Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Zimbabwe - A Day at The Rock Church

And now, back to our previously scheduled programming... Stories from Zimbabwe!!

My first Sunday in Zim, we went to The Rock Church outside Bulawayo near where we were staying. The Rock shares a building with many other groups in the community - it serves as a mosque, temple, church, meeting hall, etc. throughout the week.

A little girl listening intently to the message.

Some of the girls after the worship service.

After worshipping at The Rock, Pastor James took us around the community to meet some of the families that the church supports with the help of Forgotten Voices. This woman takes care of her 2 grandchildren, who's parents have died.

this is the only "chair" in her house

This is her granddaughter. She was a bit shy, and couldn't stop laughing at us crazy white people with our big cameras

This is her grandson. He can't go to school because he can't walk. So, he sits here all day. If you click on the image, you can look closely to see how damaged the skin on his knees is from crawling around on the dirt. He was incredibly sweet even though this picture makes him look like he's got quite a bit of attitude!

The kids in front of their home

A neighbor

The next woman we visited was yet another Gogo taking care of her grandchildren.

She thought I was HILARIOUS and could not stop joking with me, laughing at me, posing for me, and just generally being her spunky ol' self. I love her!!

This is her grandson. I think it's pretty hilarious that the most popular TV show in Zimbabwe is big-time Wrestling. Everywhere we went, kids were talking about it, wearing t-shirts, had posters on their walls, or were watching it. How random is that??

He's a handsome kid, huh?

Here the ladies busted out singing and dancing for us

they couldn't do it too long before they started laughing uncontrolably!

After visiting some families, we went to see The State House - otherwise known as Pastor James' new home which will be used as a refuge, meeting place, and temporary home for people in the church. Pastor James has been building this house all by himself - even making his own bricks until Forgotten Voices decided to chip in and pay for the construction and cement blocks. James is very proud of his new home, and can't wait to open it up to the orphans in the community who need a home. He is literally, the nicest man I've ever met - and I am blessed to know him.

The State House under construction

Pastor James (center) with 2 other men from The Rock.

A neighbor who came to visit

The view from The State House

After all of that visiting, we were pretty tired, so we went back to the King's home to rest. Some of us still had plenty of energy to play on the trampoline...

That afternoon, Warren wanted to take us for a drive to see the sunset from the highest point in the area, on his friend's farm. Well, we got a late start, and ended up seeing the sunset from the road. But, it was still beautiful...

That's it for our day at The Rock Church! I've got lots more stories to share, so stay tuned...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Be inspired - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

watch. listen. be inspired...
to love people who are different than you
to dream BIG dreams, and expect them to come true
pursue the path that God has laid out for you, with His help, you may change the world

Zimbabwe - Day 4

Day 4 was spent in Magwgwe North with Pastor Fibion and the Free Methodist Church.

When we first arrived that morning, Pastor Fibion took us out behind the church to show us an empty piece of land. But this land won't be empty for long! With the help of Forgotten Voices International, the church is building a pre-school for the young children in the community. The dry & desolate land will soon be filled with a school house teeming with laughing children! It's hard to picture it now, but just IMAGINE the possibilities...

Trevor, Fibion & Horace discussing the plans for the pre-school

Trevor, Fibion & Ryan envisioning the future

After praying in the field, we set out for some more home visits in the community. Our first stop was the home of a little girl who had very recently lost her mother after already losing her father. We spoke with her and her Grandparents and uncle, and prayed with them as well.

The little girl was so beautiful and so sweet. She sat there listening to everyone talking about her, and she just remained quiet and mostly looked at the floor. When they started talking about her mom, she got tears in her eyes and had to leave the room to cry. My heart just ached for her. It's so wonderful that the church is able to help her go to school and is making such a difference in her future, but a child is never the same after losing a parent. While I'm encouraged about this girl's future, it broke my heart to see the pain she is feeling right now.

Her Go-Go was a vibrant woman, with so many expressions...

Her Grandfather was also very quiet, just like his grand-daughter. His health is failing and their family worries what will happen if he too should pass away.

Her Uncle comes by the house from another town as often as he can to check on her and his parents. He told us that he used to worry a lot about her future, but now that she has been able to return to school he is more hopeful.

The next home we visited was yet another GoGo taking care of her orphaned grandchildren. And yet another strong woman withstanding the hard realities of life in Zimbabwe with children to care for.

After the home visits, we went back to the church for a youth event with the local kids. There were so many kids there, and it was a lot of fun playing with them, and watching them play, and then worshiping with them afterwards. It made for a fun afternoon!

As we left Magwegwe, the most wonderful thing happened... RAIN! It was short-lived, but such a blessing! When you think of Zimbabwe, please pray for rain. They are suffering from a drought and every drop helps!!

