Update #1

Friends and family-

Here I am in Lomé, Togo–man, it still amazes me that I’m in Africa! To start, let me tell you a bit about Zambia. Upon arrival, after a day and a half of flying across the world, we fell suddenly into the warmth of the culture with a welcome of scrambled eggs, PB & J, and a bed. There were 5 of us at our host, Mama Jacklyn’s, home, and after an evening and night of rest we joined the rest of the group and headed to the school we would be working at during our time. This school is a product of Hope ministry, a collaboration with an organization called Spark Ventures. The primary outreach of Hope is ministering to the children of Twapia, a neighborhood of Ndola in particular need.

When we first thing arrived at the school, we were ushered into their church/assembly construct, with a tarp roof and dirt floor, for a welcome ceremony. All of the 350 or so children were there, grinning out of their green uniforms with buttons missing here, shoelaces missing there, and a boatload of medical issues constantly grating at them. Amazingly, their spirits remain just as constantly unaffected. After singing and dancing for us and forcing us to join them in dance, we spent a full afternoon playing games and talking with the kids. Although the official language of Zambia is English, the kids primarily speak the local language of Bemba, with the older grades able to converse in simple pleasantries alone (my name is.., how are you?). Language barrier aside, we had a blast, and such were the days of the first week, doing spelling activities in the classroom, teaching the 1st graders how to brush their teeth, reading English books with the 4th graders, and simply building relationships with the children, trying to instill in them a sense of self-worth the world often forgets to provide. Then came the clinic, 3 days of malaria testing, health assessments and far more needs than we had medicine to fix. We did have malaria medicine for the perhaps 40-50 students who tested positive for it. One student had a tooth nearly decayed away, many more needed glasses, others more serious care for which we could only refer to the doctor who would be there one day, and hope what they needed was able to be provided by the parents. After the medications were issued, it was up to God to ensure they were taken, the instructions followed, the pills not stolen. A hard pill to swallow, no pun intended. After 3 weeks of new friends, lots of kids and a visit to Victoria falls to conclude, I can thank God for a lovely lovely time in Zambia.

To those who were praying for my travelling alone and not getting lost in airports — thank you. I couldn’t have had an easier time of it. While apprehensive at first when at the customs desk in Accra, Ghana I was told I needed to get a visa though not even leaving the airport, it was a smooth ride after that. A “help the foreigners” guy accompanied me through the whole process, from establishing that I did not need a visa, to re-checking my bag, to printing yet another boarding pass, to finding the gate which was not labeled on said boarding pass. The same thing happened upon my arrival in Togo. While filling out my various forms, another “help the foreigners” lady came and took my pen from me to fill it all out on my behalf. She helped me until I was out of the airport (even showing me a picture of her daughter while I started scraping together my tiny bits of French to try and communicate with her) and reunited with my friend Pastor Macklann.

Here I am now with Macklann and Rose Basse, together reaching out to their city with a school and a boatload of small ministries. They have 5 wonderful kids and about 100 students. Around them, the church has huge struggles pulling together, with a hierarchical and very political Presbyterian church government watching the words of their pastors very closely. Things that might kick up dust, e.g., Macklann’s Gospel-based teachings about discipleship, the body of Christ, and equity of resources therein, are considered threatening. If he hadn’t paid for his own education he could be fired after a single one of these “radical” messages. On top of that there is the threat of witchcraft — from inside the church, sometimes even from elders! Imagine not being able to lean on a congregation for support as a pastor. Twice he has been poisoned because of his messages and ministries. It’s incredible to me — so scary. There is also a huge Muslim conversion happening here. Money is being provided in bushels from somewhere for them to counteract anything the church is doing, while the Christian churches pocket more than they need and struggle to stay in service. A difficult place to be a pastor — keep Togo in your prayers.

Today I started teaching the adult English class. I have been doing the kids’ English lessons as well, which has been a blast. I am learning a lot by observing the teachers and by trying to serve my gracious host family, not to mention trying to understand all of the French coming my way. The little French-speaking toddlers are the best, they always make my day in their funny little ways. I’ll write more soon, hope all is well!


PS> Thank you all for your support.

