Monday, April 30, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Operation World

I'll be honest, I didn't have time to get together a Jesus Worldwide post for today. I'm in the process of making a major blog move, and I need two hands to count my writing commitments. Sorry!

If you've got a story to tell about how you've seen God work, I'd love to hear from you. Send me an email (KatieAxelson[at]gmail[dot]com) and we'll set up an interview or guest post. Remember, I don't mind revisiting countries. Who knows, yours could be the first story at my "new house."

In the meantime, head over to Operation World and select a country (or two) to read about and pray for. There are some countries I've never even heard of but God knows the citizens intimately. God understands the languages, the customs, and needs. That blows my mind.

I prayed for the Congo. What about you?

<>< Katie

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wild Idea

I'm thinking about doing something crazy. Super crazy.

I'm thinking about retiring this blog.

Wait! Don't call the doctor; I promise, I'm not sick. I don't intent to retire. Just move.

I figured since I'm wearing big girl pants, paying big girl rent, and (some days) eating big girl meals, it's time for this blog to grow up and move across the country, too.

At this point I have more questions than answers. So, I need you to help me out please.

This is my number one question: If I move, will you move with me?

For real, I want your honest opinion.

As part of moving, I'll be sorting everything into three piles: Keep, Sell, Toss.
Keep: Posts I liked for various reasons. I intend to write more like them.
Sell: Posts that were ok. More similar to them might appear or might not.
Toss: Posts that never should have happened.

Can you do me a favor and find a post that fits each category and tell me why you've put it there?


<>< Katie

PS: If you're bored, you can start thinking of blog titles for the new blog. I'm hoping for a pun on my name (Katie Axelson, Ax for short).

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chewable Bites

Technically I had two hours. By the time I ordered a drink, got my computer hooked up to the wifi, and chatted with the barista and other coffee shop patrons, I was down to one hour.

First things first: my own blog. Then other blogs. My time was quickly dwindling. I had 30 minutes left before the student worship service started. I didn't have to be there. I wanted to be there. I also wanted to write.

So I closed the internet (more accurately: gave up the fight. Katie: 0, wifi: 1) and wrote for 30 minutes. It was only a hundred words before the clock read go time. I contemplated staying longer but couldn't bring myself to do it.

Neither could I bring myself to leave the characters at the coffee shop.

This is my life right now. I have five jobs. I've made five writing-related commitments to other people. Even though some are paid and some are volunteer, they are all very important to  me. I am grateful for every single one of them. I want to do all of them well.

Likewise, I have made a commitment to you, my faithful blog readers.

There are a lot of words being produces from these fingers and tendinitis-elbow.

There are a lot of great thoughts running through this mush-like brain. There is not a lot of time (or a lot of words) to put them here.

How could I capture a blog post, a novel idea, and two freelance assignments in two hours?

I couldn't. So was the time even worth it? Maybe I should have just stayed home.

But I didn't. I made progress. I didn't construct this post but I did accomplish something. Small increments of time mean small, chewable bites of life. Like of like planning your life no further ahead than three months.

It's not easy. It's not fun. It's not voluntary.

If I can find 30 minutes to write this blog post, you can find 30 minutes to... play with your child, sing to the Lord, call your long-lost roommate, walk your dog.

It's not nearly enough but worth every second.

<>< Katie

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

World Malaria Day

If you've never slept under mosquito netting, it's a weird sensation. It's kind of entrapping but also kind of nice because it means the mosquitoes are out there and you're in here. I used to do it when we went camping.

Mumu sleeps under mosquito netting every night.

If you've never taken anti-malaria medicine, it's a weird sensation. First, the look on people's faces when you tell them you're taking medicine for malaria is priceless. Second, the nausea that accompanies it is very much unpleasant.

During college, I spent a month studying abroad in what the CDC declared a malaria risk area of Costa Rica. Which meant every Tuesday for nine weeks, I choked down a nasty pink pill that stole my appetite and left me feeling miserable.

Every Tuesday I regretted being cautious and going to the travel doctor before my trip. (Yes, I now do a happy dance when I'm traveling somewhere and don't have to take chloroquine).

Every Tuesday, I regretted arguing with the pharmacist to get five pills when my insurance only wanted me to have four for the first filling. ("I can't come get a refill while I'm in Costa Rica.")

