Thursday, February 26, 2009

How's Dr. Jack sound?

I'm sure I mentioned this before, but it was so encouraging to see Brian, Abbie, and Karin use their medical skills to help the sick and hurting over here. I was able to shadow them in the hospital a little, and I even helped with a few things. It made me want to go to medical school so I could have another way to help people. They headed back to America today, but I feel like their impact will be echoing in the hospital for a long time. They were able to share their knowledge, as well as learn from the Zambians too (it certainly goes both ways). Not only did they provide medical help, but beyond that they were able to show compassion and love to the patients too.
I think the hardest part for them was the death they encountered. Especially the children. It's hard to watch a child die. It's hard to go long without being reminded of the death and desperation around here. I was reminded of it regularly as I visited the orphans at their homes over the past several days. But I wasn't discouraged by it, because it made the Hope Center that we're building seem so much more meaningful, a direct answer to one of the many problems around here. I'm so thankful for Brookside and Cornerstone deciding to act on a solution.
Two nights ago the District Commissioner had us all over for dinner. Comparatively, he's similar to a Mayor or a Governor, or somewhere in between. At the end of the night he was thanking us before we left, and he said, "because of you I have seen what is possible, I have seen hope." Hope has taken on a whole new meaning to me over here. I've seen people here who really need hope, and I've been seeing God inspiring hope in Serenje, and I know it will only grow from here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More Photos!

I've recently added some more photos to my Flickr site, so you can check those out by clicking on the link at the top right hand corner of this page, and I'll be adding some more again soon. The photo below is from the food distribution I did awhile back.
For those of you that didn't know, I was able to talk to the Brookside congregation over the phone during their Sunday morning services, so that was really cool. I could hear you guys worshipping just before I was on to talk, and it made me miss Brookside. But, I’m certainly not saying I’m ready to leave Zambia. Actually, I’m worried about how soon my time will be up here! I do miss my friends and family back home though, but I feel like I’ll always be torn…no matter where I am I’ll miss my friends on the other side of the planet.
Anyways, so my prayer request is that I’ll use my time to it’s fullest potential, that I make the most impact I can in what little time I have left, and that I would fully let God lead me in these last few weeks. Thanks!
P.S. Questions? If you have any questions about anything and everything, email them to me at That way, I can get an answer before I leave to things that I never would have thought of to ask. So email your questions about construction, orphans, churches, government, culture, life, or whatever’s on your mind.

Monday, February 16, 2009

One month to go...

Well I'm 2/3 of the way till I come back home...but in school even if you do the first 66 percent perfect and don't do the rest, you fail. So I hope to work hard and get a lot done this last month. I've seen amazing fruit in these two months, but I know God has a lot planned for this month. I got plenty of rest this weekend, more than any previous weekends here, so I'm recharged and ready to go.
This week Navice and I will be visiting the homes of the orphans we have registered within Serenje. There are others in the surrounding areas of Teta and Kamena, but for now we're just visiting here in town. One purpose is to survey their living situation. All orphans are living with a caretaker who may or may not be in a good position to watch over them. We want to make sure that each child is safe and being provided with basic needs. We are also gathering information on their education: are they in school, what grade are they in, or should they be in, do they need supplies, etc. Chris Ihle from Brookside has put together a plan to hopefully put all the orphans into school, so I hope to make some progress to get the ball rolling with that program in my last month.
Also, as many of you know, Dr. Brian Finley from Brookside has come for a couple weeks with another doctor and nurse (Abbie and Karin). They've only been here a short time, but they are already making an impact. I took Brian to a few of our workers' houses to check them out. One was Clint and his wife (they are the ones I wrote about who lost their child). We also visited a worker and his wife who just successfully had a baby. She delivered from home, which is not uncommon here, and they also let me name the baby...crazy! It was really encouraging to watch Brian, to see his gift at work. It amazed me to see him be able to understand the situation and give them answers and comfort. It also reminded me once again of our amazing privilege in America to have such a high quality of medical attention.

