Tuesday, December 15, 2009

UPDATES:

1. I will be leaving in March instead of January (to cover for a missionary's maternity leave)
2. Financially, I'M HALFWAY THERE!!

Thanks to everyone who has given so far!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Going back...

Hello to all!
As I have said before, thanks again for all of your support for my trip to Africa earlier this year. I loved my time there so much that I’ve wanted to return ever since I got back to the States. I found out back in June that the missionaries who opened the orphanage were going to return to the States for good in August, and that there would be a lot of volunteers coming and going in order to fill their spots. I realized then that I needed to be back at the orphanage to help in any way that I could. Unfortunately, I will only be able to go for a month this time and am looking at leaving in the beginning of January. This time around it’s going to cost me close to $3000. Some people have already expressed interest in funding me again, so I am asking for any more donations you may have. I really appreciate everyone’s donations last time, and understand if more cannot/ will not be made. As always, I accept lots of thoughts and prayers! If you do have any donations, please send them, with my name clearly marked on it, to:

Children of Zion, Inc.
P.O. Box 413
Churchville, MD 21028

Thank you for your support and check back here for more updates on my trip!

Namibian National Anthem

video

Every Wednesday morning, before school, the children have an assembly. They sing worship songs, one of them leads a devotional, they pray, and then they sing the National Anthem. This was taken on my last Wednesday there, and some of the older boys brought out the Namibian Flag to "honor" me.

These are the lyrics to the anthem:

Namibia land of the brave/Freedom fight we have won/Glory to their bravery/Whose blood waters our freedom/We give our love and loyalty/Together in unity/Contrasting beautiful Namibia/Namibia our country/Beloved land of savannahs/Hold high the banner of liberty/CHORUS: Namibia our country/Namibia Motherland we love thee

"Your mouth is better!"

video

This video was taken the day after the boy in the middle got stung by a wasp on his upper lip. He had an allergic reation to it and his lips and face were swollen. In the video, the boy next to the tree is telling him that his mouth is better, and the boy to the right is saying (half in English, half in his native language...the clicking sound) that it's not back to normal because of the way he is holding the headphone cord in his mouth. After pulling the cord out, they find that it is still swollen. The boy at the end is, jokingly,telling me not to take videos of them, and turns the camera off.

Isaac

video

This little three year old was TOO CUTE! I taught him how to wink, however, he became camera shy once I started filming. This was taken right outside of the Children's Home. You can hear the other pre-schoolers in the background, watching the "picture".

my pre-school class singing "Jesus Loves Me"

video

The first part is in English and the second I believe is in Lozi, the common language spoken there.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Finally...

What I posted below is a slideshow with pictures and videos that I took while in Africa. For those of you who are new to the site, the postings below were from while I was in Africa. I am still hoping to be able to return to the Children's Home, although the soonest I would be able to go would be October. I will be keeping you posted about what is going on with that!
video

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Having the road open now has made life so much easier here! I think everyone is glad that we don't have to spend so much time riding up and down the river in order to get anywhere. It also made taking the boys to a soccer tournament this weekend so much easier. I went with the boys Sunday and Monday to a village nearby and watched them play a total of four games. Unfortunatly, they didn't win enough to go on to the finals. But this time they all got to play since this is the Zion team, so that was good for them. We had two very long days there, but it was a lot of fun and nice to see them all have a chance to play.

Every Wednesday the children have an assembly before school. They sing songs then one of the teachers gives a message and then they sing their anthem. I went yesterday since it was my last Wednesday here and it was a little sad. The teacher that I have been helping with gave a little speech and then he told one of the boys to go get the flag since it was my last Wednesday there. I didn't know that they had a big Namibian flag here, but the boy brought it out and stood with three other boys and all of the children sang the national anthem for me. I think thats when it hit me that I would actually be leaving on Saturday and it was hard not to cry!

As my time here is winding down, I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who has sent money and has prayed for me and everyone else here. This trip has really been an awesome experience for me and has helped me grow in so many ways. Needless to say, I will really miss all of the children when I leave, but I am seriously considering coming back and maybe staying longer the next time!

Monday, April 27, 2009

just some quick news:
 
everyone is happy to be back at the children's home!  we are finally settled and back into the normal routine of things.  today, after doing the grocery shopping in town, jessica decided to try to drive the car back here and made it!  she said it was a pretty smooth ride.  the front gate on the property couldn't open very far because of all the dirt, but the boys shoveled enough so the car could pass through.  part of the road after the gate is now a ditch, so that will have to be fixed, but for today they were able to get around that and take the groceries to the children's home.  so now, as much as everyone enjoyed a good boat ride, i think we will just stick to driving the cars in town and save time!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

so we found out today that we are allowed to move back home- praise God!  tomorrow morning we will be going up to hippo lodge and start moving some of the kitchen stuff and our cook and then start the long process of moving kids, their stuff, and matresses back home.  it will be a long and tiring day, but since everyone is so excited to be going back, i think the process will go fairly fast.  i am so thankful that during our (almost) four week stay, no one got bitten by a snake, especially the python that the children CLAIM to have seen, crocodile, or fallen into the water!  now we are finally able to return to the safety of the children's home!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Last Tuesday the social workers came to look at the children’s home and Hippo Lodge and decided that it was drying fairly quickly, but that we still would not be able to move back for another couple of weeks. They talked about all of the bacteria and diseases that are in the mud and that people can get worms from it! They told us that they would come back in two weeks, unless everything was completely dry, then we could give them a call in a week to come check it out. Last Friday was supposedly the day of the second wave, but we never saw it. The water has continue to recede and we are now even able to walk across the bridge from the Minks house to the children’s home, which has been under water for over a month now! Apparently today the social workers were having another meeting to discuss moving us back sometime this week. At this time, we are waiting for the phone call to let us know what the answer is.

