Kellers in Africa

our life in Zambia

Is Ian okay? What Just Happened???

Well, we are still figuring that out ourselves. And it isn’t over yet, but it is past time for me to acknowledge God’s amazing grace and provision…. And put together some kind of update before my mother stops speaking to me. That’s right. This has all happened so quickly and intensely that some of our family is still trying to figure out what is going on. (Sorry Mom!!)

The feeding tube made a huge difference

 

We have received so much support, many questions, and a variety of potential solutions from everyone who has been praying for us. We read and appreciated every single message- and replied to very few. (Blame stress?) But the encouragement meant So Much. In the interest of answering a broad swathe of questions, I am making this quite detailed. Please feel free to comment or message me if you have something to add!

Ian was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on July 26th. He was full term and did not have the potential abdominal complication that was a concern throughout the pregnancy. We will never know if it was bad radiology or God’s healing… Either way we are just so thankful. I know a lot of people were praying and let me tell you- we felt it. (So no, this issue is not related to the pregnancy concerns. Ian is just working on his Prayer Baby merit badge!!)

  

“I finally have my own brother.” And that is how Freddy sees Ian: HIS brother! :P

 

After his birth we waited in South Africa just long enough for his travel documentation and returned to Zambia. Everything seemed to be going well. He was an interactive, perky little boy. He had a love/fear relationship with his siblings. He fed regularly, hated baths, and had an infatuation with 2am. Normal baby. Except that he wasn’t growing. We kept coming up with reasons like “It has been crazy hot, he is sweating out all his fluids” or “He is just a long, skinny, noodle baby.” However, people stopped saying “what a cute, tiny baby” and instead gave us scared looks when they heard his age. We knew it was time to see a doctor. So why hadn’t we taken him in? Well…. The problem was: in where? I was pretty sure it was a calorie problem but realized he needed to have some blood work done. And if there is one thing you don’t rely on in Zambia it is the lab work and the diagnostic ability of the doctors in the hospitals. Since Timothy needed to go back to South Africa anyway to get 4×4 kit done for the newly purchased field truck, we decided to go as a family and get a check up for Ian. From that point our entire life revolved around feeding him. We encouraged him to eat every 2 hours. I ate more calories and drank buckets of water. We were convinced that by the time we reached Cape Town he would pick up weight and we would feel like fools for worrying too much and feeding too little. (Why I thought that when we were feeding him every 2 hours…. Hey sleep deprivation is a dangerous thing!)

I didn’t know a pediatrician in Cape Town so I asked our friends Charl & Sonja if they could recommend one. I booked an appointment for the day after we arrived. We walked into the doctor’s office unsure of what to expect. Mostly I thought that I was going to get seriously told off for underfeeding him (naive much??) When the doctor saw us he was very kind and very thorough. Upon examination he told us that Ian weighed 7lbs 8oz. At 15 weeks of age. From that point on, our world started spinning at a whole new, horrible angle. We were whisked off to the lab for tests. I was referred to (a completely amazing) dietician who specializes in infants and breastfeeding. We spent most of that week talking to doctors, getting lab work done, and waiting. The biggest concern was determining if he has a genetic/metabolic disease. Apparently those can progress rapidly and cause permanent brain damage due to nutrient issues. Because he was feeding well and often but not growing this was a very real possibility.

 

3 months old- beginning to look physically wasted. His bones were so TINY.

 

By the end of the week (the longest week in my life) nothing conclusive had been found. In a last ditch effort to find a reasonable diagnosis (before all the scary genetic testing) the two doctors that were helping us decided to put in a feeding tube (breastmilk supplementaion plus extra nutrients). It was an experiment attempting to narrow down the possibilities. To everyone’s astonishment, Ian immediately started to gain weight- at an incredible rate. The doctors put him on a heavy feeding plan and began trying to work out what was causing the problem. Unfortunately, without a lot of testing- most of which is invasive and expensive- they couldn’t come up with anything definitive. After a few more referrals the best all around idea was to go in for corrective oral surgery and release his tongue tie. It was a small tie- really too small to worry about. But it was the only simple solution available. We had the weekend to weigh the pros and cons, deciding whether or not it was in the best interest of our drastically underweight baby to anesthetize him and start cutting up his tongue. We got advice from a lot of people and finally decided to go ahead with the surgery.

