A Camping we went!

A few weeks ago my husband and I, Megan, and one of our fearless staffers, Kochelani packed our cars and took all the Arise Home kids camping.

This trip had been in the plans for months.  With the generosity of many Arise Home sponsors who helped fund the trip we are able to make it happen.  We had strategised how to purchase and get 9 sleeping bags, headlamps, tents, life jackets, and many other camping supplies to Zambia.  We had borrowed items from generous friends in Zambia too. It was a pretty big undertaking to pack in itself! Megan wrote out and categorized every single item we would need for food and the grocery store trip took two full carts.  It took many hours of planning and packing.

I quickly learned that my theory was like a boy scout, which was to be prepared, FOR ANYTHING.  Let's be realistic, we are going camping in the bush in Africa with NINE kids. You need alot of stuff when camping and you need to pack things you could even possibly need. I don't care what happens, even if Zombies come, I want to have planned for it.  Megan and Asher are minimalists when it comes to camping.  They didn't want things like ZIP LOCS!  People you can't have enough zip locs on a camping trip.  During the packing procedure I found myself secretly sneaking in things that I was concerned we might need.  And when they found one of these items they would snarl and make fun of my over packing.  I was told I was a hoarder, and many other mean words. I  was teamed up against them multiple times but I didn't let it phase me. I knew the joke would be on them when we are in the bush needing a shovel and I had packed it. 

We started the staging area of all our supplies at the house we were staying at. 

Here is Megan and Asher probably unpacking very necessary life saving items:

Asher worked with our gardener, Moses, to pack the roof rack on the Land Cruiser.  We needed as much space inside of the car because we had 13 people going.

After our packing we went to the Arise home and picked up all the kids.  They were ready! 

For SOME reason, our house moms, mamma Dailes and Mamma Aqualine, were very excited to see us go!!  They had all the kids packed and waiting when we got there.  We all said our goodbyes and I asked them to not throw any parties in the Arise Home during our vacation.  No Keg stands you hear?!

During our drive we encountered many things the kids wanted to ask about.   I think every single adult answered about 100 questions.  In Asher's and my car we talked about the different factories we passed.  The kids were excited.  We had Texas country music blaring as we cruised through southern Zambia.  The kids learned Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From the Family" before I caught on to change to track. We learned about how to count kilometers and how far we have gone.  We learned that unfortunately somehow someone had donated a book of riddles that has been in the library in the Arise Home.  Fred has read this book of riddles from cover to back about a thousand times and has every single one memorized.  EVERY SINGLE FREAKING RIDDLE.  For example try to solve this one:

Question: The person who buys me doesn't need me, the person who makes me doesn't want me, and the person who uses me can't appreciate me. What am I?



think about it...






wait for it...







do you know it?....





We also drove on a particular part of the road that went up in the mountains and then low in the valley.  The kids had never felt their ear pressure and we found ourselves trying to teach them how to pop their ears.  We also saw many wrecked trucks on this stretch of road which made the driving a bit stressful!

The last part of the road was a 12 kilometer dirt road that was brutal.  It was in bad shape to say the least.  Megan drives like she has lived in in Zambia for ten years, (because she has!) and is being chased by the police which makes keeping up with her, well bumpy and uncomfortable, no actually BRUTAL.  At one point we had gone three kilometers on the road and I asked Mukonda how far he thought we had gone and he said nine.  We all groaned and laughed out loud when I told him only three.

We finally got to the lodge and camp grounds.  My tailbone was aching.  The kids piled out of the cars and ran straight to the river.  One of them looked at us and said, "I never thought I would get to see something so pretty like this in my life." (then our hearts melted and I possibly got a tear in my eye)

We worked on setting up camp as fast as possible to beat the setting sun.  We had a boys tent, a girls tent, and then a two person tent that Megan and I gladly took.

Alliness, Dorothy, and Nelly outside their tent:

Boys being awkard in their photo for the boys tent, I promise they like Asher:

 After we had our tents set up we ran up to the main lodge to watch the sunset.

