Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Storey: Shannon's Christmas Address

Christmas Storey: Shannon's Christmas Address

“And so this is Christmas and what have we done, another year over and a new one just begun.”

I figure if the queen makes a Christmas address why shouldn't I, the peasant. My Christmas address is much the same as my current parents house. I digress. One year ago I found myself in shorts in sunny South Africa for a little Christmas hiatus from the rigmarole of life in Zambia. I was 10 months into a fairly challenging year on the mission field in Lusaka, Zambia. Two months later I returned home where my senses were bombarded with the comforts of, friends, and food! A week after I set foot in Canada the youth pastor at Bakerview resigned. Two weeks after that I was sitting bewildered at my new desk as the “Interim Youth Director” now in charge of running two weekly youth programs. With head still spinning from what the last year had brought this new endeavor was a frightening challenge before me to say the least. But by the grace of God I've somehow made it to today. I sure do love the students I work with a whole lot. If it weren't for them I don't know why anyone in their right mind would do this job!! The future is uncharted. The timeline of this job is still as ambiguous as it's ever been. And as for what comes next it is about as certain as the weather forecast. Boy, these update letters were sure easier to do when I did one every week.

As for Christmas I suppose I will address it. After all this is a “Christmas Address.” I'm not a huge fan of the holidays. I love Jesus and the whole revelation of Emmanuel- God with us...but all the hoopla of the holiday season seem to make a lot of people stressed, weary, and sad. But my favourite part of the whole shebang is going to church on Christmas eve. I remember as a kid the anticipation of knowing what the next day would bring, sitting in a candle lit service in a taffeta dress and tights that I probably begrudgingly let my mom dress me in, singing Christmas songs, staring at the trees, and then getting a goody bag when it was all said and done. This year I, along with my good friends Chrissy and Margie, had spent the last five months planning and preparing for our Christmas eve service. Now that I work at a church I have to admit I'm not all that thrilled about church services anymore because it is usually correlated with work and stress, but this one was different. We had this whole service entitled “Awakening to Emmanuel.” Like I alluded to before, the idea of Emmanuel captivates me. We had this whole story of a woman's spirit awakening to the presence of Christ over a series of events interspersed with songs sung by the three of us and a youth choir with kazoos and festive sweaters. So Christmas eve finally arrived. And so did about a foot of snow. And just like that it was all cancelled. I guess for some reason this was all in God's plan. That's what I cling to anyway. That He knows what's going on and it's all under control. Heart broken I set my aggression to the snow shovel shovelling the street for about three hours.

When we were little mom used to take us skating and swimming on Christmas eve to try and tucker us out so that we would fall asleep that night. But always skating THEN swimming. Never the other way around. That's an ear infection waiting to happen. But now that we are older I shovel for hours and the Storey ladies three trudge through the snow by foot to the nearest Starbucks, where I forgot to get a decaf which then pretty much nullified all the activity of the day.

When people ask what Christmas is like in our family I often respond, “Well, it's just the four of us so it's pretty much like every other day of the year except we have better food and not as much is on TV.” And there you have it.
Here are some Storey Christmas Traditions:
- a shrimp ring on Christmas eve!
- the TV yule long
- presents on Christmas morning
- reminding my Dad of the Christmas he broke my new awesome Playdough press where you could squeeze out playdough into really cool shapes. I've never that one go.
- taking Christmas sweater pictures with Dana
- eating turkey dinner...followed by “well, if that's Christmas dinner I guess we've had it!”
- watching the Barenaked Ladies Christmas special on TV: “Barenaked for the Holidays”...the best!
- we don't light advent candles at the dinner table anymore because I play with them and mom gets mad...we haven't had any for many years.
- every year after the CBC news they list at a rapid rate everyone involved in the production of the news and every year Dana and I try and read all the names aloud as they torpedo by.

I hope your Christmas is filled with good times and all the things that it's meant to be about. May you know that God is with us this Christmas and in the year to come. And I'm not just saying that cause I'm a “pastor”! I mean that in a most sincere and un-cliche way.


ps. if you have any thoughts on what I should be doing in a couple months when my time is up at Bakerview please tell me!!!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Afrikan Adventure: 525 600 Minutes

Five-hundred twenty-five thousand six-hundred minutes. There is a little musical ditty that speaks of the minutes of 365 days and begs the question, ‘how do you measure a year?’ And so as I sit here in these insomniac, jetlagged moments I ask the same question. I’ve been back in Abbotsford a week now and still can’t seem to wrap my head around all that has happened in the last year.

