We bought a piece of American Soil!

We are SO excited to announce that Arise Africa has purchased a building in America!  We cannot wait to have our own offices that accommodate the functionality of our ministry perfectly.  With our growth, we have had major issues with the tiny 300 square foot room we currently reside in. 

So, let's answer a few questions you have about this:

1.  Did the money I donate to children in Zambia go to buying a building in America? NO!  We went to a handful of donors who have been with us for many years and support our vision and our philosophy on growth.  We asked them to help fund the purchase of the building.  Unless you were contacted by us about this building and you donated, your money has not gone to, and will never go to the costs associated with this building. Your money is going to those precious kids in Zambia! 

2.  Why buy a building and not just rent?  This is a really good question.                                       

There are many reasons for this:

REASON NUMERO UNO:  As Arise Africa has grown, we strive to make sure that the maximum amount of every donor's dollar goes to the children in Zambia.  Right now, when you donate only seven cents out of every dollar goes to our operating expenses and overhead.  That is REALLY low for non profits, and we love that!   In order for that number to stay low, we must keep our operating expenses low.  As we have grown, I am constantly looking at our operating expenses and trying to figure out how to keep them in check, but at the same time, still enable us to be a solid and effective ministry.  One of the first big steps we took to help save money in the long run was to build the Complex in Zambia.

The complex in Zambia helps us logistically and makes Arise much more efficient financially. 

We always try to put the Zambia side first in our growth, because they operate in a third world country.  Zambia needs should always come first!  Once again, we went to select donors to help fund the complex and asked them to support our vision.  When it was finally finished, we were able to eliminate our rent expense for office space.  We also had a massive garage for all our supplies which saved us additional rental expense. The complex in Zambia helps us logistically and makes Arise much more efficient financially.  The complex became a tool we could use to grow and eliminate much of the concern about long-term leases and the risk of theft.  We had a safe place to store cars at night and didn't have to pay to park them overnight in a "car park", wondering if our vehicles would be damaged or broken into the next day.  We didn't need to worry about our Country Director in Zambia having to deal with rising rents at her apartment, or our American staff coming over and struggling to find lodging.  We could install expensive back up power options like solar and generators.  We estimate that the complex in Zambia saves Arise around $30,000 per year in operating expenses.  Now growing pains don't hurt as much!  We have the infrastructure and capacity to handle it. 

You want to know another really cool thing about the Complex?  It MAKES the ministry money.  We rent out rooms for most of the year (aside of summer months when we have mission trips there).  To date, with the Complex being open for only 6 months and no marketing, we have made over $10,000 USD in rental income from leasing rooms.  The complex fully pays for itself, it pays for the staff that work at the Complex, and even covers small capital expenditures.  We are already making some improvements to it with those extra funds and eventually, once the complex is 100% complete, profit on the complex will be able to go to the kids we serve, too.  So the Complex was a MAJOR win in all areas. 

Now it is time for the USA side!  We have been patient and always want to get Zambia squared away first, but words cannot tell you how eager we are to leave our current office.  When I started looking at renting more space in Fort Worth, I realized we would have to pay more in rent to move, which would drive our operating expenses up.  I estimated American rent alone would require about 20% of our total current operating budget right now.  I didn't like that at all.  By purchasing a building, you pay more up front, but in the long run, you don't have a rental expense.  This keeps the operating expenses very low (especially when you consider property taxes for non-profits).  So I wondered if I could get others on board with this vision for Arise.  Luckily by the blessing of the Lord we had a group of generous donors who agreed this was a great idea and helped fund the building.  This makes our ministry so much stronger now, and in many years to come. 

REASON NUMERO DOS:  We are a registered non-profit in Texas.  This means we don't have to pay property taxes.  When considering the option of renting versus buying, when you rent, in many cases the landlord passes the cost of paying property taxes down to the tenant.  So by renting, we are losing out on those savings.  This also means that owning a building without property taxes makes the annual costs very low to keep it going. 

REASON NUMERO TRES: Arise Africa is unique in many special ways (ha ha, for better or worse)!  We need a space that is tailor made for us, which is hard to find in most buildings.  We need a work space, a space to meet with donors, a space for all our interns, and a large space for our donations and storage.  We need a garage door that provides vehicles access to the storage area so we can collect or ship donations and supplies.  We have 400 kids in the child sponsorship program and we collect Christmas bags for every single on of them in America.  We have collected over 3,000 pounds of children's books in the last 6 months and shipped them to Zambia.  We pack over 60 bags weighing 50 pounds each for mission trippers to take to Zambia annually.  We must have a space for all of that.

When looking for rental space, I struggled to find anything that would accommodate all of our needs.  We didn't like the idea of spending money improving someone else's property, either. 

Closing on the building

Closing on the building

Right now, all those donations, bags and other things were being stored in my personal garage at our home.  We had no room for any of our personal items.  My husband, Asher, who is a saint, but also very "Type A" was chomping at the bit to get his garage back! 

I am pregnant and we are expecting our first child in July. So all of a sudden, we have boxes and boxes of baby clothes, car seats, swings, and more from our family which makes us look like hoarders.  We needed to reclaim our garage, and for the sake of my marriage I need to let my husband organize it.  In fact, as soon as we closed, Asher was already loading his truck full of stuff from our garage.

Below is a photo of Asher waving from the new storage area of the office building after we have unloaded a truck full of Arise supplies.  Neither rain nor cold could keep him from taking multiple loads over there this past weekend.  I have never seen my husband more excited about the "new" Arise garage.  Asher needed this to happen.  A man needs his garage!

