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The Next Chapter

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This week I will reach the halfway point in my trip. These last five weeks have been an incredible journey, but now my life in Zambia will change drastically. The HIZ-Path group left today, and will spend five days in Livingstone before returning to the States. I have loved having them here and meeting so many wonderful new people. This year’s group was the largest yet, representing four different universities from four different states (Arkansas, Texas, New York, and Tennessee). The personality mix was perfect, and everyone seemed to get along quite well. My new friends challenged me in new ways, and changed my perspective. I have learned much and have grown to love the group members, many of whom I hope will become lifelong friends. It was hard to see them go and I will miss stargazing, playing games, and talking with them.

Through the work of HIZ-Path, we have seen promising changes in many of the children at the orphanage. Joel, who is 22 months old and has some neurological problems, was not talking and did not respond to others smiling or talking to him. His facial expression never changed. After receiving individual and group therapy daily, his smile lights up a room and his laugh will melt your heart. He is imitating gestures and speech sounds, and will give kisses. Two-month-old Christopher, who could barely take two ounces of formula because he was an uncoordinated feeder, is now able to nearly finish a bottle and is starting to gain weight. I could easily tell many more success stories, and I hope that I will continue to see positive changes in the children as I work with them for the next few weeks. I know every child from all three houses by name. I know their individual personalities, strengths, and needs. These children, my children, have stolen my heart, and I feel like a proud mama when I see them grow and develop new skills, and I enjoy seeing this same love and pride in the aunties who pour themselves into caring for the children day in and day out.

The children are what make the challenges survivable. The past few weeks, we have survived shortages of fuel, water, electricity, and internet. As the missionaries here often say, things never work quite the way they’re supposed to in Zambia. There are planned power outages for at least two hours every Tuesday and Thursday evening. The power also goes out for several hours on many days without warning. The internet frequently stops working for no apparent reason, and I was without internet access for well over a week. I can live without electricity, and even internet, but the hardest thing is that we’ve been without running water in all houses but one for about a week. The good news is that we have access to the lake water, so we can flush toilets, but without access to clean water, we can’t take showers or use the sink to brush our teeth and wash our hands. We keep stores of clean water in containers and jugs so we will have enough to drink and brush our teeth, and use hand sanitizer to clean our hands. The running water finally started working again in most houses, and we are very grateful for that. I also received a deportation notice when I went to renew my visa, but I think I have gotten everything fixed so I will be fine to stay in Zambia.

Tomorrow, I will move into the only house that has consistently had running water and will live there for the remainder of my trip. I’m actually glad to be moving, and not just for the running water. It is sad to look into the room across the hall and not see the four HIZ-Path girls who lived there. I think a move to a new house will be appropriate for the change in schedule and company. The Zambia Medical Mission group is starting to arrive, but most will not be here for another two weeks. I may be going on one leg of the mission (about eight days… more about that later). In the meantime, there are a few people here to keep me company, and I really enjoy talking to our two night watchmen, Justin and Webster. Justin says I am Zambian now, and gave me the Tonga name Luyando, which means “love” when translated to English. I was happy to be also accepted by the aunties at the Haven today, who seemed happy to learn that I will still be here for several more weeks and said that I am welcome here. The only difficult thing about being accepted is that now people want to speak to me in Tonga and I understand very little Tonga. I’m trying to learn, but it’s a slow process, especially without having a formal language class. Thankfully, people seem to appreciate the effort and are willing to work with me.

This post is getting long, so I will finish now. Hopefully the internet and electricity will work well enough that I can update more regularly now. Please continue to pray for me, the others working here, and always for the babies.

Will post soon!

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I’ve been meaning to update my blog, but Internet connection and time have been VERY limited so far, more than ever before. Today we finished our first full week of evaluations and therapy. Hopefully I’ll be able to talk more next week about the interesting feeding, speech-language, and language barrier issues we have encountered, as well as some other tidbits from the trip.