Kellers in Africa

our life in Zambia

Category: Nutty (page 1 of 3)

I like to have fun writing. These are posts that don’t go anywhere in particular. They wander the random lanes in the labyrinth of “Ashley’s Mind”. I hope you have fun reading them!

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?

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)

 

 

 

 

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.

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me…

Guess I’ll go eat worms!!

Remember that song from summer camp? So cute.
“Long, thin, slimy ones; short, fat, squishy ones; itsy-bitsy, fuzzy-wuzzy worms!!!!!!”

Well, it’s all fun and games until you see them in the toilet!

Roundworms can be passed from our furry friends.
They cause severe bloating, intestinal pain, lethargy, etc.
They are disgusting and they can be living in YOU.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ah yes. While parasites are common in EVERY part of the world (yes, friend, you too could have them!), they are a particular menace in Africa. Parasites seem to cling to every leaf, rock, crevice, droplet, hair, and fiber.

You’ve seen a dog frantically scratching it’s rear on the grass right?
These bad boys are known for causing, ahem, “perineal itching”
Good times.

But, wait! There’s more!!!

so many options

So what’s a mom to do? Well, there are a few great anti-parasitic medications out here, but you just can’t take them as often as you get exposed (infected!) with the nasty little buggers.

ah, Albendazole, my friend. By the time a year lapses we are soooo ready for you.

too bad it’s also REALLY toxic for humans!

Fortunately there are many other safe options. We’ve tried all kinds of herbal concoctions and have our favorites.

Paragone… it tastes likes strawberries and the capsules are TINY. Need I say more?? Even Olivia will beg for this one.

Yes, he is wearing elephant pjs. I’m lucky if he lets me wash them.
Down the hatch, Freddy!

Raw pumpkin seeds paralyze tape worms.
Puree a big handful with some honey & eat a generous helping on an empty stomach.
You’ll find out what’s on the inside.
Try it. I dare you. :)

Homemade wormwood and black walnut capsules. When I made these I wasn’t sure they’d be worth the effort………… oh, they so are.

You see where it says “1/2 pound”. Notice how much of that we’ve already consumed? Before making our home here in Zambia I didn’t know it was humanly POSSIBLE to put down that much clove powder. Desperate times, desperate tummy aches…. hey, Christmas flavored burps- can’t go wrong!

But the best, the strongest, the all-time heavy weight champion:

Oh yes. It burns going down. It burns its way through. It burns coming out again. But it burns those parasites too….
DEATH… by cayenne pepper.

bottle half empty
in the 4 years we’ve lived here I’ve bought nearly a kilogram of cayenne pepper.
That’s over 2 pounds.
And it’s almost all gone.
Burn, baby, burn!

Down goes the first one, down goes the second one……….
oh how they wiggle and squirm!

Actually, though, we’ve been pretty lucky. We have our occasional outbreaks of ringworm and pinworms, we’ve had a few rounds with giardia and amoebic dysentery, oh, and I suppose Tim has had roundworms a few times. And tapeworms… but considering our level of exposure…. I’m grateful it hasn’t been worse.

Don’t even go there, Mom

Home again, home again, jiggity- uh… wait, diarrhea doesn’t rhyme



We are finally back home in Africa! After a marathon container pack and load in March and April, we packed our THIRTEEN suitcases up and headed home. (Don’t even ask me how I ended up with that many check-ins after we shipped an 18 ton container. Life happens!) 😛

Plus three car seats, 6 carry-ons, 3 children, a stroller, and about 6lbs of snack food (who likes airplane food??).

The flights went much better than expected. Frederick (now 3) had a meltdown or two, but for that little OCD monkey… that’s not too bad! Fortunately his “blank-let” was along for the ride and totally saved the day (and the sanity of a few hundred haggard passengers) 😀 Olivia did GREAT. She didn’t sleep much for 30 hours… but she did great nonetheless! One of the kind and attentive flight attendants said to me at about 3am, “My. She doesn’t stop moving, does she??” Nope. I’m very thankful the check-in lady was kind enough to get us as many bulkhead seats as she could manage (God bless British Airways)!

You aren’t tired, are you?

Frederick in Heathrow (after 5 hours of being force-marched up and down the length of the terminal). We were tired… but more importantly… so was he!!!

We arrived bright and early and our friends brought not one, but TWO cars to pick us and our luggage up and transport us all back to Kabwe. Driving home was a little strange- Lusaka has such a burgeoning economy that even in our absence much had changed. Most noticeably: the roads were even more congested. Ah well.

