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Entries in Arise Home (10)

Monday
Aug102015

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?....

 

 

 

ANSWER: A COFFIN

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:

Enny:

Fred:

Armon:

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:

Hope:

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

Wednesday
Jun172015

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

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

 

 

 

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