Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Aftermath

Tomorrow will mark two weeks since I returned home from Africa. It has been a difficult and busy few weeks, getting back into the routine here at home, starting school, and beginning college applications. My schedule seems to be fuller and busier than it has ever been, and the time I have to myself seems to be disappearing. My trip this summer changed my life, no doubt about it, but I am slightly at a loss as to what I am supposed to do now. I feel as though I hang in limbo between a life-changing experience and ordinary life. I am continuing my daily devotions, I am doing everything I should, but each morning I wake up with a feeling that I cannot describe.

It is neither joy nor sorrow, it is not confidence nor is it self-doubt. It is not fear, but neither is the absence of fear. It is not a chaotic feeling, but neither have I experienced a calm in my heart. It is not apathy, and yet it is not enthusiasm either. I am simply going about my day one thing at a time; it would be overwhelming to look beyond that one thing. Is it the feeling that I have no purpose because I am not spending my days with AIDS orphans in Africa? Perhaps it is... perhaps it is a feeling of inadequacy, perhaps I feel as though I must return to the mission field in order to be useful. If so I need to address this.

I am not only a missionary when I am on a "mission trip." On the last day at debrief I dedicated my life to full-time Christian missions. My life is now, full-time Christian missions is now. Where I am standing is my mission field, I am a missionary.

Lord, Heavenly Father,
You have given me my mission field, I ask that you would grant me the grace and strength and to fulfill this mission and to bring you glory. Bring me joy, Lord, and perseverance as I tackle all the tasks you have set before me. For all those that you have called to be missionaries in your kingdom I ask that you would grant them the same grace and strength to lead the lost to you in their own hometowns. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Debrief and Back Home

After witnessing Victoria Falls we headed to the airport in Lusaka, Zambia for our journey back to Merritt Island, Florida. It was like deja vu to be back in the place where we had begun our journey of training and ministry so many weeks before. We participated in three days of debrief where we got plenty of hot showers, took a series of classes that discussed integrating back into life in America, and quizzed other teams on the forty Bible verses we had memorized throughout the summer. It was a good time to relax, reflect on what we had learned on the field, and prepare to say good bye to the friends we had made. It was difficult to say good bye, but we were all more than ready to be going back home to our families and friends.

This summer has changed my life, giving me a new perspective on many aspects of my everyday life. The Lord began to work on certain areas of my heart and life, and I pray that as I get back into my routine here at home that I will allow Him to continue the work He has begun. Some things He is teaching me are not at all easy, and other things are confusing at times, but by His grace I will do all that He has called me to, giving Him all the glory.

Thank you all for your prayers while I was away this summer, they meant, and do mean more than you can ever know. God bless you all!

Victoria Falls

Wednesday and Thursday were spent preparing for our trip to Victoria Falls; "the smoke that thunders." On Friday we set off, traveling two days by bus from Ndola to Livingstone. Sunday had been designated as our sightseeing day; in the morning we took a safari through a game park and saw everything from zebra and giraffe, to elephants and baboons. For lunch we took a short river cruise on the Zambezi River. While on the river we saw hippos as well. Finally we got to witness the great Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Words cannot describe the beauty and majesty of the falls. Everything within reach of of its cool mist is transformed into lush green vegetation. Beyond its reach things once again become the characteristic browns and reds of the African plain. Everywhere you turn the bright sun shining through the mist creates rainbows of all sizes. All are struck speechless by the first glimpse of the cascading waters, and most remain speechless as they walk and walk and the falls seem to go on forever. How can one witness the grandeur of a half mile of water tumbling into a chasm hundreds of feet below and still be adamant that it is all a product of chance?

