Category Archives: Zambia

Why I Do Not Make a Good African Woman – Reason #2


The actual bird is not problematic.  Chickens are actually kinda cute, some are downright beautiful.  I’m not afraid of chickens or anything.  I’m okay with them being alive.  I’m okay with them dead all ready to be cooked.  And I’m especially okay with eating them.




Bake it, fry it, roast it, whatever.  Yum yum yum.

Where I fail as an African woman is getting said chicken from that live state into that ready to be cooked state.

Throughout Africa, it is not unusual to see a woman on the bus or minibus carrying a live chicken (the eating kind, not the laying kind) tied into a plastic bag with only its head out, or in a basket, or the like.  This chicken is for dinner.  The African woman will kill it, pluck it, and break it down in order to cook it for her family.  (And it will be amazing because African chicken is soooo much better than any chicken I’ve ever eaten in America).

The only time I’ve been faced with any part of that process was in Zambia back in 2006.  In case you’re new to my story, prior to my summer in Zambia, I had done very (VERY) little actual cooking.  Didn’t really know how.  I had never even made fried chicken.  However, being very brave, I had purchased a number of chickens in order to make fried chicken for my team of TWENTY SEVEN people.  Knowing it was likely that I wasn’t accustomed to slaughtering chickens, the woman from whom I purchased them quietly did that business out of my eye- and ear-shot and brought the now-dead chickens to me.  She must have seen the rather horrified look on my face when I saw the pile of white feathered headless bodies as she immediately smiled and asked if I knew how to clean them.  Which of course I didn’t.  I also didn’t have a knife that would cut through bones even if I wanted to tackle the butchering part.  So I paid her a little bit extra to do the job for me (and told her she could have all the “insides”).  Less than an hour later, she returned with a big bowl of chicken pieces that looked a whole lot more like what I was used to seeing at home.

How I was used to seeing chicken for sale...

How I was used to seeing chicken for sale…

...what the chickens I bought in Zambia looked like...

…what the chickens I bought in Zambia looked like…

I would have tackled the plucking part, but it would have taken me about a day or two to do the job.

I’m not sure I would ever be able to do the killing part.

And for that, I would not make a good African woman.

Tent Sweet Tent

I’d like to welcome you to my home!  This was it this past summer in Malawi.  Some nights I almost couldn’t wait to crawl inside it and curl up on my air mattress and soak in the night sounds.  In Zambia two years it ago, it was soooo cold at night that I dreaded “lights out”.  This year, despite being the neighbor to the east of Zambia, the Malawi nights were relatively warm.  Perhaps this was due to the proximity to Lake Malawi?

Home Sweet Malawi Home by you.

Despite its relatively small size, I was still able to often lose fairly important articles inside of it.  I lost my toothbrush once for almost a week.  You can’t just run down to the store to buy a new one, ya know?  I finally had the time to tear everything apart and find it, but by then the brush and interior of the case had mildewed.  Pretty gross.  So, what do you do?  You pop it into a pot of boiling hot water!  Good as new…almost.  (ew)

Even though I was very comfortable at night I often did not sleep much.  If I got five hours of sleep I felt pretty lucky (this from a 9 or 10 hour a night sleeper).  Since I didn’t have much time to myself during the days, I decided to embrace my sleeplessness and enjoy the nighttime “solitude” in my little home.  I would spend the hours thinking, remembering, planning, and praying.  It’s funny where one’s brain goes when one is lying awake on top of an air mattress and sleeping bag listening to the distant waves of a lake on the shore with the bright African moon illumunating brightly when one is in the uttermost part of the earth…I’d get flight of ideas and wonder…

…how well would I be sleeping if my cat was here with me…(and then I’d miss her)…

…will anyone puke tonight?…(and I’d pray not)…

…are the dogs in my “kitchen” again?…(and if they are, did I prepare well enough so they couldn’t rob me?)…

…are those REALLY waves I’m hearing?…

…if he has Aspberger’s…(or what?)…

…when the propane tank is going to run out, again…

…why the dusk malaria mosquitos are so small and the dawn dengue mosquitos SO HUGE…

…how much more food can I buy with the money I have left “in the food account”… and will there be anything more than sugar, tomatos, yams, oil, and eggs to be bought next time?…

…how it is possible that it’s going to be three years already since Connie died…(and then I’d miss her, too)

I would pray for whatever and whoever showed up in my mind and eventually I would drift off to sleep.  Occasionally I would dream.  But every morning, when I unzipped my tent and crawled out, I was met with the most brilliant skies reflecting off the lake and I’d forget how tired I was and I’d wrap myself in the beauty and wildness of it all.  And I’d wonder what I ever did to deserve this amazing life God had given to me…

Food? or Fuel?

To be completely honest, I used to be ambivalent about the using of corn to create ethanol.  Make it, don’t make it.  Use it, don’t use.  I didn’t care.  But that was because I didn’t know a darn thing about it.

Take some corn, turn it into fuel, reduce the use of fossil fuels, right?  Simple! Cheap!  Renewable!

Well, now that I’ve taken exactly two minutes to look into ethanol production, I have quickly become non-ambivalent.  We need to stop making and burning ethanol up in our cars.


Well, I learned that it takes 21 pounds of corn to make a single gallon of ethanol.  TWENTY ONE pounds of corn to make a SINGLE gallon of the stuff (26.1 pounds according to another source!).  To fill the relatively small tank of my own Honda Accord that would conservatively take 351 pounds of corn.  To fill an SUV?  I am a little sick to think about how much corn that would take. 

I also never considered how much FOSSIL fuel it takes to plant, grow, harvest, distill, and transport the final ethanol product.  It takes a considerable amount.  It looks alot to me like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Having spent time in countries where people starve to death, and having seen babies and little kids with swollen bellies and hair discolored by malnutrition, it seems to me to be the height of waste to take food that could fill the stomach of starving person and put it my car so that I reduce my “carbon footprint” and feel better about myself for doing it.

