Thursday, May 5, 2016

E is for Everyone

On Friday, one of our auntie's sons died. He was 14 years old and died very suddenly after only feeling sick for a day. On Sunday morning, I found myself driving my truck, packed full of our aunties, to our local mortuary to mourn with the family, and then on to the village gravesite where his burial took place. If you've never been to a traditional burial here, there is no describing the wailing of hundreds and hundreds of people, the joy and sorrow crashing against each other in the strangest kind of harmony, or the simplicity of grief openly expressed. I've been a part of more of these days than I'd like to count up, but this was the first time that it was for the child of one of my friends, our auntie. 

As is tradition, different groups are called up one by one to lay their flowers atop the grave. First the mother and father. Then the siblings. Then any family members. Then they called us up, her team of aunties she works with every day. We marched up together, singing our offering as we went. We circled the grave of our friend's child; crying, we planted our flowers in his grave mound. I stood next to those women whom I've worked with every week for years and years and years and was overwhelmed with the privilege of getting to stand with them and be a part of them. We returned to our seats under the shade trees and watched the other mourners take their turns paying their respects. And when it was over, we all loaded up and headed back to work, back to the babies that bind us all together. 

One of the hardest parts of being a missionary is this huge pedestal people place you on. My family and friends laugh at that, knowing all too well my humanity and shortcomings. But the rest of the world tends to have an unrealistic impression of who I am, of who all missionaries are. I can understand the heart behind it, and I even remember feeling that way before I became a missionary myself. But now that I am one, I realize that no missionaries are saints, and all missionaries are just the same flawed people they were when they left their home country. Some are better at hiding it than others, but all of us are right there with you in our longing to be better and our desperate need of God's grace.

In this pedestal life, people tend to think that you are the whole work, or at least the most important part of it. Maybe that's what makes them feel like you are worthy of giving money to each month. That you are it, that you are God's gift to the people, country, church you've come to serve alongside. But this is such a dangerous mentality, minimizing all of the good that God was doing in the people and in the place long before we got here. It's also dangerous to us, blowing up these heads of ours and making us think that we matter way more than we do.

The first thing I'd tell you if you visited us here and I took you around the Haven is what a small piece of our puzzle I really am. Of course my piece matters, in the way that every piece matters and there's an obvious hole in the puzzle when you take one out. But not in the way people tend to think sometimes, which is that I'm holding the whole thing together. People ask me sometimes what the babies do when I'm in America on my furlough, and it always makes me laugh a little inside. And I try as gently as possible to make them see that I'm just a role player on a really big team.

If you came here, you would see so many beautiful things going on. You'd see aunties scrubbing floors so our babies stay clean and healthy. You'd see others doing laundry so our babies' bums stay dry. Others would be sitting on the veranda, singing songs and chasing kids and wiping snotty noses. Others are inside cooking porridge and stirring it perfectly until it cools so our little mouths don't get burned. You'd find others taking babies on nature walks and others giving massages and still others wearing babies on their backs because they're sick and nothing else will soothe them. Another is off at the clinic while her baby is on a drip. One is off at the tuck shop spending her own money on lollipops for her babes because that's just how special they are to her. Others are home sleeping because they worked all night but still calling us to check on a little one who was sick in the night. Others are in bundus pretending to be excited for the thousandth time as little ones show them the same little mound they've built in the sand. You'd see mountains of laundry being folded by singing aunties with babes crawling on their backs and through their legs. You'd see some giving medicines right on time, like clockwork. You'd see others in the kitchen, faithfully writing down just how many bars of soap and bottles of bleach and tins of formula we'd used that week and how many we'll need for the next. You'd see aunties out collecting dry clothes from the line and putting wet ones in their place. You'd see others feeding nshima and waiting patiently for little mouths to swallow.

And to think that I make this whole thing work makes me laugh (and would definitely make them laugh!). My part is wonderful and needed and special, just like each task they do each day. My part is mundane and exhausting and mind-numbing sometimes, just like the tasks they do each day. But we are all just different parts of a whole, complementing each other and completing a work that matters to us all equally.

