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A Servant's Heart
A Servant's Heart
These are the stories of everyday women who do extraordinary things because they live their lives with a heart for service and a heart for others...


Motivated by a love for God, and a desire to help alleviate the problem of illiteracy among the adults and teenagers living in Malongwe village and help many of them realize the dream of being able to read the bible for themselves, Doreen Zulu committed herself to teaching a literacy class to members of Big Tree Baptist Church.  The church, which will celebrate its 1st anniversary in September,  is located in the rural bush region of Chipata, Zambia, Africa, about 30 kilometers off the main thoroughfare.  The literacy class averages 18 students who range in age from 15-50+.  Students meet with Doreen for a 2 hour class session, 3 days per week under a thatch roof canopy built by the members of the church.  The class has been meeting since January 2013, and the progress is very encouraging.  Many members who had never before picked up a pencil or pen to write have learned the alphabet and can now write and read simple sentences. 

Due to a lack of financial resources, Doreen was forced to suspend her own educational pursuits after the 11th grade.  Even though she did not graduate from high school, she has not let this keep her from helping others learn to read and write.  Doreen attended a week long workshop and learned the methodology she now uses to teach others.  From 2004-2006 she served as a volunteer on the steering committee for an organization called District Orphans and Vulnerable Children.  Doreen went door to door in the community collecting data to help locate the most at-risk children.  She would report back to the committee, and a plan to allocate and distribute resources to meet the needs of the children would be implemented.  It was during this time that she further cultivated her desire to minister to those most vulnerable by utilizing her own gifts and abilities to meet their needs.  When asked why she would travel so far to meet with her students and live in the village from Sunday through Wednesday away from her family, this was her reply:  “I know what it means to be vulnerable – without resources and support.  As a Christian, I want to minister to and serve others.  I want to help them any way that I can.” Doreen is living out the vision statement of Sisterhood Of Servants, and I am thankful for her servant’s heart.

Mable Phiri was born on September 10, 1954 in Zambia, Africa. She was educated in the nearby country of Malawi through the 12th grade.  Her family was uprooted in 1972 and had to flee Malawi when she, her mother, and 7 younger brothers and sisters were separated from her father for political reasons.  The Phiri family found refuge in her birth country.  After high school, Mable began her nurse's training and  began practicing nursing in 1978 at the main town hospital near the Copperbelt region of Zambia.  Her midwife training would begin a year later.  Mable held the post at the hospital for 27 years, faithfully serving her patients.  

In 2012, Mable assumed a new post at the Chinunda Rural Health Center in the village of Malongwe which is located near the town of Chipata in Zambia.  At the Chinunda clinic, Mable is best known to her patients as Amai (mother) Phiri.   She truly reminds me of a modern day Florence Nightingale.  The clinic serves approximately 11,000 residents from all the nearby villages, and Mable is the only licensed health professional – there are no doctors to assist her.  She is constantly on call, and this rural facility is a far cry from the town hospital Mable worked at while a nurse in the city.   Rooms at the clinic are lit by the sun's rays and babies born in the middle of the night are delivered by candlelight because there is no electricity in the buildings.  Water is precious because there are no fresh water sources located near the property – patients and/or family members draw their own water, carrying it on their heads for more than mile when they seek treatment at the clinic.  Even without electricity or a consistent fresh water source, Amai Phiri still showers her patients with love and care.  She says she loves the work, and she loves helping people. 

Mable has a warm smile and is very soft spoken.  Even though she has a meek and quiet spirit, she also possesses an inner strength and peace that grew during those years when her father was separated from the family.  Recently I watched as Mable’s face lit up with gratitude and excitement.  A humanitarian group from the United States had helped to fund a building improvement project for the dilapidated structures that make up the clinic.  One of the buildings that is being used as a maternity ward/delivery room was wired with solar lights. Now Mable no longer has to deliver babies by candlelight.  She experiences so much joy from having the opportunity to “flip the switch” and watch as the lights come on in the delivery room!  Simple necessities are luxurious gifts in Mable's part of the world!  What I love most about this woman is her attitude.  Her hardships and difficulties haven’t hindered her desire to minister, and the circumstances that define her life are anything but ordinary.  She is truly an extraordinary woman!



