in the air but we’re thinking we may deem it as a game/card night with Jason and Cyntia.
Wednesday nights we’ll have a 9th grade girls’ Bible study at Meagan’s, working through the book Follow Me by David Platt.
Thursday nights we won’t come back to Meagan’s for dinner and will each leave from the Havens with an Auntie to go into her village and stay the night with her family and community there. Each of us interns has been assigned a different Auntie and the great news is we get to stay with the same Auntie each week! I was assigned Ba Beatrice whom I love. Meag told me there are about 5 Aunties who live close in proximity to her so it will be a party. Yes. Friday mornings we’ll be walking back to the Havens with our Auntie so we won’t have language class but we will still spend the day working at the Havens. Talk about TGIF.
Friday nights we’ll sing at the Merrit’s house (HECK yes).

It’s such a different feeling being here again. It’s just as wonderful as I thought it would be. It does feel like something is missing, and there is; our group. I didn’t realize how much of a difference it would make. But as we walked around I was left thinking of all the memories attached to so many people and the story after story. Webster and the owl, sitting behind the bunkhouses under the trees, the containers at night, the same smell of Zambian earth with the faint twinge of smoke, the Hamby porch where we had class and where we tried the cinnamon challenge and all of us threw up like 3 times, the little shack where we washed dishes after meals and a bunch of guys tried to drown a rat they found, cabana talk, the Johnson where we did our award winning Zambian independence performance, it’s so so strange standing in the middle of those places once again. I think the whole experience will in fact be different but I also know some new and meaningful memories will be made this time around.  

Expectations. A lot of people feel guilty for them but I think they’re good to have for an experience. Whether or not you want to admit them, or if you never even think to think about what they are, everyone has expectations. Expectations of what you’re hoping to give and what you’re expecting to gain. It’s only natural. You eat a meal, you expect to get full. You study for a prolonged period of time, you expect the test material to be familiar and to be able to give the information requested. You are accepted for a 6-week internship in another country, you gotta expect something. I think expectations are a natural part of living.
And I think they can even be that much more useful when you find the importance in expressing them. They function the same as an accountability partner. By thinking through and writing down what I want to give and get this summer, I’m creating a standard for every minute of this experience. At any and every moment of these six weeks I should be able to look at this list and say “Yes. As far as it depends on me, these things are happening.”

Taking the time to make these lists has made me realize what I want to get and what I want to give are actually the same thing. Some express themselves differently, but they all are an extension from the same source.

So, here they are. My list of my expectations:

What do I want to give?:

·      Love. To the kids, the Aunties, any local or person for that matter I may come into contact with, Meagan, my co-interns, whoever.
·      A serving heart. Hands that are actually helpful rather than in the way.
·      Encouragement to Meagan. I know all three of us would love nothing more than to lay at Meagan’s feet and provide some sort of safe place where she can express her wisdom, concerns, and grief.
·      A better representation of American Christians. To try in some way to remove the belief, even in just one person, that white people only come with the intention to rescue, and rather in its place offer a learner’s spirit. I want the Aunties to feel value and see significance in the knowledge they have to offer. I need what they know to be successful this summer. I want them to know and feel that from me.

What do I want to get?:

·      Love. From the kids, the Aunties, Meagan, my co-interns, and to tangibly feel it from the Father.
·      A serving heart. Hands whose first instinct is to serve. Hands that serve more readily, more sacrificially, more diligently, more painfully, just more.
·      Encouragement in my faith from Meagan. How does she handle the hard questions and God-awful realities? What is her healthy way of approaching God while being angry and happy and doubtful and thankful? What makes her continue to believe that He is good?
·      A better representation of mission work in Zambia. What would it be like to live here? What if I did this? Could I? Will I? Thankfully I’ve rid myself of the idea that to do mission work (both abroad and in the States) you have to be this radical spiritual fanatic who has dreads, a Hebrew tattoo, and talks softly. I know the only thing God needs is a submissive and obedient person that looks for the Him in other people and participates in their finding Him by entering into their situation. I want to gain a fuller picture of what that looks like here and if it’s something I might do.

When the six weeks is over and I’m stepping off of my last flight and treading back onto American soil, I expect to say this summer this was an experience that has increased my endurance to spiritual and physical trials, drained me of myself and what I feel are my “rights” (which I really have no claim to at all so that’s funny), and forced vigor and strength of confidence into my soul.

