Thursday, October 17, 2013

Zambia 2013 Recap!


                                                                                                                  
We hope this letter find you well and that everyone had a blessed summer filled with fun and relaxation! Now that we have settled into our new house and been home for a few weeks, we
wanted to write and thank you all for supporting us and to also update you on our amazing trip to Zambia this summer!

As many of you know, Michelle works for a ministry called Every Orphan's Hope and is the Director of Sponsorship. Twice a year she has the opportunity to serve and visit the 88 children, 11 Mamas and wonderful staff that we have on the ground in Zambia, Africa. During the summer months when Jake is off school, we both get to travel over! This summer we spent a month hosting 2 short term missionary teams, putting on a camp for 200 local orphans in the community, and serving EOH's 300+ sponsors stateside by collecting information and updates on all of our children. 

 


 
This trip was unique and very personal for us because some of our family members joined us in Zambia this summer! Jake's Dad, along with Michelle's Dad, Mom and sister came and served on one of the short term teams for 10 days. We couldn't wait to show them the people and country that we have fallen in love with and to watch them play with the kids and serve the Mamas  - that will always be something that we will never forget! During the week, Mike and Chris fixed bunk beds, cabinets, doors and any other needs that were present. Linda spent most of her time with the 11 Mamas, teaching them how to sew and also fixed treadle sewing machines that were purchased for the women last year. Stephanie spent hours with the children, helped Michelle with Sponsorship tasks, and joined the construction team for a few days.

We made so many wonderful memories over that short time but some of our favorites included:

·         Jake getting a flat tire out in the "bush" and Chris and Mike hitchhiking into town for a spare

·         Holding babies with Linda and Stephanie at a local orphanage

·         Passing out 80+ dresses and pants that Linda had sewed for all the boys and girls in our homes

·         Mike playing a huge role in fixing the water tower that supplies water to 7 of our homes

·         Both families getting to meet their sponsored children for the first time

·         Chris and Jake spending the night in the home of the children that Chris and Karen sponsor

·         Chris leading worship for the team one night

·         The wonderful time we had vacationing at Victoria Falls and going on safari in Botswana
 





That unforgettable week was just the start to our month there, as we welcomed another 15 person team and put on a Camp Hope for orphans in the community. While Camp Hope may take the most amount of work and energy, it is also the most rewarding part of our trip each summer. Jake had a group of 13 year old  boys and Michelle had a group of 8 year olds. Throughout the week, we share the Gospel with these children, love on them, have craft time, memorize Bible verses and play endless hours of soccer. The children are fed 3 meals a day and are sent home with a blanket to bless their families. Michelle had one little boy who showed up late the first day after he walked SEVEN hours to attend the camp. It was also a very emotional week, as you truly love these children and invest into their lives. The highlight for Michelle was getting to wash several of their precious feet on the last day of Camp.



These trips to Zambia have become life changing for us. They are the highlight to our year and the best thing we've ever done for our marriage. The children and Mamas in Zambia have become our family and what a blessing it was this summer to introduce them to some of our immediate family members from the States. It was such an emotional and spiritual trip for us and one that we will always remember. Thank you SO much for helping to make this trip possible for Jake and for supporting us financially and through prayer. The Lord is at work in Zambia and it is such a joy to witness this work through Every Orphan's Hope.

As always, we would love to share more with you about Michelle's job as well as our passion for these orphans and widows. Also, you can learn more about EOH on their website: everyorphan.org.

Thank you for partnering with us and for allowing us the privilege to serve Christ in this way. You're prayers and support made a tremendous difference and we couldn't have done it without you!


Have a wonderful rest of the year and God bless!


Jake and Michelle



 



Friday, May 17, 2013

The Value of a Letter

I wrote this post for the Every Orphan's Hope blog. Read our posts here.
 

A few months ago when I was heading to Zambia, my Bible study class was studying the book of James. They wanted to give towards the Mamas and children and one Tuesday evening, all the items were given to me to take right before my trip. The ladies brought so many wonderful things – nail polish and lotion for the Mamas, school supplies for the children and toys and games for everyone to share. And then one specific lady handed me 3 envelopes and shyly said, “It’s really hard to write to someone you’ve never met.” I told her those letters would mean the world to 3 special Mamas and thanked her so much for the time she took to write them.

