Monday, November 1, 2010

On the Edge of Broken

Today, one of our boys was diagnosed with chicken pox. He was given some drugs by the school nurse and told to spend the next two weeks at home. School is off limits as a quarantine measure to protect the other children. His name is Martin.

I could sense that Martin was sad and disappointed. Unlike the average American school child, Martin was not thrilled by the thought of a two-week break from school. You see things are a little different here in Zambia.

At the Lifesong school, our children have two meals a day, access to showers, medical assistance and most importantly, love. The extent to which each child has or does not have these things at home varies but one thing is the same, they really like being at school. Martin is no exception.

I offered to walk him home. He likes to read so he picked two books from the headmaster’s bookshelf and we left for the mile-and-a-half walk to his house. It was a pleasant stroll; Martin taught me some Bemba and I asked him some questions.

Several of the questions I asked revolved around the subject of food. Martin is fourteen-years-old and this is an important topic. I asked if he eats supper and he said that sometimes yes and sometimes no. He replied in the same manner when I asked about his food over the weekends. Sometimes his mother has money to buy food and sometimes not. Sometimes they eat and sometimes they go without.

We continued to Martin’s house where his mother Barbara invited me inside. The living area consisted of three wicker chairs, a few shelves, a small buffet cupboard and a concrete floor. The entire house appeared to consist of three rooms: two bedrooms and the living room in which we sat.

Barbara was pleasant and warm. Between her broken English and my broken Bemba we managed a little small talk. During our conversation I could not help but think of a sad fact about Barbara's life: she is HIV positive. Martin's father has already died of AIDS. Barbara is the first person I have met that I know has this dreadful disease. Meeting her left me a little less whole and a little more broken.

After a few minutes, I said goodbye to Barbara. Martin walked me back to a point where I could find my way home. On the way, he showed me two shacks where they show movies. On a post outside was a cardboard poster displaying pictures of the movies available. Gory faces and half-naked bodies seemed to comprise the majority of the pictures.

As we walked away, I reminded Martin about the Bible study we did last week. It was about sin and holiness. I asked, “Are those movies sin or holy?” He replied “Sin.” I asked he if he ever went to see them and he replied in the affirmative. He said it costs 100 Kwacha. Per today’s exchange rate that is approximately 2 pennies. A cheap price for movies that erode ones desire for holiness and increase ones appetite for sin.

We continued walking and I asked, “Do you want to be sin or holy?” He replied “Holy.” I told him that he gets to choose which one he wants to be. We neared the corner where he left me and as I walked away I told him to “Remember.” I never want him to forget that he wants holiness and not sin.

I write this story as much for you my reader as myself. You see, a strange thing has happened. Stark poverty is less than two miles from my doorstep. Relationships that are starting to make up my life are with people whose social and income status is diametrically worse than my own. I am on the brink of not being the same David that moved to Africa almost two months ago. Martin, his mother and others like them are unknowingly changing my perspective and life seems a bit topsy-turvy.

It appears that I have moved to the edge. God has moved me to the edge: the edge of comfort, civilization and prosperity. It seems somewhat dangerous, rather unnerving. The paths from my front door lead to hurting and broken situations. Wealth and privilege are far less common than they used to be back home. Thankfully, God knows what he is doing. I must trust this truth because right now, he has me living on the edge of broken.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Seed Pods and Bread Men

It is often the unexpected and unknown events that cause anxiety in life. If we knew when to expect such circumstances and had a good understanding of why they occur, our life would be simplified. We could do more planning, predicting and anticipating and less wondering, worrying and fearing. Ones’ overall stress levels could be cut by at least 50%.

My stress levels, along with my heart rate experienced large spikes Monday night. It was our first night in our new home. We arrived late afternoon to unload our luggage and promptly left to join the Lifesong vision team. The vision team was comprised of Lifesong’s leadership and some friends from around the United States who had come to see the work in Zambia. They were eating supper at a small guest lodge two doors down from the Lifesong school.

After an excellent supper, Luke and I walked back to our house, which is on the grounds of the school. Sleep began to call our names and before long we were climbing into our beads hoping for some good rest. Only a few moments went by before we heard a loud BANG just outside our house. As most of you know, one’s awareness and senses are keener and more alert in new settings. Add to that normal alertness the fact that your new surroundings are in Africa and loud bangs will send your mind reeling into frightful places.

All was silent after the loud bang and then Luke shouted down the hall “Did you hear that?” I replied and said that I did and we tried to work out what it was. Interestingly we had been discussing our convictions on bearing arms right before going to bed. Reality is the greatest test of conviction because that bang made me wish for some kind of weapon.

We did not come to a definite conclusion on the source of our nighttime clatter so I tried to sleep. The bang came a second time, a third and a fourth. They all came with varying amounts of time in between. My hopes for a good night of sleep were gradually fading into oblivion. After about the fifth or sixth bang, I decided the bangs were most likely of a natural cause and that I did not need to worry.

