So What Happened?

 

My posts since Tuesday have been intentionally cryptic in that things have been happening here that I simply was not prepared to write about in detail. We have come to the end of Camp LIFE, and we are preparing to have our final parties tomorrow. I think you need to know the following details to produce praise in you toward God and result in additional prayers for the trip home starting tomorrow night.

My Friday of Camp LIFE was completely different than the others except for Gretchen. As you see in the picture associated with this post, Gretchen is in a hospital room, and she has been there since Tuesday afternoon.

Before I share with you how we end our week in a hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, I’m going to give you a list of things that are unique to this trip.

  • Gretchen was a last minute addition to the group going to Zambia due to an available spot and funds.
  • Meagan Graham wanted to come on this trip, but the list of participants was full until we offered to have her sleep with our girls.
  • At no other times in our lives do we have instant access to a top-notch doctor.
  • Due to our group’s association with Izzy’s House, we were given extra Zambian partners in three of our groups. Usually we have two partners, but these three groups had three.
  • My family shared groups this week, so Trevor helped me with our boys and Kristin and Samantha helped Sara with her girls.

With these facts in mind, the following took place Tuesday afternoon. Gretchen began to feel abnormal tingling and felt nauseous and weak about 1pm Tuesday at which time Sarah Winebrenner gave her some nuts to eat. Our large group time started at 1:30pm, and Gretchen thought she had not drank enough water resulting in her feeling bad. She drank a whole 20 oz. container of water at the start of large group. Gretchen continued to feel bad whereby Sara Krupke was encouraging her to go to the clinic (instant access to best doctor in country).

After feeling like she was feeling better, Gretchen began to meet with her group to share the gospel when the same tingling feeling came back at which point she felt like she was going to faint. She knew she needed to get to the clinic right away. Mercy, one of her Zambian partners and one of Izzy’s House girls, guided her to the clinic, which was only yards away.

When she arrived, she described her condition to Dr. Brad Guffey, who made her drink a salty fluid suspecting that she was dehydrated. After making Gretchen lay down, she completed the first bottle full of liquid at which point Gretchen experienced a serious seizure. Her face turned purple, her hands turned purple, and she was described as frozen. Dr. Guffey went into immediate action to save Gretchen’s life. Yes, Dr. Guffey most definitely saved Gretchen’s life in the middle of Lusaka, Zambia on a Tuesday afternoon.

Just as a quick side note, it’s amazing how when one of your close friends has a real near death experience that it puts so many other events in their proper perspective. Our life is so short, and we have a tendency to become so wrapped up in the heat of the moment of our lives that we fail to remember that God is in control and that our life is incredibly short.

Dr. Guffey was able to stabilize Gretchen at which point she was rushed to the best and closest hospital in Lusaka where she has been ever since. As a result of this traumatic episode, Family Legacy and our group have been maintaining constant care of Gretchen by having someone stay with her in the hospital at all times, and Dr. Guffey has requested that one Family Legacy employee is always awake throughout the night watching Gretchen.

As another side note, Family Legacy has been fantastic! We have seen one employee after another take their turn in the hospital, which is something they never planned to do, but they come with smiles and loving hearts. Wow! Their goal of ministering to both the Zambian orphan and American family could not have been seen anymore better than this week.

So why those details above? Our group has had to share many responsibilities including spending the night in the hospital each night until we leave tomorrow. This would not be possible unless all those things above were true. God knew what we needed so far in advance that our only proper response is to praise Him.

Furthermore, consider with me the timing of this event. If Gretchen had this episode at any other time, in any other place, she likely doesn’t have the immediate medical care to save her life. If you just ponder these things, what can we do but overflow in thanksgiving for our loving Savior God Jesus Christ.

The rest of the group enjoyed their final day with the kids handing out their new backpacks, enjoying a balloon release, and giving them heart-felt, full of tears hugs. God is so good, and as God does every year, our hearts are full of His grace as He has moved in us while also blessing the Zambian orphans.

Please pray for our flights home tomorrow night. We will all be working together to ensure that Gretchen is cared for and monitored throughout both flights. Be watching Facebook to find out when we hit the ground safely in Houston Sunday afternoon.

Hard Things

Our day on Thursday was full of hard things. We began by visiting the Bauleni Family Legacy School, which is busting full of kids that our group and everyone associated sponsors.

This was the first thing hard thing we encountered. During our time at the school, one of the orphans grabbed Amy to ask her where Izzy was. Even though it has been three years since Izzy was there, these kids don’t forget you. This girl wanted to know where Izzy was.