Our first day home was great (if exhausting). We kept the kids up late so they actually slept pretty well (midnight to 9am!) Friday morning all seemed well….. then Olivia seemed to be melting. I mean we’d set her on the floor and she’d just kinda slump over. :L I called it jetlag and carried on. By bedtime a fever set in… and I spent half the night nursing, jiggling, patting, walking, and cleaning up diarrhea diapers and puke. You know, for a 15 month old, she has GREAT projection. Just sayin’. But that was only half the night, right? Good catch. You see, the other half was spent with Olivia AND Frederick. Who also has projectile vomiting down to an art from. Who knew? Our family is so talented.

This was Saturday morning. It was a full 48 hours before he would eat a single mouthful of food. Poor kid didn’t have much weight to lose. Imagine this minus 5 lbs :(

Saturday and Sunday are now kind of a blur. I remember changing about 2,465,894 pairs of diarrhea pants from Frederick and another few million diarrhea diapers from Olivia. Oh, did I mention that we hadn’t gone shopping yet?? Praise GOD we had left a bunch of wipes in the cupboard and the cloth diapers were ready to go!!! I did NOT have enough disposables in the diaper bag to get through that putrid marathon! I would have been resorting to desperate measures like wash cloths inside ziplock baggie pants! And yes, I have really done that. (Desperate times, desperate times!) 😀 I’m also incredibly thankful for our neighbor, Christel, who had the food basics waiting for us in our kitchen (and a camping fridge for us to borrow since ours somehow broke while it was turned off!) And for water kefir! I had NO yogurt, NO probiotics, NO dry toast for these poor diarrhea bellies. But I DID have all my precious cultures, packed with TLC (by another amazing friend, Joy) and carefully transported all the way to Zambia.

Three cheers for probiotic home brewing (NO, not THAT kind of brewing!)

It’s amazing how God supplies, though. In the last week I’ve probably averaged 3-5 hours of sleep a night. Any one who knows me will tell you that I do not function on less than 8 hours. 9 is better. 10 is awesome. (How am I surviving motherhood???) 😉 But I am really feeling ok. Now, I’m not volunteering to add anything to my to-do list… Fred and I are still dashing to the bathroom every 45 minutes or so… but I’m very thankful for the energy needed to take care of my babies. (And Timothy… who’s also sick. But he takes himself to the bathroom.) Then there are the little big things like there being an ample supply of wipes in our cupboard. Seriously, I would have been outside hosing their little butts off at 2 am if not for those precious packages of prelubricated, disposable convenience!!

Oh, one last thing. Our sewage pipes are blocked. Diarrhea goes down and………..

welcome back to Africa!!

So, what happened?

I mean, really. You’d think I could find a few stolen moments to update the ol’ blog during this furlough!

Well, the truth is… I DID find a few quiet moments here and there…

I slept.

God bless grandparents (and their infinite desire to spend time with their grandchildren).

We’ve been having a great (busy!) time in the States. Timothy has been able to gather tons (literally) of books and materials for the Container Project. The kids have gotten to spend lots of time with their grandparents. And I’ve been tanking up on Starbucks whenever possible. 😀

Oh, America. Oh, ICE CREAM!!!

In October we were able to make a road trip to California. We took the kids to Sea World and they LOVED it (who persuaded me that taking 3 kids, aged 4 and under, was a good idea??? I should stop listening to my own suggestions.) Part of the reason we went to California was because I received a scholarship to attend a nutrition and health conference in Santa Clara. Wow, it was so helpful! The longer we’re in Zambia the more I find myself teaching mommies how to feed and nourish their little ones. I’m grateful for the resources I have at hand now!

Busy. Fun… Fun. Busy….. Crazy.

Monica and Frederick LOVED the beach!

In Decemebr Tim got to go hunting with his brother, Aaron. He didn’t get to shoot anything, but they did spend an afternoon hiding from drug runners. Who says adventure is only in Africa?

We recently celebrated Frederick’s third birthday. Where does the time go? And next week Timothy reaches 35. Party time? I think so. 😉

The next month or so will be spent packing the many, many boxes of books and supplies for the container. This process is arduous and time-consuming… but sooooo worth it! I can’t wait to use the books in Zambia as we reach out to teachers, parents, and new Christians.

Thank you for your prayers!!!

oh, and God bless America!!!!!!!!

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Thank you so much for your prayers while we travel and put together the Container Project. If you want to catch up with us while we’re in the States, you can reach us through the Contact Us page on our website.

Painting with the President

By Timothy

Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

This is part 2, part 1 is How Did That Happen?!

The morning of the President’s arrival we scrambled to have everything ready. Many of the Zambian dignitaries and leaders came early and lined up to greet the President and his wife. Most of them were sent home to change from their suit and tie to work clothes, with the injunction to dress appropriately for working. Their perplexed faces were, I’ll admit, quite funny to observe. In the early afternoon, the President’s twenty-four car motorcade pulled up to the clinic. I stood at the end of a line of Zambian VIPs, now dressed in work cloths, to meet President and Mrs. Bush. Some of the Zambians were visibly taken back by the fact that we were all, including the President and his wife, dressed in the most informal clothes imaginable.

