Wednesday, October 31, 2012

seven months

Baby Bronwyn, you are seven months old. You have lived in Zambia for more than half of your life, and you are doing awesome. You teach us so much about patience, grace and forgiveness. You quicken our hearts and our steps. Thank you for putting up with us as we figure out, day by day, what it means to be your parents. We love you so much and thank your Heavenly Father for giving you to us!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

too fast, too fast!

We went to Lusaka last weekend to let Bronwyn see a doctor for some more shots and then wait to pick up our visitors from the airport. In the course of just a few days Bronwyn…

Busted out her first tooth

Checking out dad's teeth, comparing them with her own

Mastered the art of sitting without toppling over every five seconds

sittin' fancy with no bumpers

Decided that sitting still is for slow pokes and decided to learn how to crawl!

here, there and everywhere...

All in the span of a week!


What happened to my little baby?!?!?!

Why are you growing up so quickly?!?!?!

TOO FAST, baby girl, TOO FAST!!!!

Ugh, will I ever get used to the constant change? I was just swaddling her yesterday...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Its never too early to start learning, which is why Bronwyn goes with me to pre-school every morning. Well, that and teacher support/school management is one of my various jobs with Choshen Farm, and Bronwyn basically gets carted along. Fimpulu Christian Pre-School was started back in 2008. I took over teacher/curriculum development shortly thereafter, and have been working with the school consistently ever since. Bronwyn loves the singing and contributes a fair amount of noise. I often have to remind the kids to turn around and look at the teachers instead of looking at the baby blabbering and flapping her arms behind them.

The purpose of the school is to prepare children for a lifetime of learning while setting them on the right path educationally, socially and spiritually. We care very much about what they learn and how they learn it. Every day we have a time of songs, a Bible story, math, English and, of course, fun!

Occasionally I will help the teachers through a rough patch where they themselves are mispronouncing a word (hat and hot are two different words...) or teaching a concept in math that is not quite right ("oops, I don't think you meant to say that 2+1= 4"...). When I think of Bronwyn's future education, I believe that it will be easy enough for us to reinforce proper English and to teach math at a level that we desire. But what we are really concerned about for our daughter, and for every other child at the pre-school is that they be led in the right direction towards a right relationship with God.

The other week at the school we were learning about Peter walking on water and somehow the takeaway from the story ended up being "So you need to do what you are told otherwise God won't love you." It was sad. Sad because I know that this is a predominant message in most churches and therefore a bit to be expected at the preschool as well, but also sad because the children, at such a tender age, are learning something so... wrong!

After that incident I talked with the teachers for a while about where they got that message from and whether they actually believe it to be true. We looked at examples throughout the Bible all confirming that God loves us even with all of our mistakes and has proven his commitment to us, his children, over and over. The next day as we were reviewing the same story, I listened as the teachers now said, "So you need to do what you are told BECAUSE God loves you, and He always will."

Oh sweet redemption! 

I was particularly happy for three reasons:
1. The smiles on the teachers face as they spoke this truth were absolutely stunning in comparison to the frowns they were sporting the day before as they preached their message of depression.
2. The children heard the right thing in the right way.
3. I knew that that is what I want for my child too.

Not only did the teachers correct their interpretation of the story they were telling, but I heard a change throughout the week as the teachers started saying to individual pupils, "You need to listen... I want you to know I love you. If you don't stop poking the ear of the boy next to you, I will still love you, but you will have to stand in the corner so you learn to obey, and I'll love you from there."

No culture on this great big planet of ours has gotten it entirely "right." Every culture has its false beliefs which we pass on to our children as normal and true. I'm thankful that I can be in a place and sharing in a work which embraces the beauty of individual cultures, introducing all to the redemptive power of a God who really does "love all the little children of the world..."

outdoor ed

Fimpulu Christian Preschool

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

the iwes are driving me crazy!

Iwe (ee-way) is a bemba word for “you.” Its what most people call animals… and small children. In our culture, saying “hey you” to every small child is not the most polite thing ever, but in Bemba culture its rather expected. Anyhow, so the little kids are generically called “iwe.” I explain all of this because my confession this morning is that the iwes are driving me crazy! Ever since we’ve come back from the states, the iwe population has quadrupled! We love these kids and have known them since before many of them were born, but they are seriously out of control! At any given time, there will be a dozen or so little ones on our porch, another dozen on our back stoop and another dozen in the door of our kitchen. Someone is always crying, someone is always hitting someone and someone is always screaming for me to come and mediate - “Bana Winnie!” (that’s me) “Mwewa is fighting!” I’m trying to institute a no fighting policy at the house and so I’m constantly sending kids away for this infraction, but they always come back… They are not accustomed to listening to adults and there is no discipline at home which means they will respect my wishes only if they feel like it.  I knew I was coming to the end of my ‘iwe rope’ when, one day after the kids had been screaming bloody murder all afternoon preventing Bronwyn from taking a nap, I said to Jeremy, “I understand why their mothers just smack them.”  

