She stopped in the middle of her story and asked, "Do you still have your parents?" A knot formed in my stomach. The answer was yes, but I found it hard to say to her. She had just told me that her dad was killed when she was a baby and that her mom died a few years later. Her 16 years of life could not be more different than mine were at that age. I have parents who poured into me my whole life and loved me even on those days I'm pretty sure I was hard to love with my teenage attitude. I can't imagine growing up without them. I can't imagine not having them in my life now. My parents live thousands of miles away and I miss them every day. The reality is though that in a few months I'll get on a plane and go home for a few weeks. I'll be greeted with hugs and smiles and spend those weeks doing all kinds of family activities. There will be laughter and late night chats and I Love Yous. I miss them, but I still have precious time with them. All this ran through my mind as I looked at her that day. I love this girl. I want her to have a life that is full of opportunity and joy. She's the one I sponsor at our Tree of Life children's village, and not long after that day she asked if she could call me mom. No words for that moment-- just a heart full of love.
But me He caught-- reached all the way from sky to sea; He pulled me out of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning. They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me. He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved-- surprised to be loved. Psalm 18:16-19 (MSG)
You can find out more about the Family Legacy child sponsorship programs at www.familylegacy.com
They were in class learning double-digit addition. Those 50 first graders worked so quietly as their teacher moved from student to student checking their work. Every time I'm at Bauleni Lifeway Christian Academy I love being in this classroom. I could write so many good things about this teacher and her students. This day was special though, they were about to be the first class ever to eat a school lunch at our LCA in this compound. While they concentrated on their math lesson, just outside their window near the gate to the school there were volunteer moms cooking the rice and nutrient packets. They were washing the plates, cups, and utensils and getting ready to serve.
The head teacher called for grade 1 to come, and just like that the school lunch program was launched. Honestly I expected a little chaos, but what I found was a school of students who waited patiently in line, accepted their plates and cups, and carried them back to their classrooms to quietly enjoy their meal.
There wasn't even chatter in the classrooms-- just eating and smiles. I don't think I've ever seen a school lunch that was so quiet! As we watched the class eat, the grade 1 teacher told me what perfect timing it was to start the program this week because the students had just been learning about healthy eating habits and good manners.
Ms. Phiri also told me how thankful she is that the children will be getting a meal every day because so many of them come to school hungry and it's hard for them to concentrate. She said that students who used to complain about stomach aches will now be able to have something to eat and they will be able to learn better and get "nice and fat" -- which here means having enough to eat to be healthy. I love that through our Father's Heart sponsorship program our kids get an education and a daily meal.
66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. --World Food Programme
1 Peter 4:7-11 Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!
The smiles tell it all! The kids here love their lunch! Please pray for the continuing growth of our students physically, academically, and spiritually. I am amazed every day at the way their lives are changing and how much they are learning. What a blessing!
The reality hits me here. Exploitation of human rights is more than a statistic I've read. Fighting against it is not just a movement for some unknown, distant people. This week I visited a grade 7 class at one of our Lifeway Christian Academies. As the social studies lesson began, the class listed the basic human rights they had learned about in the previous lesson: freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and right to education. Then the teacher moved on to the content for the day-- abuse of human rights especially against women and children. He asked the students to brainstorm types of abuse. They came up with a pretty extensive list that included slavery, child labor, and human trafficking. The teacher explained how some people will try to entice others by promising them things to get them in a situation where they trap them in modern-day slavery.
He wasn't teaching this lesson because of this week being part of an international movement against human trafficking; this lesson on human rights was taught as part of the Zambian curriculum. Our students face issues like these in their communities and homes. The teachers at our LCAs have the overwhelming task of not only teaching our students to read and write but to face head-on the injustices many of these children encounter. They do it through education and a passion for the social and spiritual well-being of these kids. Our teachers probably don't even know they're part of it, but the End It Movement is alive in our classrooms with every lesson that is taught, every encouraging word that is spoken, and every child that is given hope for a different future.