REASON NUMERO CUATRO:  We are growing, and I was scared to lock into a contract on rental property when there was a good chance we would outgrow it and need to move again.  Or, what if the economy takes a turn for the worse? What if somehow we don't receive the generous donations we do now, and we are stuck in a space that we can't afford?  I would be so angry at myself if that happened and suddenly we were spending money in America that really needed to be going to Zambia for the kids. 

3.  OKAY, OKAY, Tell us about the building!!

Remember how I said we were a "special" ministry?!! ;) Well, we found ourselves a very special and unique building that matches our personality.  After searching for over a year with fantastic commercial real estate agents, a building was found in the Fairmount Historical District of Fort Worth, Texas.   This part of town area is booming with restaurants, coffee shops, restored old houses, and lots of character.  This part of Fort Worth has experienced major investment and redevelopment and is changing daily. 

Our building was built in 1912 (they don't build 'em like this anymore!) and was a corner grocery store for many years.  It is 3,500 square feet (plenty of room to grow!). Through it's lifetime it has had many owners and been a photo studio, sound studio, mechanics shop, and was converted into a "house" in the 1970's!  Faith has done more research on this property (and made friends with all the homeless people staying warm in the Fort Worth public library) than anyone, and can tell you the story of every owner and all the details about it's history. 

Inside of half of the building.

Inside of half of the building.

kitchen and original walk in freezer from the corner grocery store.

kitchen and original walk in freezer from the corner grocery store.

Ella and some donations in the "warehouse" section of the building.

Ella and some donations in the "warehouse" section of the building.

It needs some love, we acknowledge that!  Luckily, we have a good chunk of change left over from the purchase to start on some renovations.  First, I would like to get some windows put back where they originally were, which should excite the historical society (fingers crossed).  We need to do some work on the brick walls to help keep moisture out as well.  There is also a wall down the center of the building (shown in the photo above) we would like to ultimately remove to create a large open space, but it appears to be load bearing and that will take time for architects and contractors to come up with a plan.  Luckily, all of this can happen over time and in phases.  It is going to need a lot of work to get it to where we ultimately want it, but we also could move in tomorrow and be just fine. 

4.  What are you (Alissa) most excited about?

A really cool thing has happened over the past two years when I first moved to Fort Worth. I now have incredible interns working with Arise that have changed my life.  Faith and I are the only full time employees in America, but we have a handful of amazing TCU students that do a ton of work with us.  Some of these interns come multiple times a week and others at random times between studying and class.  We are so blessed by the presence of these young women and I can't even begin to tell you how much they save us in man hours (USA salaries are expensive!).  Those millennials are smart and capable, but they sure do drink a lot of coffee! They edit sponsorship reports, do our social media, organize donations and projects we have happening and much more.  They are becoming a MAJOR part of Arise.  

I now have incredible interns working with Arise that have changed my life.

But as much as we love to help Zambian kids, we also suddenly have a community in America.  There is something more impactful happening with our interns than I understood at first.  These kids are hungry for the Lord and want fellowship and time with other believers.  I believe TCU (although the word "Christian" is in the name) can be a hard university to attend if you are a Christian and seeking others who walk with the Lord (this is just my observation!). These kids are looking for a place to come and serve the Lord and also hang out.  Sometimes when I arrive at the office in the mornings, one of them is already there studying.  They come by to go grab lunch with us and ask me for advice (which I have told them numerous times that is a BAD idea).  But in our shoebox, there's not always room for them, and we have to turn them away.  God is doing something with these interns, and I want to enable that to happen.  I want a designated intern desks for them.  I want enough work space for them help on larger projects.  I want a couch and some chairs so they can sit and study and not feel run off after they have just given precious hours for free for the ministry.  I want them to come to a space that they feel a part of Arise and the Lord's work and welcome to hang out in.  I want fellowship to happen in our working environment. 

For years I ran the USA side of Arise Africa by myself.  It was just me and Ella, my chocolate lab.  At my house in Dallas, where Arise started, Ella would lay on her bed next to my desk as I typed emails or talked on the phone to the Zambia side.  Then when we were big enough for a space outside my home, we expanded to a dedicated office space in Dallas and she would come to the Dallas office to be by my side. 

Then when I got married, we loaded up and moved to Fort Worth, and she still comes to the office everyday, but now we have more company.  Ella and I are excited to have others with us now!  Although Ella is the most every loyal friend you can have (I cannot go to the bathroom by myself because she is always by my side), we love these interns and Faith.  In fact, when I am not coming in to the office, the interns of Faith come and get Ella and take her because they miss her.  We are ready for space for all of us.  Ella is ready for her bed to not be crammed in the corner next to the filing cabinet. 

God is doing awesome work in Zambia and for the kids through Arise.  We see it and hear the stories coming from our staff everyday.  But I want to tell you, He is also do amazing work in America through our interns too.  I want to be there for them in a bigger way, and I want that relationship to grow within our ministry.  We can serve kids in Zambia, grow closer in the Lord, and lead others to Him while serving in the USA too!  Both sides of the pond can make an impact, and I want TCU kids to know Arise is a place for them to come and serve and be poured into as well.  That takes more than 300 square feet. 

