Friday, October 26, 2012

Wash You Clean

falls boys africa

They followed us to the rocky falls, chasing after the truck, bare feet running, little hearts pumping—hoping for a chance to see the Americans.

The orphans, dressed in mismatched clothes, torn and tattered, just watched with their almost-black eyes, as we, the “mzungas”, took off shoes and socks and waded in the water.  River water, to them, was a way of life, used for bathing and washing and cooking and drinking—nothing special. They seemed fascinated that we would think it fun. 

When they did finally join us, they immediately began rubbing their dirty heels against the rocks—almost as if on cue.  Seemingly trained for this task, I asked them what they were doing, but they just looked at me and shook their heads, unable to explain.

Seeing that their faces were also streaked with dirt from their journey, my friend Sarah asked me for the white handkerchief I kept in my backpack. When I had given it to her, she dipped it in the water and began washing the dust from their little foreheads…and cheeks… and necks.  In a line they sat, so still, faces turned toward her, each one waiting their turn to be noticed, and touched, and loved.

As I watched them being bathed by Sarah, they seemed almost sleepy as she put the wet cloth next to their warm, musky-smelling skin.  And I wondered if they would lie right down on the algae-covered banks where they sat.  Then I realized that they weren’t  tired, they were mesmerized by tenderness; intoxicated by human touch; overcome with the reality of their preciousness.

And I thanked my God, who is the God of Africa too, that Sarah’s hands had become His hands that day.

And I praised Him for letting me be part of it.

And I rejoiced in the glimpse of His grace He had given—through the children, and the water, and the washing—His intoxicating grace that promises Heaven to all who call on His name. 

He is our Father, you know.  We are His children. 

He longs to notice…and touch…and love…YOU.

Because you are precious.

Let Him wash you clean.


But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Galatians 4:4-6

Monday, October 22, 2012

‘member that time?

I’m not quite done telling my Africa stories, but I needed a little break and decided to take a ‘member that time’ detour for a day…

‘Member that time when I was watching M*A*S*H while running on the treadmill at 6:30 in the morning and I had to turn the speed way down because I was crying and I couldn’t catch my breath?  Yeah, well, Sargent Houlihan, who is usually super mean, was being super nice and feeding a stray dog, and that stray dog got hit by a truck.  And it made both the major and I cry—at the same time—like we got hit by a truck or something. 

And then member how I came in all sweaty and told Brent about the dead dog on M*A*S*H and Sargent Houlihan and my crying?  And how he was super sweet and said something like, “You really love animals, don’t you?” but my kids thought I was super weird and said, “I never cry when I watch M*A*S*H.”

Yeah, well, I’ve decided to nix the M*A*S*H videos for my early morning video sessions and only watch the Waltons—even though I have seen every episode—because John Boy never makes me cry.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Serenje Adventure

This is a very long and newsy repost of a blog I wrote about my trip to Zambia for the Hope Children’s Center blog at  Check that site out for the history of Cornerstone’s involvement in Serenje at the Hope Children’s Center.

On September 27, 2012, a team of seven members from Cornerstone Church plus two from Harvest Vineyard Church (Jeff Dodge, Tim Day, Derek Quam, Jacob Overman, Sarah Stevenson, Kathy Houseman, Tori Haverkamp, and Paul and Patience Lueth) left Des Moines en route for the Hope Children’s Center. After nearly thirty hours of travel to Lusaka, (did you know they serve dinner on a 2:30 a.m. flight?) and a death-defying 6 hour ride in our rented van to Serenje, we finally reached the guest house, exhausted, but excited to start our week in Africa. Here are some highlights from our time there:

While driving to the guest house in the dark on our first night, Jeff misjudged where the road was and started driving through the adjoining field—all the while complaining about the upkeep of the road—until two local Hope Center kids came and rescued us from our folly and put us on the right road—which was actually fairly well maintained. After getting settled into our new home and putting away the groceries we had purchased earlier in Lusaka, we ate a quick meal of peanut butter sandwiches and finally got to sleep in actual beds (not airplane seats).