These injustices are real, and I can't think about it very long or my stomach starts to turn. My heart aches. My mind can't wrap thoughts around the facts.
every 30 seconds another person is forced into modern day slavery
more slaves today than ever in human history
27 million men, women and children are exploited for manual and sexual labor against their wills
average age of human trafficking victims is 12 years old
only 1-2% are ever rescued
Not long ago I was in the discipleship office at one of the LCAs working on a project when our field worker for that compound got a text and cheered out loud. He quickly explained he had just found out that a girl had been sponsored to come to our school there -- a girl who he had discovered was going to otherwise be forced into prostitution. It's not just a movement to me. It's a girl who now sits in a primary school classroom learning and the many others just like her.
Rise Up. Be Their Voice. Be Their Freedom.
"Until every human receives the dignity I casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice." ~Jen Hatmaker
Sometimes I just want parts of the day to be frozen-- times that even a photograph couldn't truly capture. My week ended with a series of those moments.
Standing in the Head Teacher office with the teachers at one of our schools. Looking at each face in that circle. Affirming them. Getting to be their encourager.
Walking by the line of 7th grade students during morning assembly and smiling to myself as I overhear the boys talking about how smartly dressed they look in their uniforms.
Entering classrooms as the students stand and in unison practice their greeting. “. . . we are blessed that you are here.” I am blessed to be here!
Seeing a room full of first grade smiles. Watching them get up from their desk to surround our visitors with love. So many little ones hugging at one time we can hardly move.
Hearing of a sister who was too sick to finish her walk to school. Going to find her and drive her home. Being invited in. Hearing their story. Loving them.
The children being especially clingy during break time. Some practicing their handshakes and giving hugs but so many just standing as close as possible holding onto my arms and reaching to touch my hair—telling me, as best they could in English, what they had learned in classes that morning.
Sitting on a step with 2 boys and reading a book to them, a book about a boy in Africa that I used to read with my American students.
Beaming faces of children running to my car hoping to share something with me.
As I go home and the lightning brightens the African sky one strike at a time, the tiredness from the week fades as these snapshots of joy replay over and over in my mind.
Some days it just hits me big—I LIVE IN AFRICA! and it’s amazing. The week before school started I feel like I hardly slept and so much happened. So many good things. So many memories. So many blessings. So much anticipation. So much love.
. . . so many teachers! We are praising God for sending us new teachers and for those who will be working with us again this year. When I arrived here in November we needed to hire about 70 more teachers to meet the needs of our schools doubling in size. After hundreds of interviews we are close to being fully staffed! Even a few weeks ago that just didn't seem possible, but with God all things are possible. Please pray that soon the remaining positions we have will be filled with highly-qualified, loving teachers.
. . . so many children whose lives are being changed. We are busting at the seams as school opens this year. We've outgrown many of our current buildings. I love that problem because it means we’re serving more. I love that we have teachers with servant hearts who have volunteered to clear out spaces in their schools to teach their classes while we continue to work on getting more room. I love that we have leadership who quickly problem solved and are having modular classrooms placed at our campuses. Please pray that we find adequate space for all of our schools.
. . . so many supplies!!! I spent over a weekend, along with the rest of the education staff and some of our stateside staff who are here for a few weeks, counting and sorting school supplies. What seemed like unending stacks of notebooks had to be divided among the schools depending on grade levels and numbers of students. Bags of supplies for each of the thousands of children in our programs had to be counted and boxed to be ready for distribution. All those blessings for our students packed and being delivered to the schools. I’m so thankful there are sponsors and donors who make that possible and thankful to work with people who are all willing to pitch in and be covered in sweat and dirt and to serve with good attitudes and humble spirits.
. . . so much preparation. Our teachers spent a week preparing for the gates of the Lifeway Christian Academies to open for the children to start a new school year. For 2 days they worked in their schools writing lesson plans, working out schedules, preparing rooms for the first day of school. On Wednesday all of our teachers came to the Tree of Life for a day of training and teambuilding.