5.  Did you (Alissa) come up with all of this on your own?

Ha ha it is crazy enough and a massive project for it to be fitting for me to decide to take this on.  My answer is yes and no. I have always dreamed and prayed of a larger and fitting space for the ministry in America but thought it would never happen because rent in America is just too expensive.  It would blow our operating costs and the importance of getting your dollar to go as much to Zambia as possible was just too crucial.  I came up with the idea to purchase a building and then went to a few donors who are commercial real estate investors and have been very successful.  I threw out the dream and they confirmed that it was wise from an investment and stability point of view.  We looked at the growth in Texas and real estate in Fort Worth in particular.  Then our board heard the crazy dream and they too agreed, if we could get some of our donors who are open to funding our visions like this, than let's try.  We prayed abut it for a while and then we went to those donors and asked what they thought.  When almost all of them said they agreed it was great idea and they would give to the project, we started looking for a property.  It took over a year of searching to find anything within our price range and checked off all the boxes.  Commercial real estate is very very hard to find in our area!  So yes, it was my idea at first but many wiser and more experienced people then directed my vision and dream and made it happen.  It was a team effort for sure with the Lord orchestrating it. 

6.  When are you officially moving in?

Please don't even ask this for a long time! ;) We need many things to happen first.  I am currently meeting with contractors, architects, and all sorts of other people to come up with our "master plan" of renovating the space.  We have a good amount of money to complete some big changes now, but some of these changes can happen over time and as funding allows.  We have no move-in date set, right now.  Our current plan is to get the front of the building restored with windows and a front door that is more original to the building.  We want to get all the walls and other things structurally sound in the building.  We also want a bathroom that is ADA compliant and doesn't have a massive cast iron bathtub in it (don't worry we are selling that bad boy to make some extra bucks for the reno!). Then, we will move in! If we have a enough money left over, we just might start knocking out some walls.  That could take while, but would be totally worth it.  We have to get approved by the City, the historic district, and I am sure a whole list of other people before we can do certain things.  So, I am going to take our time to do it right and make sure we complete this project economically. 

7.  I want to know more! 

Sure! Email me or call me, I can talk you ear off about it! 

8.   Can I donate to the USA office building?

We appreciate everyone's support throughout this. The whole goal of this building project is to ensure that we maximize every cent of a donor's dollar that goes to the kids in Zambia.  But we aren't going to stop you from giving to this project!  You can make a donation, and please designate in the "notes" section you desire for it to go to the USA office building. 

In closing, words cannot describe how the Lord has been at work through this project, even though we are just getting started.  Finding a building on a small budget in one of the fastest growing cities in America, and in one of the hottest areas of that city is not easy.  The contract and closing phase of this project were not easy and many things had to fall in place for this to happen.  Our board and many other wise real estate donors have had to spend time and help us research this.  Multiple sponsors who are attorneys have given precious time to read over all of the documents needed to make this happen.  We feel so blessed by the Lord providing the building.  Please pray with us as we start to take the next steps in planning and construction. 

In Him,

Alissa

2016: A Year for the Books!

Written by: Faith Gregg, Child Sponsorship Director

The best part of starting a new year, in my opinion, is getting to see all God did in the last one. It's easy for me to forget in the midst of projects, construction, and craziness who the real Architect of life is. Alissa always says, "hindsight is 20/20." I believe that. Psalm 135 states, "For I know that the Lord is great. and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps." Its near impossible when you sit back and dwell upon the goodness and sovereignty of God not to see His fingerprints all over the past. So, look back with me on what God had written in His book before any of us were here. Chapter 2016 is a good one! Here are our top 10 favorites (in no particular order):

1. The Complex

"I think it would be a good investment to build a headquarters in Zambia for our Arise offices, trainings and workshops, a place where Megs can live full time and mission trippers can stay. We should build it out of shipping containers.. Ya. That would definitely be more cost efficient. Okay I need to make some calls." -Alissa

*Cricket noises* -my brain

Not a lot of time passed before Megan sends us photos like this:

 

In the summer, after the hard work of many people, especially Megan, we show up to this:

 

If you're as baffled as me, you have the right to be. Its incredible and such a God given gift. You can see more under our "Complex" page on our website.

2. The Arise Home 2

We are incredibly blessed for many reasons. A huge reason: Kershaw's Challenge. Clayton and Ellen Kershaw, as well as their incredible team (I'm speaking of the one off of the field), raise money to put on projects for many different organization including Arise Africa. Lucky us! This year, they built us our second Arise Home. This Home now houses all of our girls in full time custody. The boys stayed in the original Arise Home. Because pictures are worth 1,000 words I'll save you from mine and leave you with these:

 

Landscaping is in the works!  

Landscaping is in the works!

 

They each have one roommate and got to choose what color they wanted their bedroom wall to be. Hope and Stella chose Dragon Green.  

They each have one roommate and got to choose what color they wanted their bedroom wall to be. Hope and Stella chose Dragon Green.

 

Mary and Doro were most excited about the bunk beds and their first closet ever!

Mary and Doro were most excited about the bunk beds and their first closet ever!

Thank you Kershaw's Challenge, we love you!

3. Arise Christian School

This year, we bought land for the first ever Arise Africa Christian School. With the help of our staff, our Arise Kids, and some handy mission trippers, we made an existing house on the property a school for our Child Sponsorship children in Ng'ombe Compound. We cannot begin to express the hand of God in this. The location, the opportunity, everything.

 A little space...

 A little space...

A little elbow grease...

A little elbow grease...

A little chalk paint.. Okay a lot of chalk paint

A little chalk paint.. Okay a lot of chalk paint

A few incredibly qualified teachers...

A few incredibly qualified teachers...

Equals a lot of happy students!

Equals a lot of happy students!

4. Taonga School

This year we got to partner with Taonga school. It is run by our dear friend, Abi. She came to Zambia from England some years back thinking she would only stay a little while and help tutor a few students. Well, its been years and she runs a full school with over 130 students! God's plans always prevail and amen for that, we love Abi! Not only did we get to bring the children into our sponsorship program, but we got to start construction on new classrooms and start a feeding program.