                 Jeff driving our rented van on the actual road…

Bright and early on Sunday morning (our first full day in Serenje), we piled into the back of the big flatbed truck, along with about 37 African friends, and made our way to the church in Kamena. The ride was long and bumpy with several stops to pick up more people along the way; just when you would think they couldn’t possibly fit anyone else onto the truck—more would pile in on top of the others. When we arrived at the church, we were greeted by lots of children and families who were eager to meet Americans; and as the honored guests we were taken in the side door of the church and seated on wooden benches on either side of the pulpit. The African men sat separately from the women during the service, and the children all sat very quietly in the front on the floor. Navice introduced us to the congregation, and then allowed his wife, Ketty, to pray to begin the service. After her prayer, Navice invited Jacob to come up and give the message for the day while he (Navice) interpreted. Jacob encouraged the people “to not become weary in doing good” and to keep training themselves to be godly so that they will finish the “race” of this life well. After Jacob’s message, we all sang several songs in which everybody but us (little children included) knew the words and the actions. God made the Zambians very musical—it is a huge and beautiful part of their culture and church. At the close of the service, Navice invited several of his children to come forward with a gift. Since it was Tim’s birthday, the church presented him with a live chicken as a present. Tim, not accustomed to receiving birds, said something like, “I’ve always wanted a chicken for my birthday”, and everybody, even the Zambians, laughed. When the people had dispersed and we had socialized outside for awhile and taken pictures, Navice and Ketty brought us back into the church where they had prepared lunch for our team—chicken (not Tim’s), rape (a cooked form of Kale with onions), and nshima (the staple food in Zambia, made of boiled cornmeal)—a meal that would become very familiar to us before the week’s end.


                   A very traditional Zambian meal of chicken, rape, and nshima


           Paul and Patience surrounded by the children at the church in Kamena

Before leaving Kamena for the day, we drove a few miles up the road to some falls, where we spent the rest of the afternoon with several of Navice’s family members and numerous village children, just playing in the water and getting to know one another.

On Monday morning, we gathered at the Hope Center for music and devotions and introductions of the pastors and their wives. 15 Pastors had come to complete their 3 year training track—hoping to graduate at the end of the week. Many had traveled several hours by bus or by walking to attend the conference. The wives that attended with them brought their youngest children (babies and pre-school aged), usually leaving many children with friends or family at home (most of the couples had between 6-10 kids!). After introductions, we split the men and women up for teaching; the men stayed with Tim, Jeff, Derek, Jacob, and Paul at the Hope Center, while the women went with Sarah, Kathy, Patience, and Tori to the guest house porch.

The next four days followed this pattern, with the pastors staying with the men to study Revelation and the wives going with the ladies teaching team to learn how to be Biblical women. When the Hope Center kids were around, Kathy spent time teaching them about Jesus and helping them make salvation bracelets. We found that the men and children had the greatest command of English, while the women spoke the least. We were very thankful for our fantastic interpreters who helped us to teach God’s truth in Bemba. We also learned a little Bemba through songs and interactions with the people. Often times, during the women’s sessions, someone would break out into spontaneous song or powerful prayer—it was truly amazing to be surrounded by African sisters and brothers yearning for the same truth and the same God we know in America.


                                    Tim teaching the pastors at the Hope Center


              The women on the guest house porch showing off their salvation bracelets

Also during most of these days, and sometimes into the evening, Jacob, a dentist, was pulling teeth and checking out the dental health of numerous pastors, wives, Hope Center employees, and villagers. One local boy had an abscessed tooth that was so infected that the infection had penetrated his jaw bone and was draining out of his lower chin. Jacob was able to pull that tooth and give the boy antibiotics to clear up the infection—possibly saving his life. We awarded Jacob MVP status that day.


    A pastor pointing out to Doctor Jacob which tooth has been hurting for months

Thursday was graduation day for the pastors and the ceremony was a grand affair with the local, purple-robed choir and pink and white toilet paper streamers, and many important and influential community people in attendance. The pastors and wives (who danced in together to take their seats) were dressed in their finest. Because of this, Jeff and Tim quickly visited the market (earlier that morning) and purchased suits to help them look “official”. Jeff was looking fine with his gray suit and black tennis shoes and Tim sported a dark suit with both a plaid shirt and a patterned tie—all in all, they looked very Zambian, plus, they were able to give these suits as gifts to some of the pastors at the end of the week. 15 pastors graduated and were presented with a bicycle and an Iowa State backpack in which to carry their Bibles and other evangelism tools. It was a great day.


                                                                     Graduation day!


                      Tim shows off his fancy duds and poses with a graduate and his family

Friday was our last day in Serenje, and since our work was done with the pastors and wives, we decided to visit Kundalila Falls, which is within an hour’s drive or so of HCC. The hike to and from the falls was somewhat arduous, but, we all made it and were amazed at the beauty of God’s creation. The guys even decided to swim in the ice cold water and make their way underneath one of the water falls. Since it was National Teacher’s Day in Zambia, we were joined by several off-duty teachers who were also taking in the falls. One of the young Zambian female teachers decided that she would like to swim under the waterfall, and she dove in the icy water. Shocked by the change in temperature and the pressure of the swirling tide, she immediately began going under water and gasping for air. Seeing that she was drowning, the women of our team called for our guys to save her (since her male Zambian friend was also near drowning), and Jacob swam over and helped her out of the water and onto the rocks—saving the life of yet another person that week. He got MVP that day too.


The falls were amazing!