Corn is the staple food in Zambia.  Wherever I went I saw corn drying on the tin roofs of houses.  I now wonder how 21 pounds of corn would look up on those roofs.  I wonder how many people 21 pounds of corn would feed, and for how long.  


In Haiti, they are eating dirt cookies, just to stave off hunger.  I don’t think there’s much nutritional value in a dirt cookie.  A dirt cookie might make you not feel as hungry, but it’s not going to keep you from starving.

Corn is a renewable resource, but individuals are not.  I’d think about dying babies everytime I put that fuel into my car.  Corn is not fuel.  It’s food. 

There are lots of other problems inherent in the widespread use of ethanol, like the health of our nation’s farmlands.  Instead of restating them all, just take a look at this webpage:  Ethanol from corn – burning both corn and oil.  If you’re a proponent of corn as fuel, this might make you rethink your position.

Even with all the very good reasons for not utilizing ethanol, at the heart of this issue for me is how would I EVER explain to a starving person that I was burning up FOOD in my car?  A starving person doesn’t care about my carbon footprint.  A starving person doesn’t care about whether the earth will be here for their grandchildren.  A starving person cares about whether THEY will be there tomorrow for their children, and whether their children will be there tomorrow for them.  

Our fuel needs to be their food. 

Surely we can do better than this.


“Photographic Art” – Photo Friday


(click above for more information)

Photo Friday

Today’s Photo Friday entry is entitled: Photographic Art © Jan Marshall 

Photographic Art.  Photos as art?  Photos OF art?  Photos enhanced to be more “artsy”??  I can’t wait to see how everyone will interpret this assignment!  I’d been thinking about how *I* was going to interpret this assignment since Jan (of the blog “A Curious State of Affairs) came up with the idea two weeks ago. 

It’s been a long and tiring and emotional week for me.  An excellent friend of mine passed away on Monday morning.  My mind has been a bit occupied with things other than doing something fresh and exciting for Photo Friday.  Despite not getting much in the way of inspiration, I still very much wanted to participate.  Hoping my entry isn’t a complete cop-out.  I messed around with a number of photographs doing different affects and enhancements, but didn’t end up with anything that I really liked.  So I ended up deciding on a photo OF art.

In one of my curio/collection cabinets I have a small oil painting on canvas done by an artist in Zambia.  I’m pretty sure it’s a painting that the artist recreated often to sell to foreign tourists, but I bought it anyway because I loved the bright colors, the long lines, and the general grubbiness of it.  I look at it and I can hear the excited chatter.  I wonder “What is it that has captured the attention of these ladies?”.  It’s only about 4″ X 8″.  I’ve not yet framed it.  But I thought that this would be a good place and time to share it.  I don’t know the name of the artist, but his cell phone number is on the back!  Perhaps I should call and ask his name!

In Zambia, as in many African nations, it is unrealistic to string phone lines, but very reasonable to set up cell towers.  People who can afford phones don’t have land lines, they carry cells.

Here is my unnamed, unsigned, Zambian work of art…

Don’t forget to check out the other participant’s work!  I’ll be posting links as they become available.

“A Curious State of Affairs”

“Idea Jump”

Next week’s assignment?  “The View Through My Window”…

“Pathos” – Photo Friday

 pa·thos  (pā’thŏs’, -thôs’) n.  

  1. A quality, as of an experience or a work of art, that arouses feelings of pity, sympathy, tenderness, or sorrow.
  2. The feeling, as of sympathy or pity, so aroused.

There’s is nothing quite like the visual art of photography to evoke our emotions.  I love that it’s an art form that is available to everyone.  Most cannot paint, most cannot sculpt, most cannot draw, but everyone can point and shoot.  With the advent of the nearly idiot-proof digital camera, even the most unskilled eye and wavering finger can inexpensively capture wonderful images.

I love taking pictures.  My primary camera is a Nikon Coolpix S4.  The lens swivels 170 degrees allowing me to easily get shots from all kinds of angles.  Often my best pictures are ones that I did nothing to set up.   

I took this picture during the summer of 2006.  It was taken in Kansoka, Zambia.  This was “foot washing day”.  We had hundreds of orphans come to get loved on/hugged on/held/played with, as well as to get, in most cases, their very first pair of shoes and socks.  This particular little girl had captured my attention throughout the day.  I don’t know her story.  I don’t even know her name.  I never learned the stories of most of the thousand or so orphans we met that summer.  But most of them shared at least part of the same story.  In Zambia alone, more than three quarters of a million of them have been left alone in the world having lost one or both of their parents to malaria or AIDS.  The “lucky” ones had older siblings to care for them.  One 10-year-old we met was the oldest left in his household.  He had become the man of his family and was now responsible for the care of his four little brothers and sisters.

Life has dealt this little princess a very hard blow.  Life in sub-saharan Africa is difficult for most in the best of circumstances.  To be a child, perhaps even a baby, and to be left parentless, makes an already difficult circumstance a precarious one.  And yet many of their young faces still shine.  They laugh and play just like children do.  They are full of hope.

I look at her face and my heart is both completely broken, and yet paradoxically full. 


(Click HERE for links to more Photo Friday submissions.  And please consider playing along with us!  We’re only three, we’d like to be more!)

Next week’s Photo Friday topic is “Joy!”.


Fuzzy, Opaque, Floating Globes

I’m stumped by what they are.  They have showed up in quite a number of my digital pictures.  I’ve asked around to see if anyone knows what causes them.  And I’ve started to look for them in the photos that others have taken and often find them floating about virtually unnoticeable, only now I notice them, cuz I’m looking for them!

