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Showing up…and listening
By Mickey and Jackie
We always love to talk about the children at Agape Village Orphanage, but this time we would like to talk about who made Agape Orphanage possible.
Ten years ago, when we first went to Africa, we had no idea we would find ourselves where we are today. In June 2009, we made our first trip to Zambia. After spending two weeks in Zambia, we never really intended to return. However, a few months after that trip, we felt called to go back, but were were not sure exactly why we were returning.
Six months later in December 2009, without having a plan or any significant financing, but knowing we needed to revisit Zambia, we returned. Upon our arrival there, it was immediately obvious to us that God not only had a plan, but He was beginning to make the resources available for us to carry out His plan. All that was required of us at that point was to show up, be still and listen. That was probably the hardest part.
We truly believe in miracles and know that God is all powerful, but we were still amazed to witness so many miracles taking place during that return trip to Zambia, and in such perfect order. We found our faith being tested, but also growing by leaps and bounds. God was moving us so fast that we could hardly keep up.
Now as we look back over the last 10 years we marvel at what God has accomplished in the Zambian bush.
We thank God for using Agape Village Foundation to help relieve suffering for many orphaned and vulnerable children in Zambia.
And because we believe it pleases God to move in answer to the prayers of His people, we thank you for your generous support that has made it possible for us to continue this work in Zambia.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory. —- Ephesians 3:20
Preparing the Way
Agape Village Foundation’s hometown newspaper recently published a story about Sarah Prezioso and her October trip to Agape Village to train our five new teachers.
Here is the story, published the first week of December, 2018:
Nash Community College Director of Early Childhood Education Sarah Prezioso recently visited Zambia, Africa, to share her expertise with five African teachers who will be working at a new school with ties to Rocky Mount.
The new school is a part of Agape Village Foundation, founded by Mickey and Jackie Bailey of Rocky Mount. Agape Village Foundation is a Christian non-profit organization that supports the 138-acre village, which consists of an orphanage for 65 children, a working farm and a soon-to-open new school. Children in grades K-7 will attend the new Agape Village School when it opens in January.
Agape Village Foundation recently brought the five new teachers together for a week-long training session with Prezioso. Jackie Bailey said that while the school is definitely a Zambian school, there are some ways it will be different from other village schools. “The philosophy about education is a little different in Zambia, than it is here in America,” Bailey said. “We wanted to make sure we are using the higher American education standards and we wanted to teach the teachers, from the very beginning, the very best way to teach the children and build strong respectful relationships between the teachers and the students.”
The Baileys and Agape Village Foundation believe that by operating their own school in Agape Village they’ll be able to offer a better education to the children – and better prepare them to be self-sustaining adults and leaders in their community.
Prezioso instructed the new teachers on techniques to use with the curriculum the school will be using, as well as instruction on how to best utilize the new technology in the new school’s classrooms.
The new school is equipped with computers and classroom SMART board projectors. Most of the teachers in Zambia have limited use of computer technology and only get to use them while university students.
“I didn’t anticipate how much the teachers would teach me about the Zambian culture and the education system there. I was impressed by how much they knew about education and how passionate they were about teaching,” said Prezioso, as she reflected on her time there. “Zambia is a very special place full of wonderful people,” she added.
Getting to know the teachers, watching them interact with each other and with the children was the best part of the trip for Prezioso. “They all have such a passion and commitment to Agape Village,” Prezioso said.
The Agape Village Foundation is a Christian nonprofit organization with a mission to provide loving care in a Christ-centered environment for orphaned children in Zambia, enabling them to thrive and to eventually become self-supporting adults.
“In early childhood education, we describe teaching as an art and a science. Students learn this concept in the very first course. As an early childhood faculty member at Nash Community College, I demonstrate this concept for students in a practical way,” Prezioso said. “The science of teaching is the easy part, using research-based strategies to ensure student retention and success. The art of teaching is the challenge, creatively using the strategies to create a positive learning environment for students.”