Working with a former President was an unbelievable opportunity for the guys who have been helping us build our house. I’m thankful I could involve them in the renovation.
Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

Over the course of the morning we reminded the steady stream of arriving volunteers that the purpose of this time was to work and not to dress up and chat. That we were serious became apparent when the President stepped out of his car, briefly shook hands with everyone, and then asked for his paint brush. Culturally Zambians view manual labor, especially dirty work, as the job of the lower class, the poor, and the uneducated. Seeing a world leader hard at work was a tremendous shock. Because we regularly teach Christ’s example of servant leadership, it was gratifying to help a leader of such significance set a godly example of service. After watching the President for a few stunned moments, many of the volunteers followed the President and Mrs. Bush’s example of dignity in labor and began working with exceptional diligence.

President and Mrs Bush brought a remarkable team of hard working people with them.
Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

Since I had carried out the preparation work, I was asked to partner with George Bush’s contractor in managing the volunteers’ projects. This was a challenge as over 30 people showed up to work the first day, all requesting direction and supplies. This number did dwindle over the following days as the volunteers realized this really was a working party and not a photo-op. Those who remained worked hard and required less management as we all got into the rhythm of our various responsibilities.

I got to meet and work with some truly incredible people.
Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

Because the project took place over the weekend, I asked President Bush’s coordinator if I could be excused on Sunday morning to attend church. I was apprehensive that this request would cause consternation from the team (or the President). I don’t think a lot of people keep the President waiting while they go to church. However, it was important to me to put God first. The Coordinator’s response was not what I’d expected at all! Surprisingly, he wanted to know where I went to church and if I could take the Secret Service agents to examine the possibility of an “off the record” attendance by the President and his wife. After seeing the church, the Secret Service felt it would be a safe venue, but I was strictly told not to share the information with anyone. Thus on Sunday morning we were able to welcome President George and First Lady Laura Bush to our small church in Kabwe. What a shock it was to the people who came that morning! It was incredible to worship the Lord with this couple and their team of aids and servicemen, many of whom were becoming very good friends. We were blessed with a great message that morning and many of the members of the team shared how touched they were by the service. I’m glad the Lord gave me the courage to ask for the morning to go worship Him!

The most important way to lead is by example.
Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

Everyone worked really hard over the next few days, and we watched the dilapidated clinic transform into something attractive and serviceable. I had several opportunities to talk to President and Mrs. Bush. I appreciated how down-to-earth they were and enjoyed the President’s dry sense of humor. He even took as much hassling as he dished out.

Excuse me, Mr President.
You missed a spot.
(Yes. I really said that.
I couldn’t resist.) 😀
Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

I asked President Bush why he came to Kabwe to renovate a rural clinic. He replied that he didn’t want to just be “president”, but wanted to roll up his sleeves and really help people. I have to say, regardless of political opinions or affiliations, I appreciate anyone who is willing to work with their own hands to help the underprivileged and suffering people in Africa. It was an honor to work alongside someone with an appreciation for good, hard work.

Talking shop
Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

On Tuesday there was a re-opening ceremony for the clinic and their new cervical cancer program. The local and international media finally had their chance to take photos of the President and Mrs. Bush and interview them about the project. I was asked to open the ceremony in prayer. Before everyone, I was privileged to give glory to God for everything that He had done to bring about this event.

Proclaiming the Word of Christ before the re-opening of the clinic was an honor.
Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

After the ceremony, the President and his staff, many of whom I’m proud to call friends and brothers in Christ, returned to Lusaka. As he left, we exchanged thanks and I gave him one of my favorite books of prayer, Valley of Vision.

Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

It was a privilege to be a part of this clinic renovation project. The opportunity to serve our community alongside President and Mrs. Bush and their incredible staff was both unexpected and incredible. I’m not sure why the Lord allowed me to be a part of all of this, but I’m glad He did!

I’m thankful for the many new friends I made during this project. God’s people are everywhere.
Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

More photos of the clinic project from The Bush Institute on Flikr


Why Kabwe? Hear it from him.

More information about the Bushs’ trip to Zambia:

Ashley’s experiences are also recounted in Not My Average Week

It was hard work, but I really enjoyed this project.
Photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center

Not My Average Week

While my interactions with the President and Mrs. Bush were not as exciting or intimate as Timothy’s were, they were great in their own [less glamorous] way. 🙂

Tim and the President were joking with each other over my head.

I was not able to spend very much time at the clinic. Throughout the renovation process, there were moments when I really wished that I could be on-site, enjoying the work and excitement of helping the community (with the President!!!) However, with three little ones at home this is just not “my time”. Fortunately, there were many small ways that I could be involved.