Every Tuesday, I remembered that I could not give blood for a year.

Every Tuesday I remembered how truly blessed I am.

I had access to a doctor whose primary job is to educate travelers like me on tips for living abroad and things to carry in their own personal pharmacy (most of which I actually used).

I had access to medicine to prevent a disease that kills one child every thirty to forty-five seconds. (How long has it taken you to read this? I bet more than thirty seconds).

I had more Off! than I'd ever need just to keep those pesky mosquitoes away from my medicated blood.

Any mosquito bites I did get, were just annoying and itchy not life-threatening.

I didn't have to worry about suffering from a completely preventable, treatable disease.

I care about malaria.

If the medication to prevent it made me feel so nasty, I can't imagine what the disease itself must be like.

To many people around the world, the horrors of malaria are not just imagined but rather a very real, cruel reality they face every day.

Organizations like Lutheran Malaria Initiative and Compassion are bringing hope and help to people in malaria risk-areas.

You can help by sponsoring a child in a malaria risk area.

You can help by purchasing mosquito netting for people living in Africa.

You can help by spreading the word about malaria.

You can help by praying for the people living (and traveling) in malaria risk areas.

Thank you!
<>< Katie

(Yes, I'm a Compassion Blogger which means sometimes they send me post suggestions. This was not one of them).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Nepal

From Katie: Over spring break my friends Beth and Jennifer went where no American has ever gone before. Literally. This week they're taking us to the hill country of Nepal. These are their stories and photos as told to me.

We went to Nepal to support missionaries Brandon and Tammy already living there and to encourage Anmol, another missionary contact. We stayed in Ti-se where Brandon and Tammy rent the top floor. It's kind of like a mini hotel.

Our first full day was spent preparing for the week-long trip to the hill country. We set out everything we intended to take and narrowed it down further and further until it could fit in a backpack. The last things we removed from our packs were shampoo and soap. We took our flutes, one change of clothes, pajamas, and basic toiletries.

We left at 6am with two people in the front of our left-side-driven jeep, three people in the middle, and three in the back. The road was rough with steep hills. We had to drive slowly to plot our route around the rocks and bumps. Sometimes it was barely wide enough for one vehicle with mountain and drop-off on either side. If another car wanted to pass, we'd look for a wide point in the road even if that involved backing up or waiting until the road cleared. We saw a lot of school children who would run up and chase the land rover or grab on to the back and ride along. The land rover had no air conditioning so we had to keep the windows rolled down until we passed another vehicle and we'd roll them up quickly because it was so dusty. The vegetation all looks dead because it's covered in dust. The ride was long but it was a great opportunity to chat with our team (all adult men) and see the beautiful countryside of Nepal.
We spent 16 hours on this road.
We took the one on the right.
Look at all of those switchbacks!
Yes, this is the road. Plot your course.
It took two days there and two days back to get to the village but it was worth it because it's an unreached people group. The motivation to go was increased by the difficulty of traveling. Who would go if we didn't?

Palden is a missionary originally from India and he goes to remove villages to share the gospel. He helped us with translating, directions, and such. (Directions: drive 16 hours until the road ends in Potale then hike for five more hours). Sometimes he gets sick when he's hiking and no one knows or can do anything about it. Pray that Palden can travel with ease and no problems.
This is the hotel we stayed at the first night on the road.
Our hotel room.
The drive took longer than we were expecting because we had to go slowly. Thankfully no one got carsick. That's the hotel we stopped at the first night. We brushed out teeth out the window. There was a plywood table for our bed. The photo above was taken from the men's room. There was no door, so we took turns holding up blankets to change. 
A town we drove by.
Isn't Nepal such a gorgeous country?