Published in the Rocky Mount Telegram, December 3, 2018
We are so grateful that God brought Sarah to us to prepare our teachers for their upcoming roles as educators for the youngest children at Agape Village. Our school is set to open on January 7 and Mickey and Jackie Bailey and Jane and Gerald Batts are excited to be able to travel to Zambia for the GRAND OPENING!
God continues to take care of us and meet all of the needs at Agape Village! The miracles continue!
Merry Christmas to you and yours and we pray for Joy to the World, from your corner to the furthest corners.
With love and gratefulness, from Zambia
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon Him while He is near. — Isaiah 55:6
Agape Village Foundation has been busy this week. A team of volunteers is visiting our Agape Village family in Zambia and Mickey and Jackie Bailey, Jane and Gerald Batts and new volunteer Sarah Prezioso have been in Agape Village for several days now.
The highest priority tasks to get done: Finalizing the prep work for the school to open in January. Sarah, an early childhood education instructor in America, has been busy training the five new teachers on the new curriculum the school will be using and how to use the new technology in the Agape Village School. This school will be such a blessing to the Agape Village kids and kids from surrounding villages.
Mickey and Gerald have been working diligently to get all the new equipment up and running at the school. The school will have Internet access, white boards and projectors and computers. This is new to school children and teachers in Zambia.
Jackie and Jane have been assisting Sarah, wrestling with cables and computer setups and loving on the children and all the Agape Village family as much as possible.
The team’s time with the children and all of Agape Village is coming to a close. Please pray for them to get everything done. And for it not to hurt their hearts too much when they have to leave.
I’ve learned Mickey and Jackie rarely talk about the money-part of Agape Village. They truly believe God will provide. I believe that too.
In the last few days I’ve been researching and checking on charities to give to to help with Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael damage, here in the U.S. It’s hard to know who to trust with your money. Will it get to the Pender County school I’ve seen pictures of — completely ruined by flood waters? Will my money really make it to those precious people who have lost their entire town in Mexico Beach, Fla.?
Part of my new scrutiny of non-profits is a result of my involvement with Agape Village. I’ve seen first hand the frugality, the thoughtfulness, the love and the altruistic heart of Mickey and Jackie, the organization’s founders, and all the volunteers. I want to find organizations like AVF to give my money to.
Here’s where your AVF donations go:
To the new Agape Village School.
To the warm coats and hoodies the children have when the weather gets cool.
Your donations help provide the nutritious meals the children (and employees) eat and the growing garden and farm behind the orphanage.
Your donation is here, in these teachers for Agape Village School.
And your donation helped this happen. Chalwe. He’s one of six new children taken in by Agape Village Orphanage in the last few weeks.
Thank you God.
And thank you to everyone who shares what they have with us — whether it’s a big donation or a tiny one. We are grateful for your love.
God is everywhere, I know that. You don’t have to travel across the globe to see him or to be his hands and feet.
Sometimes this world is too much — it seems there is more stress than joyfulness. Taking care of children, work stress, marriage stress, money stress, the lack of basic civility between people. God is like an oasis to me. When I get still and pray or talk to him, or do something I know He’s directing me to do, I feel calmer, more focused and can get my joy back.
Agape Village is like an illustration of God as an oasis. Most days, I have to close my eyes to filter out all the noise of life to connect with God. When you’re in Agape Village, the oasis is all around you, in every moment. I wish I was there!
In the middle of the Zambian bush, God saw fit to give directions to create a beautiful oasis to be a home to those most in need on our planet. I believe God makes miracles all the time, everywhere. But Agape Village is a miracle you can see, touch and feel and it stands out in stark contrast to many of its physical surroundings. It’s a gift to the children, but it’s a gift to those of us who go there to work, as well. It’s a place of peace and love and joy, where you can breathe in the Holy Spirit.
I am sure God wants us all to experience this peace — you don’t have to go to Africa! Whether you go on a mission trip, go tutor at a local school, fix a meal for someone hungry, offer encouragement to someone struggling — know God is there.
Breathe Him in.
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? — 1 Corinthians 3:16
Like, follow and visit our Facebook page — Agape Village Foundation.
Written by Jenny White, an AVF volunteer that really wishes she was in Zambia, but is writing from her home in North Carolina.
