Powering MICS

One of the great things about working here at MICS is the opportunity to manage some really cool projects. For those who know me, it’s no secret that I love to try new things, figure out a problem, and just “get ‘er done”. If the project involves tasks that I’ve never done before, that just makes it all the more fun. My ability to take on new challenges and accomplish tasks is something that has served me well in my professional career and it continues to help me as I serve here in Zambia (and it makes my role extremely satisfying).

My most recent project is one that has become increasingly necessary in order for MICS to function as we are in the midst of daily eight-hour power cuts. The daily power outages started at five hours in July, but increased to eight hours in September. Thankfully, there is a schedule and the power company follows it (with the occasional surprise outage here and there!), so we can plan accordingly. There are many theories as to the reason for these power cuts and we’re not sure who to believe. (This article provides some explanation.) However, we do know that the daily blackouts are having massive ramifications on Zambia’s economy as businesses struggle to stay operational (and profitable), while having to source and cover the costs of alternative methods of power.

At MICS, many things become a challenge without power – cooking meals for the boarding children (we have gas stoves for backup, but propane is becoming scarce as more people across Zambia rely on it for cooking), lighting for evening activities several evenings per week, running the borehole (well) pump, keeping fridges and freezers cold, etc. To be honest, eight hours without power is manageable for the most part, but rumour has it that our outages could soon increase to 12 hours daily or more.

All this brings me to my latest project – to install a small diesel generator to power daily essentials. When we arrived in January, MICS owned a small portable generator, but it wasn’t permanently installed. At that time, we could only use it to power the borehole pump as needed. Last month, we decided it was time to mount the generator permanently and wire it into the buildings so that we could use it for some of our daily power needs – just the kind of project that I like to tackle. I’d never installed a generator before, nor did I know how much we could power off this small generator, but it was time to figure it out.

Diesel generator

The diesel generator – installed and secured.

With input and assistance from a number of talented, local people, I worked to determine exactly what we could safely power, how to lock it down to deter thieves, and how to wire it into the buildings. Like the recent water tower project, it was a new challenge and with the help of a great team, we got it done!

Since the generator is small, we can’t run everything off this generator (for instance, it’s not big enough to run stoves or ovens, so we continue to rely on propane during the power cuts), but we can run some essentials. Right now, we’re taking it one day at time to see what will actually happen with the national power grid. As I mentioned, there are rumours that the situation will get worse before it gets better, while others suggest that once the rainy season arrives (hopefully soon!) and the water levels rise in Kariba Dam, the situation will improve. If there isn’t any improvement, MICS may need to look into a more sustainable and robust alternative system (i.e. a larger generator that can power the entire campus, battery banks with invertors, or solar power generation – all which are massive and expensive undertakings). For now, I think MICS is in a good position to handle the power cuts.

All this to say, thank you for your support which allows us to serve here. This is truly a team effort. Without our support network, we wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t have the opportunity to serve at MICS and help the school to become a stronger, more stable organization. And our team extends beyond our supporters at home – it includes many talented and servant-hearted individuals here in Macha – people like Nathan who helped with the wiring, Chris who has answered 101 of my questions, Keith who built the concrete slab, Coster who dug the trench and helped me lay the conduit and wiring in the ground, and Titus who built the privacy fence around the generator. We have many talented people in our community. It’s an honour to have the opportunity to work with them as I manage these big projects.

 

Fresh Starts

September is a month of fresh starts. All around us, there are signs of newness: students returning to classes after four weeks of break, new posters and teaching aids on classroom walls as teachers prepare for the final term of the school year, blossoms and new leaves breaking out on trees as Zambian winter hints at giving way to spring, and bees are swarming the treetops by the hundreds as they collect nectar for this year’s honey crop. When it comes to our family, Ranen has returned to his class and now states that he loves school, our girls are anxiously awaiting their school materials so they can begin their new school years and… I’m beginning again on our blog.

A frangipani bloom

A frangipani bloom

This isn’t going to be one of those “I’m-so-sorry-I haven’t-written-for-awhile” blog posts. While it’s true that I wish I had written more during the recent months, I’m hoping that you will give me a ‘pass’. After all, these past four months were really our first term of fully living and working at MICS. We spent several months living in limbo, then suddenly moved in our long-term home and jumped into jobs that require our full attention. We trust that those of you who know us, love us, and support us will understand the demand for our time and the new challenge we’ve been facing. That said, it’s time to crack open the curtains and let you know a bit of what’s been going on over here in a world so very far removed from Canada and the United States.

My work revolves around the daily operations and logistics of the school facilities. Plumbing and electrical issues are an on-going concern here (as they are in any institution). I work with our maintenance and grounds-keeping staff to ensure that our buildings are in good repair, lights work, toilets flush (and don’t leak!), locks actually lock and unlock, and the physical grounds are well kept. I’ve tackled some very large projects that have required immense amounts of planning, execution, and oversight. One significant project was the addition of another water tower for water storage.