. . . so many sounds I love. I’m pretty sure I could listen to Zambians sing all day and never get tired of it. There’s something about their voices together that touches my heart and makes me happy. And on a day of training there are few things that are better than hearing laughter and sounds of joy from the teachers as we do activities and learn together.
. . . so many unbelievable opportunities. Our teachers became the first in Africa to be trained in Capturing Kids' Hearts. One of the most sought-after trainings in the States and our teachers got it! We were blessed beyond measure those days: the conversations we had, the stories we shared, the skills that were developed, the encouragement that was given, the connections and care that began to develop for each other and for all the students we serve. Please pray for our teachers as they take what they learned and use it in their classrooms. Pray that they are able to foster loving classroom environments where our students are empowered to live up to their full potential.
So many things to be thankful for. Such a full heart.
"Look among the nations and watch! Be astonished and stare because something is happening in your days that you wouldn't believe even if told." –Habakkuk 1:5
The New Year in Zambia came in with a bang-- lots of fireworks going off all around the complex where I live. Even though New Year's Eve isn't one of my favorite holidays I love the idea of a time when all things are fresh and new. As a teacher one of my favorite parts of the year has always been just as school was about to start. The anticipation of new classes and new students and new ways of doing things is exciting to me. In Zambia the school year starts in January. We have been busy, busy, busy in the Family Legacy education office interviewing hundreds of teachers to fill all the positions on our staff, ordering and organizing supplies and uniforms for the thousands of students in our program, and preparing training days for our teachers. Opening day is just a week and a half away, and I believe 2014 is going to be an astonishing and amazing year in the Lifeway Christian Academies here in Lusaka!
A staff member in our Stateside office wrote a Christmas card to send out from his family and graciously let us adapt what he had to say for our education theme this year.
Look up into the night sky. There are stars too numerous to count. From where we stand these stars look like small pinpoints of light, but if you travel light-years to where they burn your perspective changes. Tiny, twinkling specks of light reveal themselves to be flaming balls of gas with extraordinary power and unbelievable potential. The orphans of the world are like these stars. From a distance it's hard to comprehend- 143 million worldwide and 1 million in Zambia alone. But when you get close you see each one is different, unique, and full of potential. Our Family Legacy teachers have a personal connection to thousands of Zambia's orphans and in their schools will know hundreds by name . . . but God can name them all. Each one is special to Him and at the center of His heart. Each one of these "stars" will shine brightly because of His love and the commitment of sponsors, donors, volunteers, teachers, field workers, and staff. These children will be thousands of twinkling lights throughout this city! "He counts the number of stars. He gives names to all of them. Great is the Lord and abundant in strength. His understanding is infinite." Psalm 147:4-5
Last week during a visit at Tree of Life some of the boys in our program there were walking through the village with my friends and me. They were excited about getting their grade 7 results and moving on to grade 8 this January. In Zambia, grade 7 exams are very important. If students do not score high enough they are not allowed to move on to grade 8. We asked the boys about their future plans. They were quick to say that they plan to go to university. That in itself warms my heart because a few years ago before entering this program these boys may not have even had the opportunity to attend a quality elementary school. When we asked them what they want to study, they both told us that they want to be pilots. Then one of the boys was quick to clarify his answer. He explained that first he will be a pilot-- then he will be president of Zambia. We asked him why he would want to be president, and he said that there are many reforms he would like to make. When we asked what reforms would be important to him, his answer made me tear up. He said that first he would want to provide education for all children in Zambia.
Look among the nations and watch! The orphans of Zambia are preparing to let their lights shine!!
“Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible.” -Corrie ten Boom
My first morning in Zambia I woke up incredibly early. I opened my Bible and began reading the story of Esther. In chapter 2 it says "Mordecai had reared his cousin Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther, since she had no father or mother." Esther was blessed with a cousin who cared for her. Eventually Esther was among the young women who was chosen by the king to come to the palace, and through Mordecai's guidance and encouragement Esther not only became queen but pursued the opportunity to be used by God to save her people.
