The gift of mutual experience

When conversing with folks, people might say that simply being in the Peace Corps is the chance of a lifetime, with which I don’t disagree, and realize fully.

Without going into too much detail on my own experience, being in the Peace Corps is unlike anything that I will likely ever come across again in my life, full of emotions that max out both ends of the spectrum. It truly is a once in a lifetime experience.

But when I heard, last year, that Emerywood Baptist Church, my church, was coming to Zambia for a mission trip, now that, I thought, would be the chance of a lifetime. How often does one grungy, weathered Peace Corps Volunteer get to meet up with their church family from back home, and share a beautiful culture and country with one another? Even just the thought of meeting up was worth the 20 hour travel!

For us Peace Corps Volunteers, world-wide, we are trained to work with culture; to integrate within it, and to know it intimately. So, the one thing that individuals in service struggle with the most, is not being able to adequately share their experience with those who are not in service with them. You can describe your house, you can describe the culture, you can describe the amazing people with whom you are working, and you can even describe the challenges you face on a daily basis.

However, it isn’t until someone enters into that realm with you, that you can share the experience, not just the words.

And that was such a beautiful gift that the Emerywood team gave me, and I’m not even sure if they knew it or not.

That is also the beautiful gift that the Emerywood team gave to the Zambians with whom they worked. Someone being genuinely open to another culture is such a beautiful gift to those receiving them, yet it often goes unrecognized.

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It is in my opinion that we as children of God are not called to adhere to one cultural prerogative. As we are all made in God’s image, all people are then of God, and there is beauty to be seen within every facet of Being and culture.

Unfortunately, cultural deference is something that is hard to come by these days. Too often we look for, and find, a disparity between the culture of someone as close to us as our neighbor, and ourselves. Beauty is something of universal significance, and we don’t often look outside of our own inner workings to see what else the world has to offer. Because of this, any different culture can be seen as a faraway fact, but not a lived realization.

But what I’ve come to learn, is that the Culture of God is culture, because the culture we all carry with us is the collective human voice.

In Richard Rohr’s Contemplation in Action, he speaks on silence and waiting, two things that are almost certain as you enter into a new culture (especially with a language barrier and new ways of living). His conclusion states that, “our lives are always usable by God. We need not always be effective, but only transparent and vulnerable. Then we are instruments, not matter what we do.”

Opposite of social tendencies, the Emerywood team willingly came into a culture where they did not know the language, and had no experiential background on what the culture would be like. They were vulnerable, and they were transparent. They were well-read, and they were open.

Living in this country, I have seen a lot of people come here and just barely skim the surface of what this culture has to offer, because socially, that is all that is required of them.

But not Emerywood. As someone who works within the culture, the way in which Emerywood interacted with the people and culture of Zambia made me so incredibly proud and humbled. From the ages of 12 to 60+, they all dove in feet first, trying to see how God could use them to see God in another light. More specifically, through other people! Their spirits shone through all of the jet-lag and any confusion they might have encountered, and they were able to love and be loved in such glorious ways.

They even ate nshima at every opportunity.

Meeting up with the Emerywood team was all I could have hoped for. It was full of fun and laughter, and spiritual rejuvenation for a Peace Corps Volunteer in need of it.

During our time together, I was reminded of my commissioning, and all of the blessings Emerywood sent with me along my journey. As I relish in all of the prayers and blessings coming to me from your side, I am hoping blessings will return to Emerywood, in the form of new spirits and outlooks, cultivated in those who came to Zambia and surrendered their known way of living, only to try and know another beautiful way of doing this thing we call life. God was at work during Emerywood’s time here, and I know that this is just the beginning.

As I reflect on the love that Emerywood gave and received during their weeks here, another Richard Rohr quote comes to mind:

“We are all partial images slowly coming into focus, as long as we allow and filter the Light and Love of God, which longs to shine through us—as us.”

It was a privilege to see Emerywood in action, with all of them shining as their best selves through Christ, which in turn, helped me shine as myself through that very same Channel.

 

Jake Kennedy

Peace Corps Volunteer Leader:

Northern and Muchinga Provinces

Independence

Independence.

We began our holiday watching the sunrise on our second to last day.  We then had a devotional led by Jeremy focused on Psalm 105: 1-4.  The task was to take a mere 20 minutes to ponder all that we are most thankful for; mine is undoubtedly the church in which we choose to raise our family because it seeks to include community that is 2 continents away.

Before coming here, we were asked what is it we are most excited about and my answer was to witness first-hand Poetice’s work. I have done that now. Poetice is surrounded by two local communities, Kabanana and Mwapona.  I cannot write words that correctly describe what these villages look like or the humbleness of their inhabitants.  We are considered to be in an urban area. They are so proud of hosting visitors and recounting their day selling goods at the market, be it brine or roasted nuts. Courtney and Jeremy have weekly outreaches in these communities where they walk and welcome the local children to Poetice’s church and youth times.

