Thursday, April 27, 2006

HEART TO HEART INTERVIEW WITH MY IN-LAWS. . . After almost two weeks traveling through four countries (South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) on a ministry trip with Scott, my in-laws are ready to share their experience. Four-wheel driving, dirt roads, sand, corn meal mush, high tea, open fires, a wedding, and a charging elephant are just a few the things they experienced.

LISA: Let’s start at the top. What impressed you most with the people?

FARREL: I was impressed with the friendliness of the people we met. Martin and Grace, leaders of the church in Mongu, were so hospitable. They fed us dinner for three nights and insured we felt at home. When anyone new came into the room, they always stopped and greeted us.

SANDY: I agree. Their humility and courtesy really stood out. Especially the women who greeted us in their traditional way of lowering themselves when shaking our hands show honor. It was also interesting to me how each tribe had a different hand shake.

LISA: What about the highlights?

FARREL: The boat cruise was incredible. We saw an elephant up close and it was amazing to watch him eat and use his trunk to slap the grass against his sides. The game drive and animals were also a highlight as well as high tea at Victoria Falls Hotel. It was a very special way to celebrate my birthday.

SANDY: I enjoyed the beauty of Victoria Falls. The water was at flood stage and the mist and vapor clouds surrounded the whole area causing it to rain. We were soaking wet despite the clear day.

LISA: And the most difficult part of the trip?

FARREL: The scariest part of the trip was when we had to drive at night.

SANDY: Definitely. Most of the cars were missing a headlight, so they would flash their turn signals indicator so we could see the edge of the car.

FARREL: I also didn’t like feeling dirty all the time. Especially in Mongu where everything is sand.

LISA: What touched you the most about the people in regards to ministry?

FARREL: How they praised God. They were full of movement when they sang. Their clapping and dancing expressed such an excitement for God. You could see their love for God in their eyes even when I couldn’t understand the words.

SANDY: They had a sincere and simple faith that was obvious to us.

LISA: Anything else that made an impression on you?

FARREL: We went to a traditional, village wedding and it was very unique. When I first walked in and saw the bride and groom’s depressed demeanor, I thought they’d had a fight. They looked so unhappy. Then I learned that it was tradition to not smile. Instead, the bride and groom had to bow their heads and appear sad. In the past the girls would be taken away from their family by the groom on the day of the wedding not knowing anything about it. The sad demeanor was a part of the tradition. It was a very strange thing to view.

SANDY: I have to mention the roads. The way that they denoted a problem or a wreck ahead was by breaking off a couple tree limbs and placing them in the road. Then you know there was a problem ahead. The roads are full of huge pot holes, and I was amazed by the hundreds of people walking or sitting along the road and the few cars that we saw. And then there was the price of fuel. It’s over $6 a gallon--when you can find it. Regular is even higher. In Zimbabwe you can’t buy gas, so the trip must be planned out very carefully.

LISA: What was most surprising to you on the trip?

FARREL: The night in the village, when we camped out, wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Still, we had no running water, no electricity, and no toilet facilities. They had rigged a shower and hung up blankets around it in a circle where we could stand on rocks and wash. The stars that night, though, were unbelievable.

SANDY: Without a doubt. I was so impressed with the stars and to see the southern hemisphere and with its brilliance was incredible.

LISA: Thank you so much for sharing. I know that a number of people have told me how much they’ve enjoyed following your journey.



Camping out in Zimbabwe. Issac, the man standing in the background, sleeps in the fields at night to protect his crops from elephants.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


It's been a long day, so I've decided to simply post a few pictures of Scott and his parents trip. Tomorrow I'll try and post some of their comments (and some more pictures) from their once in a lifetime adventure. This first picture is Farrel celebrating her birthday with high tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel.



Monkey see Monkey do. . .

The incredible Victorica Falls

Monday, April 24, 2006


Scott and his folks are back! They even beat me home from running errands this afternoon when I got stuck at the post office. (You'd think picking up a package would be simple. NOT!) They are all tired, but happy. Scott's mom said it had been a trip of a lifetime (a trip meaning the one and only) but seriously, I think they really enjoyed it.

I’ll try to get them to give some of their first impressions tomorrow.



Sunday, April 23, 2006


They're coming home! Tomorrow Scott and his parents plan to leave Zimbabwe to return to South Africa. While in Zimbabwe we haven't been able to communicate as the cell phone service doesn't work there. Last I heard from them they enjoyed high tea at this beautiful hotel at Victorica Falls to celebrate Farrel's birthday. She really enjoyed it! They also were charged by a young elephant to add bit of excitement to their day.