Every aspect of "the smoke that thunders" screams the existence of a creator; the wall of rock over which the raging water tumbles can be held up by nothing less than divine power, the constant mist that does not drown the shrubs and trees in endless water but brings life in a never ceasing rain can only be a product and result of God's similarly unceasing and unfathomable wisdom. The river is always running toward the cliff over which it tumbles down, down, down. Why does the water never cease to flow or the water ever run backward up the wall of rock? The laws that govern our planet and our entire universe are proof that God put loving care into its design and creation. One day, "every knee shall bow in Heaven and earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father," even all those who witnessed God's power in "the smoke that thunders" and refused to admit his existence.

Back in Ndola-Unexpected Blessings

Once back at the base on Saturday morning we took two days to just rest and figure out what our "plan B" would be. Each of us was wondering what we would do with the extra time at the base as we were there three to four days early. What a blessing it was when we learned that Monday and Tuesday would be spent taking day trips to units an hour away and 45 minutes away, respectively. On Monday we took the bus to Lu Piya and taught a morning and afternoon session, and on Tuesday we headed back to Chiwala and taught two morning sessions. As I helped the children get into position and smiled back at their beaming faces and twinkling eyes I knew that Romans 8:28 was being fulfilled. My God was working everything together for good because we loved him and had been called according to His purpose. If not for the robbery we would not have had the chance to reach two additional units; God is good!


We arrived at Solwezi, an additional half hour closer to the base, and set up our tents for the third time. Like Lunsala this unit was a bit further from the villages and so though we arrived on Thursday afternoon we expected our largest crowd on Saturday. We slept peacefully that night and after a glorious sunrise the next morning we were ready to teach. The children slowly trickled in and by the time we had presented the Gospel and invited them to accept Christ as their Saviour there were about 65 in attendance. The afternoon crowd was even larger and we felt that we had accomplished a lot for just one day.

The Children

The children at Solwezi learned so fast that we taught them almost everything we knew on the very first day. That night we were brainstorming to come up with more we could teach them for the next three days.

The Children stretching during a drill session.

Singing during one of our presentations.

The Facilitators

During our group devotions in the evening it had been our custom to sing a few songs and then listen to one of the facilitators share their testimony and how they had come to be serving the Lord at that unit. On Friday night we enjoyed hearing Makuka share. She had come to serve the Lord in Solwezi after marrying her husband Richard in 2006; together they worked as the facilitators.

That night we went to bed as usual; two team members in each tent, and the leaders in their own tents. My tent mate and I were chatting as we prepared for bed, waiting for the "lights out" command at 9:30. At the time we did not know that the facilitators and the other national staff staying with them that night had been beaten and robbed. We heard the two thieves come out to our tents and demand money from our head leader. The Lord be praised, a miracle took place that night and the thieves got frightened and ran off. Within an hour we had dismantled our tents, packed all our personal and kitchen supplies, and were headed to the base in Ndola four hours away. Because of truck problems and the dark it took us over twice as long to reach the base, and when we got there we ate breakfast and went to rest in one of the Bible school dorm rooms.

Lessons Learned

Through what happened our team realized how wonderful is the gift of God's protection. Instead of being fearful we rejoiced in the testimony that the Lord was allowing us to take back home, a testimony of His faithfulness and His love for His children.

"Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart." -Psalm 119:111


The second rescue unit we visited was a half hour closer to the base than Lunsala. When we arrived we quickly set up our tents and kitchen area. Within the first hour we realized that this unit would be vastly different from Lunsala. In Lusala the unit was a bit out of the way and we never had more than fifty children to teach at a time, but here in Mumena the unit was right in the center of the village. For four days we taught over 150 children in each session, ranging in age from three or four to sixteen and seventeen year olds. Before supper on our first night there we were sitting in our kitchen area reading and crowded around the edges of the open air hut, just giggling and touching our skin and hair in awe were over ninety children.

The Children

While the children at Lusala had been shy and timid at first, the children here in Mumena were so enthusiastic and so eager to learn. It was a joy to witness the smiles on their faces as we instructed them, and to hear the shouts of excitement when they had finally mastered a sequence of steps. During our presentations each morning and afternoon we were leading fifty to seventy children to the Lord Jesus Christ. Soli Deo Gloria!