 

a very nervous and worried Daddy

 

That made Tuesday the longest day in my life. Ian wasn’t allowed food after 2am. You can imagine how that went down! Checking him in and handing him over to the surgeon was the hardest thing I have ever done. The relief when they brought him out was intense and helping him cope as he surfaced from the anesthesia and became aware of the pain…. agony. The whole situation is something I hope never to repeat. His extremely low weight and emaciated state made every moment of that surgery and recovery absolutely terrifying.

Amazing how quickly they recover – mama is still traumatized!!!

 

We had follow ups the next day and all looked well enough. They left the feeding tube in as we can’t risk him losing any weight in recovery.

Complicating the situation, our visas were due to expire within the week. Ian had the surgery Tuesday, follow up appointments on Wednesday, and we headed north on Thursday! We stayed just inside the country (with the Le Roux family- some amazing people!) until our last day on the visa. Then the long road home.

As of this writing I would say that Ian has made a good recovery from surgery and it is just too early to say if this is the solution or not. We chose not to stay in South Africa on a medical visa because Ian would just be fed and monitored for a few weeks anyway. We might as well do that from home. If (please Lord no) this is not the solution…. We move on to the genetic testing. That would be expensive, potentially invasive, and none of the options are nice at all.

In the 5 weeks following his surgery he gained another pound. We are extremely grateful for that growth! It is a very good sign! As of today Ian is up to 9lbs 6oz!

 

He hates the feeding tube. HATES it.

 

We want to thank so many people-

The amazing doctors and dietician who have helped us so much

The van Wyk family for giving up a whole week to watch our other kids while we went in and out of hospital

The families who put us up with all our kids in tow

The many people who encouraged, prayed for, and supported us through this

God’s amazing grace, without which my brain would have stopped functioning from stress weeks ago.

 

 

FAQs:

Does he need to go on a special formula?

– No, at this point they are still figuring out if he has a metabolic problem. The supplementer tube with breastmilk worked well and eventually we were able to switch to bottle supplementation of breastmilk. Pumping and feeding is extremely draining… but it is the best solution for him right now.

Will you be bringing him to the USA?

– No, we are very, very happy with the doctors who are helping us in South Africa. At this point there is nothing else that can be done. It is wait, watch, and feed for a while.

Have you done any genetic testing?

– Yes. We had the most common/best fitting tests run. They came back negative. He doesn’t have enough symptoms to justify the cost of any further genetic tests at this time. The doctors have advised that until/unless he develops more symptoms, it would be like shooting in the dark.

Is there anything you need?

– Yes. Lots of prayer. We received financial help with the surgery expenses and that was a huge blessing. If we are able to do any of the blood tests here in Zambia it will be very costly… but cheaper than flying to Cape Town. We will have to see how that works out. But the main thing is definitely prayer for strength and growth and health.

Is his development on track?

– Yes. He is a bit behind in some areas.. and ahead in others. Pretty much a normal baby (which is very good!!)

IMG_3104

I might be skinny, but I have big plans!

 

Please feel free to comment or message me! We have been SO BLESSED with all the prayers and support!

 

Africa is just like America. Except when it isn’t.

“What’s it like, raising kids in Africa?” is naturally one of the questions we get asked quite often. Sadly, because we live in a town I can’t report anything truly interesting.

I feel like I am going to disappoint you, but I have to admit that there are no lions lurking outside our gate. We have no need for elephant-proof fences, and none of the “native” neighbors want to eat us for dinner. It’s a real drag. 😉

The scariest things in my yard. For sure.  (If you don't count the cobras.)

The scariest things in my yard. For sure.
(If you don’t count the cobras.)

In many ways, raising kids in Africa is no different than raising them in the USA, France, the North Pole, or anywhere else.

