Zambia Update!

We rejoice and give thanks for you who are reading this and tied to us in Spirit!
We don’t have long but wanted to let you know that this past week has been phenomenal. We so look forward to being able to share with you so many little stories of God’s wonder and power this past week, and testify to His goodness in these last few days — that seems MUCH longer than one week!! LOL
We were completely broken hearted and to be honest — angry and frustrated– by what we saw (the poverty, the injustice, the depravity…), and I struggle with the words to say where we are emotionally and spiritually now, but it is a very good place, a much deeper, intimate, “in awe of”, and surrendered place. Amazing, incredible things have happened in this week in the lives of hundreds of orphans and vulnerable children–things we never would have imagined and I still get chills thinking about!! To see the transformation from Monday morning to Friday afternoon was unreal–from sad, empty eyes to laughing, hugging smiles. We went into their community Thursday afternoon (slums…sewage in the streets, roofs of tin and plastic…) and the CHILDREN were running up to people and praying for them…and people who normally shun orphans were calling, “Please come pray for me!”
We will send more as soon as we can!
Habakkuk 1
1 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received.

Habakkuk’s Complaint
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.

4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

The Lord ‘s Answer
5 “Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.

Habakkuk ends in chapter 3 by praying, praising God for His faithfulness and what He has seen Him do, and then basically saying “in spite of _______, I rejoice in the Lord! in spite of __________, I rejoice in the Lord!”
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.

We rejoice in our LORD for what He is doing and what He has done here in Zambia, and claim His promises for these people!! And we thank Him daily for each of you and your compassion and care for His kids here!

Rally Day is Monday, when all the kids from the first 3 weeks come back together — 3,000 orphans and vulnerable children praying and praising God together!

Our return flight is next Saturday. We have been healthy and safe and giving as many hugs as humanly possible a day!

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Zambia By Mornin’

Our journey began Thursday morning in Coppell, TX and 45 hours later we walked in the door of what will be our home for the next ten days. We’re staying in a housing compound right outside the capital city, Lusaka. The weather is absolutely beautiful, it’s the dead of winter here in Zambia, so we’re enjoying 72 degree temperatures and we’re glad to finally be here. The first leg of this trip is over, and now begins the real journey. We’ve been praying that God would remove any expectations for Camp Life that we might have, but still, it’s hard not to expect discovery in a place like this.

After settling in (all of our luggage arrived, a major blessing) and meeting our housemates, we slept. Hard. We slept right through the alarm we had set and thankfully one of our housemates woke us up in time for our orientation and team meeting at 4:30. There are fifty of us total and it is an amazing group of people.
We’ve already heard a dozen testimonies about the work God is doing here and the transformation, the redemption He is fostering. One story we heard last night will break your heart, but it should also fill you with optimism.

Greer, the leader of our organization told us about a 15 year-old Zambian girl named Memory. By the age of eleven, both of her parents had died, she was raped, contracted HIV/AIDS, gave birth to a child that she wasn’t able to keep and was forced in to prostitution. Finally, she wound up in one of the orphanages that our organization, Family Legacy Missions, works with. Three years ago, Memory came to Camp Life and had a chance to experience the acceptance and love and protection that every single one of God’s children deserve. At Camp, one of the first things the kids get to do is make a bead necklace with their name in it. It gives them something of their own they can cherish and it reminds these orphans that they have a heavenly father who knows them by name. This year, Memory was only able to come to Camp for one day because she was so sick and on Friday at her orphanage she died clutching that necklace in her hand. I nearly wrote that, “tragically, she died” or “mercifully…” but I don’t know how she would describe it and it isn’t for me to say. I don’t know how to describe the end of her life here on earth but it is clear that from birth to death, the in-between was over-crowded with injustice, despair, inequality and slavery.

But Camp Life was able to offer her something different. Hope, Joy, Freedom. She experienced God and became a believer at Camp two years ago. God was able to use that week and those people to show Memory unconditional love and relentless grace and mercy. Today, that is all she is experiencing as she sits with Him in heaven. There was a bright spot in her life and she literally held on to it until the end. And this is why we’re telling you about her, not to leave you feeling sad, guilty or helpless. But the opposite. To give us all hope that redemption is possible & to encourage us all to be more faithful in working toward it.
As for us, we’re now more motivated and excited than ever to love these kids and to serve them in the name of God. We’re sending this e-mail from the market outside of the compound and we won’t be here again until next weekend. Please join us this week in praying that these orphans would experience Hope, Joy & Freedom and that they would feel loved.

For us, we’re praying for emptiness so that God will fill us with what He Wills, in whatever amount and whenever He chooses.