The children during one of our presentations.

Teaching the drill (and advertising the Rebelution, hehe).

The Facilitators

In the converse of Lunsala the facilitators at Mumena were somewhat more shy that Daniel and Joseph had been. Smart and Bonifice were happy to have us there, but were a bit timid because of their unfamiliarity with the drill. They had also only been acting as facilitators for seven months. Nevertheless, they soon warmed up to the team and before long we were singing with them and getting to hear their stories.

Smart translating a Gospel presentation.

Bonifice teaching Sunday School.

Lessons Learned

At Mumena our team really learned to not make assumptions that all the rescue units would be alike, or that all the children would learn at the same rate or with the same level of enthusiasm. By the end of our time there we were looking forward to how the next unit would be different instead of expecting it to be the same. During one afternoon the facilitators took us on a walk to visit some of the villagers and to see how they lived. One woman we visited was an elderly widow named Rosa who was in her mid 70's. She lived in a tiny brick hut and when Smart asked her when she had eaten her last meal she couldn't remember. Not withstanding she had a huge smile on her face the entire time we were there. Our eyes were opened to both the poverty of the people and their constant joy and will to survive. Mumena was also where the Lord really began to reveal Himself to me, and where he won a great victory in my personal life and walk with Christ. All in all it was a blessed time and we were on out way to our third and final unit, or so we thought.


When we arrived at Lunsala after a five hour, bumpy truck ride we were very excited to finally be starting our project. We set up our kitchen area, pitched our tents, and settled in for the night after our evening team devotions. For the next few days we got to know the children as we taught them drill. We began each morning with our team Bible marking class, breakfast, and personal devotions. Then we would teach the children for about an hour and a half ending with a half hour program that included puppets, singing, and a presentation of the Gospel. Before lunch we read missionary biographies and memorized our daily Scripture verse. After lunch we had free time to do laundry or bathe before teaching another drill session similar to the one in the morning followed by a presentation. Before supper we had gender specific Bible studies called Grubby to Grace (for girls) and God's Gentleman (for guys). After supper we did team devotions and headed to bed early.

The Children

The children were so precious and because there were not very many of them at this particular unit we got to know their names and individual personalities very well. It broke my heart to leave them, but whenever I remember their bright, smiling faces I know that we impacted them for Christ.

Playing "Duck, duck, goose!"

Caro was so excited when she could do the drill by herself.

These are the first children we saw; they couldn't stop smiling.
Charity fell asleep in my lap the first day.
She was pretty attached to me after that.

The Facilitators

The facilitators, Joseph and Daniel, who run the unit also became good friends. They were our sole interpreters as we taught the children, and we enjoyed playing games and laughing with them in the evening after supper.

Daniel and I after church.

Joseph watching the little ones learn the drill.

It was at Lunsala that we learned the importance of working together as a team. Overall it was my favorite unit to work at because the location was peaceful, the children were attentive, and the facilitators were as eager as the children to learn the drill, if not more. After three ays of teaching and church on Sunday we headed to the second unit at Mumena, a half hour closer to the Ndola base.

Africa-Arrival and Adjustment

Our journey to Ndola, Zambia was smooth and uneventful and we arrived at the Teen Missions base in Zambia safely. It took us several days to prepare to leave the base for our project. We organized our food, reorganized our bags, and were ready to head out. Our plan was to visit three different AIDS orphans Rescue Units; Lunsala, Mumena, and Solwezi. We planned to spend five days at each unit, Lunsala being the first five hours away from the base. Little did we know how different we would be when we returned to the base and in what circumstances we would return.

Boot Camp

I just returned from my summer in Africa this past Sunday and over the next few posts I will be sharing about my trip to Zambia beginning with the time I spent in boot camp, training for the field.

