Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kaziba Orphanage 9 months later

It feels like just yesterday, and it feels like a life time ago, that I was blessed by a trip around the world to the Democratic Republic of Congo.  In real time, it has been 9 months since I returned from my time in Congo.  While I was gone, I missed my 2 children so very much.  Now, of course, a piece of my heart has also been left behind with the many precious children of Kaziba Orphanage.  How I wish it didn't require days of travel and very expensive airfare to go and hold them and see their beautiful smiles.

Because of the prayers and generous donations of many who supported my trip to Congo, some very neat things have been able to take place at Kaziba Orphanage.  I thought you might be interested in knowing more about it!

The primary project that was accomplished through donations was the building of a wall around the orphanage grounds.  Here is what my sister-in-law, Holly, wrote to me about it, "The wall has been HUGE.  You wouldn't believe how much they planted and harvested immediately after putting it up.  It's amazing!  They use it for much needed food."

This was so exciting to me for more than one reason.  First and foremost, the orphanage now has a means to grow a large portion of the food for the kids.  They can have a fresh and healthy food source that is not dependent on donations.  Also, do you remember the passage God spoke to me while I was preparing for my time in Congo?  He placed in my heart the story of Jesus feeding over 5,000 people with a small basket of fish and bread.  I trusted God to make it happen, but I really didn't understand how the little bit I could do would get anywhere near providing thousands of meals.  About 30 kids eating 3 meals a day, that could add up to 5,000 pretty quick!  And who knows what else He has planned for this garden or the children being nourished by it?  See what God can do with the little bits we have to offer!?  Here are some pictures of the garden and the beans that have been grown in it.

"These are beans harvested because the wall was built.  The hand is the 70 year old cook, Abel. 
This is what the kids eat."  (All quotes are from Holly who visits the orphanage regularly.)

Some of the crops growing.

"This is one of the women that was hired last year.  Because there are more staff, the mamas now can be seen sitting with kids in their laps.  The little boy standing is Moise.  He was so weak and malnourished a year ago, I thought for sure he would die.  Now he is crawling & pulling himself up. "

 "I see the Bumbo seats in use whenever I am there, and the babies are stronger for it."

"This is little Chantal who turned one the day this photo was taken.  She can pull her self up.  She was one of the babies that was often put in the bumbo chairs." 

When I was at the orphanage last July, the babies had diapers that resembled thin little kitchen towels and were tied on by bits of thin plastic.  The diapers would leak constantly and the kids would scoot around on the floor leaving trails and puddles to be mopped up by a young man who worked there.  Many generous friends helped provide new cloth diapers and covers.  Holly reported, "The diapers and covers help a ton.  Not only are they leaking less, but they are being changed more often so less diaper rashes."

"I think the training meant a lot.  But even more than that was you guys coming and us staying up there overnight.  The encouragement the women received helps them love the children more and you can see it in the happiness in the children's faces and laughter.  It's a different place compared to one year ago."

"Here is sweet Ziruka from a month ago.  Happy girl."

What little miracles these children are!  Good things are happening and I feel so blessed to have been a tiny part of it and by so many others who took part in showing Christ's love to the children and staff at Kaziba Orphanage.  I encourage you to continue to pray for the children and staff of Kaziba and for the country of Congo.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


The blessings in my life are enormous.  I live with a constant sense of joy primarily because I have a relationship with Jesus and I know I am loved by Jesus.  Many other things bring joy into my life as well:  my husband, my kids, warm and sunny days, tulips and daffodils, chocolate, reading great books, hiking, gardening, etc.  For all these things I am extremely thankful.

Despite all this, I live with a constant "thorn in my flesh."  I write this post not to share my pain, but to let others know that they are not alone.  You can experience healing and reach out for help.  We will experience pain and sorrow in life, but we can continue to have hope and even joy.

Beginning in my teen years (if not before), I was extremely depressed and often suicidal.  I shared my sadness and thoughts with no one.  I didn't want anyone to try to talk me out of suicide as I thought it was really my best option.  The only thing that stopped me from attempting to kill myself was fear of failure.  Am I ever glad that I was so scared to fail!  I withdrew from just about everyone in my life.

As a young adult I worked for a suicide hot-line.  I always found it very strange that people called.  I really assumed that it was normal to want to die all the time.  I didn't yet understand the dynamic of being torn between suicidal thoughts and wanting to live.  That understanding came later for me.