These blobs are in pictures taken indoors and outdoors.  They are in pictures taken throughout the day (though the worst seem to be at dawn, at dusk, or in suboptimal light).  They show up whether a flash is used or not, though more so with the flash.  They are different in every picture.  They might show up in one picture and then in the very next picture when the conditions SEEM to be the same, they won’t be there.  It’s a mystery.

The worst theory I’ve heard is that they are spirits which have taken on the appearance of “orbs“. 

The best theory I’ve heard is that they are dust (or other) particles in the air reflecting light back to the camera.  BUT I get them when I don’t use a flash, and in postively non-dusty places, soooooo….  what ARE they??

Some pictures have literally hundreds of them, some only one, or two.

Do YOU get these??  Do you know what they are and how I can avoid them?

This is the worst picture I’ve taken when it comes to blobulosity:

So many blobs here that the picture looks washed out!

What do you think? 

(FYI, this picture was taken in Kansoka, Zambia, during our team banquet – summer of ’06)


While in Zambia in the summer of 2006, we (the girls), in order to be socially appropriate and inoffensive in our manner of dress, wore “chitenges” (pronounced chi’-tengies) over our pants whenever we were not in our tents.

Chitenges are a large pieces of material that are used as skirts, dresses, blankets, baby carriers, and probably a myriad other things.  The patterns on these chitenges are regional and many of the prints are quite lovely…fabric art, really.  The pictures in this post are a few of the prints on the chitenges I purchased (about 3 USD each) while in Zambia.  These are not the chitenges I wore every day while I was there.  I had three of those, and they are sort of beat up, have burn holes from when I got too close to the cooking braziers, and aren’t quite as pretty as these!

They are sort of difficult to walk in though, and we often found the edges of the garment getting caught between, or tangled around, our legs.  I decided a good term for this phenomenon was to be “chitengled”.  This is a similar phenomenon to being “pajangled”, which is what I have learned it’s called when your pajamas get all twisted up around you while you are sleeping.  🙂

The women of many African nations utilize similar pieces of material in the same way.  They call them by different names.

I am anxious to find out what they are called in Malawi, for that is where I will be going next summer when I lead a team there with Teen Missions!

Yep!  I got my letter of invitation from TMI to lead the “Malawi Matron Unit” team!  I’m mailing back my letter of acceptance today.  What a privilege to be able to serve again next summer.  To be able to return to Africa to do so is beyond exciting. 

Malawi shares a border with Zamiba.  I wonder if it will feel like I’m going “home” again.

A Note From Barb

While I was in Sicily this summer, I was sent an e-mail from Barb Peterson.  Barb and her husband Doug run Teen Missions, Zambia.  I worked with them last summer when I was on the Zambia Foot Washing team.  [The e-mail ultimately arrived in Sicily by way of snail mail when my sister printed it up and mailed it to me after it was sent to HER by a coworker of the Petersons who weren’t sure what my e-mail address was while in Sicily (I didn’t have one) so she sent it to my sister!]  Some of the content I have shared here already.  Much of it is new.  I thought it appropriate to share it with you. 

Dear Linda,

We miss you here in Zambia this year!  The FW team is out there.   
They have a shorter time this year than last.  They will be at  
three spots.  Of course, one of them is Connie’s Heart.  I think  
it is their last stop.
I just sat and talked to Simon (He was the facilitator at Chiwala  
last year and you met him there.)  He is at Funda (Connies Heart)  
with Richard Chileshe, a newer intern.

Here is a small report of the things he has shared with me this  
morning.  I trust that it will bless you because something very  
good is going on there.

1)  Twins:  Matilda and Sandra live near the unit.  They are 6  
years old.  For the last two years Matilda was not thriving.  She  
had lost all of her hair.  She was very thin and the  mom (her dad  
is dead) thought it was witchcraft.  Simon said, no it is  
malnutrition.  He put her into the mothers seminar even though she  
is not a baby.  Her hair has grown back and she is now thriving.   
She is coming by the unit and telling all the little kids to pick  
up things and keep the place clean. Simon says she is a real  
little organizer.  In just three months time there was this  
change.  It probably saved her life   He said the Nutrition  
Seminar food is now finished, but the moms have learned a great  
deal and are so thankful for the help.

2)  There is a girl named Esther Sandasanda.  She is in Grade 9 at  
the Catholic school called St Mary’s.  She is 14 and stays with a  
lady she calls grandma.  The lady has 4 orphans of her own and  
took in Esther out of pity.  But she is not preferred, as the real  
family’s orphans are.  She is sent to the field alone or to  
collect wood alone and the villagers have always taken advantage  
of her.  She walks 38 k’s to school and then boards there for the  
week.  She is to bring a small bag of mealie meal each week.  One  
week she failed to bring it and so was taken advantage of for not  
being able to do so.  She was raped by 5 guys.  She told Simon and  
he called in the police and 4 of them were arrested.  He now  
supplies her mealie meal for school out of his own money.  She had  
no shoes for school so he gave her his own tennis shoes.  Now all  
Simon has is “tropicals”.  (thongs).  When the school asked  
recently who takes care of her, she said Simon.  He is the only  
advocate she has ever had.  He said she still needs a lot of inner  

3)  There is an area a ways away from the unit where the chief  
didn’t want TMI in their area because we were “satanists”.   We  
found out  that the chief was JW and also into witchcraft.  But he  
was coming to a JW conference and had an accident on the road.   I  
think he was on a bike.  He was seriously injured and so was the  
girl that was with him.  People told him, “The only help is at  
Teen Missions.”  So he was taken there and Simon dressed his  
wounds and the passenger’s wounds, too.  He healed up.  He came  
back and said, “Who are you people?  You are good people.  We want  
you, too.  We heard the wrong thing about you.  Will you come?”