It’s going to be a summer of exhaustion, but the kind of exhaustion that comes from loving hard. I’m going to be challenged but that’s the very thing I keep asking God for anyway.


June 15, 2014

We woke up this morning and were met with the familiar Zambian way: a change of plans. We were going to go with Meagan to the village church we’ll be going to every Sunday, but Mercy was vomiting all night and having diarrhea all morning so she stayed behind and we went to Johnson church.

We walked there, sat right in the middle, and let the Zambian voices wash over us. There’s nothing that I can compare it to so I’ll let it remain what it is: something that can only be understood when heard with your own two ears. It’s just home.

The typical Zambian service is to have songs and a prayer and more songs and then the Lord’s Supper and then the lesson followed by more songs. (Singing is a constant theme here in every kind of get together or service.) The Lord’s Supper is seen like its own lesson every week so each church service can be any length. Today it was 2.5 hours but it’s not uncommon for it to be up to 4. After church we came back to Meag’s, unpacked some and then went to the Hamby to eat leftovers for lunch with the ACU interns and a couple of the American teachers and missionaries on the mission. It was great meeting them and getting to know them a little better. Emmett is an older man who is “a jack of all trades” or so we’re told. He moved here last summer and is a mechanic/engineer trying to find a better solution for some of the water problems they’re having. He also has a hammock. We’ve already planned to hang out and hammock so I think we’re going to be good friends. Cindy is a professor from Texas who moved here this May and is teaching a few classes. We chatted for a while last night about her job of teaching and how much she enjoys it. She is just so incredibly sweet. I will love getting to know her more.

We came back to the house and napped for a couple of hours before going on a walk with Meagan and Mercy. We walked some and then I decided to run some to get back on my running schedule so I ran ahead and met the girls back at the house. We went to Johnson church since it’s a Sunday night and the singing did not disappoint. It’s so forceful and strong all I can do is close my eyes and know this is what Heaven has to be like. It stirs the soul. Roy Merritt, the missionary who was born and raised here, is in the middle of a series about the body being a temple. Apparently he started last week with the lesson being about how your temple must rest firm on the Rock. Tonight he talked about how your temple will be tested by both God and Satan. He talked about how firey trials will either refine you or destroy you and gave four big fires we may face: the fire of poor health, the fire of sex, the fire of prosperity and riches, and the fire of persecution. He spoke most about the last one and talked about the persecution situation in a lot of African countries. It was really eye opening and exactly what I’ve needed to hear lately. A group got up to sing for everyone and then three girls decided they wanted to be baptized. The cheers and applause were deafening.

After the service ended we came back to Meag’s and made breakfast for dinner. We got the coffee pot hooked up and chatted with Meagan for a couple of hours about so many different things.

I’m so sad because today is Mom’s birthday and Father’s Day and I haven’t gotten to talk to either of them since our Internet information is not up and running quite yet. I miss them and I have been thinking about them especially more today.

It was such a great day and every moment feels more like home. I’ve realized that this time I want to find out more about stories. Like with the Aunties and the people we meet walking on the road, Emmett and Cindy and the ACU interns, I just want to know more about who people are, how they got here, and what they think about. It’s such a unique thing this time around to have so many interesting people in one place and having the luxury of picking their brains about their experiences.

Tomorrow is our first day of work at the Havens. I am so ready and nervous and excited all at the same time. It’s happening!


June 16, 2014

This morning River, Aubrey, and I woke up at 6 and went for a run. The weather is absolutely perfect for it here. It’s a bit chilly but the kind that warms right up once you get going. The air is also much thinner here so breathing has proven to be more of a challenge but it’ll get better with each day.

I mean just look at this.

We got back to Meag’s and showered and had breakfast and coffee. I read more of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton, a book Daniel gave me before leaving. It’s absolutely incredible and addresses the heart of what’s been happening lately. It was such a peaceful beginning to the day.

Our language class this morning was taught by Meagan but from tomorrow and on it will be taught by Meagan’s Zambian next door neighbor. She just finished grade 12 so it will so great having a new friend here. We learned greetings and conjugations and formal/informal beginnings. It really helped my understanding and even hearing Meagan’s friends that were in the house talking I could pick up on more right away.

