Letter #674: When I Want to Go…

IMG_3659

Dear questions,

There are a handful of you I’m consistently asked. One is “Lindsay, are you going back to Africa this year?”

A year ago an opportunity opened up where I attended and helped put on Family Legacy’s Dream Camp in Zambia (recap of what I did). Words will never fully describe my time there.

Eye-opening. Fun. Life-giving. Refreshing. Incredible. I’m not sure I’ll ever do anything again in my life quite like going to Africa for the first time. The unknown. The excitement. The hesitancy. The lack of expectations.

IMG_4040
My girls, Esther and Mercy!

Anytime the subject of Africa comes up, I’m overjoyed. I love talking about it. The people. The kids. The joy they exude despite circumstances. The simplicity. The genuine faith. The depth of knowledge. The scripture they know.

Sure I was able to love on some kids for a week and laugh lots with them while I was there, but the impact Africa and the kids at Tree of Life Village had on me was and continues to be far greater (my one Africa Takeaway). My life, perspective and prayers will never be the same.

So we’re back to the question. There’s nothing I’d rather do more with 9 days of my winter than hang with the Tree of Life kids. I have been able to tell my story of Africa more in the last 15 days than ever. New and even more passion, thankfulness and excitement have been discovered.

IMG_3610
All the kids in the house I was paired up with, Mercy House!

Everything in me wants to go back. Everything. And I don’t even think choosing to go could be a negative. But the thing I’m learning is that sometimes the answer can be no to even a good thing. Even when yes makes sense, sometimes my answer has to be no.

I can’t explain it. A sea hasn’t parted and a voice hasn’t bellowed from the sky, but as sure as I was the answer was yes a year ago, I am that it’s no now. This is harder for me to type and ultimately embrace than going ever would be. I want to go, but I am not to go right now. So we’re back to obedience matters. Even when it doesn’t make sense, it matters.

So there you have it, the really long answer to a pretty short one of you. No, I’m not going to Africa this year. And while I may never fully understand why, I am choosing to trust this is best.

Lord, you know best,

Lindsay

Have you ever been told no even if yes sounded like a good thing? What’d you learn?

Letter #653: My One African Takeaway

IMG_3771

Dear words,

There aren’t many times I’m short on you. 🙂 A time that I am”…my initial reaction when the question, “So, how was Africa?” comes my way. My mind immediately goes nine different directions, then each of those has at least seven stories I could share. Where do I even begin?! (ICYMI: here’s my initial post upon my return.)

So, after a few weeks of processing and a chance to get my American feet back under me, I’ve boiled down what deserves to be 10,000 stories to my one go to. Here we go”…

As I said in this post (if you haven’t, read this post for context first), I taught three classes each day. My 13-18 year old girls were my jam. Most people balk when I tell them I work with middle school kids at K-West”…it’s not people’s typical first choice of age group. The Lord has wired me to embrace and love this age and life stage. It was so neat to see that affirmed in me in an entirely different culture.

IMG_3746
This and the picture above were my two classes…seriously, never dreamed 20 girls could steal my heart the way these girls did!

That being said, we had A LOT of fun, and we laughed real hard. So many sweet memories. (This link is a trimmed down version of one of the groups mocking me and my laugh…they thought it was the funniest thing ever!) IMG_3759_2

IMG_3789
The girls LOVE being in pictures, but they may even love getting to take pictures more. My phone got hijacked multiple times on the trip!
IMG_4080
Hahahaha…..clearly even African orphans love selfies! Veronica, Grace and Twiza…three I got to know best!
IMG_3685
The athletic ability of these kids was mind blowing! Mevis had it going on!

The funny thing about these girls is that they were no different than American girls. Just like here, there’s the too cool for school crew, the super competitive group, the divas who want no part in active things, the super obedient as well as the troublemakers. You name the personality type, I had them. They were also incredibly inquisitive. They asked good questions. (Most of the kids, especially the older ones, spoke pretty good English, but I also had a translator.)

IMG_4055
Hahahah….how one of the kids captured this, I don’t know because it’s too good. They all wanted to sit on me…we ALL tumbled!
IMG_4102
The pictures they captured just make me laugh….SO many funny memories with these kids!

One day it was like one of my groups had one of those t-shirt cannons filled and just started firing away. “What happens when babies die? If God’s all-powerful, why does He not just kill Satan? Is there suffering in America?” Wow.

I got to help them navigate these for a bit. What a blessing! When I told them there was suffering in America, they didn’t believe me. America to them is people who can afford to come across the ocean to visit and befriend them. We were able to talk about suffering being everywhere because of man’s choice to sin and disobey God. We were able to establish a foundational truth of the Gospel. Man is sinful. All men.