Amy found me and handed her off for the explanation. Needless to say, it was extremely difficult to get the words out of my mouth that Izzy had passed away but that we were there because Izzy loved the orphans of Zambia. You can read more about it in an earlier post (Why Zambia?) if you haven’t already.

The next hard thing we faced was the community day. This is when we see first hand the poverty, the horrible living conditions, and the messed up theology of the Zambians. The whole two hours of walking in the slum is very heart breaking and overwhelming. But it is also very enjoyable to walk around with your group and see them find people just hanging around their one-room houses that they share Jesus with.

After the community portion of the day, we came back to the Legacy Center and had a great visit with the Tree of Life kids. We spent time with the child we sponsor and saw some really heart warming things. You can check them out on Facebook pictures. That ended a very full day that started earlier than the rest.

At this point in our week, we are physically exhausted and emotionally spent. You can see it on everyone’s faces. It has been additionally difficult because we have two people in our group who are sick, which has made the logistics of handling everything each day more challenging.

All of this to say that we could really use your prayers for the coming days. We are trying to make sure we have everything worked out to complete our Friday of camp and then for our final day prior to leaving for the airport on Sunday night. Given that we are tired in every way, all of your prayers are appreciated and coveted as we enter these final days.

Those are the hard things we are encountering. It is very likely you have the hard things you are facing. We have been reminded over and over again of the faithfulness of God in the midst of all of these challenges. We pray that you experience that same goodness of God in your life as we have seen first hand all week.

 

Getting in the Groove

By Wednesday of Camp LIFE, the kids know you, the Zambian partners know your style, and you are comfortable with the schedule. It was nice to have a day that ran smoothly from beginning to end even with some situations that needed to be handled.

It’s easy for a routine day to cause you to put a little more trust in yourself than you should. Sitting in villa time (debriefing on your day and looking ahead to tomorrow), we were reminded that we are in Zambia among orphans that are in great need. All of us have kids that don’t have their parents, eat once a day, and have been wearing the same clothes for all the days of camp. Therefore, it was a good reminder that it wasn’t in our best interest to be putting any trust in ourselves as much as we remember our big God remains in perfect control.

Tomorrow is really a big day in the week of camp. We travel to Bauleni to tour the school facilities of our kids, which everyone visits tomorrow for an hour. Then we head out from the school and travel to our different communities to walk the compound and share Christ with anyone we meet. The orphans, who have learned the evangecube, are the main communicators of the gospel during this time. We will have the opportunity to spend the most time with our kids compared to any other group.

This is also a time where our kids have a new level of respect and love for us as we walk where they walk and experience where they live. Our affection for one another only grows after this experience.

As part of our week, we conduct “blessing times” with each child to find out their circumstance, assess their need for further help, share Jesus with them, and just take the opportunity to bless and love them. Over the course of the week, you begin to see every child warm up to you as they see you really care for them, you hold their hands, and give them hugs. The transformation from Monday to Friday is remarkable.

We appreciate your prayers for what we have ahead of us tomorrow and Friday. Our group is praying for all of you as I’m sure we are missing our homes, but we are enjoying and savoring our time here in Zambia. Thank you for joining us in our journey.

The following verses come to mind, so I hope you find them encouraging.

Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Enjoy the freedom and confidence of drawing near the throne of the most high God who will hear and answer your prayers because of our great high priest, Jesus. That is something worth dwelling on, tasting, and seeing the goodness of God.

Never What You Expect

We began our day as we did the day before praying together as a Villa group. This is our group of 18 plus three Matrangas who are Camp LIFE experts having attended 11 years. 

My encouragement to the group praying was that we would freely experience the full range of emotions we would feel today knowing we would enjoy the high of singing, dancing, and spending time with our kids but the sorrow of the low when you hear of the poverty and pain the orphans experience. My reminder was that Jesus was perfectly human and experienced all those emotions that we clearly see presented in scripture. 

As much as I thought the day would go a certain way, it just didn’t. I can’t necessarily articulate what that means except our prayer tonight together left me thinking of Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”

When things don’t go like you expect, we usually have this feeling that something is wrong or God is absent or He isn’t in control. Instead, maybe Paul meant just that scenario with Ephesians 3:20. God is doing something abundantly more than our thinking could ask or comprehend. Yep, God is in control. 