 

Our feeding program comes through the funding of Child Sponsors. To sponsor a child, visit our "Child Sponsorship" page!

Our feeding program comes through the funding of Child Sponsors. To sponsor a child, visit our "Child Sponsorship" page!

These classrooms will take Taonga School from K-3rd grade to K-5th grade!

These classrooms will take Taonga School from K-3rd grade to K-5th grade!

5. More Arise Home Children=More Joy!

If we were going to put these in order of favorites, this would OBVIOUSLY be number one. I think its' safe to say for all full time staff that getting custody of these four children in 2016 changed everything. They make Arise Africa more joyful. They make their Arise brothers and sisters laugh more. They make all of our staff's (especially our AMAZING house moms) hearts more full of love and care. We cannot get over how blessed we are to God to have entrusted us with these four gifts. They are loud, tireless, think the solar power generator is a ghost at night (sorry house moms), and they are perfect for our crazy little family. Okay... I'm going to post the photos now before my eyeballs sweat anymore.

 

Lovemore and Muyunda

Lovemore and Muyunda

Mary and Christine

Mary and Christine

6. Custody of 4 Children and 2 Dogs

Number 5 told you that we got custody of 4 new kiddos. We also somehow got custody of 2 new doggos to keep our Arise Home kids company. We got our black lab, Malasha (which means charcoal in Nyanja) during the time when the Complex was under construction... she was a huge help to our builders:

 

Everyone loved how much of a help Malasha was with the Complex so we hired a chocolate lab, Muqua (which is a type of wood in Nyanja), to help move our Arise Home girls into the new Home:

 

She did such a good job keeping the babies company that the boys decided to let her live in the Arise Home 1 with them:

 

Now Muqua and Malasha live with Arise full time and help out whenever they get the chance!

 

7. Arise Goes to University

This year, with the help of Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Arise Africa got to send 4 incredibly diligent and hard working students to Africa University in Zimbabwe! In August, we put them on a bus with their bags packed and for most of them, this would be the first time they had ever left Zambia.

Grandson, David, Natasha, Joseph (L to R)

Grandson, David, Natasha, Joseph (L to R)

Before we knew it... They were the face of the Africa University website:

 

It didn't take too long before we noticed on their social media that they weren't having a good time at all....

JUST KIDDING! They are having a blast AND studying hard. We couldn't be more proud of these four and are looking forward to what the next 3 1/2 years hold for them.

8. Mission Trips

This Summer, Arise Africa had the privilege of hosting two weeks of mission trippers. Week one was full of our good friends from Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas. They put on Bible Camp for the children at Taonga school. They taught the kids about John 3:16 as well as facilitated a game day. There was tons of singing, dancing, and laughing! It was a blast to have them.

Week 2 was a mix of people from all over! We had mission trippers all the way from California and Washington! This week was all about construction! (Go figure.) They helped with everything from building a basketball court and eating porch at our Arise Home 1 to painting the girls rooms at the Arise Home 2. They invested time and energy into loving on our full time custody children and we couldn't be more grateful for that!

 

9. Chebo and Maggie

This year we got to see some ASTOUNDING, life changing surgeries performed by Cure International on two of our Child Sponsorship Children. Chebo came into our program with clubbed feet, barely able to walk. Maggie was found by Alissa in Ng'ombe compound with hands that had been badly burnt at a young age. Her skin melted together and trapped few remaining fingers underneath. After noticing these fingers may be saveable, Maggie was taken to Cure Hospital. With the love and care of our staff, lots of meetings with both children's families, and amazing doctors, Chebo can now fit both feet comfortably in shoes and RUN (that is huge) and Maggie can hold a pencil and write! These are both incredible stories in detail. I would encourage you to read the blog Alissa wrote on the full Maggie story!

 

This is Chebo's feet after his right foot underwent three separate surgeries. His left foot is an example of what both feet were like when we met him.

This is Chebo's feet after his right foot underwent three separate surgeries. His left foot is an example of what both feet were like when we met him.

Chebo after his last surgery on the left foot.

Chebo after his last surgery on the left foot.

The bravest boy that ever lived!

The bravest boy that ever lived!

The hand on the right is what both hands looked like upon meeting Maggie. The hand on the left underwent surgery and with time, Maggie had two fingers healed enough to be let our of the cast. She could hold a pencil for the first time in years!  

The hand on the right is what both hands looked like upon meeting Maggie. The hand on the left underwent surgery and with time, Maggie had two fingers healed enough to be let our of the cast. She could hold a pencil for the first time in years!

 

Cast removed and fingers fully healed!

Cast removed and fingers fully healed!

The bravest girl who ever lived!

The bravest girl who ever lived!

10. Swag Bags

For the second year in a row, Arise Africa provided every single child in our Sponsorship program with a personalized Christmas gift from their sponsor.  Items from sponsors were packed into a bag for their specific and prayed for child and sent on a 5 month journey across the world to Africa by boat. Once on the coast of Africa, the bags were taken from the boat’s shipping containers and put into a large truck. After being driven to the country of Zambia, 400 Christmas Swag Bags were dropped off at Arise Africa’s head quarters in Lusaka. Our staff then distributed the bags throughout various schools to each individual child in our program. After lots of laughter and excitement, photos were taken of each child and sent to their sponsor. It was an absolute blast and we can't wait to do it again this year!

 

Swag Bags being sorted through by our awesome staff after arriving in Lusaka.

Swag Bags being sorted through by our awesome staff after arriving in Lusaka.

Each individual child was given their designated Swag Bag.

Each individual child was given their designated Swag Bag.

Elsen and Lyson ready to dig in!

Elsen and Lyson ready to dig in!

Excited to show off their goodies to their sponsors to say "thanks!!"