Hey now Bethany, that’s a pretty ugly attitude…

I know. I know. That's I want to use this forum this morning to adjust my attitude by choosing to give thanks for these crazy-little-cupcakes-that-won’t-stop-fighting-and-are-driving-me-bonkers!!!!!!!!!!!

So without further ado… my thanksgiving list for the iwes in my life.

11. “Goodmorning bana Winnie” = the sweetest greeting ever.
  2. Nyemba’s nose won’t stop running and at least I can wipe it for her.
  3. They never tire of entertaining Bronwyn.
  4. Eliza has the most contagious giggle ever.
  5. They will bring me water from the well even if I don’t give them candy.
  6. “May I please have some water to drink” is the only English they know but at least I’ve taught them that!
  7. Mwewa tells me I look pretty if I wear anything other than a t-shirt and chitenge.
  8. They think I’m awesome when I dance like an awkward white lady.
  9. No matter how long we’ve been gone, there is always a group of kiddos sitting on our porch waiting for our return.
  10. They don’t think its gross to chase the rats out of my kitchen and will even kill them for me.
  11. They wake up after their mothers leave home to go into the bush making me the first ‘maternal’ face they see – what a privilege!
  12. Chola, Steven and Richard do awesome handstands and flips in the grass.
  13. They are encouraged to write their letters and numbers on our floor with charcoal, even when they write them backwards – we are glad to encourage their education!
  14. Our house may be the only place they practice the words “please and thank you.”
115. Beauty wants me to see all her boo-boos.
116. Michael will fall asleep on our couch.
  17. Aggie strokes Bronwyn’s hair for hours.
  18. Mwiche thinks it’s so funny to call to the cat and then run away in “terror.”
  19. These kids just want to be close to us even if we aren’t doing anything “entertaining.”
  20. They could choose anywhere in the world but they choose to be with us.
  21. We are a place of safety and love for those who are otherwise counted as worthless.
  22. We are able to speak into their lives and show intentionality.
  23. How many other kids in small African villages will grow up saying, “yeah, we live next to some Americans – they are awesome.”?
  24. How many little white girls grow up best friends named Nyemba, Kapungwe and Mwaba?
  25. And lastly, I give thanks that God has brought these kids into our lives to teach us so many things – simplicity, patience, grace and joy.

Thank you little ones – you are more than generic iwes, you are precious to your heavenly father and precious to us too!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Culture of motherhood: birthing babies

Last night at 2:30 am, our cell phone rang. It was one of our farm guys, Boniface. His only words were, "I have a maternity case" which is code for, "My wife is about to birth our 8th child. Come get us." Boniface's family lives about 5 kilometers from the clinic and we told him we'd get his wife to the clinic when it was time. So when the call came, Jeremy leapt out of bed and zoomed off and I lay in bed awake, too excited for news of a baby to fall back to sleep. Bronwyn didn't have that problem.
An hour later, Jeremy pulled back in, gave a deep sigh and relayed the story to me. They had gotten to the clinic and found that all three of the nurses were gone. Their families had answered the door and said sorry, they are not around.

                      Really?            Really?
I don't know where the entire clinic staff had taken off to and not returned by 2:30 am, but plan B went into effect. Jeremy went back to the locked maternity ward and found Boniface's wife squatting, doing her thing, and offered to help everyone back into the land rover so they could get to the hospital. The friend helping Boniface's wife said, "no time, the baby is almost here." Plan C then went into effect to hunt down the clinic's janitor to at least get the maternity ward door open so that this precious child would not have to be birthed on a concrete side walk. I guess they got that door open just in time because Jeremy said it was only about 2 minutes before he heard crying.

A darling baby boy has joined us on earth. 

The safe motherhood group in Fimpulu made a rule that any mother who delivers at home will be fined K30,000, or $6. I told Jeremy that I think the clinic staff should pay the birthing mothers K30,000 if they show up and find no one there to catch their child. I would have been all kinds of annoyed if it were me, but when we went to pick up the Boniface family from the clinic this morning, they didn't seem to be annoyed in the least. This woman walked out to the Landi, said she was feeling fine and went home to continue life as usual. I find this quite typical of the women in the village: Babies come out and life goes on. I've asked many woman, "so how was it?" And they just look at me like, "how was it? I don't know what you are talking about." Mothers aren't used to explaining their birth in terms of quality of care, level of pain or hours of pushing. They don't hold on to details, write out their story or compare it to others. Birth for them is a part of life. They just do it. For these women, birth is  what sets them apart. They've told me that the reason why their husbands aren't allowed in the delivery room is that they don't want them to feel ashamed by how beastly strong their wives are. I don't fully understand all of the nuances, but I sure did tell Bana Kalobwe this morning that she is the greatest thing out there and that she should make someone else draw her water and cook her nshima and that I would be singing her praises for being a good mama and doing what needed to be done despite crummy circumstances. 
So here's to all the women who give LIFE to the next generation, unattended, unpampered and with no mylar balloons in their room after the fact. You are strong in ways you don't even realize. Thank you. 

Bana Kalobwe on the left... Bronwyn thinking, why is it so small?