Monday, August 30, 2010

Bike Day!!

Yesterday evening I picked up my friend Katie from the States. As I was waiting for her the power went out three times in the airport, welcome to Africa Katie! We crashed last night and got up early today.

We spent the morning sitting in some Equipped To Counsel classes that Arise Africa is teaching throughout this week at a local church here in Zambia. We have two great American teachers that are teaching 30 Zambians from three different churches. Rachael and Renee are teaching through material that they have gone through themselves in the USA with Equipped to counsel leaders. The class is focused on training people how to counsel Biblically and it was really interesting to hear. There were great questions that Zambians asked about salvation, suffering, and predestination. I was glad I wasn't teaching the class!! Renee did a great job with that!

After checking in with our Equipped to counsel class, we took Jayrose in to town and got that kid a bike! and a big one! We spent a long time in town scouting out various shops that sold bikes and looking at their prices. Katie and I spent most of the time in the car because when a white girl shows up, the prices go up!

We got Jayrose a bike and boy is he happy! He wanted a blue one and I was concerned the size was too big. But after some time of discussion it was emphasized to me how important it is that it is big enough so he can grow into it. Well he certainly can and the kid doesn't grow much from year to year that I have seen!! He was so sweet and excited, this huge grin was on his face! We explained to Jayrose that he is getting the bike because he held up to his promise of going to school. We were told by his grandmother that he loves school now and doesn't ever miss it. And he doesn't even play in the city dump that much! Bonus!!!

I finished off our day with a long meeting with Bwalya about future plans and desires. We discussed our business projects we have ongoing and were really encouraged by God's work. We continue to meet people over here to help with our partnership and see God's hand in opening opportunities and relationships that are benefiting these kids and our Zambian team!

Tomorrow is another FULL day of meetings, and planning so please continue to pray for us!

- Alissa

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yes that is a TV you are carrying on your head...

This has nothing to do with anything with Arise Africa but this woman was carrying a TV ON HER HEAD! That's awesome!

Today (Monday) was a great day.

This morning Joe, our driver picked up Benson and I and we were off to Greenhill school and orphanage.

I was beyond impressed at their progress from this past year and getting to see all my friends was so fun. The kids were singing and jumping all over me, like I had never left! It was awesome.

We had a long meeting with the headmasters at Greenhill and are beyond grateful for their commitment to these kids. They are boarding more kids than ever before and they are pouring out of their sleeping rooms. Literally some are sleeping on the porch! We prayed for their struggles and thanked God for their success and achievements. Their kids made some of the highest academic scores in community schools in Zambia. Unfortunately they didn't have enough funds to allow all their kids to take the government tests required to move to the next grades. It broke my heart to hear that lack of funding for a test that costs $30 American Dollars was what would hold these orphan kids from moving to the next grade of school. Not lack of commitment from the kids but just $30 that they don't have. We prayed about how to avoid this in the future.

Another major success that Greenhill has achieved is their sustainable growing. They have crops all over the place and are feeding their kids so much better! From corn, to cabbage, to red onions to even herbs they are winning agriculture awards and selling excess crops to the community to raise funds for the school. I mentioned that an American is interested in coming to teach more about sustainable farming and they were really excited.

We spoke of their needs and what they had been praying for. A major concern for them is that their school has run out of classrooms and they have moved the babies (grades 1-3) back to outside to the same tress that Greenhill School was started under.

That was when I was able to tell them that God willing a team of Americans would be coming early next year to build them a classroom. They couldn't believe it and Mrs. Tembo fell to the floor and started thanking God and praying to Him. It was overwhelming for them and myself! At that moment I realized that we are showing God's love in ways that I can't comprehend to these people. Then I almost peed in my pants realizing I just told them we are coming without all the funds raised for the classroom! I explained this and that our team is working hard in America to make this happen. They said they would be praying for everyone involved. We discussed the project and we will be having a community meeting with the parents in the weeks to follow to begin to get them prepared to be inundated by loud young Americans who are ready to build!