Excited to show off their goodies to their sponsors to say "thanks!!"

 

I think it's easy to see that God is working through every single person involved in Arise Africa for His good purposes. But then again, hindsight is always 20/20!

-Faith

 

(If you would like to know more about any of these stories in detail, make sure to look back at previous blogs or the albums on our Facebook page!)

From RAGS to WISHES

Sometimes I forget how much God knows about us. Psalms 139 says He has searched us and known us. He knows when we sit down and when we rise up, he even discerns our thoughts from afar. It isn’t surprising to Him that I don’t enjoy ice cream as much without rainbow sprinkles or that I was fascinated by other cultures before I had ever even left the country. He literally knitted us together with all of our likes and dislikes, our desires and our interests. I firmly believe He gets glory from Every. Single. Quirk. Isaiah 43:7 tells us that He formed and made all of His sons and daughters for His glory. That’s the design and oh, what a great one it is!

I was reminded of this very thing when I heard that God had placed, in a little girl named Avalon, the love of reading and a fascination with The Little House on the Prairie. He had placed in her mother, Shanin, creativity and the desire to give. Of course, God being God and all, He got glory from these two ladies by using the wonderful qualities He placed within them. “How,” you might be wondering? Well, crazy enough, through these very specific characteristics of a mother and a daughter, He is building a library for the new Arise Christian School children in N’gombe compound in Zambia.

Avalon showing home-made rag dolls inspired by The Little House on the Prairie.

Avalon showing home-made rag dolls inspired by The Little House on the Prairie.

“Wait. Because a mother and a daughter love The Little House on the Prairie, a library is being built for school children in Zambia…” YUP. God is quite the artist in creating His children. Check out this email to some of her friends from Shanin:

“Hello friends—

I wanted to let you each know about an exciting new adventure that Avalon (my 9 year old daughter) and I have started. Last year we began making Prairie Rag Dolls with leftover sewing scraps (after hours of reading and watching our very favorite series of all time— Little House on the Prairie). They turned out pretty cute and we were encouraged to start selling them. While we did not feel led to sell them for profit, we did start praying about how we could use these Rag Dolls in a way that could honor the Lord. Through prayer and circumstances, we became aware of a ministry called Arise Africa. Many of you know about Arise Africa and the work they do to provide the medical, social and spiritual needs of the people and children of Zambia— all in the name of Christ. Arise has launched the Arise Christian School, which provides a Christian based education to the children in the slums of Zambia. They are currently building a permanent campus. Much of the funding for the actual school building has been met, but many ancillary needs remain outstanding. The opportunity to build a separate facility for a school Library was made known to us. BINGO!!! God spoke to us both, and our hearts were deeply stirred. What a perfect opportunity to use our little Rag Dolls— to merge two of our favorite things:READING and making DOLLS. As such, our family has “Adopted the Project" to fund the building and establishment of the Arise Christian School (ACS) Library.

And thus, we have created RAGS to WISHES, a charitable initiative that will go towards funding the ACS Library. We have created 3 separate RAGS to WISHES products:

1) Prairie Rag Doll Kit - $12

2) Wooden Doll Stands- $5

3) Completed Prairie Rag Doll- $16

All net proceeds from our RAGS to WISHES creations will go toward funding the ACS Library. The Prairie Rag Doll Kit comes with all the supplies needed to create your own Prairie Rag Doll with your daughter, grand-daughter, niece, etc… It also comes with instructions and a little bit of history about “WHY we are doing WHAT we are doing.”  Our goal is to use our “scraps or rags” and turn them into fulfilled “wishes" for these precious children in Zambia. May the Lord continue to make ‘beauty from ashes”…...

Let me know if you have any interest in grabbing a KIT or DOLL — they could make sweet Christmas gifts and are a great way to have a meaningful conversation with your daughter about the other side of “our" world.

Blessings—

Shanin and Avalon Wilburn”

Crazy, right? Not really. God is in the business of using us in EVERY WAY to be His hand and His feet. If you would like to purchase one of these items from RAGS to WISHES in order to support these two incredible ladies and Arise Africa, you can place an order under the "special instructions to seller" section of paypal and purchase at this link: paypal.me/RagsToWishes

You can also venmo money and order instructions to seller at this username: @PrairieRagDolls

The Rag Doll Kit: $12

The Wooden Doll Stand: $5

The Completed Rag Doll : $16

One doll available within each single kit.

RAGS to WISHES Prairie Rag Doll Kit

RAGS to WISHES Prairie Rag Doll Kit

Complete with instructions

Complete with instructions

Shanin and Avalon, you are truly a picture of Gods work in each of our lives! Thank you for reminding me that every part of who I am was created for HIS glory. May we all be His hands and His feet today.

Still figuring out the rainbow sprinkle thing,

Faith Gregg

Finished Rag Doll from RAGS to WISHES

Finished Rag Doll from RAGS to WISHES

Maggie

This past spring Arise Africa invited some American counselors and friends to come over and help train our staff on all types of issues.  One afternoon we decided to take our friends into one of the compounds and visit a school we work in.  They happily agreed and piled in the back of the Land Cruiser. 

Upon arriving at the school the children immediately flocked to us.  Not because the "white people" were there, but because we had our Child Sponsorship officers with us who are at that school everyday loving on those exact children.  I am going to be honest all of our children are over the "white people" and they love our Zambian staff much more!  They were pumped to see their Sammy Joe, Lucy, Solomon, Dai, and Kochelani. 

