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If you’ve read earlier blogposts (listed at bottom) that I wrote about Africa, you already know my aunt Melody.
We visited Melody in Zambia this summer while my uncle Phil came back to the U.S. for a medical procedure. Phil is my Daddy’s youngest brother. He’s not that much older than my brother and me, so we grew up more like cousins. I have so many stories I could tell you about Phil, but…I won’t. (Talk to me later.) I met Melody for the first time when my superstar basketball player uncle brought his cheerleader girlfriend home to meet the family. Melody taught us cheers out in my grandparents yard.
We loved bubbly, fun Melody at first glance. And she’s still the same!
Now Phil and Melody serve in Zambia. I asked Melody to share some of their life with you. I held this post until today, Thanksgiving Day. Seemed like the perfect time to share what they do for a living — a life serving God and giving thanks day by day.
Feel free to fall in love with them too!
I sent Melody a list of questions. Here are her answers:
How long have you and Phil served in Zambia?
3 years. We arrived October 12, 2006.
What brought you to Africa?
Phil came to see the work of another missionary in 2000 and fell in love with the people. I came the following year and loved the people, but although I knew God wanted us to serve Him here, it took a couple of more years before this “city girl” agreed!
Zambians are the people group that God placed in our hearts. I sometimes wonder myself…Why Zambia?? Why not Ireland or Hawaii?? Now, I could really feel the love there if only given a chance.
But no, God chose Zambia and now I am so thankful. I love the people and feel a great burden to teach the children of the love of a Wonderful Savior – the One who would call me out of my little box — that I fit so well in– and bring me to this place half way around the world and open my eyes to the needs of the people here. Everywhere we go here becomes an opportunity to share the Gospel with a lost and dying world.
“Zambia was not on my top 100 places to live but it is now the ONLY place that I want to be.” — Melody Stephens, missionary
What you see as the greatest need physical need of the people?
Right now I would say that I think the greatest physical need of the people is clean water. There is a water shortage in the compounds and quite often there is no water for them to drink. The water that is available is dirty and loaded with who knows what. We (Amerians) know when it is so hot that we need to drink more, yet they drink less because of the diseases that come with bad water.
What surprised you most you the most about living in Zambia?
Where to begin…. Here are my top ten:
#10. Weekly power outage (often more frequently) because the government officials say we have excess power to sell to neighboring countries. So, if we have so much power why am I sitting in the dark?? And why can’t they let me know when it will be off so I can plan my life??? (Oops! I’m back in the box!)
#9. I am totally surprised by elephants, giraffes, zebras, monkeys…okay all the “zoo” animals roaming around freely with no barriors.
#8. I am surprised by little village boys who don’t often see vehicles using their flip flops as pretend cars making roads in the dirt and adding the correct “noises” to their game.
#7. Going to the store to buy bread or milk or eggs and finding none…because management didn’t think to place an order.
#6. The beauty of the sunsets and flowers.
#5. No one is in a hurry.
#4. The crude tools used to create works of beauty.
#3. The “Thunder” of Victoria Falls.
#2. Children carrying bables on their backs, and being responsible for siblings at such a young age.
#1. But, the most surprising thing of all is the joy of the Lord that a soul set free has here in Zambia. They are not in a hurry to worship. They will sing and praise God all night and all day. And can they sing!
I love to hear the Zambian voices lifted up in praise to the God who set them free.
What do you like the best about your life?
Serving the Lord day in and day out with Phil. I love the people both young and old. I love the adventure, the animals, the flowers and the opportunity fo depend on God daily to supply our needs.
How can readers donate?
Tax-deductible donations can be made to our missions agency:
BBFI (for Phil and Melody Stephens–011310)
PO Box 191
You can catch up on our adventures/observations in Southern Africa:
As I explained to him, government ethics rules prohibit civil servants from earning a second income stream from the job we’re paid to do by the tax-payer — which takes these topics off the table: space, communications, or public service.
Then it hit me what I could write about — human nature.