Life at Hippo Lodge has been pretty much the same, although it seems like everyday different children come up to ask when we are returning home. We set up a t.v. and DVD player over there last week, so that has been keeping them occupied at nights. A few of the boys are still fishing and have caught some pretty good sized tiger fish. I think regardless of the fishing and the special privilege of t.v. watching every night, everyone will be happy if we are able to move back tomorrow!

Saturday I took three of the boys to their soccer game in town and one to watch it with me. All three of the boys were able to play and one even scored a goal! After the game, I took them to the store with me to get a few groceries then we headed back to Hippo Lodge and made popcorn for their Saturday night treat. We had a huge tub full of popcorn, which was empty in no time! Sunday afternoon I went with Jessica to watch eight of our boys play soccer in the village. They used to play every Sunday before the flood started, so it was nice for them to be able to make it there this week. Unfortunately, they lost 1-0.

Well, less than three weeks until I arrive back in America and each day I get a little more excited. It will be sad to leave and I dread saying goodbye, but hopefully I’ll be back! Thank you for all of the emails, prayers and donations, and please pray that we will be able to move back to Zion Village sometime soon!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hello! Here’s the latest from the island of the Caprivi :) --

We are still at Hippo Lodge and finally seem to be settled in and finding a routine that works for everyone. Luckily, it has not rained at all, so the children spent a lot of time last weekend fishing off of the two docks that we have there (they only caught little fish, but it kept them busy!). Bringing food and staff to and from the lodge seems to be going a lot more smoothly than last week, but we still have had a few times when something goes wrong, or someone is late, and that puts everyone behind schedule. But, like I said, it seems to be going a lot better this week than last.

I was at the children’s home yesterday and saw that the water has gone down a lot; it seems to be almost completely gone from there! There is still a fair amount of water in front of Gary and Rebecca’s house, which is the reason why we are not allowed to move back yet and there’s no telling how long that will take to go down. There are still predictions of a second wave coming on April 17th, but everyone is hoping and praying that it won’t happen. It also seems like the social workers might want us to move again because there are some concerns about the place we are staying now (snakes, holes in a couple roofs, etc.), but we are going to fight to stay where we are now.

Today I got up at 5 am to start the long journey into town with six of the boys who are playing soccer for teams in this area. This weekend is the competition between all of the teams; all teams played today and will play again tomorrow, and then the teams that win those games will go on to play in the finals on Sunday. The boys are on two different teams, three on each, and had to play against each other today! They were the first game of the day, scheduled to play at 7, but they didn’t kick-off until 8:30. Unfortunately, only one of the six boys got to play at all, and he was on the losing team! The coach for the winning team said that the three boys on his team will be able to play tomorrow, so hopefully that will happen. Today they were lucky to be the first game so they could go back to school afterwards, but tomorrow will be a longer day because the first three boys play at 7am again and the second three won’t play until 12:30.

Tomorrow the Minks are leaving for the States for a month, so we will definitely need prayers while they are gone! I will be leaving a few days before they get back so it’s sad to say goodbye to them so soon; it almost makes me want to stay until they get back! The last thing I wanted to say is that I am still asking for donations for the extra two weeks that I will be here; I have received some, so thank you to those who have sent extra money!!!! If money is not a possibility, then please send your prayers! :)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This past week has been a busy one!!  Last Thursday, we were visited by the health inspector and social workers and were told that we needed to evacuate the children by 5:00 the next day.  Now, it's hard enough trying to evacuate a family- trying to decide what to take and what to leave behind, but imagine trying to evacuate 60 children, one bag for each of them, mattresses to sleep on, food for that day, and filtered water, all by boat, and all by 5:00 the next day!  To keep the children occupied Friday morning, we still had school.  Meanwhile, some of the staff was over at the lodge we were going to be staying at, cleaning the rooms and mending the thatch roofs.  I went over to the lodge with Rebecca and tried to figure out how many rooms we needed and the sleeping arrangements for all of the children.  I couldn't believe the condition of the place; it was very messy and rundown (it does look much better now having been cleaned and with children living there).  By Friday afternoon the stress level was high for everyone, and it was around 4:00 when they decided that there was no way we could get everyone and everything moved down the river by the time the sun set, so we took our chances and waited until Saturday.
 
Everyone was up early Saturday; bags were waiting by the door and children were anxious for the adventure to start.  We loaded up the refridgerator, a few matresses, a couple of the older children, and headed down to the lodge.  Even though we had a lot of stuff to move, we had a lot of kids to help make the process easier.  Everyone seemed to get settled in quickly and within a few days, we had things back as close as we could to the normal routine.  I stayed in one of the rooms with the older girls for the first fews nights and even though it has made my days longer, it's been really nice being able to hang out with the kids more and get to know some of them better.  Usually at nights I would be back at Gary and Rebecca house, but staying at the lodge with them gave me more time with them.  There was a group of older girls who asked me to read a chapter book to them the first night, so I started reading "Sam, The Boy Behind The Mask", a true story about a boy who was born with a facial deformation.  By the next night, some of the boys had come to listen too.  After school I just hang out with them and try to keep them all occupied; like yesterday when they asked me to play something with them I suggested capture the flag, which they played until dinner time.
 
We have been pretty lucky staying at that lodge so far- I don't think there have been any sitings of snakes, crocodiles or scorpions!  The mosquitoes do get pretty bad there at night, my legs and feet look pretty gross!  It hasn't rained yet, but we did have been hearing thunder this afternoon.  I'm not sure how the roofs in the rooms will hold up, but in the main dining area there are a few spots with holes in the roof, which is bad because not only do the children eat there, but the older children have their class there during the day.  So hopefully we won't get rained on anytime soon. 
 