It was a few years after my employment with the suicide hot-line that I finally realized I was truly depressed and eventually did something about it.  Here are some things that I have found to be extremely beneficial for treating depression:

1.  Prayer and Bible reading
2.  Exercise
3.  Journaling
4.  Talking to a trusted friend
5.  Counseling (sometimes it is so helpful to have a neutral party to talk to)
6.  Eating a healthy diet and cutting back on sugar and caffeine
7.  Participating in hobbies that you enjoy
8.  St. John's Wort and other herbal remedies
9.  Prescription Medication - I am not fond of relying on medications, but sometimes they are very beneficial, especially if you are first trying to treat severe depression.
10.  Spending time in the sun as much as possible
11.  Getting enough sleep, but not too much.  If you are sleeping a lot and are still tired, it will probably be most helpful to exercise.
12.  Volunteering or doing something kind for a friend or family member

All of these things have helped me immensely.  But by no means have any of these things cured my depression.  I continue to deal with depression to some extent on a daily basis.  I continue to have times when it gets pretty severe and I have to force myself to choose life and emotional health by doing something (or lots of things) from the list above.

After giving birth to my son, I experienced terrible post-partum depression that finally caused me to understand and empathize with the people I'd talked to on the suicide hot-line so many years before.  I could think of nothing but death, and how I was going to accomplish it.  But oddly, at the same time I wanted more than anything to live and be a wonderful mother for my children.  We each have a purpose in life.  Everyone of us is valuable and can do something to contribute to the lives of others.  God has an important plan for your life!

In spite of the challenges that depression has created in my life, I am thankful that it has helped me to be more empathetic toward others and that it has caused me to rely more on God.  In this I find great joy even in my times of deep depression and sadness.

If you are struggling with depression, I urge you to reach out and seek help.  The initial step is the toughest one to take, but it is so worthwhile.  I encourage you to choose life!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Truth IS stranger than fiction!

In January I started reading through the Bible beginning with Genesis.  I am currently reading the book of Ezra in the Old Testament.  Have you read the Old Testament lately?  Some of it can be a little dull, I must admit, but so many of the stories and prophesies are absolutely fascinating!  I love how I learn new things each time I read through the Bible, and how different things pop out at me.  As I explained this concept to my kids, my 3 year old was trying to understand.  He said,  "Oh, God changes the words in the Bible every time you read it!?"  Nope, the words have stayed the same.

Here is what got my attention as I was reading just now:
Ezra 1:1-2 (and then grab your Bible and keep on reading!)
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:  "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah."

When I think of the time before Jesus came to earth, I always think about God communicating primarily with the Jewish people.  Silly me.  God is so much bigger than that!  Ezra is a great account of how God also interacted with those who were not Jewish.  Cyrus let over 42,000 Israelite people return to Jerusalem to rebuild God's temple.  When their work was hindered by other people, God directed king Darius to find Cyrus' decree in the archives and to write a new decree stating that the work on the temple should continue and that it would be funded by his kingdom.  God did not choose even king David to build his temple, but he chose to work through Cyrus and Darius.  This reminds me to pray for the leaders of our country and the leaders of other countries.  God can use even the most unlikely candidates to do his will.

This is just one of many amazing accounts that are recorded in the Bible.  Whether you believe that the Bible is true or not, whether you have read it a hundred times, or never, I strongly encourage you to pick up a Bible each day and read some of it.  I firmly believe that the Bible is true and accurate and I find it so interesting to ponder the world's history in relation to God's role in it.  If you are reading this and do not have a Bible, please let me know and I will be happy to send one to you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Keeping up with the Joneses

Today I was thinking about the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses."  I am not at all interested in keeping up with the Joneses.  I don't worry about social status, material wealth, whether or not I'm wearing the right clothes or driving the right car.  These things just aren't important in life.  But today I realized that I do worry about "keeping up with the Einsteins" so to speak.  Not for myself exactly (my days of academic excellence are in the past!), but where my kids are concerned I tend to focus on their academic pursuits and successes.  Gaining knowledge, gaining skills, how they compare to others their age...

These things are important in life to some extent.  The knowledge and skills that is, not the comparisons to others!  We can use our education and skills to help make our world a better place.  But I need to be careful not to focus on the acquisition of knowledge.   My kids and I don't need to keep up with the Joneses or the Einsteins of this world.  We just need to run after Jesus and do our best to keep up with Him!