Potale (where the road ends)

The third day of our trip we ate eggs, potatoes, and beans for breakfast before driving for five more hours. The Himalayan Mountains were beautiful and gigantic! They call this the hill country but they’re bigger than any hills I’ve ever seen. After a lunch break at the hotel where we had been planning to stay, we hiked all afternoon, up and down four mountains. It was weird places to hike because of the terraced landscapes, and it was mostly steep down. It hurt! Our hands were swollen, our legs were shaking. One of our team members was 67, and he was an inspiration!
Salyan, the village we finally made it to, was tiny with approximately 80 houses up and down the side of the mountain. We were the first Americans to ever enter this village. There is one house of believers in this area. The next house of believers is two or three hours down the mountain. The two-story house is completely made of clay and wood. The bottom floor was the church room (where the men from our team stayed) and the top floor is where the family lives. Right behind the house is the Buddhist monastery, so it’s like they’re in the shadow of the monastery. The family faces heavy verbal persecution and there are areas of the mountain where they are not allowed to travel. The people hold to very strict Tibetan Buddhist traditions because it’s the only thing they’ve ever know. When we were sharing the Gospel, we were often were met with the resistance of, “I’m Sherpa, so I’m Buddhist.” Pray for the believers there to be a light and for the unbelievers to have a yearning for Christ.
The house where we stayed.
“Namaste” is the traditional greeting between people but between believers it is “Jamasi!” When we got to Salyan, everyone was joyfully shouting “Jamasi!” It was so exciting. The family of several generations (total of 10ish people) invited us in for black tea (like hot sweet tea). It’s custom to take off your shoes when you go in, so we took ours off but it was so cold that we eventually put our socks back on. We had been expecting to sleep on the ground, but the sister offered us her room. We were hesitant to take it but it was an honor for her. It meant we got to sleep in a bed with a tiny cushion, and we were warmer since we were off of the floor, and we got privacy from the rest of the team (all adult men). The walls were made of dirt, but the sister had covered the walls with newspaper. All of the doors were short. Our first night there we asked for a small meal, so they brought us a huge bowl of boiled potatoes. We peeled them and ate them (kind of like an orange). It thunder snowed that night with lightning and everything but it was mostly gone the next day.
View from the house.
Our first full day in the village we did a devotion about what to expect in visiting house to house (based on the model of Luke 10). We split up into two groups. One went down the mountain and the other stayed near the believers’ house. We prayerfully walked through the village looking for a house of peace. We made small talk before sharing our story about why we were there and sharing the gospel. It was difficult because we were working through translators (who are Christian). Sometimes the translator and the people would talk and talk and talk but sum it up in one English sentence. It was also neat because we traded off who was going to share our story. It was hard and awkward because we didn’t know what to say or how to say it. They have a completely different worldview and don’t understand the way we do, so it’s kind of like talking to a 5th grader using short sentences to be translated. At the last house I [Jennifer] was praying because I wanted a connection and to know how to build to conversation. I started talking to a boy and asked him how old he was. He was 20, so we had an instant connection and talked about school. He appreciated our coming to share God’s love. We invited him to church but he had an exam.
It’s strange to go into a complete stranger’s house and sit down with the intention of sharing the gospel with them. But it was so much fun! One older lady whose husband was out working said she wanted to follow Jesus but her husband wouldn’t allow it. This was a common response. Family is so important to them but it also hinders them from believing the gospel. If someone does believe, it would probably lead to others believing. Pray for this woman and others in her situation. Sometimes they would walk away and give us a verbal closed door. It’s hard to love them and want them to know the Savior even though they’re closed to the idea. What was encouraging was that it’s less about us bringing God to them but rather us joining God where He already is. Even though these people are in spiritual darkness, God’s still there, still working. There are believers there. Just because we’re gone doesn’t mean God’s gone. That’s the only way to have peace in leaving a house that was not receptive to the Gospel.
Pastor Norbu
Pastor Norbu had fallen off of the second story the day before we arrived and messed up his face and leg and couldn’t talk well or move but he wanted to see us before he went to the doctor for pain medication. To get him to the doctor, four people at a time had to carry the stretcher over the same path we’d just walked. We prayed for him a lot because it was already a difficult situation. We prayed that his healing would be quick and miraculous and it would show God’s power and be used as a testimony. He need stitches but thankfully his hip was not broken. He did lose a lot of blood but by the time we left Nepal he was able to talk though still weak. Please continue to pray for Pastor Norbu and his recovery and that he will continue to be a light in the darkness. His brother is a Buddhist witch doctor, and people would come to him and want to be healed, but he couldn’t heal them. Pastor Norbu would pray for them, and they’d be healed. His brother loves him but doesn’t agree with his faith.
Nepali church
In Nepal, as soon as you become a believer, you’re a leader. Brandon taught them how to make disciples, how to teach other believers, etc., and believers traveled from four hours away for this training. We took the kids out to play and take photos. Their faces were all scabbed and blistered due to the climate, and they had runny noses. I [Beth] just wanted to cover them in lotion. Some of them didn’t have pants and just sat in the dirt naked. In Nepal church is on Saturday. Women sit on one side and men on the other. They all prayed out loud at the same time, and the only instruments they had were a drum and a tambourine. They did their part then we introduced ourselves and played our flutes. One of our team members brought the message. There were kids poking their heads in the doors and the room was full of kids. They were curious about the white people, but we hope and pray they heard something.