4)  The government health people came by and gave out 100 free  
treated mosquito nets around the Funda area.  They didn’t have  
enough.  So they came back to the Unit later and said to Simon,  
“Are you able to give out the rest of the 200 to those who need  
it?”   So he became the distribution point for those nets.  They  
probably came from USAID.   I heard on the news that Bill Gates  
Foundation was distributing them through USAID in Zambia.

Praise the Lord , as maybe the health dept will use more and more  
of our units….we should talk to them (if we ever have time!)   
They are getting to know us as they came here to the base last  
year.  They were “selling” us the nets that time….we said, hey,  
you get these free because we also hear the news!  The next ones  
they brought us were free or at least a reduced price, I can’t  
remember.  We are seeing a real big decrease in malaria this  
year.   I feel like writing the Gates Foundation but know they  
don’t have time to read letters, even of thanks, probably.

5) The Foot Washing team will be at Connie’s Heart on the last  
stop.  Just want you to know that that this is  really point of  
Light for Jesus!  Simon can’t wait to get back.  He is injured  
because of twisting his knee in soccer.  He is using Soccer as an  
EV tool.  He says over 70 have been saved out there through  
this….he didn’t have the count right now.  He is holding Bible  
studies and the number has grown from 70 to 140 already.  He is  
also ministering to a Baptist pastor who has had no training.

6)  People are very cold.  Some of the kids sleep only with a  
chitange around them and then get down into feed sacks or mealie  
sacks for warmth….One boy only had shorts and Richard Chileshe  
the other facilitator gave him his own  T shirt.  Theses are the  
only clothes that that boy has.  Many of the villages that Simon  
and Richard tare visiting when they ask where are your clothes  
kept, they say, what we are wearing are our only clothes.

I gave Simon some personal money and said go buy some things.   
Whatever you want to take back that you need most. Blankets,  
sweaters, sweatshirts, or whatever. I didn’t want him to go back  
empty handed.  Then  I said you can also get some shoes for  
yourself.  He said, “No, I want to spent it on the kids.   I can  
use my tropicals.”  I want to get word to the FW team to give  
Simon some shoes when they get there!!!  Doug wears 13’s so that  
was not an option.   He has to go about 20 k’s to his place from  
the road where he has hitched a ride with whatever vehicle he can  
find going there.   And he is walking around on this sprained knee.

Linda, what blessed me most of all, is that he looked at me and  
said,” I have to get back there. “(not stay and nurse his knee— 
the xray showed it not broken)   Then he said,” Barb, I love my job!”

Simon is an orphan who took care of about 18 other orphan kids as  
he grew up.   He lived with his grandma and an invalid  
grandfather.  He has this call and compassion for the people out  
there who are hurting.   The intern gal at Muchinchi came in last  
Spring after her first stint in the bush….and with a smile on  
her face, said, “You don’t even have to pay me”….   She was  
saying that the joy she was getting was reward enough.. What a  
privilege to be where God wants you to be and do what God wants  
you to do.  These young people are tasting that joy.

Just hoping you will be encouraged by what is happening at  
Connie’s Heart.  It is making a difference.

 Love you and have a great summer.

I am encouraged. 

I heard many stories about what is happening in Funda (at Connie’s Heart) while I was at Boot Camp in June.  When Teen Missions first went into the Funda area to survey the needs and find out what the situation was there in regards to numbers of orphans, etc., the local people did not believe that they would be coming back.  But they did go back, and built the unit and started to minister there.  When Teen Missions did come back, one of the chiefs said, “God MUST have sent you, because nobody else knows we’re here.”  Wow.  I later learned that even school teachers won’t go that deep into the bush, so there are no schools there for the children to attend.  They have begged Simon to teach them, and so, in addition to all his other work there, he has started a little school. 

Back in Florida at debrief I was able to see pictures and hear stories from the team members that went to Connie’s Heart this summer.  As deep as my loss was, the joy that I have from what has been born of that loss is incomprehensible. 

I am feeling the pull to return to Zambia to work very strong on my heart and in my soul.   


Zambian Orphan Rescue Units, An Update

Teen Missions recently updated their website with recent reports (this month) from a number of the ORUs (Orphan Rescue Units) in Zambia.  Please take the time to read about all the good things that are happening at these units.  And you can read about some of the sad things, too.

Link to the ORU updates

And the Funda unit?  Well, (unless something has changed that I don’t know about) that’s “Connie’s Heart“. 

Link to the Funda Unit update 

MY heart is overwhelmed to read about children (and grown-ups, too) a world away whose lives are being changed because of Connie.  I will find out much more when I arrive at Boot Camp and talk to the Petersons who run the Zambian ministry.  It sounds like perhaps the Foot Washing team might be visiting “Connie’s Heart” this summer!  I can hardly wait to hear first hand what is happening there!

The Hand – Untouched

The latest Round Robin Photo Challenge is to take a picture of our own hand.  Here’s how Brad of the blog “We-Is” put it..

“Take a photo of your hand. Post it untouched, without any digital enhancements. Then, tell us about your settings (and shooting conditions) and what you would do to enhance… post capture. For those of you that like to run enhancements – post that too, as a before and after.”

When I read what the challenge was, I didn’t even have to think about what I’d do.  I immediately knew just what pictures I’d be posting.  I already had them in my files!  My pictures were taken simply using the point and shoot setting.  And the auto flash.  My conditions?  The night cold was still hanging in the air.  The lighting?  Bright African morning sun diffused by the plastic and nylon of a greenish tent.

This is my right hand. 


And, for good measure, this is my left hand.