I'll have them post some of their experiences once they are back.



Friday, April 21, 2006


Today I saw my first snake. We've had a dozen or so killed on our property, but this is the first time I've actually been around to see one. I was pulling into our driveway, and there is was. A long black snake stretched out in the road.

Dead? I decided to check it out.

Lesson number one: Never assume a snake is dead. Even if it's lying in the middle of the road not moving.

I rolled down my window and it moved. I jumped. Then I decided to run over it. Sorry to all you animal lovers, but I don't like a poisonous snake in my yard. So I reversed, then pulled forward a couple times.

Lesson number two: Never assume you can run over a snake with your car.

It didn't work. My gardener went with my kids running behind them with hoes and pitchforks and me calling them back toward the house.

The snake has now been disposed of. One less poisonous snake for me to worry about.

I also saw a monkey outside my house this morning.

Since I don't have a picture of a snake, this picture is for you, Ronie!



Thursday, April 20, 2006


Scott and his parents are enjoying a day of rest between traveling and teaching. I was able to speak to him briefly last night by phone at his hotel in Botswna, and while he sound very tired, they are all doing well. They were able to take a boat ride along the river, a fantastic way to see the animals. I'm posting a few pictures of our last family trip we took there. The elephant's crossing the river was one of the most incredible sights I've ever seens. Unfortunatly, the waters are at flood stage and the elephans

Allen and Janelle, our coworkers, are headed to meet them near Victoria Falls later today. They will all attend one of the church leaders weddings on Saturday, preach on Sunday and return Monday evening.

Currently, I'm preparing a proposal for a publisher that is requiring a heavy amount of research on the very area they have been in, and I have to say, I'm finding the research some of the most interesting I have ever done.



Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Just wanted to share my latest writing news. I just got a peak at the cover of my upcoming novella Matchmaker, Matchmaker that will be included in the SWEET HOME ALABAMA collection. This light hearted romance will be released in bookstores and other venders like Walmart in December. ( A perfect Christmas gift!)

Someone just asked me how to get a copy of my latest release, Rebecca's Heart. You can get one straight from Barbour Publishing by calling 1-800-852-8010 or contact me and I can get you an autographed copy! It was released in February through the Heartsong bookclub and should hit the bookstores in the next few weeks.



Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Scott and his parents left Mongu yesterday for Lusaka (the capital of Zambia) where they ate Chinese food and spent the night. Here’s what Farrel had to say in her text message about Mongu.

“Over all we are doing well. The food has been good. We were very impressed with sister Grace and Martin and their kids and hospitality. Impressed with the worship Friday and Sunday as well. However being in Mongu, I always have sand between my toes.”
Sand is right! You have to use four wheel drive just to get around the town because of the sand.

Crossing boarders often means crossing the river on a barge. Here's me with th kids crossing into Zambia. They made this same crossing today.

This weekend they will be in Zimbabwe for preaching and an African wedding, but the next couple days they will go see Victoria Falls and spend time in one of Botswana’s game parks.

The kids and I are doing fine, though it’s been one of those days. Jumped in the car this morning to take Gabriel to his ride for school (it’s their first day back after the first break holiday) and discovered that my phone had lost almost ten minutes when the battery went dead recently. This means that Gabriel missed his ride and I had to drive him to Tzaneen about 20 minutes away, flying past every taxi and truck the whole way. Which in turn meant that Jayden and Mariah were late for school. Thankfully, Gabriel made it to school on time, and it wasn’t a problem for the little ones to be late. So, besides that, throwing my car keys away at the super market and forgetting that Gabriel gets out early the first week back at school (does it help to say that he’s new there, and I’m learning the ropes?) we’re doing great!

And by the way, we found the car keys!



Monday, April 17, 2006

DAY SIX. . .

I spent about an hour trying to get through to Scott in Zambia and finally was able to speak to him briefly. We found out that most of our text messages weren’t going through, so it was nice to communicate even though the echo was horrid on my end. The good news is that they are really having a good trip. The past three days were spent wiht the Christians, teaching and encouraging them. Today will focus more on some administration issues that have to be dealt with. Scott continued his extensive teaching on church planting, training that leadership that the goal for the church is to continue to birth other churches.

His parents are doing well and are enjoying the trip. Thankfully, there hasn’t been any problems at all. They did almost miss exchanging money as they entered Zimbabwe (every country has a different currency) but managed to arrive at the exchange place three minutes before five.

