Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Imagination vs. Reality... and some bitter realization thrown in!

I missed a month in blogging, but December was VERY busy for us, with Christmas programs at church and many other things. Things are going very well with the church. We have been so encouraged and blessed to see growth both in numbers but also, and most importantly, in vitality and fruit in the members. We feel like we have been here for years- people have really accepted us into the fold and we feel a sense of family.

Sunday school kids doing a Christmas Pageant

We have added a “Sunday snack” program at church- whereby in between the morning and afternoon services there is a time of refreshment (juice and bread) and fellowship. The women all come together and put the butter on the buns, pour the juice and serve the children, then the men- and finally ourselves! We have seen that this has REALLY improved our fellowship- ladies and men are both growing closer and benefiting from this “mealtime” fellowship every week.

Ladies cleaning in the kitchen- no sinks, no counters, no stoves, no running water, nothing but grace and selflessness! 
Christmas meal !
The midweek meetings are back in full swing and running well- and the prayer meeting is VERY well attended- almost all of the men now attend, and a few women (especially those without small children). The deacons meet regularly, and the men also meet for “leadership training” once a month.We also have one of our youth who has expressed interest in being baptized this year! The same boy has banded together with some friends and they have come up with a plan to build a park in Mpika, one that will be Christian based and be an area for entertainment and witness- but also keep many kids off the streets. He has asked Sydney to be a leader/mentor in the project and they come meet with him once a week about it- they have already received approval from the town council to proceed! Pray for that endeavor!

The ladies have been meeting bi-weekly. It has been so great. I come each week feeling weary and REALLY unsuited to be the one leading. (Although Sydney tells me the less qualified I feel and more humbled I am by the topic the better.) We are going through the book “Respectable Sins” and as we go through each chapter on irritability, impatience, anger, ungratefulness.... it seems like every week I have to confess my sins to the ladies and pour out my heart before them. Surprisingly, this has led to them in turn pouring out their hearts and confessing their shortcomings and in turn- we are all growing closer and more tightly knit with one another! We started out with a few ladies, but now all of the ladies attend (with absences here and there due to sick children, needing to work in the field etc). That also is very encouraging!!

This past week, during the meeting one of the ladies began to bring forward an issue she was struggling with in her home and I was so blessed to see all the older (and younger) women chipping in and giving advice- explaining how she wasn't alone and giving examples from their own pasts. I just felt so blessed to be a part of that. Many of the women have expressed that they are benefiting tremendously from having an active ladies ministry again- and especially one where people are letting their guards down and being frank with each other. (This is a culture of always saying everything is fine when the house is burning down behind you- people (even Christians) will frankly lie just to not offend or disappoint you). 

After the meeting, another of the ladies asked me if I would walk her home. She is someone who speaks very broken English but somehow she is one of the women I feel closest to. On the way, as we walked holding hands, she expressed how much she has been learning from these ladies meetings. She started telling me practical ways in which what she is learning is changing her Christian walk and her home- even telling me about how she responded in an “out of (old)character” way to a stressful situation and her shocked husband exclaimed “Is this what you are learning in ladies meeting?? You guys are really learning a lot!!” I was so happy to hear that and it just showed me how much God is working through our feeble efforts.

When we got back to her house, she finally told me the real reason she asked me to walk her home- she asked me if I would help her learn English. She even said that in return, she will make sure I know Bemba by the end of the year!! It was a strange providence because I have been wondering how, in a (mostly) English household, I would ever learn! God works in very mysterious ways!!

On Friday, I had a meeting with the leader for the church's literacy class. We have received about 10-12 boxes of books and supplies from dear saints at GCBC, and mostly the efforts of our dear sister Holly. We will begin meeting with the kids the last Saturday of this month. There will be 3 teachers, Jane Sichone, Konyi Masanzi, and me. (Please keep us in prayer!) Mrs. Masanzi was a member at Fanny and Curtis' church in Kabanana (what are the odds!), but has been transferred here for work so she is ready to jump on board and help- and since she is primary school teacher she will be very valuable! We also discussed plans for the school. Sydney and I had discussed opening a Christian school here in Mpika on the extra land the church has- but it was more of a LONG term plan when we raised funds. Mrs. Sichone has apparently had the same desire and a better idea- why not start now! Now that we are building the main sanctuary- the hall where we were meeting could be used as a classroom during the week, and we could use the school fees we received to build a school building brick by brick. We will be discussing it further and coming up with plans soon- stay tuned! VERY exciting!!

