Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

So I started 2008 in downtown Omaha and now I'm ending it in Serenje, Zambia...its crazy how much can happen in a year. I obviously had no idea I would be welcoming in 2009 on the other side of the planet, but here I am. It's funny, because I had actually forgotten all about New Year's Eve celebration, and for the first time I'll probably be asleep at midnight, but I'll be awake again by the time it's midnight in the states.

We got a lot of work done today on the construction of the orphanage, it's really exciting to see the progress even for just one day. There is a lot of work to do with the foundation of the buildings, but we're finally starting to lay concrete and build up the walls in some spots. I'm having tons of fun hanging out and working beside the construction teams. (If you're unaware, all our employees are local Zambians that were hired by Zack when he arrived...Zack and I are the only Americans, for now). As we work we ask each other all kinds of questions about the other's country. We talk about history, politics, food, name it. I'm learning a lot about their culture, as well as sharing about ours.
I'm also trying really hard to learn some Bemba, which is a common local language here (one of the 72 in Zambia). I'm struggling, but hopefully I'll know some before my time here is up. A few of the workers decided to give me an African name. It's spelled Bube, and is pronounced BWOO-pay. At first I thought he was saying whoopy, as in Whoopy Goldberg. I thought it sounded weird, but then he told me what it means. It is Bemba for "gift," because they think of me as a gift to Africa. I like it now.
I also got to walk around barefoot outside today, which I love to do for some reason. So between that and the new name, I was feeling pretty African...I just need a few more hours in the sun. (Don't worry mom, I don't have any plans to stay here permanently yet). Although, I'm not enjoying the bugs. It's not like there are a ton, but there are bugs I've never seen before, and they are a bit bigger than at home. Today, I was bit by an ant much bigger than any we have in America, and it had little fangs, so it was a pretty good bite (at least I think it was an ant, no one seems to know for sure). I think I accidentally stepped on some of his friends though, so I guess we're even. Anyways, so things are going well here, and I'm very anxious to see what's to come.

This is a random picture of a neighbor kid, I just had to put it up... I mean c'mon, look at him. Tomorrow Zack and I will be going to Lusaka (the capital of Zambia) to get more supplies, etc. It's a long trip, so you could pray for our safety and success in getting what we need. You could also continue to pray that the weather would favor us (it was great again today, the rain came during lunch and it was clear by the time we started back up). Last, you could pray for my New Years Resolution. Mine is to decrease the time I waste and increase the risks I take...basically, I don't ever want to be held back by fear (physically, socially, emotionally, etc.). Knowing my experience with God, I have nothing to fear anyways. It's all in his hands. It may be cliché, but it's true. Happy fresh start!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Workin' Hard

So I have to apologize...people are emailing me thinking that something has happened to me, since I haven't updated in awhile. No, I wasn't eaten by a hippo...just keeping busy. So I want to give you an idea of where I'm at as far as my objectives are concerned. My objectives are many...but among them include oversight and assistance with construction, contributing to the ministry of the Hope Center for Children and of Pastor Novice Kulunga, connecting relationally with the orphans, help to develop and carry out a game plan for Brookside's program of getting orphans back in school, and think ahead for Brookside's possibble future plans here.

As of now, I'm still getting started on some of those, but my main focus has been on the construction of the orphanage buildings. There will be two more men from Cornerstone Church joining Zack and I, which will free me up to tackle some of my other tasks. But untill January 9th, about 80% of my time will be towards construction. In addition to that I have been talking with Novice about future mistry opportunities.

The weather has been cooperating well for us, so a lot has been getting done. Building here is quite different than at home, so there are things that take much longer to do here. Right now our priority is to backfill our foundations so we can lay the concrete slabs down before the rainy season hits us with full force. We've been praying and hoping for the rain to hold off at least for the work day. It's pretty cool, because both days this week it held off all day and then started literally within 5 minutes after the end of the work day. Hmmm. Yesterday was even more impressive because it was a downpour right after we finished.

I think I'm doing alright considering I have to drive a giant truck that is a stick shift, the wheel is on the other side of the car, and I have little construction experience. Don't lose your confidence in me though, I'm doing just Zack has expertise.