We left on Sunday, and it was super sad but our leaving didn’t mean God was leaving. We hiked five and a half hours back up the mountain for a total climb of 3,400 feet (7 miles). We literally hiked in the clouds. We walked slowly so we didn’t have to stop as often but we still had to take frequent breaks. The flat land was monumental. That night Jennifer was feeling sick, and Beth was feeling worried and uneasy. We weren’t ourselves. We hadn’t showered in days and were just cranky; the gnats attacking our ears and eyes as we tried to journal weren’t helping either. So we said the fruits of the spirit out loud, said we’d pray for each other, and we went to sleep. In the morning we woke up in a good mood, feeling refreshed, and laughing. On Monday we drove twelve hours the rest of the way back, washing our face in a lake along the way. We finally got showers too! It was glorious! We met up with another member of our team who had been doing something different. We all ate dinner together and it included meat.
"Standing on this mountain top looking just how far we've come
knowing that with every step You are with us."
- Matt Redman, "Never Once"
On Tuesday morning we walked around the Bhouda, an area of Kathmandu with one of the world’s largest stupas and people come from all over the world to see it. There were Nepali people, Chinese people, Europeans, foreigners, storekeepers, school children in their navy uniforms, Buddhist monks in their burgundy robes. It’s a circle with shops all around it. One of their rituals is to walk around the stupa with it on their right side improves karma. There are prayer wheels to spin and offerings and all sorts of things. Since it’s a touristy area, the storekeepers spoke English, so we started conversations with them and gave out tracts of the Gospel of Mark. 
Tuesday afternoon was chill and recuperation time. That night we worshiped together with Brandon and Tammy’s team of journeymen and other supporters. We played our flutes and took hymn requests. They tended to know the first verse and the chorus and would sing really strongly but once we got to the second verse they’d fade out until we got to the chorus again. It was all good, and they really appreciate it because they don’t get to have corporate worship very often.
These flags have Buddhist scripture on them. They're everywhere. Supposedly when you walk past the you breathe in the scripture. The more you have, the more scripture you're breathing in.
On Wednesday we flew to Pokhara. Everyone says to sit on the right side so you can see the Himalayas, but it was cloudy when we landed. Pokhara is a really touristy area where there’s a heavy western influence even though there are cows everywhere. We got to meet Anmol and his wife Neta. Anmol’s grandfather was the first pastor in Nepal. They lived on the border in India and for 17 years they prayed for the doors to open for the Gospel in Nepal. In 1950 the doors opened, and in 1952 they came and started the first church in Nepal.  His grandmother is still alive and she’s 101. We got to meet her. She’d recently fallen and broken her hip, so she’s dying. [Update: She is home with the Lord as of 4-22-12]. She’s beautiful. She’s one of those people you wish you could communicate with her and hear her stories because she’s got so much wisdom. She was the first pastor’s wife in Nepal. She was so frail. Anmol would translate for us, and he’d lean right down next to her ear and yell. She’d bedridden, so she gets lonely. Anmol told us she would love it if we came and touched her, so we held her hand and touched her shoulders. It was a very spiritually filling, precious time.
The first pastor's wife in Nepal, age 101.
Anmol shared his testimony. His parents got divorced and he got on the wrong track and began using drugs, and he got Hep B and his kidneys were failing. He was dying. He had a humongous faith that God could heal him, and He did. It was a miracle! God also cured him of Hep B. Now Anmol’s ministry is to reach out to the street boys who are addicted to drugs and have that way of life. They have a daycare that meets in a garage (the size of my [Beth’s] dorm room), and there are 35-40 boys ranging in age from 7 to 17 who go there every day from 11 to 2 except Friday and Saturday. They share Bible stories, teach them other educational things, and provide them with a simple meal. A lot of the boys have blisters on their face from huffing. 
Approximately 35-40 boys meet in there for three hours daily.
We took articles of clothing, a juice box, and tooth brush and tooth paste and gave them to the boys. One of our team members has a similar testimony involving drugs, so he shared his while we were there, and we sang “Jesus Loves Me.”
Street boys learning about Jesus.
Anmol and Neta also have a home where if the boys want to change their way of life, they can live in the home and Anmol will disciple them. There are four boys living there right now, one of whom has been clean for 1.5 years which is really exciting. Anmol and Neta are renting the house, but they can’t guarantee that they’re going to have it for any amount of time, so they’re trying to raise money to get a lot. It’s going to be $50,000 just for the small area of land, and $45,000 for a three-story building that will include area for the church, a house for the boys, and living space for Anmol and his family. Anmol tries to teach them a trade and practical things, too. The boys make and sell candles, so they can make money.
Teaching some of the boys how to play flute.
We also got to encourage Anmol and Neta. Anmol’s a musician, and he’d written some songs. He’d envisioned a melody for them, so I [Beth] got my flute out. He sang and played it and I figured out the melody. Then I [Jennifer] got my flute out and he had a harmony part too. It was a special music bonding time.
God is good. All the time. (On the wall in the daycare)
Pashupati is the Hindu cremation site. There’s a river that flows through the middle of it and on either side they build up a table where they burn the bodies and when they’re done they just push the ashes into the river. The river’s really holy to them. If someone’s near death and really sick, they lay them on a tablet and set their toes into the water so their spirits will go out into the river and it helps them in their passing. We saw one man who was loitering, and we think he was sick and waiting to go lay on the board. They lay there until they die so all of the spirits will come out of them. It was really smoky. It’s supposedly such a holy place but then there are men there dressed up and painted who are smoking pot, and they take advantage of tourists. This was an emotional hard time because those people being burned didn’t know Jesus as their Savior. 
Hindus build up a pyre to burn bodies then sweep the ashes into the river.
People lay on these planks until they die.
Our very last day we did some touristy shopping and flew over Everest on our way home. Really it's just a little taller than the rest of the mountains.
Mount Everest is that higher peak.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blindfold Worship