Maybe you have felt this way. Events in your life transpire that make you think everything is going all wrong, but maybe God has orchestrated those events to ensure the maximum glory for His Son and your good. If we knew what God knew, we would make the same things happen, even if completely chaotic from the world’s point of view. 

Yesterday’s quote about prayer could not have been more timely. God is doing His work among our lives and in the lives of the orphans, and He is using all of our prayers toward that end. We serve an amazing God that can hold the vast number of universes in complete order while knowing us personally and intimately down to the finest detail. 

Yes, life can be extremely challenging, hard, and take your breath away difficult, but Jesus remains on His throne. His kingdom remains in order. So we rest in the finished work of Christ even as we struggle through life. 

This is the hope we have to offer and point to when we speak to the Zambian orphans. I have shared the gospel over and over again, and it never gets old to share or remember this gospel for myself. Sinners are lost but then found, and our Father throws a party for such as these. 

Tomorrow is another day filled with dancing, singing, and spending time with our Zambian children, many of whom you are sponsoring. There isn’t one child who isn’t incredibly grateful for their sponsor. You are like a parent to them to allow them to attend school that they cherish, a meal that helps them see that the gospel is real, and discipleship that points them to Jesus over and over again. 

Let us keep praying for the glory of Jesus in our lives and through our lives. We need it desperately!

Learning What God Already Knew

Monday of Camp Life is likely the toughest day of the week because you are confronted with the reality of life in Lusaka, Zambia that the orphans live in their daily lives. It can be emotionally taxing to your heart. Then you meet your children for the first time and begin to interact with them to find out that indeed their life really is that hard.

Despair begins to set in immediately that you can’t do enough, you can’t say the right thing, and you can’t take them out of the living situation you find them in. Then you remember that there is a God who is a Father to the fatherless. He isn’t surprised by their living situation. He knows the pain and hurt first hand they are experiencing on a daily basis. You realize that you are learning what God already knew.

In fact, Monday can be a shocking day that takes your breath away with the different realities you see and hear. And when we are shocked, it is easy to forget that God is in control. God created hope through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Zambian orphans have hope in their desperate situation. Likewise, we have hope in our shocking and desperate situations because we cling to the same God that the rest of the world can find their hope in.

Monday is a rough and sobering day. How was your Monday? Remember Peter’s exhortation to the suffering believers in 1 Peter 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

We have been born again to a living hope; therefore, our inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. The circumstances of life have a way of making us believe that our hope is gone, defiled, and faded away, but by God’s power through His Spirit, the living hope we have is being guarded until we see Jesus face-to-face. Take heart my friends, we have a living Savior, and we have hope!

After touring Lusaka, we returned to the Legacy Conference Center to meet our 10+ kids. I wish I could put into words the emotions one feels when they see these kids who mobbed you in excitement to know that you have returned. Nobody ever comes back for these kids, and yet sponsors with Camp LIFE come back again and again to exhibit and display a tangible love of Christ for these kids.

Furthermore, the singing and dancing time of Camp LIFE is like no other. Hopefully the videos post as my view from the back resulted in some cool pictures and videos.

Our group of 18 is spread throughout the conference center where everyone can be seen dancing, singing, and finding joy in praising God and serving the children. We are participating in the unfolding story of God in the lives of these orphans in Zambia, and it is an amazing privilege and experience.

Additionally, it is God’s unfolding story through scripture that points to Jesus Christ that we tether ourselves to so that our sorrow and despair is turned upward such that we hold tightly to God that He knows best for our lives and the lives of these orphans. We have been given the wonderful opportunity to be a tool in the hand of God.

Thank you for praying! I’m reminded of a quote I heard James Arnold repeat recently by Sam Storms, “Never presume God will grant you apart from prayer what he has ordained to grant you only by means of prayer.” Let us be about the business of praying to our living Savior!

Do You Dance?

Psalm 149:1-3 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

Have you read over the ten references to dancing in the ESV and simply not thought twice about them? If you are familiar with the church culture I have known my whole life, dancing is foreign to me and in some circles almost too heathen to even consider as legitimate.

Then you experience Zambian church culture, and these verses leap off the page. Praise our Maker with dancing. Wow! Yes, I have brothers and sisters who make that a reality and visible truth for the world to see. King David danced (2 Samuel 6:16) and the party for the prodigal son included dancing (Luke 15:25). In fact, dancing in the Bible is very legitimate.

