One of the most rewarding parts of living here is seeing the joy on our children's faces as they learn to read. Although English is a required subject in Zambia and all of the national exams are written in English, the actual practice of teaching students strategies for how to read is not widespread in the Zambian school systems. When teachers begin to work in the Legacy Academies they often have had little training in phonics and reading methods.
In July, at our Legacy Academy in Garden, a Teach ONE team trained our teachers and began a pilot program for implementing a new phonics curriculum in our schools. It was fun hearing our students learn and practice letter sounds as well as seeing the growth of our teachers' skills. It is exciting seeing the students beginning to develop the ability to read independently.
At the end of the term I was at Garden to check up on the reading progress with the students there. This job has stretched me in many ways. When I taught for the DoD, improving reading was one of the school goals. We did lots of interventions and assessments, and I was always secretly glad I wasn't working with the lower grades and giving the long assessments like the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) to all the students. Well, like I said, life in Zambia is always stretching me. The only reading assessment we had immediately available was a DRA kit someone had donated, so I found myself sitting in a classroom giving the DRA to a whole lot of grade 1-3 students in that school. Fortunately, we have some of the cutest kids ever and they can even make giving an assessment enjoyable. They are so precious and have made incredible progress!
I am so proud of the teachers and students the Legacy Academy in Garden. They have been working very hard and I love seeing how much our students are learning and growing. After I gave the assessment to one boy he told me, "My sponsor would be very proud of me." I know he's right!
One of the best parts of my job is witnessing teachers' hearts for their students. One of my favorite times of year is when the Teach ONE teams arrive here in Zambia. It's how I first fell in love with the children of Zambia and I love seeing other Americans experience that for the first time. In the middle of June a team of 10 American teachers arrived at the Lusaka airport to participate in Teach ONE. Some of them had never been to Zambia before. There was excitement and energy despite the long flight to Africa.
Across town from the airport the Legacy Academy teachers and discipleship staff in Lusaka West finished classes for the day and prepared for a team of American teachers they had never met to join their staff for a week. Both groups were nervous and didn't know exactly what to expect. Both groups were praying that God would use this time to build up the school and bring glory to God. Both groups were about to experience a week they will never forget.
The next day they met for the first time, and by the end of the day the love and appreciation between all 20 of these teachers had already begun to form. Day after day during the week I enjoyed watching the teaching partners interact and do amazing lessons with the classes.
Each day ended with all the teachers gathering together in a classroom, and it was my favorite part of the day. One by one the teaching partners would affirm each other and talk about things they had learned. I've taught at a lot of schools and can't think of very many instances where the faculty was called together for a meeting and ALL talk from EVERY person was positive and used to build each other up. Each person in the room was encouraged to continue growing and learning each day. That is a rare and special gift. That is how I think the body of Christ was meant to work. It wasn't because everything went perfectly. It was because everyone there said-- here is what I have and I want God to use it for His purpose and His design for all the students who attend this school and the children who will come after them. Then each group would take a turn leading a worship song before prayer. One of my favorite sounds is Zambia is hearing them lift their voices in prayer and praise. There aren't words to describe it.
Standing in that circle praying together for each other, for the students at that Legacy Academy, for the glory of God to shine through will always be one of my favorite memories with this team and the teachers in our school. When you love God and you love others-- even when the task seems hard, the days long, and the sleeping hours short-- He builds beautiful stories and writes them on our hearts and minds and speaks them into the lives of those He calls us to serve. I am thankful for our Legacy Academy teachers who serve our children well and for teachers who travel thousands of miles to offer their support and encouragement. Together they are developing a school that will impact communities and transform them for generations to come.
"The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of GOD . . . people who are so deeply in love with JESUS that they are ready for follow HIM wherever HE guides them, always trusting that, with HIM, they will find life and find it abundantly." - Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership
In Zambia there are three terms in each school year, and we begin each one with a week of professional development for our teachers. Term 2 began with four days of training and home visits. At the beginning of May the buses pulled up to the Legacy Center and all our hard work and preparation was poured into the 240 teachers who spend 14 weeks each term investing in the least of these in Zambia. What they do every day is transforming the lives of the children in our program. I love these days of training with our teachers. They soak up knowledge eagerly and participate in every training with enthusiasm. It's fun to train people who want to learn.