On the evening of June 23rd a white school bus pulled into the Teen Missions International headquarters in Merritt Island, Florida loaded with excited young people and their bulging cardboard boxes. We were separated according to team and our leaders came to introduce themselves and give us our next instructions. The first thing we did was take our boxes to our team's designated tent site where we took some time to find our toothbrushes and then went to sleep. The next day we went through registration where we were issued water bottles, duffel bags, rain ponchos, and other things that would prove themselves useful. We were given about half an hour to transfer our luggage from our boxes to our duffels. We were also on KP which meant were were responsible for serving the other teams during mealtimes and taking care of the dishes afterwards. The next day (Friday) was the first day of a three-day missions conference where the main speaker was Marilyn Laszlo. She had spent 24 years in the jungles of Papua New Guinea translating the New Testament into the language of a native tribe. For the first four days I had no time to bathe or even to change my clothes because we were so busy, but when the missions conference was over we began to settle into a routine.

For two weeks our schedule was the same Monday through Saturday. Rise and shine was at 5:30am, by 5:40 we were on our way to the restroom. We were required to be in and out in three minutes or less, which included a trip outside to fill a bucket with water for "bucket flushing." By 5:55 all 500+ young people and their leaders were lined up according to team in a clearing where we had "rapture practice." Role was taken and we headed of to run the OC (obstacle course).

Obstacles on the OC
"Jacob's Ladder"

"The Red Sea"

Wherever we went we walked in a single file line with no gaps in preparation for the time we would spend walking through crowded airports on our way to and from Africa. In order to make sure that no one was ever missing we were assigned numbers (mine was 2), and when instructed to "count-off" we rattled off our numbers in order as quickly as possible. Our team ran the OC at 6:25 and we finished around 6:50.

After running the OC we were usually wet, sweaty, and covered in dirt. We washed our hands and headed to breakfast. By 7:30 we had washed our dishes and sat down for a half hour of personal devotions. A Teen Missions staff member roamed around to ensure that no one was sleeping during "devos." At 8:00 we all headed to "Big Top," the largest tent and our central meeting place for Bible hour and then an hour long class on evangelism or servanthood. From 10:00 to noon our team had drill practice where we learned how to perform, and then teach, drill. Because none of my team members had ever done drill before is was exciting, and yet slightly intimidating to be learning something that we would be teaching to children in Africa just two weeks later. Nevertheless, we all learned quickly and we had a lot of fun.

"Big Top"

After lunch we had a music or puppet class that alternated each day. Then we had an hour of free time which we used to memorize our Bible verse for the day and write letters home. Our next hour was set aside for bathing or doing laundry, both of which were done using a 5-gallon bucket of water. Some days we were simply exhausted so we would go back to our tents during this time to take a short nap. During boot camp I bathed twice a week, and did laundry just as often... that may sound really gross, but no one really cared as were all just as dirty and busy as everyone else. Our final class before supper was phonics, and then after supper we met in the Big Top with all the other teams for rally. Rallies consisted of praise and worship, a speaker, and just a fun time to get into God's Word. At night we had about a half hour to prepare for lights out at 9:30, and before we knew it we were doing it all over again.

Lessons Learned

Early into the summer I realized the awesome power of prayer and the role it would play in our entire trip. The first few nights at boot camp I hardly slept at all and I was beginning to fear that I never would. Then at rally the third night of boot camp a leader from another team prayed for me, I trusted the Lord to answer our prayers, and that night I slept soundly straight through. Throughout the trip I would remember what the Lord had done for me that night and I would turn to prayer when even the slightest thing went wrong. Each time the Lord answered in a tremendous way. Boot camp was meant to train us for the field, and it did just that. When we reached our mission field we were prepared for everything except the amazing way in which God would work in our lives and in the life of our team.

If you want some more information on the Lord's Boot Camp at Teen Missions check out this promo video, and this video series. Much of the footage of Zambia in the video series depicts where we were for some of our time in Africa.