As far as the church building goes- things are going extremely well. The structural boards have all been put on the building and we are now waiting on the builder to come from Tanzania and as soon as he gets back the roofing sheets will be purchased from Lusaka and they will be done in a week! The builder is the only one delaying us- we are suspecting he is doing another job somewhere at the same time as doing ours because he is not answering calls and disappears for days. It is VERY hard to find faithful and honest laborers, so we are just praying and trying to be patient with him. We had a few unexpected costs- as things tend to go here- so we actually won't be able to get the walls and floors done like we thought- but we will do as much as we can!

                                                                    Front of the church


We have a well at church that got destroyed by the neighborhood so we paid to have it re-dug, cleaned and covered. Because we covered it- they broke the pipe so that they could draw water. Because of that we have filthy water each week- there’s even trash and mud in it. We have to handle it- possibly with the police. It's not easy because we aren’t there all the time so when they are coming to steal our water we aren't there to know who is damaging our property. But they don't pay water bills and just steal from us for free. Pray for us!

As far as our house goes- it's still not done. It has been very discouraging because literally every month since August we have been told “next month it will be done”. Again last week we were told by February we will be moving in. I am no longer holding my breath since we were supposed to only be in this current house for 3 months and we have now doubled that- but I am trying to just be patient and see that God has a plan. To be honest, it looks like a lot more will be done when we move in than we thought. We are given different reports so we will just wait and see. We have said once water and power is there we will move in and they can work around us after that. It remains to be seen. Keep praying!! 

The car has been in issue, from the time in November the neighbor came and smashed the mirror, we have been unable to find a replacement part. We need to have the car checked for road fitness this week and with no side mirror that WOULD pose a huge problem but (again) providentially, the only traffic officer in Mpika trained to check the cars for fitness is a faithful attendee of our church!!! He knows the struggle we've had to fix the car- and he even took one of our tires once and fixed it for us. He is a very faithful brother and helped us get a police report etc. for the broken mirror and gave us advice on how to get a temporary mirror, which we've done. (Hand held mirror taped on the car. Redneck fabulous!) There is a man from LBC who used to maintenance my car when I lived in Lusaka, so he knows it well. He is traveling to Tanzania this week and is going to try to find the mirror from there for us.

The car has given us numerous problems, there was a span of about 2 weeks when almost daily we were getting flat tires- basically the tires are shot but they are about 120 bucks a piece used, so we can't just buy them- not to mention they are hard to find here! We may take a trip to Tanzania (about 2 hours away) and get maybe one a month or so. Worse off, on Sunday one of our shock absorber springs snapped (the thick metal just snapped like a pencil), so now that needs to be replaced as well. The brother who is traveling to Tanzania for the mirror will look for one for us. All these unexpected expenses piling up- in the same week our car insurance ran out, road tax was due and road fitness needed to be performed and payed for!!

We are due to travel to Lusaka at the end of February. Sydney will be attending the annual General Meeting at out mother church, Lusaka Baptist, and I am hitching a ride to see friends and STOCK UP! It's so funny- I used to complain and talk about how we couldn’t get this or that in Lusaka- now I look to Lusaka as the mecca of groceries and supplies. Before I was complaining about not finding the particular brand I liked... but now I am tasting real limitation- even the shop rite we go to two hours away has a very limited selection. I can not believe I ever complained about Lusaka... I am now having trouble finding differences between shopping there and in the US!

We got a new puppy, Phoebe, who died two days after we got her. We believe she was poisoned by our ever-lovely neighbors. About a week ago, we got a little chihuahua-ish puppy named Axle. A church member breeds small fluffy dogs and saved one for us. He is an inside dog since he's so tiny and susceptible to being stolen. We've given away two of the kittens to church members, so we remain with the two males. I feel so bad for the two dogs outside- we have to keep them chained because of the neighbor threatening (and attempting) to kill them- so literally for two solid months they have been chained on the front porch. We tried to bring them inside a few times but they are way to big and the house is way too small. I hate seeing them like that. Just praying for the new house and freedom- for ALL of us!