"What's this? Why do we have these?" TK asked flipping around a yellow piece of cloth. Everyone in the theater had one, including the band onstage.

I smiled. I've been hanging around this block long enough to know what was in store for us: blindfold worship.

The yellow pieces of cloth were blindfolds to be wrapped around our heads for the next hour as we worshipped the Lord corporately yet individually.

The idea with blindfold worship is that you are free to worship the Lord however you desire. Dancing, standing, kneeling, lying on your face, sitting, spinning in circles... No one would judge you because no one would see you.

I came in late and through the side door, so I didn't get a blindfold. I didn't fret about it because I usually worship with my eyes closed anyway. I did notice with everyone else's eyes closed too, I worshipped more freely.

I signed larger, I danced openly (and awkwardly), I sang in Spanish (ok, blindfolds didn't hide that). By the end of the night, I was on my knees with both hands stretched into the air as I offered myself to the Lord.

It made me wonder what other aspects of worship would look like if we did them while wearing blindfolds.

I don't mean how much soup would we spill if we tried to serve in a soup kitchen while wearing a blindfold.

Rather, what if we served and no one saw? What if we invested in someone without expecting anything in return? What if we encouraged people privately? What if we gave food to a homeless person without telling anyone?

What would the world look like if we worshipped with blindfolds?

What if we worshipped God in an uncontainable, uncontrollable, unseen way?

How would you sing praises to God if no one was listening?

How would you worship if no one was watching?

It doesn't matter if they are or not because worship is for the Lord not the people around you.

I realized the more I danced before the Lord, the more I wanted to dance. It started out as gentle swaying and ended up with me jumping, swinging my arms through the air, and goodness I'm glad no one but the Lord saw me embarrass myself like that.

But it wasn't embarrassing. It was worship. It was private God-Katie time.

And even if they had seen, their opinion shouldn't matter. When you've been accepted, been called a daughter (or son) by the Creator of the universe, why do you need the acceptance of man?