I’m convinced after my second Zambian church service that the new heavens and new earth will more likely look more similar to the joy exhibited in the dancing and singing in Zambia then it does in the American church culture I have known my whole life. The point I look forward to in every song sung by the Zambians is when all their voices unite in a single praise that is loud, on key, and absolutely beautiful. You have likely seen and heard what I mean from the videos I have posted.

So do you dance? Has God made such music in your heart through Jesus Christ by the power of His Spirit that you can praise His name with dancing? I know I haven’t but maybe we should consider verses like the one above a little more seriously and figure out how to encompass a joyous culture of dancing for Christ.

Today we enjoyed church with the Zambians orphans of the Tree of Life Children’s Village, we bought items at an on-site Zambian market, we met our Zambian partner for the week, we enjoyed visiting with the Izzy’s House girls, and we made our first batch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, all the while anticipating the first day of Camp LIFE starting tomorrow.

Speaking of our Zambian partners, please pray especially for these relationships this week. For example, my Zambian partner is a pastor of a church of 150 people. The manner and content of my communication with Nathan (my Zambian partner, yes, we have the same name) will have far reaching effects to his heart as well as the hearts of his congregation. My goal is to share my love for Jesus as I talk about his perfect life, substitutionary death, glorious resurrection, and yet future return for his own. That is the gospel.

All of us in our group are meeting with partners who will impact many other people beyond this week. Our prayer is that the seeds of the gospel that we spread for salvation and sanctification would sprout and grow for the rest of their lives as the Spirit sees fit to produce those results.

Please also pray for tomorrow’s visit to one of the slums in Lusaka in the morning prior to camp starting. We anticipate, like every year, that tomorrow will be a challenging day emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We see and hear tough things tomorrow.

In the mean time, consider for yourself if Jesus is a person you love and have a relationship with, or someone you just know about that provides eternal life. Those are very similar things yet very different. Jesus is alive. You can know him through God’s word, and you can have a very real, tangible relationship with the Creator of the world. Colossians tells us this person is Jesus Christ. Trust, know, and love Him today.

Home Away From Home

Our team of 18 arrived safely in Zambia a little earlier than scheduled at 2:25pm/7:25am. The seven hour flight felt like a breeze after the previous 15 hour flight the day before. Some of our team members slept well last night in Dubai and others did not. Some had cold rooms and others did not.

You could see the excitement growing in everyone’s faces as we began the day knowing we would get to our destination. For the first-timers, you could see their curiosity for what the day would hold. And Zambia did not disappoint.

We arrived in Zambia with the other 60 plus Camp LIFE participants at 2:30pm and all of us needed to wade through the customs line. After customs, we hoped to retrieve our 13 checked bags. Thankfully our 13 bags arrived along with all of our team’s bags. No missing bags, which is an answer to prayer!

After accounting for all 80 plus participants and their bags, we headed to Family Legacy Conference Center where we arrived about 5pm. At that point, we were given the time to freshen up in the restrooms, get some snacks and refreshments, and then prepare to have a welcome by the Family Legacy staff.

Just like last year, as part of the welcome, we were greeted with amazing singing by some of the young men and women of the Tree of Life Children’s Village. Check out the pictures and videos attached to this post.

There is something very emotional about seeing these children, some you know by name and they know you, singing in such beautiful God-given voices. The grace of God produces an awe in us as we enjoy the singing that He has gifted in our Zambian brothers and sisters. It is also very emotional to see faces that you have longed to see since you last saw them a year before.

These children also greet you and love you with such abandoned affection that it completely undoes you. Those that know me know that being emotional is really the lowest thing on my to do list, yet thinking about this trip and seeing our Zambian children face-to-face is an incredible emotional experience.

So it really does feel like a home away from home. For our family, all five of us are experiencing this, and our biological children will, no doubt, be transformed as God uses our Zambian brothers and sisters as tools of His grace in our lives.

During our team meeting, some of our first-timers had the opportunity to explain why they chose to come. Meagan was one of those, and she did a great job articulating how God used events in the last year to bring her to the point of conviction to travel to Zambia.

We appreciate prayers toward that end, and we appreciate the prayers you have prayed on our behalf thus far. The praise of our God grows with your every prayer. Tomorrow we participate in church, some Zambian market culture, and meet our Zambian partners. It will prove to be another glorious day!

Enjoy Jesus Christ, who is our risen Savior that has inaugurated His kingdom to be established beginning at his resurrection and consummated at the new heavens and new earth. What a wonderful hope we have, which is the theme of this year’s Camp LIFE. Praise God for His amazing grace!