On our way back to town, we stopped at the Eskimo Hut for some "ice cream" (or a frozen yogurt-type product, rather). There was only one flavor available, and only one topping. Mmm, vanilla with chocolate "sauce" (or chocolate water, whatever you want to call it). It was no Dairy Queen, but it definitely hit the spot. You'll notice in this picture there's just about nothing on the shelves or in the fridges at the Eskimo Hut. I don't know how they stay in business, but we were happy to do our part!

After Eskimo Hut we went to dinner at the Bishop's house. It was a fun evening, full of laughter! You know you're off to a good start when you show up for dinner and the Bishop asks if you enjoyed your ice cream... Busted! He'd apparently driven by on his way home and saw us getting our snack. Good thing he's got a sense of humor and good thing we still had big appetites for dinner! It was great spending time with him and his family - they are such sweet people. I felt perfectly at home with them, and that was really nice after a few hard days!

Next up, Sunday at The Rock Church...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tristan is HOME!

Yesterday my little nephew, Tristan looked like this...

But this morning he woke up feeling so much better that the doctors let him come HOME!! And now he looks like this!!! Do you see that? It's a smile!!

It was so great to see him come home! His brother & sister were SO happy to see him - and my sister and I were practically in tears. It was great! He's still getting better, he's not back to normal quite yet - but he's HOME. Thank you God!!! And thanks to all of you who prayed for him.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Update on Tristan

Here's the latest update on my nephew, Tristan...

There was no improvement today in his condition. I think when I said in the last post that the Potassium made a "HUGE" difference, I overstated. It did seem to make a difference - I mean, the fact that he smiled and laughed for the first time in days was very encouraging. But, he woke up this morning pretty much the same as the day before. It didn't help that he had to have another blood draw today, and they had to try twice to get it. It was a rather traumatic experience for everyone, and it left him pretty cranky and grumpy. This afternoon, around the same time as yesterday, he woke up and perked up a bit - laughed and smiled at his mommy's drawings, walked and ate a little bit. The doctors & nurses say that the antibiotics may just take another day or so to kick in, and they plan to keep him at the hospital until they do and until he's walking, eating, and acting relatively normal. So, we expect that he'll be there until at least Wednesday.

Please continue to pray that he'd keep getting better, and that he wouldn't be too miserable that he can't come home yet. Pray for Kyla & Michael that they wouldn't be too sad about that too. And pray for Reilly & Caeden who are definitely missing their big brother. And praise God that Tristan's Mimi (my Mom) will be coming into town on Wednesday to help!

I probably won't post an update tomorrow, unless there's news. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support - Kyla & Michael (and I) are so grateful!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Update on Tristan

Thank you to all who have been praying for Tristan and helping out our family today! It's been a long couple of days, but things are starting to get better. Tristan had a CT scan today which showed nothing unusual, except a sinus infection (he also has 2 ear infections). Just to be safe, they also did a spinal tap which thankfully came back negative. They've now got him on antibiotics. Right before I came by the hospital tonight, they gave him a Potassium drip, which made a HUGE difference. He perked up a little bit, smiled for the first time in days, cracked a joke, and even laughed. It was such a blessing to see him getting a little better! So, we're praying that he'll wake up in the morning feeling better, and that maybe the doctor will let him go home tomorrow. Please pray that that would be the case.

Thank you again for your prayers, phone calls, messages, and love! You are all wonderful!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Please pray for my family!

Anyone who knows me, knows that the most important thing in the world to me, outside of my relationship with Christ, is my sister and her family. Kyla, Michael and their 3 kids, Tristan (4), Reilly (3) & Caeden (17 months) are a big part of why I think God brought me out to Boston. And I'm so thankful that I'm here with them, especially today...

Basically since Christmas, someone in that house has been sick. Pink eye, colds, ear infections, and then this week ALL of us got a horrible stomach bug. Their oldest son, Tristan was the only one who really hasn't bounced back. He's been sleeping all day for 2 days, complaining of being dizzy, won't barely drink anything, let alone eat. So, last night Kyla took him to the doctor, who promptly told her to take him to the ER for fluids and more tests.

This morning, after getting completely rehydrated, he's not showing signs of improvement. He's going to have to have a CT scan, and who knows what other tests. This is really very hard on my family, especially my sister. So would you please pray for him and for us? We know that God is in control, and that He knows exactly what's wrong with our Tristan. But would you pray that He would lead the doctors in treating him. That Tristan wouldn't be scared or in pain. That the rest of us would remain calm and TRUST that God knows what is best and that He loves Tristan even more than we do. And please pray that T would be back up and playing again soon - back to his crazy old self...