The water has been going down, slowly, but surely.  Even though the kids seem to like staying there, I know that they can't wait to get back to their own rooms and have more of their clothes, cd players, books, etc. but we aren't sure how long we are going to have to be there.  Seeing the water go down makes everyone excited, but we've heard that there is another wave of this coming in mid-April, and apparently, flooding this early is unusual; it doesn't happen until April and it never is this bad.  So please pray that there isn't another wave coming and that we will be able to move back within the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Over this past week we have watched the river rise and spread further onto the land here. Because everyone depends on the boat to get anywhere, we have all had longer days; Rebecca and I have been staying at the children’s home while Gary takes the staff home, and picks up the people for the night shift. Last week, we weren’t getting home until about 7-7:30 at night! But, waiting for the boat beats walking in the water; last week we heard that 95 people have been killed by crocodiles because of this flood!!

Yesterday, Rebecca and some of the staff moved the horses through the water to drier land, which was a scary task. They made it through just fine, and today they were able to load the goats on the boat and bring them to the horses. There is still a concern about whether we should move the children or not- so far the water has not entered any of the buildings, though it is coming close to a few. We have already had sandbags in front of doors since last week, so we are prepared! The biggest problem we have now is that the septic system isn’t working very well. Today the social worker and health inspectors came to see what the situation was here, and they want us to move into town next to their building. However, we will be crammed into one area, in tents, without toilets, the children’s school work, and any free area to move around. It also means more noise from the town when we are trying to sleep at night, trying to get food from the children’s home over there with any other medical stuff we need. Gary and Rebecca have looked into a place near us that is still on the water, but not flooded. We would at least have more space to move around, there are tables for children to do school work and we would actually have a place to shower! But the mosquitoes are bad there, and the roofs are thatch roofs, so if it rains we will get wet. Ideally, we don’t want move unless we really HAVE to because it will just be more of an inconvenience and who knows how long we’d be stuck in that place. So we are praying that the social worker and health inspector will not make us move, and that it won’t get to a point where we really do need to move.

Obviously, because of this whole flood situation, the trip to Cape Town has been cancelled. I’m a little sad, but I would’ve felt bad leaving with the water was creeping closer each day.

Please continue to pray for us here, and pray that the water starts to go down!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Just a quick update about the flood situation here:
The water has been coming quickly and the path to the children's home from the Minks house is completely flooded! They bought boots for me yesterday so I wouldn't have to worry as much about snakes when walking through that water. They got the boat working Monday evening, so Gary is now able to bring staff here and back. Rebecca and I are still debating about this trip to South Africa this weekend- if the water keeps rising like it has been, I don't think it's smart to leave Gary here by himself! Last night Rebecca was talking about moving some of their furniture upstairs in the lofts because the water is right next to two side of their house, but we haven't done that yet. If it comes in the house, we will have to move into the children's home and Rebecca has been trying to find places in town to stay incase the children's home floods. We have been lucky so far, but some of the staff who live right outside the gates have already had to move because their houses were flooded! Right now, the only thing I'm really worried about are the snakes and crocodiles; yesterday Gary killed two snakes that were inside the hood of a truck and Rebecca saw a crocodile not too far from where we have to walk through! Please just pray that the water will not rise anymore than it already has!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Remember how I said that it was raining a lot and we were afraid because the river was raising?  Well it has REALLY come up this past week!  Every day on the way to the children's home, the staff would put a stick in the ground close to the water and by the end of that day, come back to find that the water had passed the stick.  We watched as the water got closer and closer to the bridge outside of Gary and Rebecca's house, but we didn't think it would reach the bridge for a few weeks still.  Saturday morning I went horseback riding with three of the children and we were amazed to see that parts of the bush were flooded already.  We noticed that people had made piles of sand on the side of the road, so that they water wouldn't come onto the road.  I was very surprised to see children running and playing in the water in the middle of the bush; there could definitely be snakes in there!!  At the end of the ride, we decided that we would go again the next day since that would probably be the last time we would be able to ride for awhile.  Late Saturday night it started pouring down rain and it didn't stop until early the next morning. 

 

I made my way over to the barn early Sunday morning, dodging puddles and wondering how far we would be able to go since the water was now almost to Gary and Rebecca's bridge.  The four of us got on the horses and made our way to the gate to exit the property.  Once we reached the gate, Gary met us and told us that one of the staff had called and said that part of the dirt road was flooded!  He was waiting for them to come so they could help him move some of the cars through that water, to the dry part of the road.  We rode along the path and I knew the water would be close to the bigger bridge because I could hear the water rushing before I could see it.  Sure enough, the water was right underneath the bridge, which is scary because there are crocodiles in that water and when the water gets high enough, they cross over the bridge too!  One of the girls and I had to walk our horses across the bridge because they were too scared to cross.  Shortly after crossing the bridge, we saw where the water had broken the "sand dams" and had flooded the road.  We slowly made our way through the water, which was a couple inches deep.  Occasionally, we saw people walking through it carrying their shoes like this was nothing out of the ordinary, and we finally found the two guys that work here walking through, one pushing a bike, the other holding his pants and shoes in his hands.  We kept wading through the water and after awhile we came to dry road, so we decided to keep going to see if any more of the road was flooded.  We hadn't gone very far, when a car came speeding towards us.  The two girls and guy were riding in a line on the side of the road, and I was close to the second girl and the boy.  The people in the car were driving down the middle of the road and didn't even bother to slow down or move over at all!  They were so close to us that when they passed, it scared my horse, who jumped up and then started spinning in circles.  I pulled back on the reigns as hard as I could, but it the horse still didn't stop.  At this point, my right foot had come out of the stirrup, the saddle was leaning toward that side, and I was holding on for my life!  One of the girls was screaming, "Hold on!!!  Please don't fall!!"  Then the horse started spinning faster and I screamed.  The girls yelled at the boy and told him to come help me and by the time he had reached me, the horse had calmed down.  I was able to pull myself back up, take a deep breath, and thank God that I didn't fall off!  We decided that it would probably be best to turn around and head back, but the horses were scared of the moving water (because of the car) so we had to go through the bush.  This was pretty scary for me because I was so scared that a snake would come out and scare my horse again.  We made it to the bridge and the same girl and I got off and walked our horses across.  Halfway across, my horse stepped and put a hole in the bridge and water started rushing up in it!  We walked the rest of the way back to the children's home because both my horse was still pretty jumpy.  Once we got back, it was fine though, and I even rode it around the ring a little bit.

