Friday, June 28th
We were only at school until 10:00 this day, so I did a read aloud with the kids and helped the teachers when needed. The kids LOVED for me to read picture books aloud. They just stare at you so engaged, laugh, and clap when the book is finished. :) I could tell that the teachers were starting to implement some of the strategies I had been using, especially with the phonics lessons, so that was great to see.
After we left the school, we headed to the top of the hill to the Legacy Center to see Friday afternoon of Camp LIFE. Since I have never participated in Camp LIFE before, this was great to see. It helped put the pieces of the ministry together for me.
When we got there, the kids were going into the center to participate in the Lord's Supper. This was such a special time! Each group of 10 kids sat in a circle. They prayed for each other, and the kids even prayed for their American mentor. Greer, the founder of Family Legacy, led a time of reflection and prayer, and "Uncle Teddy" translated. He is a Zambian who works with Family Legacy to translate everything Greer says at camp into Nyanja, and he is phenomenal!! He does the same exact hand motions, animation, and voice inflection as Greer does. It is really cool to see and hear.
|Uncle Greer and Uncle Teddy leading the kids in a time of worship and prayer|
After the Lord's Supper, we went outside and were immediately bombarded by a group of girls that did not have an American leading their group. Most groups have 1 American and 1 Zambian. These girls were ones who are already sponsored, and there were so many children that a couple of the groups had to be without an American all week. Needless to say, they were SO excited to see us and to know we were not already with another group, and they begged for us to sit with them.
They latched on quickly!! They wanted to touch our skin, climb all over us, use my camera, braid our hair, etc. It was so sweet!
When we went inside, the kids sang all of their camp songs, prayed, and then it was time for "blessings". Each child was going to get a few gifts to go home with. Greer and Teddy had a huge trunk on stage, and they would open it and pull out each gift one-by-one. The reactions were priceless. The kids would yell and scream for a "sweet" (piece of candy) or a "bangle" (bracelet).
This was after they were told they were all getting blankets. Have you ever heard or seen a reaction like this for something we take for granted every day? It really puts things into perspective!
After this, it was time for the Americans to take their kiddos back to the buses to say goodbye to them for the last time.
It was heartbreaking watch how sad the kids were to leave. Many of them are going back to horrible home lives and situations, but hopefully many of them will soon be sponsored. They will then have the opportunity to go to school, and some may even be new residents of the Tree of Life. There is hope for these little ones!
When all of the children were gone, we went on a tour of "the future of Camp LIFE". Greer led us around the property, and I learned so much about the ministry. Hearing his story of being a very wealthy businessman, to nearly losing everything, then still having the faith God would provide for Family Legacy was amazing. All of the staff that work for Family Legacy raise their own salaries. They must truly rely on God and fully trust him to bring in enough for their families to live.
Family Legacy is currently building and raising money for the Legacy Lodge. This will be a hotel type accommodation on property that will be used for Cam Life and then rented out during the year to earn revenue for the ministry. When I first heard that it was for Camp Life, it was hard to understand why they were spending so much money to build nice facilities just for the Americans to come over and stay in while at camp, especially knowing where the children come from. However, as I listened to the heart of it more, I quickly realized that it is a well thought out business plan to create more revenue that will be directly used to further the ministry. The property is 10 minutes from the airport, and there is a need for a hotel/meeting room facility, and it has the potential to bring in a lot of money that can be used for the kids and schools.
|Taking a tour of a model room at the Legacy Lodge|
We toured a model room, and it was beautiful. The views are breathtaking. It was very cool to hear see and hear the story of how everything came about and how God has orchestrated it all from the beginning.
We ate dinner with all of the Americans there for Camp Life, and it was their last night, so it was a celebration of what God had done all week. At the end of the night, the lights turned out, and we thought it was a time of prayer. Music started playing, and I saw people coming out from behind the curtains on stage. For some reason, I thought it was the house mommies. When I realized it was our Tree of Life children, I immediately started crying and could not stop. The children were all dressed up in traditional African clothing in bright colors, and they had candles and were dancing to "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah".
They looked so sweet and full of JOY! When you look at them, it is sometimes hard to remember they they have had such hard little lives. They still have emotional, and sometimes even physical, scars, but they have been renewed and transformed! They have the joy of the Lord now!
On the bus ride home, one lady told us the story of a little girl Faith. She is in Allison's Grade 1 class. Last year, after camp, she went home to the house where she was being beaten. When she got there, her mom said they didn't want her to live there anymore and that she needed to go back to the camp she came from. She had memorized the path of the bus, and she turned around and walked 6 miles back! They found her on the side of the road, rescued her, and now she is thriving at the Tree of Life.
There are so many stories like hers, and to see the children now, you can't help but know that God is doing great things!
What a blessing the first week was!