A Journey of Small Steps

Yesterday marked two weeks since we departed Canada. 14 days. 14 sleeps in various beds. Two weeks of transitions. As I look back on these past 14 days, one of the patterns that starts to emerge is that of small steps or stages. Every step of this journey has been one small step after another towards our ultimate destination.

Step 1: Hour upon endless hour sitting on airplanes and in airports.

Step 2: Arriving at a beautiful, quiet guesthouse in Lusaka run by Flying Mission Zambia. That step was only supposed to be a few days long. In the end, we stayed a full week because trusted sources were advising us not to travel by road on the days surrounding Zambian’s presidential elections. So, after one week in Lusaka (fully recovered from jetlag!), we moved on.

Step 3: The 5-hour drive to Choma, the market town nearest to Macha. Choma is the location of the Zambian Brethren in Christ Church central offices, including the Nahumba Guesthouse. We’ve now been staying at Nahumba for almost a week, and this will remain our temporary home for the next week, or two, or maybe longer… until details are in place for us to move onto our next temporary home – sharing a house with the Percy family in Macha.

Macha_Sign

The journey to Macha.

We’ve been delayed in our ability to move into our housing in Macha and start settling in due to some logistics that are still being sorted out. A new borehole (water well) is in the process of being constructed at MICS. Until that’s done, the additional water usage required by our families would put the school in jeopardy of not having enough water to function on a daily basis. Secondly, the house our family will occupy is currently the residence of the MICS Directors, Gil and Ronda Krause. A small apartment is under construction for them on the MICS campus, but there’s still work to be done. All this to say, we are currently living out of suitcases (many, many suitcases!) at Nahumba, about 75 kms from Macha. We’ve made a couple day-trips to Macha – to attend church, have meetings, and get a sense of how we can start helping at MICS before we are actually living there.

If there’s one thing living in Africa continues to teach me, it’s the importance of patience and flexibility. I know, that’s two things, but they need to function together. As a Westerner in this culture, I need to have both patience and flexibility. If I don’t, I’ll break. It’s as simple as that. The key is in my response.

I could choose to be frustrated that we are still living out of suitcases. I could be annoyed that the borehole has taken longer than originally anticipated. I could feel like we are wasting time hanging out in Choma instead of accomplishing tasks in Macha. I could, if I expected things to function the way I have come to expect in Canada. But, then, I would miss so much.

I would miss the opportunity to build relationships with the staff at the guesthouse in Lusaka. I would miss the opportunities to spend time with the Brubakers, who are currently serving at Nahumba. I would miss the joy of seeing our kids, the Percy kids, and the Brubaker kids playing hide and seek with local Zambian children, climbing Frangipani trees, and baking cakes together.

Borehole_01

Surveying the borehole site together.

I would miss the opportunity to have meetings with people like Mr. Mhango, Nathan and Simon at Macha Mission Hospital – the guys who are working hard to get the new MICS borehole completed. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to brainstorm solutions with them and enjoy a Coke and a smile together afterwards.

If we weren’t commuting to Macha a few times a week, I’d miss the beauty of the scenery as we drive through the gorgeous Zambian landscape, dotted with simple thatched-roof homes and the smells of wood fires on the wind. I’d miss the steam rising on the hot pavement after a brief rain and the calls of “Mukuwa!” (white man) from the village children as we pass them by. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the interactions as I buy fresh veggies from the ladies who run out to our van as we pull into the tiny market village along the road.

Sometimes, you just have to choose to chuckle at what we perceive as inefficiency. For example, Joel and I went to the “bottle shop” earlier this week to buy a few cases of Coke (a staple item here!). Since we didn’t have cases of empties to return, we expected to pay the initial deposit in addition to the price of the Coke. If only it were that simple. Instead, we were told that we had to drive up the road 10 minutes to the warehouse, purchase cases of empty Cokes and then return to the bottle shop to trade in our newly acquired empties and purchase full cases. I couldn’t find any way to see the beauty in this experience. Sometimes, you just say have to say, “This is Africa!” and laugh as you fit into the system.

And then, sometimes, you have to choose to assume the best of people. Arja’s birthday was a couple days ago, so we decided to go out for coffee to a little lodge outside of town. When we went to counter to inquire, we were told that the man who was supposed to open the coffee shop that day didn’t come in, so we couldn’t buy coffee. I walked away shaking my head thinking, “This would never happen back home at Starbucks!” Later, it occurred to me that perhaps the man who was supposed to open the coffee shop had to take his daughter to the hospital or was on his way to work when he ran into an old friend and took time to visit. One of the major cultural differences between Zambia and Canada is that relationships always trump tasks.

Over and over, I’m continually reminded that this truly is a journey of small steps. Small. Important. Beautiful steps. At times, our entire team feels anxious to just “get there” and to “get living and working” at MICS. And why shouldn’t we? It’s natural for us to desire to settle in, establish some routine, get back to school and work, etc. However, in our anxiousness, we are trying to slow down and take note of the simple beauty and joy that surrounds us each day, in each small stage of the journey.

