Today was our day of preparation. And it was one of the greatest days of our lives.
The day started for Lex at 2:30am when a rooster woke him up and he decided to go and help the kitchen staff with breakfast preparations. If you know Lex, he was in his element. He is such a hard worker.
The day started for the rest of us with a beautiful hot African breakfast with fresh eggs, bacon, toast, beans, tomatoes, cereal and coffee.
Then we went to Deliverance Church and worshipped Zambia Style with about 500-600 others. The sermon was powerful and focused on 1 Corinthians 13. "when we love we must do so not to get glory from man, but to honor Him who first loved us."
Then we went to the outdoor market bazaar and bought gifts for loved ones. This would be our only chance to get home-made Zambian mementos and the kid enjoyed learning the art of bartering with the 50,000 kwatcha they were each given ($1 = 5,000K).
The conversation Holly had with "Beatrice" at the market as she was buying a book bag she will not soon forget. Holly paid for item and proceeded to ask questions like "What is your name?", "How many children do you have?", "Where do you live?", and "Do you have a husband?" After she answered these Holly asked her if she knew who Jesus is? Beatrice said "Yes, I believe in Him and I love Him. He is so good to me." She then paused and said "you ask about me?" Holly replied, "excuse me?" Beatrice said again...."you asked about me!"
Holly said "Yes...I was just asking about you." She smiled and touched Holly's arm and said, "Thank you. Thank you that you asked about ME.
Holly's new friend Beatrice wanted to know when she would be back and after a few more words exchanged she walked away with a permanent picture in her mind of a pretty smile and those words so enthusiastically speaking, "you asked about me!" These people need love.
After the market we drove in buses to the village where we are expecting possibly as many as 300-400 orphans to converge tomorrow morning. We prayed and then broke into 3 teams to do a "culture walk", traveling on foot for about 3 hours into the countryside visiting with local residents, practicing the basic words we are learning and mostly speaking through our incredibly gifted and gracious translators. We met men and women young and old and got to learn how they live, where the goats are kept, how they process their maze by hand, how they care for chickens and what a mud hut looks like inside. It was unbelievably fascinating.
It was also special for us to see our kids playing so effortlessly with the Zambian kids. Their love for them is evident and God is doing a great work in their hearts already.
One of the translators, "Maria", is also 37 and also has four children. She is so sweet and kind. Maria's husband died 3 years ago of AIDS and not only is she infected but so are 2 of her children. She moved in with her 70 year old father recently out in the remote area in which we are holding Camp Hope this week. Through much conversation relearned that Maria is so poor she cannot afford the $200 it would cost for her four kids to go to school for the year. She is sad because they really want to go but she misses her husband and this is life in Africa as HIV and poverty are all many people ever know. There were other similar stories as were compared experiences as a team after dinner and worship back at Abundant Life.
Because they now expect as many as 100 orphans more than was planned for, Holly and Claire will be splitting up to each have their own small groups of 12-20 orphans. We are so proud of Claire for being willing to take on this great responsibility.
So it all begins tomorrow. Please pray for our small group time - for opens hearts and minds. The focus will be the gospel all week. Our hearts are heavy as God softens them for these kids. We know we won't want to leave them at weeks end. But we know that we can be used to make a difference as they hear and believe the good news that Jesus has not forgotten them. That He will never leave or forsake them. Once they understand this they will never be alone again. He is real and He cares. May we love them each as their Father does.