Called to Zambia

Julie grew up on a dairy farm in Buffalo Lake, Minnesota (the Buffalo Lake in Renville County where there is no lake), as a good Scandinavian Lutheran at First Lutheran Church in Hector, loving lefse but not lutefisk.

I remember how you had an oral public examination before the church as part of your confirmation…..maybe a good thing we no longer do this!

Julie’s grandmother was a big influence in her faith journey.

Her signature phrase “keep looking up” has stayed with me throughout my life. My parents are still a big influence as role models for living a life of service and ultimate faith. I am so happy my children and grandchildren have the opportunity to know and spend time with them.

Julie studied at Augsburg College and St. Cloud State, and then worked as a teacher and principal in Buffalo for 39 years, and has been a member of Zion since 1974.

Over the years, Julie has served as a confirmation guide, youth mission trip chaperone, Personnel Committee member, sub sandwich team member, and Sunday school teacher. Julie also co-directed the elementary school Joy Choir with long-time friend Minda Squadroni for over 15 years.

Our first program “Kids of the Kingdom” remains a favorite.

Julie is now in her third year on the faculty at Minnesota State University Moorhead, where she teaches graduate students in the Educational Leadership program. Although she recently sold her house in Buffalo and moved “to the lake” near Glen, Minnesota, she remains a member of Zion.

Julie loves to spend time with family and friends, anything active and outdoors. She has three grown children and seven grandchildren.

I really enjoy being part of my grandchildren’s lives. Helping them “let their light shine” is important to me. What a blessing.

The Village of Hope, Zion’s mission partner in Zambia, was founded by Benedict and Kathleen Schwartz (sister of Julie’s friend Minda). Julie has traveled to serve at the Village of Hope twice in recent years.

I felt called to go because of the personal connections and the ground breaking work they are doing with orphan care in a sustainable way.

In 2012, Julie traveled with a group of seven teachers to lead training and learn about education in Zambia. The school has grown from 140 students and 7 teachers in 2012, to 395 students and 24 teachers beginning the 2015 school year.

You cannot help but see God in the orphan kids in the Village of Hope. They are amazing in their faith in God’s love as the most constant thing in their lives. They are joyful, healthy, praise-filled and so excited to share their faith.

Julie returned to Zambia earlier this year with the Gleason family. Julie and Kim worked with teachers to prepare for the 2015 school year which began in January.

Amazing growth, terrific challenges and wonderful opportunities. Running a week’s worth of workshops with no electricity, computers, projectors or internet while working with staff who all speak English as a second language allowed us to focus on what was really important … making sure students would have the best possible learning experience.

This trip was during the rainy season.

The dry dusty roads gave way to pot holes and puddles as it rained a bit each day. The greenery was astounding now, and it seemed I was visiting a new place! Speaking to a room full of Zambian teachers with rain pounding on the metal roof was an experience to remember.

Going to the city of Kabwe, about 60km north of the village, to pick up a 12yearold orphan boy to bring him back to the Village was another unforgettable experiences for Julie.

Emmanuel was very nervous, but so happy to be greeted by his new “brothers and sisters” at the Village. Watching him take Kathleen’s hand and walk into his new house brought tears of joy to everyone.

Denny, a farmer at home, got involved with many farming and handyman projects at the Village, always with a pack of kids at his side.

He was the hands down favorite of all of the kids as he patiently and lovingly allowed the kids to ‘help’ with every project.

Meanwhile, the final team member, Neil, was able to put his video and technology gifts to good work at the village. Julie enjoyed watching him work with a sixteen-year-old at the village to edit a book.

Nelson is bright, articulate and wants to be a doctor. He had written a manuscript for a book about his ideas about God as an African aids orphan teen, living in the Zambian ‘bush’. His book had great concepts.

Julie’s favorite part of the mission trip was the chance to ‘let go’ of Minnesota life for a couple weeks and be immersed in the Zambian life and culture.

It was such a great learning and growing experience. God, as the center of life at the Village of Hope, is so very present and makes being there a truly spiritual experience.

Spending time with other team members, missionaries, children and adults at the Village and school, and reflecting on our purpose and direction was another highlight. ‘Family’ has a new and broader meaning for me now. We are all ‘family’ in God’s eyes.

Julie has been asked many times why she feels it necessary to go all the way to Africa when there is so much to do close to home.

I get that. However, you get such a global perspective of life, God, what it means to be happy, and how all of us fit together on this thing we call the earth by venturing on an international Mission trip. You do not solve all of life’s problems or issues by going on a Mission trip. However, you do make a difference. As the Zambians say, ‘you only eat an elephant one bite at a time.’

Julie’s hope is to live by a quote attributed to former President, Jimmy Carter:

“My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have, to try to make a difference.”