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“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” — John 14:27

Mission Connections
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A letter from Kari Nicewander preparing to leave for Zambia

October 2012

Dear Friends,

Johnny's silly self!

Thank you for taking the time to learn about our ministry in Zambia! Our family is delighted with this opportunity and very excited to be leaving for Lusaka in eight days. As you can imagine, there is a lot to do, but we have felt God’s blessing and God’s leading in ways that give us enormous peace as we prepare to move. 

As this is our first official Mission Connections letter, I thought I would share with you a little bit about our story, our call, and our family. We are very grateful for your partnership and your prayers, as you share in our ministry and our lives.

So much of our story involves our youngest son, Johnny, and the ways that God has blessed our lives since he joined our family through the miracle of adoption almost four years ago. Johnny’s birth mother named him after Emperor Yohannes IV of Ethiopia, who was also known as John. She cared for him and loved him deeply for the first year of his life, rocking him to sleep, feeding him little bits of injera, holding his hand while he took a few faltering steps, singing him songs as his little eyes closed at night. She loved her baby boy, but by the time he was a 1-year-old child, she knew she could no longer care for him. And so, she released him into the care of a hospital, hoping that they would keep him healthy and safe, as she knew that she, herself, was dying.

Johnny was a beautiful 1-year-old boy when I first saw his photo. He was wearing a little Minnesota T-shirt that hung off his shoulders—clothes provided by the orphanage that was now his home. I knew, right away, that this child would be my son, that God had blessed our family with this amazing little boy. And over the next six months, as we went through the process to make him legally our child, our joy continued to overflow until that wondrous day we got to bring him home.

My heart still breaks for his first mother; it is devastating that she never saw him grow into the amazing, hilarious, generous, kind, vibrant 5-year-old that I get to hold and hug every day. I trust, however, in a God who is bigger than all our losses, and I trust that somewhere Johnny’s birth mother can feel our love and gratitude and know that her baby is deeply cherished. 

Our oldest son, Frankie, was just as much a part of this process as his Mom and Dad. He was so delighted from the start about his new baby brother, and his favorite photo book is Johnny’s Adoption Story. In fact, he just brought it to school today, to share at show and tell. Frankie is a sensitive, thoughtful, kind, compassionate, incredibly generous 6-year-old boy, and he and Johnny are truly best friends. We feel so blessed by our little guys.

Frankie and Johnny on the Belle of Louisville

As we prepare to move with them to Zambia, we all carry Johnny’s story with us, knowing that God calls us to be in partnership with the people of Africa, and that God cares for us in mind, body, and spirit; and we feel deeply blessed to be a part of God’s ministry in this continent that means so much to our family. Johnny’s first mom, and the devastation that she experienced as her body was ravaged by AIDS, will always inspire us to work for healing and wholeness for all God’s beloved children.

While we are in Zambia we will partner with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Synod of Zambia, to work on discipleship, church growth, and community health. In this work we will partner with people who seek to create the Kingdom of God here on earth as we work together for wholeness, for love, for faithfulness, for health, for healing. We will all grow in Christian faith as we seek to touch the world with God’s love.

Over the past few months we have encountered some challenges, particularly in regard to Johnny’s health. While our littlest boy is a vibrant, happy child, he has some health issues that can create stress and sorrow. For the most part, in the United States, we have been able to manage those health issues very easily, but as we approached the move to Zambia, we discovered some unanticipated challenges. For a while I was distraught, deeply worried about this move, and how it would affect our little boy. But over time, through the grace of God, we discovered ways to address these challenges, and we are now able to move to Zambia with complete confidence that Johnny will have the care, and the medicine, that he needs.

In this journey our family has experienced so many blessings from God, and so many amazing gifts, that we truly feel led and assured as we move forward. Our house in East Lansing, Michigan, sold faster than we ever could have expected. Our friend in Zambia helped with getting us ready for the move. Our supervisor helped connect us with amazing medical care in Lusaka. Our Presbyterian co-workers helped us to find an excellent school for our boys. In so many ways, this journey has already been blessed and beautiful, and we haven’t even left yet!

So, thank you for supporting our family at this very early stage of our Zambia ministry; thank you for your prayers and your care. We are excited to move forward, knowing that God holds every mother, every father, every child, every man, every woman, in those gracious, compassionate, endless arms of love. May you experience the blessing of that love today.

God bless,

Kari, Joel, Frankie, and Johnny 

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 115

Write to Kari Nicewander
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