Spend some time with your Father today. Worship Him as if every around you was blindfolded, like no one is watching. Sing loudly and off key. Do not be ashamed of your joyful noise because it's beautiful to the Lord. Let your passion for Him radiate.

If you can do it when everyone else is blindfolded, you'll learn to genuinely, shamelessly worship when people are watching.

It starts with me.

<>< Katie

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Secret (Ghostwriting Part Four)

Note: This is the fourth and final (planned) post in our ghostwriting series. Sorry they've been so spread out. Be sure to check out the first three posts: Moral, Famous, and Voice. If you've got questions, enjoyed the series, or just want to say hi, feel free to leave it in the comments.

As soon as I hang up the phone accepting a new ghostwriting offer, I'm giddy. I run around the house like a crazy woman; I giggle uncontrollably. You'd have to try really hard to remove the smile from my face.

Like good family and friends, people who see me ask why I'm so excited.

Here's the thing about ghostwriting: I can't tell them. The job of a ghostwriter is to be invisible. That includes not telling people she wrote that book, article, letter, piece.

When my family/friends ask, sometimes I tell them I have a new ghostwriting opportunity. Sometimes I just smile and smile and smile. Sometimes I'm a bad secret-keeper and blurt out my new opportunity. I am so excited I just can't keep it inside of me. Like a small child who purchased a parent a Christmas present, that present will not remain a secret until Christmas no matter how hard the child tries.

In the original ending of the Gospel of Mark, the women leave the empty tomb and don't tell anyone what they saw.

What if the story ended there?
What if they kept the resurrection of Christ a secret?

Imagine how different life would be. For you. For me. Imagine how different history would be.

Yet don't we do that all of the time? If you call yourself a Christian, then inside of you is the secret of the ressurected Christ. That good news should evoke the same emotion in you that ghostwriting does for me (only moreso). Unceasing smiles, uncontrollable laughter, looking so silly that people ask you what's up.

Um, hello, your debt has been paid in blood and you get to call the Creator of the universe "Daddy."

And I get excited over writing in someone else's name.

Through Christ, we get to live in someone else's name. Forever.

If you're ghostwriting for the Lord, you've got to blurt your "secret."

Are you a child-like ghostwriter bursting to tell or are you leaving the tomb in fear?

<>< Katie

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Zimbabwe

From Katie: I'm looking for Christians/missionaries around the globe, especially in Europe. Can you help me out? Thanks!
If you don't know Heather, you need to know she's a character. She was my roommate in Guatemala, and, in the market, she bartered with a Pop Tart. <>< Katie
The Team
Fuge summer camps sent out an email to all of their staffers saying this was an opportunity. Ten of us from the United States signed up and we worked with an organization called ACTS (African Christian Tours and Safaris) who provide guides who try to make the team as comfortable as they can be by filtering water, cooking, and handling things that went awry. Their job was to serve us, but we wanted to serve them too. It was fun to go back and forth trying to help them out as best we knew and a lot of times it didn’t work out but that’s ok. Each mission team has two guides (ours were Dax and Caitlin), but there were also seven guides in training who joined our team. So we went from a group of ten to a group of twelve to a group of nineteen before being a group of twenty-one once we got to Sanyati. Those last two, Matt and Randy, are older men who’ve been to Sanyati before with another group. They flew in a few days before us and got stuff prepared and then worked with us which was such a blessing. It was really cool to see how the Lord provides this craziness and the way He built our team.
All twenty-one of us celebrated our birthdays while we were there. It started because I was hoping I’d remember to take my malaria pill on Thursday, and we were talking about birthdays. I looked at Micah was like, “What’s on Thursday?” He didn’t know. I said, “It’s your birthday, Duh!” We even made a huge birthday sign out of a 2005 calendar where every day we’d cross of the names from yesterday’s birthday and write new ones.
After spending the first night in Harare (the capital), we drove five hours in Busta the Birthday Bus to Sanyati. It was Sunday and we learned they hadn’t had any power or water since Wednesday. That was one of the most interesting experiences because we had to filter water all day every day—water we used to clean dishes, water to drink obviously, water we cooked with, all water. They got it out of the new hundred-foot well that Auntie Patience’s husband said he dug himself and put it through a filtering system that purified it. I didn’t filter the water but I did take a turn getting it from the well. As the bucket got closer to the top, it got heavier. Then they pour it into a water barrel before it’s filtered.

