Posts by lauragratopp

Internship Update: Weeks Eleven & Twelve

August 15th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Internship Update: Weeks Eleven & Twelve”

Can’t believe it’s over. This was the fastest summer ever – and hands down the best.

Week 11:
1. Two nights in the beautiful Fallsview Apartments for our debriefing.
2. Game Drive.
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3. Commissioning ceremony. Officially EXP Alumni.
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4. Reunited with gelato.
5. Sending Brooke & Lillian home. Weird to think I was supposed to be on that flight. Thankful for school starting later and for a family who understands my desire to stay til the end.
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6. Preparing for Program 10. Grocery shopping/planning outreaches/prepping for the Hamburg team to arrive.
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(That’s 14 loaves of bread. Wanna guess how many John was carrying? Spoiler alert: only 1)
Week 12:
1. Luke 10 Challenge. Love the opportunity to go out into the community and intentionally get to know people: hear their stories and invest in them.
2. Reach 4 Life camp! 78 students. Lots of energy, laughter, challenges, and vulnerability. Also: lots of exhaustion.
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Like I said: exhaustion.
3. Goodbyes. The worst and hardest part. Hard to leave my Zam/Zim family. Harder when there’s no set time as to when we’ll be reunited. But it’s only goodbye for a season. Thankful for each and every one of them and the way they’ve made me into the person I am today. I wouldn’t change this group for the world.
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And now I’m sitting in the Livingstone Airport – half of my goodbyes are done – half to go when we land in D.C. My heart is drained yet full at the same time.
Thanks so much for all of your love and support this summer!
Zambia: niza ka ku yewa maningi.
lauragratopp ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gratopp • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Internship Update: Weeks Nine & Ten

August 1st, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Internship Update: Weeks Nine & Ten”

Yes: I’m aware there was no update for weeks 7 & 8 and no: it doesn’t bother me. 

 
“Also, if you read this, just know, these more than likely won’t be coming every week.” In fairness, I had that disclaimer in the first post.
 
Weeks 9 & 10 were spent in Kalungu Village (Isoka) at the FCE base. When we were in Luanshya for outreach (week 3) we visited the FCE base there, and now we’re even further from home.
We left for Isoka on Thursday, July 16, at 6:15 pm. We arrived at the base Saturday, June 18, at 2:45 am. Yes, that’s 32.5 hours of travel. There were many factors that played into this longer-than-expected trip, but the journey was well worth it. (We even had showers. Like showers. Which were even sometimes warm.)
Also – I had the smallest bananas and largest orange of my life on this roadtrip:
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HIGHLIGHTS:
1. The FCE team. Hands-down the biggest highlight of these two weeks. Immediately they welcomed us into their lives; we became fast friends, and learned from each other every day. Definitely hard to leave these guys, as they quickly became like family. Never a dull moment: conversations filled with laughter, teasing, and joy.

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2. Being pushed out of our elements. For example, gardening included being elbow deep in cow manure. Literally. For one weekend, bathrooms included dozens upon dozens of cockroaches. Also, netball: it was more challenging that I originally thought. And I quickly learned that I stink at hand-washing jeans … thankfully Limpo is a patient teacher. 
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3. Kids Ministry. Love the universal sound of giggles even in languages I don’t know. Running coloring time one week to songs the next, the time with kids was priceless.
 
4. Creating Classroom Materials. Helped in the process of making materials for preschool classrooms – so fun to get to do something teacher-y. And Lillian and I are pretty much pros when it comes to tape-laminating, if I do say so myself.
 
5. A weekend in the village. Here’s the weekend of cockroaches in bathrooms… But God showed me His faithfulness in the little things through this experience: I enjoyed every moment (even the capentas and floor-shining). Plus, the family was just exceptional.
 
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Overall, these two weeks have been incredible. I hated to see them come to an end, as that meant goodbyes (yes dad, I know goodbyes aren’t any easier five minutes from now – but they still stink) and it now means two weeks left in Zambia. So many emotions – glad God can handle them all 🙂
A positive to the goodbyes – I’m now back to being able to get some gelato whenever – thanks, Livingstone. 🙂
lauragratopp ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gratopp • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Internship Update: Week Six

July 4th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Internship Update: Week Six”

A story of Grace. 

This week of Beat The Drum has been a week that has exhausted me in every way. But in the exhaustion, He is faithful.
 
Let me tell you a story about a new friend – her name is Grace.
 
Tuesday.
 
