Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Friend Patrick

What a great experience that was totally random. Friday morning Mike and I woke up, as we were staying in Choma, and decided to go with Dan and Austin Gutwein out to some huts about 2km down out of town. They needed to do some video shoots for Hoops of Hope. While they were shooting, Mike and I decided to walk down the dirt road to see what we could “experience”. About one mile down this road, we came across 2 buildings that turned out to be different churchs… one that meets on Saturday and the other Sunday. While walking back from this we were being followed by a young man that was walking, and he was catching up to us quickly. When he came up to join us, we introduced ourselves and his name was Patrick. I asked him how many times he sees 2 white guys walking down the dirt road and he said, “Never”. What an appointment from God. Patrick is 22 years old and lives just over the train tracks from the churches. His father is a soldier in the Zambian army. He does not want to be a soldier, and would like to be an auto mechanic. Patrick has graduated high school and is waiting to get into school for mechanic this July. He does not have a wife or any children, but does have a girlfriend (one that he does not want to marry). I told him that was called a “kissing friend” in America. This he laughed at for some time. Patrick was walking into Choma (8km walk) to visit in ailing grandmother, and then see a couple of friends. He told us that he felt honored speaking with us and spending the time with us… awesome stuff!! It was at this time that I gave him my Diamondbacks hat, and told him that I was waiting for the right time to give it to a special person, and he was that person. We then took a picture, of which he wanted to wear my sunglasses during the photo. Great shot. One person I will not forget in the future. Honey – we will be finding Patrick on our return visit.

Zambian Children (Respect)

One of the amazing things about Zambia throughout the villages is the true respect from the children. If you are speaking with a family, the children are beyond interested but they stay about 15 feet away out of respect. I asked one of the care givers about if they are shy, and she said, “well sort of, they would join their friend, but they stand off out of respect of the conversation being had”. Children that are being raised mostly by single mother or no parents at all and there was a forum of respect that they carried with them. If you asked a group of kids to stand back from a picture or share one of the fruit snacks, they would listen right then and do what you said. I found this very interesting and quite pleasant about my experience there. Plus there are children everywhere!!! Over 50% of the population in Zambia is children and the average age is 38 yrs old.

Juniour Chimba

We met Juniour on Wednesday, Mar 18th. We visited his home with the care giver named, Joyce. Juniour is 10 yrs old, but looks 6 yrs old because of illness and malnutrition which stunts his growth. Juniour is orphaned (both of his parents have died from AIDS, his dad a while back around birth and his mother died of AIDS in 2004), and lives with his mothers parents (grandparents). Juniour has full blown AIDS and gets sick often, so he is only in 2nd Grade. Let me remind you, 10 yrs old and in 2nd grade!! You do the math. He spent 2 yrs in and out of the hospital and not in school. Mike and I quickly became touched by Juniour as we sat around in a circle to discuss the situation. Now imagine a group of adults (8 total) and Juniour sitting in a circle discussing his situation: 10 yrs old, has AIDS, been very sick and in hospital, mother died in 2004 and dad before that, orphaned and living with grandparents. All of this was being said in English but then also in Tanga, of which Juniour perfectly understands. I kept thinking to myself, what must this 10 yr old boy be thinking about this: who are these white guys, what do they want and why are we telling them my story… will they help me, will they take this disease away from me, will they “bless” my family, will they “take” something, what can I possibly give them, I miss my mother, do they have mothers and kids, what would it be like to have them as my dad. I could go on and on, and this I could not get out of my mind that night, as I woke up around 2:30am thinking about this day. Mike then got up after talking some time and told Juniour that we had a gift for him, going into his backpack and pulling out a soccer ball! I was looking at Juniour’s face when Mike did this and as soon as Juniour saw the ball, he smiled from ear to ear and yelled, “ball, ball!!” It was truly an amazing sight for a $6 soccer ball, one that I will not forget. All of Juniour’s friends (about 12 and growing by the minute) were standing 10 yards away taking everything in that was going on. Imagine the perception of AIDS now, Juniour is being visited by white people (mzungu = rich white people) and being presented gifts. AIDS does not look like it did 10 yrs ago now. After the soccer ball came handing out fruit snacks to all of the kids in the village area, they were very hesitant at first, but Mike and I would open a pack and eat them, so they then were very interested. This is also a precious sight to get on your knees and hand something of little value to us and light up their world. It is truly awe inspiring, and I would recommend this to anyone. We then went down and visited their garden, of which they have awesome gardens where they grow what they eat. So bad harvest, no food… can you even imagine that. NO WE CAN NOT. Needless to say that Juniour will be in Mike and my hearts for some time, and the Priest family also got to select Juniour as a sponsored child through World Vision right there on the spot. Cool stuff.

