Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Afrikan Adventure: Ants in my pants

The water is back! Ah, that precious resource. You don’t realize how important something is until you find yourself dehydrated and covered in a layer of dirt…although for that brief period I seemed very tanned! I’m sad my “Survivor” experience is over...for now at least. So this week’s African experience was we were invaded by biting ants. Thousands of them marching more than one by one and the little ones were not stopping other than to crawl up my pants and bite me. Yes, I really did have ants in my pants and they bit me. It was all such a pleasant experience. You couldn’t stand in one spot for very long or you’d be in trouble. We tried many things to get rid of them…the most fun being covering the ground with gas or nail polish remover and setting it aflame!

So the Netball field is up and running. Last week I was out there and had my first experience trying to play. I don’t really know how to play which is a slight problem when all the girls just keep yelling in Nyanja and I have no idea what’s going on. It seems to be a combination of handball and basketball. The girls are pretty intense. I am hoping to do a Bible study with the girls who play while Luke works with the guys playing soccer.

On Saturday I was at New Horizon Orphanage recording some of the girls singing. It was my first recording experience here and everything seemed to hold up and we were able to record about seven songs, some in English and some in the vernacular. So now I am editing them and hope to have them ready soon.

It seems I have come down with a bit of a head cold leaving me dazed and lethargic. I guess that’s what I get for eating things off the floor! I’ve been working on getting a bunch of music organized here at the farm to use with the team and the community. I am also hopefully going to be starting teaching some basic music classes at church, so I need to start getting curriculum ready for that.

So that’s the latest. Other than a little post nasal drip, I am doing well. The organization is going through a bit of a transitional period right now in leadership so a lot of formal ministries are on a bit of a hold, leaving me to have to be more “entrepreneurial” with finding ways to serve. So that can leave me a bit frustrated at times seeing all the need around and not really being able to get at it. So if you could pray that God would show me what I’m supposed to be doing here and just continue to bring people and opportunities for me to serve and love. I think my frustration partly stems from coming from a society where we feel the need to do, do, do and see results right away. So I continue to learn about waiting and patience! Thanks once again for your encouragement and support. I hope this letter finds you well and free of ants in your pants!

God Bless,


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Afrikan Adventure: Desperate times call for desperate measures

Last week I had the opportunity to tag along with one of the girls on our team who was doing a weeklong HIV/AIDS course/Bible study at Chisomo, a centre for street kids. It was a really cool opportunity. Chisomo, meaning “grace” in Nyanja, is a place I visited three years ago when I was here and was a big reason I wanted to come back to work youth. They are now in a new facility where they can actually house about 40 kids which is awesome as the nights are the hardest time for kids on the street. They also provide three meals a day, showers, they have school rooms, etc. The week was really good. There were 10 kids in total who went through the course, ranging in age from about 14-17 years old. We talked about the specifics about the HIV/AIDS as well as the spiritual side and the implications of our decisions and knowing what it is to be created and loved by God. On Friday there was the opportunity for them to get tested, which is a big obstacle for people to overcome because if they get tested and are positive they risk being stigmatized and ostracized so the fear of what the results might bring often detour people from getting tested. By the time we got to the clinic all 10 decided they wanted to get tested and you could tell they were pretty nervous. I was pretty nervous too, as with 10 being tested the likeliness of at least one being positive was fairly high. And as things go here in Africa we waited…and we waited…and we waited. It took about five hours to get everyone through. And at the end of it all…all 10 tested negative!!! It was so awesome. You should have seen the looks on their faces as they each came out…it was priceless, they were so excited and relieved. We sang songs in the truck as we drove back, stopping for a celebratory ice cream on the way. They all said how they were going to make good choices and not waist their lives from now on. Although in a place like this with the pressures and temptations these guys face on a daily basis that’s easier said than done, but I know with God they can do it. So it was a good time to meet and hang out with these youth and I hope to be able to go back more regularly.

I continue to work with our Saturday morning kids club in our neighbourhood. Although this past Saturday only three showed up because of some miscommunication. But it was still good. We sang and bunch of songs and learned about day 5 of creation.

Then it was off to choir at church! I brought my guitar and we prepared a song for the next day. We also started learning a song in one of the vernacular languages which I was stoked about! That ones comin’ up this Sunday!!

The inklings of culture fatigue are beginning to set in . We have had some problems with theft just outside our wall fence with our water supply and as a result, where we once had just no water pressure or hot water, now we have absolutely no water at all. The pump is no longer working and so we no longer can bathe, drink, wash hands, or flush toilets and only have a small ration of water in a couple barrels. As of last night we have dug ourselves a nice little hole I like to refer to as “the Spiffy Biffy of Dreams” and no longer use the indoor facilities. It was all starting to get to me until Luke, one of our teammates, mentioned it’s kinda like “Survivor”. At that point I was all in! I’m gonna start eating just rice out of a coconut shell bowl, only wearing my bathing suit all day long, and setting up obstacle courses and food challenges. It’s pretty much my dream situation.

