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!

Advertisements

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!”

 

Triggers

This is Kristin. We will give more of an update soon on what we’re up to these days, including when we head back to Zambia (it’s getting close!). But for now, I want to share about a couple of triggers.

I have been reading in the Psalms lately, and there are two verses in particular that are always triggers of memories for me. In fact, I can’t read them without my heart beating faster, my fingers beginning to tremble, and vivid pictures from my past flashing through my mind. I don’t want to be overdramatic. I do, however, hope that this testimony of the power of God’s Word in real life situations will help you trust in Him more and find His Word to be living and active in your own life as well.

I lay down and slept;

I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. Psalm 3:5, ESV

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8, ESV

In 2005, I was back in Zambia for a few months. I had been reading the Psalms at that time as well, and I had just read through Psalms 3 and 4.

One night, I was awakened by the guard dogs barking outside my small cottage. (There was another big house on the property where a missionary family lived, and the property was surrounded by an 8-foot tall cinderblock wall with 3 feet of electric fence on top of that – surely, I was safe). As the dogs kept barking, my senses were on high alert. And then I thought I heard the front door handle squeak. My bedroom door, just off the small living room, was shut, but I definitely heard muffled noises out there. I barely breathed as I lied stiff as a board in my bed, praying that no one would come in my room. I knew things could likely get much worse if I tried to engage.

After what seemed like a long time, but was probably only 5 minutes, I was pretty sure the person/people left, but I did not want to take any chances. I was scared. Then God brought them to mind: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” And then it happened. I went back to sleep. The dogs stopped barking. And I slept peacefully until my alarm went off, and I crept out into the living room to find my laptop gone, along with my running shoes, suitcase, the DVD player, and other odds and ends.

God sustained me that night. He gave me tangible peace in the midst of my circumstances.

Fast forward to 2016. I was home in Zambia with Charlie and Sam, and Derek was in the UK for meetings. My parents had arrived earlier that day to be with me while Derek was gone.

Derek and I often are awakened at night by our dog barking or our electric fence alarm going off (maybe from someone touching it, but maybe from a tree branch blowing in the wind). But this night, I was awakened by my phone ringing. 1am. Pre-Secure. Pre-Secure is our guard response service. They told me that someone notified them of an unknown car parked outside our gate. Did I know who it was? No. They informed me that they would take care of the problem. I heard what sounded like a couple gunshots. And my phone rang again. Pre-Secure wanted to tell me that the problem had been taken care of and that they would park outside our gate until morning.

I don’t know what happened outside my gate that night, but I do know what happened in my heart. God sustained me. He gave me the same peace I had felt in 2005. He helped me “both lie down and sleep” the rest of the night.

For as long as I live, I don’t know if I will ever read those verses without reliving those nights and remembering how God chased fear, anxiety, and sleeplessness away through His Word.

Some people have heard these stories and asked, “What keeps you doing missions?!” Well, the short answer is that God sustains us and continues to give us a passion to see the nations know the true gospel. And that makes it all worth it.

Latest Newsletter and Prayer Requests

(Sam playing at Papa and Nana’s house in MN)

Hi everyone,

Here (click here) is our latest newsletter, and below are some updated prayer requests. Thank you so much for your prayers and support!

Prayer Requests

  • Pray that God would supply several more supporters to partner with us, as we seek to strengthen Christ’s Church. Click here to donate.
  • Pray for traveling mercies and fruitful connections, as we travel in Michigan and Indiana the next week and half and speak at two different churches.
  • Please pray for donations for our ACTION Zambia Discipleship classes. We have wonderful Zambian facilitators who spend significant time discipling aspiring church leaders to know and apply God’s Word. Would you consider giving to help this valuable ministry continue and flourish? Any amount is so appreciated! Click here to donate.
  • Please pray for donations for the Faith Tabernacle Church HIV Children’s Feeding Program. This is another extremely important ministry, which provides HIV positive children with nutritious meals, Gospel teaching, games, and basic education. Click here to donate and put “Faith Tabernacle” in the “Comments About this Donation” box.
  • AZ needs help! ACTION Zambia needs long-term couples/families to come and lead our 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 CiyanjanoPlease, contact Derek, 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 physical and spiritual needs in Christ Jesus.