Fast forward to Zambia. I met with our Lusaka and Chongwe Coordinators and asked them which Mamas would benefit most from the 3 hand written letters. They gave me 3 names and when we delivered all the other gifts/letters, I excitedly handed these 3 Mamas a letter written with love from my friend at Bible study.
 
At the end of my trip, I was handed a PILE of letters and drawings from the children. A few of the Mamas had also written thank you notes for gifts that had been given – all for me to mail out when I got home.
 
Going through the stack of letters once I was home, I came across a surprise. One of the 3 Mamas that received a letter from my Bible study friend had written her a lengthy letter in return! The ladies didn’t have much time to write after we had handed out the letters and gifts, so I really didn’t expect to receive a response on this trip. Maybe they’d have time to write later, and even then, my friend never expected a response – she had just written to encourage and prayed the letters would uplift these hard working Mamas on the other side of the world.
 
I’ll never forget giving my friend that letter at Bible study. I slid it across the table and her eyes lit up. I thought she’d save it to read later. But no, she ripped it open and read the long letter right then and there. Shock was all over her face and tears glistened in her eyes. This Zambian Mama had shared the hard things she had been through and my friend felt so honored that this lady on the other side of the globe would share so much with her. Never expecting a letter in return, my friend was humbled that this Mama would take the time to write. It was almost like she couldn’t believe this was really happening!
 
So often when we talk about letter writing in sponsorship programs, the message is directed toward the sponsor. Sponsors are encouraged to write and send photos, for the sake of the sweet children they sponsor. And while I have the incredible privilege of delivering these letters and seeing the children’s faces light up, what has caught me by surprise is the response of a sponsor when THEY receive a letter.
 
I love seeing the excitement in someone’s eyes when they tell me they received a letter. And I love to hear their child’s drawings are on their refrigerator at home!
 
Thank you sponsors for initiating this relationship with the 88 children who live at My Father's House in Zambia. I've seen it change your lives and the lives of the children and Mamas who love hearing from you. Keep investing in Kingdom work!
 
Michelle Jackson
Director of Sponsorship
 
For more information about sponsoring a child, check out our Sponsorship Page.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Highway Tomatoes


Tonight as I was cutting tomatoes for our pasta, my mind traveled back to a highway roadside in Zambia. 

"Turn the van around!" I yelled at Jake, begging him to stop the and turn the vehicle that was traveling 120 kilometers per hour on this 2 lane highway. "I think I saw two little girls by themselves selling tomatoes!" 

This wasn't an unusual sight. We drove the hour out to Chongwe from the capital city, Lusaka, almost daily for 5 weeks. And along the highway, many women sold tomatoes, fruit, maize - anything they had grown on their land. 

But these little girls caught my attention. In a split second as we passed, I knew we had to pull over. 

No one else was around the girls, so I knew we wouldn't cause a big stir. After all, anytime a "Mzungu"stopped to buy anything, a huge crowd would gather. People would shove, shouting would fill the air, and everyone would be fighting to give us the best they could offer, all while promising the best price :)

But these girls were alone. Maybe their Mama had sent them to the highway, seeing if they could sell 1 or 2 tomatoes that day. With all the competition from the other small farmers, I wondered if they had even sold any. 

Jake turned the car around, wondering what had come over me. "There! See the girls laying on their backs, over there in the grass by their tomato stand?!?" 

We pulled the van off the highway and I cautiously got out, not wanting to scare the girls. They sat straight up and shock covered their faces. What was this Mzungu doing stopping at our stand?


Nervously, the girls stood behind their stand. "Can I buy these?" I asked, with no response from the sweet girls who didn't understand my English. Wide eyes stared at me as I picked up two tomatoes and found some Kwacha in my bag. 


Once I had given them the money, I reached out to shake their little hands. Huge grins spread across their faces as they finally warmed up to me. No words were said, just looks and smiles exchanged. 


Jumping back in the van, I had to get one last picture. I grabbed the camera from Jake and caught a photo of them smiling. They waved and waved to us as we pulled away and I think I left part of my heart right there with them at that tomato stand. 