The past year was really nothing that I expected it to be. It was a trying year filled with frustration, confusion, heartbreak, pain, growth, joy, and love. But what would I have ever learned if everything had gone smoothly and expectedly, am I right!? I think back to some of my most content and unexplainably joy and peace filled times of walking down dusty roads, the sun shining down, greeting neighbours as they walked past and sitting in the homes of my friends, listening to their stories and laughing together. Or hanging out with the youth at Chisomo drop-in centre, being dragged by the hand by two 10 year old street kids up the stairs of the waterslides at our Christmas party and seeing them just be kids again. Or experiencing the unexplainable way of how music and singing together has the uncanny ability to transcend all cultural boundaries. Or traipsing around the bush with kids looking for snakes and scorpions (even though I’m terrified of them) skipping rocks and shooting slingshots where there is no need to speak a common language, and the way there is nothing more beautiful than the smiles of these children. It’s not raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but these are a few of my favourite things! And so maybe nothing I did there was a thriving success by my expectations or this worlds standards, but maybe that was the point. I didn’t change Zambia. Zambia changed me. Jesus changed me. And so as the aforementioned song suggest to measure a year in seasons of love, in that case this year was a success in a more powerful way than could have been imagined.

But now I find myself back home trying to adjust back to life here. Many tell me this is the most difficult part, much harder than adjusting to life in the new culture. Right now it has just been so good to reconnect with so many people I love and have missed over the past year. It feels like some kind of time warp because it appears many of your children have turned into giants in just one year. I don’t understand how a human being can add that much height in such a short time. Must be something in the chicken! But there is a part of me that doesn’t want to let go of Zambia and the people I love there. I’m afraid of forgetting. Forgetting their faces, forgetting their pain, forgetting their courage and strength, and forgetting the way it all changed me.

I’ve heard it said that you leave your heart in Africa; it gets in your blood. And as I shared in front of the whole church this morning, it probably is not only in my blood but in my intestinal track from all the things I ingested there! (Don’t worry I have taken precautionary de-worming medicine as we do every 6 months!). Boy, it seems I just have a way with words and eloquent public speaking.

So now I’m stuck with the question: what now? My answer: I don’t know. I would love to go back some day for a longer period but as to when that would be I don’t know. And what am I doing in the here and now? I don’t know! I guess I need to find a job of some sort. Feelin’ a little lost! But what’s new.

And so I guess this is the last letter of this Afrikan Adventure. I thank you all again for all your love and support this year. It has meant so much to me it is really quite indescribable. I would love to get together sometime and hear what you have been up to and share more about Zambia! Keep in touch. God bless you. Signing off.

Love shannon

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16

Monday, January 28, 2008

Afrikan Adventure: The 12 Days of Zambia

And so it has come to pass that time has held to its steady rhythm and I find myself with but twelve days left in this country. There were certainly times when it felt like I would never see this day (that made it sound like I live some kind of glorified Indiana Jones type lifestyle, don’t be fooled…although I do ride the minibuses on a consistent basis). This time feels somewhat surreal as I get ready to depart and reflect on the year gone by. There are a lot of things (people mostly) that I don’t want to have to leave behind here but at the same time am jubilant about seeing those I left behind a year ago. I leave Zambia on February 5th and will spend five days in London visiting a friend and then return to Vancouver on the evening of February 10th!

It is pouring here. I guess they don’t call it “Rainy Season” for nothing. Although this year there seems to be an excess of rain which is causing much problem. There has been a lot of flooding, houses are being destroyed, and roads are taking quite a licking. The orphan home that we work with is on the brink of flooding as right now the water is clear up to the doorstep. With all the water comes the increased risk of disease quickly spreading within the compounds (the poorest areas).

I had a good trip down south to Sinazongwe to spend time with friends who run a medical ministry down there, the highlight being Susan pulling a bug out of a child’s ear. I did not witness it but I trust her testimony of the event to be factual.

I am currently honoured to have my friend Anna Maria Enfield visiting me. She was part of the team I first came to Zambia with four years ago and has been in Uganda for the past two weeks and now here! There is also a team from California here so it’s a busy time but good. Today I took them to Chisomo Drop-In Centre, whom I’ve been working with, to show them around there. We had a fun time with the kids as usual. Each time I am with them I get sadder about having to say goodbye to them. It’s awful!