Home by River / Bridge

There was a home by the bridge that was washed out that needs some explanation. First thing you must know is that Africa is very clean, and I believe they take pride in appearances. They are also dressed nice and their land and homes are also very clean and picked up. But in this home property there was a home where they slept, a hut where they had the kitchen, some sitting place under a beautiful tree, a garden that my wife and brother in law would be very jealous of and pins for chickens and goats. They seriously live off the land. They rely on the land and God to provide food for them. I can truly say that I found myself jealous of this situation, of which you may find offensive or confusing, which I don’t intend to do just sharing what was on my heart. I find myself relying on me for food, shelter and fine things in the states… that it is me that “provides” for my family. I became jealous of another way, that is all. There was no satellite dish, internet connection, phone ringing, playstation playing, just a family enjoying each others company. I get a feeling that because of the solace in this place they hear God, and that they become very good listeners to everything. Something that I know I am lacking and would love to wrap my arms around.

River Knocks Bridge Out

As we were traveling to visit the Chief in the area, we came up on a bridge that had been washed out by a river that was overrun by rain water. So we parked the truck and got out to realize that a bunch of people had showed up to this bridge to observe what was happening and take it in. There were about 15 kids that I could not stay away from, so I grabbed my video camera and started to film them. I have a video camera that has a small screen that folds out from the side and then you can turn that around so the person can see what is being filmed. Now this was a HUGE hit with the kids. They loved seeing themselves and their friends on camera and what starts as being very shy and timid about what this white man wants, turns to smiles and joy when they see their faces. I have also taught the universal greeting on the “Nugs” and “Fist pound”, as they all are quick to join in on that act. Honey – I have also shown them how to explode the fist pound, like our friend Jesse. This was widely accepted and enjoyed by the kids. I just had a blast for about 45 minutes talking and playing with these kids. Amazing stuff.

The Borrowed Bible

There was the instance of the “borrowed Bible”. When I sat next to the preacher and after we were finished singing the hymns, we got into the devotions and looked up some verses. In front of my was a Bible written in the native language of Tonga, which I was interested in following along in that language since he was reading it in English. The preacher reached down and said, “this is in Tonga” and gave me the Bible of the gentlemen to my left, named Nicolas. I opened Nicolas’ Bible to the passage and what I quickly realized was that almost every verse in the WHOLE Bible was highlighted yellow, pink or there were ink underlines, circles and words throughout. This must make God so happy to have a Bible that has been studied throughout. I can truly say that this was the most humble I had felt in some time. My Bible has “some” highlights, but come on, lets be real… I just got taught a huge lesson. Get in the word American and study what it says, and believe it!!! Little does Nicolas know what was shown to me that morning, as he must think what he could offer this American who came to visit them. I will take that memory back with me and do something eternal with it, and I also am sharing that with you all in hopes that Nicolas’ borrowed Bible moves us in our faith with Jesus Christ.