We went to Havens straight after language class and today was a dream. I shadowed Ba Pauline in Haven 1. My job today was to follow her around no matter where she went and to do everything she did. At first I was nervous about being the only American girl among all Zambian women for the entire day, but like I said it was great. The work those ladies do is unreal. They rest and take breaks to hold the babies and talk to each other but they are unbelievably diligent workers. I got a small taste of every part of their day.

We started the morning by playing with the babies for a little bit. Then Pauline and I started lunch. I cut and diced tomatoes and Pauline showed me how to make soup from them. I helped brown the meat and mix some nsima as well. Talk about an arm workout. Ba Pauline gave me some tips of how to hold the wooden spoon to get the most force from it. We divvied up the nsima and tomato soup in the baby bowls and mixed it all together and fed the babies lunch. After lunch Be Pauline and I washed dishes and then took the Haven 1 big girls to Meagan’s language class. They sang songs and worked on counting and animal sounds and body parts. It was precious seeing the babies participating as much as they could.  After language class we played outside some more and then it was time for the Aunties to have lunch. We went to the back porch and had nsima and sugarloaf mixed with ground nuts. The sugarloaf/ground nuts mixture was so so yummy and I ate until I couldn’t anymore. As I was sitting there on the ground flooded with foreign language all around me, eating this traditional meal I couldn’t help but laugh a little wondering what kind of person says they’ve sat in a circle on the floor among Zambian women, completely alone culturally, eating a total traditional meal in Africa. It’s hilarious in the moment but I feel fortunate to know what that’s like.
Afterward Pauline showed me how to mix bottles and I made the big girls’ bottles for nap time.  I tag teamed with Pauline getting the girls bathed and ready for napping. She did the actual bathing and then brought them to me and laid them on the bed. I put Vaseline all over their skin, pinned on their nappies, dressed them in clothes and socks, comb-picked their little fros, and laid them in their beds with their bottle of milk. After all the girls were down we headed outside to the garden and gathered the washed baby clothes, nappies, blankets, and onesies that were hanging on the garden fence to dry. We brought them back to the front porch and Pauline handed me one of those straw brooms that you have to bend down to the ground to use. So I swept the porch before putting down the clothes and we folded them together. Bina Rosa who was watching me told me I did an excellent job which really made me feel better about my efforts because it’s not too often these women offer a compliment freely. While Pauline and I folded I got to talk with her about her family and children. She has one of those kinds of mannerisms that’s different than the typical Auntie. Rather than acting harshly or just completely passive and not asking me to do anything, she teaches me ways to be useful and does it alongside me. Like with the bottles and the dishes, she would soap and I would rinse. Or I would rinse and she would dry. I really really appreciated her patience and willingness to let me try even though I was at least four times slower than she would have been with only herself. After folding and washing we came back outside on the veranda and sat with some of the babies that weren’t sleeping. I held Lot, a one month just over 5-pound boy whose entire grasp couldn’t even wrap around my thumb. Ba Pauline, Bina Rosa and Ba Judy began singing together which isn’t uncommon. They began singing “And I’m so happy, so very happy, I’ve nvrueihbnfwjvfn.” (The jibberish represents them trailing off in syllables because they didn’t know the rest of the words.) So I told them I knew that song and sang the rest for them. And I also taught them the “And if the Devil doesn’t like it he can sit on a tack. Ouch” verse as well of course. They loved that. It was such a neat moment singing with two African women, holding this tiny ball of barely human, in perfect sunny and slightly windy 70-degree weather. Again, this place feels more like home everyday.

The babies gradually began waking up and being brought outside. I held one little one named Oscar who had so many mannerisms like Aaron. It made me miss him like crazy but it was some sort of nostalgic comfort. Eventually it was time for feeding again so we rallied the troops inside and fed them porridge for dinner. I said my goodbyes and went over to Haven 2 to help Aubrey feed the toddlers dinner but they weren’t ready to eat. So Aubrey and I sat on the veranda with Ba Beatrice and Ba Belita and the Haven 2 babies and sang songs. Seth and Maurine were our song leaders. It was the sweetest sound hearing 2-5 year olds sing songs to God. One of the songs was in Tonga and I asked Ba Beatrice what it meant and she told me it translates into “I love you God because You have given me __________.” And the kids were filling in the song with each other’s names. So sweet. While we were singing I look up and Joel is standing by himself dancing. They began singing “head shoulders knees and toes” and he did the moves just like everyone else. God has touched that boy.

