Friday, July 25, 2014

Finding Lydia

We spend an afternoon with our camp kids in the compounds they live in. As we were meandering through part of Chaisia, we met a boy who was sitting on the side of a pass through. He had what appeared to be a bad burn on his left upper arm and clearly had some sort of paralysis on his right side. Luckily, my group was traveling near one of the Family Legacy American staff members as well as one of the Zambian coordinators (discipleship leader/ DL) that work in Chaisa.  The DL agreed to bring the boy to camp the next day so we could have the Dr check him out. The boys name is Steve.

Friday morning, Steve shows up to camp with his mother and two siblings. We all head to the medical tent for evaluation. It is determined that Steve is paralyzed on the right side, he doesn't have much control over his right arm or leg. The burn on his arm was from a few weeks prior when he lost his balance and fell. The nurses cleaned and wrapped the burn. Unfortunately, there was nothing more we could do for this child. He appeared to be in good health, HIV screening came back negative and he would be sent home. 

Within seconds of seeing this family, the Dr said he couldn't do much for Steve, but we could save his sisters life. Lydia is four years old, she weighs just under 20 pounds, was substantially malnourished and according to the Dr, probably within days of dying. 

I have never in my life seen a human body so frail, it was a case of "skin and bones". Dr said she had hypothermia, so we bundled her up in a blanket and I held her to keep her warm. I could feel the edges if every bone in her precious body poking out. She had so little energy she couldn't cry, she just released these soft little moans and cringed her face at the pain. 

Her mother had no explanation as to why this child was so malnourished. The two brothers and mother had clearly been receiving nourishment, they were not even skinny by Zambian standards, they were  "fat" (fat does not mean obese in Zambia, it means normal size, healthy weight, meat on your bones/ it is a compliment...). We didn't find out why Lydia was malnourished, we didn't need to know why, we just needed to do something about it. 

Within a couple of hours of Lydia showing up to our medical tent, it had been determined we needed to get her to a hospital for treatment. She tested positive for HIV and needed food and nutrition in her precious body ASAP. I carried her frail little body to the car and handed her off to get treatment.  The head nurse at Tree of Life went to the hospital with Lydia, it was important to have the right person admitting her. If you can imagine, Zambian health care is different and ensuring her admittance was going to take a strong Zambian personality, they could have easily turned we away for lack of hope. Luckily, she was admitted. 

As I carried Lydia to the car for transport to University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, it took more energy to not cry and pray for her recovery than to hold her extremely fragile body. The mother was not upset, she didn't seem to realize there was something wrong with her baby girl, she didn't seemed concerned that her daughter was withering away right in front of her. I didn't want to let her go, I wanted to sit there and make this child well and love her for every sweet minute she is alive. 

Lydia is beautiful, she has these big beautiful dark eyes, thick eyelashes that curl perfectly around her beautiful eyes. A tiny little perfect nose and these plump little pouty lips that I know will make for an amazing smile once she has recovered. She really is one of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen. I am in LOVE with this baby, she stole my heart the second I picked her up.

I have hesitated to post this, there is a lot more to this story and I will update you as I can. This has been weighing so heavy on my heart, and I just crumble when I think about the situation.

I am begging you all, please say a prayer for my sweet Lydia, she is still at the hospital, I am still waiting to hear if the government is going to place her in Family Legacy's full time care, as well as waiting for updates to her recovery.

This was the hardest goodbye in Zambia, keep you posted on her progress...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Della's House opened today ...

I just saw this didn't load when I was in Zambia- sorry! This is what it was like the day Della's opened...

We opened Della's house today. It was adorable, the girls were so excited! 

The day started out with a run to the grocery and then to a street vendor for patio furniture and a quick stop at the nursery. Through a comedy of events we made it back to Tree of Life with everything we were looking for. 

The house opened at 2:00, all the children from Tree of Life stood outside while we were inside prepping last minute details and praying over the house, the sweet girls movin it and all the blessing we are provided. 

We lined the road for when the bus drove in, got the girls off the bus and headed to the house. We stood infront while greeted by songs from the Tree of Life children, many prayers and blessings and then the reveal! The girls were told to cover their eyes and turn around, on the count of three the girls uncovered their eyes and saw their house for the first time. At one point I had my arm around one of the little girls with my hand over her heart- it was racing! I think the excitement was overwhelming for all of the girls. 

