Monday
May252015

Africa Freedom Day - A message from Zambia and Megan

Megan and the Arise Home kids, (L to R - Enny, Hope, Dorothy, Megan, Armond, Stella, Nelly, Alliness, Fred, Mukonda)

As many of my friends and family spent their time this weekend remembering all of the men and women who laid down their lives for our country, we here in Africa are celebrating African Freedom Day and celebrating those who fought for the freedom of so many countries on this continent.  

As I reflect over the past 12 hours, I can’t help but think that Arise Africa is raising some of the next leaders of this nation.  There are so many different philosophies on how to help this nation, but here at Arise Africa we are doing our best to bring up God fearing, well-rounded individuals.  We are working to help them walk in the ways of the Lord, love others well, and learn to function in society.

Today was no different.  Being that it was a holiday, we took the opportunity to spend some time as a family and have a fun day out.  We took the morning and went to visit the local elephant orphanage.  We got their rather early, so of course a game of football (soccer) had to happen. 

Armond, Mukonda, Dorothy, and Fred

After hearing about the elephant’s development we left and started off for lunch. 

We happened to drive by a field of freshly bailed hay.  Being the girl from a farming community in Illinois, we had to get out and have a fun go at the hay rolls.  We have a visitor from Texas, Steve, and he was teaching the kids how to walk on the rolls.  As we left the field, I asked the kids if they ever thought that they could have such a good time on a bunch of dried grass and they giggled and said “NO WAY!”. 

Steve, and Fred helping Alliness

Dorothy and the white elephant (our car in the background!)

Fred

Alliness and Dorothy

Nelly

 We proceeded on and spent the afternoon having lunch at a restaurant called Mint.  You need to understand that our kids come from places where going out for lunch was never an option. They had never ever been to a restaurant when we got them in custody and had never even had pizza.  We have been working very hard on our manners and what better way is there for our kids to learn their “pleases”, “thank yous” and menu ordering that practicing in an actual restaurant.  They did great!  We divided the kids up into three tables.  Each table had an adult with them and they each were given a menu and had to order on their own.  

Armond

Uncle Chipa and Aunt Katiba's Table (Stella, Nelly, and Hope)

Uncle Chipa and Aunt Katiba talking with Hope

Alliness with her food

Dorothy's burgers

Our Nelly, who is the shy one, at first would not order.  We had the waiter go on and take everyone else’s order.  I told her that if she couldn’t order her own meal then she wouldn’t be eating.  She finally did it!  I was very proud of her.  Coincidentally, in our home we have a box of questions that we go through on a regular basis, so we brought those along to help with dinner conversation.   Nelly’s first question out of the box was “What helps you to have courage?”  I told her that something that builds your courage is trying new things.  I asked her if she was nervous having to order her lunch from a stranger and she said “yes!”.  I went on to tell her that the next time it won’t be so difficult, and it wasn’t…she was great ordering dessert for her table! (I don’t know if it was her actually being courageous from experience thirty minutes prior, or if it was the Oreo Sunday that made it easier!) 

All that to say, in raising our kids at Arise Africa and in the Arise Home we are doing our best to give our kids real life experiences, real life situations to expand their horizons, and real understanding of the real world. 

 We are raising the next generation of leaders and what not a better way to do it than to show them than through God honoring, life changing moments.  We are doing our best to be intentional with the choices we make and the life lessons we put before them.  Arise Africa wouldn't be able to take out 11 kids to a nice restaurant without generous donors who specifically gave to this day.  Thank you to those of you who helped make this possible! You are helping us raise leaders for this great country in Africa!

 

- Megan

Tuesday
Apr142015

Easter at the Arise Home

This past Easter was especially fun for me since I am usually not in Zambia to celebrate the holiday. 

Without really thinking about what it involved, I invited any and all staff or friends to come to the Arise Home on Easter Sunday for lunch.  Before I knew it we had 30 people coming which means you need to prepare a meal for all of them!  Suddenly I was in over my head.  I went home a bit panicked, considering my cooking skill aren't stellar and I consulted with experts that know what they are doing more than me.  After discussing with the Zambian housekeeper that keeps me organized whom I stay with when I am in Zambia, Susan, helped me see that I could pull it off.  Well Susan and Megan and others really helped me.