When Timothy left early Saturday morning to prepare for the President’s arrival, I stayed home with a little boy who, for lack of a dignified way of describing it, perpetually LEAKED out his backside (and howled all.day.long). Suffice it to say it was one of the longer days in my life! By the afternoon, I decided that although Frederick seemed much better, it would probably be best for me to stay home from church with him. As I told Tim, he gave me a wide-eyed stare, willing me to understand him, and said, “Tomorrow is not the day to miss church.” Stare. Stare. Stare. OH. Um… ok… Well, I prayed pretty hard that night for a healthy boy in the morning! Obviously I wasn’t going to be able to go if Freddy was still sick. Even though I was pretty sure it was food poisoning, not anything contagious, visions of him dripping you know what all over Mrs Bush danced through my dreams. Thankfully, the next morning saw a healthy, happy little boy!

We arrived at church to see Secret Service agents all over the street. Because Tim had clearance and was friends with many of the security guys, we were able to park near the building. As we entered the church I was shocked to hear the SS guys tell Tim that they had saved seats for us… next to President and Mrs Bush! Now I was really praying! Never have I watched so diligently over a juice cup than I did during that church service!! (Don’t spill it down their backs. Don’t spill it down their backs. Don’t spill it down their backs!!!!!!) It was really pinch-me, unbelievable to sit and chat before church with them. I was also glad the kids got to meet them. Monica, upon being introduced, responded quite calmly, “Hi.” and returned to her book. 😛


You can see us in church from 1:20-1:35

Sunday afternoon I sent a huge box of homemade cookies to the site for all the volunteers and Secret Service agents. I figured that President and Mrs Bush were probably not allowed to eat random, home cooked food, so it was fun to hear that they not only ate them, but the President personally carried them around to everyone. 😀 THAT batch of cookies was definitely worth the effort!

Monday morning we and about a dozen other missionaries from around Zambia were invited to have breakfast with President and Mrs Bush. President Bush explained why they had come to Kabwe and what they hoped to do for HIV/AIDS communities in the future. I really admired their down-to-earth approach and their commitment to leadership from the top down. That was a breakfast I will never forget!!

Hey, that’s Tim’s seat. No, no, don’t move! 😀
Photo by Ann Rachel Hamelryk

Later that afternoon I received the phone-call highlight of my week. During lunch President Bush asked Tim, “Where are my cookies??” Timothy called me and said, “I hope you have more cookies… because Someone is asking for more!” Fortunately, I DID have more (that’s what moms are for, right??) The kids and I navigated our way through the township, found the clinic, and brought the President his cookies. We were allowed to have a look around and meet many of the great people who were working on the site. Hearing, “Here comes Mama with the cookies!” from Mr President really made my day. 🙂

At the end of the project we were invited to an Independence Day party at the Ambassador’s house in Lusaka. It was slightly unreal to interact with real “celebrities” in such a casual environment! Monica made several determined attempts to get to them during the anthem. I was grateful for our friends, the Hamelryks, and all the extra hands that were available to keep track of Monica and Frederick!!! That evening brought the realization of what Tim had been doing for the last week. While I knew that he had the opportunity to spend “real” time with the President, I was still surprised to see the casual way they spoke to each other. I was gratified to see that all of Tim’s hard work was appreciated. Most of all I was happy to meet the many volunteers who worked with Tim and have become good friends.

Notice Monica in the background... contemplating a dash to the front. :)

Notice Monica in the background… contemplating a dash to the front. 🙂
(photo by Ann Rachel Hamelryk)

I’m very grateful that we had this opportunity. I think I’m most grateful for the new friends we made. We were able to have several of the aids and Secret Service agents with us at the weekly neighborhood braai. It was nice to have a bit of AMERICA right there with us. They were all incredible people who it’s a pleasure to call friends.

and now, for those of you who’ve asked for the Presidential cookie recipe… I made quite a few different kinds, but from what I understand, he’s a peanut butter guy 😀

President Bush Peanut Butter cookies… with adjustments for Africa….
1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter (I used sort-of chunky… because that’s as smooth as the local brand gets!)
1 cup sugar + 1 tbs molasses (because the brown sugar out here is flavored with artificial syrup and oil!!)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (mine is the homemade, vodka variety)
2 1/2 cups flour (I divided cake & bread flour to make an All Purpose substitute)
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
no salt! Because the local peanut butter is SUUUUUUUUUUUPER salty 😛

Method: Preheat oven to 375. Beat butter and sugars until fluffy, beat in peanut butter, beat in eggs, stir in vanilla, fold in flour. Place 1 tsp balls on a cookie sheet and mash in a light criss-cross pattern with a fork. Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven when they still look slightly unfinished. Cool 5 minutes then move to cooling rack.

So when President Bush comes to visit, you’ll be prepared with his favorite cookies!

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