This next week I leave for Zambia again. It'll be my 3rd time on Zambian soil, a place that is fast becoming another "home" to me. What can I say? These babies have my heart and this Mzungu will never been the same :)


Thursday, November 8, 2012

How beautiful are the feet....



I've already emailed this out to a bunch of people, but wanted to share it here too. Mercy House is an organization working in Kenya that is also based in the Dallas area by us (Every Orphan's Hope). We run into them often at conferences and try to stay updated on all God is doing with them in Kenya.

 $10,000 was raised in one day for this woman's surgery. So encouraging to see this unity and giving when someone's in need!

Watch the video - it's quite the tear jerker but is such a beautiful story!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why We Put Walls Up


 
 
This summer I learned about walls being built. Not those ugly, figurative walls that we so often hear about. These walls were quite the opposite - beautiful, physical walls that God had instructed to be built by people of His Word, following His will in their lives.

 I spent my summer reading and studying the book of Nehemiah. And I also lived and served in Zambia this summer. In both places, God called and His people answered.

 As I read Nehemiah, I had a wonderful, tangible picture right in front of me. You see, Nehemiah is about the Jews traveling back to Jerusalem to build the protective wall that had been destroyed by the Babylonians around their city. Jerusalem needed protection and the Jews were willing to sacrifice, labor, and pray so that a wall could be built. The nation came together and served one another and throughout the process, lifted up the city to the Lord. A people once disgraced, now found purpose and pleasure.

 Nehemiah 2: 17-18: Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. ” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me .... They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

 Fast forward a couple thousand years to the year of 2012 and you would find a group of humble people in Zambia with a similar mission. Walls needed to be built for protection. Not just physical protection but emotional and spiritual as well. These walls would be for a family - a beautiful "mama" and 8 children who had come from backgrounds we cannot imagine. Before my eyes, men and women gathered to serve and answer the call the Lord had given them.

 This group of people had traveled from thousands of miles away. They came together, served and lifted up this house to the Lord. They sacrificed, labored and prayed as they placed brick upon brick. And the walls were completed because they had a purpose and found pleasure as they served the Lord. Where there was once a barren plot of land, now stands My Father's House #8.

Nehemiah 4:6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.

Oh but these walls were and are so much more than physical! They protected a nation and will protect a family. They serve as a place of refuge and safety. Inside, the Lord is worshiped and praised. And children who were lost and hurting, now have a safe place to call home.

Nehemiah 6:16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

 Likewise, we pray the same for House #8 in Zambia today. May the Enemy retreat in fear as it is made known that these walls were built with the help of our God.  Thank you Lord for being faithful from generation to generation, and offering your children purpose and protection. May we continue to build in your name!


Friday, June 8, 2012

My passion for the adventure


My heart was captured 7 years ago.

Everyone has that place where they know they belong. At this place, you know this is where you were created to be. What you were created to do. And these are the people you were meant to love.

For some, it's a homeless shelter, serving those who live on the street. For others, it's the classroom, teaching and molding sweet little lives into who they are meant to be. But for me, that place is Africa and I figured it out 7 years ago when I made my first trip.

Since that initial trip in 2005, I've graduated college, pursued a career as a financial advisor, moved several times, and got married. But never once did my heart forget that place or those people. So I went back to Africa, researched, read, and prayed for opportunities to connect my heart to what had captured it - the passion for Africa and it's people that God had given me.

And then this last fall, God answered some HUGE prayers for me. And in walked Every Orphan's Hope. God alone arranged it. He worked magic. I still wake up and pinch myself, remembering how God has connected my daily work with my heart for Africa.

And why do I tell you this? Because in 3 weeks my husband and I will be landing on that soil where my heart belongs and I'll be thanking God again for allowing me the adventure.We will be in Zambia for a month and can't wait to serve alongside the Every Orphan's Hope interns, our Zambian staff, and several other teams that are going over.

Thank you for your prayers as we head out. I'll do my best to write and capture all that we see and experience. I know a lot can happen in a month and I'm so excited to see these kids again!


May 2010- Haiti

Nicaragua- March 2009

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