After working with some of the leaders today, they will make the trip back to Lusaka. Scott will be showing his parents Victoria Falls and taking them on a game drive in Botswana before

meeting Allen and Janelle in Zimbabwe for the weekend for a wedding and more preaching.



Friday, April 14, 2006


Scott and his parents have just arrived in Mongu. They are at one of the leader's homes, tired, but happy. Church begins tonight at eight with an all night prayer session. Easter weekend is a time of prayer and celebration for the churches as they celebrate Christ's resurrection with Christians around the world.

I've marked on the map the route they took today from Lusaka to Mongu.



HEART TO HEART with Lena Dooley

I want to welcome Lena Dooley, my own mentor and good friend, to My Heart of Africa’s first writer’s interview. I first met Lena about four and a half years ago and began going to her home weekly for a writer’s critique group. The first week I left encouraged that I could write dialogue, but with instructions to rewrite the entire chapter. I rewrote that chapter, studied, and grew under her mentoring, and without a doubt, the two years of attending that group changed my writing completely.

Let’s hear from Lena about her own writing journey.

LISA: Welcome to my blogsite, Lena. As always, I’m excited for the chance to learn from you. What was your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? And how many books have you sold since then?

LENA: That was way back in 1992, but I remember the excitement, almost not believing that it was true. Now even though I've sold seven more novels and four novellas, I still get really excited each time I receive word that a book is being bought by someone. I don't get much done the rest of that day. Back in February, I received word twice in one day, one right before noon, one right before I quit work. I told my husband that the next day would have to be my excitement day for the second book. I don't know if you ever get over being excited. I hope not.

LISA: I hope not too! Your newest release, Minnesota Brothers, is a series composed of four Heartsong titles. In the stories, the Nilsson family has decided to settle in Minnesota, where each brother seeks a wife. Gustaf is left to meet his brother Lars's fiance' at the ship and explain to her his brother's absence. August envies his older brother, but perhaps not enough to accept his castoff for a wife. Lowell and Ollie are both fascinated by a mysterious young woman who has come to town, and she is good at eluding their affections. Girda Nilsson envies her brothers' wives, but there has been no romance for her--until a mysterious marshall rides into town. Tell us some of the background behind the idea for this series.

LENA: The first book, The Other Brother, came from stories I've heard about my own immigrant family. Of course the events I used in the book have been completely fictionalized. When it came out, my friends kept telling me that I should write a sequel. I thought I could write the best friend's story, but I figured they were just saying that because I was a good friend. After that, the first packet of readers' feedback information arrived. Over and over, they said they wanted more. I spent a week seeking the Lord about whether I should write a sequel. In that week, He gave me the story lines, characters, and conflicts for three sequels. I was surprised. By the way, the best friend's story is the last sequel.

LISA: I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to from the series and who made an input on your life?

LENA: I cannot write a book without spending time with the Lord, and He always teaches me things for myself as well as for the characters. The strongest message that touched me in The Other Brother was forgiveness. While I was writing, God took one element of the story in a totally different direction from the one I planned. Of course, it was a better direction. I've also dealt with a poor self-image and feeling unworthy. Through all of that, I've grown in the understand of just who I am in the Father's heart. I really could write a lot on this subject.

LISA: As I mentioned earlier, Minnesota Brothers is a combined, four book series. Can you tell us what it’s like writing a series? Did you miss your characters once the last story was written?

LENA: By the time finished the second book, I was tired of the characters. I decided that I didn't want to write another series. Maybe it was just the enemy attacking me. As I got into the third book, my excitement returned, and when I finished the last book, it was like leaving friends that you would never see again. I missed them.

LISA: Tell us a bit about the research you had to do for this story?

LENA: Since I am a history buff, I knew a lot about the era. I had been involved in writing a two-year American history course, so I own a lot of reference material that I frequently use. However, I love the Internet, too. As I wrote, I might decide that I wanted to use something, but didn't know if it was readily available in the exact time period. I could just go to respected historical sites and find out. It was exciting and I learned a lot more than I could use. Also, when I travel in an area, I go to used book stores and buy historical books for the locality. They are really useful.

LISA: What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?

LENA: Be sure you're doing what God wants you to, then persevere.

LISA: Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share, or specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?

LENA: My agent is marketing a women's fiction proposal right now. I would like for it to sell. I have many ideas for future books. Actually, God has given me more than I ever dreamed in certain areas. I've won awards and had a book on the CBA bestseller list. I love all that, but most important to me is for readers to let me know how a book I wrote changed their lives. That's what I try to do. Show through the story how people face difficulties in their lives and grow in the Lord. Maybe someone will say, "That's what I'm facing. There's hope for me."