I've gathered our medical visitors' thoughts on the hospital here. It's severely understaffed and limited in its capabilities, but the staff is doing a great job for what they have. It's probably not what a lot of people think of...a grass hut with no medical knowledge. But it is a decently functioning hospital with intelligent staff. The unfortunate part is that they are very limited and crippled by circumstances. They've seen quite a bit of death in their short time here. I hate to share this...but one of the orphans passed away last week, cause unknown. That's hard to think about, but it's simply just the reality here, and you can't ignore reality.
Well, I can't end on such a depressing note. There are many amazing things happening here too. Abbie typed up something to share with you all, I hope you like it:

Journey to Serenje

My name is Abigail Ihrke. I am Family Practice Doctor and I am currently working with Dr. Brian Finley and Karin Ashley (a nurse) here in Serenje Zambia. Jack has graciously allowed me to tell you a bit of my story on his blog!

My journey to Serenje started many years ago. I have wanted to be a missionary ever since I was very young but it wasn’t until I was freshman in high school that I went with John Alford and Brookside Church to Tampico Mexico. I still remember very clearly my first glimpse of true poverty. I don’t even have to close my eyes to see the look on the little girls face as she looked at me through the broken walls of her house. I could feel her asking for something…for food, for clothing, for hope that her future would be better. And my heart was broken. I cried out to the Lord asking what my role would be. I wanted to give something to make the gospel a reality. I could hear her say “yes, Jesus loves you- you are a rich white American, how do I know that he loves me?” At that point in time I had no answer to her question.

Through out high school this question was forever in the back of my mind. What would my role on the mission field be? In AP biology I started to think that I could be a doctor- this would be a concrete way to show Gods love to a hurting and dying world. Through college I pursued a degree that would prepare me for medical school and traveled to different mission stations to see if I liked missionary medicine- I loved it!

Fourteen years and many long hours of study later I am a doctor and spending three short weeks in Serenje, Zambia. I am continually impressed with the beauty of the African people and the vastness of the medical and spiritual need. Serenje has a thriving body of Christ, but the church is still dyeing of malaria, HIV and anemia. It is not an easy thing to do medicine here. As much as I know that many babies will not survive and that childbirth is a dangerous thing, the reality is still heart breaking. Regardless of the emotional cost, I am blessed to serve here. I look forward to the time when I can be full time in Africa!

Thank you to Brookside for allowing me to go on a mission trip as a high school student. I have no words to express the impact that trip had on my life! Blessings to you as you continue to support Pastor Navice and his work here. If you want to hear more medical news, I am also blogging at I look forward to sharing more of my experience with you!

Blessings, Abbie

That's cool to hear...and God is doing plenty of amazing things over here too. Sorry this is such a long post and it's with no pictures, but I promise you pictures galore coming soon. Thanks for your love and support!

Monday, February 9, 2009

That's birthday's never been this warm before...

Thanks to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday over here in Zambia! I wasn’t planning on making a big deal of it or acknowledging it…but my inbox was flooded with emails, and I even got a few phone calls. It was great to hear some familiar voices…especially yours mom. Not only that, but the guys over here celebrated it a little too, so it was great. So all in all, I had a pretty good birthday over here in Africa. The best part is that I got to turn 22 about 8 hours sooner than my twin brother, Dallas. Thanks again to everyone.
Sorry that it’s been a little while since my last post, the time flew this last week. Actually, I got a little sick too, so that slowed me down a little. But don’t worry, I’m feeling good again (really mom, don’t worry).
Some of you know that I had been hoping to start a friendship with a young man named Sunday. On one of my first few days in Serenje, Navice asked me to disciple him. My brother reminded me that I hadn’t really given any updates on our friendship since I first arrived, so here goes.
The first few weeks I didn’t have much time to get to know Sunday, but in the last month we’ve become very good friends. He’s our farm manager for the Hope Center, and he’s about a year older than I am. We meet many times a week for a Bible study time, but also just to hang out. Usually we discuss a verse that we assigned ourselves to read, then we talk about other God and faith topics. We also talk about life, and of course we’ve been getting to know each other more and more. Our friendship is really just getting better and better as the time goes on. Every time we get together we are more comfortable with each other and we have more fun. I think I’ve been able to be a great voice of truth to him and to help him with his spiritual growth too. It’s crazy how I know I’m going to miss many people I’ve come to know here when I go back to the States, just like I miss many of you now. I have a feeling Sunday and I will have a life long friendship, at least I hope so.
Other things are going well here. Construction is coming along well, we’re working very hard. I hung out with a bunch of the orphans the other day too. We played soccer, which they call football. I’ll summarize how that went…they’re amazing and I was gasping for air. It was tons of fun. I really enjoyed playing with them and loving on them…it was great. Thanks everyone for keeping up with me and for your prayers!
Prayer Requests: Navice is holding pastor training this week for about 35 pastors from the surrounding areas, pray for details to go smoothly, and that they would not only be able to learn a lot in a short amount of time, but that the outcome would go beyond knowledge and into action…I’ll be sharing with the pastors tomorrow morning too, what will I say? I guess we’ll see…the Bible Study with the workers, we do it Tuesday and Thursday mornings and we cover many topics and great friendship with Sunday…and last, my family who I miss and love…a lot!