I am in my tent in Chiwala, Zambia.  I took these picture this past July 19th at 0810.  I had just finished cleaning up after breakfast.  We’d been in Chiwala (and in Zambia for that matter) for just a few days, but already my hands were a mess.  You see, I cooked all of our meals over charcoal braziers.  That charcoal had to get out of the bags and into those braziers somehow, and the only really workable method for that was by good old-fashioned digging in and pulling it out by hand.  We tried it with plastic bags on our hands, but the charcoal was sharp and made short work of the plastic.  The charcoal still got into every pore and every crease.  It got down into your cuticles and under your nails.  And it didn’t come off or out.  Well, on laundry day, some of the stuff came out of the pores and creases, but my cuticles and nails were perma-coaled.  Remember, the charcoal was sharp!  Trying to scrape it out from under your nails was like forcing slivers of wood down into your nail beds!   After cooking like that for six weeks, I was still getting charcoal out from under my nails for days after I got home.  I took the pictures because I couldn’t believe I was cooking food with hands that looked like that!  And me, a nurse!  🙂  I got over it.  Charcoal just looks bad…you can eat it with impunity.  (You might find it interesting to know that the charcoal the Zambians make burns nearly completely clean.  It leaves practically zero residue on the bottoms of pots and there is no blowing ash.  Quite an amazing fuel source for open fire cooking!  The complicated process was explained to me in part, but other than lighting the wood on fire and burying it in pits for weeks until it burned into charcoal, I don’t remember much of the details!)

Here’s a couple of “background” photos (also taken in Chiwala) to go along with my charcoaled hands:


On the left:  digging charcoal out of its bag.  On the right, scrambling eggs over a charcoal brazier for breakfast.  (See that metal box sitting atop another brazier to the far right of the picture on the right?  That was my oven!  It had bisquits in it that morning.)

Click here to see my other Round Robin entries.

Please visit the other Robins to see what they’ve done with this challenge!  The linking list can be found at the Round Robin website:  Click to GO THERE!

How to Make Oatmeal in Zambia

Sorry “my kids” if you are reading this and get grossed out, but it’s a great story and must be told!  🙂

I learned something of vital importance in the “kitchen” in Zambia.  If I learned nothing else, this was key.  It’s one part oats or rice to two parts water!  Didn’t know that before I went!  Anyhow, this story is about Oatmeal!

I love oatmeal.  You’ve already been given the TMI recipe for “baked oatmeal” in a previous posting.  Love that stuff.  But I like regular old boiled oatmeal, too.  I like the gooey brownish gray stuff that you should never let dry on anything because it’s stronger than superglue.  Oatmeal was easy to make, very filling, relatively inexpensive, felt good to eat steaming hot on a freezing morning, and, I hoped, would be a favorite of “my kids”.  It was. 

Abner had brought a number of boxes of his favorite oatmeal with him in his duffel bag.  Some of the boxes broke on the way over, so he donated the loose oats to the food cause.  We just dumped them out of the bottom of his bag into ziplocks.  We had to pick out some lint and such, but it cooked up great.  We bought more oats at the Shoprite.  Every time we bought oats it would be a different brand.  Whatever they had.  My favorites were the Tiger Brand Jungle Oats.  (Wow, the stuff you find online is amazing!  I thought I might never see this familiar box ever again!) 


The first time we bought oats we had to buy the Shoprite brand.  I boiled up a big pot of water and poured the oats in.  A few minutes later Abner approached me trying hard to keep from busting a gut with laughter.  “We need to hurry and you need to help me!”  He dragged me over to the oats that he had gone to stir for me and showed me all these weevilly things floating to the surface!  GUH-ROSS!  It had been so dark when I measured the oats I didn’t see any critters in them!  We frantically scooped and scooped.  We had to get them all out before the mass thickened so much that the bugs would get trapped in it instead of floating to the top of it.  AND we had to try to do it without the kids catching wind of it!  Ultimately, we were VERY successful in both getting all the weevils out AND in keeping it from the kids (until now, that is!).  We were smug. 

But we leaders all LOST it when one of our girls, Allie, let out a stifled scream.  We thought we were in trouble.  We thought we’d failed in our deweevilling attempts.  But no.  It seems some other sort of bug found its way into Allie’s tea and startled her.  We’d only been in Zambia for a short time (we were at our first Rescue Unit in Chiwala) and hadn’t become completely desensitized yet.  She came over and begged for permission to be able to throw that tea away as she just couldn’t drink something that had had bugs in it.  I practically gagged on my laughter, and gave her permission to do so.  She returned to her seat and ate the rest of her breakfast oatmeal (seconds, too!) without incident!

You do what you gotta do!  I ate it, too, and I KNEW what had been in it!  🙂

(Second vital lesson learned – – be careful when preparing food in the dark in Africa!)

Abner and I laughed so much this past summer.  I miss laughing with him.  And I am SO excited because I get to see him next week!  The last time I saw him was at the Lusaka International Airport back in August.  We’ll be getting together somewhere between San Diego and Los Angeles, but wherever it is, I’m sure we’ll be cracking up!

Update:  12/19/2007

I get a fair amount of traffic to this post through various search engines.  People are looking for how to make oatmeal.  I guess this post doesn’t really go into that, does it??  So, oatmeal is wicked easy to make.  The recipe is one part oatmeal to two parts water!  (So, that would be like one cup of oatmeal to two cups of water).  You boil the water.  I add a little bit of salt to the water.  Then you add the oatmeal, stir it frequently until it’s done!  You can add less oatmeal for a looser end product.  See!  EASY!  🙂  The recipe is the same for quick cook oats, or traditional oats.  You just cook traditional oats longer.

Almost There…Going Back

(A year seems like a really long time.)  Six months ago I returned from Zambia.  I can hardly believe that so much time has passed so quickly.  My brain is still so very full from that experience.  I have so many things yet to process and share about the time I spent there.  And now, it appears that I will be going back.  In a year.  Perhaps not so long afterall.

