Love Wins. Every Time.

What started as a small-scale effort to help provide some villagers with affordable and accessible food has exploded into a chiefdom-wide project involving many communities, leaders, and a fleet of delivery vehicles including tractors, fishing rigs, transport trucks, and a 15-ton box truck. We knew that helping was the “right” thing to do, but we did not realize it was the divine strategy of God to weave us together with the people and gain their trust and affection like never before.

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Zambians are generally so open and loving but coming into Chipepo 4 years ago, we knew there would be a lot of skepticism and past wounds from other westerners that we had to overcome. The older generation still remembers the tragedy of their homes and schools being flooded when the dam for Lake Kariba was constructed under British rule in 1959. They will even tell you with sorrow that their parent’s graves are buried underneath the waters. British soldiers forced the Tonga people from the fertile valley up into the mountains and the few villagers that put up a fight were killed.

Others in recent years have seen the selfishness of westerners who only come for business and treat their Zambian workers harshly. But perhaps the most devastation has come from church planters who have come from town and started churches that indoctrinate the people in division and fear of other churches. There are many unsaved and undiscipled people trapped in these religious establishments that were formerly unreachable for us. Their churches preach against us, and some accuse us of satanism (funny, right?). But the breakthrough came by an act of kindness that could not be theologically understood. Giving a hungry person the food they need bypasses the mind and goes straight for the heart.

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When we started delivering food in Siabbamba, Elisha heard a story about a really interesting service that happened at one of the churches. One of the church leaders stood up to preach, but instead of preaching from the Bible, he began preaching against us and forbidding the people to purchase our food. The congregation actually stood up and started shouting at the man saying, “No! You are wrong!” and insisting that he sit down! Never before have we heard of church members actively resisting false doctrine! Our guys have overheard people remarking that there is no way a person involved in satanism could be showing so much love to people.

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This relief effort will continue up until the harvest at the end of April. Below is a map of the areas we have been able to deliver food to weekly. The red marker is our base, and the yellow markers are our current distribution points. There are still further areas within the boundary of our chiefdom that need help and we are brainstorming the logistics of how to reach them.

Meali Meal Locations

After trial and error, Jesse found an excellent company in the capital city of Lusaka that sells us bags of mealie meal for a great price and can bring 560 bags to Chipepo up to twice weekly. We were in Lusaka when we sent the first truckload and they made it all the way through the dangerous, curvy mountain roads and then managed to get stuck in sand just outside the gate to our base. Our team of disciples was already there waiting to offload the bags into our container so they worked all through the night trying to get the truck out of the deep sand and mud.

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They didn’t have the winch on our truck and Jesse wasn’t there to direct them. The next day, Elisha sent a message and could not contain his excitement. He kept thanking Jesse profusely for everything he’s ever taught them and done for them. We are witnessing the culmination of disciple-making. These men finally understand that they have what it takes to do what we do! They know that through Jesus Christ there is absolutely no limitation on their lives!

While we were in Lusaka running errands last weekend, I started feeling stabbing chest pains. By the time we reached home from our trip I couldn’t even unpack the groceries but had to try to stay in bed. Bedrest is futile in such a hectic environment as we live in, and I declined to the point to where I couldn’t sleep because of the pain. At 1am on Tuesday morning I told Jesse that we had to pack up again to go see a doctor. So we left at 5am with all the groceries on the counters, fresh vegetables in the fridge, and a pile of dirty laundry in the washing machine. With no adequate health care along the route, we ended up back here in Lusaka where I was diagnosed with pleurisy – most likely from a virus. I am much better now although I still feel far from being 100% and we cannot go back home until I am well so please pray for a rapid recovery!

We appreciate your partnership with us in such a glorious assignment to Chipepo. It’s never easy but it’s never boring and it’s always worth it!I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

If you are interested in giving a one-time gift towards this project, please contact us at jesse@overlandmissions.com and we will send you more information!

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Samson being his cute self! 

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Kids’ first time seeing a movie in Lusaka.

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Our Tribe!

May This Be Your Best Year Yet!

It’s our turn to hold down the fort over rainy season while our teammates are on furlough in the U.S. raising funds and seeing supporters and family. As the dust settles from the busyness of ministry, visitors, and the holidays, we reflect on the transformation we’ve seen in our chiefdom in 2018.

It has been over a year that our disciples have been weekly ministering in their zones. When we meet together each week, their testimonies are downright mesmerizing and I especially enjoy the unique flavor of each of their experiences. I constantly encourage them to be confident in their personal anointing from God and not to compare results, ministry styles, or Bible study attendance amongst each other. Here are the men that make up our core leadership team:

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Elisha is a true evangelist and runs with zeal. He has boldness to gather together all the leaders in his area and minister to them. Now that he has “earned” a dirtbike after countless hours of painful rides over rocky terrain on a bicycle, he is ministering every chance he has and his wife loves to join him.

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Livias is a humble man with intense compassion for others. He often sees miraculous healings and has heavenly visions of angels and Jesus. The people in his zone adore him as he preaches, ministers, and teaches people how to read.

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Pastor Nehru has been a pastor and church planter for a long time. He is one of the most amazing Christians that Jesse and I have ever met. His whole life is about the kingdom. Everywhere he goes he is listening to the Holy Spirit and preaches boldly to anyone of any age. People will wake him up in the middle of the night to pray for their dying relative and when he prays for them, they recover. He even has seen drunk people become sober as he preached to them!

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Loyd has 4 children of his own but takes in children from his extended family without question. He has such a gift to draw people together by his gentleness and patience. Anywhere we plant him, over time, he is able to convince sinners to come to repentance, and encourage a large number of believers to meet together regularly to study the Word and seek God.