Once they were inside, everyone found their bed and sorted through all their gifts. The found new shoes that fit sifted through all of the new clothes. Everyone got a "dolly", which was a big hit! We all went outside for more pics, then headed inside so Trish could tell all the girls about Della. 

We had cupcakes for everyone and lots of candy (I am pretty sure the girls will not sleep for days)! One if the little girls said a prayer before the group ate their cupcakes. I think the opening was a success, I believe all of the girls are happy and will thrive tremendously in their new home. 

We wrapped up and headed up to meet with the other camp attendees. 

It's been a beautiful day of making new friends, spending time with Zambian family and watching hope enter the lives of so many. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My boys, 2014

Camp flew by this year, honestly, I don't feel like I spent 10 minutes alone with each of my boys. I got very sick the day before camp started and couldn't seem to get my act together after I missed a few days.

This year was a much different experience than years past. I am still trying to make sense of it all, if I get it figured out, I will let you know!

The group this year was, for the most part, all kiddos I have had in years past. I got one new cutie, Moses, who was a first timer at camp and such a hoot to have in the front of the line.

By amazing folks with big hearts, Moses already has a sponsor and will be attending  our Lifeway Christian Academy in January.

The other boys were my alumni group.  The boys line up in height order, so that is how I will update them here.

Kennedy, one of MR and I's sponsor kids got bumped to second in line, he was finally a little taller than one other kid! He has only missed one day of school in the last year. I was really thinking we would be having complex English conversations, but he just isn't quite there yet! I couldn't quite tell if he was not able to respond in English or if he is just still so shy and quiet.  I know he is thriving, I know he is doing well, and I can't ask for much more.

Robert was back this year! It was such a blessing to see him doing so well. His family had declined his participation in our school program two years ago. Last summer, I dropped by his house to tell them that at any point they needed our sponsorship, I would make sure he got into the program. Unfortunately, due to cancer, his grandmother (caretaker) passed away in the last year. Luckily, she had the foresight to make sure he was enrolled in our program last January and is thriving in our school. He is so sweet and helpful, he wanted to carry my backpack each day. Every morning and each day before boarding the bus, I got big hugs from sweet Robert. He has always been a sincere, compassionate child. I think he will do so well and be a huge success going forward.

Haggai was in for round two this year! Still very quiet and shy, but a little more confident than last year. He still lives with his siblings and Grandfather. Comparing the photos from last year to this year, you can tell the nutritious lunches and love have made quite a difference in this young mans life. Last year there was minimal eye contact, this year, he looked at me and answered questions when asked.

Elias was new to me this year, although he is already sponsored and attending our school. Unfortunatly, I didn't get to spend much time with him and getting to know him bc I was out so much dealing with my illness. When I was around, he spent most of the time running and playing, he was hard to sit downs, there was too much fun to be had!

Richard was new this year as well, again, I feel awful for not being able to learn more about him, I was just so out of the loop and the time was so limited. Richard has been sponsored for quite a while, he has been attending our school and from the little time I spent with him, I felt confident that he was doing well and his home situation was good.

Steven, our second year together, still says he wants to be a Pastor, and speaks the most English of all in the group. He lives with his Dad. His best friend lives in our Tree of Life program, and unfortunately for our time together, he spends a lot of time asking to move in the Tree of Life. We had to have a conversation about how his life situation does not warrant being taken away from his Father and moved into Tree of Life. We struggled with this for the second year. I am not sure I was as patient as I could have been about explaining why he couldn't live at Tree of Life, but I think he got the message.

Richard, also a second year camper is still a sweetheart and so happy each day. He is always so cheery and eager to have fun. He is one of the older boys, but still has a little of that little child attitude in his heart. He wants to be loved and paid attention to. Definitely a people pleaser and peace maker.

Isaac, one of my original campers from 3 years ago, is still the most handsome Zambian I know. He is sweet and kind hearted. He is so quiet and you have to almost force a smile out of him. My parents are his sponsors, he is doing well in school and I know he will be fine.