One of our visiting American counselors, Debby, noticed a little girl playing with the other children that had both of her hands severely burnt to where she had no fingers.  Unfortunately this is very common in Zambia because of the open fires used to cook and keep warm.  Kids get burned all the time, and when you are falling into a fire you naturally put your hands out to stop your fall.  Maggie didn't have any fingers, but basically clubs as hands.  Debbie began to ask me questions and try to get close to the little girl. 

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As she played and we took a few photos and we watched her hide her hands.  She was very strategic for nobody to see them.  Debby didn't like this and wouldn't drop it.   I sometimes become immune to seeing terrible things like this and accept that is is a way of life in these conditions.  But Debby started asking us questions about how it happened.  We didn't know the little girl, but learned her name was Maggie.  She was not in our child sponsorship program but simply a child living nearby that came into the school for the fun. 

Debby with kids and Maggie in the back

Debby with kids and Maggie in the back

I finally got close enough to Maggie to inspect a little bit more.  When she warmed up to us I plopped her on my lap and with Debby's help inspected her hands.  When we began to pay attention to her, one of our kids in sponsorship, Sarah immediately walked up to us and told us Maggie is her cousin and they live together.  Sarah is in the 7th grade and has been in our program for years.  We learned that at age 1 Maggie fell in a fire.  As I felt the burnt skin to where fingers could be, I thought I felt some fingers under the skin on one hand. 

Now here is where it gets tricky.  I know nothing about medicine.  I have no experience in this at all.  I can feed kids and help coordinate mission trips like a champ. I got that down. My dad is a doctor and the closest I have gotten to medical care is holding the flashlight on the wound when he would stitch neighborhood children up on our breakfast table growing up.  (remember to tell me about the time our friend Jack had to get stitched up on his bottom, that was a good one!) So here I am, in the middle of a compound THINKING that I feel some fingers under the burnt skin.  Can her hand be rebuilt for fingers to be functional? Is that even medically possible in America, much more in Zambia?  Think about a child with no fingers getting at least one.  The last thing I want to do is offer any hope of something happening when it can't.  But I also want to at least get this child to CURE hospital up the road that really knows what they are doing.  It didn't help that Debby was sitting right next to me saying "Alissa surely there is something we can do."  Arise is good at what we do,  but I am not sure we are THAT good. Thanks alot Debby!

I gently mentioned to Sarah (older cousin) that she should have Maggie's mother come by the school sometime and we could possibly take her to CURE just to see what they would say.  I was careful in my words to not offer any promise.  Sarah said OK and we began playing again.

Within minutes a woman came up to the school and in typical Zambian fashion ( as a sign of respect) stood next to me but didn't say anything.  I finally noticed the lady following behind me not speaking and introduced myself.  She said she was Maggie's aunt.  I was shocked.  Most of the time it takes us months to get parents to the school for anything we need.  And unfortunately most parents and guardians never show up.  I was immediately humbled and blown away at the love they have for Maggie. 

The aunt explained to me that Maggie's mother works all day but Sarah had run home after talking to me and she wanted to come immediately.  I explained to her that we wanted to take Maggie to a local hospital JUST TO SEE what they said.  She fully agreed and I left it to Solomon to make it happen. 

We left the school with Debby begging that I keep her up to date on the process. 

A few weeks later I got a text from Solomon telling me he had taken Maggie and her mom and aunt to CURE where they were told that any doctor that would even know anything about her hand would not be there until September.  It was the end of March so we put the date on our calendars and waited for September. I emailed Debby who too put it on her calendar.

September came I got an email from Debby as a polite reminder.  We need as many people helping us as possible! Solomon got the crew loaded in the Land Cruiser again and off they went to CURE.  After seeing the American doctor who was in Zambia for his medical mission trip, x-rays were taken of the hands.  After seeing the x-rays the doctor announced that one hand is fully intact under the casing of skin that had melted around it.  Surgery would be the next day!!  

We were all so excited!  Surgery was preformed and Maggie did great.  The doctor was able to fully cut away the burnt skin and find all 5 fingers.  He was able to then reconstruct the hand where needed. 

Maggie's family was amazing throughout this process.  They took turns staying at the hospital with her which was a relief for us.  Typically when we convince families that we can help their child by taking them to a hospital for surgeries, it is our staff that has to stay with them 24 hours around the clock.  As much as we try to ask families to say involved sometimes they just don't.   But in this case we came and checked daily on them, but her mom and aunt cared for her.  Maggie however, woke up pretty angry at Solomon because of the pain she was in!  Even after explaining how this will help her and that Solomon had nothing to do with the pain (other than facilitating getting her to the hospital) Maggie still believes he did the surgery! And she was mad. 

Maggie at the hospital after the surgery refusing to look at Solomon

Maggie at the hospital after the surgery refusing to look at Solomon

Maggie's new hand was wrapped in bandages when she went home.  For weeks we didn't know what was under there even though we had been told there were 5 functioning fingers.  I think I asked Solomon about ten times if the doctor really said all five fingers would work.  I kept calling and asking, "Are you sure he said that Solomon?  The whole hand is there?"  Poor Solomon politely reassured me every time.  Her family has gone back for weekly checkups and worked tirelessly to keep the hand clean while living in the compound.  That my friend is NO small feat.  Solomon has continued to visit and go with them to the clinic, even though Maggie wants nothing to do with him!

Upon hearing that Maggie was "Anti Solomon" I decided we needed a way to get Solomon back in her good graces.  I suggested to him that he offer her a spot in our child sponsorship program.  Remember this entire time Maggie wasn't in any of our programs.  She was a random kid we stumbled upon in the compound and were able to help with the amazing services of CURE International.  Solomon agreed that the minute Maggie trusts him enough he will get her in the program and to our school everyday.  Luckily with the help of her cousin Sarah, Maggie finally felt like she could come to school with her and that Solomon would not take out the other hand.  Sarah and Maggie bravely marched into our school one day. 

