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Entries in Arise Africa Family (6)

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

 

 

 

Thursday
Feb062014

Welcome Anna!

A few months ago, the board and myself decided it was time to get me some real part time help in our office.  After having amazing interns to help me over the years, we knew it was time to hire an individual to help in the USA office.

  I was so excited about this opportunity, but also a bit hesitant.  Who could I find that could love Arise Africa and be committed to what it takes to work for us?  How could I ever find someone who is organized and can put up with me everyday in the office AND deal with my very short attention span?! Who would run behind me cleaning up my messes and keep me in line!?  (that takes a very special person who has lots of patience)  Who would be ok with my 90 pound chocolate lab in our office everyday and love her as much as I do? 

And who could even ever consider putting up with the rest of the crazy people in our office building?! 

Well God took care of that.  A few weeks ago I was at a friend's wedding and ran into Anna, who was on one of our mission trips years ago.  Anna has spent the last few years working for a wedding planing company in Dallas and was actually the planner at my friends wedding.  I randomly asked her how things are going, and she mentioned she was interested in doing non-profit work.  And that's when I attacked her like a vulture!  I mean I almost knocked over the wedding cake to talk to Anna.   It wasn't too graceful, but I didn't care.

"Woah, woah, woah what do you mean Anna?!"  I asked. 

She seemed a little startled, probably because I looked like a linebacker trying to tackle her in my excitement at this possibility.  After a few minutes of discussing I knew I had to try to get her!  I left the wedding with a full plan on how to recruit. 

First, I called/possibly harassed the Kershaws, because Anna is actually Ellen Kershaw's friend.  I thought that between Arise Africa and Kershaw's Challenge we could share Anna and pay her full time.  I left text messages saying things like "Guys, she will save both of our lives. We have to act now because she'll be snatched up fast."   In the end the Kershaws agreed and we got to hire Anna!!

It's been a few weeks since Anna first came to the Arise Africa office.  I knew she would fit in well when she didn't miss a beat when the office neighbor's 20 pound cat came into our office - she didn't flench. (Tiger, he has a thyroid problem).  

She takes notes on everything that happens in meetings and then reminds me of what I said I would do!!  What? That is awesome! It's like having Siri run around with you all day reminding you what is coming up. (Anna's voice is not annoying like Siri and she actually pronounces things correctly and doesn't give you directions to places that don't exist).  She has picked up so fast on donor database programs and is working hard with our Zambian staff to get spreadsheets up to date.

Anna will wear many hats with Arise Africa.  But most importantly she is my right hand person.  Let's be honest, in about a month Anna will be telling me where to go, what to do, who to email back, and what meetings I have coming up.  And I can't wait!  WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE, ANNA?!

Anna also is in charge of our child sponsorship program in the United States.  This requires constant work and attention to detail.  The burden of that being lifted off my shoulders is great.  I can now focus on bigger picture items and know that very important program is taken care of. 

We are so excited to welcome Anna to the team! Now, let's pray I don't scare her off!

- Alissa Hollimon

 

Tuesday
Jun042013

Andrew

Dear Andrew,

     We have known and loved you for almost three years now.  When we met you you looked like this:

You started out in our child sponsorship program and we quickly knew you were really sick and needed help.  We fed and tried to help you with your medicine the best we could even though you lived in such hard conditions.  Your mother had died and your father was nowhere to be found.  You lived with distant relatives that didn't really care for you.  You came to school every day and never smiled, you were lethargic but hanging in there. After realizing that we couldn't help you enough and your disease was killing you we asked other's for help.  We didn't have the Arise Home built yet and had to get you in a living situation that would help you more than we could at the school.  We took you to Mother Teresa's orphanage that is run by Catholic nuns, you were scared and didn't want to go.  I will never forget driving you to the home, taking you out of the compound and place you had only known your entire life.  I was scared too for you, I knew what we were doing was the best for you but I was concerned. I had to get on an airplane the next day and fly back to America and I wasn't sure I would see you again Andrew, you were so so sick.  I had tears in my eyes when we left Lusaka because I was worried.  Luckily John was on the plane next to me reassuring me we have done everything we can to help you and that you were a fighter. 

Mother Teresa's Orphanage graciously took you in and nursed you back to health.  They fed you all the time and helped with your medication.  You made great strides, you still were sick but much better.  When we visited you were happy and enjoying yourself.  In fact, sometimes you hid at Mother Teresa's when we showed up because you were scared we were there to take you back to your old life. They had promised us to help you until we could take you to live with us forever.