So I am attempting to wrap things up here and begin saying goodbyes. What strange things our hearts do to us. This year has been nothing that I expected it to be and many a time I have wondered what I was doing here and why God brought me here. It has held confusion, frustration and discouragement like I have never really known before but at the same time God has revealed Himself and worked in my life in ways that couldn’t have happened without this time. I’m at a loss with what to do with all that this past year was and has meant but I suppose it’s time to start processing it!

And so much like that beloved festive song “The 12 Days of Christmas” I have revised it for “The 12 Days of Zambia”…and yet I still have no true love to give me a partridge in a pear tree…or even a monkey in a mango tree. But then again, who gives away wild animals in fruit trees. That’s weird. I’ll leave you with that thought.

Love shannon

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” ~James 1:2-3

“… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” ~Romans 5:3-6

Monday, January 7, 2008

Afrikan Adventure: Auld Lang Syne

Well, it looks like it’s another year over and a new one just begun. I trust we have all made lofty and unattainable resolutions for this year of 2008. I personally have resolved to swim across the Atlantic using only the butterfly stroke for the entire voyage. Moving on…my time in South Africa was grand. It was great to be able to spend Christmas with the Armes/Hilty family and see some of the beautiful country. South Africa is like a whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew! I arrived back in Lusaka on New Years Day after ringing in the New Year by going to bed at 11:55pm…I got up 20 minutes later to finish packing.

I arrived back in Lusaka to a climate that seems all too familiar. It has been raining like crazy here, in an unseasonably heavy fashion in fact. It seems that it is preparing me to arrive back in BC. So with the new year brings the task of beginning to wrap up here in Zambia. On Thursday night I had an “All-nighter” with Chisomo drop-in centre as somewhat of a farewell. Many of the youth will be going back to boarding school this coming week and since I will be leaving soon as well we decided to have one final shebang all together. The kids prepared songs, skits, and testimonies which were awesome. We had a nice meal of chicken and rice and then had popcorn and watched movies all night. It was a good time but a saddening realization of all the goodbyes that are looming.

This coming week I am headed down to Sinazongwe, which is in the southern part of Zambia, to visit Susan and Stephanie, former team mates who now work as a nurse and midwife down there.

And so I leave you with my new motto for 2008, but first how I came upon it. While in South Africa I stayed about 6km from my friends so they lent me a bicycle so I could get around and cycle to and from their house. I was pretty excited about all of this until I realized that the route to their house was almost entirely uphill. To top it off Port Elizabeth is a seaside city and for some reason the winds seemed to have it out for me. Every time I made the uphill trek it seemed like I would be cycling into gale force winds. You know its trouble when you have to pedal to go down hill. So on my final cycle, December 31st, I was reflecting on the year gone by and thinking that this was a good depiction of what the past year has felt like at times. So if 2007 was “an uphill cycle into the wind,” then my new motto for 2008 is: “It’s all downhill from here!” I don’t know, call me an optimist!

Looking back on auld lang syne (times gone by) I can begin to see glimpses of how God has been at work in my life and those around me and that is just the tip of the iceberg as I try and begin to process this year gone by. I hope you had a happy and festive Christmas season. I thank you again for all your support and encouragement over this past year. I am so grateful and can’t even begin to tell you. Well, I guess that’s a lie because it seems I just attempted to. Anyway, take care and I look forward to seeing you soon!



“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” ~Titus 3:4-5a

Monday, December 17, 2007

Afrikan Adventure: Oh Tannenbaum

Well, well, here we are mid-December and still no sign of snow. I’m sure it won’t be long now before it comes. I usually spend my evenings sitting by the window wearing my toque and mittens on a string, clutching my “Crazy Carpet” waiting for it to come. But I usually get too sweaty and have to give up. Plus, this past week I’ve been reintroduced to the wonderful world of socialization as my friends, Stephanie and Susan, from down south are up visiting. It has been marvelous having people living with me other than the ants, cockroaches, spiders, and lizards...and nice that I don’t have to spray these guests with a Raid like agent.

This past week Susan found a 180cm, $20 Christmas tree at the store so she bought it. We brought it home and that evening embarked on assembling it. We soon realized why it was probably only $20 while all others around here seem to be much more. Turns out the bottom two pieces didn’t actually fit together as the “trunk” of the tree on both parts was exactly the same size making for quick improvisational tactics to get the tree standing. We tried several things involving sticks, branches and old plastic bags and finally after a treasure hunt around the yard in the dark found a piece of old piping which we used our MacGyver skills to contort into a perfect solution. So now we have our trusty Tannenbaum and a most excellent foam nativity scene sent to me in a package to adorn my humble abode in a Christmas fashion.

