When I first started Arise Africa with John, I thought it would be this small ministry type thing that we took Americans over once a year and did a random project. I predicted we would collect some money, not a lot, and jump on a plane and help some folks and come back home. And then about a year later we might do it again. You know something simple.
I always prayed to the Lord Arise Africa would be something that I could use to help the families and children that I worked with during my photography book project over there. I would pray to the Lord to give me opportunities and put people in my path that would support us in whatever we were trying to accomplish with those individuals.
And He did on our first mission trip when we raised enough funds to help build classrooms at Greenhill School and Orphanage. Greenhill had been dear to my heart and they were like my family during my photo book project. In fact I lived in the orphanage for a week or so. I shared a bunk bed with Ruth, in the girls room. I was so excited to give back to them and in a big way with 4 new classrooms. So I took 15 of my closest friends and warned them I had NEVER done anything like this before. Sure, I had been to Africa many times but I had never led a trip with other people. I had never had to be responsible for others! At times, I hadn’t even done so well making the best decisions for myself in Africa. (those little hiccups were in other war torn countries, not Zambia, don’t worry) We all jumped on planes and literally built that dang school for a week. We painted, mixed cement, set cinder blocks, hung chalkboards, and swept floors. My friends SHOWED UP in a big way. We even cooked for all 15 of us each night. We stayed at a lodge that wasn’t exactly wonderful, and nobody complained. Heck Emily and Greg didn’t even have a key to their room and had to climb through a window. (don’t worry our lodging has changed from these pioneer days!) I think our minibus driver lost the door while we were driving (once again this was before we bought our own busses) And at the end of the week an awesome wing of four new classrooms stood ready for kids to learn in.
Greenhill School Classrooms
That mission trip was pivotal for us. I slowly was realizing that we had something really powerful going on. God was opening my eyes and encouraging me to dream bigger than just helping out the few I wanted to. He certainly had another plan for Arise Africa and in two short years we are helping literally thousands. From school supplies to feeding kids and even helping schools buy furniture we are blessing so many.
When we started building the orphanage I never dreamed of the day of when we would be fighting to get full custody of children that have never had someone to care for them. I didn’t think about the fact that we would already know most of these kids because they have been in our child sponsorship program for a while. It’s all of a sudden very personal for me. I didn’t think about how big of a step this is for Arise Africa. We are getting ready to have our OWN children. This is not an orphanage where kids stay and then leave, this is their HOME. We are their FAMILY. We will have these children with us until they graduate high school and then hopefully attend college. God has burdened me with this and I will admit I am a bit scared. Not in a bad way, a good one actually. I think God is kinda saying to me “Alissa pay attention and don’t screw this up.” You know, in His loving manner. Sometimes I get so caught up with budgets or the random things that I need that reminder. I need to take a minute and really think about what we are getting ready to do and take on. And I need to trust in Him.
I am 100% positive this is the right step for us and these kids. God has opened so many doors to make this home happen with the Kershaws stepping in and helping out to people randomly calling and saying they will pay for all the furniture. That’s a $30,000 commitment! We see God in this in every step.
God calls us to care for those who are forgotten. And these kids are just that. Let me tell you a little bit about the kids we are trying to get in our home that we already know and work with.
- · They live in the city dump and lost both parents to AIDS.
- · They have HIV and weigh 40 pounds at age 14 because nobody feeds them.
- · They have constant ringworm because of the dirty conditions they live in.
- · They have never had their own bed or slept in one. The dirt floor is where they sleep.
- · They have never seen indoor plumbing or a toilet.
- · They don’t know what silverware is.
- · They have never been in a school with a teacher that has less than 40 kids in her class.
- · They don’t know their birthdays or how old they are because nobody cares or has ever told them.
- · They have never left their compound and the slum they live in.
Some of the "homes" that these children live in
And let me tell you a little bit more about these kids:
- · They have dreams to grow up and be doctors, lawyers, and leaders of the country of Zambia.
- · They come to their school everyday and make great grades because Arise Africa pays their school fees.
- . They know learning is a privilage and they respect that.
- · They wait patiently in line for their one meal a day they receive through Arise Africa at their school.
- . They are so hungry for their meal and then they turn around and share it with siblings or friends who are just as hungry.
- · They smile, ALL the time.
- · They never complain and never disrespect.
- · They are desperate for love and for someone to notice them.
Kids waiting for food in our child sponsorship program
I’m not fully sure what God is trying to teach me through all of this other than more respect for Him and the doors he has opened for us to have this opportunity. But I feel a burden in my heart to help these kids and for this home to truly be His house and a part of our Arise Africa family. I also feel like I have a huge responsibility now. He is entrusting us with lives that have been so hurt and neglected.
I am blessed to have this new “unexpected responsibility.” And I know some of you are thinking “Well of course you have more responsibility you built an orphanage in Africa, HELLO?!!” But give me some credit here, I just am a bit late on it all sinking in. I’ve been busy these past months!
Will you please help me pray for the orphanage and the children who will be in our full custody and moving in the home within months? Will you pray for our responsibility and that we glorify Him in that home every single day? Will you pray for the adjustments these kids are about to face? Can you imagine what it will be like to drive these kids to their new home?
I continue to pray for God to open doors for Arise Africa and to put donors in our paths or those who want to pray for us. I pray for partners in this home who will sponsor these precious kiddos we are getting ready to have. But I’ve learned to now pray for God to show me His plan and not my narrow minded one. I pray for Him to lead us because I’ve witnessed His plan and my friends it SO much bigger and better than my dreams were! Is there a part of your life that you are maybe narrow mindedly praying and not letting God show you an even bigger path? Sometimes it is scary to pray for God to put your plan aside and ask him to show you His. I can attest to that. As we have grown I have wanted to doubt God and the responsibility and open doors he has given us. But He is faithful and knows His plan.