I stayed back from school in the morning to pack up sound equipment because we needed to show the movie one last time. At this point in the week (it’s only Tuesday mind you) I was exhausted and frustrated, so I decided to try an activity some friends here do: I picked a song to listen to on repeat. My choice of the day was Overwhelmed by Big Daddy Weave. My phone was set to play this song only, and it did so for nearly 4 hours.
Sparing you details, don’t mind my scatter-brain, God brought to mind The Fruit of The Spirit and I said, out loud, “No, God. I don’t want to. I want to be upset.” Yet as I said those words, I was being convicted, so I asked God to begin by renewing my strength, because I felt that’s where it all needed to start.
At some point in this conversation with God I took out my headphones … Not sure why.
Anyway, when I went to put my headphones back in, My Revival by Lauren Daigle was on and the first words of the song I heard was “and I’ll stand on Your promise: you will renew my strength.” God was reaffirming the fact that He would indeed renew my strength. So I decided to continue with this. I prayed more specifically for where I wanted to see His strength. I prayed for strength in the areas of grace and patience — I was severely lacking in both areas at this point. As I finished my prayers, I opened my eyes, and a grade 12 girl walks to up to ask me why I’m lonely. She proceeds to introduce herself as Grace. Seconds after I finished asking God for grace – here she comes. She said she had walked up once before as I sat alone, but went away without saying anything. (She was just waiting for me to ask for her from God). Since our encounter, the week was changed. My heart was changed. My perspective. My attitude. In the midst of frustration, He still cares.
 
So Grace, thank you. Thank you for being the Grace I needed – through you I saw God’s continual grace, love, and care.
 
God uses the crappy stuff and makes it good.
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lauragratopp ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gratopp • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Internship Update: Week Five

June 27th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Internship Update: Week Five”

BEAT THE DRUM PREP WEEK. 

Sunday evening the team from LXP in South Africa arrived. They arrived dancing and singing. A beautiful thing.
Monday mid-day the team from Hamburg in New York arrived.
 
We have like 50 or so people here all the time now (11 sleep at Zion, but otherwise everyone’s here 24/7). And the house I posted a pic of in the last post — that’s the house we are all in for meals, prayer, worship, sessions…
 
I said the LXP team came in, at night, singing and dancing, and they haven’t stopped since they arrived. So much life and joy here this week – it’s been great.
 
Back to Beat the Drum. My brief synopsis of the program is this: teaching HIV and AIDS preventative programs (abstinence) in high schools using biblical values. Pretty much we’ll be in classrooms with a partner teaching high schoolers truth about the disease and what they can do to prevent it. (I’ll be with grade 11 students). The curriculum comes from the movie Beat the Drum and incorporates biblical values. If you haven’t watched the movie, start there 🙂
 
Next week we go to David Livingstone High School. So here are some things you could be praying for:
1. Pray for our team as we teach and for the students as they participate in the program – that their minds and hearts would be receptive to truth.
2. Pray for us as Satan continues to attack the team and the students spiritually. Pray strongholds are broken.
3. Pray for the physical health of the team! We’ve already had enough sickness. Thanks!
4. Pray for unity amongst the team – that we will be patient with obstacles and our grace will abound.
lauragratopp ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gratopp • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Internship Update: Week Four

June 19th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Internship Update: Week Four”
blogger-image-1856422221So I can’t take credit for this picture, it’s all the photography skills of Brooke, but this is home. The house you see is the girls house, the picture is from the entrance to the kitchen which is a part of the boys house. Just in case anyone wanted to see it, here it is.
 
Every morning we wake up to cool, refreshing temperatures as the sun hasn’t made a full appearance. Once the sun is shining, it’s nice warm (sometimes hot) temps, and as soon as the sun goes down its chilly nights. It’s glorious. I love, love, love it.
 
Baking, walks, random worship sessions, guitar lessons: they’re all a part of the week.

This week’s ministry included time interviewing women about issues of purity, spending time at Hillcrest with Reach 4 Life, and home visits for fellowship.

 

Oh. And I helped clean the chickens’ living quarters (well, I did help, and then I undid my help by spilling water on the clean shavings…I’m such a klutz). But look at how happy the little chicks are:
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We had some birthdays on the team this week, too! Abby’s on Wednesday, Tafadzwa’s on Thursday, and Eyram’s is on Saturday. So naturally we had to celebrate 🙂
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Friday (today) we went to get our work visas – can’t believe 30 days is up on Monday! And John drove us home:Despite our fears, he did a great job!
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Fridays are also “expect the unexpected” days … And today we went to Victoria Falls. We got soaked. We went down to the boiling point. I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness, mercy, creation, and presence.

 

All-in-all, this week was incredible. God is moving and speaking and it’s a glorious thing to witness. Thanks for your prayer and support. We had talked about finding rest in God and I feel like that’s exactly what I experienced. He is good.