His Kingdom Come,
Brian & Laura

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Crunch Time

We leave for Zambia this Thursday morning. That is nutszos. We’re really ramping up preparations and it’s been a full week even without Zambia stuff.

On Thursday morning, I went down to Austin for CEDFA Summit VII. It’s a conference for Fine Arts Educators where the big push is integrating core subject content in to the Arts to help students be more successful on their TAKS tests. I presented a lesson in the “Middle School & High School Art + Math” track and it went really well. It was a brand new experience for me (I’d never even attended a conference like this, let alone been a presenter) so my nerves were really giving me a tough time. Finally, it was time to begin and after working through some technical difficulties, the first session went great. They laughed at my jokes (a good sign) and were receptive to the message I was delivering. I definitely breathed a huge sigh of relief after the first of the four sessions was over. That was Thursday night, the next three sessions were Friday morning and afternoon and those were productive as well. I feel pretty good about it. Based on the discussions we had in the classes and one-on-one conversations in the hall afterward, the majority of the teachers there felt like it was a good workshop and they have something solid they can take right in to their classroom. Several weeks ago, Shaun delivered the message at church for Children’s Ministry Sunday. Shaun is the Zone Director…basically, it’s the same job Laura has only a couple of age groups older. Anyway, he was the speaker on that particular Sunday (a very big deal) and he did an amazing job. I was so blown away that I went three times. Anyway, when I talked to him at the end of the day, he said it felt good and that it felt “complete.” Not finished and just happy to have it done and over with and behind him, but “complete.” Something about that description resonated with me and from that conversation on it’s what I’ve been hoping for with this CEDFA presentation. I am so glad to say that it, too, feels complete.

So, I drove home from Austin after the conference ended at 4 p.m. and Laura and I got right to work. But not on Zambia packing. Oh no. That would make too much sense! :) We needed to get started on getting the house ready to host a going-away party for Josh & Susan Robinson. This is absolutely the definition of bitter-sweet. The Robinsons have been amazing friends to us in the two-and-a-half years that we’ve known them. They were one of the very first people we became friends with when we moved down here. We were in a small group Bible study together…accountability partners…Laura was in the room when their daughter Kyla was born…awesome Polyphonic Spree concerts together…”Lost” marathons…Art festivals…camping…some great memories. And recently, Josh was offered what is essentially his dream job in Atlanta and they’re moving very quickly. The only time possible to have the party was Saturday and so it just had to be done and it was a stinking blast! When we get time, we’ll put up pictures of Josh breaking the pinata in the backyard. It was the most rigged up pinata busting I’ve ever seen. It’s fortunate that nobody was injured. Let’s just say it involved a rake and broken laundry line and we’ll leave it there. We’re so happy for them because their family is in Atlanta and it’s a great opportunity for Josh, but we’re going to miss them horribly.

But now, we’re in full Zambia mode and Laura is spearheading the effort. I tell her all the time that if she weren’t an amazing pre-school ministry director she could easily be some high-powered event planner. She is so good at keeping tabs on a dozen different things in her head and I have to ask about them five times in as many minutes. She’s incredible.

Also, I need to update the movies, books and music in the left bar. But, I’m not going to get around to that for a while. So, let me just say that I’m reading “Life is a Miracle” by Wendell Berry and “All the King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren. The new Tool album is wonderful, so is Ben Harper’s and would somebody please let me know what is up with Panic! At the Disco and am I a loser for not seeing what the big deal is? But, I should probably lay off because I said the same thing about the White Stripes and have come around to them. Especially the more “mountain music” tracks on “Get Behind Me Satan.” Also, I’m like three years late on this one but I’ve probably listened to “Yeah” by Usher forty-eight times in the past three days. “One Moment More” by Mindy Smith is also in heavy rotation on the Rhea iPod, as is Mos Def’s “I Against I”.

Good Night and Good Luck.

Zucchini’s Are A Miracle

Wow. So there went the month of May without a post. I think I just needed a little blog break. Or, as Laura called it, “a breaklog.”

Either way…here’s what’s been happening, more or less.

We visited the Dallas Arboretum back in April. It was flippin’ gorgeous! Also, we just happened to pick their single most busy day of the year (according to the ticket-taker). Go us.

