My Weekend of Independence

This blog post was written by Morgan Casteel, an intern with Arise Africa in Zambia.

This weekend I was by myself as the rest of our staff headed to the Lower Zambezi for some rest.  I was excited and a bit nervous to be all alone!  

On Friday I shadowed Monica by accompanying her on her afternoon errands. Running errands in Lusaka requires a lot of time in the car. It was fun to use that time to get to know Monica better. I’m always fascinated to hear other’s stories and see how God directed their paths to put them exactly where they are in that moment. Monica had other plans for the next few years, but God orchestrated a way for her to be hired on with Arise. She has been a huge blessing to this ministry and we can’t imagine Arise without her. I especially enjoyed talking to her about how she manages in this line of work. We see a lot of difficult and unjust things, but God has equipped Monica and many others to be able to withstand the harsh realities and focus on the hope we can give to children in need.

That night, I invited Alliness, Dorothy, and Hope from the Arise Home over for a girls night. A goal for the Arise Home kids is that is feels more like family than an institution or orphanage. One way we promote this is by spending quality time with a few of our kids at once. We want to make sure they get to do fun things and get experiences as any child living in a small family would.  I wanted to use my extra time to invest in the Arise Home girls. The four of us had a great time playing cards and watching a movie. The kids love to be at complex and sleep in the king sized beds! And these girls can sleep!

I taught them how to play Black Jack. They tell me it's their new favorite card game. Vegas here we come! (jk!)

We piled into my bed for a showing of Daddy Day Care.

The next morning I dropped them back at the Arise Home and spent an hour or two there, playing soccer (my workout for the year!), throwing the frisbee, and showing the kids snapchat filters. I always leave the Arise Home with a smile on my face. I can’t get enough of these precious kids.

I went back to the complex to rest for a bit and then was back at the home again that afternoon to pick up all 8 girls for dinner at the complex! The girls had mentioned that they wanted to try my food, so I picked up some groceries and started preparing dinner. I knew I would have no chance if I were to be compared with the house moms, but I gave it my best shot. Cooking in the kitchen always calls for fun music, so I played anything I thought young girls would like. Everyone was playing cards at the table when Cheerleader by OMI came on. Everyone jumped up and started performing a choreographed dance! It was really good too! Those who know me know that I live for dance parties, so Saturday night was a big highlight for me. It also made me excited for the girls to move into the Arise Home 2 because I’m sure there will be lots of dance parties and baking in the kitchen. Here's Hope helping me make the brownies.

These girls constantly impressed me. I turned around as I was finishing my dinner and saw the 5 older girls at the sink. They had cleared every single dish, dried them, and put them away. These girls are a huge testament to the hard work of their house moms.

Per request, all the girls (except the littlest, Christine) stayed the night. The 8 of us crawled into my king sized bed with brownies in hand and we watched the movie, Enchanted, which the girls had never seen before. The girls loved it!

In the morning, I dropped them at the home to get ready for church. I decided to go to Twin Palm Baptist, a church down the road from the complex where some of our staff attend. It can feel strange to be a white girl walking into a local Zambian church by myself, but I received a warm welcome from everyone. I sat in an empty pew and wondered who would sit by the white girl. A couple of girls who attend Taonga School, one of our community schools, recognized me and sat by me. I felt special to know someone at church. Then the older boys from Taonga, Peter and Everson, sat in front of us. Peter’s sponsors were in town last week and I knew he had received a Bible from them. It was cool to see him at church proudly using his new Bible. This served as another reminder of how big of an impact child sponsors can have. Every Sunday, Peter now picks up his Bible and thinks of the Gregg family who gave it to him. I feel lucky to have this behind the scenes seat where I can see these kids continue to live their lives and grow and learn after their sponsors go home.

After church, I sat in on the young adult Bible study with Kochelani and Solomon (Arise staff). After Bible study, everyone returned to the sanctuary for a final song and benediction. After the benediction, a girl named Chichi, who was in Bible study, came up to me and encouraged me to come back to Twin Palm and continue going to Bible study. I’m sure she knew how out of place I felt and she wanted to encourage me to feel welcome at Twin Palm. After church, I met several other members and felt very welcome and even at home there. I’m hoping to continue attending Twin Palm.

After church, I got to go to lunch with Kochelani and Solomon and talk about what we learned from the sermon and discuss life. I could have stayed at lunch and talked with these two for hours. It was a great end to my weekend on my own. I’m beyond grateful to be surrounded by so many people who I know would’ve helped me in any way needed while I was home alone. 

It was fun while it lasted, but I'm happy to have Megan back home so the dogs can sleep in her bed and not mine, and someone else can be here to help me when people throw snakes onto the electric fence and set off the most obnoxious alarm I've ever heard. Happy to have you back, Megs and Alissa and Asher!

- Morgan