While heading back to the guest house Friday afternoon, Jeff recalled a national park he had visited on an earlier trip, so we all decided to try to get in our last little bit of Africa by visiting the Kansanka Trust Lodge. We stopped here and were told that we could get an evening Safari if we waited around awhile. While waiting, we enjoyed chatting with Sam and Heather—a young British couple in charge of the lodge, sitting on the porch watching for hippos in the lake, and eating amazing, home-made pizza. When Safari time arrived, we piled into an open air jeep with our soft-spoken Dutch guide, and his driver, Steven. Although we saw lots of Puku on our ride, most of the Safari was uneventful, save for the biting Tsetse flies and the bush rabbit. We were glad we had at least seen some baboons on our smooth drive to the lodge. At the end of the evening, we loaded up the van and drove back to Serenje to prepare for our departure on Saturday.

After another harrowing drive to Lusaka the following morning, we flew out at almost midnight Saturday, Zambian time, direct to Amsterdam, where we were supposed to have a connecting flight Sunday afternoon. As it turns out, the connecting flight was cancelled, so we all got to spend one more night together as a team (the airline put us up in a fabulous hotel), touring downtown Amsterdam and being amazed at the millions of bikes in that city.


Walking along Canal Street in Amsterdam

We arrived in Iowa on Monday evening, October 8th, a full 24 hours after our originally scheduled arrival, happy to finally be home, and thanking God for His favor on our trip to the Hope Children’s Center in Zambia.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Palace fit for a King

The stench was almost nauseating. 

Sitting on the floor of a four-ton flatbed truck, uncomfortably squeezed between sweaty, dark-skinned strangers, I unconsciously judged the Africans. “Backward…dirty…poor…”; rouge assumptions began to wander recklessly, unfiltered, through my white American mind.  So, when we finally arrived at the church in Kamena, Zambia, after a seemingly endless and bumpy ride, I was anxious to exit the vehicle.

Climbing clumsily out of the back of the truck, my ankle length skirt making the descent difficult, I spied a little girl in yellow. And just as my foot reached the ground, I felt a hand on my arm.  Again, I saw the tiny tattered child, her eyes unblinking in unearned adoration.  Her miniature fingernails were caked with grime, her clothing torn and dirty.  Putting my ear close, I asked her name and she quietly offered “Palace”.  Then she took my hand in hers and led me into the little brick church to a wooden bench on the side of the pulpit.  And there we sat, as the service began and as the Zambians sang and prayed and worshipped the God who sustains them…and us.

Throughout the service, Palace stared at me—not smiling, but contented—and I rubbed her back and kept her close.  Her innocent eyes continued to adore, and I realized that she accepted me and loved me—not because I was like her, but because I was different; and not because I could speak her language; she didn’t seem to need words.  She wasn’t loving to receive anything at all.  She loved me because her uncalloused child’s heart didn’t know pride or arrogance or judgment…like mine did.  She loved because she was a child who had no assumptions about who I was; she just expected me to love her back.  And I did.  It came so naturally.

Palace’s presence in that little church in Kamena on my first Sunday in Zambia, allowed me to capture those unconscious accusations that had also come so naturally.  Her complete acceptance changed my mind and showed me that I was thinking wrongly.  Her childishness softened my heart and allowed me to love like Jesus loves—unguarded, with lavish affection; so undeserved, so thrilling.

Such big lessons from a such a tiny teacher.

And from an such an awesome God.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26-28


Friday, October 12, 2012

The Very Same ONE

Hey Y’all.  I played a fast one and went to Zambia, Africa for 12 days without even telling you. I had a few things post in my absence just to heighten the sneakiness.  But, now I am back and I have lots of stories to tell, and the first one is this:

Guess what?  The Almighty God that we serve here in the American church is the same One they serve in Zambia! He is big and powerful and strong enough to change Zambian and American hearts.  He speaks English and Bemba and a whole lot of other languages too.  His spirit lives in people with black skin as well as in those with white.  The same Spirit that is alive in me lives in the woman in the mud hut in Serenje!  And His character remains the same half way around the world because He never changes.  Culture does not affect our God; He freely gives His Spirit to those who confess their sins and accept His leadership. God does not show favoritism to any race; His people from around the globe yearn for the same Truth and the same Power and the same Wisdom; these things can be understood by any nationality because the same huge God has made them plain to them.

And the people who reject Him in Zambia are grieving the same God as those rejecting Him in America; their curses wound the very same heart .  The Father of all longs for His children to run to Him, no matter where they live.

It blows my mind that we all serve the same God—the very same One.  And we can all know the same God intimately—the very same One. And He can be our forever Father—for eternity together…even if we live halfway across the world from each other.

God’s got it covered.  He really does have the whole world in His hands.

And that my friends, is amazing.


The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,  since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Romans 1:18-20

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Be at Peace

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in His arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father who cares for
you today will take care of you today and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

-Saint Francis De Sales

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Prayer…

When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don't pray, they don't.

--William Temple

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


People like Mother Teresa didn't spend much time in front of the mirror. Instead, she devoted herself to becoming a mirror, reflecting God's dancing light wherever she went.

-Jenny Schroedel