During this week I got to spend three days working with with our grade 7 teachers. It made my heart so happy to have these days to build relationships and to help prepare these amazing teachers to use problem solving strategies in their classes. It was a really fun week watching them solve the problems for themselves and learn how to facilitate student learning in a new way. We had lots of important discussions and just as many bouts of laughter together. There is nothing better than having fun and sharing successes with people you serve alongside.
I am so proud of these teachers and all their hard work during our training! In a few short months the grade 7 students will be taking the national exam. Please pray for these teachers and their students as they implement the strategies presented at this training and prepare for this very important time in their educational path. I think this year we will see better results than ever before because of the passion for learning these teachers bring to their classrooms!
What happens when you put about 220 teachers and over 50 discipleship staff from our LCAs and FCA in a room together? Laughter, love, worship, teambuilding, and a dance party. That's how we kicked off the 2015 school year in January. Training has never been so fun!
We began the day by revealing this year's theme: Unearthing HEARTS of GOLD. The story behind the theme is adapted from a newsletter written by Andrew, one of our staff members in the Family Legacy Stateside office.
If I offered you a pound of copper or a pound of gold, which would you choose?
Many companies in Zambia are choosing copper. That's because the Copperbelt province in Zambia is rich with the metal . . . It is one of the most lucrative businesses in Zambia and the nation's single biggest export. But it's not the most valuable treasure there.
There is GOLD in Zambia too. But it can't be wrestled out of the earth with heavy machinery and cheap labor the way copper can. In fact, you could sift every square inch of Zambian soil and still not find much of it. That's because you'd be looking in the wrong place.
The GOLD of Zambia is in the hearts of it's children. Like copper, it lies beneath the surface, silent, waiting to be discovered. It is invisible to those who don't know it's there, and only the ones who realize its enormous potential take the time and effort to bring it out.
At Family Legacy, we're in the gold mining business. We're committed to the process of drawing this GOLD out, ounce by ounce, from every orphaned and vulnerable child in Zambia. A very different Zambia awaits if we can plumb the hearts and lives of its future leaders. Although this gold may be trapped beneath the hard soil of poverty, AIDS, and brokenness, it is not impossible to find-- just ask the miners.
There's a GOLD rush happening in Zambia right now. If you choose to try your hand at treasure-seeking, you won't come away empty-handed. Let's work together and watch our investment reap enormous benefits in the lives of our students for years to come. Ready to start digging?
Our Education and Father's Heart office staff and a few special guests came dressed and ready to start mining! We had lots of fun activities prepared for the day to build up our school teams and prepare them for a new year developing the hearts and minds of the 10,000 children living throughout Lusaka.
As the teachers gathered inside and were introduced to the new theme, the office staff hid gold beads all over the hilltop. Each school team had to tie themselves together and work as one unit to gather up as much gold as possible . . . but watch out! There are bandits in the hills waiting to steal your gold away. If our bandits hit the team with a water balloon they had to hand over all their gold. To earn it back they had to recite Scripture, sing some praises, and/or dance. There was lots of laughter and fun as teams moved up and down our hilltop property searching for gold and trying to avoid the bandits. It was much like their jobs here. They are searching and working to bring out the "gold" in each child in their school, and there are many things fighting against them: poverty, sickness, despair. As they work together, it allows the students in our schools to be transformed and begin to shine. They are able to work toward a greater potential and purpose than they ever knew they had.
theme song for the year: Gold by Britt Nicole.
As term one comes to a close and as a we prepare for term two, please pray for our teachers and discipleship staff as they are the ones who have daily contact with all the children in our programs. They teach, love, and lead our students in amazing ways. Their roles in our schools and the communities where they serve are very difficult as they work to lift up these children and show them the "gold" God has placed in their hearts and minds. They are truly making an eternal impact, and I am so thankful I get to work with them!
I think about them often. They are the reason I am here. That grade 7 class and their teacher broke my heart and filled it with joy. They were my first loves in Zambia. Their faces are etched into memories that I often reflect on. My prayers have followed them for years even though I have not seen them since they moved beyond primary school.
Last week on a school visit I was coming out of the building where a few teachers , discipleship leaders, and some students were gathered around. A DL called out to me and said "This girl says she knows you." I looked at the teenage girl sitting on a water barrel and immediately recognized her. She was one of the students in my Teach ONE grade 7 class. One of the ones I loved so much. I was in a hurry and almost missed her. I am so thankful someone stopped me because just laying my eyes on her made my day.