Susan and I, she is a saint to me in Zambia:

I had a plan.  She helped me make the grocery list and I ran out the door telling Susan I was "going to dominate" the meal and prove to others that I could actually feed the masses. 

    After getting the groceries Megan came over to help me cook.  I couldn't have done it without another set of hands chopping up 9 whole chickens, cooking 5 pounds of spaghetti, and shredding 12 cups of cheese.  It was controlled chaos I would say.  At the end of the day we had spaghetti chicken casseroles everywhere:

Right about this time there was a huge storm and the power went out.  We crammed the casseroles in the freezer and prayed for power to return. 

The next morning still with no power I went to church with the Arise Home kids. I learned that the Arise Home also did not have power.  Hmmm how do you cook casseroles?  After church I headed to the market for some last minute purchases we needed with Lucy and the Arise Home boys.  The Arise Home girls went home with Dailes to help set up for Easter lunch. 

Megan went to pick up the casseroles which weren't frozen but luckily the freezer was cool enough overnight to keep them at a good temp.  Megan then drove across town to a house that had electricity to use the oven.  She got all seven casseroles cooked and made it to the home just in time for lunch!

We had a great Easter with friends, staff, and staff's kids.

Uncle Chipa and aunt Katiba's Table:

(Chipa was shocked and so excited when Armond poured a glass of water for his wife, yea manners!)

 

Mamma Dailes and her kids and Susan and her kids. (of course Susan was invited she made the whole meal happen!)

Lucy's and Mamma Acqiline's table:

 

Fred, Alliness, and Dorothy:

Nelly and Mamma Acquiline:

After lunch we had some awesome cupcakes that I did not make, I mean I can only do so much. :)

Then we had an egg hunt which I would say went well, we have some competitive kids!

Alliness proudly holding her eggs:

 

You know it isn't really and Arise Africa gathering if the fake snake doesn't show up somewhere:

After the egg hunt we all got to hang out which was a perfect way to end the day. 

The boys played alot of basketball with the new hoop:

Easter was a great celebration for the one who gave his life for us.  For all of us sinners who fail and are selfish everyday, God gave his son! 

What not a better way to spend Easter with than with those you love and a staff that try to serve the Lord and kids everyday.  What not a better way than to spend Easter at the Arise Home with kids the Lord has blessed us with to love on and care for!  What not a better way than to spend Easter with staff member's kids whom we love so much and are privilaged to watch grow up.  And what not a better way than to Spend Easter with friends we have in Zambia who love us and support Arise Africa, even enough to bake cupcakes for us and let us steal casserole dishes.  It was a day that the Lord reminded me just how blessed and lucky I am for ALL he has given us and the ultimate sacrafice on the cross.


 "I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me."  Proverbs 8:17

 

 

 

Friday
Apr032015

Learning to carry the burden better

"Carry each other's burden, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

Arise and Nikao staff with a random monkey

For quite some time I have known that our staff needed more training on how to work with kids in the difficult situations we face in Zambia.  Just as the scripture above tells us, we carry MANY burdens personally and with the kids we serve here in Zambia.  This is a broken world, but the Lord provides help for us and "tools" on how to care for our kids whom are in extremely broken envrionments.  I have prayed for our staff to have more of these "tools".   I wanted them to know how to do their jobs in a more effective way, while not getting burned out themselves.  This past week our Arise Africa staff went through training facilitated by Nikao Counseling Center from Dallas, Texas.  Martha, Liz, and Rachel, came to Zambia to teach us how to dig in deeper to the hearts of the kids we serve.   These three incredible women gave our team the knowledge and resources to lovingly lead our kids through healing and helping them to know and trust the Lord even more. 

Rachel, Liz, and Martha:

We spent the week learning about grief, emotions, trauma, boundaries, choices and consequences, sex, burnout, and self esteem.  Our staff was so eager to get more information on how to do their jobs better.  We got to ask questions about particular situations and how to handle really difficult environments that we work in daily. 

Before we could learn about how to help our children more, we had to look at our own hearts first. 

For as Ephesians 4:31-32 teaches us, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you."

