By Jenny White
“Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” – Psalm 119:05
Mickey and Jackie have spent the last 9 years travelling back and forth to central Africa, shepherding God’s vision for a small village in the bush, into a beautiful live-action story of faith, hard work, miracles and love for our brothers and sisters – even the ones on a faraway continent.
I’m so proud of all they’ve done.
There’s an orphanage for children in need that offers love and a safe haven to 65 precious souls.
There’s a water tower and medical supplies for the nearest hospital, which was in desperate need of a helping hand, to save more lives.
There’s a 20 acre farm on the campus of the orphanage, on which maize and soybeans are grown and a lush garden and orchard that teems with bananas, guavas, melons, tomatoes, cabbage and sweet potatoes.
There are countless acts of kindness that have been strewn like seeds throughout this corner of Zambia via Jackie and Mickey and the Agape Village Foundation volunteers. Acts of faith, which have touched hundreds of people – maybe thousands. Who knows how and when the kindness spreads and grows, even after they’ve returned to the U.S.
Following God’s lead has led Mickey and Jackie to accomplish so much in the Zambian bush. One would think they’ve earned the privilege to sit and bask in it for a moment.
I like to imagine them sitting in a pair of comfy African Adirondack chairs, at dusk, looking out at the Zambian sunset, feeling content and proud and connected to God. They’re probably praying, (they’re faithful like that). I can hear them thanking God for the journey and the opportunities. Thanking Him for all the miracles they’ve witnessed and the beautiful way their hearts stretch and fill with a love they would have never known if they hadn’t committed to stepping out of their comfort zone and into a strange and foreign land with no safety net – except for Jesus.
But God doesn’t like for us to get too comfy. Or like Mickey says, “God will surprise you. You just have to put yourself in neutral and follow his lead.”
I may have had a vision of Mickey and Jackie relaxing and enjoying looking over the fruits of their labor – but God had a different idea.
In November 2016, Mickey was in Zambia, working on a variety of projects – none of which involved a school. He was with a longtime friend and Agape Village Orphanage board member, Gerald Batts, and volunteer Sam Coddington. They were going by the village “elementary” school and Mickey, who had heard it wasn’t a very good school, decided to stop-in, check on the orphanage children there in class, and see what was up with the school.
They found overcrowded classes, a lack of supplies, a dirty environment and little supervision.
“We sat there for a little while, observing, just taking it all in,” Mickey says, “And when we walked out, I said to Gerald and Sam, ‘We’ve got to build a school.’”
So much for African Adirondack chairs and sunsets.
Education is a pressing issue in Zambia. The country is in the midst of trying to improve the government-led school system. Community school systems are currently split into two schools, with a primary school offering K – 7th grades for all, and a secondary school offering 8th – 12th grade. Most girls go to school up to about 4th grade, while boys are more likely to attend through 7th grade.
After 7th grade, there are two tracks boys and girls may take. Students with the highest test scores may go to a college-track boarding school, and those that don’t score high enough for boarding school can attend the community school that offers grades 8-12.
Agape Village Orphanage director, Nyawa Lungo, says one of the hardest parts of her job is convincing the children that education is the key to improving their lives.
“For modern households [like in America], education is an answer for a bright tomorrow or future. Most children that have been raised in a learned family back ground fully understand the concept of education and the impact it has on a society and ones future life style,” Lungo says. “When I first came to Chitambo village, I got the idea that as much as children may want to be at school they could not get a chance because their families could not afford school requisites. But as time went by I realized that it wasn’t a cost issue — the families were not helping their child or children understand why they SHOULD go to school.”
Lungo says more education can actually change the mindset of children. “A good education can help them realize who they really are, who they can be, what a future they would have ahead of them, how their environments and communities would be, and so on,” Lungo says.
Lungo is excited for the possibilities the new Agape Village School will offer the children in the orphanage and surrounding village.
“I know for sure the school will bring about big dreams in our children as they will get an opportunity to learn in a way they haven’t had access to, before,” Lungo says.
“The thing about following God,” Mickey says, “is you really can’t predict where he’s going to lead you.”
Following God’s lead that day, Mickey saw a school – that he needed to build.
After Mickey, Gerald and Sam left the school that day, they drove the rest of the way to the orphanage. There, they found themselves starting another chapter in the story God wanted told in Agape Village. The men walked out to a field next to the orphanage, and started putting sticks and twigs into the ground, sighting out where the Agape Village School would be located.
“It really was a leap of faith,” Mickey said. “We had talked about a school one day, but we had imagined it way down the road. Again, this is all coordinated by God, not us. We had no money for a school, but that day, I knew we were going to build a school.”
Building the school has been a feat, a real test of faith, with Mickey being in the U.S. most of the time. Agape Village Foundation found a good friend and onsite contractor in Mr. Wang, who began working on the school building in April 2017. The school was mostly completed by November 2017.
This week we are on our way to Zambia to further work toward getting the school open to students. We will be getting furniture, equipment and supplies in place in the school and interview teachers. Please pray for God’s guidance as we seek to get the school open with the very best teachers at the helm.
In addition to providing answers for physically building the school, God provided financial support for the construction of the school. “We were not sure how we were going to pay for this school, but we trusted God was going to provide, somehow, for it to happen,” Jackie said.
And He did. Unexpected gifts from friends in Arizona and all across the globe enabled Agape Village Foundation to build the school debt-free.
“Donations from supporters of Agape Village Foundation, churches, friends, family and really, sometimes strangers are such a blessing to us. We are so thankful that God makes sure there are others that see the mission of what’s happening in Agape Village and want to help,” Jackie said.
As we prepare to travel and begin the trek toward Zambia this week, please say a prayer for us and ask God to light a lamp at our feet and guide us to do his will. We will be blogging regularly from Zambia. Check back here for updates and prayer requests.