I am a mom- I cook, teach my kids, clean up spilled milk, and kiss boo-boo’s with the rest of you. I make a mean cheesecake and burn eggs on a regular basis. (I know- some things just defy reason.) I fall asleep planning the next day out and wake up ready to attack piles of laundry, home work, and whatever scary creatures get dragged in from the garden. I also lost my mind some time ago. Just ask my kids, they’ll tell you.

Truth

Truth

In many ways my life is no different living in a small town in Zambia than it would be if I lived in the USA.

Welcome to suburbia!

… sort of.

Beans? No? How about some dried caterpillars, then? Welcome to grocery shopping Africa-style! photo by Mary Jo Keller

Beans? No? How about some dried caterpillars, then? Welcome to grocery shopping Africa-style!
photo by Mary Jo Keller

I mean, it’s not exactly the same. There are times when I think over the day (or week… or month…) and think, “WOW. I am not even sure how to explain what happened today,” and the best summary is perhaps, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!”

I have some pretty interesting reasons to take kids to the doctor for check-ups. Earlier this week Freddy had to go in because we were getting concerned that he might have worms in his eyes. Yeah, you read that right. WORMS in his eyes. Even I thought we might be over-reacting on this one. Fortunately the doctor here in town is amazing and made a full examination. He quelled my fears that we might be overreacting. After all, eye worms are a big problem here. (AHHHHHH!!!) I am happy to report that Frederick’s eyes are worm-free. At least for now. Let’s face it: this is Africa.

Insects and creepy creatures take life to a whole new level. You already know about mosquitoes and malaria, but in Zambia we also have the pleasure of hosting the tetse fly (carries sleeping sickness which is horrific and deadly) and the putze fly. That one won’t kill you. It will just lay eggs in your wet clothing. When the eggs hatch the larvae burrow into your body and leave massive, festering welts. But just until they turn into adult flies and come crawling out again. (Can you hear me screaming from there?) Hey, the guys that made Alien had to get their inspiration from somewhere. Oh don’t forget our Disease of the Year winner. Ebola is SO last year. This winter “elephantiasis” made it’s way to the top of the media ladder here in Zambia. It’s a parasite that infects your lymph glands and causes extreme and painful swelling of the limbs and groin. Lovely.

When we plan a trip with the kids we probably make slightly different considerations than the average family- we have to take into account the seasonal rains (can we even get down the roads at that time of year?), the diseases (you do NOT want to camp in a tetse fly zone if you can avoid it!), the locals (I said our neighbors here in town don’t want to eat us), and the wildlife (Africa!). Not to mention the fuel shortages, water availability, crocodile presence, road conditions, etc.

“Keeping the home” is a bit different too. We are waging a war on ants right now. A WAR. Have you seen the size of African ants?? Some species will eat babies. I am not even kidding. You can’t give them an inch. Unfortunately they have decided they like our house and have no plans of leaving. I have tried everything that is not forbidden by the Geneva Convention and I STILL find them in the sink, on the counter, and in the fridge!! It’s to the point that if baby Ian cries we go running to make sure the ants haven’t decided that he is on the menu (Africa!) Seriously, these things MUST go! (Just to make you feel better, the current invasion is definitely on the “give me sugar or give me death” diet- not interested in Ian. Unless he has sugar.)

My daily chore list is circa 1900: bake bread, make cheese, check garden, etc. I kinda enjoy being Susie Home-maker so I am not complaining. But I wouldn’t mind having a Chipotle around the corner. Just sayin’. 😉

What IS that?? I don't know. Just drink the milk and don't think about it!!

What IS that?? I don’t know. Just drink the milk and don’t think about it!!

We are facing a new challenge this year: “Load shedding”. It is a kind of rationing for electricity. Between crumbling infrastructure due to poor management (Africa!) and several years of severe drought, Kariba Dam is facing a disastrously low water level. This means the country has very little electricity to go around. On the current “load shedding” plan the power can be off for 8-12 hours a day!