Last week Sydney was outside slashing (cutting the grass with a sling blade-ish thing) 

                                              (this is a slasher/slashing- how we cut our grass)

and a man came by and asked for work- saying he would even work for food not money. Sydney was almost done, so he told him next time. I felt bad  for him- so I told Sydney to let him finish and we would give him some mealie (cornmeal) and vegetables to take home. As soon as we agreed to let him work- he changed his story saying he would only take money and wanted 100 kwacha (20 dollars- when he should have worked for about 2 dollars according to the rates here and how much needed to be done). Sydney reminded him that he was already working- and almost done- when they guy came asking for work. It wasn’t us looking for a worker. He finally came down to a slightly more reasonable price. (Still too much for my liking). Sydney came inside and we watched him for 3 hours out the window be the most lazy man we'd ever seen. He's slash one foot and then stop. Slash another foot, then come ask for water. After the three hours he came and said he was tired so he was leaving and would finish tomorrow (it was only 11 AM!!) My patience was shot- and I told Sydney to give him a few kwacha and send him away. That’s where my compassion ended and Sydney’s surpassed mine! Instead of sending him away in his laziness, Sydney went outside and talked to him, rebuking him gently and then told him to come back tomorrow and finish the job. I didn't trust him in the least and finally just let myself get irritated. The next day the guy came and with wrong motives, I gave him breakfast. It wasn’t the love and compassion in my heart to give this man food- it was so that he wouldn't have an excuse of being hungry or tired. He finished and Sydney spoke with him again but also kindly let him know that we would not be able to hire him again because of his laziness and unfaithfulness. If it was me- I would have said much worse and paid much less.

At the ladies meeting one of the ladies began talking about her workers and how she was irritated by the way they work and she was rebuked by the book we are reading. God used that to show me how nasty my heart had been and right there and then I had to tell the story and confess how nasty I had been.

The next day after my big revelation and commitment to change and be more loving and compassionate, Sydney and I took the car to have air put in the tires (a weekly necessity). Every time we go, the guys are stinking of beer and act “shady”. It was a new guy who hadn't seen us there before- and after filling the tires, which is free at the gas station, he told us it was 10 kwacha to fill tires. If there is one thing I HATE about Zambia, it's how people can lie in your face- like you are an idiot. Sydney told him we know that it's free and I told him, in a very ungracious and unchristian way, that we weren't paying him and that he was a liar.

On the way home I was furious- at first with him, then with Sydney for giving the guy two kwacha, then I realized I was actually mad at myself. Yet again, I was completely hard hearted and nasty to someone after being rebuked just the day before. 

I find myself  becoming more and more jaded the longer I love here. When I came those first few years I would've given the shirt off my back to anyone and never worried about how it was used. As years roll by and I am lied to more, and more and I see people I try to help misuse money or be incredibly selfish and ungrateful... I am so un-trusting now and so tight with my wallet and so unsure of everyone's motives all the time. I want the "fresh" faced mission worker me back!

I know that this side of Heaven, I will never be perfect- but it's so sad to know who you want to be and how you want to act and fail over and over. I lay in bed at night imagining myself being this kind loving Mary Poppins/Mother Theresa who shines the light of Christ all over Mpika and instead I feel like I am dumping black tar all over.

I know my family and friends have images of me hugging little orphans and passing out Bibles but in reality- sometimes a kid in tatters walks toward the car and I roll up the window because I simply can't be sure if he's really hungry or it's a ploy to steal from the car. When a homeless person is walking past I don't offer him a sweater or an apple from my bag from the market- I imagine him grabbing my purse or hitting me (Sydney was punched by a homeless man in the market last month- not a far fetched imagining!) and so I cross the road to get away. As soon as I smell the stench of beer on a woman in the market my immediate response is usually to make a mental note not to buy her vegetables because she's a useless drunk- instead of inviting her to church. When someone laughs at me for shopping in the market or shouts “muzungu” to me just to get a reaction, I don't see that as an open door to witness, I see it as an insult to my pride and roll my eyes.

It's discouraging, but I am working. I am reading some great books and getting help from my husband. It's easy to think because someone is a missionary they are a saint. We aren't- we need prayer. Our sin remains in our aging bodies and if anything, we are reminded all the more of who we are supposed to be and how we are failing. I am thankful for the relationships I am making with the women here, I am learning from them even though most of them have no idea that I am watching. I went to visit a church member and saw her give a begging man some vegetables and fish. He wouldn't leave because he wanted cooking oil too. My reaction would have been to be furious at his ungratefulness and refuse to ever give him anything again. She quietly went inside and got him oil. I saw Christ in her. I thought of how I have this roof over my head and someone to draw water for us and food on the table and such great support from LBC, and instead of being thankful all I can do is shake my fist because I want to be living in a different house.... It's amazing how much God puts up with from me, and how little I am willing to put up with from others. 

Most of all I am thankful to God for giving me the most gracious, patient, kind and loving husband I could ever have imagined and MOST definitely don't deserve.

Being aware of these things is helping. I want to be the missionary woman/pastors wife I always imagined... but I have a sneaking suspicion we all fall short... 

"This world is not my home, I'm just passing through...."