Missing Agape Village
By Jenny White
Mickey and Jackie are preparing to return to Agape Village in October and I am wishing I could go.
I come across the photos of my past trip on my phone all the time, and I usually pause for a moment to take in a few images, smile and remember, and then the busy-ness of current day-to-day operations interrupts me and I move on. But Agape Village is never far from my thoughts.
My mother says my smiles looked more carefree than usual, in the photos that I posted from Zambia, and that I looked a lot less stressed. I did feel less burdened in Zambia. Not just because I wasn’t taking care of my family every day, but also because I just felt closer to God while I was there.
For a long time, I’ve imagine God has a safety rope, coming down from Heaven for me to grasp onto. I imagine I need to touch it to keep God at the center of all I do, all day long. Some days, I grasp tightly, usually when I’m scared or stresssed out. I will cry out to God to help me.
Other days, I get distracted and forget the rope is there. Maybe things are going really well, and I think, “I’ve got this.”
I let go of the rope.
Or sometimes when nothing is going well at all, my fear and anxiety will poke holes in my faith and I turn away from God. Somehow I listen more to the voices that tell me I’m unworthy, than to the voice of God in my head.
I let go of the rope.
When I was in Zambia, it was like the rope disappeared completely and I felt enveloped by God. God was the breeze, the blue skies, the children, the singing, the air. He was everywhere.
He was closer.
You can just feel Him in every texture, molecule, fiber and voice.
God’s presence seems more simple in Agape Village. You observe, you pray, you love, you listen, you see Him all around you.
Sure, the distractions of real-life weren’t there. Wi-Fi was iffy. There’s a disconnect with the outside world. I didn’t have (my) needy children pulling on me. But it’s more than that.
There are complications in Agape Village. Two women running an orphanage with 65 children is not done without stress. Keeping the water and electricity working with no real infrastructure or repair companies to call is a daily chore. BUILDING A SCHOOL IN THE AFRICAN BUSH. These are all tasks that take herculean efforts to accomplish.
But, in Agape Village, EVERYTHING is about this: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
It’s a simple concept that typically gets complicated by our own egos, fears and doubts.
But in Agape, it’s crystal clear and just easier to do. I felt closer to God. I felt such a sense of thankfulness. A more intense sense of awe in what He is and means to this world.
That’s what I miss most about Agape Village.
One thing many people ask me about Agape Village is, “Who adopts the children?”
We call it Agape Village Orphanage, but really it’s a home for children. The children come from many different circumstances and situations. Some have family or guardians that just can’t afford to feed them. Some have family that can’t afford to send them to school. Some of the children have no guardians and have been completely on their own. Others have been taken care of by elderly guardians that can’t do it anymore.
Nyawa recently sent me some photos of a “Visiting Day” held at the orphanage. Relatives or guardians of the children at Agape got a chance to come visit the children and tour the new school.
Nyawa said it was a very happy day at the orphanage.
Sylvester and his father.
Visiting Day at Agape Village.
I pray that God offers peace and comfort to all the visitors at Agape Village. Peace, to know that the children they came to visit are thriving and comfort in knowing we are all a family; brothers and sisters.
Please pray for Jackie and Mickey as they make plans for their upcoming trip in October. After going with them, I now realize all the pre-planning it must take for all of that to go as smoothly as it did. Pray for the teachers for the new school and for a new volunteer, Sarah, who is going with Jackie and Mickey to help train the teachers.
Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.
— Genesis 21:19
“Taste and see that the Lord is good” — Psalm 34:8
In addition to the growing and flourishing children at Agape Village, God blesses us in other ways too.
A ridiculous, seemingly impossible miracle that occurs at Agape Village is the beautiful garden and farm that grows out of Zambia’s harsh landscape.
A food garden to help provide vegetables and fruit for the children has been well-established. There are onions, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, eggplant, cabbage, zucchini, orange sweet potatoes (something new to Zambia), bananas, pawpaws, guavas, etc. — all grown to feed Agape Village children, and to share with employees as well. The large garden is irrigated with a drip line system, as well as hand watered — especially during the dry season when the area will go eight months without a drop of water.