I have never been more proud to be a part of Arise Africa. For most of us, expressing our emotions and feelings and learning about them was all brand new territory.  It can be uncomfortable.  I watched our staff open up about their own trauma and pasts.  We talked about our anger. We talked about guilt and things we have done ourselves in the past that we were not proud of.  We spoke about our struggles within our work place and at home that we all have.  We talked about our families.  We were vulnerable.  Watching all of us come together and support the other as they told such difficult stories or admitted to struggles they had was such a powerful experience.  As one staffer texted me later and so perfectly put it they said, "Once I shared I felt a weight lifted off my chest that I have been carrying for a very very long time." 

We learned so many great "tools" about how to handle and work with children better.  We learned how to help them go through grief and the stages of grief and how to have empathy.  We learned how to have positive support and encourage kids.  We learned how to dig deeper and get to real heart issues.  We learned how to build up self esteem.  We learned how to be honest and have difficult discussions about death or HIV/AIDS.  We learned to love deeper and serve better. 

We learned how to trust each other more, even if we didn't want to!

We learned to problem solve and communicate better:

Nikao was great at not only wanting to help teach us how to help kids but see themselves where and who we work with.  We were able to spend time at the Arise Home and in the schools we partner with:

          Martha, Sammy Joe, Liz, Lucy, and Rachel at Grace School:

 

         Lucy, Brenda, Martha, and Susan at Destiny School:

 

 We also taught the counselors a few things of our own.  They learned about chongololos (millipedes):

We taught them where to find Mexican food in Zambia:

We taught them how to ride on the roof rack with the Arise Home kids:

 

And oh boy did we ALL laugh!!!  We had so many great and intense moments in training but we sure did laugh a lot too. 

Solomon learned that the prize bag at the end of the day isn't always a good thing and had to jump in the pool:

After the week of training was over, we decided that we needed one more team building activity and what not a better way to end a week of learning about trauma and grief than go to play paint ball together!!!

 

We shot the crud out of each other, and loved every moment of it!

For those of you who know her, you won't believe this is Brenda below in the red:

We are so blessed to be a part of Arise Africa.  But we are more blessed by those who love us well.  This week Nikao carried the burden with us.  And they have been working the past 10 months as they spent over 200 hours preparing their teachings and the training manuals we were left with.  They helped us care for the widows and orphans.  They helped us learn to care for each other. We will be forever grateful.

We are also so blessed by Highland Park United Methodist Church, who funded this entire project.  They believe in loving and serving others well.  Thank you HPUMC global missions!  (by the way, for the record, I personally paid for the paint ball war, don't worry!)

As Easter weekend is upon us, I am humbled to call myself a Christian.  I am humbled by the people God surrounds me with and puts in my life to help Arise Africa.  I am humbled by Christ's ultimate sacrifice for someone like me.  Thank you Lord for all your many blessings and fellow believers who I get to do life with.  And thank you lord for every single child we get to work with in Zambia!  Thank you Lord for the gift of your son! 

 

In Him,

Alissa

 

 

 

Sunday
Mar082015

It is all about the numbers... or is it?

      I was sitting in church a few weeks ago and Matt Chandler (Village church in Texas) was preaching about how we are not awesome.  And for whatever reason it was this moment of me realizing about how non – profits like to boast about how awesome they are by giving their numbers and recruit heavily on “how many” they are feeding, saving, curing, sponsoring etc.  Don’t get me wrong we do this too, to an extent.  If you made a donation to Arise Africa in 2014 you got our end of year letter giving you the year “2014 by the numbers” which has many of these stats.  But we don’t do it often and for whatever reason it has always rubbed me wrong with other organizations who talk “numbers” all the time. 

      I think it goes back to when I supported a non-profit and it was all about “how many” kids were being saved or run through their programs.  Although those numbers are awesome and staggering it made everyone strive for quantity over quality.  The end result was always the number.  How much could be raised?  How many kids could be reached?  How many Americans participated?

         What makes me so frustrated was that the quality of work gets diminished when this happens.  You are so focused on getting as many people as possible to “sign up” or “give” or kids to “save” that I wonder what the end result is. 