We transitioned from serious into laughing and playing games, but I couldn’t shake their questions. That night, my biggest takeaway from the trip hit me like a ton of bricks. Kids are kids and people are people. The questions these African orphans asked were the same questions I get asked every week at camp. People’s needs are the same.

  1. We need to know we are loved.
  2. We need to know somebody believes in us.
  3. We need help navigating truth.

And this is what I get to do every day of my life. Yes, specifically at camp, but it’s even bigger than that. As believers, we get to do this every single day. Whether it’s with our waitress, a coffee barista, a seat buddy on public transit, a family member, a sorority sister, a co-worker or an African orphan, it doesn’t matter. We get to show people love; we get to encourage and believe in them; we get to be truth bearers. I’ll even go a step farther”…we get to and it should be exciting, but as believers we’re also called to.

It doesn’t matter if it’s packaged like an African orphan who has nothing or an American who has everything, the core need of everyone is the same: the hope of the gospel of Jesus. We have the power of life at our fingertips through our love, our encouragement/investment and our sharing of truth. We live in a world that desperately needs Jesus, and I get to be a part of bringing hope. THAT gets me fired up!!!!

It almost took me going to Africa to be reminded of this and to be reinvigorated for my daily life in America. The whole trip I kept asking myself what my takeaway was going to be. I was determined to not just go to Africa. I prayed and hoped I would never be the same. Not just because my heart had been stirred for orphans, but because my heart had been stirred for Jesus. The need in Africa is great. There are more than a million orphans in Zambia alone. If you have even a slight interest in going, go. The Lord will rock your world.

But don’t miss what my biggest takeaway was from going all the way to Africa. The Gospel, the true Gospel of Jesus > everything. EVERYTHING. Every single day, I get to love, encourage and point people to the truth of Jesus. In America. But I have to choose to surrender daily. To fight my selfishness. Now that’s a fight worth fighting!!!!

An attempt at explaining Africa in a nutshell,

Processer of Africa

Letter #651: What I Did in Africa.

IMG_3610

Dear friends,

Most of you know I went to Africa, but many have no idea why or what I did. People keep asking, “Hey Lindsay, what’d you do in Africa?” So, here’s by best attempt to explain.

I went to Lusaka, Zambia to work with orphans through Family Legacy. There are more than one million orphans in the country. In the summer, Family Legacy puts on a program called Camp Life. Last summer 7,000 kids came. Every American participant is paired with 10 orphans, so 700 came last summer. From what I understand, you get to know your kids really well. You get the chance to sit down with each individually and hear their story, what home is like and actually share the Gospel with them. The hope is for that American to become the advocate to get those 10 kids sponsored in the Father’s Heart program. This means the kids still live at whatever home looks like for them, but they now get to go to school. School in Zambia is expensive and somewhat corrupt”…this is the only chance these kids would have to be in school.

As the program grew, the need for schools did too. Family Legacy now has 18 Christian schools in the compounds of Lusaka for these kids to attend. The schools are close to home and staffed with highly qualified teachers. There are currently more than 7,500 kids in the Father’s Heart program.

IMG_4022
A classroom in the newest school…it opened January 13th and 500 kids from the compound will now be educated in it!

Back to Camp Life. The stories of these kids are heard and the most vulnerable are identified. Situations vary, but abuse, rape, HIV, malnutrition, abandonment and neglect are far too common stories. More than 400 of the kids with the most horrific stories from the ages of 2 to 17 now live in the Tree of Life Village. This is where I spent my week.

34 houses have been built. 12 kids live in each with two Zambian house moms. The vision is there would be 50 houses, 600 kids. Then, that 11 more villages just like it would be built. The need is THAT great. I can’t even begin to describe Tree of Life adequately. It’s the best. A haven of hope. A refuge of orphans. A nontraditional setup turned home.

morgs africa
Morgan and I with some of our Tree of Life friends at the opening of Rapha House, the newest Tree of Life house! Morgan is my connection point to Family Legacy, works with me at K-West and has become a dear friend. This was her fourth time to Zambia, and we’ve joke for years that maybe one day we’d go together…well, clearly that joke became reality! #immeasurablymore

We were there to put on “Dream Camp‘ for the kids at Tree of Life. They were on holiday from school, so we got to give them a chance to learn new things and encourage them to dream. Each American taught a class. Baseball, cooking, photography, Zumba, crafts, volleyball”…you name it, it’s possible. My class: games!!! If it’s a game, we probably played it. Initially, I was going to do basketball. Then they found out about my camp background”…I told them I was up for anything, so games it was! Kickball, balloon stomp, limbo, dizzy bat relay, water balloon egg toss, solleyball (game I invented at K-West!)”…you name it, we played it. And it was SO much fun!