This past Saturday I had what will probably be on my list of favourite African memories. I took all the kids at Chisomo, the centre for street kids I have been working with, to this water park called Adventure City for a little Christmas party. There were 44 kids from the age of 10-18 and we had an awesome time. Christmas is a hard time for these youth as it such a family oriented time. It was awesome to see them able to just be kids, having a blast on the slides and doing crazy flips and dives into the pools. The safety standards are not quite what we are used to back home which makes for more fun as your allowed to do pretty much whatever you want on the slides like go down 15 at a time! My favourite was probably swimming with two little 11 year olds, Danny and Anna, and helping Anna conquer her fear of the slide and just trying to teach them how to swim. It breaks my heart that these kids are so young. Danny ran away from a family who was beating him and travelled 5 hours to Lusaka by himself and spent some time on the street until someone brought him to Chisomo. Anna was being sexual abused by her step-father and so followed her sister and ended up at the centre. And each one of these kids has a heart breaking story like this.

My involvement with them is like a catch twenty-two as the more time I spend with them the more I get attached to them and see relationships really beginning to grow and it kills me to think that I am going to have to say goodbye and leave them in a month and a half. My heart hurts just thinking about it. I am going to do an all-nighter with them in January before a lot of the kids who are being sponsored to go to boarding school go back, which will be like a last hurrah!

Action Zambia has recently rented a tiny office space in town so we can finally get our office out of a home so I’ve been putting time there painting and helping to get it ready to move into (not myself moving into…although that would cut down on transport time getting there). My idea of splatter painting in neon colours was not taken to like I was hoping. So instead I will secretly paint a delightful country mural with the art skills I learned from Bob Ross on PBS, complete with several “happy, little trees.”

Guitar teaching and bible study in Kasupe continues to go well. Peter, my guitar prodigy, is really catching on quick and a great youth so I’ve pretty much decided that I will give my guitar to him when I leave and hope that he can use his newly acquired skills to be a leader in the community and his church.

I also had a meeting with the Rural Health Committee this past week and we are hoping to do another day of giving out food and health supplies to really vulnerable families. This time of the year is when the food starts to run out as the crops are just being planted and won’t be ready for another couple months and last years supply has run out.

And that has been some of the highlights of December so far. I will be heading down to South Africa on Thursday to spend Christmas with friends from the team and their family who live there. I hope all the hustle ‘n’ bustle of the season hasn’t gotten the better of you and that are having a joyous noel. If you want to get away from said hustle just come here…there is certainly a lack of hustle in these parts! And remember the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! Take care!!



“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

~Matthew 11:28-30

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Afrikan Adventure: Empty Space

I write you from a seemingly very empty space…and I’m speaking quite literally, not referring to my mental capacity. The house that I live in was furnished almost exclusively by another couple on the team that had moved into a place where they did not need much of their belongings, working out quite perfectly for the both of us. But oh, how the tides have changed. Said couple is now moving into an unfurnished home requiring said belongings and thus bringing us to the current state as I listen to the reverb of my typing, sounding much like the typewriters of old. So now I currently have a hot plate and blender to my name. It’s all one really needs really. Blending can be very cathartic while creating delicious treats that are easily accessible through a straw. And with all concrete walls and tile floors I’ve found entertainment in singing Latin words loudly and listening to it bounce of the walls. Plus, this pillaging has provided a much better space to practice my gymnastic floor routines.

Moving on…with such a transitional time in the life of Action Zambia there has been need for assistance in the administrative area so I have been working in our office at least one day a week to help out. So if in the near future this mission suddenly disintegrates you’ll know why.

This past week marked a significant national holiday for our American friends and seeing as this is a predominantly American team I stuck a feather in my cap and joined the festivities. There was no turkey but there was pie for which was something to be truly thankful for.

Last week I was able to finally visit a dear woman who is on the Rural Health Committee that I work with who just lost her husband. Mr. and Mrs. Sakala had been married 43 years this November. They had been living on a farm out near where I used to live but now she will have to move into town with relatives. She shared how here in Zambia widows are often treated very poorly…it was shocking to hear what families will do these poor women. Luckily, Mrs. Sakala’s family has been very supportive but that is not the norm. Often, families will blame the widow for the death and make her walk around on her elbows and knees and they will take almost everything from her home and leave her with nothing. And when she goes to stay with other family she must be in seclusion while the man of the house is there. I hope to be able to visit with her at the new place she is staying at here in town. It was shocking and heart breaking to hear that is how these women are treated here.