 

On my way back from the barn, I noticed that the water had come up on Gary and Rebecca's bridge a little bit- just in that hour I was gone!  I found it very weird that it would flood so quickly since it wasn't raining here at all, but I was told last week that it can flood so quickly because the river flows from other parts of Namibia and a little rainforest in Angola, and floods other plains first, and then overflows down here.  By that afternoon, the bridge was completely covered and we had heard that even more of the dirt road was flooded.  Three of the boys who were chosen to play soccer with one of the teams here had a game at 4:00, and they came to the house at 3:00 so we could take them on the boat to where Gary had parked the cars.  That's when we realized that the boat wouldn't start!  Gary and one of the staff worked on it for two hours, with the help of some people who live nearby, but they couldn't get it working.  This was really bad news because that meant that the rest of the staff that had to come that night and today would have to walk through that water, with the possibility of meeting a snake or crocodile, in order to get here.  As I am writing this (Monday afternoon), they are still out there trying to fix the boat.  Luckily, it seemed like everyone was able to make it, but if they can't get the boat working I'm not sure how much longer they'll be able to walk here.  Supposedly, the water is over a meter high in some places and it has already covered the bigger bridge.  It sounds like we are now living on an island!  We are all praying hard that they will be able to get the boat working, and that some of the people that live nearby will be able to help us because if we don't get this boat working, we will be in big trouble!!  I am also praying that I don't see any crocodiles climbing out of the water near the house and that I don't see any more snakes slithering around here either!!

 

Besides the flooding, nothing much else has happened.  Last Sunday we went out to a restaurant to celebrate Rebecca's birthday.  I ordered "Chicken Gordan Blue" which apparently is commonly misspelled in African restaurants.  Even though they weren't crowded at all, it took forever for us to finally get our food; two hours after we had arrived we were finishing up!  Even though the service was painfully slow, the food was delicious! 

 

This weekend, Rebecca and I are leaving to for Cape Town for two weeks, as long as we can get the boat working, that is!  It will be a long drive there and back (which takes up about half of the trip!), so please pray for us while we make our way down there, and of course, please pray that they will be able to figure out what's wrong with the boat and fix it!  That is all I have for now, but I will try to get one more update in this week before I leave for South Africa!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Hello!

I don't really have much to update you on from this week; there are only a few little things. We planned on having a bonfire Tuesday night and the team brought stuff to make s'mores with the kids (which is what they did last year when they were here). Some of the girls were going to go look for fire wood, but they weren't allowed to go alone, so I volunteered to go with them. I thought we were just going to be walking around the fields near us, but then Gary told me to take the truck and one of the boys would give me directions of where to go. So I had about 8 kids sitting in the bed of the truck, a girl sitting up front with me, and one of the older boys yelling the directions to me from the back. I'm not sure if I've already told you about how the road to this place is made from sand and really bumpy and uneven, especially after it rains, but the kids LOVE to drive fast through it….so for the first five minutes of the drive, all I heard was the older boy yelling from the bed of the truck, "GO SARAH-SARAH GO!!!". We turned down the dirt road that lead to the fire wood, but we didn't get too far before we saw water ahead; the road had been flooded. Of course the older boy wanted me to drive through it, but after I told him to go walk and see how deep it was, he got out, walked over to the water, and yelled jokingly, "NO SARAH-SARAH, I TOLD YOU IT'S TOO DEEP!!!" then climbed in the front seat with the other girl and I. We turned around and he told me to go to the main road. I wasn't really sure if he knew where he was going, or if he just wanted to go for a ride, but I continued anyway. After a few minutes on the main road, we turned onto another dirt road that lead into the bush (can't remember if I described that either, but it's basically like what we call woods, only there aren't many trees. It's mostly bushes, and other plants on the side of the road. Every so often you'll see the dirt paths going into the bush that lead to houses or water). The kids weren't worried at all driving through the bush, but I remember thinking, "Oh my God, we're going to die!" The path was really narrow, and I just kept picturing someone jumping out of a bush and attacking us! After a few minutes, we saw a guy who was herding some cows in the open fields, so we stopped and asked him for "directions to the fire wood". To my surprise, he knew what we wanted and pointed us to a place where we got what we needed. An after we had left, we arrived back at the children's home and unloaded the firewood.

We were a little unsure if we'd actually be able to have a bonfire that night because it was thundering in the distance, but the men from the team didn't want to wait until the next night in case the weather was worse. After the fire was started we told all the children to come outside and we started handing out marshmallows. It was crazy trying to give 60 children a marshmallow to cook, but luckily, Rebecca planned ahead and already had the chocolate and graham crackers all ready for them. A lot of the kids were sneaky and kept coming back to get more marshmallows, which we gave to them anyway. Everyone had a fun time after that, just running around the fire playing games. I felt bad for the night staff as we left; trying to get all of those kids to settle down and go to bed must have been hard!

I found out that there were about 10 kids who placed in the competition, and that they would have a chance this past Saturday to go compete again in the regionals. One of the teachers took the kids to get the birth certificates that they needed, but for some reason, they were only allowed to get two of them. So we only had two boys go to compete this past Saturday, and they both took second place. I feel bad for the others that were supposed to go compete, but it's neat to see how happy they were for the boys that got to go.