Megan and the kids:

Armon and Asher discussing life:

We also learned to use binoculars. Stella and Mukonda.

It is hard to not thank the Lord for all our blessings in life when you see this

That night we made a quick dinner and hit the tents for some shut eye.  Megan and I got in our tent and quickly realized that camping is loud at night.  We had guinea foul nesting in the trees above us and they are the most annoying animals ever.  Luckily I was prepared, due to Asher's snoring at night I have earplugs with me at all times.  I popped those puppies in and left Megan wide awake wishing she had packed some.  Be prepared Megan, just be prepared. 

The next morning we woke up to many guinea foul kackling and monkeys everywhere. The boys were throwing frisbees to keep them away from the food.  Asher quickly came to our tent to tell me how terrible he slept.  He asked if I had heard the loud music playing across the river?  Nope.  What about the guinea foul that are awful? Nope. What about the car that started at the main lodge at 2:30AM? Nope.

We got coffee and food going for the adults, because well they were struggling for good reasons.

The river had steam rising off of it which was really pretty:

The kids got the campfire going and heated up the syrup.

Then we hit the river to go fishing. The kids had never been on a boat and LOVED it! We had two boats and great guides. (or so we thought!)

Asher and Kochelani's boat:

Our boat with Enny, Alliness, and Fred:




Unfortunately the fishing was not good.  Nobody caught anything!  The only person who got a bite was Megan.  The kids were great about it but started losing interest, who can blame them?  We headed back and had a late lunch and hit the pool for the afternoon.  We don't have any pool photos because I slept in a lounge chair and was thankful nobody drowned.

After an afternoon of hanging out we hit the water again on a big boat all together for a sunset cruise.  We were so excited to show the kids some wildlife. We grabbed a cooler of sodas and life-jackets and were ready.

They were tired of me taking photos at this point:

We saw tons of hippos:

And elephants:

I think it goes to say that Freddy does love him some Fanta:

And then we saw the most incredible herd of elephants swim across the river right in front of us! It was awesome!

Asher, Alissa, and Fred:


Megan and Kochelani:

Armon and Asher:

Hope, Enny, and Asher:

We ended our river cruise with another incredible sunset:

We made it back to camp and got working on grilling burgers for dinner.  We had an issue with the charcoal and suddenly realized we needed a SHOVEL to transfer coals from the campfire to the grill.  hmmm sure glad we had that!!  I was very humble and didn't rub it in at all :)

We brought some glow sticks and glow in the dark balloons which everyone loved.

Dorothy and Enny:

After dinner we hung out around the campfire and played with the balloons:

We went to bed that night with full stomachs and hearts.

There was a proposal made to me of possibly sharing one ear plug with Asher.  That way each of us could have one ear plugged and the other smothered on the pillow.  I thought about it briefly and decided that we had only been married for 6 months and I didn't feel it necessary to sacrafice so much that early on in the marriage.  If it had been like 5 or 10 years, maybe the story would be different. 

The next morning Megan and I woke up to Asher in our tent asking us how we slept. I explained I slept like a rock.  He was not impressed and began to describe his night.  Apparently Fred is quite the cuddler and likes to spoon with you.  Asher said he woke up in the middle of the night to find Fred asleep with his face inches from him. Fred had on his glow in the dark glasses and headlamp glaring in Asher's face.  It was time to go home!

We got the cars packed and used many ZIP LOCS to bag the extra food.  The kids begged to stay longer.  The adults were ready to get home!  We jumped in and made the drive home.  And every single adult answered 100 questions again. Fred worked on his riddles a bit more and drove me to the point to pay big bucks to use my American cell phone and google search for new riddles for him to learn so we didn't have to hear the coffin one again. 

This trip reminded us of how far our kids have come.  They were polite and listened to us.  They said please and thank you constantly.  That is a big testimony to how incredible our Arise Africa staff is. Megan and our house moms have worked so hard at raising them and it showed!  They were literally "bug eyed" at all the new experiences and things they were seeing.  It was SO thankful for this time and opportunity to expose them to their beautiful country. Being with our Arise Home kids and getting to watch them experience "normal" things like all kids should, is priceless.  They didn't have these positive experiences for many years before moving into our home.    

