SK Foundation Update

Thanks to everyone who has donated to the Stellar Kart Foundation so far! Just to let you know, your donations have helped us make our bus payment and repairs for December. Without your help, there is no way we could have made this happen.

I can't thank you all enough for your support! If you want to be a part of our ministry and keep us on the road, you can click on the pink "SK Foundation" on the stellarkart.com homepage and help us out. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!



The SK Foundation

Dear Family, Friends, and Fans,

First of all, I would like to thank all of you for your love and support over the past five years of this ministry we call Stellar Kart. Our ministry has been about encouragement from day one. We have tried to be a positive voice in a sea of negativity. Now we are asking for you to pick us up when we’re down. I am writing this letter reluctantly because I am the kind of person who does not like to ask for help. I want to fix everything on my own, but this time I cannot.

Here’s the deal…we travel for a living. Yes, we play music and write songs, but the majority of our time and money is spent on traveling. With the rising cost of fuel and airline tickets, we are having a very hard time making ends meet. We own a tour bus because we are all married and it is the only way we can spend time with our families when we are on the road more than half the year. The bus is a tremendous blessing, but at the same time an incredible financial burden. Just like any car or truck, when you drive it for a long time, things break and need to be fixed. The problem is, the bus is the size of four cars and the cost to fix anything is like we’re fixing four cars at a time. Also, it’s like owning a house and car with all the maintenance issues that come with both. All this to say, we need your help if we are going to be able to keep our bus. If things continue on their current course financially, we will lose our bus and the ability to bring our families on the road with us.

I understand that there are many viable ministries that need help just as much as we do, but if you believe in what we’re doing and can do anything to help we would appreciate it greatly. Many of you help us out at each show by buying T-shirts and CD’s at our merchandise table and we thank you for that. Some of you may never come to a show or buy a T-shirt, but want to support our ministry. This is your opportunity.

We have set up the Stellar Kart Foundation. This is a non-profit ministry that has been on our hearts for a long time. We are asking for your help right now to keep us going, but we want this foundation to be a long-term ministry tool that can allow us to play benefit concerts and charity events that we otherwise could not afford to play.

I believe in this ministry. I believe that Stellar Kart can make a difference in this world. I believe that we can all be a part of changing lives for the better. Please help us continue our journey. Thank you for your support.

God Bless,


Instructions for giving:

Click on the pink DONATE button on the home page of www.stellarkart.com to make a credit card donation. Make checks payable to SCCF. Indicate the Fund number (814276) on the check and mail it to Servant Christian Community Foundation; 706 North Lindenwood Drive, Suite 100; Olathe, KS 66062. If you have any questions, please email us at contact@stellarkart.com.