Terri Leonard pictured with her little blessings!
Several years ago, Teresa Leonard, of Baltimore Maryland, sold everything she owned and moved to Guatemala because she wanted to be obedient to God’s call for her life. She didn’t know the language, and her sole financial support came from a local church in the Baltimore area.  However, she didn’t let that hinder her purpose.

For the past three years, Teresa (Terri) has been serving at Hope of Life children’s orphanage in Zacapa, Guatemala. She has always had a love and compassionate heart for children. Now she shares that love and compassion everyday with those considered by many to be 'the least of these.'  Terri’s journey hasn’t been an easy one, but God has used the difficult events in her life to mold and shape her into the person she is today. She has such a sweet, humble spirit and attitude.

As stated by Terri, 
"My Pastor has always said for those who leave the choice up to God, He always gives the best. I gave God the choice to send me wherever He needed me, but I was so scared He would send me to a remote place where there was no running water or outhouses or huge bugs! I live in the most beautiful place and am not in need of  anything. If you can use my story to get others to think about giving God control of their lives for His use I'd be happy to do (share) it. I enjoy the kids here. I know God has a plan, and He is letting me have a part in it. I feel like God called me here to show these kids unconditional love. One of the biggest blessings ever has been gaining their trust.”

Liesel Gruener and Kim Anderson are very special women. Approximately four years ago, they volunteered to become co-leaders of Khrest Homeschool Association in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They both have great passion to provide practical resources to homeschooling families and help each member feel connected to a support group. These two veteran homeschool moms enthusiastically share their wisdom, ideas, and generous servant’s hearts with all members of Krhest. They are truly making a positive impact in the lives of so many families through their spirit of selfless volunteerism.

Liesel Gruener:  “I really love everything about homeschooling! Being actively involved in a support group just came naturally.  Our group helps me provide the kinds of educational and social opportunities that I want for my kids and myself. It’s really wonderful to share ideas and information with others who are following a similar path. My hope is that every homeschool family can connect with a support group, so it's rewarding to receive questions through our website from people looking for that connection.”

(Kim Anderson →) 
“I believe  homeschooling should not be done in isolation, if possible. I love to gather families together for the common purpose to learn, get to know each other and share ideas and resources. I enjoy all of the different perspectives and input that each member brings which makes our group unique…It is an incredible privilege to be able to homeschool my own children and lead this group.”


Theresa Sirles and I became connected to each other through Sisterhood Of Servants in January 2010. She had a dream to implement a service project in her local area and was moving at the speed of a locomotive. I marveled at her tenacity and enthusiasm! That dream has become a reality, and it is currently manifesting itself in the form of a new non-profit corporation called Because We Are Sisters (www.becausewearesisters.org).

Theresa is a self-described front line, hands on kind of person. I believe those are the qualities that have sustained her in these early days of establishing a new organization, and I’m sure they will continue to do so in the days to come. In terms of volunteering, Theresa’s greatest joy is watching a diverse group of volunteers come together to share their personal experience, wisdom, and perspective all for the benefit of assisting families in need. It has been a sheer joy for me to witness, albeit from a great distance physically, all of the various pieces of her volunteer efforts begin to bear fruit. She is touching the lives of so many, and I am sure they will be forever grateful for her servant’s heart.

"I continue to be amazed by the way God reveals the 'why' to life events to us in due time and for His purpose, said Theresa. All of our experiences, good and bad, are by design and make us who we are. In my own life, I have discovered that what often seemed to be an unrelated set of circumstances or events were actually preparation for the next step on this journey. I wouldn't change a single thing, especially my mistakes, which have taught me the most."