Every time I enter one of our schools and greet a class or observe a lesson I wonder, "How many Esthers are sitting in this room?" The students at the Lifeway Christian Academies are orphaned and vulnerable children living in the compounds of Lusaka. Although they do not have ideal home situations, these kids have sponsors and loving teachers who care for and nurture them.
Last week I observed a grade 3 class, and the teacher was handing out stickers to students as they participated in class. She handed one of the girls a butterfly sticker and said, "Here is a butterfly sticker. Today you are spreading your wings and soon you will fly. One day you may be a teacher or a doctor or the president!" Then the teacher had the class give the girl a clap for the wonderful things she could become. The girl's smile lit up the room. I'm so thankful to work with teachers like this one who believe in our students. I love knowing the possibilities God has for these children are not limited by how their lives began, just like He had an unbelievable plan for Esther.
Please pray for our students as they walk through the gates of our schools every day-- that they will learn and be nurtured and be prepared for the future their Heavenly Father has put in front of them. When the next school year begins in January we will have an additional 3000 students attending our schools. I am so excited we'll be able to serve even more children. Please pray for the Family Legacy education office as we seek to hire enough qualified, loving teachers to fill all the open positions this creates.
"Make us worthy, Lord,
to serve You and all the world's people
who live and die in loneliness, hunger, poverty, and sickness.
Give them through our hands this day their daily bread,
and by our understanding love,
give them peace and joy.
-Norman Shawchuck and Reuben P. Job, "A Guide to Prayer for All God's People"
Time to catch up! So much has happened in such a short amount of time! After travelling for nearly 2 days and spending a couple hours waiting at immigration in the Lusaka airport I started my new life in Zambia. Can't believe it's been over a week and a half already. I've been busy settling in, meeting new people, visiting schools, learning the Zambian way of driving, trying to figure out what street goes where, and just being amazed that I get to do this! Here are some highlights of my experiences so far.
Fun Day Friday in the COntainers
I spent my first Friday morning here working in the containers. The Lifeway Christian Academies have been blessed with textbook donations from people and organizations in the States. They arrive on shipping containers then have to be sorted and organized for distribution to each of our 17 schools. It is a huge task! It is a hot task! It is a dirty task! . . . but there is something I love about the containers. This week was not my first time doing container work in Zambia. Last summer I spent a couple of my days here doing the same thing, and afterward I was working at one of the schools the day the truck pulled in with the textbooks we had organized. It brought me so much joy to see how excited the kids were! (check out the video) When I walked outside the school, bunches of the students had already run to the truck when it stopped and just began grabbing boxes to carry inside. It was really fun to watch them. When was the last time I handed out textbooks and my students were THAT excited about it??? Maybe never. As I've visited the schools this week it makes me so happy to see the books in the students' hands as they learn to read. We are striving to provide our teachers and students with the resources and training they need to have the quality education they deserve.
This week I've been able to visit several of the LCAs, meet the teachers, and observe lessons. The schools are located in compounds throughout Lusaka. The city is not built on a grid, and I feel completely lost 98% of the time as we drive from school to school!! Soon I will be driving on my own and let me tell you that I am envisioning myself in the near future sitting in my car in the middle of some compound at a complete loss as to which direction to drive (and there will likely be tears)! You all need to pray for me and my directionally challenged brain!!!
As I traveled this week with Audrey, one of Family Legacy's Deputy Superintendents of Schools, I have loved observing the great things teachers and students are doing and getting a better understanding of the challenges they face. Please remember to pray for our teachers and students as they finish out this school year in the next few weeks. Also pray for us in the education office as we make preparations for the new school year that begins in January.