I could go on and talk about which villages we can take kids to and which we can’t, the parasites that crawl out of the mud in rainy season, or the rabid dogs that trot through our neighborhood…. but I feel like that would just highlight our differences.

I prefer to focus on our similarities.

Is there anything you ever wondered about life in Africa?

Where the Rubber Meets the… Runway

After a very busy two months in the States we traveled back to Zambia on January 12th. We had separate itineraries flying back to Zambia (because we had to travel separately to the USA). And let me tell you, traveling while 11 weeks pregnant with a 5 year old and 2 year old is a WHOLE different game!! Baby 4 was NOT fond of landings. (very thankful for flight sickness bags and very kind flight attendants). We had a one hour layover in Dubai and only made it because I basically had a mental breakdown and told the stewardess I could NOT NOT NOT miss the flight.  :) I must have looked desperate enough because we got a private shuttle directly to our connection… which was waiting for us! Sadly, 3 of our bags did not make it and were delayed 48 hours. Timothy and Monica traveled well on their route and arrived ready to help a very tired mama and two SPENT little kiddos. Our bags turned up several days later… one of them, sadly, was pillaged. We didn’t lose anything “life ending” but it was a frustrating experience nonetheless.

Tip for traveling "long hauls" with small children: sleep when they sleep!!

Tip for traveling “long hauls” with small children: sleep when they sleep!!

Once we got home, unpacked, and got over jet lag we got back to work. As it always happens with a long absence we found that both cars needed some maintenance, some house issues had come up, and a whole bunch of paperwork was due at about 12 different government offices around town… and around Lusaka (2 hours away). America has NOTHING over Zambia when it comes to a love of bureaucracy!! Timothy was thrilled when all that got sorted out and he could get back to teaching and working with teachers from the local schools. He had several extensive trips planned in various areas of Zambia. He couldn’t have been more excited- the man was born for Africa!

Shortly before his first, big outreach we heard that his mom in Arizona was “failing fast”. Within 6 hours she was on a ventilator. We have been prepared for this news for a while so we immediately booked a plane ticket for Tim to go back to America and say good bye.  Sadly she passed away before he could even get on the plane. We were happy for her that her suffering ended… but it was very difficult for Timothy.

Happy wedding memories, 2007

Happy wedding memories, 2007

Cheering Grandma through cancer, 2013

Cheering Grandma through cancer, 2013

Another series of plane trips, another round of jet lag, an emotionally exhausting first week back in the USA with funeral arrangements, family reunions (somehow it’s always at funerals, isn’t it?) and wrapping up his mom’s life. He was asked to give the message and eulogy at the funeral which was both an honor and a very difficult task. Now he and his siblings are closing the final pages of their mom’s life and spending a few days together before they all go back to their separate lives.

Timothy will be in the States for another week or so, finishing some ministry issues that we weren’t able to complete last year. Please continue to keep him in your prayers as this has been a difficult time for him. His heart is in Africa with his work and his family. His body is in America….

The kids and I are “holding down the fort” and keeping each other distracted while we wait for Tim to come home. I am thankful for them… never a dull moment, I can tell you!

Another prayer request is for funds for a replacement field vehicle. While we knew it was at the end of “bundu-bashing” trips into remote areas, we didn’t realize the extent of the wear and tear on our Toyota Surf until we got home and Tim started overhauling it for some of his “tamer” trips. It still has a little life left for basic road journeys, but it really is no longer strong enough or reliable enough to take out to the field. This puts a major hamper on the work he does in remote areas.  Thanks for your prayers!!

On the road again... I just can't wait to be on the road again.....

On the road again… I just can’t wait to be on the road again…..

What is it like to be a single mom in Africa?

For many African girls, motherhood begins when their childhood is destroyed... and that happens all too often at a very young age.

For many African girls, motherhood begins when their childhood is destroyed… and that happens all too often at a very young age.

 

In a certain sense, single moms in Zambia are similar to their American counterparts.  They work, they do the best for their kids, they worry about the future, and they get very little sleep.  However, there are some very real, very sobering differences.  Most single moms in America don’t have to decide between prostitution and starvation.  In America there are a lot of social programs, after school care options, and subsidies available to help make ends meet.