Friends, Folks, and Family

It’s happening! My long-harbored dream of teaching in Africa is on the horizon!! It starts this summer as I head to Zambia for two weeks of reading with kids with a three-day health clinic therein. After that, it’s off to Togo for several weeks of elementary school work! What an incredible amount of opportunity God has provided me for this year, and I’m having a tough time waiting patiently for the summer to start.

In addition to the tons of prayer that I would love you to send up on my behalf when you think of it, any contribution to the trip would be a great help. In case anyone has heard otherwise, they charge you money for plane tickets. For those who are interested, I have gifts available as a thank you for your gifts! A $20 or more donation and I’ll send you a pendant with a silhouette of the African continent or personalized with a word or initials. Just comment with a request and I’ll hop to it!

Thank you all for your support — every prayer, penny and thought help so much.  The link below will take you to the easiest way to donate; please be sure to write my name in the Comment section!  

            NOTE: North Park is hoping to receive all support funds by May 1.

Donations page:  https://connect.northpark.edu/giveumin

My profile:  https://app.managedmissions.com/MyTrip/theresaschwaar1

If you would like a scarf, comment with your preferred color after a donation of $50 or more and I'll get started on it!!

If you would like a scarf like this one, comment with your preferred color after a donation of $50 or more and I’ll get started on it!!

An Interview with Theresa

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

It’s hard to say just a little bit about my family. There are seven of us and all five kids were homeschooled by my lovely, patient, and driven doll of a mom and guided by our wise, kind dad. My parents epitomize the gift of hospitality and made sure that growing up we understood how to give. My siblings are such individuals and I have a unique friendship with each; I am so lucky to call them brothers and sisters. I myself am studying Elementary Education with a focus on literature at North Park University in Chicago. Learning and kids are two things which I love, and I am glad to have found a natural marriage of these in teaching.

When did you first get interested in missions? In Africa?

I have had an interest in missions for many years—I’d say the starting point was sometime in middle school. When I realized the possibility of my own life looking like that of missionaries we knew, or those we learned about in Sunday school, my mind held on to the prospect and hasn’t let go. In terms of Africa, I’m not sure where that came from exactly. It’s simply always been where I’ve felt called to. Dreams of being a teacher in Africa when I was little, experiencing a taste of Sudanese culture when my family housed several young men from Sudan, a great many family friends who are missionaries in Africa, a dog named Kenya—many small things rolled together fueled the surety of wanting to teach in what is, granted, a large continent, but one which I am sure holds a place for me at some point and for some amount of time.

What, if anything, are you particularly excited about?

I am excited about everything—firstly a chance to integrate all my teaching terminology into practice. Hanging out with kids and their beautiful hearts and brilliant thoughts after a long school year of sometimes monotonously like-minded peers will be lovely. Being in a place I can practice French, potentially have locally grown coffee (fingers crossed), see a lion, eat interesting food and meet interesting people, get slapped in the mind with a dose of difference, of what I’m not used to to heighten my cultural competence and decrease my general ignorance…by golly, I mean it’s Africa—what’s not to get excited about!

How can we as a church support and pray for you?

With few people to communicate smoothly (in English) with and no one I know very well, I anticipate I might feel a bit lonely. Traveling alone scares me because the minutiae of directions and travel procedures baffle me. Prayers for peace and safety would be great. Pray that I will be useful and not a hindrance in any capacity. That I would keep my eyes open for opportunities to show God’s love, and trust in His provision and plan. Also, pray God would provide the last bit of finances needed. The last thing you can do is give my family plenty of hugs on my behalf!

Docendo Discimus and Terrific T-shirts

Docendo discimus–By teaching, we learn.  This phrase has meant a lot to me as of late.  Teaching and learning have an obvious connection and inter-dependency; they teach we learn, we teach they learn.  Beyond that obvious aspect, however, is the valuable exchange in reverse.  When we invest in others we in turn are invested in–by teaching, we learn.  It would be a ridiculous claim for me to say that I will be only serving and giving on this trip.  In fact, I hope to learn from the experience perhaps to a greater degree than I teach and serve–to listen to what God, the kids, and my fellow teammates can teach and show me.

These t-shirts that the superb Kimberly (my sister) made are a way to support my trip with a smaller commitment, and they also can serve as a reminder and encouragement of the value of pouring into others and letting that experience–and those others–affect you back.



Docendo Discimus–it is by teaching that we learn