Really though, things are going great! Not only are we getting a lot of work done, but I'm getting to know a lot of the guys really well. You know me, I'm a talker. I even talk to the guys that don't know much English. The lower picture is of me sharing with the guys on Christmas Eve (read the previous blog for details). I watched part of a "soccer" match with a couple of them the other day, and many of them want me to see where they live or hang out some time.

Tonight, after work, I drove Novice and some of his family to a village about an hour and a half away, deep into the "bush." It's not that far, but the dirt road that goes there is very ruff...some parts are like constant speed bumbs, and I've learned a whole new meaning to the term pot hole. Novice needed to go there to get some documents for the government (It all had to do with Hope Center stuff).

It was the village where Novice grew up, and he showed me around a little. I had another surreal "whoa, I'm really here" moment when I met his mother. She is 84 years old (keep in mind they have a lower life expectancy). Novice and I walked into a small dark hut the size of a cubicle, there was nothing inside but a fire in the middle of the floor, and Novice's mother keeping warm beside it (it was after sunset). She's blind in her old age, but Novice told her who I was as we shook hands. I don't know how to explain it, but it was a great little moment.

Usually we try to avoid driving at night, for many reasons, but it was dark before we headed back to Serenje. There are stories of "highway pirates," and things like that, but the scariest part is that there are no street lights. It's crazy how dark it gets when there's NO lights around. It's very difficult to see in front of you, and often there are people walking on the side of the highway! There are so many dangers to keep you tense (don't worry mom, I was careful). Rest assured though that we were only on the highway for a few minutes, and we will rarely drive at night. So that's a little about what I've been up to, just a small glimpse though, thanks for reading.

PRAYER REQUESTS: For the growing relationships with the workers...for my open ended plans to hang out with Sunday (the guy in need of some guidance after poor life decisions)...for my objectives (I feel there is a lot to figure out, plan, and it looks a little overwhelming as of now)...for the health of all these kids I see every day (it's crazy how cute they are, you can't not smile when you see them)...for the progress of construction...for Novice, who is having major problems with his left eye.
Thanks all! Remember, any questions you have send to This blog is more for you than me, so I want to write about what you want to hear about.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Today we decided to make a feast for the workers in honor of Christmas. I had to go and purchase all the supplies. At home I would've went to it was slightly more work. I took two workers with me to help, we went to a few diffferent shops and the open market area. Long story short, we returned a couple hours later with a van full of food and supplies and a basket with ten live chickens. We had a few guys and women who put the whole meal together...which is certainly no easy task, especially when feeding such a large group. It took them several hours to do things such as kill the chickens and prepare them, start the fire and cook the various things in the pots, etc. It was so much different than the microwave world I come from.
Before we ate lunch, we gathered all the workers around. Zack shared a little bit with them on the project we are doing and how they are building more than just a few buildings. After that, Pastor Novice introduced me. I shared my testimony of how I came to faith in God and how it's changed my life, and then Novice preached. Within his message he clearly layed out the Gospel...that Jesus sacrificed himself so that we may be forgiven for our sins and reconciled to a relationship with God through faith in Him. About 18 workers said that they wanted to accept that truth and put their faith in God (some of them I know were already believers who were showing their agreement with the Gospel, so I'm unsure how many of them were professing faith for the first time). It was really awesome!
Tomorrow I'm going to possibly hang out with one of the workers in the afternoon. Novice said he has gotten into some trouble lately and is in need of guidance...we'll see how it goes. Please pray for him, his name is Sunday. Pray for our friendship that will hopefully start tomorrow, and wisdom for me. The more I remember that God is in control and uses me, the less I get nervous about these type of things, I just want to be the instrument. Pray that I wouldn't lose sight of that. Also, please pray for me as I decide how I will be spending my time and going about accomplishing my goals while I'm here, I have a lot to do. You could also pray that the world will celebrate Christ's birth tomorrow...not just a holiday.

Just so you know...