So if you want to help us make this classroom a reality (and make me feel much less nervous!) CLICK HERE and donate to the school fund! Every little bit helps!

I also was able to give Greenhill a laptop that had been donated by Vinson and Elkins law firm and they were PUMPED!

Ok guys I won't be around for a while but you will hear from me early next week.
Have a great week!

In Him,

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Arrived and Alive in Africa

Well I arrived in Zambia yesterday morning and had the WONDERFUL surprise of getting all my luggage. ALL!! I was shocked and I am not so sure what to do with having so many personal items in Africa! (Note: for those of you who don’t know the story, I spent 4 weeks in Africa last year and NONE of my personal luggage ever arrived and I lived with a pair of jeans and three t-shirts that were Bart Zachry’s old school uniforms that were supposed to be donated clothing. And got a nasty stomach “issue” because of no food or medicine) I was laughing at myself as I set up my toothpaste, soaps and shampoo in the bathroom, I was like a kid in a candy store!

We had a full day even though I was jet lagged. I hit the ground running with Benson and Bwalya. I learned a lot more about some business investments we have going on and was overwhelmed at the work these guys have been doing for us in Africa. We also mapped out the next few weeks and what it will look like for all of us. We got a lot to do!

Another great surprise was that Benson had received his grades and did really well in college this past semester! In fact, the local newspaper had congratulated those with good scores and he made the paper! Go Benson, I sure am glad he can show me up with his academic skills. Let’s be honest I wouldn’t say my name has ever appeared anywhere for an academic award! All you 4.0 overachieving Chi O’s in college can be quiet.

Last night I had dinner with my close American friends who live over here in Zambia. Their hearts and openness to help Arise Africa and me is amazing, we couldn’t do it without their support. It was a blast and we had quite a fun time even though the back patio was taken over by yellow jackets. The guys took care of them after I recommended the trusty Peter Hollimon tactic of soap and water. Thanks dad for teaching me those good old ranch tricks!

I’m excited, overwhelmed, and blessed. We ask for your prayers in big decisions, partnerships, and relationships we will build, strengthen, and continue to pour into these next few weeks. Pray for our Zambian team and pray that I listen well and together we continue to glorify Him!

And did I mention I am going to Namibia for a little VACAY too?!?!

Thank you for all your help and support!

Alissa for Arise Africa

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Meet my friend Jayrose

I first met Jayrose in 2007 in Zambia. He was probably about 7 or 8 at the time and is tall and all bones. It was evident that he wasn’t fed much at home. In 2008 when I was in Zambia for 5 months, I got to know Jayrose and learn his story.

Jayrose and his brother live with his grandparents who are amazing. His mother does live somewhere but it is unknown to them, and his father they have never known. It is believed he has died. Although they are extremely poor and not in the best health the boy’s grandparents try very hard to care for their grandsons. Jayrose’s grandfather does day labor at a local farm when his health permits. During the time I was in Zambia, they were going to have to move out of the house they were living in. We spoke to his grandparents who informed us they would be moving across the Lusaka near a city dump. They owned a plot of land out there and they didn’t have a house but the land was theirs. They were so proud of the land and that they owned it.

A few weeks after they have moved we went to check on Jayrose and his family at their new location. I am not sure what I was expecting but it broke my heart at what I found. His grandparents had done the best they could to “construct” a home for them. The home was made up of tarps and metal that they had collected in the city dump which was a couple hundred yards away.

They had a few chairs in their “home” and a mattress on the partial dirt floor.

Right next to their land was an open field, with overgrown weeds and bushes. I decided to explore a bit and began walking through the dirt field. I noticed that it was rather uneven ground and there were a lot of dirt mounds and trash in it.

This is an actual photo of the field!

This was when the stupid American (that would be myself) began to ask questions to Benson, who was with me.

“Hey Benson this field is so bumpy whoever owns this land should farm it or something but they need to get these bumps out.” I said as I walked across it stepping from hump to hump.