Water is a constant concern here at MICS, as it is in all of Southern Africa. MICS, like everyone in Macha, relies on a borehole (a drilled well) to provide fresh water for drinking, bathing, washing, etc. The borehole is fitted with an electrical pump which pumps water into a storage tank six meters above the ground. That tank then supplies water to the entire campus. Over the past number of months, it has become apparent that our one storage tank didn’t give us adequate storage capacity, which meant that we were in danger of running out of water on a daily basis. This is particularly a problem on days when the electrical supply is off (which is a regular occurrence here) or if the borehole pump were to malfunction. We needed to have capacity to store enough water to last the school several days.

Over the past few months, I’ve managed the project of erecting another water tower, which now triples our water storage capacity (from 5,000 litres to 15,000 litres). It’s been a large project and a huge learning curve (as are most things I’m engaged in!), but I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.

Other projects, such as designing and costing out a perimeter fence and new electrical supply lines for the campus have kept me busy drafting, getting vendor quotes, compiling cost estimate spreadsheets, etc.

In the middle of all these large projects, I manage the weekly runs to town (75 kms away) for food and other supplies for the school, bill payments for services such as internet and electricity, and a hundred and one other tasks.

While I’m busy doing my job, Arja is equally busy managing the school’s finances, student records and office functions. Arja has spent the bulk of her professional life working in the finance industry. Add this experience to the fact that she is an extremely detail-oriented person, and she is well-suited to her role. She manages payroll, collecting school fees, accounts payable, etc. Working together with the rest of the MICS management team, Arja has been able to bring organization and clarity to the financial realities of MICS and to offload some of the burden from our school directors. She’s also taken on the responsibility of managing the school kitchen, working closely with staff to manage supplies and menu preparation for approximately 40 boarding students.

Now you now have a brief overview of what we’ve been doing. However, at the end of the day, I’m tempted to say, “So what?” After all, we all have jobs and we all accomplish tasks at those jobs each day. Ours aren’t really all that different from yours – we just happen to do them here in rural Zambia.

When I was the director of the international volunteer program for International Teams Canada, I regularly told our volunteers that the doing needed to be secondary, it was the being that was the important thing.

Being:

  • in community
  • teachable
  • a servant
  • reliant upon God

Relationships are, by far, the most important part of our work here. While it’s true that what we do is more tangible and invaluable to the operation of the school, it’s the intangible – our daily interactions with our Zambian colleagues that will make a lasting difference in the lives of people. As we shared our story with numerous groups before we came to Zambia, we were very clear that our goal was to build into people here – to work alongside, to empower, to develop friendships, and to pass on skills to the local community here. It’s found in the times when I pick up a tool and work side by side with Coster, Titus, Japheth, Keith, Guide, and the many other Zambian men I have the privilege of working with on a daily basis. It’s laughing together, and sharing a Coke after a hard day of work in the sun. It’s found in the moments of struggling to learn a new phrase in their language (while being laughed at!), and it’s found as we lie in the dirt under the truck in order to bolt the front bumper on after the bolts snapped. It’s found when Arja works together with Joyce and Gracious in the kitchen. It’s the smile offered as students come to the office to get a new notebook or pencil. It’s the small talk shared as she interacts with each staff member on pay day.

Coster and me on the new water tower

Coster and me on the new water tower

For our girls, it’s found in playing soccer, studying the bible and learning new songs with the MICS students. It’s found in the moments when Talya reads to the younger children and Kanah eats nshima and beans with the boarding students. And for Ranen, it’s found in his classroom, as he learns from a Zambian teacher, along with 27 other students (mostly Zambian), and he learns to adjust to a new way of doing school and life in Africa.

What is it? It’s that intangible connection we find (and sometimes struggle to find) as we build relationships with those around us. Their lives are very different from ours in many ways, and yet, as we work to break down barriers, to learn from each other, to do life together, we see that under all those differences, we really are the same.

As we look ahead to the next three months of this final school term of 2015, we know that we will be incredibly busy. Busy doing! And busy being, as well. We are anxious to have our friends, Joel and Julianne, Micah, Caleb and their new baby Nathaniel, back soon. We look forward to seeing our girls thrive with their new year of schoolwork, as we continue to learn together how to best manage this self-directed study plan we have embarked on. And we look forward to seeing God at work – in the day-to day, mundane tasks and in the big, unexpected ways.

As always, we are so thankful for you – all of you – who support us, pray for us, follow our blog (if anyone still does after such a long silence!), and those of you who drop us notes and send us packages. And for those of you still reading, we’ll try to do better at writing and sharing snippets of our lives here in Macha.

The First Week in Macha

After nearly 4.5 weeks since we arrived in Zambia, we moved to Macha! On Tuesday of last week, we moved out of Nahumba Guesthouse in Choma and we have started the process of settling in Macha. The Percy family has moved into their long-term house at MICS, while our family is living in a temporary house about 3 kms away from MICS, located on the campus of Macha Research Trust (the medical research institute founded by Dr. Phil Thuma).