IMG_3738
Last day of class with my boys…(top row) Blessing, George, John, Mulenga, Simon, DeLiso, (bottom row) Amon, Clement, Peter, Emmanuel, Moffat!

I had three classes each day. My first: 6-9 year old boys. My next two: 13-18 year old girls. I’m so glad I got to do both, but it was really fun to see my age strengths affirmed even across the world. The Lord has wired me to work with young girls. My boys were awesome and taught me a ton, but I couldn’t work with elementary kids consistently. Their attention span is no different than American 6-9 year olds”…it’s zero. But we laughed a ton, I learned to be more flexible and they stole my heart. I’ll elaborate on the girls in my next post because they play into my biggest takeaway so far.

So after the classes, each afternoon had a different special activity.

Activity 1: Cookie decorating and crafting

IMG_3605
Fatima, Blessing, Twiza! Each American brought frosting and sprinkles in our luggage for this…the kids LOVED it!

Activity 2: Movie day

IMG_3663
Movie: Sight and Sound Theater’s The Beginning”…basically I brought 400 Africans to a Branson show with me!! The amazing thing: it was incredibly hot in here. They had no snacks or drinks. Americans would have been furious. These kids thought it was the greatest thing ever and LOVED it.

Activity 3: Field day

IMG_3712
The staff found out I was a camp director”…naturally I ended up running kickball! Let’s just say I got pretty good at explaining the game very simply while learning patience as I waited for my translator as well as flexibility when the rules were stretched!

Activity 4: Splash day

splash3
The kids thought this was the best thing ever…..What a day!!!!

What a week! I basically got to do camp in Africa. I am passionate about summer camp and what I get to do in America. Getting to do what I love and use my gifts in Africa took it next level.

I could tell story after story and show pictures galore, but without context it would never make as much sense. Without knowing how the Tree of Life kids ended up there, I would never have known the vivid picture of death to life I witnessed. In every sense of the phrase, these kids have gone from death to life. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. Before they were likely abused and malnourished. Now they are healthy and safe. Before they were emotionally lifeless and didn’t have much joy. Now they get to be kids who dream while their laughter fills the air. Before they were surrounded by death, witchcraft and hopelessness. Now they literally have life, joy in their eyes and eternal hope. These kids know the Gospel. Most of them genuinely know Jesus. They challenged me in my faith and because of them I will never be the same.

So, what did I do in Africa? Honestly, I didn’t do much…but the Lord did a whole lot in me and is continuing to do so.

Praying for the Lord to continue to bring the dead to life in Zambia,

Lindsay

***If you ever have any desire or even a slight stirring to go, I HIGHLY recommend looking into Family Legacy. I was beyond impressed by the mission of this organization and the vision they are moving forward with. It’s expensive, but you’re going to Africa, paying for the program the kids get to participate in and the things you will learn about provision are unreal. The Lord is at work in Zambia, and I believe He’s using Family Legacy. Look into it. Pray about it. Ask me your questions. Take a step of faith.

Letter #649: Initial Africa

IMG_3756

Dear Africa,

I have been incredibly hesitant to write about you. For one, I can’t stay awake past 9:30pm because I’m still transitioning to the time change. Secondly, how do I even begin to do you justice? I will never fully be able to put you into words, but I will try.

Your story needs to be told. Yes, I want people to hear about the realities of your people and how they can help, but I also want to scream from the rooftops so people can know all God is doing across the globe. He is at work in Zambia my friends, and it is a beautiful thing!!

I’m still not sure where to start, but here’s where I’ve decided. I didn’t take my computer with me and barely used my phone outside of taking pictures. Being set free from the consumption of technology was one of many highlights for me. I went old school and simply kept a journal. I mostly just documented daily happenings and stories, but here’s an excerpt I wrote on one of the 24 hours during the plane ride home.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought saying goodbye would be so hard. One by one the kids I connected with found me. They were well aware we were leaving. I could see it in so many of them”…they were so sad we were leaving. Some even distanced themselves as their defense mechanism. I have never seen such genuine love in such a short time. These kids were so sad. I had the chance to say some really sweet goodbyes, to simply encourage them. Mercy wrote me a letter for me to remember her. Martha, the biggest hugs ever. Queen sang me a song. Grace and I laughed hard, real hard. Jessy, Twiza, Fatima, Mulenga, Moffat, Emma. The list could go on and on, but I got to individually let them know they are loved and believed in. I got to look each of them in the eyes and individually encourage them. Wow. I pray they are confident in who God made them to be and that they would know their Auntie Lindsay believes in them.