Update: From the Land of Snow, Ice Cream, Lattes, and More

We are finally emerging from the “Great Holiday Silence” to say, “Hi!”

img_4042We have been back in the States for seven weeks now. We survived the busyness of Christmas as we traveled to and fro between MN and WI. But the “busyness” consisted of seeing family and friends, eating delicious food, sipping lattes, discovering the strange concept of “winter,” playing with new toys and old pianos, loading up on ice cream and Christmas cookies, driving on wonderful roads, and more. So, in other words, we haven’t been roughing it.

Since Christmas, we have spent some time resting and seeing more wonderful people, including a quick trip to see our former director in Zambia and his family, Tim and Andrea Hilty. Our “tour” of visiting supporting churches kicked off last weekend in Janesville, WI, and now this coming weekend will find us in Marshfield, WI. Thanks to my parents for watching Charlie and Sam, so we can actually interact with people at these churches! Apart from the churches, we have been able to speak at a small group from our church in Minneapolis (Bethlehem), and tonight we speak on “ministering among the poor” at a missions fellowship through Bethlehem.

And next week, we head to California to see friends, former teammates, and supporters, who we have not seen for a very long time! It has been so great to connect with so many people in the short time that we have been back.

A couple prayer requests:

-While back, we are trying to raise money to buy a second vehicle. As most missionaries have discovered in Zambia, it’s really hard to live as a family, where roads are rough and transportation is poor, with just one vehicle. The truck we are purchasing is not as expensive as our other vehicle, but we are still hoping to raise about $6,000 for that. Click here to donate and put “truck” in the “Comments About This Donation” box. Thanks!

-Also, God has been so gracious to raise and sustain our monthly support over the last six years of being in Zambia – we praise him for that! But circumstances change for people, and prices change in Zambia, and we are finding ourselves a little short monthly. Would you pray that God would raise that through new ministry partners? Click here to donate.

-Lastly, pray that God would give us all the rest that we need while we are back. Charlie is homesick for Zambia, his dog, his aunties and uncles, and the sun. We want to help our little “third culture kid” to enjoy his time in America well and find joy wherever we are.

Thank you!!! We hope to see many of you in the next couple months before we return to Zambia!

Remembering World AIDS Day in Zambia

Today is World AIDS Day, and for the last six years Kristin and I have lived and worked in Zambia and spent four of those years primarily ministering with and through the CROSS Project HIV/AIDS ministry in the compounds of Lusaka. This has been a distinct privilege and also a heart breaking reality at times. On World AIDS Day, let us remember the unbreakable hope of the Gospel found in Jesus Christ and pray for countries like Zambia, where every one is either “infected or affected” by HIV/AIDS.

Below the numbers(below) is an article that I (Derek) wrote in 2014 about “When You’re in Ground Zero,” it’s shares the story of Vera, an HIV positive child who passed away in the summer of 2014.  _______________________________________________________

Zambia 2015 (information below taken from Avert)

1.2 million people living with HIV

12.9% adult HIV prevalence rate

60,000 new HIV infections

20,000 AIDS-related deaths

63% adults on antiretroviral treatment

“In 2013, over 54,000 adults and 12,000 children became newly infected with HIV in Zambia.1 These figures represent the plateau of HIV prevalence in the country since the mid-nineties; HIV prevalence is neither increasing or decreasing. At its height, HIV prevalence in Zambia was 14.5%, and as of 2013 is still high at 12.5%.”

“One in every eight people in the country are living with HIV, and life expectancy is just 58.1 years.3 However, this is a considerable increase from the 2012 life expectancy of 49.4 years, partly thanks to improved access to antiretroviral treatment.”

Children, orphans and HIV in Zambia

“Children have been severely affected by the HIV epidemic in Zambia, where 150,000 children are estimated to be living with HIV, alongside 600,000 children orphaned by AIDS.”