LISA: And lastly, because I know where are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published?

LENA: I'm always telling fiction writers to join ACFW. You get the most help for your money from people who will really care about you. Learn the craft. It takes time. I'm still learning, and I probably always will be. Don't let fear paralyze you and keep you from submitting. The only authors who sell are the ones who submit!!!

LISA: Thanks so much, Lena, for taking the time to share with my bog readers. Minnesota Brothers is available now at Wal-Mart and your local Christian bookstore, so be sure and pick up a copy. Lena will be back in June for another interview on her next release, Windswept Weddings, where we will learn what it’s like to write a novella collection.

Next week, I’ll be having another heart to heart interview with Tamera Alexander, another one of my good friends and crit buds who just released her debut novel from Bethany House, Rekindled.

Blessings all!


Thursday, April 13, 2006


For those of you who are following the progress of Scott and his parents, I thought I'd inlude a map of Zambia (courtasy of This will also give you an idea of what a typical ministry trip is like.

They drove to Victoria Falls from our house yesterday. (Bottom center of map) Today they are headed from Victoria Falls to the capital (heading northeast) Lusaka. This are long days, with a good 8-10 hours of driving.

Here's the text message I just received from Scott's mom. "We are in Zambia and road is awful! This morning we had monkeys on our roof which was neat."

Please keep them in your prayers. --Lisa


We met with those who will be regulars in our neighborhood Bible study and there is a lot of interest so we are excited. We've printed up invitations that will be handed out and begin next Wednesday by showing the Jesus film in Tsonga, one of the local languges. We had planned to start with our discipleship material since we have some new Christians, but have decided instead that we need to start at the very basics as it became clear that they didn't even know how God created the world, or many of the stories many of us learn from a very young age.

We want them to get a grasp on some of the basics the Bible, see God's plan throughout history, and encourage them to start reading through the New Testament for the next few weeks.

Please pray for this group of people, that we can reach out and grow and that many will come to know Christ.

As for other news, Scott and his parents are driving from Victoria Falls to Lusaka, Zambia today. They weren't able to actually see the falls on their way up, but will see it on their way back. They plan to drive the rest of the way to Mongu (Western Zambia) tomorrow and begin their time with the church then. Please pray for a safe trip for them. I know Scott's parents are excited about this opportunity, but that doesn't mean that it won't at times be a challenge. (Like eating cornmeal mush and fish two times a day for a week!)



Wednesday, April 12, 2006


It’s hard to believe, but Jayden celebrated his fifth birthday on Monday. We had a number of friends and family come for a braii and everyone had a great time. We’re getting him a hamster, but since there is no pet store in the area, we are getting one from a friend and have to wait five more weeks as it was just born. We took Jayden to visit his new hamster and he was so excited. For now, we have the cage set up, (with water and food) as we wait for the next (and hopefully last) addition to our zoo.

Scott left early this morning with his parents for a twelve day ministry trip to Zambia. Scott will be teaching and working with some of the leaders. They are also planning a few days of sightseeing at Victoria Falls and a great game park in Botswana. Then they will meet Allen and Janelle in Zimbabwe the end of next week for a wedding of one of the church leaders. I’ll be here with the kids, finishing up my next writer’s deadline that’s rapidly approaching and getting them ready for school that starts next Tuesday.

As a reminder, you can sign up at the top of this page for my updates to come automatically to your email box. And I love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment as well.

Have a blessed day!


Watching a Vegie Tale video that Grammy sent.

Monday, April 10, 2006


They delivered Scott’s parents’ suitcases yesterday morning at seven in the morning (we couldn’t believe it), so they were thrilled to have clean clothes for church yesterday and I was thrilled to have the books I ordered. We had a great lunch with family. Scott’s parents as well as Janelle and Allen’s daughter and her family. We had a braii (BBQ) and just enjoyed being together.

We also have a new addition to our family. Harley is a two year old dog whose owners are missionaries moving soon to Ethiopia. They can’t keep the dog and since our kids have known Harley since we arrived in Joburg. . .well. . .we’ve got another family member. It’s beginning to feel like a zoo around here, but as you can see, Jayden couldn't be happier!