Best Experiences of My Life

This day would rank as one of the best in my lifetime, and I say that for many reasons. Some of which would be impossible to write in English words, as I find myself struggling with expressing what I feel and what God has laided on my heart. The day started with breakfast and devotions with the guys I am here with, which I really enjoy since the men on this trip (Dan Gutwein, Mike Priest, Dan Roberts, Doug Fougnies and Dana (from World Vision) are all guys that I have gained a lot of respect for and proud to spend time with). We then traveled to the Sinazongwae ADP (Area Development Project) that World Vision runs in the community. We were to have devotional time with the staff from the ADP, of which had already started when we arrived. Now this was crazy… I walk in to a group of 10 Zambians singing the hymn “How Great Thou Art”. Now I remember singing hymns when I was young at our church, and I did not enjoy hymns at all!! But this was moving… I started singing as soon as I walked in and it truly felt like I belong amongst them. I chose a seat next to one of them, so I could introduce myself and get to know one more person. Little did I know that I sat next to the Reverend who was going to teach the devotional that morning, and boy did he ever preach. This was one of the most moving messages I had ever heard (no offense Cal, but this guy was good). He spoke about positive thinking and believing that certain things would happen and ask God because by God they will come true. He used the passage in 1 Samuel 16 about King David going against Goliath and how Goliath had a spear, sword and shield and King David went against him with God Almighty. David was not afraid since God had delivered him from Lions and Bears and now He would deliver him from this Philisitine (Goliath). It made me want to get up and conquer the day which we started on when he was done. I could have listened to this preacher for hours, as he was very passionate and charismatic. They rest of the day I will blog with each specific event.

Travel Stories (to Sinazongwea)

Well today was a travel day from Livingstone to Choma and then we went to Sinazongwea. The most interesting part of the trip was on the way to Sinazongwea, it was absolutely raining like crazy all week but the last 2 hours while on the road to Sinazongwea it was pouring. We turned on a road to go into town and there was a stretch of road about ½ km long that was nothing but mud and puddles. There was a large truck attempting to go through the road and of course it got stuck in front of us. Right in the middle of the road so there was no real chance for us to go around the truck. But our driver felt like we could go around so he attempted on the left side. As Dan Roberts and Mike Priest were telling the driver there was no way we would make it the driver continued and slid right into the ditch on the left side. Stuck was our van. At first we were frustrated, but then a group of men and kids showed up to check out the scene. And they continued to show up. Now you must understand that it was raining like crazy and all of these people are soaking wet with no shoes and one layer of clothes (typically a torn shirt and pair of shorts, occasionally they will have some sort of flip flops.) As we found out later, these were most likely there only set of clothes. I took the chance and got out of the car and started to video and take digital pictures of the kids and some of the young adults on my camera, what they loved the most was showing them their picture on the camera. I also took video of the kids and then played it back to them. They loved talking about their friends on the video as they were shown. Their smiles and expressions are something that I pray I do not forget. So here is this frustrating event (to silly Americans) that turns out to be an EXPERIENCE. I remember getting back into the van and realizing that God just showed me how he goes to work… every single minute of the day. We also needed a large tractor to pull us out and that would not have been available if that truck did not get stuck in front of us first, because it was that truck that radioed for the tractor. God definitely showed up before us to show that He is in control and we must rely on giving that up to Him. Lets face it, He gets it done.

Journey Begins

We have finally arrived in Lusaka, Zambia after 40hrs of travel. To say that I am worn out would be an understatement. Mike Priest and I are finally in our room and trying to get situated. Question, why cant all of the plugs be the same. South Africa had some weird electrical plug and now the Zambia plug is different then that one. Funny stuff. We are staying in a nice hotel even for the United States. Dan says that it is the nicest hotel in Lusaka. We have met the guys that will be traveling with us throughout the country the next week. Victor is the name of the leader, and Chanda is the name of our driver. They both are very nice and polite and seem really excited to show us their country and that we are here to hang out with them.
All of the preparation for this trip has ended, and the journey is about to begin tomorrow morning. We are 9 hrs ahead of AZ time, which makes it really fun (I feel like it is 10pm at night, but it is the middle of the day here.) it is currently 4pm, and the nights plan is… skype the family when I get the internet working, shower, nap, dinner, then fall asleep to prepare for our day tomorrow.