I have walked alongside them in these communities now, meeting children to invite to the Poetice compound and quickly realizing they are as innocent and curious as my two at home.  I have seen their play:  a ball made of plastic bags, climbing porch posts instead of trees, and the absolute joy they get by sharing praise songs.  These children make do with what they have and are content, for it is all they know. No comparison of values. Their value is shared community.

This day was tough thought, as we walked them to the gates and told them bye for the last time (until we come back).  The last session of today, I sat with the group that was 13 and older and basked in the sunlight with them.  We sat close to keep the heat in, as it was really chilly.  I was surrounded by youth with no shoes and was spiritually fed more for that hour than the whole week, this was more church for me than mostt days spent in a sanctuary…for my sanctauary is found with these people. This could be one of two things:  realizing this was it or the fact I was so hopeful for a 15 year old Zambian who translated the session and has big plans to break the cycle of poverty of that which he was born. He is actively seeking and transforming his own independence, and we will change the world for more than just himself.

The children we spent our week with will more than likely never get to experience the independence our children have as Americans, yet through the work of Poetice, they still get to come to a place of sanctuary.  I am entrusting Poetice to continue to shepherd this 15 year old and speak life and love and hope, and purpose into his determined, compassionate heart.  This young heart will continue to influence and be a leader for his Mwapona community and hopefully one day, other communities.

The perspective these children have shared with me the past week will continue to give me hope that the world can be in community, with no comparison against one another except how well we love one another. And because of this time I get to be back at my home creating a home where I seek to be a sanctuary for those seeking a table where all are treated like family. Because of this experience i get to teach America why we all need to be a little bit more like Zambia

Twalumba for this experience,

mwb

Family is more than blood

This past week was incredible. If I had to use three words to describe it they would be family-oriented, powerful, and personal. Here’s why- having the Emerywood team here has been an incredible ministry to my heart. There have been so many people who have been willing to open up to me and stick with me to the finish. The kids at camp were incredibly attached to me and to everyone else. It was cool to see God working in the hearts of my fellow youth as we sought the Lord out. From the day the team arrived, you could sense the joy and the bubbly excitement in everyone’s hearts. We all became fast friends, and both churches, along with the staff, bonded quickly. God has raised up leaders in and from the nearby communities of Mwapona and Kabanana through camp. I have witnessed people stepping out of their comfort zones, and others finally stepping into their element. From sunrise to sunset, God’s family has continued to grow. Everyone had a job to do. Whether it was games, drama, or simply making PB&J for the lunch station, we all persevered with happy hearts.

Specifically, having people my age here has been an extra blessing. It is cool to witness others who have monumental faith, and who strive to be the presence of Christ as I try to do. One example of this was in the kids that attended camp. I was one of the youth that was a leader for Monday and Tuesday, and it really empowered me to see how much the kids wanted to be with us all the time. They were mostly attentive, and would follow us if we sang a local song called “Follow.” I have been learning a lot, soaking up a lot, and teaching a lot. I am exhausted, but it is the kind of exhaustion that you feel after a satisfying day’s work- a “good” kind of exhaustion. I feel satisfied with the way that I led, although there is still room for improvement.

The first two days were all about encouragement, fellowship, bonding, and discipleship. I was incredibly lifted up and got plenty of chances to help others feel the same. The simplicity of the campers’ lives and the luxury of our own that we sometimes take for granted taught us all a lesson on thankfulness. There were several sessions- forgiveness, parables and other topics. Afterwards we engaged in breakout sessions and games, which helped my team to become closer! I have become so close to some of the campers that I can minister to them and engage in conversation with them at other times in the community. My group of friends is growing quickly, and that is one thing that I am thankful for, among countless others.

Monday and Tuesday, the days that kids ages 6+ visited were a bit hectic, but fully prepared for and well-anticipated. By the second day of kids camp, I was expectant and ready for what was to come. The number of kids from the first day quickly rose from 250+ to over 350 in number. I enjoyed leading the little 6 and 7 year olds around the campus, and leading them to the team stations by means of the fore-mentioned song. We, the leaders, would then catch our breath as we watched the kids fully engage in their activities. I saw Jesus in so many others, especially those who assisted me while I was busy washing the kids’ plates after the lunch station.

I have to conclude with the fact that no matter how big or small, old or young, near or far, we are all equal and part of God’s family, in God’s loving eyes.

Love to all,

Olivia Emert

Age a’int no thing…

Five days in and Poetice Kid Camp is upon us, 218 strong. Today I followed about 50 6 & 7 yr. olds from station to station; lunch, crafts, memory verse, games, and drama. It could have been a camp at home just as well had I been looking at the actions of children, teachers and counselors without regard to what continent we were on. It continues to strike me how much we are all alike, we just want someone to care about us and provide some sense of belonging.