“Yes Lissa well you see this field is a cemetery and that is why it is bumpy because you see the bumps they are the graves.” Benson so calmly replies.

“Dude Benson! I am walking on GRAVES!” I say.

Benson gets the grin on his face that I know all to well. “Yes Lissa I thought it was funny you wanted to walk out here” He responds once again so calmly.

“You could have told me earlier!” I exclaim as I turn around and try to get out of the field. We headed back to their house while I looked like the stupid white girl walking on dead African graves.

Over the next months we visited Jayrose and his grandparents often. We helped Jayrose enroll in his new school and I still had a broken heart every time we left their house of tarps and sticks. I began blogging about the issue and decided I wanted to help them build a house. After lots of prayer and donations through people reading the blog, we built them a house, costing roughly $1,500. And it was amazing to watch the process. His grandparents had tears in their eyes every time we showed up and could not stop thanking me. It was overwhelming to try to explain to them that it wasn’t myself but other people in America who had read their story and wanted to help and were praying for them. When I left that summer they were settled in their home.

Last year I visited Jayrose and his grandparents and his brother. They have been in the home for a year at that point. I was so proud of them when we saw how great they were doing. They had banana trees planted and had built a fence made out of sticks to protect their chickens from running away. And they were growing plants of some sort I’m not really sure what they were you would have to ask Benson. And there was the cemetery, which I stayed out of this time. I am sure everyone was happy about that. I had so much fun chatting on the porch and catching up on all the events in the past year.

We heard that Jayrose hadn’t been so stellar in school. In fact he didn’t like school and wanted to stay home and play instead, in the city dump. Seriously! So we got on that boy and explained to him that school is the most important thing. His dream is to be a cab driver one day and I always love encouraging him to work for that. And maybe even beyond it. Jayrose commented that his school was really far away to walk to and maybe if he had a bike he would go. Which we told him that was a lame excuse. (Well that is what I wanted to tell him but Bwalya and Benson of course handled it better!) You see there is no such term as “too far” in Zambian in terms of walking. They can walk for HOURS and still not think it is very far. I have been a victim of this and been told things were “just around the corner” when really that’s like 6 miles away. So I wasn’t buying the “too far to walk to” excuse from Jayrose.

But I did tell him that if he attended school and had good grades when I came back in a year that we could go look at bikes and get one. That’s a BIG deal for a kid whose playground is the city dump. Throughout this past year Benson has been checking on Jayrose and his family and helping with school fees and providing extra protein in their diet.

A few months after our visit, Benson did walk to school with Jayrose and sent me a text explaining that school was actually REALLY far away. Now when a Zambian tells you that something is FAR away, you better listen. Because their idea of far is probably like 30 miles or something ridiculous like that! We discussed options and Benson found a government school closer to Jayrose’s home, which also provided a better education. The only problem was that Government schools require a uniform, which would cost around $75, which they could not afford. Arise Africa paid for Jayrose’s school uniform and we got Jayrose in the school. And he has gone everyday and loves it. Benson checks in on them very often and I love the updates.

Here is a picture of Jayrose at school.

A few days ago as I prepared to go back over to Zambia I remembered that promise I made to Jayrose, and you know what, he has gone to school and is making good grades! I texted Benson about the promise made and he of course remembered.

So in just a few weeks I will have the honor of taking Jayrose in to town and purchasing a bike for him. I don’t think he has ever ridden one. Do they have training wheels in Africa? I am sure not. I am excited about having the opportunity to love on such a special kid and continue to be a part of his life. I thank everyone who gives to Arise Africa to make this possible.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Special Shout Out

We would like to give a special shout out to Courtney Hollimon who has by far won the contest for collecting the most hotel soaps, shampoos, pens, and writing pads! All of these will be great to hand out to kids and people in the villages and surrounding areas we work in.

Who is up for this challenge in trying to collect more than Courtney did?

Thank you Courtney for your due diligence while traveling!