It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green

No, I’m not talking about Kermit the Frog or saving the planet. I’m talking about the complex, hard-to-describe, beautiful, sometimes sad life that our kids know. 

It comes under the category of TCK, formerly known as MK…Third Culture Kid or Missionary Kid. 

TCKs have been integrally shaped by 2 or more cultures to the point that they can’t be defined by either one. They are some sort of conglomeration of the cultures. 

Charlie has been missing Zambia a lot lately. And even though we are 7 months into this transitioning-back-to-America business, I pulled out the activities workbook of Looming Transitions by Amy Young to find a fresh platform for talking about this “new” life with Charlie (and Sam). 

And I made some play dough. Then we got to work. 

Yellow play dough is Charlie in Zambia. Let’s talk about Zambia. What did you love? 

Sun, Castro our dog, working with Uncle Charles, my friends, riding my bike…

Blue play dough is Charlie in America. Let’s talk about our life here in America. What do you love?

Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, sleepovers, going on the boat, fishing, school, being able to look out the window at the cars that drive by…

You can mix the yellow and blue together now. What happens?

It makes green!

Mixing the yellow and the blue involves kneading and smashing and squashing. Each person has their own way of mixing the yellow and green together. Sometimes it happens slower for one person than for someone else. 

Sam got right to work mixing them. Charlie was more mindful.

The process of becoming green doesn’t always feel good. That’s the sadness and loneliness you feel sometimes. 

But it makes you into a very special person. 

If you think of it, we appreciate continued prayer as we walk this transitioning road and help our kids navigate the emotions of it all. It ain’t easy bein’ green!

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I Wanted to be the Mother of Africa

Situation 1: When I went to Zambia as a 21-year old to work with street kids, I wanted to be a mom to all of the street kids in Africa.

As soon as I put my shovel to the ground, so to speak, I realized that my expectations were unrealistic and naive. But after over a year of working with a few kids, one of them said to me, “You love very nice.”

Situation 2: 50 years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered outside the Lorraine Motel. He was only 39 years old, and he only saw tiny bits of the change he labored for.

I have listened to some of the MLK50 Conference, put on by The Gospel Coalition, and have been moved – deeply. Convicted. Motivated. Encouraged. Please, please, please do yourself and your fellow man a massive favor by listening to these talks! (Some are still happening today, and all will be made available for free.)

This anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination in the midst of increased racial tension is no accident. This journey toward racial reconciliation has been going on a long time.

Putting it together: But what do Martin Luther King, Jr. and racial issues have to do with my desire to be the mother of Africa? I have learned something crucial – it’s one. Step. At. A. Time. One life at a time.

I want to see racial issues figured out today. I want my one act of kindness to my African American neighbor to result in healing and reconciliation of all racial tension. But that is unrealistic and naive. Just like my desire to be a mother to all African street kids.

Should I give up? No. Change happens one life at a time and, firstly, inside of me. And I need to be committed to doing 3 incredibly vital things.

Love. Love others as I love myself. As I love my children and family.

Speak up. To be silent is to oppose. So, speak. And I know that speaking up about racial issues will mean being unpopular. But this issue is in the heart of God.

Be kind. Reconciliation can happen through deeds of kindness.

There are loads of other things that could be said. Pray! Make friends with people who look different than me. Let them shape me. Ask them to tell their stories. Learn. Be humble. Repent. Get to know black history. The list goes on.

But, first, I need to love, speak up, and be kind. Would you join with me in this? It is “a mighty long journey.” But let’s join hands to help see God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Latest Newsletter – Spring 2018

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Hi everyone,

Well, it’s been a while since we posted on our blog here. So, to start things rolling again, here (click here) is our latest newsletter about what we are up to!

God bless!

Adapt (with more pics!)

As we prepared to leave Zambia last summer, we also began processing what our new life and ministry based in the States would look like. There would be changes, yes. And in our last blog, we talked about some of those changes. But how does one prepare for so many changes?

There are many great and very spiritual answers. But I keep coming back to this truth: being a missionary means being adaptable. We had countless opportunities to learn this over our 8 years in Zambia – when things didn’t go how we expected. Or 99.999% of life looked different than we’re used to. Or we were forced to live and cook and minister with less than we thought we needed. And the list goes on.

I remember telling some friends in Zambia just before we left that I was counting on this learned strength – being adaptable – to help get us through all the change. And now that we have been back in the States for 4 1/2 months (only?!), I can say that it has helped tremendously! All that stretching and growth wasn’t for nothing, and I’m confident that this is the tip of the iceberg with how God will use all the ways we were pulled and pushed and molded in Zambia to help both us and others.

Here are some pics of how we have been learning recently to adapt to our new home!

Hugging their snowman (who desperately needs to see a dentist!)

Going to Handel’s Messiah at the Basilica

We are often the only ones at the park, but it’s a great way for the boys to burn that energy!

Celebrating Christmas with our families

Celebrating my dad’s 70th birthday with all my siblings and their spouses!

School Christmas activities

Learning to love playing in cold weather

When life gives you snow, get out the shovel!

Playing with dump trucks and cement mixers in the snow

A great experience for Charlie and me to serve together

Serving the vulnerable with my family through Feed My Starving Children

Charlie’s new favorite discovery – mayonnaise! He and Sam are making their sandwiches…with way too much mayo!