Orphanage Director Nyawa and House Mother Annie are prolific gardeners and this has been a blessing to the children. Both have horticulture experience, and we are so fortunate to have such knowledgeable leadership in keeping Agape children well-fed and nutritionally stable. Additionally, the Agape staff works diligently to nurture and take care of the bounty in the garden and the fields.
A few years ago, over the course of a few growing seasons, Agape employees cleared 20+ acres of land behind the orphanage. Agape employees now grow 10 acres of soybeans and 10 acres of corn. There is also a smattering of groundnuts grown.
Another way Agape has been blessed is with the gift of a tractor from Rocky Mount Rotary, in partnership with Rotary International. The tractor enabled Agape to move from just having a garden to, also, having a farm. Agape has a corn sheller and a hammer mill, also provided by Rotary, that use machine power to turn corn into mealy meal. No more doing all of this by hand!
Seventy-five percent (75%) of the food consumed by the children at Agape Orphanage is grown on the premises. The surplus of soybeans and corn grown is sold to offset some of the additional food costs. God is good!
Agape Village recently had a display at the Chitambo District Agriculture Show put on by the Ministry of Agriculture. We are so very proud of Nyawa – it is not common for a woman to be in charge of a display at one of these shows – who developed and oversaw a display representing Agape Village so that others could see we are doing and growing to provide so abundantly for our village.
The bounty at Agape reminds me of the story told in Matthew 14 about Jesus and his disciples and the large crowd of hungry people following Christ as he preached. He instructed his disciples to feed the crowd, but they were a little doubtful those two fish and five loaves of bread would go far enough. Annie, Nyawa, Jackie and Mickey have all told me of moments in the beginning of Agape Village, when they would look out at the barren landscape and the job in front of them, and think, “God, are you sure about this?”
Their faith always got them through their doubtful moments and God provided — more than anyone ever dreamed possible. Agape, like in the story in Matthew, has leftovers. The village shares its bounty with others, when needed.
We thank God for his attention and love to Agape Village and his continuous, beautiful, glorious blessings!
This is Annie, the House Mother to Agape Village children (and that’s Moses, reading aloud).
Annie is a mother (and kind-of father) to 60 children at Agape Village. We believe she was sent by God to Agape to be a comforter, a teacher, a nurse, a psychologist, a disciplinarian, a nutritionist, a choir director, a gardener, a housekeeper and a world-class diplomat, capable of keeping the peace between 60 typical, rambunctious children.
Most of all, she is a Disciple of Christ, doing her best to teach Agape children (and all of us) what it means to love God’s most vulnerable lambs and teach, by word and her glorious example, what God’s word looks like in action.
We love you Madame Annie and thank God He brought you to be a mother-figure to Agape children while they grow and flourish at Agape Village. They are your most beautiful garden.
One of the best parts about visiting Agape Village is the singing.
The children, led mainly by Annie, the housemother, create the most beautiful music you’ll ever hear. I will forever remember sitting at that big wooden table in the big hall at the orphanage listening to them sing; thinking that their bold faith and pure voices serve as a beautiful centerpiece anchoring Agape Village to its little spot on this earth. Their voices can be heard throughout the village when they sing, and you feel like you’re sitting in the middle of a gorgeous blossoming flower, soaking up the sun and experiencing a little bit of heaven on earth.
I put a few videos of the children singing on Facebook, and one of my friends had asked me what the words were to the song they were singing. I sat down with Judith one day and asked her to tell me the words to “Go and Tell The People.” I had tried to look it up on the Internet, but had no luck.
It was slow-going. Between Judith starting and stopping and waiting for me to write it down, she finally called over a little one (Beatrice) and gave her directions to fetch something in her room.
Beatrice came out with a tattered and worn notebook.
It practically came apart as we opened it up.
But inside, hand-written with the doodlings and lazy-day drawings you’d expect from a tween girl, were the words to the songs the children sing.
Judith was the keeper of the Songbook.
Filled with the beautiful words to all the songs they sing, the book also offered a glimpse into the life of Judith and all the children and how seriously they take their gifts of songs to God. The words to each song were carefully written, with hearts drawn here and there, butterflies, stars and other illustrations strewn throughout the pages.