LCA Student Highlights
This week I had the opportunity to sit down with one of our head teachers and a few of our students in his school to talk about their experiences in our Lifeway Christian Academy there. The kids were so cute and this is what a few of them had to say:
Grade 1 student
He said math is his favorite subject where he learns "1,2,3,4,5,6." He said that his teacher explains things well and he can understand her. He told us that his mother has gone to heaven and his father died so he lives with his grandparents and many relatives. Before he was sponsored and started school he would spend his days just playing. He said he likes to come to school at the LCA because when he grows up he wants to have a business. He wants to build blocks because he thinks that will be a good construction business. He also explained that if he comes to school he can learn to count money. :)
Grade 2 student
She said she started school in the village but moved here. Now she is able to attend school. Her favorite part of school is learning about loving others. When asked about how her life has changed since coming to the LCA she said at home she would just go around and around but now she comes to school and concentrates.
Grade 5 student
When we went to one of the schools this story and thank you to Family Legacy written by one of the students was on display in the foyer. So that you know, K20,000 is about $4. There are 3 terms of school each year.
I love being part of an organization and ministry that touches the lives of children like these! It doesn't feel like work; it's just loving people!
Did you miss my October Newsletter?
Find out what led me to move to Zambia and how you can participate in this ministry by clicking on the image below. Please send me a message if you would like to have your address added to my mailing list to have future newsletters mailed to you.
The biggest hugs you've ever felt. Eyes glimmering with hope. You can't help but smile when they smile, and anyone who walks through the gates to a Lifeway Christian Academy in Zambia will never quite be the same when they leave. They are places where lives are transformed.
For 2 weeks I worked at the school, surrounded by a "wall fence."
Outside the wall-- poverty, neglect, despair, hunger, disease, fear of the future.
But inside those walls a whole different story develops.
It's a story of redemption and hope.
There's safety within those walls.
Basic human needs are met there.
Learning and opportunity are provided.
It's a place where big dreams can begin to form.
It's a place where love is the theme of the story and it is going to make all the difference for the children who are blessed to enter through the gate.
Within the walls of this school a miracle is happening--
hope and faith are meeting action and service.
As a result the people outside the walls of this school are going to see a community and nation transformed!
I'm so thankful I got to participate in what happens inside that gate!
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
In just a few short months I'll be packing my bags and getting ready to board a plane to Zambia. I can't wait! I'm looking forward to visiting the school I worked at last year and working with a new teacher and class this summer. Please pray for me as I continue to prepare for this ministry, raise funds for the trip, and gather supplies. Please also pray for the other volunteer teachers, the Zambian teachers, and the students whose lives are touched and changed for the better every day by Family Legacy and the LCA schools.
Want to see what this trip is about? Check out the video below. They shot part of this video last summer while I was there so I'm in it a couple times :)
Willing to help financially support my Teach ONE trip? My trip has to be completely paid for by the beginning of April. I would appreciate your financial support. You can make a tax deductible donation at http://donate.familylegacy.com/aliciahilton or send a check to Family Legacy Missions International, 5005 W. Royal Lane Suite 252, Irving, TX 75063 and include "Alicia" and "Teach ONE Trip 2013" on the memo.
"Anything is a prayer of surrender that will spark something. A prayer that will move us to stop chasing things that just make us feel happy and start living a life that matters. A life that is surrendered, reckless, and courageous." ~Jennie Allen, Anything.
In November of 2013 I moved to Zambia as a full-time missionary with Family Legacy Missions International. Everyone within the organization raises their own support to keep overhead costs at a minimum so donations to the ministry can go directly to the needs and programs for the orphans and vulnerable children we serve. I trust in God's faithfulness to provide monthly and one-time financial supporters for the work I do here for the education of thousands of children from the slum compounds of Lusaka. If you would like to support me, donations are tax deductible and can be made at www.familylegacy.com/alicia
"God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him. When I cleaned up my act, He gave me a fresh start. Indeed, I've kept alert to God's ways; I haven't taken God for granted. Every day I review the way He works, I try not to miss a trick. I feel put back together, and I'm watching my step. God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes." 2 Samuel 22:25