Our Surprise Father Figure
Sometimes the greatest part of my job is watching the Lord orchestrate the people He puts in our path to hire. This past fall as we were frantically trying to get the Arise Home open and kids moved in we were looking to hire house moms, housekeepers, and a gardener. I was getting updates in the USA about the search and quite honestly the gardener was a person who I didn't think much about. I knew we needed someone who could take care of our yard and grow vegetables for the kids to eat. I was told that we had hired a guy by the name of Jeff and he didn't speak GREAT English but he would catch on.
When I arrived in December to Zambia I met Jeff. I was a bit taken aback at Jeff's physical appearence. He is about 6 feet 4 inches tall, and this is VERY TALL in Zambia. Most men are about 5 feet 8 inches tall so Jeff really stands out! (no pun intended) He is an older man for Zambia standards and I was impressed at his work ethic.
Jeff has a few kids and two grandchildren that he is very proud of. He moved to the compound close to our home and lives in a tiny one room place with no running water or electricity. He never had a bank account until we helped him open one. He didn't even have a registry card, which is like our social security card. Jeff can't count or tell you his ABC's but he works tirelessly everyday in our yard and garden. He is one of the hardest workers I have ever seen. He runs across our huge yard when someone honks at the gate and it needs to be opened. He lifts huge bags of cement when building things. He checks the irrigation lines in the garden and weeds constantly. He plants all the grass in the yard and levels out the driveway. He cuts our grass with machete, not a lawn mower. When I mentioned to Jeff I would buy him a lawn mower a huge grin came across his face. He has been a gardener his entire life and has never used one.
What I am most impressed is the influence and impact Jeff has on our kids. He is calm with them and let's them learn in the garden. He helps them plant seeds and teaches them how to pull weeds and get the roots out. When we tell all 8 kids to go in the yard and help Jeff, he is out there helping each child learn what to do. If you told me I had to take all 8 of our kids and help them work in the yard I would run away. He works with the boys on cutting the grass with the machete. (this scares me!). He teaches them how to water the plants and take care of the garden. He is gentle with our kids and has become a father figure to them.
After some days of convincing, Jeff now eats lunch and dinner with the kids when they are home. After learning he doesn't have running water at his home we offered for him to shower in the boys bathroom. He was so thankful and brings his own soap to not use ours. He helps us take the boys into the compound to get haircuts and takes them to get cokes afterwards. He even comes to our home every Sunday morning and helps us take the kids to church. He likes going to church with them. That is Jeff's day off. Jeff is willing to stop work and go meet the kids walking home from school if our house moms are caught up with something. It is funny to see this very tall man walking with our 8 kids through our community and even funnier to see him carrying all the girl's pink backpacks. And one night we had an emergency and Jeff and another staff member of ours took the night shift and got dinner made and ready and got the kids in bed.
Before working for us Jeff had never had clothes that fit him. It is hard to find clothes that fit a man of his size in Africa. Luckily on this past mission trip we had some tall guys who graciously left their clothes for him. Jeff proudly now wears t-shirts and shorts that actually fit him. He told me he didn't know that clothes were made to fit a guy of his size! There is no "Big and Tall" store in Africa! For the first time ever, Jeff has tennis shoes that fit, size 13 and all. I found a pair of mud boots in town that were size 13 as well. When I purchased them and brought them back to Jeff he told me he never had boots for the rainy season because the bigger sizes were more expensive.
Sometimes we know who will have an impact on our kids in the Arise Home. Jeff is loving on and teaching our kids to be good kids. I see him talking to the boys and helping them get through conflict without fighting. He is a father figure that the Lord has blessed us to have in our family with our kids.