Rachel Jenae

Travel: I Know the Plans I Have for You…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans for good and not for evil. Plans to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

I tend to process things of the heart a bit slowly and this trip falls right into that category. To catch you up, I just returned from Zambia with an organization out of the Dallas area called Family Legacy. They have a 7 week program in the summer called Camp Life where 100 Americans fly over and each oversee 10 Zambian kids for the week (primarily single or double orphans, totaling 1000 kids) to pour out the love of Jesus on them.  Zambia has around a million orphans out of their 15 million population, having one of the largest percentages of orphans in any country in the world. Family Legacy has been there since 2000 establishing schools, a sponsorship program, permanent housing for orphans, and so much more. I found myself in awe every day of the God ideas I saw and heard they were implementing that are inevitably changing the culture and nation of Zambia for the better. So it should be of no surprise that Camp Life was run with so many intentional details and moments each day. I was blown away by their excellence!

So now I’ll jump into the good stuff – photos! I made it to Lusaka, Zambia after just a “short” couple flights and a layover in Dubai (which I highly recommend visiting) and arrived Saturday evening in time for dinner. Waiting out back was a group to welcome us with Zambian songs and dancing. Sunday morning we hit the ground running attending church with the Tree of Life community (permanent housing for over 650 orphans), spending some with some market vendors and then meeting our Zambian partners that would be helping us all week.

Meet Delia, my Zambian partner that was a God-send. She’s been helping with Camp Life for 8 years and now works for Family Legacy as a disciple teacher at the John Leing school, where our girls are from. Photo below taken by Kate Swail.

Monday morning while the kids arrived and got enrolled in camp, we took a tour of the city of Lusaka – from the dense woods down south near the Family Legacy property, to dirt roads, to city, to community compounds. We then made a quick stop by one of the Legacy Academy schools – Chaise.

And then it was time to meet our Camp Life kids! They were all waiting for us as we arrived back at the Family Legacy Center – lined up in a row of ten. A thousand little people who had no idea what God had in store for them this week.

And then I found my girls. These first couple photos of my girls are probably pretty accurate of what they thought about me – skeptical and questioning – but it didn’t take long to crack those smile and see their personalities come out. 

Each day was totally different, varying with big group sessions and all of us together, dancing, singing and hearing a short word on our theme for the week, Hope. Then we’d break out into small groups, blessing time (individual time with each kid), coloring, playground, random games, etc. (First 3 photos below by Kate Swail.)

Photos below by Kate Swail.

Each day during blessing time I would pull one of my girls aside with my partner and translator and ask them a series of questions to get to know them and find out their story. My girls ranged in age from 8-10 and were all from the John Leign community. Only three of my girls are currently in school, simply because they’ve been sponsored to do so through Family Legacy. The rest of my girls have never been in school and greatly wish they were. They told me about their homes and families, what makes them happy and sad, and the funnest part – what they want to be when they grow up. Most of their fathers have died and they live with their mother who tries to find work doing laundry or selling items she’s found. The majority of them want to be teachers, nurses or accountants – things they hear about quite often I am guessing – but one girl surprised me and said she wants to be a chef at a restaurant. I was so happy to hear her very different and big dream come forth so easily that I couldn’t help getting really excited for her. She was full of hope and dreaming of something better than she could currently see.

On Thursday we took buses into our specific communities, but first we went to see a model school that Family Legacy intends to build more of, in the community of Beline. They have bought the property and built Beline from scratch. We peaked into classrooms to see very focused children soaking up every word of their teachers. First rate classrooms, computer and microscope equipment, as well as a fully stocked library. This was drastically different than what I would see in John Leing, where they have remodeled old buildings that are rented on a very tiny piece of property. This is still overwhelmingly better than a public community school, but they have hopes of improving it.

It took us about an hour and a half to bus to the John Leing community and the school is right in the middle. The scenery will paint you a picture of where my girls live and grow up. 

And here is a typical classroom in John Leing. 

Following the visit to the school we met our 10 kids and walked around the community of John Leing. Weaving in and around buildings my girls led the way. As we met different people along the way the girls would use what is called an evangecube (that we’d use to help teach them throughout the week) and share about Jesus with each of them. Here were 9 year old girls boldly sharing about Jesus with every passerby, becoming more bold with each try. I couldn’t have been more proud. It was easy to gather a crowd quickly, as there were more kids around than I could count. I didn’t take my camera on this outing, so here’s just one photo of my friend Kate loving on the community kids.

Thursday afternoon we went to visit the Tree of Life kids. As I mentioned, the Tree of Life community is really a children’s village. There are over 65 permanent nice homes with close to 700 Zambian orphans living their. Each home has 10-12 kids with a house mom in a 4 bedroom home. I had the privilege of visiting Mercy House and visiting with 12 girls, ages 6-17. They were beautiful girls, on their best behavior and so proud to show me every detail of their home. I brought them treats and we sat at their large kitchen table talking about our worlds. They asked me lots of questions about my home and where I live before one girl randomly asked me what my talent was. I chuckled as I told her I wasn’t sure. She then asked if I could dance or sing. I told her I could sing, but that I’d much rather hear them sing. That did not detour her. She then asked me to sing Hallelujah followed by Amazing Grace.

With 12 peering eyes watching I began to sing. The melody filled the small home, echoing off of the brick walls with a beautiful surround sound. It felt like for one small moment the world was standing still. I could feel God’s amazing grace being poured out like never before and I knew I was being given an opportunity to declare over this house just that – amazing grace that would go forth with a sweet sound to the world from each of their lives. Each of these girls had been rescued and redeemed by that same grace. I had too. Different stories, different circumstances, a world away, but here we were in awe of Him together.

The girls then took me to their Tree of Life school to meet each of their teachers and show me their art work in every classroom. I was their adopted mother for a day.

And then it was Friday. A bitter sweet day as we had to say our goodbyes, but we also a very fun day as we gave the kids lots of blessing gifts. They were given backpacks this year, full of little goodies and they could not have been happier.

To end the week we had a beautiful balloon release before saying goodbye.

For most of these orphans this week overwhelmed their senses, their minds and their hearts. Our prayer is that they leave utterly changed by the love of Jesus they encountered and that they have a fresh HOPE knowing He has amazingly good plans for their lives. I will miss them dearly!