Since Gary didn't want all of the children to watch the competition again this week, I got up early Saturday morning and went to play soccer with the girls AND the boys. The boys have been asking me ever since I started playing with the girls if they could play against us, but I've already said how the girls are too scared to play because the boys are too rough. I still didn't know when I was walking over to the field if I was going to be playing against the boys or not, but I guess the girls said they would only play if we could mix the teams up. Once I got there, they had already divided the teams up and they were ready to play. Since some of the kids were watching the competition, we only had about eight people on each team, and only five girls playing overall. It wasn't long before I realized why I used to get tired of playing soccer with boys; they hardly ever passed the ball to the girls! Because they boys weren't passing to the other two girls, they just kind of stood there, talking to each other. I guess because I was actually playing and stopping some of the guys on the other team from getting by, they started passing to me more. After about two hours of playing, everyone decided they were too tired to play anymore, so we walked back, the girls saying they would never play with the boys again. Even though I didn't get to play as much as I do when I play with girls only, I still had fun, and I think because the boys saw that I wasn't afraid to challenge them for the ball, they were willing to pass to me more.

This has turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be, but I still have one more thing. I found out last week that it's going to cost me an extra $350 to stay here. So I feel bad asking for more money, but there have been a few people who have said they are still interested in sending money and have asked me where to send it. The best thing to do would be to send it straight to the Church, so they could just take the funds out when they need to. The address again is:

Children of Zion, Inc.

P.O. Box 413

Churchville, MD 21028

Thanks again, and please continue to pray for everyone here!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Yesterday, at 7:00, we arrived at the field ready to win this competition. We waited and waited until 9:15 to finally start. Only a few of the children placed in any of the events, but I think everyone had a lot of fun. It was so weird to see what these children from other schools were running in; some girls had skirts on, some children were wearing button up shirts, some girls were wearing leggings, and most kids didn't have any shoes on!! (The track was mostly sand, but there were still little rocks along it.) It's amazing how fast they could run without any shoes on! It was another long day, I was with the first group to go home since I was sunburned again, and I got home at 4:00, the rest of the children didn't get back until 6:30! We ate dinner late, started the movie late, and by the time the movie was over (10:30) everyone was exhausted!

This morning a Church from Zambia came to visit us for our Church service. They have been here before so Rebecca was telling me how amazing these kids are. There were about 25 of them, ages 4-15, and they got up and sang a capella so beautifully! The service lasted two hours and they were still singing afterwards while waiting for lunch. They have left already, with some money that we gave them to build their own Church (they have been meeting for 11 years, finally had money to start building a Church four years ago, but then a storm came and knocked it over, so they are still in the process of building it).

One last piece of news: I have volunteered to stay here longer while Gary, Rebecca, and their sons go back to America for a month. Rebecca had told me that she was worried about how people here would do while she was gone because there will be a girl, who just went back to the States a week before I came to get married to one of the African workers that she met here, her husband, and two supervisors. The girl has volunteered here a few times for long periods, and the other three have worked here for a long time, so they should be in good hands. When Rebecca told me this a few weeks ago, I just felt like I should stay and help; I really love it here and I don't even have any plans when I go back to the States anyways. It was a hard decision because I am starting to get a little homesick, but I think I made the right one, plus it's only two extra weeks that I'm staying. I know it's going to be a lot of stress for the five of us, but we can do it! I am still waiting to find out how much more it is going to cost me to stay here; I already know that it was $175 to change my ticket, and Gary and Rebecca have offered to help out with the funds a little since I am helping them out, but I think I might need to raise a little more money.

Well, that's all I have from here so thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hello!!  Here's a quick update of what's been going on this past week:

A team arrived this past Thursday with two men, two boys (mid 20's and 16) and two girls who are 15.  The guys went right to work Friday morning, building the halfway house for the children who are 18 so that they can start to transition out of the children's home and learn to be more independent.  It's nice having more people here, but we thought that the girls were around my age so I was really looking forward to that.  They will only be staying until the middle of next week, and then I don't know when the next team is coming.

Saturday we were able to pay to use the track to practice for this coming Saturday's competition.  We arrived at 8:30 and got started.  The kids hadn't been practicing long distance running, so the ones who are in the long distance events had some trouble.  We aren't even sure that they are going to qualify for those events.  Most of the kids are really good at sprinting and/or the field events, so they should qualify and hopefully place.  We didn't get back until about 1:30 and with the sunny, cloudless sky we had, everyone was exhausted.  My face, neck and feet got pretty sunburned (even though I put sunscreen on!) so I had to take leaves from the aloe plant behind the children's home to smear all over me!  It was a fun day and everyone is really excited for this Saturday!

Sunday morning I went to go play soccer with the girls again and was glad that we had some cool air to play in.  On Friday a few of the older guys were asking me about soccer, like what position I played, and how long I've played, so now they want to play against the girls some Saturday.  The warned me that they play really rough, but I think I can handle it!  The other girls are scared because they agree that the boys play too rough and that they will just laugh because we will lose, but I told them we just have to keep practicing every Sunday!  Later Sunday afternoon two of the children took me and the volunteer who's around my age horseback riding.  Something was wrong with my horse because it didn't want to move!!  The boy who was leading us gave me a whip to hit the horse and make it go, but I was really afraid to use it and that I would get thrown off!   He kept telling me to hit the horse, so finally I did and it started moving.  As we were walking, it kept going onto the side of the road to eat grass, so I kept falling behind.  The boy was looking out for me though, and kept coming back to help me out.  We ended up turning around earlier than they wanted to because I was getting too scared, but I told them I would definitely go again sometime as long as I had a different horse!