“However, these figures are declining and Zambia is expected to reach its target of reducing new child infections by 90% by the end of 2015.19”

“A huge part of this progress is due to the implementation of a rigorous prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme, which has seen the percentage of children born HIV-positive drop by 51% between 2011 and 2012.20 Over 96% of women received PMTCT support in 2013, meeting universal target levels.”

“Latest data also shows that 60% of men under the age of 50 have never been tested for HIV, and only 33% of young people have tested. Couples counseling and testing is also extremely low in the country, despite this being an effective route to testing more people for HIV elsewhere.”

“A study in 2012 found a combination of reasons explaining why people were not testing, including a fear of stigma, rejection by their sexual partner, a fear of antiretroviral treatment, and a belief that traditional medicine would keep them healthy if they became ill. These beliefs are ill-informed, but also reflect the continued stigma around HIV in Zambia.”

_______________________________________________________

When You’re in Ground Zero

img_1667

Ground zero is defined as, “a site of devastation, disaster, or violent attack.” It seems like it would be pretty obvious to someone to know if they are in “ground zero.” And most of the time, it is. But sometimes you can be in ground zero and not even know that you are there. For instance, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa is very deceiving, and one can hardly realize where ground zero is, until you find yourself there, in that “site of devastation, disaster or violent attack.” That happened to me (Derek) on May 28th.

The CROSS Project HIV/AIDS ministry that we coordinate has been helping out at a local feeding program that happens three times a week for over a hundred children who are all HIV positive. Mostly, we help with some counseling, basic medical care, and some administration work. However, it is run and operated out of a local church in George Compound by Pastor Wozifera and his wife, Easter, both of whom are on staff with ACTION Zambia.

Pastor Wozifera sent me a text on Monday morning, May 26th, and informed me that Vera, one of the children from the feeding program had passed away at a local hospital that morning – the funeral was on Wednesday. Myself, Pastor Wozifera, Easter, and Eta, one of our national workers with CROSS, all went to the funeral. Vera, who was only 14 years old when she died, had lost both parents to HIV and was living with her grandma, so the funeral was held at her grandma’s church. Because I was the only westerner attending the funeral, Pastor Wozifera, Eta, and myself were quickly ushered to the front of the church and were instructed to sit near the family (an awkward situation that many Westerners find themselves in).

As I sat across from Vera’s family in the front of the church and started to think about the situation with Vera and what led to her death and what was being said in the funeral, I realized that I was in the middle of ground zero of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Southern Africa. And the reason that I knew I was there was because of the silence about HIV/AIDS that pervaded the situation with Vera and the funeral itself.

Vera’s family never told her that she was HIV positive. Vera found out about her HIV status inadvertently two years ago through a staff member at a local clinic. This led to Vera feeling a lot of bitterness and anger towards her family for not sharing her status with her and wondering why this was happening to her. Why did she have to get HIV from her Mom at birth? She had done nothing wrong. Right before her death, Vera confessed that she had stopped taking her ARVs (immune system boosting drugs that help suppress HIV) for the last year. She did this out of bitterness, anger, fear, and the depression that she was feeling over her HIV status; because of the silence and mistrust that had grown between her and her family; and as a way to rebel against her family and, in some way, get back at them. Pastor Wozifera said he also felt that Vera had never really accepted or, probably in may ways, understood her HIV status and all that it involves.

The characteristic silence during her life spilled over into the funeral. There was no mention of HIV or why Vera had died. The Pastor officiating at the funeral did not take the opportunity to talk about how important it is to share one’s HIV status with their family, to talk to the affected children about HIV, etc. HIV/AIDS was completely left out of the the entire funeral service, even though the entire reason why the funeral was happening was due to HIV and the unnecessary and tragic consequences in a young girl’s life because of silence about HIV.

Going to Vera’s funeral and burial was extremely sad, because her death was so unnecessary and she was so young. But it was also a powerful reminder to me of why we are here in Zambia and that the ministry that we are doing with HIV/AIDS and churches (the CROSS Project) is so important. There is still a lot of work to do, a lot of prayers to pray, and the hope of the gospel to share!

img_1666A picture taken at Vera’s funeral