It has also come to pass that since there are two of us named “Shannon” here right now that the other one is referred to as “Lil’ Shannon” (being that she is younger than I), leaving me to be referred to as “Big Shannon”. I’m not sure how I feel about all of this, as flattering of a title as that is and all…

So this week…I am hoping to go to an all girls orphanage on Saturday morning to record them which should be good. I’m just hoping all my equipment will hold up to make it possible. Right now we have a couple, Steve and Patty Hupp, from Indiana who are starting the adoption process to adopt a little girl named Mary from one of the orphanages we work with. They are a great couple and we’ve had fun getting to know them and help them through this process. Today I went along to the orphanage and brought my guitar and sang with the kids a little bit…as well as held some pretty cute babies. There are these two year old twin boys named Peter and Paul, and then with the Hupps little girl being Mary…we’ve got ourselves a little group I like to call, “Peter, Paul, and Mary”. Although being two weeks old Peter and Paul just can’t pull out the low end tones on Puff the Magic Dragon like one would hope for…we’ll work on it though.

So that’s the latest scoop for the most part. There are definitely some frustrating times both in just living here and trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing here. It’s not all sunshine and lollypops, but I’m doing okay! I’m working on getting more posted onto the blog…stay tuned for “Big Shannon gets snotted on by an elephant!” (no joke). I’m also working on getting pictures posted from my Zanzibar trip. Thanks so much for all your prayers, encouragement, and support…it is more appreciated every day that passes! I hope this email finds you well. Take Care!


Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Afrikan Adventure: 8 Weeks

It has been eight glorious weeks today since I arrived here in Zambia...perhaps not all moments have felt so glorious but none the less I am thankful to be here.

I have just returned from a week in Zanzibar (an island off the coast of Tanzania) where 6 of us girls had the chance to take a little vacation. It was so awesome to see the ocean again. It was my first experience with the Indian ocean and I have to say I think we got along quite nicely. Our first part of the week was spent on the eastern coast of the island by the beach. In the morning the tide would go way out and you could walk for miles. I thought that I would walk to India on or first morning but feared that with the tide coming in in the afternoon I would not make it back in time for dinner...and a girls gotta eat, am I right?! It was a strange yet welcome feeling to be in an ocean where you didn't have to spend the first 10 minutes psyching yourself up to go in further. The water was so warm...sometimes seemingly almost too warm as the climate was very hot and humid. I would have to say I spent most of my time in the water, exploring the sea life, and in the afternoon when the tide came in I would swim out to the dhow (the traditioal boats) and climb on and dive off.

Those who know my track record with me, exposed skin, and sun would be very proud of me. I wore my rash guard (those surfer shirts) which was possibly the best thing to ever happen to me. It kept my nights much more pleasant than those I have known in the past of not being able to move as the feeling of material on burnt skin was less than desirable.

We spent the last couple of days in Stone Town which has a very Arabic feel to it with some great architecture and doors and a cool little night market with super cheap sea food.

On Sunday morning we had our own little sunrise service on the beach. It was awesome although somewhat strange as Zanzibar is a prodominantly muslim place. Easter is probably my favorite holiday as it celebrates pretty much the foundation on our faith. My mind never seems to be able to fully wrap around the fact that Jesus gave himself for a world of broken and sinful people like me because of his unfathomable love for us. And we can do nothing but choose to receive this grace and be filled. Crazy, eh! As the sun rose over the Zanzibar horizon we reflected on how Christ was our light that came to shine on a dark world. Pretty amazing. As I go through the streets of Zambia I hear God saying how much he loves these people...he has not forgotten them. And I in turn feel this urgency for them to know this hope I have and the only thing that can fill that emptyness in your soul, that we will one day be together in a place far better than this one. So it was a good Easter, although I must say I missed eating the good ol' Mennonite Paska (a sweet, sweet bread with icing and sprinkles...sweet, sweet, bread!).

Back in Zambia I have been attending orientation meetings with the CROSS Project team and am initiating my work with research and development of a youth curriculum. This week I hope to work with a girl at the street kids drop in centre to do some teaching on HIV/AIDS which I am looking forward to. I am also hoping to spend some more time with her (Brenda Savillle from New Zealand) as she is doing what I hope to be doing and hopefully we can work together on a developing curriculum and working with youth, although her focus has been more on little kids and I on teens.

Other than that I continue my language study. I met with my tutor this morning. In Zanzibar they spoke Swahili so I leaned a few key phrases such as "hakuna matata" (which they say all the time!) and "poa kshiza kama ndiza" meaning "cool like banana!". I like to stick with the essentials like that.

I also got the materials to build the Netball field back at the farm which hopefully I can start playing with the girls in Kasupe (or neighbourhood) soon. Just need to find a ball now! So that should be a good way to connect with the teenage girls in the neighbourhood and burn some energy. I mean being chased by lions is fun and all, but it gets cumbersome at times.

I sent out an audio update last week although it was a very large file so I know a lot of you didn't get it. If that's something you would be interested in let me know and I'll see if I can shrink it down or spread it out into a couple emails. Also we no longer have internet at the farm so I can't call with skype as much anymore. So if you would ever like to call me you can do it for really cheap by using "Skype Out" and feature of skype where you can buy time and it works out to about 2 cents a minute although it is through your computer so you need a mic of somesort, but it works. My number as I believe you would dial it is:

011 26 0977 185773

apparently you can also find some cheap calling cards on the internet and such which you can use. Not that I'm pressuring you to call me or anything...just putting it out there! (subliminal message: call shannon now!)

Okay I shall call it quits now. I hope you all had an awesome Easter. Thank you so much for your thoughts and makes me happy in my heart! I miss you all.

Love From Zambia,