         The reality is that EVERY SINGLE number is a real child.   A kid with a heart and emotions and personality.  It is a human being that needs nurturing, love, constant care, and for us to constantly shepherd.  This child needs discipleship, and not a “one time saving.”   They need Jesus in their heart everyday, and that takes years and years of time and love to help them see that and grow it.  They need a parent because their’s are gone or don’t care or cannot provide.  Don’t get caught up in the numbers or whatever else, get caught up in the children themselves!  That is what you should see staggering, are the kids who’s stories are getting changed through the Lord.  The numbers can be deceiving. 

            We struggle with this in Zambia all the time.  The fact of the matter is there are so so many kids that need saving.   And the Arise Home could have more bunks in both the boys and girls room and places for those kids to live in.  We could physically go and save more kids tomorrow.  But our staff has always wanted to focus on the quality of the work we are doing and children we are raising.  I am not saying this is right or wrong, I lay in bed at night wondering if we should be saving as many as possible and not devoting as much time to each child.  But this is how we have chosen to operate, is quality over quantity.  One example of this is the low ratio of children to staff member in our child sponsorship program.  For every 30 children sponsored in our program we have 1 staff member assigned to them.  They are in charge of those 30 children ONLY.  Most programs run on much much larger child to staff member ratios, in the hundreds.  We did this for multiple reasons.  First, I wanted to be 100% sure we knew and could account for every single child in our program.  If we are telling you that you are really sponsoring that ONE child than we better know that kid and make sure they are in our program and showing up as school and eating on your dollar!  If you have been to Zambia and see where we work you would fully understand how easily it could be to lose track of a child and why we need a low ratio of adult to children.  Second, how do you disciple and shepherd and teach the word of God when you have more than 30 kids you are watching after?  It becomes more of a management program than an actual personal relationship with the child.   The most important thing is teaching these kids about Jesus and how much the Lord loves them! 

            So I ask you as the donor and supporter of Arise Africa or any other non-profit to remember this.  Even if a charity’s “numbers” aren’t as staggering as another, look deeper.  Because they could be making more of an impact than the “big number” groups.  Ask yourself what is most important to you too.  Ask any charity you invest in the hard questions.  Do they seem so polished and slick that it is too good to be true?  Because it probably is!  Third world development and working to eliminate poverty is complex and messy.  That’s why it hasn’t been fixed in thousands of years.  Try to investigate the quality of programs they are running and how they are doing it.  If you sponsor a child how often do you get updates?  If it is only every 6 months or even more, I would wonder how much that child you sponsor actually gets attention and is being cared for.  Make sure to know what that overall goal is of the charity and “feel them out.”   You can get a sense of a charity’s “M.O.” (mode of operation) real quick. 

Don’t get caught up in the numbers.  Gat caught up in investing in a child’s heart. 

- Alissa

 

Wednesday
Feb112015

A word from Megan...

At the Arise Africa home, our goal is to raise these kids as apart of a larger community.  They attend a local school as well as attend a local church.  Our hearts behind having a home is to make sure that our kids experience life and not confine them to institutional living.  This means that our kids go to Sunday School each week and as our kids get older they start attending youth groups.  Because of this, our kids have grown to love the body of Christ.

With that comes responsibility and involvement that goes further than them just  receiving.  Last week at church, our pastor requested that people come and help plant trees and plants on the church grounds.  What better way for our boys to start connecting and serving at the local church.   Instead of going to their weekly football game, Abraham who many of you know and love, picked up the boys and took them to church to help out. 

Of course the boys were a bit bummed out at first when they heard they were not going to their football practice.  However, once they got there and started helping out, they began to see that other people were giving of their time and they jumped right in.  Armond loves gardening, so I think he actually liked this more than football!

The boys worked really hard and gave it their all, so what better reward than pizza and ice cream! 

As we sat there, they were tired and dirty, but I could see that they had enjoyed giving back and had a sense of accomplishment.  When there was one slice of pizza left, I asked the boys who deserves the last slice?  Armond, the shy one that he is didn’t have much to say.  Fred said, “I deserve it because I worked hard at planting trees” and out of nowhere Mukonda replied, “I deserve it because I am a better dancer than both of these guys!”  They decided to share it as good brothers do. 

It makes me so proud to see these boys living as brothers.  To see the changes happening in their lives and in their hearts is such a miracle from God.  All I can say is…get ready world because we have three young men who are destined for greatness!

 

- Megan