Another year has come and gone. It’s true what they say—the days are long, but the years are short. As we look back on 2018, I can’t say that we’re too fond of this year or sad to see it go. Our third year in Zim will be marked as a year spent in the Refiner’s fire and remembered as smelling like burning flesh. Just when we thought we were doing well, the Spirit humbled us to reveal blind spots and areas where we were struggling. He has been faithful, but it has not been easy.
We’ve never observed advent with more excitement. We’ve found ourselves wanting to skip ahead in the story set just to get to the birth. There have been many days where obedience, heck…life, just felt too heavy. But our hope has been found in Christmas. Our hope is in a Hero who came to rescue us from this depressing, disease-stricken, full of pain, and fallen world. And our hope is in the promise that He’s coming back for those who are eagerly waiting for Him. Our hope is found in knowing this life is but a vapor, a blade of grass. The discomfort is temporary, but His word and His Kingdom will last forever.
A lot of good is happening all around us, but it has not come without a fight. There is an enemy raging who does not want to see laborers trained and raised up for the mission, But our King is victorious. And even what Satan has meant for evil, God has used for our good. When we came, there were 15 students, only 3 of whom were able to pay. There was a significant amount of debt and a staff who were months behind in their pay. We finished the year with 37 students, every one of them paying their tuition, (many with help of Umambo Farm). We have partnered with a local farmer and we are raising chickens to lay eggs. He buys the eggs from us and the students get paid for their work. This project has changed the whole morale of the campus. We even have 5 new students who have come from the rural area of Tongaland, where Nick came on his first trip to Zim. Tongaland is home to a people group called the Tonga (or BaTonga) which is one of Zim’s only people groups considered unreached with the gospel. But the Spirit has led these men to come and train and we are hopeful they will be used to make that statistic one of history.
Along with the chicken project on campus, this year we also initiated a project in partnership with Baptist Global Response (BGR) to construct 10 small-scale chicken houses to take part in the same egg-production system as the seminary. Because of this, there are now 10 households of orphans and/or widows who have a steady income raising chickens and selling the eggs. We are in the initial plans of starting another 10 houses at some point.
The Spirit is moving and we are encouraged knowing there is purpose in our being here. We are thankful for the fruit He has shown us to spur us on, knowing many who are serving overseas that don’t get to see tangible fruit. We are thankful for the countless brothers and sisters (many of you) who have prayed for and/or supported the work here. We are more aware than ever of our dependence on the rest of the body of Christ.
We enjoyed hosting several short-term teams this year as well as a visit from Nick’s parents and my sister Amy. Every time we have visitors, they bring a piece of home with them- a piece of the familiar. As Christmas Day marks 3 years since buying those one-way tickets, we miss home…now more than ever. But I’ve been comforted many times by the realization that Jesus also knew what it was like to come to a foreign land where he was despised and rejected. He knew what it was like to leave home and was separated for a time from His Father so that others (we!) wouldn’t have to be separated from Him forever.
If we are honest, we are longing for home, but what we are learning is that our longing is not the familiar and fallen American soil. What we are truly longing for is the home He has prepared for all who love Him. We are longing to see the face of our King. We are longing to have the kind of heart that will love Him the way He deserves to be loved. Until that days comes, however, our prayer is that many more will come to know Him. We pray that He will use us to find the remnant of His brothers and sisters who are still captive to the enemy. And we are praying for faith to persevere until He comes.
We love and miss our friends and family and long for the day we will never be separated again. We wish you a Merry Christmas, one filled with faith, hope, and joy in the promises of God. At His right hand are pleasures forevermore. May we live the coming year as though we truly believe that!
With much love and gratitude from Zim,
Nick, Kyndra, Jake, Jimmy, Libby, Sophia, Kate, Juliet, and Johnny
Update on the crew:
Nick has been busy learning about chickens and teaching classes at the Seminary. He got to attend an Africa-wide theological education conference in Nairobi , Kenya where he was encouraged to hear all that the Spirit is doing and will do through the disciple and theologically trained men and women in Africa. After 2 years of not feeling “right” I finally convinced him to get tested. The test revealed he has an allergy to African gluten. In fact, his numbers for this were almost as high as they are for shellfish, which he actually carries an Epi-pen for. So, it’s been fun (sarcasm) trying to figure out what he can and can’t eat here, especially since it’s only the African gluten and anything brought from America is fine! Something about the way they process (or don’t process) their wheat here? Just one of the many “fun” things that make life in Africa more interesting!