I tried to sleep but at 3:30 a.m. I heard a vehicle come hauling up our driveway. My first thought was “Who in the world did the security guard let into this place?” I knew that Lifesong gets visitors but I was pretty sure that 3:30 a.m. was not normal visiting time, even in Zambia. My heart rate went out the roof but I found the courage to investigate. After trying several windows, I finally found one that gave me a view of the offending vehicle. It was a truck and there were two men walking around. They were carrying something into our school; it was that wonderful, necessary and sustaining food staple: bread.

It was the bread men making their early-morning delivery. Zambian bread men who, as I learned later that day, deliver bread twice a week. Even at that confounding hour of the night,the irony and humor of the situation did not escape me. I have never been so scared by a bread man in my life.

The irony did not cease when I also learned that the loud banging we heard was the result of seed pods falling from a tree onto the tin roof of our house. Apparently these pods, which resemble a large sweet pea in shape and engineering, get hot enough to explode then fall to the ground. In some cases, they fall on our roof creating an impressively loud noise that resembles a gunshot. I have never been so scared by a seedpod in my life.

So you see the unexpected and unknown often cause the greatest stress in our lives. I was worried about guns and bandits; it was actually seedpods and bread men. Maybe as we walk through life, it would behoove all of us to let our faith in the Creator temper our fear and worry regarding the unknown and unexpected. It may turn out that our fears mounted to little more than seedpods and bread men.

Below is a picture of Luke with the offending seedpods. The mean things!

Other than fear-inducing situations caused by harmless people and flora, things are going quite well. It is hard to believe that we have been in Zambia for more than a week. Luke and I are beginning to plug into life at Lifesong Zambia. We have started to get our footing with the different business ventures with which we will be involved. There are a lot of great opportunities, the challenge is figuring out how to grasp them.

Moving to a different country and culture is kind of like being reborn. You have to figure out how everything works. From shopping to laundry, everything becomes a challenge because we have never done it this way. One has to depend on others for a lot of things. Also, a college degree is no help when it comes to adjusting to driving on the left side of the road.

I have already had some great times with the older boys at the school. The other day we had a water fight, which resulted in them drying out their clothes over the charcoal cooker. Today, Luke and I played soccer with the boys who had come to help our maintenance guys with some projects. Hopefully my soccer skills improve in the coming months.

Here are the boys drying out their clothes.

God is good and I feel a peace being here. Please continue to pray that God would be truly glorified in our work. Without him, we are nothing but with his power we can do all things. Praise Jesus for his Spirit and for the truth that he truly is all-knowing. Nothing ever takes God by surprise. Praise Jesus!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kingdom Come

There is a kingdom that is breaking in on this world; heart by heart, person by person. This kingdom is not readily apparent but if you look hard enough you will find it. It is found in the broken hearts of those who are discovering what it means to live by dying.

I just spent 3 weeks in Colorado Springs, Colorado with 36 other missionaries. From Georgia to California and Canada to Texas, they represent all of North America. They are going to Laos, Ghana, France, Djibouti, India & many other nations. They form an impressive kaleidoscope of backgrounds, churches and passions. One thing they all have in common is their willingness to sacrifice for their King and his kingdom.

These people leave behind dying parents, prodigal children and all the comforts of a life in America. They go to work with the destitute, lost and diseased. They have been called foolish, crazy and ridiculous.

We were all at Missionary Training International to attend their SPLICE program which prepares missionaries headed to international fields. We were taught to effectively handle culture shock, grief, and much more. We were taught the value of community and love. The classes were very helpful but the people I met were vital to my personal walk as a kingdom worker. Allow me to introduce some of these people to you.

Meet Taylor Wiley. He is 13 and along with his parents, Matt & Joyel, and younger brother Jacob, is moving to Jamaica to work at an orphanage. A year-and-a-half-ago, Taylor’s friend Zach died due to a tragic zip line accident at a church camp. A friend of Taylor’s recently told him that she believes he is going to Jamaica for Zach’s sake. Taylor’s mom Joyel echoed that belief when she told us that Zach’s death played a big role in their decision to move to Jamaica. Taylor is scared of what lies ahead but goes knowing that the King is redeeming his personal pain and using it to touch broken lives in the Caribbean.

This is Sharla Megilligan. She saw a need for improved education in the Dominican Republic and started an organization called Makarios International ( During her time in the D.R., God brought Isaak and Jacob into her life. They were two young Haitian twins who were deserted by their parents. Following the King’s call, Sharla adopted the two boys and is currently running Makarios from Austin, Texas. Sharla’s strength, humor and insight point to the kingdom she loves and builds through her work in the Dominican Republic and with two four-year-old twins.

This is Jack & Diana. They have served and shepherded a church in Wisconsin for 19 years and are now moving to Georgia to pastor an international church and open up the country for further mission work. Diana leaves behind an aging mother and their son who is not pursuing the Lord. Jack and Diana pray fervently as warriors of the king. Their wisdom has left a permanent impression on my life.