At sunset we left and took the back trail so we could get back to Meag’s before sundown. The path was completely different than it was last time. The grass was tall and everything was grown as opposed to last time when everything was leveled from all the controlled burns.

We made it back to Meag’s, cooked dinner, and Meagan went through each child at the Haven one by one and told us specifically what each one’s needs are since tomorrow we begin our specialized one on one time with the kids. It’s pretty amazing to me that Meagan knows each child so well she can remember every need. We all took notes and then got the good news that our Internet accounts had been set up. Unfortunately right when we found out, the power went out. But ya know, you learn to expect nothing less.

I loved every part of today. I loved it because I was able to see such a gentle side but also such a fun side to the ladies. While the babies were napping and I was holding Lot, Ba Beatrice and some of the Aunties went off the porch and began swinging each other on the baby swings. It was hilarious. I just loved seeing the silly side of them and also having the privilege of serving beside them from morning to night. Seeing and experiencing what it’s like for Pauline and many other Aunties every day brought the work of the Havens into a new perspective. I knew these ladies worked hard and did all those things but it was just that: THEY did those things. Not me. But now I have on some small scale. And it’s beautiful to see how tirelessly they work even when given no thanks. The little ones they serve and look after never thank them for cleaning up their vomit or diarrhea and they never thank them for always doing the washing and cooking and cleaning of the pots and nappies and bottles only to dirty them right again. But the Aunties serve in an attitude that communicates they don’t expect thanks. And that’s incredible. Today was a good day and I can’t wait for tomorrow to build greater one on one connections with the Haven 1 babes. Even if I never see the fruits of this summer’s labor I’d like to think it still matters and makes some sort of difference. And even if these moments don’t make a bit of a lasting difference in their development, I know it would still make a difference in me.


June 17, 2014

This morning River, Aubrey, and I woke up early again and ran. It was much harder to wake up today but we persevered and did it. We came back and showered and got ready for language class. Our language teacher’s name is Chimuka and she is a doll. So kind hearted and patient. She taught us vocabulary words dealing family and miscellaneous baby things like milk and bottle. We asked her to tell us random funny words and we all laughed a whole lot.

After language class we went to the Namwianga office and paid for our Internet and then headed to the Havens. Meagan showed us how to do massages on the babies from their legs and toes all the way to their eyebrows. After, we went and helped Meag with centers at her language class. I was with Vigi and Tracy and we worked on puzzles, animals, animal sounds, and colors.

After centers I started my one on one time. Today I got to Big Oscar, Little Oscar, Owen, Annie, Kelvin, Edwin, Flo, Priscilla, Zeke, Cipo, and Binwell. I did everything from massaging, reading, and eliciting vocalization to puzzles, snap lock beads, and rattles. Every single child was engaged and compliant. They absolutely soak up the one-on-one time they get. It’s so much better getting to know them in this way because it gives me a better grasp on what makes them happy or sad or compliant or totally uninterested. It’s incredible the difference of personalities in the kids even at this young age. Dwini (Edwin) is so smiley and playful and full of energy. But Flo is more of a lover. She definitely moves around and gets her bouts of energy but she’s not nearly like Edwin. There are so many reasons I love each of them and each reason is so different. I love Flo’s eyes and I love Pri’s hair and I love Katie’s smile and I love Binwell’s pride in himself when he says “bye bye” every 40 seconds because he knows he’s saying something we both understand. I’m going to really enjoy having all of these little people one-on-one, growing in trust and growing in relationship with them everyday.

Around lunch Meag, River, Aubs, and I had to go to town to pick up a package Meagan had and we ate at El Pantano. It’s an outside restaurant here (well kind of the only restaurant here). We got chicken wrap fajitas, which just sounded hilarious when we said it out loud. We talked with Meag and she told us her whole story of getting here. It started with an internship like this one I’m doing now; a 6-week internship except hers was to Uganda. She told us about her team and how some of them decided to move and actually do this kind of thing for life and how she found Namwianga. Originally she was a part of the street kid ministry so she told us how she became involved with the formation of the Havens. She’s the coolest. Not really even because of her interesting life. I just think her heart is the coolest.