Rose_House

The Rose House

While this isn’t our permanent housing solution, we are thankful that the “Rose House”has been made available to us for the next 6 weeks or so. The directors of MICS, Gil and Ronda Krause, have been having a small apartment built for them on the MICS campus. Work continues to progress, and within the next month, we hope to be moving them into the apartment, which will make the other larger house on campus available for our family.

This continues to be an ongoing journey of stages. Every step brings us a bit closer to being settled and beginning our long-term work in support of MICS. At times, we continue to feel the stress of living our lives in “temporary” housing, not being able to fully settle and establish some daily routines, but we look to God for strength and flexibility in those challenging moments.

Ranen_school

Ranen ready for school

Moving to Macha has meant that we have been able to establish some routine for the kids. Ranen (along with Micah and Caleb Percy) has begun attending school at MICS. His first day in Reception (aka Kindergarten) was last Wednesday. After some initial shyness and few tears, Ranen joined Miss Mwiinga’s class, and has enjoyed several good days of school. I can only imagine how overwhelming this must feel to a 4-year-old boy – attending school in a new country, in a new culture with different social norms, where the kids and teachers talk with an accent that is likely hard for him to understand – probably nothing feels familiar. I couldn’t be prouder of the way he is adjusting to life on this side.

Girls_Schoolwork

Hard at work

Kanah and Talya are also beginning to ease into a study routine. For the next number of months, both will be using Canadian curriculum books for the core subjects of Math, English, Social Studies, etc. Their first formal school day together began at 8am, working through lessons in a number of subjects, including independent reading time (and ending with their own 20-minute yoga session!). Eventually this term, we hope to expand their studies beyond the curriculum books to include other areas of personal interest. This is a huge learning curve for all and I’m sure there will be a lot of trial and error involved.

In addition to settling into life here, we have been jumping in with some logistical details at MICS. The construction of the Krause’s apartment has required many days of picking up supplies in Choma, which we’ve been doing over the past number of weeks. We also continue to work with the Macha Mission Hospital maintenance workers who are overseeing the completion of the new well at MICS. Projects like this simply require more time and logistical management here.

I’m only being honest when I say that already we’ve faced challenges, frustrations, and feels of discouragement in the past days and weeks. It would be naïve of us to expect any less when relocating our entire family to a country and culture that’s significantly different than our home. It’s during those times that we must rely so strongly on the clear sense of “calling” to return to Macha. We cling to the hope and certainty that brought us back here in the first place.

Welcome_Sign

A note from our lovely neighbours

We are thankful for the prayers and emotional support of our community back home. During these days of transition, settling in, finding routine, and eventually starting our day-to-day work in support of MICS.

We are also so very grateful for the community here that has welcomed us so warmly. The outpouring of love and enthusiasm for us by both our Zambian and North American neighbours has been very encouraging and uplifting. Thank you.

 

The Horse and Her Girl

Kanah_Lucky

Lucky first came to our farm in the summer of 2010, shortly after we returned from Zambia. We bought her on a whim (it was an amazing deal we couldn’t pass up!), knowing how much Kanah was interested in horses. We knew nothing about caring for a horse. We knew nothing of Lucky’s history. We took a chance and it turned out to be a “lucky” one. Lucky and Kanah were inseparable. Caring for Lucky become Kanah’s passion and it forced her to mature quickly and manage the responsibility. Seeing Kanah go out to the barn every morning at 6:30am, regardless of the weather, convinced us of her love and devotion. Watching her spend hours teaching Lucky to respond simply to voice commands was astounding.

On the weekend, we received the very sad news that Lucky had to be put down. Apparently, she had fallen and shattered a hind leg – a catastrophic injury for a horse.

Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy. We first said goodbye to Lucky in December, when we took her to her new home at U-Turn Ranch. U-Turn is a family-operated farm that runs children’s camps during the summer months. Both Kanah and Talya have attended camps there. One of their programs for campers includes learning to care for and ride horses. Lucky was to be the perfect addition to their herd – her smaller size made her ideal for younger children who might have been intimidated by a full size horse. We were thrilled that U-Turn decided to take Lucky. We knew that she would have a loving new home that would appreciate her gentle nature and her unique ability with children. But still, saying goodbye to Lucky when we left her at U-Turn was heartbreaking for us all, especially for Kanah.

There is a unique bond between a girl and her horse that we simply do not understand, but that we have witnessed first hand. They understood each other. They trusted each other. They learned to work together and they loved each other.

We had hoped that we would be able to see Lucky next summer when we visit Ontario. We looked forward to seeing her thrive in her new environment, happy to be a part of a herd of horses again. We now grieve that we will never have that opportunity.

Losing a loved-one (whether a person or an animal) is one of life’s tough lessons. Kanah has now had to face that lesson multiple times. She’s done so honourably. Even in her passing, Lucky has influenced Kanah and taught her how to grieve gracefully. As we told Kanah, there will be other horses in her life. And there will be more losses. But there will never be another Lucky. She was truly special and deeply loved.

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.

 

 

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.