We did some construction work that was mostly roofing. We were replacing the roof of the hospital because it was made of asbestos and cement. The sheets were really big and heavy. At the beginning of the day, two people could carry a sheet but as the day progressed more people were added on because our forearms were hurting so badly. I remember one piece there were five or six of us carrying it. It was really funny.

We were working at the Sanyati Baptist Hospital, and they don’t have any doctors, they only have nurses. They can only do minor medical things (including childbirth). Every day we walked about seven to ten minutes from the house where we were staying to the hospital along a dirt road where at any point you could see kids walking with no shoes, families running around, donkeys or cows carrying things, chickens everywhere, and boys cutting the grass with huge metal devices (It was intense. I was scared the not-machete was going to fly out of their hands and cut off my head but it didn’t). It was really fun walking.

One of the days we got to go on a tour of Sanyati Baptist High School. There were kids everywhere. They’re so pretty! They were super excited about taking photos! I put my camera on sports action shot because otherwise everything was blurry and just kept snapping photos. Some of them look like a flip-book when you go through them. Except then my camera died.

That afternoon we toured the hospital. It’s just not what we would assume a hospital would look like. We did a prayer walk and prayed over the people who were, I guess, admitted. We saw a girl who was 18, and she went to the high school but she was in the hospital and had to a have a surgery that they can’t do there. Basically she was lying in bed in pain day after day until they could figure out something to do for her. I got to pray over a woman named Emily. She was really pretty and it was hard to see her suffering. There were two men and you could literally see their bones and other things you’re not supposed to see through skin. For one of the men, it hurt to lie in the bed, so he was sleeping on the floor. Every bed in the hospital (what we would consider cots) had mosquito netting tied up around it. There was also one little baby and a couple of really cute little kids.
Yup, that's a white Jesus in the stained glass window of the hospital's chapel. They have chapel every morning at 7:30, and they invited Micah to lead worship.

Lessons I Learned
I learned a lot about sacrificial serving. The guides would have to get up around 3:30 or 4am to filter water and get breakfast ready. It was a continuous process. They would get up and literally serve us all day every day. As soon as they finished breakfast, they’d start on lunch. As soon as lunch was done, they’d start on dinner. Since we had nine guides instead of two, they paired up to cook and clean all day. Those who weren’t cooking were at the hospital with us working.
Since we were without water and power unless the generator was running, I really realized how selfish I am. It was the end of their summer so it was really hot. By the end of the week I had mortar in my hair, I was covered in bug spray, sun screen was everywhere, I had sweated a disgusting amount, and I had asbestos and cement on me. I was tired and hot and just not having a nice time for like twenty minutes. I wanted a shower, which were like super crazy trickles and cold which was glorious. All I could think about was how nobody would know if I took a seven-minute shower instead of a two-minute shower. But then I remembered all of the other people who hadn’t had showers yet. When I turned off the water I realized how selfish I was being and trying to be secretive about it, too.

I also learned materialistic things aren’t what matter in life. I can get rid of something and know that the Lord will provide. Things like how many pairs of shoes I have and how many tie-dye shirts I can make don’t matter. What really matters is relationships, being in community. When I first went, I knew nobody, and now I have twenty new friends. It was really cool to see how the Lord brought us together; it was a really big blessing. It was really, really hard to leave. We cried. That doesn’t happen by just hanging out together. That happens with hearts connecting and the Lord being there. Sure, we could have worked together, eaten, and had a good time, but the Lord was worshiped and glorified and therefore His redemption came. It was really cool to see the community he can build in a nine-day span. He doesn’t build His body lightly. There no way people from three different countries (United States, Zimbabwe, and South Africa) can come together in Sanyati and worship the Lord other than this is the way God wanted it to be. Every night we sang and danced and praised the Lord. Forty-five minutes would turn into an hour or more; we’d just lose track of time. It was really cool because you could feel the His presence. I kept thinking about how one kid was singing and praying in Shona and I had no idea what he was saying but my Father who created both of us knows. It was such a sweet time.
One night we ate with a family, and after we ate we did a time of songs, testimonies, and prayer. They invited us to sing three songs, but it was hard to figure out three songs every knew from three different countries. We sang “Waves of Mercy,” “Amazing Grace,” and I don’t remember the third one. I wish we had recorded “Waves of Mercy” because it was horrifically fantastic. We did the motions but at one point we were all half-singing, half-laughing (me more laughing that singing). I think we probably looked like a cult going around this circle sort of dancing and singing. It was such joyful worship. Then we did a few testimonies, and Shep translated what we were saying into Shona because not everybody knew English. We sang “How Great Thou Art” in Shona. (The video is me singing and Katie humming in the middle of the coffee shop).