(This is a picture of the little TV in the back of the seat in front of me that I took when we were just minutes from landing in Lusaka, Zambia, this past summer.  Look at the names of the cities…Mumbai, Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Athens, Islamabad, Lisbon, Milan, Beirut, Athens…a whole world of places I have now only flown over, and can hope someday to see.  And then there’s Lusaka…Zambia…)

There are places I’ve been to that I never care to go to again.  Like Pittsburg, Florida, or (pick any) Mexican border town.  And then there are places that I dream of returning to.  Like Papua New Guinea, Ireland, and Zambia. 

And it looks like I’ll have the opportunity to go back to Zambia.  What a thought.  Connie’s friends and family, and some people she never even got to meet, have donated nearly $20,000 thus far towards “Connie’s Heart“.  “Connie’s Heart” is the name of the orphan rescue unit that is dedicated to her memory.  Just a few days ago, we heard that the rescue unit has been built, and is up.  There is enough money for a well, a grainery, and a church, with plenty “left over”.  There is money for ongoing support of the unit and, if we (her family) so choose, we could possibly even build a school!  This would be the first rescue unit school.  How fitting, since Connie was a teacher herself…

We have the opportunity as a family to put together a team of adults (and they’ll even let us bring the kids) to come to Zambia to work at “Connie’s Heart” next February or March.  While there, we would be able to officially dedicate the unit.  I doubt we’ll have a hard time finding 12 people who want to go.  I imagine limiting it to just 12 will be the hardest part.  Imagine, my family and friends, in a very remote region in the bush in Zambia, all working at “Connie’s Heart”.  I have thought of little else since getting the word a few days ago. 

This is Simon.  He was the facilitator at the “Elizabeth Light of Hope” orphan rescue unit in Chiwala, Zambia.  He will be the facilitator of “Connie’s Heart”.  I had the pleasure of working with him when I was in Chiwala with Teen Missions this past summer.  He’s an incredible young man.  If they would have let me choose who I’d like to run “Connie’s Heart”, it would have been Simon.  He will be partnered with a young man named Wilson.  (I wonder if Simon even knows that the Connie of “Connie’s Heart” was Mama Lou’s best friend and sister-in-law.)  Simon himself was left orphaned by AIDS.  He was left to raise a large number of younger siblings with just the help of an elderly grandmother when he was only a teenager himself.  That Simon not only survived, but thrived, and is touching the lives of hundreds of other orphans now is a testament to the saving power of Jesus Christ.  I can hardly wait to see Simon again.

Here are portions of a letter my sister Diane received from Teen Missions/AOSC (AIDS Orphans and Street Children) about “Connie’s Heart”

“I am excited that I have news on Connie’s Heart – the unit is up!!!  
The village is called Funda, and I am going to copy you the  
information that I have from Doug’s last two e-mails so that you have  
some good information for your donors.

“Funda is about 30-40K’s west of Katembula (where our first Matron’s  
unit is located), south of the Kasempa road.  Simon Katima and Wilson  
Muke will be the facilitators.  They have not yet started registering  
orphans as the work crew has just completed the unit.  Oscar has said  
that the unit has great potential both in terms of the numbers of  
orphans and various developments that could happen there.  Oscar has  
requested these facilitators for this unit because they are both very  
dedicated, called and hard workers.  He believes they will be able to  
bring into being what is possible for this unit.  It is remote.  This  
location is where the late chief, Chief Shimkunami said with her last  
breath should be given to Teen Missions.  The people have been  
patient waiting for Teen Missions to come and are now very excited  
seeing the unit up.  There is no public transportation on the Funda  
road – the facilitators have to travel 33 k’s (20 miles) to get to  
any transportation.  People in that area walk those distances if they  
have to get out.”  Right now Joseph is staying at the unit until  
Simon returns from helping to put up some of the other new units.

Hope this will help you.  It sounds like a wonderful place, but  
transportation is very difficult in rainy season.  Kathy has asked me  
to have you send an e-mail or a letter to Mr. Bland regarding your  
desire to send a team over next year indicating the potential numbers  
and the dates that would be possible for the group.  He will also be  
interested in knowing how many young children will be going.

Hope you had a great time with your brother.  We continue to have  
funds coming in for Connie’s Heart – at least a couple of donations a  
week.  It is so encouraging, and maybe you will want to hear some of  
the other things that Doug and Oscar envision for the unit before you  
decide if you want a second unit.  I know some of the areas out there  
are in need of adequate schools – I do not know if this is one of them.

God bless you, and thank you and your family and friends for all they  
are doing.”

I will share information with you as it comes in.  Truly, God is turning ashes into beauty.



There is a special place in God’s heart for orphans…

  • “In you the fatherless find mercy.” (Hosea 14:4)
  • “You are the helpers of the fatherless.” (Psalm 10:14)
  • “It is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14)
  • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27)
  • “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)
  • “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)
  • “Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:5)
  • “And Jesus took the children in his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:16)
  • “Remember those…who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3)
  • “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us…let us not love with word or tongue, but with action and in truth.” (I John 3:16-18)
  • “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matthew 25:35)
  • “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…defend the rights of the needy.” (Proverbs 31:8,9)
  • “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 22:16)

  • Abner Loses His Mind

    You don’t have to call it a miracle if you don’t want to, but I’m going to call it one.

    Each Teen Missions (TMI) team is on the field for 4-5 weeks.  At the end of that time, teams go to a week long “debrief” before returning home.  A number of teams attend each debrief.  My team’s debrief was at the TMI base in Ndola, Zambia.  We attended debrief with the two other Zambia teams.  I’m telling you this story about Abner because he has started his “100 days” until he comes home countdown.