What beautiful moments are you missing in your haste to achieve your goals? I can tell you this much – this isn’t purely a Zambian phenomenon – it’s a human phenomenon. Take time today to notice the beauty and joy in life’s unexpected steps, especially when those little steps give you an opportunity to interact with (and, hopefully, to bless!) those around you.

 

 

Life Lessons from The Wizard of Oz

“I guess Glinda was right, there really is no place like home.” As the red velvet curtain closed, I hoped that one day I would be standing on that stage portraying the part of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Now it IS me in a way, only different. Instead of this being an end to the story, it’s a beginning to my new life in Zambia, and instead of me being behind a red velvet curtain, I’m looking down the long, red-dirt, bumpy road ahead of me.

Flying Mission Pool_10-resizedWell, here we are in Zambia and it’s good to be back! Our travels were long as you have already heard but it was all worth it. We were welcomed into a guesthouse and treated like kings and queens. The best part is that there is a pool in the back yard, so, of course, I go out there at least twice a day! All that aside, this has been a time of busyness and packing and all of us have been stressed from time to time. I would say it was worth it though.

Someone once told me you never realize how much you are loved until you have to leave everyone. I experienced this to be true during the last few months – people I don’t normally get along with told me countless times that they are going to miss me so much. One friend started to count how many times I got hugged. I think she counted at least 20 and missed some! It wasn’t just kids from my class – it was many people that have had an influence on my life. It just shows how blessed I am with so many people who love me.

I have a slight fear of airplanes and was afraid for our journey. One particular Bible verse stood out to me:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Another one was “When I am afraid I will put my trust in you.”
Psalm 56:3

When I was afraid, I would say those verses over and over in my head. In one of my late night talks with my sister, she told me if God wants us go to Africa he will get us there safely. That stood out to me so much so I also thought of that when I was afraid. As expected we did arrive safely! I will now never doubt that God is completely in control.

Now through all of that we are home! Why is this place home? Well, I would say I feel welcome everywhere. I have grown to love all the people that live here. I know that life is simpler and I embrace it. It is nice to go hang out with someone and to have their full attention – they aren’t texting with someone else. I love the food and the ‘softies’. Funny story, when we were on the plane to Lusaka, I asked the stewardess what kind of pop she had, forgetting that it isn’t called pop in Africa. Oh well.

I am anticipating that so many good things will happen to our family. I know this is going to be an opportunity for me to grow in my relationship with God.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported us throughout this time and everyone who has shown love to us. I am so thankful for this opportunity. I am hoping to write more during the time we are in Zambia. Thanks again.

Coming Home

One of the great privileges of my life is that I’ve had the opportunity to travel extensively. I love to travel. I love the anticipation in the days and weeks ahead of departure. I enjoy packing and getting everything in order to go. I get excited just being in airports, and flying is a thrill for me. I love the experience of a new city, new food, new culture, and new people. But after all that, eventually I always find that I really love returning home. The late John Denver had it right when he sang, “Hey, it’s good to be back home again.”

It would seem that this time, however, things were just a little bit different. On Thursday evening, we started the long journey from Toronto to London to Johannesburg to Lusaka. While it’s true that I experienced the excitement and anticipation of the build up to departure, I wouldn’t say it was quite the same as preparing for a short trip. The packing was, understandably, quite stressful. Determining what exactly to take and what to leave behind when moving an entire family overseas is tough (Arja regularly commented how much she missed her “packing guru”… aka Mom, but don’t be fooled – Arja is incredible at it). And flying that many miles, that many hours, through that many cities with layovers, with 3 kids – that’s a bit more challenging than when it’s just Arja and I. Jet lag is a brutal thing. Arriving after two days of travel and forcing yourself to stay awake for another 4 hours so that you can go to bed at the proper hour is nothing short of self-inflicted torture. (Breathe deeply… all will be well… eventually.)

But then… after all of that, the craziest thing happened. I got to skip the “visiting a new place” stage, and jump straight to the joy of returning home – our Zambian home. While we aren’t in Macha yet, Zambia itself certainly feels like home to us. There’s a familiarity to this place – the smell of the rain and the resulting puddles of red water pooling up on the road, the exuberant greetings of the children as we drive past, the quiet evenings and the noisy mornings, the slower pace to life, and most importantly – the people – our friends. Friends whom we grew to love in our previous time in Zambia, and friends whom we’ve only met today.

ranen_airport

Ranen entranced at the airport.

It’s become obvious to me – wait for it – I have a love affair with Zambia. And I’m so grateful that God has chosen to allow our family to be back here at this time. It was even pretty incredible for me to hear the excitement in the girls’ exclamations of joy as they first stepped off the plane and onto Zambian soil, breathing the warm familiar African air, rediscovering things that had laid dormant in the back recesses of their memories (“Oh I remember that!”). It’s been just as amazing to see the wonder in our son’s eyes as he experiences newness in every moment and every experience (imagine how much more Macha will rock his world!).

In the end, I guess John Denver was right. It’s so good to be back home again.

I know you are probably wondering about our travels.