Finally the Arise Home was built and ready for YOU Andrew!  We moved you in on December 17th, a day I will never forget.  You were 15 and weighed 52 pounds and was as tall as a 7 year old in America. 

We have learned so much about you these past few months as you live with us and became part of our family.  You are neat and orderly and take care of your clothes.  Your dresser is ALWAYS the cleanest and you can make a bed like a champ.  You have patiently sat through hours and hours and hours of clinic visits with Megan and Lucy and Dailles as we continue to fight for your health. You take your medicine on time every evening and help manage it.  You HATE the Ensure milkshakes we force you to drink but you do it. You are one SERIOUS Zambian Soccer Team fan.  In fact you threatened to run away to watch the soccer game because we didn't have a TV but we didn't believe you would do it.  We were wrong!  There might be a bit of a stubborn streak in you :) You love school and work very hard at it.  You are a really smart kid.  You like to have water balloon fights and could play soccer in the back yard all day long. You don't like crowds and retreat when there are visitors that come to the home, that's OK!  You have big dreams and one day you will reach them. 

Andrew, every time you go to the clinic I call and text Megan and make her immediately tell me how you are progressing.  You now weigh 68 pounds and you have grown 2 inches since December!  All your levels are correct and your medicine is working!  We are SO proud of you buddy! 

                                         Look at how handsome you are and great you look!

 

Look at the difference:

God blessed us with getting to love and have you in our family Andrew.  We can't wait to see what a great man you grow up to be, but until then you are our's and under our roof!   We love you and are SO SO proud of you! Megan and your house mammas work so hard for you and they deserve all the credit in this, well right behind God of course.

Love,

 Alissa, and the rest of the Arise Africa Family

 

Monday
Oct082012

Our Silent Sherpa

 

 

       For those of you that haven't been with us to Africa you probably haven't met Megan.  I met Megan about 6 years ago in Africa.  At the time she was working for another ministry and Arise Africa didn't even exist.  We kept up through the years and hung out every time we got a chance.  Fast forward some years and Megan began working with us about a year ago.  She is from Chicago (I know but she is a Texan at heart she tells me this all the time, jk :) and lives in Zambia full time.  In fact she has lived there for 7 years, she's like part native Zambian.  She's legit folks.

Megan works SO hard for us and doesn't cost anything.  Yep thats right she raises her own support and is the hardest worker I have ever been with.  I am constantly humbled and honored to work alongside her.

 

Please read a letter to Megan's financial supporters that I recently wrote:

 

Dear Megan's Supporters,

             You haven’t received an update from Megan in a while and that’s not her fault but probably Arise Africa’s! We have been working her to the max!  In fact so much she hasn’t had the time to give you an update. 

     I thought I would take this opportunity to write a report for Megan.   Megan started working with Arise Africa a little over a year ago.  And WOW has she been busy and done amazing work for us!  Megan jumped right in to our ministry and quickly learned the ropes.   She has taken over our child sponsorship program and made it much more effective and manageable.  She quickly implemented great Bible teaching program in our schools with our Child Sponsorship officers.  Megan also revamped and checks and edits every single child’s report monthly that our officers send to the USA. This has drastically helped the USA side of things run smoother. She spends hours in our office teaching our child sponsorship officers how to use the computers, upload photos, and where their grammatical mistakes are.  She doesn’t just fix their issues but she teaches them how to write better reports.  And our staff loves the teaching. 

      As you probably know Arise Africa is in the process of building an orphanage and getting kids in the home.  The home is finished and furniture is going in as we speak. Megan has planned and done all the furniture shopping herself.  She picked out kitchen cabinets and tiles.  She sought out the best carpenter in Lusaka and helped him design the 12 dressers, 2 dining room tables, 3 library tables, 6 bar stools, 3 couches, and other things we need!  She worked with a welder and had bunk beds made.  We went fabric shopping for bedspreads and I couldn’t even help with that, Megan was MUCH better at it than me!  She has tirelessly worked on getting electricity hooked up to our home which happened about a week ago.  Trust me, it might have been easier for us to build our own power plant folks.  I was about ready to give up but Megan stuck with it. 