Finally, let me introduce you to Luke. He and I will be serving the king together in Zambia. He is forsaking the potential to be successful in this world to pursue full time ministry. He aches to know King Jesus and be a part of advancing His kingdom. He & I, along with all of the king's servants, are seeking the life that only comes through dying. Praise God for a good friend with whom to share this journey!

Here I feel like the author of Hebrews who ran out of time because I have much I could say about the others that I met. About a family with nine children who are taking the five youngest to China. A young couple from Chicago moving to the tiny, impoverished nation of Djibouti. A widow and his two youngest daughters moving to Thailand to serve the King. These stories and many more have left the undeniable impression on my heart that “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

I have walked with these people who are labeled "foolish, crazy, & ridiculous" and found them to be wise, wealthy and beautiful. They tread lightly on this earth and long for the day when the kingdom comes.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I'd like to introduce you to a few of the boys that will be a part of my life in Zambia. I've only spent a week with them up 'til now so I"ll tell you what I know. Hopefully in the future I can tell you more about who they are and their life stories.

Meet Martin. He's a lot of fun, a little bit cocky and has a warm personality that shines through his twinkling eyes. Potential reverberates in his character and demeanor. Martin could do wonderful things. Martin is made in God's image and it's evident.

Martin's father died of AIDS. His mother is HIV positive. He lives with his mother and step-father in a Zambian slum. Martin's potential seems doomed in light of his situation. You can learn more about Martin's story by watching this video

This is Haggai. He is 15. Both of his parents have died leaving Haggai a double orphan. He has a quiet yet strong personality. He is the biggest boy at the Lifesong school and I think it goes to his head. I told him he needs someone bigger around to put him in his place. He smiled.

Haggai is good at math and art. I saw some of his handiwork and it exhibited natural talent. Isn't that incredible how someone from such a broken situation can create a beautiful piece of art? Haggai has talent and potential. I see it and wonder if he'll get to use the talents and live up to the potential.

Haggai's relationship with his guardians has not been the best. Actually abusive. You can learn more by watching this video

Meet Richard. Quiet, strong and illusive come to mind when I think of him. His mysterious persona makes me want to know him better. What does this boy know? What has he seen and heard? Who has shaped his life?

He likes to read, play soccer and go to church. He's a good student. Sounds normal enough but he comes from a broken situation. His school registration says that his father is dead and his mother works as a peasant farmer. Interesting because I thought peasant farmers went out with the 18th century. Apparently they still exist.

What hope exists for the child of a peasant woman? What future can there be for one fatherless boy? One boy who is almost a man.

I submit that the potential and talent that exist in Martin, Haggai and Richard will find power in Psalm 68:5. A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows is God in his holy habitation. Think of it, the God of all creation claims these three boys as his children.

By all human accounts, their fathers are dead. By all divine accounts, the father of Martin, Haggai and Richard is very much alive. Hallelujah.

Perhaps Martin, Haggai and Richard are three of the reasons I'm moving to Zambia. Perhaps God is sending a big brother to share life with some little brothers. Perhaps I'll get to tell these three a little bit more about our older brother. The one who died so that they could live. Perhaps God has introduced you to three boys so you can pray for them. Perhaps we've all been introduced to three young men who can teach us just a little more about their father.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Beginning

All of us are authors. Even if we hated English class, we all write. Our paper is time and the writing is our actions and choices. We are all authoring a story. A life story.

I've heard of amazing life stories that inspired me to live for the highest things. Other stories have torn my heart with their tales of cruelty and injustice. This library we call the world holds billions of stories of which I am writing one. One story. One life story.

This blog begins almost 25 years after my life story began. Its beginning is born out of a desire to communicate my story over the next year of my life. I'm moving to Zambia in September. I will be working with orphans at a school run by Lifesong for Orphans ( 209 orphans and vulnerable children attend this school. There are approximately 15 adolescent boys in that group. These boys will be one of my focuses for the next year as I come alongside them as a big brother and mentor. Here in the States I have 11 biological younger siblings, soon to be 12. In a real way, I'm about to add 15 more. 27 siblings seems like a lot.

Actually I have more than 27 because for the past year and a half I've been working with teenage boys in Peoria, IL. It's been a great opportunity to give, learn and teach. Without my knowledge, it's been training me to work with orphaned boys in Zambia.

Thanks to all of the boys, parents and co-laborers that have been a part of the ministry here. You've played a part in something that's about to stretch all the way to Africa. Isn't that great? Your life stories will touch people you've never met in your life.

So too will all of our stories. We will all touch people we've never met in our life. Through relationships, communication, choices and actions, we will touch more people than those we see and meet on a daily basis. A blog is no exception. My hope for this blog is that it will tell an inspiring story. A story of redemption authored by the Redeemer.

For my readers, may you look beyond the author of this blog and see the Author of life. The best life stories are those penned by this Author who names himself The Beginning and the End.