In Africa, the choices are much, MUCH more limited.

Follow me to the ITMI blog and meet Rachel, a single mom and amazing lady…….

 

A Typical Yet Exceptional Story

 

 

 

Ebola: Uncensored

Warning: Contains extreme snark.

 

This post is motivated by my continuing frustration with the worldwide (and maybe particularly the American) media.  They report what “sells papers” in a way that makes you…. want to buy more papers.  Or read more or watch more or buy more…………. You get the idea.

After several kind and concerned inquiries, it has come to our attention that we should clear up a matter of concern:

No, we do not have ebola.

No, we will not bring it with us on the plane and release it on the innocent and unsuspecting public.

First of all, we are thousands of miles away from the “ebola nations”.  Zambia sees little to no traffic from there.  Actually, most of Europe is closer to Liberia than we are!

Two African countries have beaten the virus and have been officially declared Disease Free through stringent international protocols.

Very interesting to contemplate:

#1: WHO and the CDC have not released either the stat report of deaths that coincided with HIV+ patients,­ or the ages of the persons who died.  (And if any of you can find that information for me, I would be extremely grateful- I have tried!) While ebola would obviously still be the “cause of death” it would be very significant, especially from a containment and treatment standpoint, to know how many of the afflicted/fatalities fall into these extreme risk categories.

#2: while the media is getting a total joy ride out of fear mongering the public, the WHO and the CDC have realized that the threat of infection is extremely SMALL.  Think I’m lying?  Go check the US State Department Travel alerts!  These are probably the most stringent and paranoid alerts in the world.  Traveling to Liberia?  Don’t plan on touching any dead bodies?  Your threat level today will be: LOW.  No joke.  You should look it up.  Even I was surprised.  Now, I’m not exactly signing up for a cruise off the West African Coast any time soon… but it did allay my fears that “we’re all gonna die!” 😛

 

This is WHO's official release that goes along with international standards of infectious diseases and how they spread.

This is WHO’s official release that goes along with international standards of infectious diseases and how they spread.

 

The “takeaway”?

Some people are getting sick- really, REALLY sick.  Some people are dying.  Let’s join together to pray for the brave men and women who are risking their lives to physically serve those afflicted with ebola.  THAT is a grave health risk and the ultimate act of selfless service.  Let’s pray for the families who are left behind after the death of a loved one.

 

Sometimes God gives us incredible opportunities to serve others- serve Him in amazing ways.  Pray for those you have responded to the call to serve the dying in West Africa.

Sometimes God gives us incredible opportunities to serve others- serve Him- in amazing ways. Pray for those who have responded to the call to serve the dying in West Africa.

 

And when I come to the US next month, you don’t need to go into hiding, run in fear, or secretly bathe in hand sanitizer.  In fact… you might want to save that for your European friends.  They are much, much closer to Liberia than I am!

 

 

 

 

3 Crazy Reasons to Love Africa

“You, WHAT?!” Imagine the stunned look on the face of my fellow missionary mom, as I replied,

“Yeah.  I really love it here.  I mean it.  This is home.”

Long, incredulous pause……………………………………………………….

We went on to discuss things we missed like family, quality chocolate, Amazon.com, and Costco.  But it was one of those defining moments for me.  I realized that somewhere in the last few years I transitioned from thinking of Zambia as where I am “stationed for now” or “where I live” to truly feeling like it’s my home.

 

"Home is where your heart is"  That's complicated when your heart is split over many places.  But it's true all the same.

“Home is where your heart is,”
a complicated concept when your heart is split over many places. But it’s true all the same.

As I contemplated this unexpected development, I discovered three utterly insane reasons to love this wild, backwards continent.

1) It’s exotic.  I mean, let’s face it, do YOU get to go see wild zebras, spy on rhinos, or walk rehab cheetahs on YOUR vacations??  Didn’t think so.