Rhoda Carr, standing fifth from the left, and a small group of the women who provided meals and childcare for Susan Douglas, seated on the left, while she was recovering from surgery.  Approximately 24 women participated in being a blessing to the Douglas family.
On November 23, 2010 Susan Douglas of Jacksonville, Fl gave birth to a healthy set of twins. Her little girl Camdyn Marie weighed 6 lb, 7 oz, and her little boy, named Carson Michael, weighed 6 lb, 12 oz. Although the babies were healthy, something inside Susan was going terribly wrong. On November 30th, she began having heart problems that would require surgery, but the doctors had to wait for her body to recover from giving birth to twins. Nine weeks later, on January 26, 2010, after Susan had regained enough strength, she underwent major heart surgery to repair her dilated aorta by putting a mechanical heart valve in place. Susan’s condition was so severe that it was akin to having a brain aneurism

The surgery was successful, but it left Susan in a weakened physical state. Per doctor’s orders, she wasn’t permitted to pick up anything; it would be weeks before she could even hold her nine week old babies again. Thankfully, Susan had the support of a wonderful, young-couples, sunday school class led by Tommy and Rhoda Carr. Rhoda made arrangements with the women in her class and another sunday school class that Susan’s mother attended to provide meals and all-day childcare for the entire month of February while Susan recovered. They worked in 8 hour shifts Monday-Friday taking care of these sweet newborns. What a blessing and marvelous example of sisterhood these women displayed!

Susan’s husband is in the military, and soon they will all be moving from the familiarity of family and friends. I’m sure the Douglas’ will never forget the kindness and unselfishness that was shown to them by this wonderful group of women, and I’m equally sure that they will look forward to the opportunity to serve others and be an encouragement to the people they meet in their new home.

Members of the 2010-2011 bible study group
In 1999, a ladies bible study was started, and it has been going strong ever since! For the past 8 years the study has been held at the home of Betty Cooke. Beginning in September of each year, Betty and several other women (the average number is about 14) meet weekly and complete one or more studies. The participants in the bible study group come from all backgrounds and represent many different churches. Their topics of study have been numerous and include authors such as Max Lucado, Stormie O’Martian, Chuck Swindoll, and Beth Moore. They recently completed a study on prayer that was written by Betty.
Betty Cooke - bible study hostess
To accommodate the busy schedules of each participant, the group always takes a break from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. They look forward to catching up with each other and resuming the bible study once the holiday season is complete. The women are also active in community outreach, collecting money to purchase food baskets for needy families and volunteering together at a local, non-profit organization that helps support abused women. As these women make a commitment to get together and remain “connected” through prayer and bible study, their lives are being impacted by each other. A few months ago the mother of one of the participants passed away. Just two days after her mother’s death, this sweet woman attended the bible study and had this to say: “I couldn’t think of any place else to go where I would be so comforted and loved!” The bond of sisterhood these women share is manifest in such practical ways. For instance, the participants had the opportunity to minister to a family whose baby was diagnosed with lukemia.  They collected donations and purchased gas cards for the family to help offset the expense of taking her back and forth to treatments. They are truly living out their faith and putting into practice the principles they are learning on a weekly basis. What a blessing!

Morgan Prahl, age 17
Hannah Prahl, age 15

In January 2011, two young women from southeastern Wisconsin received some unsettling news about a close family member, and their hearts were moved with compassion. Teenage sisters, Morgan and Hannah Prahl, were told that their aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The girls made a conscious decision to honor their aunt in very special way in response to this news. The first week of April, they gave their mom, Heidi, permission to cut off their hair, which would be donated to the Pantene® Beautiful Lengths program. Volunteers donate their ponytails to the organization, and they are used to makes wigs for cancer patients who lose their hair during treatment.

Hannah, the younger sister, has donated her hair on two previous occasions to a similar program called Locks of Love™. When asked about her initial reaction after her hair was cut this time she replied, “It is always a surprise to see it cut so short after such a long time.” Morgan’s motivation stemmed, not only from a desire to be empathetic toward her aunt, but also from a willingness to be obedient. “I felt God calling me to do this. I loved my long hair, but I couldn’t stand to keep it knowing that it could bring a smile to the face of someone who had already suffered through so much.” Morgan, especially, is slowly, but surely, coming to terms with her new hair style. In her words, “Sometimes I get frustrated with it! Short hair is harder to manage than I thought!”

I am so thankful for the compassion of these young ladies. It isn’t always easy to do the right thing, but the rough edges of difficulty can often be smoothed over when one chooses to focus on the good that can be accomplished and the lives that will be impacted from a selfless act of kindness and obedience. To find out more about the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program visit this link: http://www.pantene.com/en-us/beautiful-lengths-cause/pages/default.aspx

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