Life as we know it in cold Minnesota – bundle up wherever we go!

Charlie said, “I want everyone to know that we are a Zambian family.” Donning their Zambians scarves and hats.

Change (and a huge thanks!…and photos)

We have now been back in the States for just over 3 months and have had time to process some of our big transition. 6 1/2 years in Zambia – that’s enough time to be changed…not to mention that our family doubled in size during that time, which brings its own kind of trauma change.

While we obviously pray that God used us to shape Zambia, we know that Zambia has shaped us. We are more understanding of and compassionate toward situations the poor are in. We are less fearful. We know a little of what being a minority means. We have been made stronger through the endurance it takes to live with 12-hour daily power outages, horrendous traffic situations, the inconsistency of food and fuel availability, and so much more. We are more wise about missions and the struggles missionaries face. We know the joy of seeing God bear fruit. We are more understanding of people’s struggles. You get the picture.

Leaving Zambia was not easy. In fact, it was the hardest decision we have made in our marriage. But being back in the States has shown us 2 important things: 1) we still love missions and feel called to strengthening, discipling, and reaching the global Church; and 2) it was the right decision to be based in the States at this time. Some of the situations that had happened in Zambia over the last few years took a greater toll on us than we realized, and we are beginning to feel more refreshed and energized for what God has in store for us.

It really is a major perk that, in leaving Zambia, we get to still be involved in missions with ACTION! Derek will be traveling quite a bit next year to various fields for strengthening, encouraging, teaching, and scouting. We are already praying that God will use our experiences in Zambia to benefit many more around the world. Feel free to pray with us for that!

There is more information about our family and this big change in our recent newsletter, which we would love for you to check out, if you haven’t already. And to add on to the abbreviated “thank you” in our latest newsletter, we really don’t know how to express how full our hearts are with thankfulness. Through the care, prayers, and generosity of so many, we were sent out to Zambia and sustained in ministry there. Unless you have experienced it, it is almost impossible to describe how much missions is a group effort. Although we were the hands that gave comfort to the suffering or the feet that walked with Zambians or the mouths that taught the hope of the gospel, we could not have done it without you!

And even though we are based in the States now, we are in the same situation. Without so many of you continuing to care, pray, and give, we could not continue to serve the nations. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This has been and continues to be such a humbling partnership, and we pray that God returns the blessing many times over. It is a joy to serve the nations with you.

Enjoy some pictures that we couldn’t fit in our newsletter!

Major News from Derek and Kristin

One of Charlie’s favorite pastimes – having traditional Zambian lunch with two of his favorite people, Uncle Charles, our gardener, and Auntie Petronella, our house-helper. 

Hi everyone,

Here (click here) is our latest newsletter with a major update about us inside, and below are some updated prayer requests. Thank you so much for your prayers and support!!

  • Please pray for traveling mercies and sweet goodbyes, as we leave for the USA on August 22nd.
  • Please pray for us and our kids, as we adjust back to the USA and a new role in ACTION.
  • Please pray for Charlie, as he starts Kindergarten in September!
  • Please continue to pray for ACTION Zambia and the vital ministries that AZ does!
  • ACTION Zambia needs long-term couples/families to come and help with AZ’s Children in Crisis ministries; to train and disciple pastors in our Pastoral and Leadership Development (PLD) Department; and to help with maintenance and grounds management at Camp Ciyanjano. Please, contact Kelly Huckaby, if God may be leading in you that direction!
  • Please pray for us as a family, as well as for all the families of ACTION Zambia, that God would supply all of our needs in Christ Jesus.

I Spy

Well, although we have been quiet, we have not been bored. We did, indeed, make it back to Zambia on May 13th. All of our luggage stayed in Dubai for another scorching 24 hours, but we were glad to be reunited with all of our stuff just the day after we arrived. Thank you for your prayers for safe travel! The boys did exceptionally well, and God really did a great work through children’s melatonin. Hallelujah!

It has been fun to be back and see life through Charlie’s eyes. His awareness and ability to communicate has helped us see everything with fresh perspective. Why are we in Zambia? How come we have to go on 3 airplanes to get to Zambia? Why are the children of my aunties and uncles in America called “cousins,” but in Zambia they are just my friends? Etc…

Yesterday, Charlie and I (Kristin) went to the grocery store, and we played a favorite car game – I Spy. But this time, I added a new twist – we could only spy things that are special about Zambia, not things that we would see in Minnesota or Wisconsin. Here were a few fun things that made it in the game yesterday:

  • Dirt…everywhere
  • Garbage
  • Piles of sand, gravel, and dirt to make cement
  • Pyramids of watermelons waiting to be sold
  • Wall fences lining the roads and surrounding houses
  • Red flowers on top of huge, tall trees
  • Palm trees
  • Big checkered speed “humps”
  • A huge dump truck carrying gravel
  • A man standing in the street at the traffic light selling talk time (minutes for cell phones)
  • Chickens in the back of a pickup truck waiting to be sold (and eaten!)
  • Big bags of Zambian charcoal on the side of the road
  • Ladies carrying buckets of water on their heads
  • A tall crane

Everyday life in Zambia looks very different from what we know in America. But driving anywhere here is an exciting experience, and, as Charlie likes to say when we drive, “Just sit back and enjoy the show!”