The days before camp, after arriving in Choma, have been a great experience of watching two teams from two different churches mesh in every way and interface well with the Poetice staff.

Personally, I have most enjoyed opportunities to encourage and affirm some of the youth from the two teams, watch campers progress in their relationships with the team members, and help keep our opportunities to extend learning time, from the lectures given, focused on the core issues. But today I reminded myself that the educational goals set for the campers is very difficult to achieve, but the relational experiences they have are the most important in their development as persons and Believers. The campers will learn the content of their faith as time moves forward and learn how to integrate it into their lives as they live out being a disciple of Jesus.

I know you  must be wondering how an “old man” is surviving this experience, well, on the 5 team scavenger hunt to town (2miles away), I was the first back to base camp to and jogged some of the way. Judy Patterson. the only one close to my age, said she thought I might have a heart attach. Obviously, I did not and was cheered on by the children in our scavenger hunt team. I go to bed before most and get up in time to be at breakfast on time and sleep great. The food is mostly vegetables and starches, but it is good and plentiful. You would be envious of the weather; dry, warm, and cool nights. The moon rises over our back fence and glows a brilliant orange early in the evening.

My spiritual reflections have brought me to wish our church family would (1) devote more time to deeper relationships, (2) talk about how we could do better at evangelistic outreach, and (3) brainstorm how we could increase our impact on the world close by and far away. The needs are so great in our town and across the world and we have been given an over abundance of resources that could help and it took Zambia to remind me of the call in our situation.

I leave this blog grateful to you for the support you gave to make it possible for me to participate, encouraged by the quality of people sent, and glad of our church’s investment in the Emert family and their ministry through Poetice.

Life Together…in preparation

Wake up to Glory!! This was a true statement for this morning. We were awoken by the wake-up crew at 7am for the first time since we arrived, which consisted of four Poetice leaders, one being Myles, who led us in some morning exercises. This was the first morning that the campers were with us, and they were all joining in on the morning fun. We then had breakfast and enjoyed hot coffee on another crisp morning as most days it gets up into the low 70’s but at night quickly gets into the 40’s. Today we were able to attend Church.

In church this morning we looked at the parable of the unforgiving servant and discussed the three hardest words to say… I forgive you. This is one of my favorite sermons, along with the most complex. We learned about a Poetice campers story and how she had to decide whether or not to forgive the person that had hurt her. She continued and stated that she was not able to forgive the person until she asked for God’s help. With God’s help she continues to heal and forgive this person and herself.

Another thing we discussed today was being a good steward and heard the parable about the three servants and their master. This was another great lesson in that it made me think about the special qualities that each person has and how God knows you share these qualities with others in order to spread Gods love. We encouraged the campers to encourage each other nd call out the potential they see in their friends.

The leaders told the campers that we were going to wash their feet to show that we loved them as God loved his disciples. This was a big deal to many of them because age is such a powerful force here as campers want to show respect and soak up everything that elders tell them. A wonderful young lady asked why would you do this; I explained, to show you, that you are worthy. She said no, you will not wash my feet. I said please allow me to do with for you. She continued to refuse, saying that it was she who should wash mine. I told her that if she allowed me to wash her feet, I would allow her to wash mine, but I got to go first. She agreed, but was very hesitant. She took her shoes off and placed them in the warm water. I asked if the water felt good and she shook her head, but began to cry. I asked her why and she said because she was sad. I told her not to be sad but to be glad that God believe as I do that she is a worthy person. God is good!!!

Today, we also did the last preparations for the  kids campers (age 6-12) to come monday. We all met with our groups and our small groups and made sure everyone was on the same page because the youth we have been trainman the last 2 days will now run camp alongside us for the children. This is what we’ve been preparing for. All of the groups are so excited for the amazing things that are going to happen in the few days ahead. We have several groups: crafts, drama, games and memory-verses. I am part of the memory verses team. I will be working with 4 other people to help all the campers to learn one new verses each day. The first verse is Acts 15:9 “He made no distinction between them and us, for he cleansed their lives through faith”. The second verse is Matthew 22:9  “Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see”. As you can see these two verse continue to tie everything together when you decide to bring God into your life you will want to go find everyone you can and invite them experience the joy..  My Cup runneth over!!! I am beyond grateful that I have had the opportunity to be on this journey and see Christianity in such a different perspective. It is hard to believe that we are halfway done with our trip and that we will begin the journey home in just a few days.