 

If I can make a request, please be praying as I start making decisions about when I’ll be coming back to Zambia. (Haven’t even left and I’m making plans/have options for my return – God is so good). And be praying for the health of our team – physically and spiritually. You guys are the best.

lauragratopp ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gratopp • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Internship Update: Week Three

June 12th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Internship Update: Week Three”

blogger-image-109274532OUTREACH WEEK!

Left at 3:30 AM Sunday morning. No 4 hour church service for us this week. 13 hours on the bus and we made it to Luanshya!
 
This week consisted of brick building, kid giggling, hospital cleaning, elderly loving, soccer playing fun. God is alive and moving and it’s just a beautiful thing to witness.
 
Monday we served with Loves Door building bricks and playing with kids. A sweet little boy named Anthony stole my heart and I was reminded of how much language barriers suck. But giggles and piggy-back-rides are universal.
 
Tuesday morning we cleaned at the hospital and toured the facility. In the afternoon we spent time praying with patients. FYI: God still heals people today. That’s not just a thing He did in the Bible. He is still healing.
 
Wednesday morning we went to a “home for the old.” We cleaned up the place and prayed with some of the elderly who are living there. The afternoon we had free, so we went to town and I had a chocolate covered donut (Dad, it may have beat any Conroys donut I’ve had) and bought my first chitenga (I probably didn’t spell that right…)
Thursday morning we went and toured FCE – a Christian university in Luanshya that focuses on a cross-cultural education to empower and equip people.
That afternoon we went back to Loves Door for sports ministry. Me being the very un-athletic person that I am, hung out with Anthony again and cheered on the boys (and Hannah) in their soccer game.
 
Friday was another 3-something AM departure to head home to Livingstone with a pit-stop in Lusaka. Because of this longer-than-expected stop we were able to see the sunset while driving home. Anna, they’re as beautiful as you remember.

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My highlight was seeing our team come together and watching my teammates thrive in their elements. Everyone had a part to play, everyone had a place where they felt the most at home, and it was such a blessing to work alongside each and every team member. God is doing great things. He’s reminding me of who He is and what He can do.
lauragratopp ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gratopp • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Internship Update: Week Two

June 6th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Internship Update: Week Two”
Just a friendly reminder that this is my way of giving updates. It’s not really a “blog” but more of an “update spot”. You can continue…
This week’s been incredible. I went from counting down the days until I head home to wishing I could extend this trip/praying time slows down. And to be quite honest, I’m not sure the exact moment or reason why this changed (though I do know it wasn’t in the 4 hour church service…oofta).
God’s been teaching me obedience and He’s told me: “GO AND BE.” Go or stay, but whatever you do, do it in an act of obedience. Be there. And be who He’s created you to be. Being who He wants you to be is more important than “doing things for Jesus.”

Some highlights from this week:
 
1. The sessions. Each morning, after an hour of prayer and worship, we have sessions. And this week they’ve just been something special. For instance, Musa talked to us about The Father Heart of God, and as we described “a” father and then compared him to THE Father, I realized how truly fortunate I’ve been. I’ve watched my grandpas be dads, and grandads, but more-so, I have an earthly father that shares so many attributes to that of my Heavenly Father. I can’t even put it into words, but thanks Dad.
 
2. Starting Ministry. Tuesday was women’s ministry/men’s ministry outtings. Wednesday was Reach For Life (at Hillcrest Secondary). Thursday was home visits which consisted of time with a 7th grader named Precious. She and her twin brother, her mom, her younger sister, her cousins and aunts, all live with her grandmother. Over 4 years ago her grandfather kicked them all out of the house and her grandparents got a divorce. Yet despite this, their complete faith and trust in God does not waiver. I just pray that they feel the love of their Heavenly Father, who does not abandon, neglect, or quit.
 
3. Kitchen Crew. Each day of the week, a different group is responsible for the meals for that day. Lusanda picks the meal but we prepare, serve, and clean up. I’m a little nervous for the day that our team makes nshima – but it’s fun preparing meals with my fellow interns.

4. BAKING TEAM aka WATERMELON CREW. Long story but Thursday night was our first night of baking. Chocolate Chunk cookies. Nutella brownies. Lots of sugar, but I’m considering it a success.

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(Ken’s excited that “ITS HAPPENING”)
 
5. Learning phrases. Emmanuel has been teaching me some phrases while I teach him some in Spanish (who would’ve thought my high school Spanish classes would be useful in Zambia?!) Also picking up on different things like omitting words to use sounds instead, or “I tell you TRULY…” or quite possibly my favorite: “Suresuresuresure” (all one long word that obviously a blog post is not going to do justice – but it still makes me oh so happy).
 