These kids made me feel more loved than any group of kids I’ve ever known. They have nothing but give everything. They likely never knew true love in their home lives but love better than most. They are genuine and committed. They are the most loyal friends. When they say they are praying for you, they really are. Yes, they have been given a second chance at the Tree of Life, but what’s even more amazing is what the Lord’s doing not just in but through these kids. I’m not a crier, and no I didn’t cry upon leaving, but my heart has been captured. A little bit of my heart has been left in Africa. Yes, I played games with and hugged them, but they’ve left me with far more. Far, far more.”

Five days removed, I thought I’d start by communicating my thoughts from just hours removed. I’m continuing to process, see and learn more each day and am excited to slowly put those thoughts into posts. I went to Zambia. Great. But I believe it was about more than just me going to Zambia. I believe God is doing a work in all this, and I want to bring as many of you along with me on the journey as I can. I may have been the only one who saw Africa with my own eyes, but I can tell the story and pray God uses my experience for more than I can even imagine.

The first post of many,

Africa processor

Letter #648: Nervous/Excited

***Leaving on a jet plane…Regular posts will continue in a couple weeks.***

Dear emotions,

You are strange.

We can be elated one minute and in tears upset the next. Half the time we can’t pinpoint why we’re experiencing one of you anyway.

Our whole lives we’re told to keep you in check. Learn to manage you or you’ll never make it in life.

If you know me, then you know I am far from emotional. You just never really have gotten the best of me.

This being said, I think I’ve invented a new one of you these last couple weeks. Nervous/excited. This is where I’ve been living.

I’m a details girl who likes to have things mapped out at least a bit. Not possible right now. I’m going to a place where I know nobody and have zero understanding of culture. Everything and everybody I rely on daily is being removed. I’m walking into scenarios I can’t control. I’m unsure if I’ve packed the right things (too late now!). This all makes me nervous.

But everything listed that makes me nervous, excites me as well! The unknown. The step of faith. The adventure. I am beyond excited for how my world is about to be rocked. For the things I’m going to learn. For how my eyes will be opened. To people I will meet and memories I will make.

You see, today (how in the world is it already today?!) I’m getting on a plane to go across the world. Zambia is my destination (full story here and here). For the next nine days, my comfort zone will be gone.

It’s not natural for us to want to get out of our comfort zones, but it’s so necessary. This is when we learn the most, when we’re the least reliant on self and routine. I’m telling you right now, I’m not going to have anything to rely outside of the Lord because I know nothing about Africa or what I’m getting myself into. I can’t wait.

Nervous/excited. My newest emotion. I can’t wait to process all the emotions I experience for the next nine days upon my return. See you in 2014!

Lindsay

***I have chosen not to take my computer and to disconnect from technology almost completely, so I will not be blogging while in Zambia. Stoked about this! If you need to get in touch with me, email is probably the best method followed by social media. I may post occasionally on my social networks  (Instagram, Facebook & Twitter), but don’t count on it. Remember, low expectations rarely result in disappointment! Lots of blog posts to come in 2014!***

Letter #641: Anonymously Thankful

Dear anonymous donor,

Words won’t even begin to express my gratitude for your generous gift. I had no idea how funding my trip to Africa was going to happen, but I took one step of faith, signed up and trusted the details would follow. Your donation not only helped make me visiting Zambia possible, but it also has been used in a huge way to show me God’s faithfulness.

About a year ago, the phrase “immeasurably more’ entered my world. I have watched more than I could ever have asked or imagined happen before my eyes. You made it happen.

I will never forget the moment I received the news. I was driving to Oklahoma State’s Homecoming. My mom happened to be in the car with me and we were waiting for my dad in a Tulsa parking lot. I hadn’t checked my phone for a couple hours because a cell phone even being within reach while driving with my mom in the car is an unforgivable offense! I opened my email to find a late afternoon note from the Dream Camp coordinator entitled “Good News.’ I figured it had to do with the Gospel, but instead I opened to find this.

photo-307

Dazed. Confused. Speechless. Awestruck. You name it, I was experiencing it. After a few moments of silence, my mom noticed the shock in my face and asked what was wrong. All I could do was hand her the phone.