We are surrounded by different cultures.  There are dozens of languages whirling around our lives daily.  Some men working outside are speaking Bemba.  A friend in the other room is on the phone speaking Nyanja.  My kids are outside in the yard and their friends are screaming at them in Afrikaans.  The English accent they are most acquainted with outside our house is, well… English.  Like the original one from England.  Exotic people from exotic places are part of our every day lives.  I LOVE it.  I never know who is coming to get-togethers or what interesting food they will bring.  Amazing people from far-off places just drop in to have tea.

Of course… “exotic” has a dark side.  We try all kinds of food that, frankly, we’d rather not (dried, fermented, fried fish, anyone?)  The diseases here are also exotic.  We just had a family encounter with Amoebic Dysentery.  For Tim this was on the tail of a years-long round with Chronic Giardia.  We sleep under nets faithfully to avoid mosquitoes and the malaria parasites they carry.  Some kinds of exotic… I could live without.

photo from www.zambia-advisor.com

Don’t even ask

 

2) It’s beautiful.  I know, I know-  Niagara Falls is beautiful too.  So is the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, and the mountains behind my parents’ house.  They are.  I love visiting all of those places.  But I find Africa absolutely captivating.  Every evening God paints a stunning, unique watercolor sunset with colors you would never expect- bright purple, dusky pink, and green.  They span over fields of maize, giant anthills, and tall, branching flamboyant trees.

The people here work hard to create beauty.  When you can’t run into a store to buy wall art or rugs, even the simplest object can create beauty.  Squatting inside a hut to avoid the rain, an old lady will peel carrots and glance at the one picture she has of her son, taken many years before when he finished school.  It’s badly faded and the edges are worn from the many times she’s caressed it, but she would never consider taking it down.  For one, it’s the only picture she has.  More importantly, it’s a beautiful expression of what she cares about most- her now grown boy.

The beauty comes with savagery, poverty, filth, and a lot of hard work.  But it’s there.  And it’s incredible.

 

The love of a grandma

The love of a grandma

3) It’s a free country.  No I haven’t gone crazy.  Yeah, there are all kinds of weird rules here and permits or fines for a lot of things, but I have come to the realization that it is NOTHING compared to the Western World.  I home school my kids.  Nobody cares.  I grow whatever trees I want in my yard.  Nobody cares.  I have 2 dogs, a cat, and I’m about to have chickens.  Nobody cares.  We built an addition to our house and Tim’s wiring it himself… yep.  Nobody cares.  Now, this is not limitless… there are LOTS of rules here.  Just not as many as a lot of other places!!

 

I don’t think Africa is actually better than anywhere else.  I’m a “have suitcase, will travel” kinda girl so I’d pick up and shift for an Australian experience or a sabbatical in South America.  I’d love nothing more than a fieldtrip to Russia, roadtrip through Canada, or backpack through the Andes.  But for now, this is my home.  And I love it here.

 

I'm so thankful that our kids love it here too

I’m so thankful that our kids love it here too

 

Amoebas

For years my tummy felt splendid-

But from bad water, it up-ended.

I spent a week in bed;

I thought I was dead.

Amoebas have come, and I’m bested.

 

Still I can really eat nothing.

Broth is no longer enticing.

I’m still in my bed.

So bored I feel dead.

All I really want is some ice cream!!!

amoebas

an original limerick by Ashley Keller (who is operating under the influence of bowel-enforced house arrest)

 

 

 

 

Give me liberty or give me a handout!

TKK_7680Yesterday was “Africa Freedom Day” in Zambia.  Some of our holidays here are nebulous at best (Youth Day and Unity Day are at the top of my ???? list).  But I actually like this one.  I’ll admit there’s a side of me that does a real eye-roll, though.  After living in Africa for 8 years I can tell you that there is still a LOT of work to be done before real freedom is achieved, especially in the political, police, and military corruption sectors.  That being said…. Zambians have come a long way since achieving their independence from Britain in 1964.