Thank you for your prayers and support! I'll try to update the blog when I know more...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Zimbabwe - Day 3, part 2

After we left the Bishop, we headed out to Magwegwe North (a suburb of Bulawayo) to visit one of Forgotten Voices' partner churches. The pastor there is a guy named Fibion. Fibion is awesome - such a servant's heart! He lives at the church with his dog , Fluffy (not what I would name a giant german shepherd, but whatever). He loves his church and takes such amazing care of the people God has entrusted him to shepherd. He is a good man, and a hilarious one at that! It was an honor spending the day seeing how God is using Fibion and his church in this community.

Fibion, maxing & relaxing in his office while we interviewed him a bit before we went out into the community to visit some families.

Now he's getting fired up!


This is the oldest member of the church. I think he's just about the cutest old man I've ever seen! And even though he looks like he's scowling a little bit here, believe me, he got quite a laugh out of me taking his picture so much :)

Walking through Magwegwe North was pretty entertaining. More than any other place we went in Zimbabwe, it is very rare for the people of Magwegwe to see white people walking around. It's kinda like "the hood" of Bulawayo. So, everywhere we walked, kids were running after us, shouting "Makiwa!" - which means white person. Ryan (our fearless leader) is just a 6-foot tall 6 year old, so he entertained our following of kids by making crazy faces, stupid jokes, and asking them all to race him. I'm pretty sure most of them thought we were nuts, but these 2 girls were particularly enchanted by him.

This is Horace. Horace is a leader at Fibion's church. He's a great guy and does an amazing job helping Fibion and leading the youth. He went with us on all of the home visits that day and you could tell that the people in the church really love him.

Our first home visit was to the home of a GoGo (Ndbele for Grandmother) taking care of like a dozen grandkids! This woman is incredible! In this picture below, you can see her brood. I count 12 grandbabies, but I believe some her children live with her as well. Most of these kids have lost their parents, her children, to AIDS. It's amazing what people do for their families - what they endure, what they give up, how they survive. The church helps this GoGo by paying the school fees for her grandchildren. In a country where food is hard to come by, this is probably the only reason that most of these children are able to go to school at all.

Look at her face. She's one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. You wouldn't imagine that she's a grandmother caring for 12 kids, would you?

We had the opportunity to pray for each family while we were in their homes. It was really cool to watch this crowd of kids (mostly boys) settle down and get quite as we prayed.

One of the kids playing outside as we were leaving.

During this trip, we met many children who were orphaned by AIDS, and we met quite a few who were actually born with HIV. Children. Born with HIV. It isn't fair. It isn't easy. But, it's the reality of life in Zimbabwe. Check out the statistics...

* One hundred babies become HIV-positive every day in Zimbabwe
* A child dies every 15 minutes due to HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe
* One in five Zimbabwean children are now orphans (1 million from HIV/AIDS)

The next house we went to was the home of Doris & Dennis. Doris & Dennis are orphans, living with their Grandparents. Their parents died of AIDS, and Doris was born HIV positive.

This is their GoGo, who cares for them.

And their Grandfather (yet another cute old man!)

Doris & Denis in their home with their GoGo. The church pays for their school fees so they can have a chance to get ahead in life.

Ryan racing, and losing to Denis out in the street

Doris watching us skeptically

A little boy across the street

A mob of kids checking out Adam's video camera

Trevor listening to Pastor Fibion outside the next home

The last home we visited that day was the home of a little girl named Blessed. Blessed's mother has HIV, and her father has already passed away.

Blessed's mother is very proud of her. She made a point to show us her homework so we could see her good grades. Her mother feels grateful that the church is able to pay for Blessed's school fees. She wants a better life for her daughter and believes that this will help.

In talking to the mother, it was quite clear that her greatest fear is what will happen to Blessed if she gets ill or dies. She seems comforted in knowing that the church will be there to help take care of her.

A view from the streets in Magwegwe

After visiting homes, we went back to the church for a worship service. Here, Pastor Fibion is singing along with the congregation.

They invited Ryan up to share a word. Ryan shared the story of Gideon and reminded us that God said to Gideon, "Go with the faith you have and the knowledge I am the one that sent you!"

A child at the worship service, who seemed to be a bit distracted...

After the worship service, they fed us from what little food they had. This is, of course, their custom. But, it made us feel horrible, knowing that we could afford to get food on our way home and that they would literally go without in order to feed us. Pastor Fibion explained that the saying goes that a visitor will never eat all your food. The idea that no matter how little of it you have, you should share with a guest because they won't take it all. These are generous people, I tell you.

All in all, it was a long and exhausting day, but a good one.

More from Magwegwe North coming up in the next post - Day 4.