As for my latest faux pas, I did a very good job at embarrassing myself this week. I love cooking and trying new dishes from other countries. Recently, we were invited to some friends’ house for dinner and had these terrific toasted sandwiches on the grill with cheese, tomatoes, and South African chutney. I decided they would be perfect to serve at Jayden’s birthday party. I mentioned them to a couple people who were visiting and how much I liked them. I used the Afrikaans word (or so I thought) and it took them a while to figure out what I was talking about.

Now I know why.

Instead of saying toasted cheese sandwiches, I was saying toasted panties!

Needless to say, everyone got a huge laugh over it today when I was finally told what I’ve been saying all this time.



Saturday, April 08, 2006


Scott's parents arrived with no luggage AND a day late so as you can imagine, they're a bit worn out. The airline is supposed to deliver the luggage tomorrow, which I'm really hoping they do, because most of the stuff is mine. Books, Ranch salad dressing, books, make up, books. . .oh, and a few more book. Anyway, they will be about seven weeks, and we're so excited they are here.

When we went to pick them up at the airport, we also spent some time with some good misisonary friends who are moving to Ethiopia. We brought their dog home since they can’t take it with them. It was very emotional for them to leave him as he is their baby. Our kids are thrilled to have him here. We already have two German shepard guard dogs, and a cat to catch the mice. Harley is an inside dog, but at least he’s very well behaved. We are getting a hamster for Jayden’s birthday and are turning into a zoo here!

The Bible study went great on Wednesday, We had four people come and we are really excited. We will be starting very basic, with an over view of the Bible and study of some of the main characters and stories. Basically, how the Bible fits together. Then we will move into some deeper discipleship material. We will be handing out invitations, so please pray that this will grow and reach out to the neighborhood.

I interviewed Scott about his recent trip to Mozambique and will be posting that as well as some picture in the next couple of days. A lot of exciting things happening there.

This is a cool picture of our kids and a baobab tree at the Namibia/Botswana boarder. I find it amazing how huge they are!



Friday, April 07, 2006


We are so excited that Scott's parents are on their way right now to spend the next seven weeks with us! They were delayed leaving Salt Lake City and had to spend the night in New York, so they are arriving about 15 hours late. We will be heading back home tomorrow with them to spend a few days before they leave on a ministry trip to Zambia next week with Scott.

Here's a few pictures of Gabriel's nineth birthday party. Scott took him and seven other boys camping last weekend and they had a blast as you can see from the pictures.



Wednesday, April 05, 2006


We had a great time at the game park, this time avoiding a flat tire and any charging elephants, things that, yes, we have experienced before on other trips. The most exiting part was stepping out briefly at a viewing spot to see a hippo down in the water. Behind us the kids started screaming “Baboon! Baboon!”

I turned around and two small monkeys were jumping into the truck. They ran off quickly at all the yelling, but the kids got a kick out of their Curious George antics.

We also had a huge female elephant walk past our truck. It was moving down the paved tarmac, unconcerned about the cars that had pulled over to let her pass.

Altogether it wasn’t the best day we’ve ever had for game viewing, but we saw a number of giraffe, buffalo, hippo (one of them was the biggest I’ve ever seen), crocodile, a snake, wart hog, elephant, buck, zebra, baboons, monkeys, wildebeest, and some gorgeous birds.

Tonight we are starting our first cell group aimed to reach the maids and gardeners in the area. This seems to be a large part of the population who are not being reached for Christ. Please keep this Bible study in your prayers.


Monday, April 03, 2006

I think I survived my week of leaky water heaters, flooded kitchens, no electricity, book deadlines, and no water. I'm a bit tired (ok, very tired) but everything seems to be back to normal. For now anyway. LOL

We had a good, but busy weekend. Saturday we prepared for the Passover. Granted, we’re a little bit early, but this was the only time we could schedule it. We invited three other couples to share the evening and it turned out to be such a blessing. After the traditional Passover, we shared communion and had a time of praise that was so meaningful. During the dinner, the fathers blessed each of their children, which was also a very moving experience.

One of the things we did during the meal was share ways that God has blessed us. It was neat to sit there and share a meal with families that have truly become to be like family
to us.

The kids watched a video of Moses and the Israelites leaving Egypt.

Scott blesses Jayden.

Then on Sunday night, we sent Gabriel and Scott off to celebrate Gabriels nineth birthday (a few days late). He took seven of his friends (yes seven!) and went camping up in the mountains. They had a great time. I'll post pictures of their time later in the week.

Tomorrow we are planning to take our long awaited game drive at Kruger. It will be nice to take a day off, but the kids are all coughing, so hopefully they will all feel up to going.