      But the biggest thing Megan is doing is working with the government in efforts to get us approved to have children in the home.  This is no small task.  She has been filling out forms and applications and running all over the city getting stamps and other official requirements.  She politely calls and pushes government officials when they promise something will be finished and it isn’t.   She has met with health inspectors, child welfare officers, done police background checks, and many others in this process.  She isn’t scared of the Zambian government and the MASSIVE amount of red tape we are going through.  And she has me calling her reminding her to get this finished as fast as possible and we want kids in the home by December!  (No pressure Megs!)

           I’ve spent the past few weeks working with Megan in Zambia trying to help where I can.   I’m not much of a help let me first admit that.   I can do minor errands but Megan is certainly running the ship and it is impressive the amount of hours she is putting in.  I am humbled at her sacrifice for the kids in Zambia she serves. 

      A typical day for Megan starts around 6 AM when she leaves her house.  She grabs some coffee and heads to our office and beats traffic and checks email and does internet stuff before it goes out for the day or becomes as slow as the AOL dialup era.  At about 8 or 9 AM Megan is either running to get the donated (of course Megan’s connections) vegetables and eggs that we receive weekly and delivering them to our community schools.  They are NOT close to one another!  She takes time to talk to our staff and finds out that one school is out of water and has no well.  She gets on her phone and calls her friend that has a canter truck and he volunteers to help us ship water in.  Problem solved.  Then she is probably is running to buy something for the orphanage, like gas tanks or pillows.  Then she might go out to the orphanage (nowhere close to our office of community schools!) and is checking on kitchen cabinets that are getting installed.  She spends time to call the electric company and remind them we have no electricity and have been asking for months.  And then the head of social welfare calls and asks Megan to meet her in town in ten minutes to discuss our application to have an orphanage.  So Megan jumps in her car and takes all the secret back roads into town to avoid traffic and meets the woman for “lunch.”  But Megan doesn’t order she doesn’t have time!  Megan gets grilled for about 30minutes on why we want an orphanage and how we will run it and at the end of the meeting the woman is satisfied and they part.  Then Megan quickly heads to the police station because there is meeting with the man that hit one of our cars a few weeks ago and ran off.  Others chased him down and his car was registered to a company and Megan knew his employer (of course she knows EVERYONE in Lusaka). The guy has tried to get away from having to pay and Megan contacted his employer and the police were able to get involved.  So Megan meets the man that hit us with our other staff member Chipa, and the police.  Megan has all the paperwork, photos of our car, and our insurance papers so that he has nowhere to hide.  The situation gets worked out and an appointment is made to have our car towed to the mechanic.  Now it is 2PM and the cabinet people are calling at the home because they have a question.  She runs out there to figure out the issue before the cabinets are drilled in the floor.  Then Megan runs back to our offices and spends a few hours with our child sponsorship officers working on their reports.  Now it is the evening which means I have just woken up in the USA and I call to check in.  My calls usually have a few more tasks that our Zambia side needs to do.  She gives me updates and says they can take care of the things I need.  It is now 7PM and she begins her drive home, in bad traffic.  But Megan drives like a crazy Zambian minibus driver which helps. 

        That’s a typical day for Megan.  The days are long and exhausting as Megan fights traffic and juggles an overwhelming schedule in a third world country.  I don’t know what we would do without her.  I know FOR SURE that we would not be able to operate and help as many kids as we are right now.  I know that we wouldn’t have an orphanage getting ready to be opened.  I know our Zambian staff wouldn’t have a friend to help them with their jobs and help solve issues.  I know it would be hard to get reports written, kids fed daily, and the care we provide would go down.   And I wouldn’t have such an incredible individual on the ground.

        Megan never complains about her job and all the running around she does.   She spends her support money on gas and everything else and is willing to help with anything.  She doesn’t hesitate to do any job. 

        Without Megan’s supporters she wouldn’t be able to be in Zambia doing the amazing work she is.  She deserves so much because of her sacrifice and I wish Arise Africa could help her financially more.  I want to thank ALL of Megan’s supporters who pray for her and fiscally give to her.  I don’t want you to think for a second that your money is not used well.  I can promise you Megan works HARD and on a small budget.  Words cannot express the blessing you are having on the kids we serve in Zambia because of your support.

       From the bottom of my heart I thank everyone who supports Megan and pray that more will do so!  Megan is a servant and a faithful worker for the Lord.  I pray that God blesses her and keeps her safe. 

In Him,

 

Alissa Hollimon

Executive Director of Arise Africa

 

Click Here to support Megan financially