So while I'm the face you most often see, the one that shares this place with the other side of the world, I am far from the only face here, and I'm definitely no more valuable than any other one. Each day in our language class, the babies tell us the truth. There are six truths, and number four always chokes me up as I look around the room at the precious faces of our babies and our aunties learning and singing together. Number four says "Everyone is important!" and it's true. 

I've been sick the last couple of days, and do you know who's been showing up? Everyone. The aunties, my people, showing up in visits and phone calls and texts and prayers over me. What a gift to be one of them, to be loved by them. So in case you've ever gotten the impression that I'm working alone over here, I just wanted you to know it's not just me-- I'm simply a part of everyone. 

**For those who've asked about the 6 truths we teach our babes, they are:
1. God is good. 
2. Nothing is impossible. 
3. Jesus already won!
4. Everyone is important. 
5. I am God's treasure. 
6. I am the one Jesus loves. 

I adapted these from a blog I found here:

Monday, April 11, 2016

Milestone Monday

Every day brings new changes around here. Our babes are growing, learning, changing all the time. We're so proud of them! Here is a bit of what we've been up to lately! 
Memo lost her two front teeth!
Evey is the wildest of women. 
Suzy is still working hard at physio! Keep praying she will sit!
They've learned to make human trains, and will walk like this forever! 
Essie and Lot are walking and at Haven 2!
Edith graduated from physio!
These snit snorts all eat nshima like big kids with their hands now, not in a baby bowl!

Jenny is sitting!
Luyando is taking 4 steps!

Roinah's starting to use those legs!

Memo is walking now! She's still going to physio 3 times a week, but I think she'll be discharged soon! 
Nora continues to gain weight at an abnormally fast rate. 😂
Lamby is walking! And loves to have that tongue hanging out. 

And as always, we've had tons of birthdays! 

Dwini turned 3! (Peeps as a cake-- I already know. I'm the worst.)
Flo turned 3!

Watupa turned 2!

Sesa Bean turned 7!
John turned 3!
Priscilla turned 3!

This gang all turned 1!



Emmanuel (Manu)
Jose turned 5!
Abbie turned 10!
Jonah turned 4!
Edith turned 2-- and is walking!!
Maureen is 6!
And so is Memory! 😉

All is well in our world. Thanks for loving us and praying for us! 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Haven T-shirts

We, like everyone else in the world, fell in love with Fight Song last summer. Our kids of all ages love to scream it at the top of their lungs, and it brings tears to my eyes every time. Each one of them is a little fighter, overcoming all sorts of circumstances that brought them to us, and we pray that they keep believing how strong they are as they go off into the big wide world out there. The first line of the song says, "Like a small boat on the ocean, sending big waves into motion." Each of our sweet babes, tiny as they may be, changes the world. 

That line inspired our auntie's t-shirts this year! You can buy one and help us get a school bus for our kids! 

If you're interested in buying one, email They are available in adult and kid sizes! 

Thanks for all the ways you support the Haven!

F is for Family

If you've been reading this blog long, you know I'm pretty wild about my family. Proof of how great they are comes in many forms, but one is their frequent visits and investments into my world over here. There's not a single one of them that hasn't either visited, prayed for a baby, sponsored a baby, sent special gifts for the babes, or some other act of kindness towards the Haven. 

Their visits are always the biggest encouragement to me and allow my heart to handle being away from my close-knit clan the rest of the year. 

First this year, my sister in law Courtney came to visit. Court lived here with me for 9 months in 2009 and has been back to visit before. Her visit this year, though too short, was perfectly timed and a gift in every sense of the word. Our Ezra had just died the day before, and I was in the darkest of times that the loss of a baby brings us. This was followed by the loss of Ba Fortune, my friend and coworker, that occurred while Court was here. Accompanying the grief of these big losses was the exhaustion and worry of having an extremely medically fragile Mary living with me at the time, so there was no time for sleep and rest during this season. And in the midst of this chaos stepped Court, one of the few people in my life who can walk through grief with me, who can sit and be silent and I need nothing else from her. She stayed up with my Mary, giving me rest and sanity and a chance to grieve and process well. I love looking back at moments when I feel so confidently that God was holding me, caring for me, remembering me. This time, he was using Court to do that, and I'm so grateful for our time together. I'm also beyond grateful for the generous, thoughtful couple from my church that paid for her ticket, never knowing it would be for a time where I would need her in such a big way. For asking me, would it be a blessing for us to send someone your way every once in awhile? 