    As part of the debrief program, each of the teams puts on an hour or so long presentation which shares, in part, about the team’s history.  Leaders are generally involved as well, even if in a very brief way.  Our presentation started with some Boot Camp stories.  One of these stories was about our first “team S.B.”  (An S.B. is a kind of punishment.  You “serve” your S.B. by losing free time and working instead.  If a leader is the one to get the S.B. the entire team has to serve it.)  Our first team S.B. was given to us well into Boot Camp on leaders’ day on the obstacle course.  We were given the S.B. because a leader was dropped attempting to scale the 12 foot wall.  That leader?  Abner.  Abner, our head leader.  Abner, one of the obstacle course judges!  Soooo, one of our presentation skits was recreating that “hands up eyes up” moment of failure.  It was all too realistic in that it appeared that Abner was dropped again.  Only this time, instead of landing in soft sand, he landed on concrete.  And hit his head.   His head bounced back and sent a loud popping sound throughout the room.

    As everyone sucked in their collective breath, Abner grabbed his head, but then he laughed and shook it off and got up.  He came over and stood next to me.  I felt the back of his head and could already feel a lump forming there.  He assured me that he felt fine and I continued to watch the presentation (which was awesome, by the way).  About 15 minutes later, a very disoriented and frightened looking Abner came up behind where I was sitting and said “Mama Lou, I can’t remember anything!”  At first I thought he was yanking my chain.  Afterall, he knew who *I* was, right?  Well, he wasn’t a good enough actor to pull off the frightened look in his eyes so I knew something truly was wrong.  I took him outside and began to try to sort out what was going on.

    “We’re at debrief?” he asked incredulously.  “We’re in Ethiopia already?” (his last team debriefed in Ethiopia.  WE were in Zambia.)  I attempted to reorient him.  It didn’t go well.  He kept talking about being freaked out that he was already in Ethiopia.  He had absolutely no memory of anything from the past week.  I did a quick neurological exam on him which yielded nothing disconcerting.  I wasn’t overly worried about things at this point.  I figured he’d get his memory back and that we’d probably just have to monitor him until he did or until his condition worsened.  I didn’t have any idea how long it might take for his memory to return.  After 10 or 15 minutes of making no progress with him, I was up for my part of the presentation.  I decided to stop our presentation and to let everyone know what was going on at that time.  We sat a very upset and confused Abner in a chair in the middle of the room.  We laid hands on him and prayed.  The kids were all very scared to see Abner looking so frightened and talking like a bit like a crazy person.

    I took him back outside to try the reorientation process again.  Almost immediately he began to get his memory back!  Within 20 minutes he began to laugh and to look like himself.  He lost the frightened look.  We worked our way back from his approaching me and telling me he couldn’t remember anything through the whole week.  He remembered everything.  Except the actual hitting the head event.  (I don’t know if he ever remembered that!  I need to ask him.)

    Anyhow, twenty minutes after praying for him, he said he felt fine, and he looked fine.  I had him go back in to see the kids so that they could see he was 1) okay and 2) see that their prayers had been answered almost instantaneously.  Abner was still a bit foggy for a day, but within 24 hours he truly was fine.  Except he was worried that he’d “suffer problems with (his) brain.”  He asked me if I thought he’d have permanent problems with his brain probably a hundred times.  Poor Abner.

    Abner is mostly fine.  He’s in Mozambique.  Suffering post-concussion headaches.  But otherwise his usual insane self.

    He’ll be back stateside in February.  Which is probably none too soon for his mother who is probably still worried sick about her baby Abner losing his mind…

     (P.S.  I am sorry if I used references that mean absolutely nothing to you!  There’s so much background information that could be given.  But the point of this story is not that you understand all about debrief and boot camp and S.B.s, but that you get an idea of the miraculous nature of Abner’s recovery.)

    Hurry home, and be safe, Abner!

    This photo was stolen from Abner’s MySpace and uploaded to Flickr!

    Chiwala Sky – 3

    This probably should have been my first Chiwala sky posting.  But I think it will be my last.  There are only so many sunrise/sunset pictures you probably want to see!  But just a few more notes on the subject before I leave it.  The sun seems to set in equatorial Africa more quickly than it has anywhere else I’ve been.  It drops below the horizon like a big red ball in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  You can actually see it moving.  And the moon rises just as quickly as the sun seems to set.  Also on occasion, it too, is a big red ball.  Now, when the sun slips below the horizon, the dark comes hard and fast.  And what is revealed then is a glittering array of starry jewels which are splashed across the sky so thickly that they look like a cloud rather than individual stars.  It looks like someone splashed a glass of milk across the night sky.  You don’t realize that you “know” your own sky until you are under a different one.  You absolutely know you are not at home when you look up at the sky in a different hemisphere.  I am used to the Big Dipper, not the Southern Cross.  The last time I saw the Southern Cross was in the skies over Papua New Guinea back in 1986.  It was just as breathtaking in the African sky. 

    The sunrises and sunsets were tremendous at every location where we stayed.  But as I’ve mentioned before, the skies in Chiwala really put on a show.

    I tried to take pictures that did this heavenly display justice, but failed.  You can only get a glimpse of the wonderousness of it in these pictures I have shared.  And I put off trying to get starry night pictures believing that the night sky would be the same in other locations.  It was not.  I don’t know what it was about Chiwala, but the sky was different there.  It was bigger.  It was brighter.  It was more colorful in the day.  And it made me want to sing “How Great Thou Art” at night.