I apologize for my posts being late, I was having some trouble with the internet. I will try to post regularly with current updates so you know what is going on while it is happening. I will also start to post more about the progress of our objectives over here, once I settle in a little more and figure things out. I will eventually have links to many more pictures so you can get a better feel for what it's like and you can see the progression of the construction. Last, feel free to email me questions or comments at Thanks!

First full day in Serenje

(12-23-08) Today’s my first day at work and in full swing. The photo on the right is the view out our front door...not bad huh? We woke up early and got out to the site. We drive two of the workers to the site every day, so I sat in the back of the truck and rode with them. They are about my age, and they’re pretty shy. After we greeted each other, the first question they asked me was, “so how is America?” They were both very eager to here my answer.

It rains a lot because we’re in the rainy season, but it usually comes and goes quickly and then it gets hot again fast. That wasn’t the case today though, all morning it was drizzly outside, so construction was slow. I got to meet a lot more of the guys we’ve hired…I’m still working on their names.

Zack will normally have tasks for me to do, or I’ll be elsewhere for ministry purposes, but today was a free day for me to familiarize myself with the site and the people. I went ahead and helped out by joining them in doing some work. Not only do I enjoy doing some manual labor, but I wanted them to know that I’m not just a person who’s above them, I’m a peer too. Zack sent everyone to lunch an hour early because of the rain (which is a pretty big deal for them), and then thankfully it cleared up so we could get a lot done in the afternoon.

I drove for the first time today. Not only is it a stick shift (which I have little experience with), but I’m on the right side of the car and the left side of the road…not to mention people are always walking in the streets. It actually wasn’t horribly bad, but I did feel 14 again.

I was lucky enough to spend most of the afternoon with Novice, who I discovered really is like the Apostle Paul. He has many high expectations for me as we partner together in ministry. The minute we started talking he began listing possibilities that I should consider and pray about, and he kept voicing his gratefulness that I was here. I got to know him a little more as we ran some errands together, and at the end of the day he had already planned our first ministry experience together. Tomorrow we are feeding all the workers lunch for Christmas, so Novice asked me to share my testimony at lunch and then he is going to preach. I can’t wait to see how it goes!

Serenje at last!

(12-22-08) Finally, the day I get to go to Serenje! We ended up having to stay in Lusaka Sunday night for many reasons, but I’m more than ready to see Serenje. It already feels like I’ve been here a long time, but I know when I’m leaving in March it will seem like it went fast, so I want to do as much as I can and not waste any time.

We drove about 5 hours to get here. All along the roads there are always people walking around. When driving through towns, the sides of the streets are pretty thick with people, and even in between towns there are often people on the sides of the road. Usually they are carrying something heavy and they're always going regardless if it’s raining or not. It also isn’t unusual to see children on the shoulder, just inches from the traffic. That’s just how it is here.

As we pulled in to Serenje I felt like a kid on Christmas, I couldn’t wait to see my new home for the next few months. There is one main paved road (picture on right) that goes through town, and people walking all around all the time. We drove across the whole town in a few minutes and to the construction site. It was almost the end of the work day when we arrived, but I got to meet many of the workers. They were all very nice and they show a lot of respect…they automatically assume that I’m their boss because I’m white and I’m with Zack. I tried as hard as I could to start learning their names right away (but I have enough trouble remembering American names).

I also got to meet Novice, a local pastor who is our main contact in Zambia and is behind the Hope Center project. I’ve been told he’s like a modern day Paul (for more info on him, read the Book of Acts), so I was very excited to meet him. He was just as excited to meet me, he was extremely welcoming. We only got to talk for a few minutes though, but I plan to be spending plenty of time with him.

Next, I got to see our home. It used to be a small office in a strip mall, but now it’s been made into a small home…it’s similar to a college dorm room. Zack and Randy (the other guy from Cornerstone who will be returning January 9th) installed plumbing and electricity, so we often have lights and running water. It’s really not a bad little place, we are better off than many people here. I finally got to unpack and organize a little too, so that felt great. I still feel like I’m in orientation mode, but I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me to do here.