She thought I wouldn't remember her and smiled when I told her I knew exactly who she was. We talked about her classmates. Some of them are entering grade 10 this year and others are beginning grade 9. There was a silence then she said, "I remember Punchinello." I couldn't help but smile. Punchinello is a character in books I read them during class. It was the most fun I ever had reading to kids. I would read and their teacher would interpret. There was something so moving during those read alouds with that class as their teacher and I told the stories. This girl, who is now entering the 10th grade, remembers them years later. You Are Special. Just the Way You Are. You Are Mine. Best of All. The words between the covers of those books stuck with her. The words that we speak into others can have a profound effect. You are special. God doesn't make mistakes. You are loved.
On the drive back to the office my co-worker pointed out to me the compound where he grew up. He described his life there as a child and talked about his relatives who still live in the area. Then he told me that I'll never understand the impact Family Legacy has on the lives of the kids living in the slums. He said he knows because he was a kid just like them who was blessed enough to go to school. Even though he's had more lucrative job offers he stays with Family Legacy because it brings him fulfillment to know the impact education can have. He told me that even if we can just get these kids into secondary school their lives will be changed forever because they will see something beyond life in the compound and they won't turn back.
Those kids I helped teach in 2012, they're in secondary school now. When I think about them, my emotions overwhelm me as waves of joy fill my heart. I was blessed to be part of their education even for a short time. Education here changes everything, and in that classroom these kids changed me in the best ways. God used them to call me here and gave me the opportunity to be part of a story that is building something amazing-- the hearts and minds of the precious children of Zambia. I live here now because of the relationships I formed with these kids that summer. They are special. They are loved. They are the NEXT 50 years of Zambia.
I arrived at the LCA and went to visit the 7th grade class. I didn't see what I had expected. Normally Mr. Sakana's class is full of activity. It was August and term 2 had ended. It was tuitions week, a time of tutoring sessions the students can attend during the school holiday. The grade 7 teacher was there but only one student was present. I waited until his session ended then sat down to visit with Mr. Sakana.
Grade 7 is a very important year in the education system in Zambia. National exams for this grade are given in October. The scores on this exam determine if the students are eligible to move on to grade 8 and if they qualify for one of the few spots in Zambian secondary schools. Our 7th grade teachers and students strove throughout the first two terms to improve reading skills as well as learn content that needed to be covered before exams began. At the end of term 2 the grade 7 students at the LCAs took a mock exam, and the teachers of those classes met at the Family Legacy office in Lusaka to score and analyze the tests. The 18 grade 7 teachers from the LCAs and FCA worked long hours pouring over the mock exams. They were able to see which subjects and topics needed to be emphasized during tuitions this week.
Today, in the absence of students, Mr. Sakana and I sat and looked at his class's scores and talked about individual students and their progress. We discussed students who have not had good attendance and those who with hard work could be ready to pass the exams in two months time. Mr. Sakana is a very good teacher and his students love him. He was prepared for the day but most of the students had not come. Then there was a knock at the door, and Tawanda walked in. He's one of the most promising grade 7 students in his LCA. He had just returned from a doctor's appointment and was ready to study. I asked him where his friends were at instead of attending tuitions. He told me some were away on holiday, some were at the market selling, and others were at home.
We didn't want these students to miss out on this opportunity to learn more and get extra help, so Mr. Sakana, Tawanda, and I came up with a plan. We left the gate of the school and began to walk through the compound toward the market. Tawanda led us from one place to another. We walked to stands at the market where grade 7 students often sell goods. We stepped between market stalls onto the main street where one of our boys sat alone in a stand selling machine parts. The Chainda market has rows of lean-tos offering shoes, pipes, vegetables, bags of coal, and a variety of other materials for sale to those who pass by. I drive by these market stalls often but until that day had never walked down this road. Standing there with this boy made the reality of his everyday life more clear. After talking with him for a few minutes, we went back through a narrow gap between structures and were back on the pathways between houses. Ducking under clothes lines strung between small cinder block houses we greeted caretakers and students along the way. We stopped and watched one of our younger students working in his family business pounding a sheet of metal into a brazier that is used to burn coal for cooking. He was skilled at his craft and I wondered just how young he was when he first learned this type of work.