We take it for granted in America how much our kids get to see and experience growing up. I never thought twice about going to ranches, lake houses, vacations, and beaches as a kid.  Our Arise Home kids only get this opportunity if we have folks who are willing to financially and time wise help us make it happen.  We are so blessed to have supporters who see the need for this and help us make it happen. 

Thank you to all who made memories and a trip of a lifetime for our Arise Home kids!

- Alissa, Asher, and Megan


Interns day 1

A note from our 4 summer interns...

We arrived in Lusaka last night with no luggage to a country without electricity.  Feeling out of sorts, driving on the left side of the road, we arrived to the place we call home for the next three weeks. 

 We finally put our heads down around 1am and woke up to a phone call from Megan saying she would be there to pick us up in 5 minutes.  Feeling completely jetlagged yet excited, we got a jolt of adrenaline and started our day. 

We thought we would be taking it easy our first day, but little did we know, we had a fun filled exciting day full of new experiences and new friendships.

With the help of a coffee at the local coffee shop, we left to go to the Arise Home.  We arrived to a new shipment of kids Bibles that were donated to Arise Africa for their sponsorship program.  We sorted them and got them numbered and repacked and delivered to the two community schools Arise partners with.   These Bibles will be used in their weekly Bible clubs. 

We left the Arise Home and started off for the compound, or slum called Matero.  We didn’t know what to expect.  The roads were bumpy and had massive, crater like holes.  There were markets full of people really trying to sell their goods to make their daily wage and women balancing a baby on their back and a basket on their head.  Through the hustle and bustle of it all, we arrived at Destiny Community School.  We were met with huge hugs, smiles and a flurry of energy. 


The kids were all different ages.  All running up to us and we all felt completely overwhelmed with love.  

Today we got a taste of what we will experience over the next three weeks.  We are so happy and excited to be in Lusaka to serve the Lord!

We got home and had dinner and chatted about our day and got the phone call that our luggage arrived! 


A 4th perspective

I feel like our country currently wants to fight more than solve issues or problems.  The supreme court decision last week made individuals either very excited and made others think the world was coming to an end. Social media blew up and almost every post I saw about this issue (from both sides) had terrible comments from someone with a different opinion.  It was ugly.  We can't even seem to disagree as a country anymore and show respect to other's who have opinions different than our's.

Let me remind us of what we do have in this great country:

1.  Freedom of speech - In Zambia there isn't freedom of speech.  We have watched the lack of free speech over the past few years as presidents have changed in Zambia.  People who speak out for change or in an effort to hold the Zambian government accountable get jailed, deported, or worse.  Newspapers are run by the government.  Can you imagine if we didn't get to publicaly speak out about our concerns? 

2.   Electricity - Right now the Zambian government is struggling to provide power to their country.  The one and only power plant, which is run by the government, is hydro electric and there have been droughts that has effected the output capacity.  Most areas of Zambia have forced brown outs where power is cut off for 8 - 12 hours a day.  Our staff doesn't have power at home most of the time. They spend 3 - 5 hours an evening trying to get home on busses because no power means no traffic lights.

3.  Opportunity - You can most likely get a job in America if you want one.  It might not be exactly what you want but you can find something that will pay you.  I am reminded of a woman I met in a stone quarry years ago. She is a widow, her husband died a while back.  She spends ALL day breaking rocks that then can be used in mixing cement.  Her kids also work and help her.  She is just as committed to her children's future as we are in America.  Can you imagine going to a rock quarry everyday and splitting rocks in the sun to only make $5 a day?  Be thankful for America.