This week’s been packed with a lot of great things – I think I’m even starting to master the art of bucket bathing. And Hannah and I have a pretty spectacular system for washing our hair, not to toot our own horns or anything. Started my guitar lessons with Ken (Kenny). It’s been an adventure so far, and I just can’t wait to see what the next few weeks hold.
 
We’re already planning on going to town for pizza and gelato on July 4th; we’re claiming them as “American food.”
I am loving this country more and more the longer I’m here (except for the mosquitoes – we have a love/hate relationship no matter what country I’m in. Thank you Jesus for mosquito nets).

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Oh and Bethanie, the spiders aren’t so bad. I had one little guy join me in my room, next to my towel, but he’s disappeared…
lauragratopp ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gratopp • 2015 International Immersion Intern

Internship Update: Week One

May 30th, 2015 Posted by Immersion Internship - 2015 0 comments on “Internship Update: Week One”
This is my way of giving updates. It’s not really a “blog” but more of an “update spot”. Just thought I should prepare anyone who chooses to read this.

HERE WE GO.
 
First off: thanks Jenn for bringing me to the airport. Sioux Falls to Chicago. Chicago to Washington DC. DC to Dakar, Senegal — to drop off passengers and refuel — to Johannesburg, South Africa. Stayed the night in a gorgeous hotel. Thankful for wifi at that moment to share with family and friends that I had arrived safely. Thankful for an air conditioned room as it’d be awhile before that would happen again. Thankful for a hot shower – as there would certainly be no such thing as a shower, let alone a hot one (think ice bucket challenge minus the ice — because that’s not here either).
Flight in the morning to Livingstone, Zambia (surprise – we’re not in Choma) … home sweet home for the next 3 months.blogger-image--1811361218
 
Went to base. Met my family for the next three months (but probably more accurately – they’ll be family for life).
 
Tuesday morning we were woken up with pots and pans at 4:25 AM. We were blindfolded, loaded on the van, and driven to a drop off point. 20+ minutes later we got to take the blindfolds off (still darker than dark outside — but oh are the stars extra beautiful and bright here. And the moon. My Snapple facts tell me that a full moon is 9 times brighter than a half moon. Well this half moon was at least that much brighter than any moon I see back home). Anyway – tangent, my bad. After 1.5-2 hours of walking we reached our destination: the campgrounds of an organization called Loves Door, beautifully located on the Zambezi River. We were put into teams, mine being the Spartans: Michael, Prince, Limpo, and myself. And no, mom, the team name had nothing to do with East High. 🙂
 
Lots of challenges, frustration, and laughter later: we finished. We caught and killed three chickens (by “we”, I obviously don’t mean me — Olivia and Prince caught them – Hannah, Michael, and Will killed them). Fresh chicken and nshima for dinner. Delicious.
We did skits by the campfire and just enjoyed time together. We also played some “Boom Suckers” (Abby wasn’t sure what the name really was…but it was a lot of fun).
 
Side note: Zambian winters are cold when the sun is down and hot when the sun is up.
 
Winter showed his face that night – a tent and thin sleeping bag really didn’t do the trick. And hippos came to join us at our camp as we slept — that wasn’t terrifying at all.
 
Wednesday morning we walked back. The walk was definitely more enjoyable the first time: cool temperature and beautiful stars. The second time: hot sun. Just a lot of hot sun. We had most of the afternoon off, so Sharon helped me with the conversion rate between Kwacha and Dollars and we went to town.
 
Thursday we heard the stories of Eyram, Abby, and Westin. And that afternoon we’d be working on our own story lines. So to set aside time to do this, we were brought to The Royal Livingstone. Google it. It’s breathtaking. A beautiful hotel on the Zambezi near Victoria Falls with zebras roaming freely. So cool. Ice cream at Hungry Lion and then Michael, Hannah, Limpo and I colored (thanks Becca and Jessa for providing a detailed coloring book).
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Friday I was third to share my story line. Everyone shared their stories today and something evident in all our stories was that God works in mighty ways. He breaks the chains of bondage, no matter the form, and it was amazing to see Him overcoming obstacles in the lives of my friends. To end the sessions, Mikey had Emily, Sharon, Lusanda, and I come to the front so they could pray as a group over us and our family members going through sickness. There’s nothing more powerful than prayer, and a room of Zambians and Americans praying together on the behalf of our mothers and Sharon’s brother…I’m speechless (needless to say: I cried).
 
Weekends are fairly free … so my teammates and I are sitting drinking milkshakes and enjoying some internet time. Also, if you read this, just know, these more than likely won’t be coming every week. Just wanted to let you know I’m safe, sound, and excited.
lauragratopp ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gratopp • 2015 International Immersion Intern