David was new to me this year by way of a dear friend wanting to sponsor a child, so I added him to my group. He is sweet. He has been our school program for several years, he is very smart. Unfortunately, his original sponsor was not able to continue to fund his sponsorship, luckily, I had a dear friend who wanted to sponsor a child and David was allowed to continue in our program.

Those are my ten camp boys in a quick review. They are all safe, healthy and doing well in school. I explained to each of them that they are holding up their end of the deal and I am I am so proud of them for doing so. I promised to make sure they have sponsorship through their grade school years if they will continue to attend school regularly.

There was one kid, Harrison, that didn't attend camp. He found me on community day, to ask why he wasn't at camp. After some confusion and reaching out to the Community Leader that works with our kids in Chaisa, I figured out Harrison has not been attending school enough to attend camp. Family Legacy started a reward program a few years ago, they made it a treat for the kids to miss a week of school and go to camp. If you have less than 75% attendance, you do not get to attend camp. Harrison unfortunately has not reached that goal. This may have been a tough love lesson for both of us, but I had to explain, that he needed to attend school and that if he would commit to that, he could attend camp next year. Hopefully, he will shape up. I will be checking in with Family Legacy in a few months to see if he is making an effort.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Life in Della's House

It is real, they are in and all is well. Della's House is no longer something dreamed of or a "work in progress" it is real.  The house is precious, filled with all things girl, frills and flowers, pink and smiles, bows and barrettes, dolls and love!

It all happened so fast! In the matter of two hours, girls were moved in, prayed over, shown most of their new things, pictures taken, cupcakes eaten and whoosh, it was over. It all happened so fast!

I am not sure if it was the expectaions I had or the fact that life really does go a mile a minute, but I didn't get to know each of the girls, I didn't get to show them each little thing that was prepared and sent with so much love for their special soul.  It all went so fast! I wanted to be able to walk you through each detail of every minute of pure bliss of what it is like to open a home for 12 girls who have known so much hurt and pain and tell you about the moment I could see in their faces that all was well and they knew a beautiful life was ahead.

Honestly, my perception is quite different. I can tell you, the moment before we showed the girls their new home, I had my hand on one of the little girls chest and I could feel her heart about to beat right out of her chest. The anticipation and nerves were overwhelming, there were 300 children singing, at least 40 Americans standing in watch. It was a lot of pressure! I became so nervous for them, it was so much! I am sure after the dust settles and there is a routine, everything will be fine, they will be comfortable in their own home and life will become normal. If I really think about it, normalcy is what they need, along with a lot of love and  faith.

The girls are precious, they are a sweet and they are appreciative. I know life as they know it will forever be changed and that Della will be watching over them as they grow into amazing ladies.

If/when I get updates from anyone in Zambia about the house or the lives that are being transformed within the walls of Della's House, I will update you.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Lusaka 2014

Here is where the exciting part of the journey begins! I am in Lusaka prepping Della's House with so many amazing friends and Zambian family. Tomorrow is the big day, we will move our 12 precious girls and 2 amazing house moms into their new forever home. Full of love, opportunity, laughter, hope, joy, and praise. As we prepare this structure to become a home, my heart is rejoicing for the sweet lives that Della will continue to touch. 
After a year of planning and hard work and prayer by so many, I am feeling infinitely blessed to be able to be here in Lusaka, to welcome these beautiful children home. 

To each of you who have so genrously helped us bring this to fruition, I will never be able to say thank you enough. You have impacted the lives of so many, the future of a young nation and myself. You have made a difference in ways I never expected to understand, but see so clearly now through your kind hearts. Thank you again, a million times over. 

It's the Fourth if July, we celebrated with fireworks and singing the National Anthem. It's was pretty awesome to be celebrating our independence as a Nation while also preparing a home of independence for our girls. 

I wish I could tease you with some sneak peeks of what the house looks like and all the neat stuff inside, but we worked till sundown and didn't get any pics. I will be sharing the house opening and lots of details soon. 

Erin, if you are reading this, we miss you desperately, it is really tough being here without you. So many times today, I have said, "I wish Erin were here" while we set up the house. I hope you will be happy with how we pull together your hard work and dedication to making this house spectacular! 

Keep in touch!