Tuesday June 8, 2010
Again with the roosters. Four o’clock in the morning. Wide awake. Today was the day we were dedicating the new high school. Before breakfast, we had some of the now quite depleted supply of Starbucks VIA coffee, enjoyed the sunrise, and played our traditional football game in the parking lot. We were about to take off to go to the school when I asked if, instead of riding in the Land Cruisers, I could follow along on the motorcycle. I was surprised and stoked that they agreed and hopped on the bike. I very quickly learned that something might have been lost in translation because one of the biggest Zambians I had met climbed on right behind me and said, “Let’s go.” Riding a motorcycle on washed out, rutted, bumpy dirt roads by myself was enough of a test, now I had to do it with a 200 pound guy on the bike with me. While not as fun and much more stressful than my twilight ride through the countryside, I still enjoyed the ride much more than I would have in the back of the bumpy Land Cruisers.
We arrived early to the Jonathan Sim School so we had a few minutes to check out the brand new facilities. Dan, one of the leaders of our team works at Intel and showed us some of the stuff they had sent over to the school. Since this area has no electricity, the school is powered by solar energy. Outside there are several solar panels that power the few lights and computers they have. Today was the first day most of these students had ever seen a computer and some of them were surrounding the four brand new ones that had just been powered up. Just in case the brand new facility, solar panels, and computers made me forget where I was for a second, what I saw in the room next door brought me immediately back to reality. On the concrete floor of one of the classrooms there was a giant cow carcass (with the head still attached) drying out and staring at me. Today was the day we would have something slightly different for lunch.
When the Chief and other dignitaries arrived, we went on an official tour of the entire facility. The school looked amazing and what made it even more special were the dorms. Since many of the kids have to walk many kilometers to school, they wind up staying there for the entire week and then returning home on the weekends. They sleep on the floors of the classrooms and anywhere they can find space. These new dorm rooms were full of bunk beds. Most of these kids didn’t have a bed at home and had probably never slept in a bed in their life.
We went outside and took our places under the tent for the dedication ceremony. It was very similar to the previous day’s schedule with speakers lobbying the government for future support and several varieties of entertainment. Also, we helped pass out backpacks from the girls of the Revolve Tour to the kids of the school. One of the highlights of this day’s ceremony was the speech by Kelly Sim, the widow of the school’s namesake Jonathan Sim. Simple and gracious, it was amazing to see her honor her late husband’s legacy along with the hundreds of Zambians in attendance.
After the lengthy event, we had lunch in the school with the Chief and the government officials. The afternoon was relaxed as we hung out with kids and took pictures. The time with the kids seemed to fly by. Before long, it was time to head back to the World Vision office and pack to leave for Choma. When we got back, we played one last game of football in the parking lot while waiting for everyone to get packed. We said our goodbyes to the staff and headed out for a sunset drive through the desert back to Choma.
We checked in to the Kozo Lodge for the second time on the trip and had dinner. We were all pretty exhausted from the day’s events and the four-hour drive to the lodge, so we all went to bed soon after dinner. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep with no roosters to ruin it for me.