That's all I have for now.  As always, please pray for these children!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gary and Rebecca have two dogs here, a male and a female. These dogs are HUGE dogs, so they make really good guard dogs. The male one, Mordecai, has been limping since I got here so Rebecca decided to take him to the vet this past Saturday. This vet was recommended by a friend, but about an hour and a half away in Kasane, Botswana. We were on the road by 10, hoping and praying to be able to see some cool animals along the way. Right after we went got through the Ngoma boarder in Botswana we entered Chobe National Park, the place where I might be able to go on safari, and saw two elephants right on the side of the road. It was so awesome because they were about 10-15 feet away from the car!! After stopping for a few pictures, we continued through the park and saw two warthogs and a sable, which was beautiful! Rebecca said that usually you can see giraffes, lions and zebras, but since it’s the rainy season the trees are covered and there’s a lot of grass everywhere. It also didn’t help that we were driving through so late in the day, when it was the hottest, and the animals were at watering holes. But I’ll have to decide if I want to spend the money to go on safari through that park since I might not even be able to see much, if anything.
Anyway, we made it to the vet and found out that Mordecai has hip dysplasia and Rebecca is trying to decide what to do with him since she can’t really afford medicine to keep him pain free. It’s sad because he’s only a year old and she wanted to breed him with the female so they could sell the puppies for money for the Mufuta feeding center they have, which I haven’t been to yet, where they have food for kids in the area and are hoping on opening a pre-school soon. She said that she planned on breeding the dogs so it could be something that she felt she was doing to help the center since she can’t really donate her time. Luckily, she can contact the person who sold Mordecai to her and she can either get another dog or her money back, but it still means around another year before she’ll have any puppies to sell.
To complete my adventure in Botswana I had the pleasure of talking to the vet and his weird ex- wife, who was visiting from Sarasota, Florida. The vet was an older white man who knew everything about everything. He was very full of himself, saying that he was single-handedly saving the wildlife here because he operates on them for free and spays and neuters pets in the area for free. Then he told us that we could pay for some medicine that would re-grow Mordecai’s cartilage…….He then had his ex-wife come out, who looked really out of it. She started talking to Rebecca and I about what was going on in America and how the women in Florida were planning a revolution and that 9/11 was a lie (apparently 4 of the richest families in the world planned the whole thing just to hurt people). She said she didn’t like Obama and that she believes that the end of the world is near. It was definitely an interesting afternoon!
We got back late afternoon and that night we decided to watch Wall-E with the kids, which was pretty much a waste of time. They didn’t really like it because they didn’t understand it. I think the movie was about 5 minutes in when they started asking me what everything was (the robot, the spaceship, etc.). They have never heard of that type of stuff, so they didn’t know what was going on. I’ve come across a couple situations like that this week; one boy was doing spelling words and asked what coast meant. I started saying something about the beach, then realized that he had no clue what I was talking about, and it’s not like I could say “It’s what you do when you drive a car on the highway…” either. I also went to sing “Hurry, Hurry Drive the Fire truck with the younger kids, but then realized that they didn’t know what that was. But I have also had times where I didn’t know what they were saying too, like in the classroom when that same boy was asking for t-pex (sp?) and I kept saying “What??? What??” and finally he was like, “WHITE….OUT”.
We’ve had a lot of kids sick the past week with the flu, so that’s probably going to be a problem for another couple of weeks with 60 kids! Another handful of kids are complaining about injuries because they have been practicing so hard for this competition, but the men who are training these kids don’t have them stretch before or after they run! They also will practice for a few hours without drinking any water, which doesn’t help either since it’s been so hot lately (Sunday afternoon I thought I was going to die when I was playing soccer!) Rebecca is going to talk to those men, who believe that the kids have to warm up their muscles before they stretch, and tell them to make the kids stretch first. Hopefully that will fix their problems!
One last thing that I haven’t mentioned in any of these blogs yet is that at the end of March I am going with Rebecca (and maybe one of the older girls here) to Cape Town, South Africa! Rebecca had asked me the first week I was here if I would be willing to go with her, since it’s hard for her and Gary to be gone at the same time. She is going down there to have some surgery done and needs someone else to go to do the driving and just to have another person while she’s going through surgery. We will be gone about 2 weeks, but 6 days of it will be driving. The girl who might come with us has been having some really bad headaches and has low blood pressure, so they want to take her to a doctor down there. I am excited to go, even though the 30 hours of driving will be boring for the most part (we are driving all the way through Namibia, through the Capital, Windhoek, and then down through South Africa). While we are there I will be able to do some sightseeing, so that will make up for the driving! Well I feel like I have rambled on and on, so I’m going for now!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Quick update:
I just found out today that the email address I gave you all was not the one I was checking everyday!  I was a little confused when I saw that I wasn't receiving any emails from anyone, but it turns out that I had a lot.  Apparently, the VOLS email had not been working for some time, so the Minks just had me use their email, not knowing that I had told everyone to send email to the VOLS address.  I didn't even realize that the address' were different until yesterday.  Today we were able to log on to that account and I have been trying to reply to everyone that wrote, but it will take a few days.  From now on, would you please send emails to gmink@mweb.com.na (and still put my name in the subject!)  Thanks, and sorry for the confusion!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

So right after I said that it rained here every day, it stopped for a full week.  It was nice to have sunshine every day, but it got so humid!  It finally rained again yesterday, which brought us some nice cool air!  Luckily, it only rained for about 30 minutes so the river didn't seem to raise much.