If I understood it correctly, the songbook belongs to everyone, but Judith is responsible for getting words to new songs written in it and she keeps track of it among all the children.
The songs aren’t just entertainment. They’re a gift to God from Agape Village, and on a much smaller scale, a gift to us when we visit.
Of all the gifts I received while I visited Agape Village, watching and hearing the children singing is one I treasure the most.
I saw this photo on my phone, the day after I took it. It is a precious picture of a precious girl and it has taken me a good week to be able to look at it again and write about this treasure.
The hard part about going to Zambia and meeting all the children, is leaving all the children. The little girl looking at me in this photo is Mary.
I remember that pink shirt and her purple dress from that day, when I took this photo. I remember she had started out barefoot walking over to the school, and she got called back to the main hall to put some shoes on.
I remember being impressed by how she out-maneuvered some bigger kids in getting beside me so she could hold my hand.
I remember after we kneeled down in the rocks to pray, she knew me well enough after a week of sitting and laying in the grass, to give me a hand up.
In this photo, we were having a Blessing of the School ceremony, with local pastors and village VIPS present. We all held hands and thanked God for the blessing of the school and asked for His guidance and wisdom in the coming days and years for running the school and leading many many children to a better life through a good education.
After the ceremony, we headed back to the main hall for a cookie party. Mary caught up with me and held my hand as we walked.
“Jenny, you are not going to be here tomorrow?” she asked me.
“No, we’ve got to go back to America,” I said, squeezing her little hand.
“Yes,” she said.
Mary had this quirky thing she would do whenever we talked; she would always situate herself in front of me, so she was right in front of my face whenever we were talking. When she was plaiting my hair, when she had something to say, she’d bend down and over and be RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE as we talked. Then she’d go back to plaiting.
At his point in our walk back to the main hall, Mary skipped a little ahead, still holding my hand and does the looking-right-at-me while she’s talking thing.
“I will pray for God to bless you and your family,” she said walking backwards. “And I’ll thank him for letting you come here.”
I stopped walking, smiled and hugged her close.
I pulled my sunglasses down to cover my eyes. No crying allowed.
“Same.” I managed to say.
Now that we’re back, people ask me what was it like, in Zambia.
The country itself is beautiful, especially now at the tail-end of the rainy season. Everything is lush and green. It has many features that resemble rural North Carolina – minus all the agriculture. While some farms and cattle ranches dot the landscape, there aren’t as many as in NC.
In Lusaka, the capital city, you see a mixture of panhandlers and professionals. People are shopping in stores, working in stores. The hotel we stayed in was like an American hotel, bustling with people meeting for business, celebrating a wedding, traveling.
But once you leave the city, the crippling poverty present for most Zambians is obvious. So many of Zambia’s citizens seem to be left out of the advent of modern conveniences seen in the capital city and eek out whatever life they can, living in huts without electricity or water, sending their children to sub-par schools and having to walk miles to get to closest hospital. The sides of the roads are typically dotted with people walking, as most have no transportation. Kids walk miles to get to school. It was not unusual to see kids that looked like they were in kindergarten, walking along the edge of the highway, in their school uniform.
I remember the first time I saw some small kids walking along the road, in the grass that was taller than they were. One had a baby wrapped in a scarf, riding piggy-back on his back. They couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old. They were alone, with no adult in sight. I was shocked. But this is common in Zambia — sometimes the older children take care of the younger children, even if the oldest child is five. The name of the game for many in Zambia is survival, and everybody has a job to do.
Even with all that poverty, Zambians are quick to smile and reach out to shake your hand. Zambians are warm and friendly, have a strong faith in God and have a flair for what we would call, “southern hospitality.”
It was humbling to meet and see people that had so little, but were so faithful and sure of God’s gifts and blessings in their lives.
I learned so much from them all, and am beyond grateful that God led the way for me to come to Zambia and see the beautiful love story of Agape Village.
I’ll be posting more blog posts in the coming weeks, as I unpack all of my thoughts and treasures from Zambia.