Overjoyed –

Susie

Christmas comes in June

Today was the day we have been waiting for. We have sat through some cultural immersion learning and had the chance to go into a nearby town but today was the day that we really go to spend time and meet new friends we have been preparing ourselves for. We woke up like we do everyday but the energy was there this morning that has been building since we departed on Monday.We ate our cereal for breakfast before making space in our rooms so that our campers could join us in our rooms. We then went over a few last minute rules so we could be outside on time to welcome the campers. We all got out to the gate to welcome and cheer for them as we had been welcomed just days before. 9:00 rolled around and we opened the gate and…nothing.

At first we did not think any kids would show up. We were waiting at 9am, the time they were supposed to come but they hadn’t showed yet, and it took a while. Then the first camper arrived. Then the second and the third and we were off and running. As each camper got here we walked them to their new rooms and played games out in the field as we welcomed new friends.   I was part of the welcoming committee for one of the girls room’s.  When they came a lot of there little siblings came with them to see them off so some of us played with them out side the gate which was really fun because we got to see all the faces of people coming down the road and wave and greet and welcome them as they came closer.

Once everyone had arrived we had worship with them, we sang some songs with them some in Tonga and some in English. Worship here is really fun because all the songs have motions and are very active. We all got a group with the kids and for the next 2 days we will be teaching and working alongside them so that they will run the kids camp that starts Monday. Judy,John, and Brookelynn are all in my group with me so its good to have some familiar faces mixed with some new ones. After lunch we went on a scavenger hunt into town where we had to work with the Zambians in our group to find things in the big local market. It was about a 30 minute walk to the market and I am definitely tired after our first full day.When we got back we had worship and Caleb preached with a Zambian translator which was really fun. Then we had time to talk with our group before dinner.

Dinner was Nshima which is a local food made of mashed up maize that becomes spongy and you use it as your utensils to eat with. Nshimia is DELISOUS!!!!!!!…as long as you have something with it. Tonight we had it with beef, versace, which is a mixture of pine nuts and rape (a local green similar to chard or kale) and stir fried cabbage.  We have all been assigned certain areas to keep clean and straighten so we did our cleaning. Judy and I are in charge of cleaning the family room. To close out the day we watched the movie Wonder. Wonder was good movie because it helped to reinforce the theme we have been sharing with the kids this week about how our worth rests in who we are, and we are all in God’s family. It was a really fun day and I cannot wait to do it again tomorrow as we get to experience Zambian Church in the morning. I am so glad I get to be here and get to know myself and people from our church better.

Thankful –

Charlee Foster

Welcomed home

My journey to Zambia, Africa, has been like a rollercoaster so far. It has had a lot of ups and downs over the last couple days but I have already experienced something so different here in Zambia over one and a half days than I have in America over my whole life. The second I stepped into the Poetice camp, people were cheering and welcoming us to Zambia with open arms and pure happiness. I had never even met these people and as soon as I stepped out into Zambia I was greeted with many hugs and smiles from people I had never met.

I almost wasn’t even able to be here in Zambia in time because of the last-second misunderstanding from the Philadelphia airport staff that almost made me not be able to make it here in Zambia in time. Now I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the entire story about this in a previous blog, but in a summary for me it was just a last second mess that could have easily been avoided. Besides this situation, the way here to Zambia was very long but easy and a fun experience with everyone in the group.

Once I did arrive in Zambia, I was greeted by everyone here at Poetice. From the people that work here like Jeremy and Courtney (my aunt and uncle), the other church group with us, the Poetice interns, and many other people that greeted us, I worshiped and celebrated with everyone like I had know each other for years. We had basically just been thrown right into the Zambian “family” and every had accepted us here with no question and were so happy to see us. I had never felt more welcome somewhere besides my own church and my home than I did here when I arrived in Zambia.

The next day I woke up ready to learn even more about Zambia and it started with a good breakfast of frosted flakes in warm milk and was followed by more worship, singing, and dancing. I learned African songs and the dances to them we spent time learning about the many differences between Zambian culture and American culture. I also played soccer with a local Zambian intern here named Christopher and also our leader Caleb (I beat both of them). Jude, my cousin, had also just gotten an American football as a gift and we were throwing that around in our free time. Eventually, another teen from the other church and I had wanted to play a game of football. This ended up in us teaching two Zambians named Justin and Edward how to play. Edward was actually surprisingly very good while Justin still had a tough time understanding how to play.

Lastly, we had ended the night eating the classic food here in Zambia, Shima. This was what I had heard was the best food here in Zambia and many of the locals raved about it. Once it came time to eat it, it was strictly only eating it with your hands. Now, if you don’t know what Shima is, it is basically like very hot mashed potatoes that are clumps you can dip in boiled cabbage, beans , okra, and many other foods. I knew it was delicious but it was very hot and hard to handle at first. Although, after it had cooled down a bit I dipped it  mostly in the beans and it was very good. It “lived up to the hype”.

So far my time here in Zambia has been great and I can’t wait for more to come

Sincerely,

Myles Patterson