4.  Health care - OK I don't want to argue about Obamacare and if everyone has health care.  But right now if you were in a car accident and taken to a hospital you would be treated.  There would be qualified doctors to treat you.  The lights would be on. There would be machines and medicine and blood and IV bags for you if that was what was needed.  You might have flown by helicopter to get you there faster.  Or the ambulance would have had gas in it to drive you. Some friends of our's have a non-profit that provides ambulances to remote villages in Zambia, you want to see what that looks like:

  You have access to some of the best health care (if not the best) in the world.  I have been reminded of this as a friend of mine is battling cancer.  She is having a "minor" brain surgery next week to remove a lesion on her brain. The surgery takes 8 minutes and lasers go through her temple.  The doctors told her the entire procedure will take an hour and she will be home by the afternoon and will be ready for dinner in the evening.  I thanked the Lord at that moment she is in America and has access to this.  Given her aggressive cancer, if she were living in Zambia she would not be on this earth but in Heaven. 

In early June we had some of our Zambian staff with us in America.  I can't even begin to tell you how many times our guy's jaws dropped at all the things we have and have access to.  They LOVED that the electricity never went out in my home.  Hot water in the showers was a treat.  They thought wireless internet was awesome and that it was so fast you could stream videos.  They were introduced to Starbucks and thought a coffee shop open that early in the morning with good coffee and even food was awesome.  They couldn't get over ALL the food choices we had.  They never had been introduced to seafood or mac and cheese!  They were shocked that you couldn't bribe the police and that they were honest. (I don't want emails from some of you telling me the police aren't honest) They thought a store like Wal-Mart where you could get almost anything was so cool.  They loved that there were biking and walking trails by my house that I could get on any time and not be worried about getting mugged. I am not worried about muggings but passing out because of the heat and my lack of fitness.  They thought that a postal system that brought things straight to your door everyday was shocking.  They were more blown away by Amazon Prime, Solomon, screeched like a little girl when the phone he ordered showed up 24 hours later. They told me I was blessed that nobody took packages off my front doorstep. They loved that we didn't have to have 8 foot tall cynder block wall fences around everything.

I say all of this out of love for our country.  Take a moment to thank the Lord for the access you have to so much.  You drive on roads that are paved.  You can get food at a grocery store and droughts don't cause famine.  You aren't scared that you will never be able to find a job.  You have a bank that is open right now, Greece doesn't! You can tell the president that he stinks to his face and he can't throw you in prison. 

We have all of this because so many people fought for our freedom.  Through the Lord, our military and those who serve and have served in the past have made this great country available for us to live in.  

Can we try as Americans to put things in perspective?  We might support or not support the supreme court ruling last week.  We might like or not like our current president.  We might support or think the global warming concern is ridiculous.  I could go on forever. 

But we need to remember to love one another and discuss our differences in a loving manner. The one thing that made America is now tearing us apart.  That is that we are a melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds and people.  Don't hate immediately just because the other person has a different opinion.  Don't attack, and don't judge. And on the flip side be able to take criticism and don't flip out on someone.  Just listen and can we all understand that we won't all be on the same page about everything?  Sometimes we need to agree to disagree with someone.  You still love them though.  Let's remember the bigger picture and what is important.  What does God want you to do on this earth?  What is our mission while we are here?  And how are we supposed to handle ourselves when there are differences? 

Take a moment to love someone you might not have thought of today.  Maybe it is saying something nice to a clerk at the grocery store. (if you are headed to the grocery store today I already feel like you need prayers yourself!) Send a text to someone.  It can be anything. 

We are blessed to be in America.  When you are hanging out with friends or laughing with family this weekend remember that.  We might have our own issues but look at the big picture.  We are blessed for this country and spending the weekend angry about our issues and wanting to argue with people on the other side of an opinion aren't going to get you anywhere.  Take a deep breath America, be thankful, thank those who fought for your Freedom, and love well. We so blessed, thank you Lord for my freedom, my country, my friends and family in America and in Zambia. 

Don't worry we are letting the Arise Home kids celebrate our American holiday in the best way possible, fireworks:

- Alissa



Dear Armon(d)

Dear Armond,

This letter is long overdue, I should have written you much earlier but you've been on my heart ever since I visited in April.

