Dear Friends and Family,
Consider this blog post your personal Christmas/New Years letter.
This day last year, we were in Dubai waiting for our next flight to come to Africa. Wow. Was that really a whole year ago? How do I summarize what this last year has meant to all of us? There has been so much growing, so much learning and many experiences to look back on.
Without sounding mushy and sentimental, let me just start off with a factual piece of information. So many of you have truly meant so much to us this past year. While living here in Zambia isn’t some scary wild place that some might imagine, it was still a huge change and adjustment from our life back home. While I can say with certainty that we are happy and immensely blessed, transitioning to our life here wasn’t always rosy. Somedays I felt discouraged and frustrated. Someone in this household might have had an “emotional breakdown” once or twice. Okay that might have been me–but that’s not the point. The point is that YOU (and I hope you all know who you are), through your love, prayers, communication, feedback, care packages and Christmas boxes, you have elated our spirits, made us feel loved and unforgotten, and have encouraged us so much more than you know. THANK YOU! We feel quite undeserved to have such amazing family and friends here and back home, but we praise God and treasure you all.
Since my last update, the Riverside Education department graduated it’s second class of the year with 34 students in areas of ministry, farming, and tailoring. During the ceremony, graduates enthusiastically shared how the education they received had impacted their lives. Some of the ladies exclaimed their joy that they were now trained tailors/designers and were proud that they were now equipped to support themselves. Evangelism students who came as former poachers and thieves, were now on fire to go share the Gospel to areas that have never been reached. The most mature student was 76 years old and took the agriculture training course. I actually teared up listening to this white-haired man share like an excited 10 year-old boy the things he had learned and the knowledge he wanted to share back home.
A few weeks ago, 47 local bible workers that we have posted in towns and remote villages across Zambia, returned to Riverside to share their experiences. One bible worker fell asleep resting by a church waiting on a contact she had been waiting on. When she woke up there was a snake in her face that crawled up her arm. A group of people were watching as they claim the nearby witch doctor bewitched her. She looked at the snake, called upon God outloud, and the snake drew back, crawled off and went away. This brought attention to the power of God in that moment and to the message she had to share.
The highlight of this whole year has been having my parents here for 3 weeks in December. We pretty much jam packed their stay with a big painting project, an amazing wildlife Safari, tour of Victoria Falls, shopping at local craft markets, outreach experiences and then about only 2 days of family downtime for Christmas right before they left.
While they were here, we adopted a family for Christmas whose father was in the hospital and in desperate need of food and clothes for their children. They lived far out in the bush beyond a small foot path that led to their little hut at the base of a mountain.
As we trail blazed toward their home with our landcuriser, the 5 year old boy ran away as fast as he could and hid in his hut. I don’t think he had ever seen a truck or white people before. His guardian pulled and pried him out while he was hysterically screaming and crying.
We were told he thought he was going to be killed (by us or the truck??). Poor boy. The terror in his eyes. Shayla gently approached him, offered him some cookies and a bright new ball. Eventually he calmed down and came near as I sized up clothes for the children and mom worked on the shoes. Food as simple as bananas, salt, oil, maize, potatoes and beans were a welcomed gift.
Then today, New Years eve, was ended with a little project I had been working on, made possible by my parents, the women’s ministry at their church in Athens, Texas, and a few munchkins here at home. Pictured below are 14 hand woven baskets filled with hand quilted baby blankets, baby clothes, baby care items, and some nutritional foods to aid postpartum moms to recovery (red beans and blackstrap molasses for it’s iron content).
These gift baskets will be given to our new moms that deliver at the clinic. We hope this little incentive (they LOVE free gifts!) will have them telling their friends back home about a positive delivery experience, and reduce the stigma of mothers delivering with professional monitoring and interventions if needed. Too many unattended deliveries at home end with fatal complications for mom and or baby. I’ll keep you posted how this project continues!
I keep thinking of more things to update you guys on, but it will have to wait for another post.
Happy New Years!