I was also able to participate in a seminar put on by our CROSS team (the HIV/AIDS ministry). For the last five months the team has been training individuals and leaders in several churches to better deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic and equip them with some counselling skills. So on Friday all the people from the different churches worked with got together for a seminar. In typical Zambian fashion I was asked to lead the music last minute and completely unprepared but it all turned out in the end.

And those are the highlights of days gone by. Some days are good, others present ample opportunity for “character building” but it’s encouraging to know I’m not in it alone. I think having an empty home could be a good thing. All I really need is Jesus anyway. Thank you to you all for your love and support over these months and your prayers which I’m sure have done more than we could possibly know. Take care and stay warm…or don’t bother with a heater, just come here. We could blend and sing Latin words together!


“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
~Jeremiah 29:13

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Afrikan Adventure: I scream, you scream, let’s all scream…ICE CREAM!

Have you even gone say 9 months without tasting the sweet, sweetness of real ice cream? And then one day, in a seemingly miraculous act, your dormant taste buds are reawakened to said sweet, sweetness, like manna rained down from heaven? And you think this is THE best thing that could have ever happened to you? And then half an hour later you remember that you are borderline lactose intolerant? But that first half hour was magical. This may or may not be a factual life story that happened recently. Dairy products are often very expensive and of poor quality here in Zambia. Therefore, when this mysterious “Sonia” and her “Italian Delicatessen” presents itself in the local grocer’s freezer, one must pounce, no matter the consequence.

Time seems to have quickened it’s step the longer I am here. I remember when I first got here it seemed like time crept by, everything was new and exciting and the days and weeks seemed to last longer. But now in the routines of life here, even though the pace of life is usually at a steady crawl, the days and weeks hasten by.

As I believe I mentioned last time I was preparing to embark into the world of sex education, helping lead two Saturday seminars for youth from a local church. And once again things did not happen as planned. The first Saturday we had put all this planning and preparation in. Including a somewhat awkward visit to the local photocopy place where the only male employee there was the one to help me make photocopies of female anatomy diagrams. We arose way to early to get to the farm, to be the location of the festivities only to have to eventually cancel because an hour and a half after we were to start only four youth had shown up, the rest at least another hour from coming. It was pretty disappointing. But it wasn’t all for not. We had an impromptu water balloon fight with the four that were there with the balloons I had prepared for a relay we were going to do. And we did a half day of discussion and teaching which I think went really well. The best laid plans…

For this past Saturday we decided to just keep it to a half day and have it at the church itself. Two hours after the planned starting time we began! I led some music to begin with and taught them some new songs which was fun. All in all the day went well. Most of the teaching and discussion was done in the vernacular which I think was good so they could really understand and discuss. It is such an important topic to tackle here, especially with the way it is handled traditionally and frequency of abuse and myths.

Last Sunday the women of our team sang at a church. I was playing guitar and when we broke into harmony suddenly loud noise erupted from congregation and I thought someone had passed out around me or something but I guess it was because they liked it, but I totally lost my concentration. It was a fun experience. Then today in church this massive millipede crawled right past my feet. As it moved past this elderly woman next to me turned to me with this terrified-like smile and sat with her legs straight out until it past. This is Africa!

It seems the rains have come. There is a wild lightening storm taking place right now. Although the combination of the heat and the rain often make for a less than pleasant environment, unless you’re a big fan of sweating. The other day I was walking and got caught in a downpour. I was in jeans which immediately changed states form being cloth to lead. Then the rain stopped and the sun came out again and it was like an instant sauna, except I don’t usually walk in lead “trousers” in a sauna (pants here means underwear…which has got us North Americans into some pretty funny situations). Really cleans out he pours. But I know here in Lusaka we have it pretty good compared to what it could be, like in other places in the world. So I will embrace it.

And that’s another lengthy snapshot into this adventure that is my life. Apparently it’s the middle of November, how did that happen? I can’t wrap my head around it and the climate here. It’s about time for those Christmas portraits! Book now, ask me how! You should all book your appointments with the Abbotsford Sears Portrait Studio now. Tell them Shannon sent you and I’m sure you’ll be in for a treat!

Take care of yourself now. Love and peace from Zambia!


“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is a gift from God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9