We walked far and near for about 2 hours. My shoes were coated inside and out from the dusty walkways and the soot where trash had been burned beside the paths. When I got dressed that day I hadn't planned to spend my morning walking through the compound. I hadn't prepared to do it. Sometimes though sitting aside our plans and participating in the unexpected gives us our best and most memorable experiences.
Every time we stopped the students were very surprised to see their teacher and me at their homes and family places of business. I told them we missed them at school this week and that we love them so much we had come to find them. There were hugs and handshakes and smiles. I asked them where they had been. Some just cast their eyes down because they did not have a reason for not attending tuitions. One boy's eyes welled up with tears as he talked about attending an uncle's funeral. All promised they would be at the school for the afternoon session or first thing in the morning.
Recently I came across this quote from Henri Nouwen:
"More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn't be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them." Henri Nouwen
As we wove through the dusty streets of the community I lost all sense of direction. In that maze of small rectangular dwellings, adults and children looked up from their dishes, laundry, and lounging. Eyes watching the three of us move along together. Once in a while I would overhear one person say to another, " . . . Camp LIFE . . ." as we passed by. It made me smile. Family Legacy has made a name with the people there. Out of nowhere a young girl yelled, "SIR" and came running to hug Mr. Sakana. She is the younger sister of one of his students. She grabbed our hands and asked if we would come to her house. As she led us to where they live, she smiled. I could tell she was proud to have us visit. Our homes, no matter how humble, are important to us. It's a privilege to have the time to be present because sometimes our presence alone speaks volumes of love.
How do we bring hope to a generation who society has left behind? How do we reach the NEXT 50 of Zambia? We do it one child at a time through our presence. We let them know through our words and actions that they are truly loved right in the midst of their everyday lives.
Tawanda, our student guide that day, is featured in my newsletter that will be sent out this week. I'm excited to share with you the amazing year we have had at Family Legacy. Please continue to pray for me and with me for the 10,000 students who will begin a new school year January 12.
It's become one of my favorite Zambian phrases. "Go well." Makes me smile every time I hear it. I like the sentiment of it, how it wishes the best for the one departing. I've heard this phrase frequently this week from my Zambian coworkers and friends. Tonight I will board a plane and fly for basically 24 hours straight (I wish I was exaggerating!). Sunday night I will be hugging my family and enjoying being back in Oklahoma with them for a few weeks. I have been counting down the days! I've missed them so much!
The last few days have helped me realize even more how much I love the people of Zambia. I started to get choked up on Wednesday when I met with the head teachers at my schools to let them know I would be gone for the beginning of term 3. I love these schools leaders and will miss them while I'm gone. As we left the meeting I heard from each of them, "Go well."
Friday after a day of teacher training I started to cry when the teachers from Chainda LCA pulled me aside and said they wanted to affirm me before I left. Their words were so kind and sincere. My mind wandered back to the day at the beginning of the school year when I wrote this about them. I love them and their students. Before I left the school, I told them I would miss them and be praying for them. They replied, "Go well."
I love parting ways with well wishes. I am looking forward to being "home" in America for a while, but I am so thankful that when that time comes to an end I will be returning to people I love, and I will look forward to seeing them.
"This is home." It's been about a year now since I was riding down a dirt road in Zambia and God spoke that into my heart. In that moment I knew beyond doubt that I would be moving here to work with the orphaned and vulnerable children in the compounds of Lusaka with Family Legacy.
I've been reflecting on last year, especially the months between quitting my job and knowing that moving to Zambia was God's plan for me. During that time I wrote, "I had to let go of a lot of things to make this decision to leave my job and move into an unknown future. The path to this point wasn't easy, and everything in my life is about to change in a major way. This summer I'll be starting a new life where my fears of the unknown will meet my faith that God has a plan and it will be worth it."
I wrote that 3 months before I knew I would be moving to Zambia. It was an exciting time and a time that I found unexpected peace as I completely put my faith in a Heavenly Father who makes plans for a hope and an amazing future.
I stepped away from my security and comfort and into a life that is not always easy but is filled with joy beyond measure. God knows how life is best lived and and following Him led me to Zambia where my days are filled with precious children and teachers like these. It was definitely worth it, and I could not be more grateful!
God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him.
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
"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