I have been wanting to tell you how proud of you and how much we love you for a long time. I know I tell you this when I see you, but I want you to read this letter. 

On Monday December 17th 2012 you moved into the Arise Home and we were so excited to be allowed to care for you. 

Here is a photo of you then:

I will never forget picking you up at Destiny School that day in the compound. Your grandmother brought you to school and she was so excited and proud of you too. 

Don't forget that.  She loved you, I could see it in her eyes. She was excited for your future.  She gave you a big hug and you piled in our car with the other kids.  We went straight to the social welfare office where we were blessed to get full custody of you!  I remember we bought you an orange drink from a lady outside the office and we then rode to the Arise home.  You were excited to see your bed and dresser, you couldn't believe it was only yours to sleep in.  You were intrigued by the refrigerator and outside play area.  

You were a little guy at the time.  But you had alot of energy!  The first week we had you I remember spending quite a bit of time trying to help you learn your ABC's sitting at the kitchen island.  You were ten and should have known them but you hadn't had a quality education. I was shocked at how far behind you were but your willingness and desire to sit for a hour with me to learn your letters. You were driven.

As the months went by we learned more about you and your past.  Armod you had to go through quite a bit at too young of an age.  You lost your mother to a violent act by your father. You saw and dealt with things that no child should ever ever experience.  You were mistreated and didn't have food most of the time.  You were left alone to fend for yourself for months. Things were violent and you had to take the beatings and see things that we wish you hadn't been there for. You were sometimes angry because of your past and we didn't blame you.  Anyone would be angry.  You sometimes struggled with all the change in your life in the Arise Home.  And I don't blame you for that either.  It was quite a bit to get used to.  You life had completely changed and that is difficult to handle.

But we also started to see change in you.  Our house moms were patient and loving with you.  And the past few years you've become such a great servant of the Lord.  Armond you brighten up all of our days!  You inspire me to help more children like you, I couldn't be more blessed to watch you grow up.  You are no longer a little guy anymore, as much as I hate to say it you are a teenager.  We figured this out when our staff decided to make an Arise Africa music album and we realized that when you sang with all the other Arise Home kids your voice was rather low!  It sounded like a man was singing with small children and it was kinda creepy.  That's why we moved you up to sing with our staff! 

I've watched you learn to trust us, and especially Uncle Chipa and Uncle Kochelani.  You are honest with us.   You admit your mistakes.  You tell me thank you all the time.  You wiped down wet chairs for our visitors when we went to the market.  You are becoming a great man and a man who loves the Lord.  You are tender hearted.  God has changed your heart. 

I also love how strong you are.  I learned this past trip that you really don't like the "d" at the end of your name.  You don't want to be Armond you want to be Armon.  You have told me this for years and I have resisted because our social welfare papers had your name spelled with a d.  I admire your persistence and I am going to listen to you finally!  Armond, you can officially be Armon within our family.  Now when it comes time to get your registration card or help you get your drivers license that might have to be spelled with a d!

So Armon, I know that we have gone back to the compounds looking for your grandmother and we cannot find her.  I know you would love to see her.  I wish she would have shown up for the visitation days we have had.  We try to call her and even offer to pick her up. We do our best to try to find her but we never have been able to.  Armon please know how very sorry I am that she is not around.  It breaks my heart that you haven't been able to see her because I know she would be proud of the man you have become.  But Armon I hope you know you have a HUGE family within Arise Africa. We love you more than you will ever know and we will always be here for you.  You will always be able to find us.  You will not be able to hide from your house moms, Auntie Megan, Uncle chipa, myself and Uncle Asher, and Uncle Kochelani!  You have more family now than you will probably want! Just wait until you start dating girls and we all have opinions about her. 

Armon I am so excited to see what the Lord does in your life.  I am so proud of the work you have done in school and personally.  I love reading books with you and playing soccer in the back yard.  I love driving around Zambia with you and letting your drive on the back roads.  I love going to get ice-cream and pizza. I love your smile.  I love how you are willing to help us out with anything.  I love it when you grab my hand and say thank you for things. I love how you treat others in the home.  I love how the Lord has changed you into a great and respectful young man.