The craziest thing about this whole story is that I have ZERO idea how you even knew I was going and then figured out how to donate. You see, I haven’t personally told a ton of people about my trip. Not because I don’t want to, but mostly because I’ve been traveling and haven’t had extended conversations with too many folks lately. Yes, I wrote a blog post about going, but it never asked for anything. It barely even gave details. There was one link at the very bottom directing folks to be able to see a little bit more about Dream Camp but that was it.

I say this to say, you were determined. You did your homework to figure out how to donate. Nothing that I have said or put out in public gave specific direction. It would make sense for me to receive money if I had asked people for donations. I haven’t.

You are a catalyst to how the Lord is showing me how He will do immeasurably more than anything I could’ve ever asked or imagined. Never in my wildest dreams could I have come up with this scenario. I really did believe the Lord would provide, but I did not know how. I sure didn’t foresee this coming.

I decided to go to Africa about six weeks ago. It was one step, one I didn’t know what the following would look like. Your generosity has stretched my faith in ways I can never express. How many times have I failed to take the first step out of fear and lack of trust? How many times have I missed watching the Lord’s provision and Him doing immeasurably more in and through me because of it?

Thank you. Thank you for your financial contribution. For making my trip a reality. Most importantly, thank you for allowing the Lord to use you to grow my faith, trust and obedience to our God.

I will never be able to thank you adequately, but may the Lord bless you as you bless others in His name,

Lindsay

***A story I couldn’t begin to make up. I wrote this in an attempt to express my thankfulness and sent it to the Dream Camp coordinator to pass on to the donor. This story was too good not to share and Thanksgiving seemed the perfectly fitting time. More than 60% of a nearly $5,000 step of faith provided by someone I can’t even thank in person. God is so much bigger than I remotely give Him credit for. I’m excited to continue working toward as well as watching Him provide the other 40%. Here’s more info on where I’m going, Family Legacy’s Dream Camp.***

Letter #634: One Step

Dear steps,

I ran a half marathon in the spring. 13.1 miles. I read somewhere once that’s about 25,000 steps. Wow.

As we go through this thing called life, we’re all on a journey. Our destinations are all the same (death :)), but not one of our paths look alike. I love and hate this at the same time. We question our journey and compare ours to others unnecessarily because we think ours needs to look like everyone else’s.

The reality is, none of our lives are going to look alike. Let’s stop trying to imitate others’ paths and start living in our own.

So I’m stepping along over here, doing my best to embrace my path. Sometimes I take lots of you consistently because I can see where I’m trying to get. Other times, all I can do is take one. I can’t see any farther. I don’t have enough courage or information to take anymore.

Both are acceptable. Both are exciting. Both are going to happen at different points in our lives. Sometimes I know the big picture of where I’m trying to get and take the steps to make it happen. Others, all I can do is simply take one step out of faith and trust I’ll know the next step because I had enough faith to take the first one.

This is where I sit currently. I’ve taken one step without knowing what’s next in a particular area of my life. I don’t know all the answers. I don’t have financial details worked out. I have no idea what exactly I’m going to be doing. This one step has taken me more out of my comfort zone than maybe any one thing in my life.

So what’s my one step? As of a week ago, I’m going to Zambia, Africa December 26th-January 4th. I’m going to Africa. I AM GOING TO AFRICA!!!!! I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet.

A really long story I’ll probably never be able to fully share short, I started praying about the possibility of going to Africa more than two years ago. Through books I’ve read, friends I’ve made, prayers I’ve prayed, causes I’ve supported and things I probably don’t even recognize, a flippant prayer prayed more than 24 months ago will soon turn into reality.

I couldn’t be more excited, yet nervous. I’ve never been more unsure about something, yet so sure. I couldn’t feel more inadequate, yet I’ve never felt more peace. I don’t know many details and I have no idea how I’m going to come up with nearly $5,000 to get there, but I do know I’ve taken one step. The next step will make itself known in time. For now, I will continue to rest in obedience of the one step.     

For the planner that I typically am, one step isn’t good enough. I want destinations. I want a plan to strive for. The older I get, the more I learn I don’t need to know everything to be obedient. Honestly, if I knew everything that was coming at me in the future, I’d probably run the other direction. God probably knows I can only handle one step. And He’s probably anxiously awaiting the opportunity to reveal Himself to me as my faith and trust are stretched.

Here’s to a wild ride filled with lots of steps,

Soon to be Africa goer/step of faith taker

***I’ll include more details in later posts, but I’m going to do camp for a week in Africa. It’s called Dream Camp through Family Legacy. Find out more here.***