And then not a month later came my Emily, cousin extraordinaire, on her fifth visit, this time leading a group of students from Oklahoma Christian (but mainly just visiting me ;)). She is my baby cousin turned friend turned confidante, and God has knit our hearts together over the years in a special way. Every moment with her is filled with laughter and deep conversation, and I love them all. And she stayed up with my Lamb for me, which always gives you MAJOR bonus points in my book. 

And not 3 months later, my parents arrived for their 3rd visit to see me, earning them what must be some kind of prize for visits to see your daughter who's deserted you for a foreign land. The problem with these visits is that they are always too short because I have to show them EVERYTHING AS FAST AS I CAN TO FIT IT ALL IN. So when people I love leave me I'm physically and emotionally spent. The greatest gift they give me is a better understanding of where I am and why I am and who I'm serving with, and so I have to show them pieces of it all. This time, my parents got to make their first trip to Lusaka, our capital city, with me, an experience they won't ever forget! We had to take Jonah for his review at the hospital (does it seem like I am ALWAYS taking Jonah for a review in Lusaka?? It sure does to me!), so they tagged along and got a glimpse into that whole side of my life few get to experience. It was nice to have another set of hands, but mainly just nice to have the best company ever on the long drives and long waits at the hospital. When we weren't in Lusaka, they could be found reading and rocking and swinging and singing to our gang. By this time, Suzy was living with me, and so they poured constant love and attention into our sweet Suz. Dad took every early morning feed, allowing me time to sleep a little later than usual, and mom covered the rest of the day! Words will never be enough for the gratitude I feel that my parents love those I love. 

And not two months after that, my Aunt Shelley and Uncle Dave arrived! (Just so you know, although my family is incredible, this many visits in one year is not the norm, though I wish it were!) Though they had never visited me before,  all of their kids have, so in ways they felt like they had seen this place already, just through other eyes and hearts. I absolutely love showing people I love the world I get to live in, so I loved every second of their visit. Seeing my life through others' eyes somehow reminds me of the beauty in it, the purpose in it. We spent hours and hours talking about life here, while I attempted to explain it in my own understanding. Our conversations were rich and important, and so were the games that accompanied them around the table at night. They spent their days entering into our world, and adding their own gifts to it. Uncle Dave is a big swimmer (actually nicknamed Swimmer Dave in our odd family), so we used his skills to start teaching some of our older ones to swim. He is also a great cook and baker, so we used that to our advantage as well! In this culture where women serve men and not the other way around, it was very funny to see a man cooking our food for us while we sat and played cards at night! He also painted and fixed things around here, while Aunt Shelley nurtured and rocked and accompanied me on clinic visits and all my daily tasks. They also got to be here when Suzy lived here, so they loved her well. Their visit was a treasure to me, and I can't wait until they can come again. 

When I started writing this post (almost a year ago!)I was just writing about that year of visitors (2015), but I could go back and back and back all the way to my first ever visitor in 2006. 

It all started with Katy in 2006

My parents in 2007

My brother Benny and cousins Luke and Betsy in 2008

My brother Benny, would be sister in law Courtney, cousins Betsy, Emily, and Rachel in 2009

Cousin Mary and would be cousin in law Thomas in 2009/2010
Sister in law Court and cousins Rachel and Emily in 2011

My parents in 2013

Cousins Emily and Rachel and David (and friends) in 2013

Cousin Emily in 2014

Anyway, as far as families go, mine is the best there ever was. They are what drove me to leave them actually, who drove this desire to help create family for those who don't have it. I'm blessed in countless ways, but I always put my fam at the top of my list.