Last Saturday I drove Rebecca and some of the kids into town; Rebecca had some stuff to do and the kids wanted to go shopping.  I had to drive because Rebecca has some back problems, and they were getting really bad last week.  It was weird (as a little scary) to drive on the left side of the road, but I made it without crashing or hitting anyone!  Once we got to town, we all went our separate ways.  One of the boys had hurt his ankle, so he couldn't play soccer with all of the other guys that day, so he came to town too.  Rebecca told him to stay with me and "escort" me around.  I first went to the bank to deposit something for Rebecca and I felt so awkward.  I stood in a long line for about 30 minutes waiting- the whole time feeling like everybody was looking at me because I was the only white person there!  Of course the boy escorting me waited outside…being about 14 or 15 years old, I think he was embarrassed to be seen with me!  Once I finished at the bank though, he actually started walking WITH me and talking to me.  He took me to the open air market here, which mainly contained sections of food, clothing, and people braiding hair.  They had a fish section which contained mostly dried fish (a fish cut in half, gutted, laying open, and flat).  When I asked what they eat that with, he said shema, which is something like rice, and the staple here.   After that he showed me the grocery store here, which had a lot more American products than I thought it would.  Then we went to some clothing stores just to look around, but it was too hot and crowded in there to look around for long.  It was fun going into town, but I was definitely glad that I had an escort!  Later Saturday night we went to the children's home and watched "Kung Fu Panda" with all of the kids, who really loved it.  Every Saturday night they have some activity going on, but for the past two weeks we have just watched movies.

Sunday I got up early to go play soccer with the girls.  We had to wait a little while for a ball because the boys didn't want us to use their ball.  After we finally found a different one to use, they stood at the fence and watched us the whole time!  We played for about an hour before Church.  It was really fun though, and now some of the boys wanted to play against us this weekend, so we'll see if the girls actually want to play with them!

We finally started training the children for this track and field competition on Wednesday, and today was the first day that they used the equipment.  A few of the teachers are coming back tomorrow to train with the children all day, so hopefully they will be ready on the 28th!  It would even be great if they won a few events so they could participate in Windhoek and then in other countries!  I am still so surprised at all of the opportunities the children have for living in a children's home!  Rebecca has said that in the past, other schools in the area don't usually participate in events, so when there is an art competition, or singing competition, these kids here come back with at least 3rd place!  There are about 4 or 5 boys who found out last week that two soccer teams want them to play on their teams.  The details are still being worked out, but I think the plan is that they will go and scrimmage with both teams and then decide which one they want.  There were about 10 girls who were able to go to 9 different states to sing at Churches and talk about their lives here.  A few children are actually waiting to hear back about going to school in America next year.  Recently, there was a song writing competition about drunk driving, and apparently a group of girls here who entered were the only ones from this region, so they will be invited to Windhoek to participate in the country wide competition!  There are just so many good opportunities for these kids, which could help their future, so it's nice that they can participate!  As always, please pray for the kids and this orphanage!



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Friday, February 6, 2009

This week I started helping a 17 year old girl here with pre-school.  She will be turning 18 soon and wants to become a teacher, but she doesn't have any experience.  Once she turns 18 she will start getting paid for the time that she is here, but it will also allow her to keep on living at the orphanage.  We only have 3 children in that class (the 2 year olds), but it can still be tough!  I have also started going to the classrooms of the older children after their morning break is over.  The system here is so different!  Every child works at their own pace to get through each subject every day.  They set goals for themselves every week and have to complete them.  There are 2 teachers in each classroom, but they just go around and answer questions.  Once a student completes a couple pages, they have to go up and score it themselves with the answer keys.  My job is to make sure they correct it and to record their test scores.  It's still a little weird to me that the teachers don't actually stand up in front of the class and teach each subject!

So far, I think it has rained here every day!  For the first couple of days it only seemed to rain at night, but now it has been happening in the middle of the day- Florida style.  Last Friday night we had a big storm- the thunder was so loud and the lighting was so bright, it was scary!  All of this rain is making the river behind us rise pretty quickly.  Rebecca is scared that it will flood here like it did a few years ago.  It was so bad that the teachers and other people who come to work here have to drive on the main road, but once they got to the turn off for the orphanage, they have to take a boat across part of it!  We are praying hard that we won't get flooded-especially because there are crocodiles in that river!  (I haven't seen any yet, but one of them took Rebecca's dog a few years ago!)

I am staying with the Minks since there aren't any other volunteers here and I didn't want to stay in the volunteer bungalow alone.  They are really nice and have really made me feel like part of the family.  They have their own children who are grown up and living in America, but they have 2 adopted sons from Ghana with them, which is where Gary and Rebecca were at before they came here.  One of them is 17 and the other is 12.  For Christmas they got a Wii from a friend, so in my down time I've been playing that with the 12 year old!  The Minks are really into playing card games too, so almost every night we've played a card game.  Some people were asking me what I would be eating while I was here, and I just wanted to let you know that we've eaten mostly American food.  I have tried some African cuisine, like antelope, but the Minks mostly have American food…like tonight, Friday, is pizza night! :)

Wednesday I went to a Bible study with Rebecca.  She meets with 3 other women in town, who are all white Africans.  They all speak Afrikaans, which they told me is more like Flemish than Dutch.  After the Bible study was over, we had to drop one of the lady's off.  She lives about 20 minutes outside of town in the "bush".  We had to pull off to this little dirt road surrounded by trees in the complete dark, which was a little scary!  I learn later that she doesn't have water or electricity, so living that far out is all she can afford.

Since the children have been doing well in school, Gary and Rebecca decided that they can compete in a track and field competition with different schools around here.  We have split the kids up into 3 teams and kept trying to start practicing the week, but the rains kept coming.  The competition is the 28th of this month and none of these kids know how to do any of the field events, so we'll see how they do.  We do have some fast runners though, so maybe we can win some races.  I guess they will start training next week as long as it doesn't rain, and as long as they get all of the field event equipment that they need. 

That's all I have for now!  Please continue to pray for the children here!!