After doing one-on-one and folding some laundry and sitting with the Aunties I spent my last hour with Joel. I took him behind Meagan’s classroom outside and set up my hammock. We sang songs, pointed to body parts, went over colors, and counted to twenty. He’s so much more engaged than he was 2 years ago. Even though he is still quiet and not speaking actual words, he definitely knows what’s going on. He understands me and can point to things that I ask. Today I worked on opening his mouth when he tries to talk. He pockets food away in his cheeks and will keep it there for hours. I think that adds to his unwillingness to open up his mouth because he’s trying to keep it tucked away. But we got the food out and I made him at least say the vowels in words and it went pretty well. For example, I asked him what color a certain toy in my hand was and he answered with a close mouthed grunt. So I would say, “No. Uh uh, it’s yellow.”  And he would grunt as an attempt again. So I said, “No. Joel. Yeeellooow. Say yeeelloooow.” (I really will have to emphasize the open mouth with him. He would open his lips but his teeth would stay closed.) So eventually, because he has next to no consonant sounds, I gradually broke off consonants until it was only vowels and we were saying “ehhhhooooooo” together. And he did it no problem, open mouth. By the end we were counting from 1 to 20 with an open mouth in vowels. I was so so proud of him.

We walked the path back to Meag’s, and Cathy Merritt, Cyntia, and Chelsey (intern here doing research), came over and played Hand and Foot. It was such a blast! We were laughing and joking for 3 whole hours. I feel so blessed to be around a dinner table playing something as mundane as a card game with such un-mundane people. All the opportunity for conversation, getting to know these people I am surrounded by this summer is unbelievable.


June 18, 2014

We set our alarms this morning to run but all of us sat up at the same time and decided we would sit this one out. It’s been a tiring couple of days! In language class with Chimuka we learned words for around the house, animals, time, and spiritual words. Meag woke up feeling sick this morning so we trekked the trail to the Havens and got started. I worked with Esther and Lot (the month old twins), Owen, Oswell, Fellow, Lushomo, Wendy, Katie, and Cipo. I held and fed some and worked on shape sorting and linking with others. I tried reading books with some of them today and it really worked well. They all loved the quiet time away from everyone.

I had lunch with the Aunties again today. We had nsima, beans, and the same groundnut mixture from Monday. It was super super yummy. I love sitting and listening to them talk to each other.

In between my one-on-one time I helped fold clothes and change nappies. I tag teamed with Ba Pauline again and got the little girls dressed while she did the bathing. Sitting on the veranda with the Aunties is so fun for me. I wish I could talk and be engaged but I hope my effort in my work shows them my desire to help and be a part.

Around 16:00 everyday (we use military time here) is when I’ll get Joel and spend an hour with him. Today I set the hammock up again. He really enjoys it. We read two books. He was so incredibly still. He turned pages for me and would repeat words I would emphasize on the page (he was close-mouthed of course). It’s so obvious he wants to be a part of everything and take in as much as he can. We went over some body parts and did the links again. He really loves them. Bright and Luke, two elementary boys from Eric’s house came and greeted me at my hammock and got all the toys out of my bag that I had for Joel. They told me some about school and we went over colors in Tonga and English. They were so unbelievably kind. They loved swinging in the hammock too.

When we got back to Meagan’s house we found her feeling better. We all cooked spaghetti together for dinner and while we were eating the power went off. We’re four for four on days that have lost power at some point and it was so hilarious eating spaghetti by candlelight. Romantic? Haha something like that. This is Africa.

I was in charge of making treats for the grade 9 girls for Bible study tonight so I made homemade chocolate chip cookies. The girls are going through the book Follow Me by David Platt. Meagan’s been talking about ways to know whether or not you are actually following Christ or just calling yourself a Christian. Last week Meagan talked about repenting and tonight it was about renouncing. There were so many girls! They were quiet but sweet. Meagan used an example that I really liked. She said, “If I tell you I’m a nurse, does that make me a nurse?” and of course the girls said no, and she continued, “No. What makes me a nurse are the skills and the knowledge I use. It’s the same way with being a Christian. Just saying you are doesn’t make it so.” Like I said. I love her.

After they left the four of us sat and talked about school and clubs and our village visit tomorrow. It’s going to be great. It will be so tiring working all day at the Havens, leaving from there and walking to Ba Beatrice’s village, helping her cook/fetch water/play with the kids/”sleep”, and waking up early enough to walk back to the Havens by 7 AM to work all day Friday. It will be exhausting but I’m interested to see what all happens, excited to meet her kids, nervous about what all they’ll try to get me to do, and wanting to know what Ba Beatrice is like in village life and among family.