First accolades would have to go to LOCAL GOVERNMENT.  They are no longer ruled by a foreign power in an entirely different hemisphere.  While I appreciate a lot of what Britain did with infrastructure and development in Zambia, I do not believe that you can understand a country and her people from thousands of miles away.  The Zambians really own their government now.  They have taken control of their country and they truly want to be a great and prosperous people.  (Unfortunately, many of the government officials have zeroed in on the “prosperous” bit…).

More freedom and poorer education.  The plight of Zambians in 2014.

More freedom and poorer education. The plight of Zambians in 2014.

I also love how Zambia as a country is working to empower women.  This is still a very real issue in Africa.  Women are grossly under-educated and badly mistreated.  I can tell you from personal experience that the average grade achievement for women is grade 7 in the towns and grade 3- THREE- in the rural areas.  And this is African grades 7 & 3, not equivalent to what we see in Westernized nations.  In the bush women are still chattel, sexual merchandise, and slave labor.  I love that Zambia has so many programs to improve the lives of her women.

But I think it would be a mistake to spend the day celebrating Africa’s “Freedom” without contemplating a few things that have gone wrong- and I mean really, really WRONG since Zambia’s independence nearly 50 years ago.

Dependence- While the theme of the holiday might be liberty, the unofficial motto of the government is something like “Trust in me…. only me……”  Political candidates here secure votes by passing out mealie meal (grain for porridge) and promising schools, houses, cars, etc to people in poorer districts.  The medical clinics and government schools are free to extremely cheap.  The care and instruction are less than abysmal but most of the local people don’t know any better and the officials take great care to make sure everyone feels privileged to receive anything at all.  The maize prices are set at a rate that keeps the farmers at a subsistence level (which means they need government loans and subsidies every year) and gives the people cheap staples.  This perpetuates dependency because there is fear of independent farming and selling- the “cheap maize” would go away.  Zambians depend almost entirely on their government for food, education, and care.  They have few options since they are not taught to seek anything else.

Education- I have noticed that many of the older Zambians can read and write in 2 or 3 languages.  They achieved British equivalent certificates in school and could have transferred to British or European universities.  That is no longer possible.  I know a guy here who nearly finished his degree in architecture and wanted to transfer to a university in the UK.  He barely, BARELY passed the entrance exam for Year 1 at a British university.  He was shocked and dismayed at these results.  Then he started the course and was utterly horrified.  The uni was generous to let him in at all.  The education he received in Africa was woefully deficient.

The clinics lack the most basic first aid supplies, have serious structural problems, and often do not have trained or experienced staff available to see the patients.  The situation is dire.

The clinics lack the most basic first aid supplies, have serious structural problems, and often do not have trained or experienced staff available to see the patients. The situation is dire.

Corruption- there is no longer a strong system of accountability for the Zambian government officials.  No “checks and balances”.  No auditing.  Nothing to stop those with power from exploiting those beneath them.  It’s bad.  You can’t get anything done without “making a contribution toward expenses” or “helping” things along.  We don’t participate in that method which means our applications and permits move a lot slower than if we “helped” the department out.

Medical care- look this up online and you will find a wide array of opinions.  Sure, there are more rural clinics.  But believe me when I say that for the most part they do more harm than good.  The hospitals are FILTHY.  I was privileged to save a baby at a local hospital… he nearly died of dehydration from diarrhea.  They refused to put in an iv.  Best I can figure, the mom couldn’t afford the “fee” (bribe) required by someone on the hospital paperwork chain.  The medical situation is BAD.

Africa Freedom Day.  There is indeed more freedom.  But it came at a very real cost to the generations that followed.  Zambia’s hope lies in God’s grace and in the determination of her people to keep going and their ability to look on the bright side.

Thank you, God, for the freedom that you’ve brought to Zambia.  Thank you that you have brought them closer to “a hope and a future”.  Please guide these amazing people into your embrace- into a walk that honors you and in turn creates a culture of Christ, a culture of humility, honesty, and hope.

TKK_7385

 

Grow Carrots They Said…

It’s easy they said!

Before I tell you my sad tale, there’s something you should know about Africa.  Everything is bigger here.  The trees are bigger.  The animals are bigger.  The insects are bigger.  Everything that can be bigger IS.