Another thing I learned is how imperative water is. I've read about the 1000 Wells Project (Blood:Water Mission) where they try to build wells in different places, and I know all of that, but I’ve never experienced where it’s a possibility that I wouldn’t actually have water to drink. Not to shower, not to cook that’s fine but no water to drink, becoming dehydrated, and dying from something so simple. Really? That was an interesting eye-opener.
They think America is much smaller than it is. They thought we all knew each other before. They didn’t understand it would take a week to drive across America.
We can learn how to legitimately have joy in the midst of craziness. Each night there was singing and dancing of some sort. There was sharing of talents, if you will. Not in competition but in a matter of “what can I offer?” It was an awesome gift exchange.
Especially pray for those who claim Christ to be their Savior. Pray that they continue to build real relationships with people who don’t know the Lord because there are a lot of other beliefs there. It’s hard because on the way to Sanyati (on Sunday) we passed a lot, a lot of different groups just randomly in the fields all wearing white. They’re called Zionists, and they’re growing. It’s not a cult but really it is. Even though they claim to believe in Jesus, they don’t let people read the Bible.
Auntie Patience with her grandkid. They do everything with their babies on their back—work in the field, sweep, wash the bathtub, etc.

One night our team split into two groups and we were able to go to homes and eat a traditional meal with a family. The woman whose home we went to was Auntie Patience. The leaders took up the money so we they could go get the food. I asked what we were going to eat, and they said chicken. I didn’t understand how they were going to keep the chicken safe to eat without power. No. They were buying live chickens. In the morning they were alive and by the time we ate them, they were dead. I’ve always known that process but I’d never really thought about eating something I just saw that day.
We all tried to stir it, and we were so impressed with how hot it was next to the fire and how hard it was to stir and how well she was doing. Well, that skirt thing isn’t actually a skirt. It’s a multi-layered thing that helps her not get burned from the fire. We were thinking she was superwoman. Well, she is.
 We also ate Sadza which kind of looks like grits but doesn’t taste like it and your eat it with your hands. It starts out the consistency of grits and you keep adding to it and stirring it and it gets really thick. When it’s done, you eat the sadza with your hand. You grab a little bit, make it into a ball with your fingers, use your thumb to scoop up “vege” (I don’t know what that is but it was green cooked something), and then you pop it all in your mouth and eat it. It was like nothing I’ve ever eaten before. Shep helped me not look like a fool.
Cooking by candle-light and using her sleeve as a hot pad.
Our last night in Sanyati they made us what they called a four-course meal. One course consisted of Mopani worms. Yes, legit worms from Mopani trees. We also ate chicken, carrots, Jim squash, and potatoes.
Our very last night we had a Bree, a cookout/barbecue where they cooked for us, and it was great treat. Like little kids were played sardines for almost two hours. We ran around Africa barefoot hiding in corn fields, bushes, behind trees, in trees, everywhere. They made us steak, mashed Jim squash, green beans, potatoes, carrots, mushroom sauce, and in the Jim squash bowl they put corn covered in cheese. It was so good! For dessert there were half-peaches with this cookie with chocolate in the middle, and they had a special treat for us—ice cream!
They stopped on the side of the road and got us sugar cane. You have to peel it with your teeth because it’s so tough it could cut you—at least that’s what they were saying, I don’t know—and they gave it to us. You can only chew it because it would really give you the poops if you eat it.

After dinner every night we’d clean up, shower, and do a devotion/worship time. We just shared life. Sometimes that meant a dance party or photo shoot. Other times it was deep conversation. A lot of laughter, praising the Lord, and playing Uno.