I already mentioned the many hours of flights and layovers. They. Were. Exhausting. And yet, it was incredible. I’ve never experienced so many wonderful acts of customer service and kindness by airline staff, airport security, immigration officials, and a myriad of other people along the way. The way things worked out so incredibly smoothly would probably be enough to make me believe in a benevolent God, if I wasn’t already previously convinced of his existence. From start to finish, I am certain that what we have experienced in the past few days is a small taste of the God of the universe dipping his finger into the events of this world and just making things run a little bit smoother… and I’m really not one of those people that says that very much. But in this moment, I’m pretty sure it’s true.

So here we are – after more hours of flights and layovers than I care to total up – we are back in Zambia. For the next few days, we are staying at a quiet little guesthouse just outside the city of Lusaka. It’s a chance for us to rest, relax, gather supplies, make some plans and prepare ourselves for the next steps of our journey. Later this week, we’ll make the long drive down to Macha, and then we’ll start to settle into life in the bush. It feels exciting and overwhelming all at the same moment. There’s so much to be done, and so much unknown. I’m so thankful that the same God who was in some mysterious way engaged in our travels will continue to be engaged in our life and work in Macha. I am absolutely, fully and completely convinced that this next stage of our lives here in Zambia is exactly what God wants us to be doing. It will be wonderful, and beautiful, and challenging, and frustrating, and, and, and….

I’m sure there are those of you reading this who are thinking, “Would you stop waxing eloquent and tell us a bit more about your travels?!” If that’s you, I’m sorry, I won’t. But you can learn more of the details by visiting the Percy blog. With the exception of a few details, our experiences were virtually the same. Instead of a sleep and shower at a hotel near Heathrow airport during the 12-hour layover in London, we took a subway ride into central London and rode a tour bus for a few hours. But otherwise, it’s pretty much the same story of a long and exhausting journey.

departure pic

Our team ready to depart Toronto.

Speaking of the Percy family… have I mentioned how glad I am that we are together? (Yeah, I know that I have.) Well I am. I really love this family, and I’m pumped about our future together.

As always, thank you – for caring, for reading, for praying, and for loving us.

We’re excited to soon start sharing stories of life in Macha. Stay tuned!

And so it begins…

… the second chapter of our lives in Macha. In just one week, we will begin our journey back to our Zambian home. You know that little verse in the book of Psalms – the one that says if you delight yourself in the Lord, he’ll give you the desires of your heart? I wonder if we have messed up the translation from Hebrew to English. I would like to think that it really should say, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he’ll make his desires for your life become your own desires.” In the past few months, I’ve had many people ask me, “Seriously, how could you move your entire family to rural Africa? I don’t get it!” My response is always, “How could I not? There is nothing else I would rather do than exactly this!” (And, just so you know, Arja feels the same way!) I guess that’s a pretty sure sign that God has shaped our desires to line up with his!

Speaking of things I can’t imagine – the other thing I can’t imagine is our family doing this alone. When we first moved to Zambia in January 2009, we went alone! Sure, we served under a fantastic organization that had lots of infrastructure and we were part of a community in Macha that helped us learn the ropes. But at the end of the day, we were alone in our roles. This time, we are thrilled to be going as a team with Joel and Julianne Percy and their boys, Micah and Caleb. This is a family we have spent years getting to know. Joel and I started working at The Meeting House the very same day. Joel and Julianne introduced us to Southern Africa when the four of us visited Zimbabwe together in 2007. Joel was my manager for several years. We visited Macha in pairs (Arja and Julianne in 2013, Joel and I in 2014). And for the past few years, we’ve dreamed of doing this together. It’s hard to believe that in less than a week, we are actually doing this… together. (It’s a good thing we all like each other and our skills compliment each other!)

And speaking of teams – there’s another aspect that I can’t imagine this without – our team of supporters. To those of you who are supporting us financially, in prayer, in logistical details and in emotional support – we honestly could not do this without you all. We have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from our community. And that “community” has expanded significantly through this process. When I used to think about the process of “partnership development” (that’s the nice way of saying “fundraising”), I dreaded the idea. I thought I would hate it. I thought it would be a brutal job. I thought we couldn’t do it. Man was I wrong. It was an incredible experience. Seriously. It was exciting… humbling… invigorating… exhausting… and a thoroughly encouraging experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. And I’d do it again in the future.

We want to say “Thank you” (and we’ll keep saying it, over and over again). Thanks to all of you for being a part of this. Thanks for caring, contributing, praying, reading, writing and loving us! If I listed all the ways we have felt supported, this post would be way too long (it probably already is).

So, with that, I’ll just quit. This is the “crunch” week anyway. We are madly organizing, packing, saying goodbyes and just generally getting ready to start the next phase of this wild ride of our lives in Zambia!

Oh – and this blog – this is just the place where we’ll share personal stories. Look here for various posts – really wordy ones from me, short pithy (and probably more interesting) ones from Arja, photos, videos and hopefully stuff from the kids, too!

If you want to get our official newsletter (that’s the place where we’ll share more formal stories about the community at MICS), make sure you are on our mailing list. You can sign up here.