Monday, June 7, 2010
Once again, like horrible mistimed clockwork, I was jarred awake at 3:30am sharp by our rooster friends outside. In college, my apartment was located directly alongside a set of train tracks and every morning at two and four o’clock, a train would go roaring by at full speed. I was eventually able to tune it out and hardly noticed it, but these roosters are devious. Instead of a single consistent noise, they coordinate with each other and take breaks just long enough for the humans to fall back asleep before screaming again. Fortunately, with limited electricity and entertainment options, we all went to bed at around 9pm each night, so waking up at 3:30am each morning was not as tough as it could have been.
Breakfast this morning consisted of boiled eggs and slices of bread. For me, and several others, breakfast included a protein bar as well. Like yesterday, we engaged in a friendly game of dirt parking lot football while we waited to begin the events of the day.
Today was a special day for Hoops of Hope and the people of Twachiyanda. We were dedicating the clinic that was built with money raised by Austin Gutwein and thousands of kids through Hoops of Hope. The clinic will serve as an AIDS testing center as well as a distribution center for the ARV medications that help those already diagnosed with AIDS to improve their quality of life. Prior to the dedication of this clinic, people in this area would have to WALK over 30 kilometers (almost 19 miles) to the nearest facility to get tested and/or receive treatment. Imagine walking for an entire day one way to go to the hospital. This clinic will improve the lives of thousands of people and literally save an entire generation from being wiped out by AIDS.
We climbed in the Land Cruisers and headed out to the clinic. After we had been driving for about 30 minutes, I made the mistake of asking how much farther we had to drive. The driver said, “Twenty to forty minutes.” Apparently Zambians don’t judge time in the same manner us Americans do because this would serve as the answer any time any of us asked, “how much farther?” Whether we had 10 minutes or an hour, the answer was always, “Twenty to forty minutes.”
When we arrived at the clinic, there were already hundreds of people surrounding the dedication site. They had erected a makeshift tent for us to sit in the shade while the majority of the people attending either sat or stood in the sun. We were each handed a schedule of events for the dedication that included each speaker/performer and how much time they were allotted. We would soon realize that these times were in “Zambian time” because 5 minutes of designated time on the sheet for a speaker might actually translate into 40 minutes of actual speaking time.
The ceremony was delayed because we were waiting on the Chief and some members of Parliament to arrive. So, there were some people there who entertained the crowd to kill some time. After being mercilessly prodded, I got up and sang a song. I was always reluctant because these people are such great singers. I would rather hear them sing any day of the week than go up there and play.
Finally, all the dignitaries arrived and the ceremony began. We sat in the tent for hours as several speakers got up and gave their speeches. Some were simple, but many were using this platform as a way to lobby the government officials to get more involved in this community. I appreciated their vision as they applauded the efforts of Hoops of Hope and World Vision, and at the same time implored the government officials to offer assistance in the future with issues such as property maintenance and improving the roads leading to the facility.
The ceremony concluded with a tour of the facility, including the brand new staff housing located adjacent to the property. After the tour, we had lunch in one of the staff houses. To my surprise, we had the same meal for lunch here at the clinic that we had at the base camp for lunch and dinner yesterday. Fortunately, they had some bottled Sprite and Coke that may have saved my life right then and there.
Later that afternoon, we did something that may have been the most memorable two hours of the entire trip. We met the Caregivers. The Caregivers are ladies that ride around on old, worn out bicycles to different people’s homes in order to provide care to those in need. These ladies take medical supplies to families in need and are often there in the last hours to care for people who have nothing. We all split into small groups and went with the Caregivers to various homes in the surrounding area. The home we visited was a small clay brick building (about 10 feet x 20 feet) with no windows, and a small hut out back for the kitchen. Just beyond the kitchen was a small garden with sweet potatoes and a few other vegetables. We met the matriarch of the house, a grandmother whose name I cannot pronounce and her grandson Orlando. We learned that a total of ten people lived in this tiny house. Orlando’s father had been killed by AIDS and Orlando had tested positive as well. I helped sweep out their one room house, dug up some sweet potatoes in the garden, played soccer with Orlando and some other boys, but mostly just soaked up every second I had with these amazing people.
During this Caregiver visit was when my world perspective changed. I had always heard about people in need, especially in Africa, but I had never felt it. I had never seen it with my own eyes. These people have nothing. In fact, they have less than nothing. Some of them are born into the world with a disease that will slowly destroy their life and inevitably lead to a premature death. Their life is hard. Their quality of life is awful. For the most part, they are an uneducated people who should have no reason for hope. Yet, I learned more about hope from this family than I have in 25 years of sitting in church. We asked Orlando how he was doing and he said the last word I ever thought I’d hear come out of his mouth. Thankful. He was thankful that he had his medication that eased the symptoms of his AIDS virus. He was thankful that he could get out of bed in the morning and not be in extreme pain. He was thankful for his life, regardless of the hand he had been dealt. He blew me away with his optimism.
As we walked away and left the family behind, my brain was racing to try and understand what had just happened. I thought about my own situation at home and all the stress I create in my life. We have so much stuff in our lives. So many things we cling to as if we could not live without them. In those moments, I realized the futility of stress and how absurd it is to worry. My worst-case scenario is better than anything these people will experience in their entire life. There are so many more thoughts about this going on in my head, but I’ll save those for another time, as they would fill another dozen pages.
We got back to the base camp with about 30 minutes of daylight, so Dan and I went for a ride on a couple of motorcycles that the staffers had. This was also one of my favorite moments of the trip, flying down the dirt road (70kph) with the cool African night air in my face. I felt as alone, and somehow at the same exact time, as complete as I ever had in my life.
When I returned for dinner, for the first time I began to understand my fate as far as the dining was concerned. We stared at the same EXACT meal that we had for lunch AND dinner AND lunch AND dinner AND…well, you get it. LITERALLY, the same exact food. Ok. This was the one aspect of the trip that I was not prepared for. Malaria mosquitoes, yellow fever, exhausting travel hours, horrible bathrooms. I had prepared for all things except eating the same thing at every meal. Don’t tell the cooks, but that night my friend Michael and I ate protein bars and a slice of bread with peanut butter. I went to bed slightly hungry, but mostly exhausted and fell immediately to sleep.