Thursday, January 22, 2015

Leaving Zambia

It has been awhile since my last post, as our family spent this month preparing for a huge transition; we are moving back to the United States as our term in Zambia draws to a close. Thank you so much, dear friends, for walking with us on this journey. Below is our good-bye letter. We deeply appreciate your prayers during this time of immense change, sad good-byes, and exciting hellos.

Dear Friends,

It is with a heavy, but grateful heart, that we sit down to write this letter. As we approach the end of our first term in Zambia, our family is feeling a call to return to ministry in the United States. We are thrilled about the opportunities that await us, but full of sorrow as we say good-bye.

We clearly remember our first few hours in Zambia. We arrived in the scorching heat of October, stepping off the plane and onto burning pavement. Palm trees welcomed our weary bodies, but as soon as we got to the baggage claim, Frankie promptly vomited all over the floor. A stranger came to clean up the mess and a different stranger brought our little boy a bottle of water. Jet-lagged, nervous, and embarrassed, we continued through customs and towards the welcoming arms of our new Zambian colleagues. 

The five senior leaders of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Synod of Zambia were there to welcome us, along with our Regional Liaison, Nancy Collins. They loaded up all our possessions, drove us to our new home, and as we entered the kitchen, we found that they had already stocked it with groceries. Our colleagues instructed us to rest, with the promise that they would be there to help with anything we needed.

From those first few hours, and through the next two and a half years, generosity has been a recurrent theme. We are amazed by the ways that people have offered us assistance, food, time, trust, and gifts galore. It is humbling to be on the receiving end, over and over again, knowing that those who give often have much less than we do.

But this generosity has not been limited to our Zambian friends and colleagues. It is a shining light of love emanating from the United States, as well. You, our friends and supporters, have amazed us with your generosity. You have offered daily prayers, frequent encouragement, and financial support. You have taken this journey with our small family, and you have been part of a large, extended family, which reaches halfway around the world.

We want to express our deepest gratitude for trusting us, supporting us, and loving us through the joys and challenges of our time here. We thank you for trusting the call that we felt to come to Zambia, and we thank you now, for trusting our new call, to ministry back in the United States. Kari will be serving as Senior Minister at Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ in Hartford, Connecticut. Our whole family is excited to be a part of this vibrant, justice-focused, loving congregation. 

While we are grateful for this opportunity, we ask that you continue to support us with prayer during this transition time. We especially ask for prayers for Frankie and Johnny, as they enter a new school, church, and community. We will deeply miss our friends here, and your prayers through the grieving process of saying good-bye are vital.

God has blessed us greatly during these years in Zambia. Working with gifted colleagues, we have witnessed community health programs that are transforming lives. While traveling throughout the country, we have been blessed to participate in vibrant worship. The curriculum that we developed, the HIV/AIDS resources that we compiled, and the outreach trainings that we led are sources of enormous joy in our lives. Joel’s work developing videos, leading media trainings, and working on the CCAP website helped us to build an even deeper admiration for the work that our partners are doing. We could fill hundreds of pages with stories of profound blessing; our lives will always be richer because of what we have learned from our partners here.

Most recently, our family has been given the gift of coordinating the Young Adult Volunteer program in Zambia. The joy, dedication, openness, and giftedness of the young adults is a delight. As they live and serve with Zambian families, they are learning and growing in wonderful ways. Through theological reflection, shared worship, and thought-provoking discussions, the YAVs have also helped us to learn and grow. We know that the YAVs are deeply blessed by their time in Zambia, and they are also a deep blessing to their communities. Coordinating this program and working with these young people has been a tremendous privilege.

We want to assure you that our departure will not mean the end of our ministries here. Our colleagues are continuing the curriculum work, with additional teacher trainings already scheduled for the remaining eight presbyteries. The HIV/AIDS Youth program will move forward with newly trained young adult leaders. Community health evangelism continues to thrive with local leadership. And finally, the Young Adult Volunteer program will continue with Sherri Ellington serving as interim YAV site coordinator. Perhaps the most striking introduction to Sherri’s faith and family is to read this Mission Connections letter, at 

You have been a source of great support and joy to us over these years, and we ask that you consider supporting Sherri as she moves into this role. We are so grateful that she will ensure that the YAV site continues without interruption. Your prayers, encouragement, and financial gifts will help Sherri enormously. If you feel called to support her, you can contact her or donate through the link to her article. After your donation, you will automatically be subscribed to their letters, and can continue to hear about the wonderful work that is happening here in Zambia.

Again, thank you so very much for your support, encouragement, and prayers. We will always carry with us deep gratitude for your presence in our lives. Just as we have been inspired and moved by the people here, we have also been inspired and moved by your participation in this journey. As we all continue to move forward in faith, may we know the presence, peace, and joy of God, who always travels with us.

Grace and peace,
Kari, Joel, Frankie and Johnny