The school year came to an end on May 26th and it was bittersweet. I already miss those kids so much. Some of them I had last year as 7th graders and after spending another full year with them, that just ends up being a good chunk of hours invested in them. And a lot of it is beyond Art stuff. Sharing funny stories about pets, arguing about music and studying our butts off together for UIL. My goal is to be more to them than just a teacher, but hopefully a positive influence and maybe even a role model as well. That’s not going to happen unless they know you care and you can’t fake caring. I don’t want to sound sappy or overdramatic about this, but now they’ve moved on and it’s exciting but also sad. It’s new for me because it’s a transition in to a new season and a new role. Every other major point in my life, I’ve been the one that’s grown up to move on. Leaving High School. Getting married. Leaving Paris. Each of those things meant leaving a way of my life as I’d known it behind in order to move on to something new. But now, I’m on the other end and for the first time, something that I care about deeply is leaving me in order to continue to grow. I love that. I love that that’s where we are, but it felt wierd when that sank in on my drive home last Thursday.

To celebrate the beginning of Summer, we spent some time at the lake. It’s so relaxing out there and I like that it’s a lake as opposed to say, an ocean. I’ve always had a fear of big water, so being out on a lake doesn’t bother me as much as being out in the ocean, you know, on account of being able to see the freaking land and all. That’s Laura and her mom enjoying the boat.

On the 22nd, Laura took a group of Adventure Zone teachers to watch the Rangers play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (the biggest trainwreck of a name in all of professional sports). The Angels are in our division so it was a treat to get to see that particular game. It was a great one and after trailing most of the game, the Rangers pulled out the W in the end. And now that I think about it, we’ve been to two games this year and both times they’ve rallied to win. Sweet. Well, it also happened to be the same night as Game 7 of the Mavs/Spurs series so that’s me trying to get clear reception on a $1.88 walkman.

Alright, now here’s the last thing and it just absolutely blows my mind. The veggie garden in the backyard has been a learning experience at best and a failure at worst. The radishes have produced wonderfully, two of the tomato plants are looking good and will likely produce and the zucchini plants are looking wonderful. Everything else: nuthin’. Noth. In. But, as I said, I’ve learned what I did right and what I did wrong and it’ll be better next time around. For now, I want to talk about the zucchini and the blowing of my mind. I don’t think the picture will do it justice, but this is how it went down. I planted five zucchini seeds per mound (three mounds) and only one came up. But, that one sprout went nuts! It was amazing watching this thing grow! After a couple weeks of seeing that one plant thrive more than anything else in the garden, I decided we’d be wise to sow some more zucchini seeds and see if we could get a few more sprouts to come in. Meanwhile, the existing zucchini is continuing to grow as if it was on the same stuff Barry Bonds is. Four new sprouts came up on one of the other mounds, two on another and on the mound with the existing heavyweight, one new sprout popped up. By this time, the original plant was so established I didn’t really think the new guy had any shot at all, but it went from a sprout to four inches and put out two new leaves. Still, the other one had continued to grow, it’s leaves were over about a foot-and-a-half broad and it just didn’t seem like there’d be any sunlight. Now again, at the risk of being sappy or overdramatic, Life proved itself to be a miracle. A couple days ago Laura went out to look at the garden and discovered that the big plant had completely bent itself to the opposite side of the mound that the new zucchini was growing on. At first, we thought that maybe it was just chasing the evening sunlight and that if we looked at it in the morning it would be back to normal. But it wasn’t. It stayed leaned over to the western face of the mound, leaving the east side and the youngling completely exposed to the sun. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve witnessed and if you give yourself thirty seconds to think about that happening, it just has to make you smile. In one of Wendell Berry’s essays, “Peaceableness Towards Enemies”, he says this:

I don’t think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. It is a “hypaethral book,” such as Thoreau talked about – a book open to the sky. It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. This is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine-which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.

When I reconnected with God after many years of being completely confident there wasn’t such a thing, I’ve got to admit that I still didn’t believe in Jesus’ miracles. That part of the account smelled fishy to me for a number of reasons, but foolishly, the main one was that they were simply impossible. I’m not in that place anymore.

We live, first of all, in a Universe that is too large to actually fathom and it doesn’t matter how you believe it began, at some point in time, for some reason or another, It began. That alone is cause enough to stop and consider everything. And not only is there a Universe in which gigantic galaxies (to us) are miniscule specks (to It), but within those miniscule specks the most amazing things are happening.

Zucchini plants request and are granted space and sunlight. How does it ask? Zebras have vertical black and white stripes because when they scatter as a herd it confuses the color blind lion amongst them. How did they know the lion is color blind? Honeybees dance in a figure-eight using speed and direction to tell the other bees how far and in what direction they can find flowers. How does that even get started?! When I consider the natural world, it occurs to me that it is a far greater miracle than something petty and remedial, like walking on water or turning that water in to wine.

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