That’s broad enough not to sic NASA’s ethics lawyers on me, don’t you think? After all, I started learning these lessons way back in high school when I locked horns with our band director. (Yes, that’s me with the whistle in my mouth out front. I still have those white boots and purple baton! I may even have the whistle….)
My book concept: short and not so sweet.
Here’s the deal. I’m envisioning a tiny board book, the kind you can buy at the counter in Barnes and Noble. I’m serious. Really. Think the itsy-est bitsy-est book you’ll ever imagine – the CliffsNotes version of my life experiences both inside and outside my career in the federal government (back off lawyers.)
Would you pay for my Top Ten Rules on how to stay in constant trouble?
Name your price. $5.00? $10.00…if I throw in Rule #11? Anyone? Ok. Fine. I’ll share them with you here. No purchase necessary.
Let’s be honest: I doubt you would choose to pay for trouble-in-book-form, no matter how small the book or price at the check-out counter.
Feel free, though, to correct my assumptions. I’m happy to take your money. (‘Kidding, ethics lawyers! KIDDing.)
So, what to do about the title? Since my grandmother always told me I’d be the first female President of the United States, I’m thinking about a book title that goes something like this:
Why I’ll NEVER be Elected President of the United States.
Or, if that doesn’t work for you, how ’bout this:
How to Win a few Friends and Make MANY Enemies.
Now that you’re on pins and needles, here ya’ go. My rules for a life worth living:
Yep, that about says it all. Unless I come up with Rule #11. I’ll let you know if I do. (Ok, Mike, are you happy now? There. I’ve written my book. I’ll let you judge whether it’s real or significant enough.)
And, sorry Grandma. I don’t see national-scale politics in my future. I’ve barely survived office politics through the years.
My hat’s off to you, fictional Mr. Smith. They made a movie about you. I don’t think my little book will garner the same attention — except from the few friends I win and many enemies I rile up.
But just in case someone rushes in with a movie deal, do you think I can request Angelina Jolie to play the part of me? (No resemblance, I assure you. But what the heck? I’m the creator. Don’t I have a say?)
Last night, Astronauts Patrick Forrester, Jose Hernandez and Swedish-born Christer Fugelsang of the STS-128 crew visited with Members of Congress and congressional staffers in partnership with the Hispanic Congressional Caucus. One big surprise: Jose Hernandez called up to the podium all NASA employees from Headquarters and Goddard performing outreach functions.
For those of you outside the government, outreach encompasses the effort to share information about federal programs with the general public.
Only two of us in the room stepped forward. Awkward. But cool, none-the-less. Here’s why: Jose talked about the importance of reaching out to the community to inspire others to reach for the stars. Frankly, I don’t recall a time when an astronaut took time at an event to thank us for getting out there telling their story.
Jose told the story of how he couldn’t speak English until he was 12 years old. Once he saw Astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz selected to travel into space, Jose realized that someone who looked like he did, with hispanic heritage, could be an astronaut. That very day, he decided to study hard in school and make something of himself. He thanked us for going out to work with communities and schools to get out the message of hope. (Don’t quote me on his exact words. It’s all a blur since I was, after all, standing awkwardly in front of a room full of people.)
The funny part, however, is that one of our Legislative Affairs staffers came up to me afterward and explained that Jose planned to call up all the hispanic-heritage NASA folks to thank them for their efforts. Um…I don’t qualify. Oops. Instead he called up outreach NASA folks. I do qualify. Made me giggle…AND a tad embarrassed, at the same time. I’ll bet Jose was surprised to see me come forward. He took it in stride and thanked women engineers for their efforts too. Um…I don’t qualify for that category either. (But I AM a political scientist — to use an old term from the 70′s.)
So we decided, after the fact, that I had a few points in my favor:
Thanks Jose for the recognition of NASA’s outreach efforts, even if I can’t check the other boxes you were looking to highlight.
I simply don’t see a down side to warm fuzzies, no matter how inadvertently they come.
Here are a few iPhone pics from the event. I’ll add some official ones once they come available.