Then there’s something you should know about me. I can’t grow anything. At all. Horticulture hates me. Bring me the vegetables and I’ll give you an entree that Jamie Oliver wouldn’t turn down. Bring me the plant and it will shrivel on the way in the door, begging for mercy all the way.

In case you thought I was exaggerating.

In case you thought I was exaggerating.

However, I firmly believe “nothing ventured, nothing gained” and this last year I determined to conquer my nemesis: the vegetable garden. After talking to a variety of home gardeners I found a general consensus: Carrots. Anyone can grow carrots. After considering the fact that preschoolers even grow carrots from carrot tops, I decided even I could not screw this up. I sallied forth with seeds: carrot, onion, and cauliflower (because I am a masochist at heart). I cleared, mulched, and tenderly planted those tiny seeds in the soil. I’ll confess that I was skeptical. After decades of failure (my preschool carrot didn’t survive the week) could I hope to see those seeds germinate? Survive??  Produce some FOOD?!

While I waited to see if Tim’s fond epithet “the Minus Touch” might be overcome with a little care and patience, Monica planted some flowers. Apparently the plant kingdom does not hold one’s unfortunate genes against them.

white fluffy flowers and pink puffy flowers. I am such a horticulturist. Ok, Monica grew these.  I had nothing to do with it.

white fluffy flowers and pink puffy flowers.
I am such a horticulturist.
Ok, Monica grew these. I had nothing to do with it.

With time, water, and sunshine my carrots did grow.  And much to my surprise they actually looked… great.  Lacey green fans promising a juicy, crisp harvest before long.  As the carrot tops began to expand I decided to take a little sneak peek at my gardening victory.

Frankenstein's salad.

Frankenstein’s salad.

Apparently the nematodes are bigger in Africa is well.

Freakiest carrot I have ever seen and apparently NOT edible (unless you like ingesting nematode egg sacks).

Freakiest carrot I have ever seen and apparently NOT edible (unless you like ingesting nematode egg sacks).

 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At least we have flowers!!

Olivia takes time to smell the... whatever those flowers are :)

Olivia takes time to smell the… whatever those flowers are :)

Please share your gardening failures so I don’t feel like such a loser.  You know… unless you don’t have any of those stories… in which case you can just go away and enjoy your garden.

Undressing Missions

Recently there has been a lot of talk around the internet and blog-osphere about MISSIONS.  Mostly I’ve seen people hashing out the million ways it’s being done wrong: wrecking culture, producing dependency, maligning the name of Christ, etc.  Really bad stuff- and really going on in some places.

Naturally, I find the whole discussion fascinating.

In Missions there are as many opinions as there are methods.
Wait… I think there are actually more opinions… (for better or worse)

There is certainly and undeniably a reason why the Church at large is having a second look at missions.  And this is possibly one of the most positive aspects of the whole discussion- people are looking at missions.  I’m hoping this has the same effect that a movie production does for book sales.  Let’s face it, few of us read the classics until the movie comes out.  Maybe this spotlight on missions will propel a new wave of missionaries into the world.  As people have the opportunity to consider and critique world missions, maybe they’ll feel compelled to head out here themselves.

The thoughts expressed by interested bloggers have been really interesting.  MORE interesting have been the comments these posts have generated.  Everyone has an opinion about how Missions should be done- and this is (usually) a great thing.  HOWEVER, one observation I’d like to throw out into cyberspace (let’s go ahead and call it my “two cents”):

It’s no more possible to generalize Missions than it is to delineate parenting and project the definite outcome.  Or the future.  Or war.  Or the working out of our faith in Christ.  Because those things make up missions.  And adding the aspect of cross-cultural to Missions means increasing the variables and uncertainty.

Let’s absolutely dialogue about Missions and how to do it better.  But let’s bear in mind that Missions is about people and people don’t fit well into absolute formulas.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
Proverbs 16:3

I challenge you to look- really look at world missions. Look at what is being done poorly. Look at what is being done well. Then ask the hard question:
“God, how should I be involved?”

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