June 19-20, 2014

Today’s village day! We deemed Thursday mornings as our sleep-in day from running so we can get some extra sleep. In language class with Chimuka we learned colors, numbers, action words, and some miscellaneous words we may need

At the Havens I jumped right in again and worked on a whole variety of things. I worked with Esther, Lot, Oscar, Zeke, Oswell, Kelvin, Binwell, Flo, and Priscilla. There was a group from Ireland that came and played with all the Haven 1 kids. They blew bubbles and gave sweets and ran around with them. It was weird being on the other side of this experience. Although I am a visitor, it still feels different this time because these visitors only came for a day. It actually made me feel kind of angry to hear them calling kids by the wrong names and talking to them like they’re stupid or something. But I know they don’t know better and I should be better. I think I understand Meag’s feelings towards visitors a little better now when she tries to explain it. The Havens are a dreamland to people who want to only drop in and fulfill their African dream of playing with black babies, but behind the scenes it’s a lot of sweat and work and tears. The kids are just kids. Not perfect African angels. The Aunties are hardworking moms that are great at their jobs and earn money for their families, not unintelligible African women who are harsh for no reason.

After we finished feeding the babies around 5, Ba Beatrice and I left the Havens and walked the trail to her house. The villages where Aubrey and River stayed are along the same path as Ba Beatrice’s village so we all walked together. Walking on the road we passed a lot of people and animals. There were four huge turkeys not even 5 yards away from me. I thought about how my Dad and Grandaddy would be beside themselves. We all sang and danced and practiced our Tonga until we got to the road that leads to Ba Beatrice’s house where we needed to split ways. It was so much fun laughing so much. When we parted ways we walked up to her house and the sunset was unreal. So many shades of red and the sun was pink and perfectly round. Ba Beatrice began cooking right away. She cut the cabbage while I cut the tomatoes. I sat with her in her cooking hut outside and helped her stir whatever she needed me to. Her neighboring hut had the radio blaring and what do you know, on the air was Shania Twain followed by Phil Collins. Sometimes you just have to laugh out loud. It began getting dark and her kids surrounded us as we were sitting there. We began to sing whatever songs we could think of that we might all know. Ba Beatrice finished cooking and we ate nsima and cabbage with tomatoes. It was good like always! I kind of find it hilarious that I enjoy village food so much. It’s just so not normal but I mean I’m currently in an African village in the middle of nowhere so I guess I’m not really that normal as a whole, haha.

The language barrier is always a challenge here but sometimes it’s just funny. While cooking I asked Ba Beatrice the names of all of her children and there was a dog running by so I asked her if the dog had a name too. She just died from laughter. I mean she couldn’t catch a breath. I didn’t really understand what I had said that was funny until later after stumbling back and forth between my confusion and her broken English in between her laughter, I realized she thought I asked her to ask the dog what his name was. Insert liney face emoji here. But it was funny to her so I’ll take it.

After eating we sat in her house and all of her kids came inside and we sang the night away. Tonga songs, English songs, her kids danced, we played games, it was fun. All the kids there weren’t Ba Beatrice’s, they were from the whole village. There was Maureen, Rick, Mick, Paul, Luyando, and Libby. The kids didn’t know what to think of having a makua (Tonga word for white person) in their home, but by the end of the night they were right beside me laughing and dancing. I pulled out my Tonga notebook from language class and we went over some words and I quizzed them on their English. Ba Beatrice said she usually goes to bed around 19:00 (yes that’s 7:00 PM) but because of our fun we went to bed around 8:30. Be Beatrice and her daughter Luyando and I stayed in the same room. Ba Beatrice asked me to pray before bed so I did and right when we said goodnight she turned on the radio on her phone. It was so incredibly loud and I just laughed to myself. I knew there was no way I was going to go to sleep now. But after two songs she turned it off, rolled over, and that was that. I’ll never understand some things people do here but you learn to go with it. Maybe she has to listen to two songs on the radio every night? I'll never know.

Ba Beatrice woke me up around 6:00 AM and had porridge waiting for me. We ate and then walked to the Havens during the sunrise. Incredible. She asked me questions about America and what we eat and our holidays and such.