Me: we started homeschool in January. While it’s been challenging at times, it has proven to be the best decision for this season. I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of it to help the kids develop their specific giftings. The Lord was gracious to send Myah Barker, an 18-year-old who graduated High School in June. She came here in July to help around the house, with homeschool, and to allow Nick and I to get much needed time away from the kids. We were able to enjoy many well overdue date nights thanks to Myah! She had planned to stay a year, but was only given 6 months in country on her visa so she left right before Christmas. I’ve enjoyed having a friend around and an extra hand. I’ve spent half the year working on a project to get one of my national friends (who has 8 children and is married to an absent alcoholic, so is basically a single mother) onto her own land and into her first real home. She has agreed to care for 2 orphan girls and their widowed grandmother on her new property. We will be moving them just in time for Christmas and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad this project is almost complete. It has been a lot more time consuming than I ever anticipated. I’ve also been busy helping to launch a program to begin offering training for the Seminary Wives this year. I’m still in awe of the Spirit’s help in providing and making this dream happen. These women are truly incredible and have put me in my place many times. It is humbling to be among so many women who make me feel like a sissy.
Jake, 13: Jake is still the quirky kid who will talk to anyone about anything, he’s just about a foot taller and 40lbs heavier. He passed me up and has almost got Nick. Jake was baptized along with Libby at an Easter camp here back in April. He loves to read and can finish long chapter books in a day. He hates doing schoolwork, but enjoys building and fixing things. He’s gotten pretty creative in the kitchen as we don’t have many snack options. I think a good amount of the 40lbs he has added is from homemade French fries he has made his specialty. He washes, peels, cuts, and deep fries the potatoes several times a week. We are in the process of building him a workshop for all his gadgets. He asked for a soldering kit and a multi-meter for Christmas.
Jimmy, 22…I mean, 12: Jimmy picked up a guitar and you’d think he’s been playing for years. He will sit and play for hours trying to learn a Van Halen or Brad Paisley song. He is a gifted writer and has written a few short stories, songs, and comics. He enjoys drawing and turning any piece of paper into some form of art. We have origami swans laying all over the house. He’s a hard worker and is always looking for ways to help. He’ll tell you he loves Zim and feels at home here. He is actually already worried about missing it when we go to visit the States this year. He asked for an electric guitar for Christmas. I put that on the list right next to my beach house.
Libby, 10: Libby is responsible. She wakes up every morning and takes a shower and puts a nice outfit on. She always smells good and has spray or lotion on hand. She loves singing and dancing. She also writes plays or skits and leads the other kids in acting them out. She is a natural leader, but is often irritated by her little sisters copying everything she does. She still begs to hold every baby she sees and is getting to where I feel confident leaving her with the smaller kids for short periods of time. She’s so creative and fun. She asked for art supplies and a karaoke machine for Christmas.
Sophia, 9: Sophia marches to the beat of her own drummer. She professed faith in Jesus as her King back in July. She enjoys gardening and has planted several flowers as well as a small cilantro garden to help Nick be able to make a complete Mexican meal. She has developed a fascination with missionary biographies and has already read several while giving the rest of us a play by play of what is happening. She says the stories are “so exciting!” She is always the one we call on to catch a bug, chameleon, or any critter, and she has no qualms about quickly making them her friend, complete with a name. She loves being outside and she asked for a hammock and a violin (fiddle) for Christmas.
Kate, 7: Kate is, hmmm…what is the word??? Boisterous. She is over-opinionated and persistent. You never have to wonder what Kate is thinking, though sometimes (often) I wish she’d leave some to the imagination. She may be the 5th child, but she will never be overlooked. She is a singing and dancing queen who can show the monkey bars who’s boss and do a perfect cartwheel. She’s not afraid of anything, except an unkind word. She’s fierce but tender-hearted. Kate asked for a red Kindle fire for her birthday with gymnastics games.
Juliet, 5: Juliet is spunky. She hates having her hair brushed and doesn’t understand why she has to wear shoes. She can be found laying out in the yard with the dogs under a blanket or watching a movie trying to hide a dog under a blanket, knowing they shouldn’t be in the house. She’s not afraid to tell you exactly what she wants or needs and can definitely be bossy. God have her the highest possible volume on her voice/scream and I’ll admit I fail often as a parent, just trying to avoid hearing it…just give her the sucker. She’s super affectionate and sweet, until she’s not. She asked for a bike for Christmas.
Johnny, 4: last but certainly not least. Johnny is my sunshine. He’s always there to give a hug or say something cute. He’s developed a not-so-charming attitude and temper this year, but it stays in the shadows most days. He’s very observant and literal. He’ll say “I’m hungry” at least 10 times per day so we just started calling him “Hungry.” He got so mad he now says, “I need something to eat.” He and Juliet are like 2 peas in a pod. It’s rare to see one without the other. He takes her orders all day and tries to keep her happy. Johnny is an easy and content kid who will like whatever we get him for Christmas, but he asked for a Kaleidoscope. Weird, I know.
I’m so proud of these kids and thankful for how God is shaping their hearts. The hardest part about life over here has been missing friends. There are no extra-curricular options where we live. It can be lonely and often boring, but they are learning to get creative with their time. Please continue to pray for their growth, contentment, health, and safety.