    (Chiwala Sky – 3, originally uploaded by Blah Blah Blog)

    Chiwala Sky – 2

    (Chiwala Sky – Sunset 2, originally uploaded by Blah Blah Blog)

    Some days my heart yearns for Zambia. I am thinking of Zambia today.  I loved the muted tones of periwinkle and peach and violet and gold in this picture.  Sometimes the sky in Zambia was an explosion of colors so intense that it robbed you of breath and made you feel unbearably alive.  Other times the sky was gentle, warm, and soft.  This was one of those sunsets.  A sunset that wrapped you in its delicateness.  A sunset that gave off a sigh of comfort and contentedness.

    Step right up and getcherpaper!

    Florida Today has made it possible for those of us outside of their circulation area to get copies of the print version of the John Torres series on Teen Missions in Zambia.  The cost is $8.48, and that includes everything, like delivery and taxes.  If you are interested in ordering up the four part series, click the link!

    Order the Zambia “Orphans & Angels” series from Florida Today

    For anyone who hasn’t enjoyed the online series, there is a link in my blogroll!  I encourage you to read about what some really special North American kids did this past summer.

    Chiwala Sky

    Chiwala was the first village we visited after spending a few days preparing at the base in Ndola.  I don’t know if it was the excitement of finally starting our work after months of preparation, or if the sky in Chiwala truly is the most beautiful sky in the world.  But we were treated to amazing sunrises, breath taking sunsets, and night skies that were a testament to the Almighty God and his love of beauty and his creativity in creation.  This was one of the “sunset shows” to which we were treated.  This picture is an accurate representation of what we saw.  It is unretouched.  The sky was that orange.

    (Chiwala Sky – Sunset 1, originally uploaded by Blah Blah Blog)

    Riots in Zambia

    I had been told of the anti-Chinese sentiment that was growing in Zambia, especially in the urban centers.  That has apparently finally come to a head after the latest elections.

    Read David Blair’s report from Lusaka, Zambia

    Click link above to read report.

    Drum For Sale

    It makes a gorgeous sound.  It was bartered for with a ferocity I am sure was unknown in Zambia, nay, AFRICA, until that day! 

    I had been looking for a drum to bring home from Africa.  I wanted a musician’s drum.  One that was made to be played.  All I came across were “tourist quality” drums.  They sounded okay, but lacked the rich, resounding tones of a REAL drum.   They were painted with cliche and naive designs.  Not something that a real Zambian would play in church or anywhere else.  We had not had much chance to look for souvenirs, and I had pretty much given up the notion of finding the drum I sought.

    Until…there it was!  On the side of the road.  Tall and slender and the color of honey.  The skin on the top worn and bearing the grime of many hands.  This was a drummer’s drum.  It sat next to a slightly less tall and somewhat more round “tourist quality” drum.  I made a bee line to this honey drum and asked the price.  “Eighty thousand kwatcha” was the reply.  In bartering language, that means that at least half the price should be the final price.  I started there, fully willing to pay 60,000 in the end as I REALLY WANTED this drum.  “Forty thousand”, I countered.  “Eighty.”  I laughed.  I jokingly instructed him on “how to barter”.  He laughed, too, and said “Okay, for you, 75,000.”  At this point, Ryeon (the mad Korean bartering crazy boy on my team who had his arms tightly filled with all manner of local souvenirs already obtained) entered the picture.  “How much for that drum?” he queried, pointing to the other large drum.  “Eighty thousand”.  They bartered for a moment, and Ryeon took out 45,000 kwatcha and said “I’m giving you 45,000 for it, and that’s all”.  And he was handed the drum and off he took!  So, with THAT, I returned to MY bartering.  I again offered sixty.  And was again rejected.  “Seventy five thousand.”  I pointed out that the other drum, which I conceded was not as good a drum, was given for 45,000, I wondered what the logic was of holding out for a much higher sale on the drum I wanted.  He just looked at me and shrugged and said, “Seventy five thousand.”  Soooooooo, I decided to call his obvious bluff and said, “well that’s just too much” and walked away.  Generally this results in the seller following you and coming to some sort of deal with the prospective buyer.  As I got further away, my heart sank.

    He was not following me!  He had no intention of trying to sell that drum to me.  And I desperately wanted that drum.  But how did I go back and still try to make a deal????  How????


    I put my very best “pretty please help the poor pathetic female” look on my face and approached Abner.

    Abner is a filipino.  Well versed in barter management and the art of the roadside deal.  He had already gone before us in many areas and warned the vendors that if they tried to take advantage of these american kids, that not a kwatcha would they be receiving from them!  Abner agreed to accept the challenge of acquiring that drum for me.  I gave him 75,000 kwatcha and told him not to come back without that drum, even if it meant paying the actual asking price!

    Abner was gone for a lonnnnnng time.  I started to worry about him since his head inury had just occured the night before.  (Watch for “Abner Loses His Mind” to be posted in the very near future!)  I started to wonder if he didn’t forget where he was and wander off.  He ended up being gone over an hour!  And I cheered when I saw him coming down the road with MY DRUM slung up on his shoulder!  Yay!  Success!

    And he was laughing as he approached me.  He was laughing so hard that I started to laugh.  I wasn’t sure exactly why I was laughing, but when Abner laughs, you laugh!  (You can’t help it.)  And then he got down to telling me the story.  As he approached he saw that the previous seller had been replaced by a woman.  And he thought he had things well in hand.  As he is a very handsome and charming man, he didn’t think that getting the drum for 40,000 was going to be a problem….”Seventy five thousand”.  That’s what she kept saying.  Just like the other guy!  What’s the deal about that drum????

    Abner accepted the challenge, and although it took him an hour, he finally got that drum for me for 46,550 kwatcha, a nearly dry ball point pen (a pen, it turns out, that he’d “stolen” from me!), a freebie Citibank calculator, and a handful of balloons he had in his pocket!  Strong work! 

    I managed to get this very lovely and very heavy drum home in my duffel protected by layers of chitenges.  I think it’s just about my favorite thing I’ve ever picked up on my travels! 

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