Today was our last day working with our Haven for the week so I spent a lot of my individual time with the kids outside. The weather is perfect here. 70s with a slight breeze. Everyone was surprisingly compliant and in a good mood. I say surprisingly because the babies got injections today from Meagan and Ba Fortune (the clinical officer of the Havens), so they were fussy at first but went straight back to normal. I fell asleep with Cipo on my chest and put him down and then rocked Big Oscar only to have him pass out on me too. Today Fellow was the most talkative he’s been since I’ve been around him so it’s sad I’m having to go since that it’s taken me so long to open some of them up.

We also got a new baby today! His name is Watupa meaning “He was given to us.” Meagan said his mother had died the day before so his aunt brought the baby to the Havens because there are many other kids in the family and they don’t know what to do with them all so they need whatever help wherever they could find it.

I spent my hour with Joel and he did so so well. He’s gotten so good at body parts and he’s still as easy going as ever. I’m so proud of him.

Finishing the day, Meagan, River, Aubs, and I helped feed dinner at Haven 3 and then came back to Meag’s and had dinner ourselves. Emmett came by the house and announced my bag had finally come in! It was like Christmas. We were unpacking all of the treats I had brought Meag for the babies.

After that we left and sang at the Merritt’s. A about 30 or so people come. Some of them are missionaries living here, some are the kids and street boys, and then some are college students that go here. We sang for a couple of hours and wow have I missed that. There are no other sounds like the ones there.

Coming back from the Merritt’s we sat outside for a bit with Meag’s night guard, Ba Patrick. We pulled out some s’more stuff and used his charcoal warmer to make them! We sat outside and listened to Meagan share her health horror stories from being over here. They were terrifying and hilarious all at the same time.

River, Aubrey, Ba Patrick, Meag, and Mercy (with the look of determination for that marshmallow). 

We came inside and ended up staying up and talked to Meag about her life and where she is now with certain things. I love her realness so much. This whole experience is something I can never be thankful enough for especially under someone like her. It’s nothing short of a privilege.


 June 21, 2014

Today’s our off day so we slept in! PTL. We woke up and walked over to the Hamby to use the coffee pot there since our coffee pot Aubrey brought zitted out. RIP. But! The Hamby never fails. We got to start our morning right.

It's the little things.

We basically just lazed around all morning. We talked to Meag some, Emmett came over just to check and see how we were, and I caught up on some emails. It was the rest I needed after a go go go week.

Rivs and Aubs and I decided to go for a run since we'd taken the past couple of days off. It was such perfect weather. The kind where right when you get too hot, huge gusts of wind come for a few minutes. It was so great and refreshing.

We wanted to take a shower but Meag's house has been out of water so we went to the good ole solar showers. We came home and started cooking tacos with Meagan. I made guacamole and it was just a grand spread. Such a treat.

After we decided we wanted some hot chocolate but because Meagan doesn't have water we walked to the Hamby house where the ACU interns are staying in hopes that they might have some. We met Otis and Kathy, two professors from Abilene who are visiting. We got to talking with them about what we're doing here and mentioned how we were all interested in some sort of work like this but not quite sure what or where and Kathy asked if she could pray over us and our futures. So we all stood in a circle as she prayed over us. I'm telling you, there are some cool people here.

We came back to Meag's and ended up sitting at the table for hours playing Phase 10 and then ended up just talking. We talked about guys, books she recommends, family, sin, and everything in between.

I just can't believe it's the close of the first week. On one hand it feels like it's been 3 weeks and on the other it feels like we just got here last night. Time is only going to move faster and I just want to soak up every second I can because I know the empty feeling that so quickly finds me once it's over. Wishing I could re-live these moments and re-have these conversations. I want to be used up and worn out so I can rest easy when that empty feeling does come, knowing I did everything. To the very best of my ability. Making myself uncomfortable on purpose and learning at least one new thing about myself. At least.

"This life is not for the weak" is a reoccurring theme in a lot of our conversations with Meag and I'm realizing that more at the end of each day. I'm so thankful for this place and the blessing it can be if I let it change me. Just thinking about the beauty that can come from a life that allows God to direct each thought and attitude. What could happen if I let Him take me beyond myself and into the heart of the matter? It's pretty exciting and sobering.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing, Holly! So excited for the ways God is using and growing your beautiful heart. Praying you see Him more fully these next several weeks! Give your sweet ones love from Kentucky! xoxo