It has been about two weeks; two weeks for me to gather my thoughts about the one of the deepest experiences of my life. How do I explain what it feels like to have my heart go walking outside of my body? How do I gather the words that will paint a picture of pure bliss in the midst of poverty, hurt and pain? My experience in Africa was taken in this time in a very personal way. My heart was touched deeply, dare I say, deeper than ever before. I experienced more highs and lows in the past two weeks than I have in the past eight months. Leaving my family in Asheville while I venture off into the unknown, on a trip I knew would make my heart set sail has been beyond hard. I grew closer to three of my friends from Asheville that accompanied me than I ever thought I would. I grew to love five "strangers" in Uganda that I now call, with all sincerity, my family. I watched God do miracle after miracle and prepare the way for the greatness he has in store for Sole Hope. I experienced his favor and mercy in great ways. I witnessed the hard work and resiliency of over 100 Sole Hope workers in Zambia and Uganda. I saw hearts changed and lives moved, including my own.
Our trip began with Uganda. We stayed in a village about an hour from much civilization. The family that hosted us, George and Christie are now our Ugandan family. Their three boys Zziwa, Moses and Brian I now call my brothers. We all stayed in a small house constructed of hand made bricks and filled with love. We had no electricity or running water-and it was still wonderful. For a week I bathed out of a bucket of boiled water that had been fetched by Moses and Zziwa. (Well, let me be honest, I only bathed once that week-it seemed very unnecessary) :) To get food for dinner was an all day affair, we were blessed to have Hugh-a team member who is a wonderful and creative cook.
We taught shoe making until the sun went down and were blessed to be in the presence of such devoted and loving people. Our week ended too quickly and it was time to move on to Zambia. Tears rolled down our faces and large part of our heart was left behind.
Patrick and Hugh prayed for our trip every single night, and several times a day. Here they stopped and said a prayer as we were just a few blocks away from the riots due to elections. In the midst of chaos we were kept safe.
My travel buddy and sistah, Holly.
Our next stop was Ndola, Zambia. We were greeted with a thunderous welcome from the Wiphan ladies. My heart was overflowing with joy and excitement as I watched the ladies display their thankfulness in their song, dance and shouts of joy! I remembered why I love it there so much, the people are amazing! We taught shoe making in Zambia, just as we had done in Uganda, only we had about 4 times the ladies! We were blown away and very nervous at how everything would work out. But wouldn't you know, God didn't give us anything we could not handle...in fact, we did not just "handle" the teaching-but we were overjoyed to see the excitement and ownership that was taken with shoe making, just as in Uganda! Lives were changed and soles were touched for His name and for His glory.
One of my favorite experiences from being in Zambia, besides being with our Zambian friends whom I love, was meeting a boy we now call our son. If it was possible and beneficial I would bring this child home. This boys name is Maybin...he is as smart as a whip and wants to be a doctor. Joy and love radiated from Maybin's face...he is an angel sent to us by God. Maybin cares for his grandmother who is 70+ years old. He is a double orphan due to his dad dying when he was born, and his mother dying when he was in the 4th grade. He lives in a little mud hut in a very dangerous neighborhood laden with thieves and witchcraft. Maybin and our family will be connected forever. We are putting him through secondary school and bought him a bike so he does not have to walk 10 miles to school every day like he has been. Maybin and I wrote letters back and forth to one another every day while I was in Zambia, and in one letter he wrote, "I have prayed to God for you. I prayed and fasted that God would bring me someone to care about me. I have no one, but now I have you." We are so blessed to have one another.
(Maybin on the left and my sweet friend Abby on the right)
In each place we visited I was amazed to see how Sole Hope grew...how many lives were touched and what hope was being displayed. In a letter from Kunda in Zambia she wrote,
PRECIOUS ASHER AND THE SOLE-HOPE TEAM,
Fondest love to sweet Asher, your family and the Sole - Hope team, in the precious name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We have been praying for your safe flight and we trust that you arrived home safely.
God, gives the best and every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord! WIPHAN - LADIES AND I, will never cease to thank God
Wiphan and you cant imagine the JOY, HOPE AND EXCITEMENT you have left in the lives of the poor widows at Wiphan!! SHOE-MAKING, has come at the right time and it IS WIPHAN'S DREAM COME TRUE!!!. A million, million thanks for loving us and for the time you spent with us, we are very very grateful and God richly, richly bless you so very very much. Shoe making has brought alot of hope in the lives of Wiphan ladies and their lives will never be the same. We had a very wonderful time today with the ladies and all of them are DETERMINED TO WORK VERY HARD and I told them that working hard is what will make a difference in their lives.
SWEET ASHER,. YOU ARE TO US, A GOD-GIVEN PRECIOUS GIFT AND WE WILL FOREVER LIVE TO THANK GOD FOR YOU.
THE BIBLE ALSO SAYS THAT THE BLESSINGS OF THE LORD ADDETH NO SORROW AND THIS IS SO TRUE!! YOU ARE SUCH A SPECIAL BLESSING TO US AND TO THE ZAMBIAN WIDOWS AND ORPHANS. GOD HAS ALREADY STARTED USING YOU HIGHLY TO WIPE AWAY THE TEARS OF MANY WIDOWS AND ORPHANS OF OUR COUNTRY, AND AS SOLE - HOPE TEAM, YOU HAVE BROUGHT JOY, HAPPINESS, EXCITEMENT INTO OUR LIVES, AND THE LIVES OF SEVERAL WIDOWS AND ORPHANS OF NDOLA, A MILLION THANKS AND GOD RICHLY BLESS YOU.
ASHER AND SOLE - HOPE TEAM, A MILLION THANKS FOR BEING SO SENSITIVE TO THE DESPERATE NEEDS OF THE WIDOWS AND ORPHANS AT WIPHAN AND A MILLION THANKS FOR MEETING MAYBIN'S SCHOOL REQUIREMENTS - GOD RICHLY, RICHLY BLESS YOU.
A PEOPLE WHOSE FUTURE SEEMED SO DARK, ARE NOW ABLE TO SEE LIGHT OF HOPE AND A BRIGHT FUTURE AHEAD OF THEM.
A PEOPLE, WHO WERE ONCE THROWN OUT AND ABANDONED BY ALL, NOW KNOW THAT GOD LOVES THEM VERY MUCH BECAUSE OF THE GREAT LOVE THAT HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO THEM BY YOU ASHER AND THE SOLE - HOPE TEAM!! WE GREATLY, GREATLY APPRECIATE.
Asher, the ladies that you saw and taught how to make shoes, never had chance to go to school and the skill of shoe making has come as a BIG BLESSING!!.
Love you so very much sweet Asher and God richly bless you, your husband and children and the Sole -Hope team. Bye for now and stay blessed.
TONNES AND TONNES OF LOVE,
Kunda for Wiphan.
I will write more as the days go by. My heart needs to be able to process what I have experienced. Thank you for your prayers, sentiments and comments. They are left in the deepest part of my soul.