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Sunday, February 1, 2009

I am finally here!!!  (well, I have been since Thursday afternoon)  I landed in Johannesburg on Wednesday and on the drive to the Bed and Breakfast, I noticed that this town in South Africa looked a lot like Florida- there were palm trees and stores cluttered together everywhere!  Not what I pictured it looking like, but this is a big city in Africa, so I'm sure outside of Johannesburg it is more rural.  The Bed and Breakfast that I stayed at was beautiful!!  I had to order take-out for dinner, so of course, I ate sushi! :)

While landing in Zambia on Thursday, I was looking out of the window and saw what I thought was smoke from a big fire but it turned out being the mist rising from Victoria Falls.  After getting my bag and visa, I met Gary (one of the missionaries) and we headed out to go see Vic Falls.  Luckily, I took Gary's advice and rented a poncho before walking through because we would've gotten soaked!  We saw people come from the path who were completely drenched, and some people who were just in bathing suites.  The falls were beautiful though, and it was neat being able to see the flat land stretching far at the top and the water waaaaay below.

On the way back to the orphanage, we stopped to pick up two of the girls who were visiting family in one of the villages.  I would never remember where she lived though, because the "villages" were really just clumps of 4-5 huts along the way.  Sometimes there would be just one village and then you'd have to drive farther to see another one, and other times the villages would be about 20 feet away from each other.  Gary said that it took them a long time to figure out where her family lived at first; they had to ask many villages before finally finding hers!

I have met all of the children and am still trying to learn their names (it will take awhile with 60 of them).  A lot of the little ones were excited to see me and ran up to give me big hugs, but most of the older children were either too shy, or didn't care.  I am still not sure what I'll be doing while I am here, I am the only volunteer until about mid February, so there are lots of things that need to be done.  I think I will be teaching pre-school early mornings and maybe helping out with the older kids school until lunchtime.  Today I was playing with the younger children a little bit and we took playdough (or claydough as they called it) and were making different things out of it.  It was really interesting to me to see the older kids come over and start making animals for the younger ones.  The thing that was even more interesting was that they were making elephants and buffalo, whereas children in America tended to make shapes or snowmen. 

The last thing I am going to say before I go is to keep all of these children and ESPECIALLY four of these boys in your prayers.  The day I arrived here, an incident had occurred that put these four boys at risk of becoming HIV positive.  I went with Rebecca yesterday to get them tested and THANK GOD none of them were!  But they have to come back to get tested again in 6 weeks, then 3 months, then 6 months and then finally a year to make sure they still don't have it.  Rebecca said that hopefully at 3 months if they don't have it, then they probably won't have it at all.  The boys, who are all about 6 years old, were all so brave getting their fingers pricked and don't really understand what is going on.  Even today one of the boys asked, "Auntie Sarah, why did yesterday we get blood from our fingers?"  There is no way I can understand what these kids are going through and I feel bad because my life has been so blessed compared to theirs.  Please pray for all of them!!

 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Well today was my last full day in the United States- until April 23 that is! I spent the day running last minute errands, packing, saying goodbye, crying and wondering WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?!? Don't get me wrong, I am really excited, but at the same time, I am worried about traveling to a foreign county by myself and if this will really be the experience I've always dreamed of. It's too late to turn back now, and I know I'll always wonder what could've been, so there's no choice but to board that plane tomorrow.

Since I am already nervous and feeling like I will be homesick, now is the perfect time to give my contact information for while I am gone. As one could imagine, the price to connect to the internet in Namibia is quite expensive, so for that reason, the missionaries I am staying with have an outlook-type account, where they only connect 2 times a day in order to send and receive mail. If you are interested in sending emails, their addres is: vols2@mweb.com.na Please be sure to put my name in the subject, so that they know the email is for me! Also, I will only be able to receive text- that means no pictures or attachments!! If you prefer "snail mail" (and it really IS snail mail because it takes 2-4 weeks to arrive to Namibia!!!), the address is:
(my name)
c/o Children of Zion Village
PO Box 218
Katima Mulilo 9000
Namibia

Some have asked, and since it takes anywhere from several weeks to several MONTHS, NO PACKAGES PLEASE!! Well, this is all I can think of for now. Hopefully I can update you by the end of this week with how my flight went! Thanks for all of your wonderful emails and prayers- I really need it now!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Last week I received the news that I would be leaving Tuesday, January 27th- and the countdown began!! My last day of work is this Wednesday, then I'll have to start cracking down and begin to pack! I am very excited that I will be able to bring summer clothes for the 80 degree weather they have :)

Tuesday, I will be leaving from Dulles at 5:40pm and arriving in Johannesburg, South Africa, 3:50pm (local time- they are 7 hours ahead). I have a reservation at a beautiful Bed and Breakfast, The Lilypad, about 10 minutes away from the airport, and they will send someone to pick me up so I won't have to worry about getting a taxi or anything! The next day, I depart Johannesburg at 10:40am and arrive in Livingstone, Zambia, at 12:30pm. From there, the missionaries from Children of Zion Village will pick me up and we'll drive a few hours to the orphanage in Namibia.

I am definitly very excited to leave, but I am starting to get a little nervous! Right now, the biggest fear I have is the airplane ride, which I'm always a little anxious about anyway. Luckily, I got the window seats I requested :)

As always, I appreciate all of your prayers and contributions- you all have helped me achieve this dream!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!

I am very excited to let you all know that with donations I have already received and the money I have set aside, I now have a total of $4000 towards my mission trip to Africa. More great news - the prices of flights have dropped almost $300 since November! This is very exciting for me because I wasn’t sure that leaving in January was going to be a possibility, but now it’s looking like I will be able to go in the next couple of weeks. Because I am so close to my goal, I took a leap of faith and booked my flight for January 19th!

For those that are still considering a donation, I know that times are tough and with it being so close to Christmas it may be difficult. If you’re unable to donate, please keep me in your prayers. Thanks to all for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers and to those who were able to donate – thank you so much; you’re making my dream come true!!
If you are able to donate, please send your donations (with my name clearly marked on it) to:

Children of Zion, Inc.
P.O. Box 413
Churchville, MD 21028

Thanks again!