In early October the doctors were able to unwrap two fingers and allow them to start to be used. We were told the rest of the hand would not be fully healed until December.  Maggie finally got to see and understand the impact of the surgery.  For the first time ever she could dress herself, grab something, and her life was forever changed. 

The night after the appointment I got a text at 2:50 AM from Solomon.  It was 9AM Zambia time, the next morning.  This usually means only one thing, something terrible has happened and they need me now.  I hate the middle of the night texts and phone calls because my heart drops. 

As I grabbed my phone preparing for the worst I saw this:

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And then I cried, the ugly cry too.  That's Maggie holding a pencil for the first time in her life.  That is Maggie with two functioning fingers, and if you look closely you can see a few more hidden under the bandage.  That is the Lord healing and restoring such a sweet little girl.  And that is Maggie in a school for the first time too. 

Solomon says he and Maggie are "besties" now.  He clearly picked up that word from some American!  Our plan worked!  And of course, Debby is now Maggie's sponsor in the child sponsorship program!

Maggie went back to the doctor this week where her entire hand was unwrapped early!  It has fully healed about a month earlier than expected.  And look at those fingers!  She told our staffer, Sammy Joe, that she was most excited to be able to feed herself for the first time.  We were also told that they are still interested in seeing what they can do for her other hand.  A group of doctors will be visiting CURE in February and once again we have it on our calendar. (Debby too!)  This story keeps getting better and better!

This story is a perfect example of MANY people working together for Maggie.  First of all if Debby hadn't pushed me I am sad to say I would have accepted Maggie's situation and figured it was too much for us.  If we didn't have CURE hospital down the road from us that is free for kids like Maggie, this REALLY would have never happened.  If we didn't have Solomon, Abraham (our fearless driver) and Maggie's family, there is no way she would be where she is now.  But in reality if we didn't have the LORD orchestrating all of this, Maggie would still be running around with no fingers.  Here is to a great ending for a child that deserves it so much.  

- Alissa

Arise Home Fun Interviews

This blog post was written by our intern in Zambia, Morgan Casteel.

A huge blessing in Arise Africa are our children in full time care. The Arise Homes began when we saw that some of the children in the schools we worked with needed more help than we could provide during the day. We encountered children who had either lost or been abandoned by their parents. Arise felt compelled to do more and with the help of Kershaw's Challenge, the first Arise Home was built in December of 2012. Since then, we have added children in need of a loving home and full time care. We now have 14 wonderful kids (8 girls and 6 boys) living in 2 Arise Homes now!  God has been faithful to us through Kershaw's Challenge.

With the opening of the 2nd home, and calculating how much teenagers eat and need extra tutoring for school, we are in need of a few more sponsors for some of our kids!

I've been interviewing the kids so that you all can learn a little more about them! It was fun for me to see how each of them answer the questions differently. I wish I could sponsor all of them. Lucky for you, I can't, but you can! Read more about Enny, Lovemore, Alliness, and Armon.

Enny is the epitome of gracefulness. She is kind, nurturing, and thoughtful. After only knowing her for a short time, it's evident that she loves to care for others. Something interesting about Enny is that she has the biggest desire to travel out of all our kids. It seems like every week she's picked a new country where she wants to go to college. A week before this interview, the place to be was Spain. She is now currently undecided. One time, she and I sat on google looking up photos of popular travel destinations and had a great time dreaming together. Enny is also the biggest dancer in the home, though everyone loves to jump in and dance with her.

Enny (in the middle) loves to dance

Enny (in the middle) loves to dance

What is your dream job?

I have three options right now. (Enny loves to explore her options and change her mind often)

·       Journalist so I can to travel to lots of countries

·       Lawyer because I have been inspired by some of the lawyers on TV, like in the movie God’s Not Dead

·       Doctor because I want to help people who don’t have money to buy medicine and give them what they need

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to travel?

America to see my sponsors, as well as Germany because I have a sponsor there too

Where do you want to go to university?

Not sure. (For a long time she wanted to go to Spain, now she has decided she wants to go somewhere new but hasn’t decided where yet.)

Does your name have special meaning?

Yes, I was named after my grandmother who I lived next door to before coming here

What has been one of your favorite moments since moving into the Arise Home?

When we went for paintball with Alissa and Uncle Asher and Faith. It was my first time and it was nice. When they shot me, I started hiding. When I tried to shoot them, I hid right away so I wouldn’t get shot. When I ran out of bullets, I held up my gun to let everyone know I was out and so they wouldn’t shoot me.

Would you rather fly or be invisible?

Fly, because I can go to a lot of places (She has a bad case of wanderlust)

If you could be a character from any movie, which movie character would you like to be?

Batman, because he has got a lot of powers, like flying

Which Bible character inspires you the most?

Esther because she was courageous

If you had three wishes what would you wish for?

·       That I could go with Aunty Megan to see her family (Our country director, Megan, is headed to Chicago this week to see family and take a break after a crazy couple of months in Zambia)

·       That I could go visit all my sponsors

·       That my 2 other brothers could come and live with me

What 2 things would you say you are very good at?

Running and English

What 2 things do you wish you were better at? 

Math and Art

Would you rather live under water and swim with fish or be able to travel through space and touch the stars?

Travel through space because I’d like to see how big the stars are 

Want to keep up with Enny long term?  

Consider sponsoring her at $50 or more a month to start to receive her updates and write her letters!


