Update from Africa University

This blog post is written by one of Arise Africa's students who is on scholarship to Africa University in Zimbabwe.  Read about Joseph's first year at university to be inspired by God's love and provision. 


First year is officially coming to an end. It has not been easy but I really thank God for His grace and love. As mentioned in my reports, there are a lot of things I learned in my freshman year. Despite the challenges faced at many different times, I look back and see how I have grown spiritually, physically, emotionally and socially as well. What I have learned about college this freshman year is;


1. College courses will challenge you on a new level. Most likely, you won’t get the sorts of marks you earned in high school, even if you’ve taken several AP and honors courses. It’ll take some time to adapt to new expectations and distractions. You may have the sharpest mind in any one class, but college life will test your concentration with constant social opportunities, roommate issues, and assignment overload.


2. The relationships you have with your lecturers is very different from the ones you had with your high school teachers. Lecturers may not always know your name, or remind you that your assignment was due yesterday. They will give you more independence over your education than your teachers did; they expect you to handle that freedom with responsibility and maturity.


3. The social scene will beckon you, no matter how much of a wallflower you were back home. There will be plenty of activities other than schoolwork that will draw you in, from joining a club to attending a student performance or from going to educational and social trips to hanging out with your friends on the quad. Exposing oneself to a new experience even once is a great way to combat the feeling that you are missing out. Our school keeps an up-to-date calendar of social events and lectures on the webpage. You may very well feel that you are missing out on social opportunities by hitting the library, but you just have to be very good friends with the library. It is hard to raise a low GPA so you always have to be on track.


4. Even students eager to live on their own find themselves missing home. You may feel a pang of homesickness when you miss your sister’s birthday, or your roommate is being noisy and you are longing for your old room. It becomes worse when they eat your snack without permission.


5. Not everybody is having more fun than you or doing better in their courses. It’s always advised to resist the temptation of comparing oneself to others. Your friends may be editing their social media accounts and telling all their followers that they’re having a blast and that they’re successful in all their endeavors. In reality, they likely share the same transitional challenges that you’re dealing with.

 

Even though I encountered these challenges in my first year of college, I have come to know also that all those confident upperclassmen we see on campus have gone through this transition before and made it to the other side. With time, and with the knowledge that I could reach out for help whenever I needed it, I made it through my freshman year, too.
I am currently in the middle of exams and they have not been so easy. This semester had a lot of challenging courses and the exams are coming in handy too. But I know for sure I have studied quite enough for all the courses. I will be writing Statistics on 27th April and I am so nervous. This course has really been hard for me but I am still hoping for the best.  Please pray for this test.

School will be closing on 5th May. I am so excited to go home but unfortunately, I will only get to go home after 10th June. This is because I will be working on a project with my other classmates. We intend to do an HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness program with children between the ages of 12 and 18. This project will focus on how well children know about HIV/AIDS before we run them through a series of interactive lessons.

The topics we wish to cover are:

1) Choices

2) Peer pressure

3) HIV attacks

4) Juggling My life

5) HIV limbo and many more.

At the end of this project, we will carry out an assessment to see the difference on how children understand HIV – post learning. I am excited to do this project and I have high hopes it will be a success.


I have a lot of things to be thankful for, I just want to make mention that y’all have made a great impact on my life. Having this scholarship is such a great blessing to me and my family. I also keep believing it will have such a great impact on my community as well. I do not have to worry about funding for school or food or anything else.  That allows me to focus on my school work and I am forever thankful.  Thank you so much for every prayer made for me and showing me God's love in many ways. I love you all.


Joseph Phiri


Arise Africa would like to thank Highland Park United Methodist Church who generously provided four scholarships for our students who currently attend Africa University.  We are humbled to partner with HPUMC to help support the future leaders of Africa who are committed to the Lord's work. 
 

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. 

Screen Shot 2016-10-27 at 11.09.08 AM.png

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:

IMG_2823.PNG

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