Armon, you need to dream BIG for your future.  Because you can do anything.  And we will be there, right by your side supporting you every single step of the way. We will love you Armon and will not leave you.  I will be that annoying mamma and you better bet so will Auntie Megan and Auntie Aqualine and Dailes.  When you need something or need to chat your aunties and uncles are right here. 

I kinda get sad to post a photo of you now because you are SO BIG!!  I know you've told me it is because of all "the white person food" we feed you. 

Thank you Lord for the gift of Armon.  Thank you Lord for allowing us to be a part of his life!  Thank you Lord for giving Armon great sponsors who support him.  Thank you Lord for your love and faithfulness. 


- Alissa


A trip of a Lifetime

Two weeks ago Arise Africa had the opportunity to fly over four Zambian staff members to the USA.  With the financial help of Park Cities Presbyterian Church our crew got to come over here to participate with PCPC at their Vacation Bible School.  Words cannot express the generosity and love that PCPC showed us throughout the visit. 

Sammy Joe, Kochelani, Solomon, and Megan were the lucky ones to make the trip.  Megan chaperoned and made sure the guys got here since they had never been on an airplane and they had a 21 hour layover in Dubai!

We were so encouraged and excited to work with PCPC at VBS all week.  The theme was "Go Wild" this year and it was about missions.  They used our staff to teach kids about missions and Africa.  Our guys spent everyday teaching kids in America the songs that our kids in Africa sing.  They spoke about how the Lord is working in Zambia and caring for kids.  They taught kids here what kids in Africa eat or the games they play.

(showing this little one a catapiller that kids eat in Zambia) 

And they worked so hard with the VBS staff.  It was an absolute blast and a great partnership.

 After the week of VBS was over we got to have a mini reunion with so many previous mission trippers:

Then we decided to have a bit of fun and expose the guys to as much as possible!  

The guys got to go tubing at the lake,

shoot a gun at the ranch, eat every type of food possible (BBQ, seafood, and Velvet Taco were the hits), visit Six Flags and ride roller coasters, go to the movies,

go to a Lecrae Concert (that was a 6.5 hour car drive away!)

learn to swim better,

have backyard BBQ's with neighbors, go to a Rangers vs. Dodgers game, visit the aquarium, look inside a police car at all the gadgets, shop at Wal Mart (three times),

ride in a convertible,

shop on Amazon prime, and many more experiences.

After spending two weeks in America our Zambians came up with a list of the

20 most Interesting/Crazy things they experienced in America:

1.  The drive thru at the bank and the tube you put money in

2.  The pedi bikes (rickshaws) at the Rangers vs. Dodgers game and that fact that Americans think where they park is "far" from the stadium and they actually pay for someone to bike them there

3.  The portions of food

4.  The "drink mixer" at Pei Wei

5.  The fact that you have the choice of Pulp, some pulp, or no pulp, in your orange juice

6.  Americans refrigerate their eggs

7.  The driving on the right side of the road

8.  Nobody walks anywhere

9.  Amazon Prime and the postal system delivers things to your doorstep so fast.  And nobody takes the package off your porch.

10.  Roller coasters

11. Blowing up tannerite at the ranch

12.  The jet skis... they go so fast and you have no breaks

13.  BBQ ribs are so tasty and cooked for hours and hours

14.  America's drum sticks are very different than Zambia's

15.  the HOV lanes and highways that have very very tall ramps

16.  The police cars and the technology in them.  You can't bribe them either.

17.  Plastic money (credit cards) and the visa gift cards seem odd and fake.

18.  There are some candles that are not real but look real and turn on with a remote control.

19.  Water dispensers for the dogs have water barrels that are upside down but somehow the water doesn't pour out.

20.  The mechanical bulls

We were so blessed by this trip.  The guys were amazing and taught so many things to kids and adults here in the USA.  Thank you everyone who helped pay for this trip and helped us host the crew while here!

- Alissa