Lovemore (along with his brother, Muyunda) is the newest boy in the home. I've known him since he moved into the home around 3 months ago. He's shy around new people and is still learning English. Still, I have watched as he has come out of his shell over the last 3 months. He loves his big brothers and has jumped in helping with the younger ones as well. He and Muyunda love to play with their newest best friend, Daniel, who lives at the complex. Anytime I run to the home, I take Daniel with me. I've never seen a 7 year old put on shoes and hop in the car so fast! The three of them are inseparable. Lovemore is opening up quickly and is loving being at the Arise Home where he can go to school, ride bikes, and just be an 8 year old boy!

Lovemore (on the right) loves riding bikes

Lovemore (on the right) loves riding bikes

What is your favorite animal?

Tiger – because I like the way they run

What is your favorite cartoon?

Tom and Jerry 

What are 2 things you're good at?

Bike riding and puzzles (he had never even been on a bike two months ago and now loves it!)

Would you rather have an elephant trunk or a giraffe neck?

Giraffe neck... just cause (gotta love 8 year old logic)

What is your favorite thing at school?

Friends and learning. My best friend is Humphrey and we like to play soccer together.

What is your favorite thing about living in the Arise Home?

Zedupad, bikes, and soccer (he fired off these three answers immediately!)

Would you rather fight a shark or wrestle a lion?

Wrestle a lion (the boys love the thought of fighting dangerous animals)

If you had two wishes, what would you wish for?

I'd wish to be superman and a soldier

Want to keep up with Lovemore long term?  

Consider sponsoring him at $50 or more a month to start to receive updates and write him letters!


Alliness is the first one to run up and give you a hug! She loves people and is always reminding those close to her of how much she loves them. She is spunky, outgoing, and unafraid to be herself and try new things.  She is sassy and respectful all in the same moment. Most of all, this girl LOVES to laugh. She is a pure ray of sunshine and it's been a blast spending time with her. She always manages to get me out of my own shell and doing something goofy. Last week, we practiced our cartwheels, and did relay races. We're talking donkey kicks, crab walks, and one they taught me called the caterpillar. To do a proper caterpillar, you start by standing tall, then you bend at the waist and drop your hands to the floor a little ways in front of you. Then you slowly shuffle your feet toward your hands until they are touching. You stand tall and do it all again. I'm always learning something new from these guys!

Chloe Messick introduced the girls to mad libs and Alliness is obsessed now

Chloe Messick introduced the girls to mad libs and Alliness is obsessed now

What is your dream job?

To race country horses (we aren't sure she has ever seen a horse!)

What are three words that describe you?

Short, lovely, and beautiful (I am all about these kids and their high self-esteem!)

What is one goal you wish to accomplish in your lifetime?

To be educated and graduate university

If you had 3 wishes, what would you wish for?

·       to be adopted by my sponsor

·       to pass my exams

·       to live with Aunty Morgan someday (that's one of my wishes too! Can't wait to see these girls in the U.S. in the future!)

If you could be a movie character, which character would you want to be?

Grace from God's Not Dead because she had incredible faith in God no matter how people discouraged her

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go first?

Australia because it looks nice

If you could go back in time and live a period in history, what time period would you want to live?

I would want to be Jesus’ mother

Which Bible character inspires you the most?

Jesus because he suffered a lot and died for our sins, which is inspiring because through Jesus’ death we are alive!

What are 2 things you are good at?

Laughing and running

If you were president of Zambia, what would you do first?

Build more schools, so that I can help the people who can’t go to school so that they can also be educated (insert mic drop here)

What is your favorite thing about the Arise Home?

I get to learn new things and I’m loved by many people

Want to keep up with Alliness long term?  

Consider sponsoring her at $50 or more a month to start to receive her updates and write her letters!


ARMON

Armon is one of the quieter boys in the home. Despite his quiet nature, I feel like I've gotten to know Armon fairly well in my few months here. Because he is normally soft spoken and a man of few words, it surprises me when he comes out of his shell and I get to see some of his other personality traits. For one, he LOVES to sing. Whenever he is moving around the house, you'll find him singing (louder than his normal speaking voice!). He loves to laugh and has the sweetest giggle I've ever heard! Lastly, I was surprised at how social he is. He's quiet, but he isn't afraid to ask questions. He is always the first one to ask me to sit with him and go through his homework. Armon is a special boy with a soft heart, precious laugh, and a desire to learn. I can't wait to see how the Lord works in his heart and the ways the Lord will use him. Keep up with Armon by sponsoring her for $50 or more a month.

He never gets tired of playing basketball

He never gets tired of playing basketball

If you could be any cartoon character, who would you be?

Tom from Tom and Jerry, because I love them

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I'd visit the U.S. to go to school at Texas A&M (WHOOP!)

If you could witness any event in history, which event would you want to see?

When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead

Which Bible character inspires you most?

Moses because he obeyed God and he set the Israelites free

What is your favorite worship song?

I have too many... My top two are

·       Aliwa Mayeso  (translation: Jesus is Good)

·       You are Great

What's one thing you are really good at?

Basketball

If you were president of Zambia, what changes would you make?

I would develop Zambia and make sure that everyone has enough food to eat and pay rent for those who can’t afford it

What is your favorite thing about living in the Arise Home?

I have the chance to go to school

Want to keep up with Armon long term?  

Consider sponsoring him at $50 or more a month to start to receive updates and write him letters!

 

Hope you enjoyed learning a little more about these precious kids! Please prayerfully consider joining us in providing them with a home full of people who love them, a good education, and fun stuff too like bikes and trips to the movies! It's been a joy to watch them enjoy their childhood and be trained up as Godly men and women who will impact their nation and grow the kingdom of God! 

God bless,

Morgan