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I promised in the last post that I would have some pictures of the ongoing construction. I thought that I would also give some details of exactly what we’re building and how we’re going about it.
Cornerstone Church and Brookside Church have teamed up to build an orphanage in Serenje, Zambia on about 12 ½ Acres of land. We have hired about 40-50 Zambians to work in constructing the buildings and growing the crops that will feed orphans. Some of them travel from as far as 30 or 40 Kilometers by bicycle every day, but they couldn’t be happier to have a job. Some of them also sleep at the job site all week and then they go home for the weekend…we’ve built a small shack to store tools and where they sleep. They range from speaking great English to only speaking a few words. It’s been great to get to know the workers, and we do a brief Bible Study or short message on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
We are building four buildings on the site, three of them are being funded by the people of Brookside. The first and biggest building is the Multi Purpose Building. Among the rooms are two classrooms, a kitchen, and a large open area to congregate, this is the most important building on the site. It will be where the orphans come daily to receive a meal, as well as to learn about God and maybe get help with school work. In addition to that, it will be used for a Pastor Training School that Navice holds for a few days every few months. He invites pastors from surrounding regions to be taught accurate doctrine, theology, and etc.

Second is the Bath House. There is a boys’ side and a girls’ side, each side having three sinks, three toilets, and three showers. Although it may seem very simple to us, it is very high quality, especially when compared to the rest of Serenje. It is spacious, and it will have running water and lighting. The fact that the children will be able to bathe properly is very significant, considering that hygiene can be very poor here.

Third is the Storage Building. Equipment and supplies will be stored in there, and probably food as well. It will also be used like a garage, for working on anything necessary. We will be using it as a base of operation for completing the rest of the construction. We have been using a storage building across town, but this will be a much better place to store supplies and work from once it is finished.

The fourth building is the Guest House, which will be used for short term teams that come over from Brookside and Cornerstone. The three buildings that Brookside is funding have been given priority, so progress on the Guest House has just recently begun.
The buildings are much different than what we’re used to at home. They are built with cement blocks from the ground up, with steel window and door frames. Then the roofs are put up with wood trusses and rafters, and steel roof tiles. Wood is not used in building often here, because termites pose a serious threat, so all wood must be painted completely and carefully with a preservative and termite repellent. The inside and outside walls are then covered with plaster (similar to concrete or mortar) before being painted. All the buildings will also have plumbing, running water, and electricity, so those are installed along the way. Then there are finishing things such as installing the ceilings, lights, switches, sockets, sinks, toilets, breakers, etc. There are many more details, so all of you construction guys can feel free to email me questions and comments.
Because we are in Africa, the processes of construction are much more limited, so it takes plenty of time. Almost everything is done by hand, from filling in and compacting the foundations with dirt, to mixing, pouring, and leveling concrete for the floors. It can also be difficult to get supplies, so we have to be thinking ahead and ready for what’s next. Zack, from Cornerstone, is in charge of the overall construction. It’s obvious that he is well qualified for overseeing that everything is done well.
So that’s a quick summary of the construction details. Here is a link that I posted at the beginning of the month of some pictures I had taken so far. I will be posting more recent ones soon, so be sure to check back for those.