My first Sunday in Africa

On Sunday we went to the local church while still out in the bush. After a 25 minute hike on a small trail, we arrived at the small one room church made up of brick walls and a grass roof. They were very excited to have us visit, some of the children never took their eyes off of me. My favorite part was the worship. We sang a few songs in English, and then some in their native tongue. It sounded really cool to hear them all sing together with no instruments, they had great harmony.
After Church we hiked back and had lunch at Zack’s friend’s home again. The menu was much better this time…grilled cheese. I enjoyed watching them cook in pans over hot coals on the front porch. We left in the afternoon to go back to Lusaka. We got more supplies and I got to use the internet for the first time. Zack (the guy from Cornerstone that’s heading up the construction) has been really helpful at explaining things and answering my endless questions, it’s been a great way to start my trip. I'm trying to be as prepared as possible for what I will be doing in Serenje, so Zack has been educating me on everything from construction to ministry. He's also helping me to understand the culture better too. We will be going out to Serenje tomorrow, I can’t wait! Serenje is where the orphanage is being built, and my new home for the next few months.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

whoa...I'm in Africa!

Written Saturday, December 20th: Alright, so here we go, blog number 1. Well, the traveling went pretty well, I spent about 31 hours total on airplanes and in airports (mostly in the air). It was weird sitting in the airport in Atlanta with the realization hitting me fully that I won’t see Omaha or any of you for 3 whole months. I’m excited too though. Also, while I was passing thousands of people in the airport, I kept seeing people that looked like someone I know, but obviously it wasn’t the case. I guess that was my way of being homesick already. Thanks to those of you who wrote the encouragement letters (I have like 50), they are awesome!
When I got here to Lusaka (the capital of Zambia), only 1 of my 3 luggage items arrived, no worries though. Zack picked me up from the airport, and it was weird all of the sudden being in a car in the middle of Africa, very surreal. We stayed the night in Lusaka in a nice little hotel, then the next morning we bought some supplies and phone minutes for my phone. It’s really hard to try and explain ALL the differences I’ve been seeing culturally. We sometimes think of Africa as just grass huts and wildlife, but here in Lusaka its weird to see a mixture of cell phones and cars with third world living. Also, it’s the rainy season, so everything is really really green. I wish I could describe the smells and sounds and everything else, hopefully you’ll get a sense of what it’s like as I continue to blog and start to post pictures.
My luggage came in, so we went to the airport to pick it up, so that’s relieving. After that we drove about 1 ½ hours to Kazemba, where Zack had spent 8 months a couple of years ago working. We pulled off the main highway and drove on a rather adventurous dirt road to get here. The easiest way for me to explain the road was that it was fun, and a little like a small rollercoaster. Zack said this is the true "bush" that everyone in Africa refers to, I learned that soon enough. We were then guests for dinner at a friend of Zack’s, you’ll love the menu. Inshima (indescribably thick corn based grit like stuff, I can’t explain how bland it is), a vegetable mixture (so far not too bad), kapenta, which are minnows that have been dried out then cooked (by the way, they were kept completely intact), and to top it all off, cooked caterpillar! It was just my luck to get to try this so early on, Zack said he hasn’t had anything like that in his month and a half here. But no worries, I tried all of it, luckily there were no lights on ‘cause the look on my face was pretty bad. Our evening was topped off by our host smashing a rat with a dust pan…that was pretty cool.
We’re going to church here tomorrow morning, then we plan on heading out to Serenje tomorrow afternoon (or maybe Monday morning, plans tend to be very tentative around here). Serenje is where I'll be staying to do construction and ministry with the local church and orphans. I’ll hopefully have some pictures up soon of what I've seen so far. Miss and love you all!
PRAYER REQUESTS: That I would be able to continue to fit in to the culture here…that I would be bold and not shy in circumstances that will soon come…for those in Serenje that I don’t even know yet…for the people I’ve seen so far who don’t have much…for the tasks that I will be starting soon on behalf of Brookside. Thanks.

Special note to Tribe: Hey guys, Thanks for sending me off well, it was awesome spending my last night in town with all of you. I'll really miss you all, thanks for the "Tribe Loves Jack" cards, they're amazing (I read them all already). Well, I hope you all have a great Christmas break, remember what we're celebrating! Oh, and go easy on Brad, he doesn't have anyone to get coffee for him now, lol.