Working alongside these men are pastors, leaders, and young evangelists that have a passion to see God change their villages. Every week our guys take young men with them to their zones to let them experience the thrill of releasing to others what they have learned in church all of these years!

My favorite recent testimony seemed like it was straight out of the Bible! A few weeks ago, Livias and Kebby traveled by boat to Kasukwe for ministry. On their way back home, they were hungry and flagged down some fishermen in a boat to try to buy some fish for dinner. The fishermen replied that they had been fishing all day and barely caught anything in their nets. Livias boldly told them when they pulled up their nets that they would catch more fish than they had caught all day. They didn’t believe him at first, but finally they decided to believe and they all prayed together. When they pulled up their nets, they had over 22 lb of fish! They were so grateful that they told our guys to take as much as they wanted!

In addition to traveling with our disciples to their zones, Jesse has been busy with a new project. Because of last year’s poor harvest following a drought, people are already out of maize (their staple food). There are some shops that sell it here, but most people live so remotely that they are struggling to make the journey to go buy a bag of ground maize. Some women have to hike over mountains carrying their 55 lb bag of food. People who have to travel across water have to pay to ride in a boat which adds to the cost. The government has not offered assistance yet, and Chief Chipepo has done all he can do, so their need basically fell into our laps. There is no way we can eat a nice meal at our home every night while people around us are suffering for their basic sustenance. We had to do something. Jesse started hiring trucks to go to town and bring bags of ground maize to our base. He then takes the food and delivers it with our truck to the different areas. We have trustworthy volunteers in different locations around the chiefdom who are selling the maize at a discounted price from their home or shop then returning the income for us to reinvest into more food. People are extremely grateful for our efforts and are beginning to understand that we came here for them! They especially love seeing the whole family when we go along for the drive! (If you want to know more information about this project and how you can help, please contact us at jesse@overlandmissions.com).

We were concerned that there would be a drought this year too since it simply would not rain. But praise God the rains started at the end of December and are going strong! As of right now, I am finishing up my first year of accredited homeschooling and our littlest one just turned 1 year old on January 2nd! Looking ahead at this year, we anticipate a lot of special visitors and expedition teams and will be scrambling to graduate Bible School students before we head back to the states at the end of the year. Thank you for continuing in prayer for us and we pray that this will be your best year yet in Jesus’ name!

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No Road? No Problem.

It may seem as if we already have taken the road less traveled to reach the villages surrounding us, but beyond Chipepo Central are areas with impossible and ugly roads, villages virtually cut off from society by towering mountains, and people living on islands in the lake who regularly travel by boat for basic supplies. We take such pride in the men who have faithfully pioneered into these regions by traveling up to 4 hours one way by bicycle or rowing a boat. They persevered for 1 year though their bodies were continually exhausted from the journey. Once, Elisha rode his bicycle up rocky terrain with his hefty 2-year old child strapped to his back as his wife struggled on a bicycle beside him to reach his area of Siabbamba!

We thank God that we received a donation which has dramatically increased our capacity as a ministry team. It was intended to accelerate ministry by covering the price of a dirt bike and a boat motor for our disciples! What used to be a 1.5 – hour boat trip to Kasukwe for Livias now takes 30 minutes, and his brother Elisha is reaching Siabbamba in 2 hours instead of 4 (although he is still getting used to driving the bike). Once they reach their zones they now have plenty of energy left for ministry. 

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Last week was Elisha’s first time taking the dirt bike out to his zone. People were happy that he is able to come more frequently now and villagers in even farther areas are beckoning him to come minister there too! On this trip he visited the home of a village headman and preached to all the members of his household. 11 people received Christ that day!

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It is our tradition that if we are in Zambia during Thanksgiving we join our fellow missionaries at the Rapid 14 Base in Livingstone to celebrate. They always go above and beyond to make a truly magical and festive evening and allow all of us to request our most sentimental side dishes to make it feel like home.

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Since AMT graduation was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we came early enough to watch them graduate and say goodbye. Our team is extremely fortunate and blessed that someone in this AMT class felt God calling them to Chipepo and committed to join our team! Her name is Amanda and she is from Wisconsin. She has a passion for keeping a small farm and for youth ministry which will bless our team tremendously. Currently she is back in the states fundraising but will head back to Zambia once she reaches 100% support!

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(Left to Right) Rayanna, Prudence, Chelsea, Amanda

Rains have already begun all over Zambia, although our region patiently awaits the rain which normally begins sometime in December. Shane and Chelsea are headed back to the U.S. for a time of fundraising and the birth of their first child in April! Now with the busy season of visitors behind us things are quiet with just a few workers on the base. Our goal during this season is to concentrate on absorbing more of the Tonga language and culture and to spend more quality time visiting pastors and building relationships. The Bible School stills continues every Tuesday and has been such a beautiful resource for investing into our disciples. We ourselves are growing and being encouraged through the lessons.

This year our Christmas decorating was complete with presents under the tree by December 1st since our dads brought wrapped gifts when they came in September! We would love to be in America with family right now but we do enjoy our simple Christmases in Zambia. In case you were wondering, we aren’t planning on a visit to the U.S. until the end of 2019.

We pray that you have a wonderful Christmas and find plenty of moments to meditate on the wonderful gift God gave to us when He sent His only Son into this world to redeem us forever!

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Prayer Requests

  • Safe travel for the Bloedorn’s and a fruitful time of fundraising as well as a safe and healthy birth for mom and baby.
  • Plentiful rains for the people of Chipepo as they grow crops which are their sustenance.
  • For pastors to be unified and edified as Jesse starts a “pastor’s fellowship” soon with those pastors who have caught the vision for ministry outside of their own churches.
  • Deepened understanding of the language and culture for Jesse and I during this season.
  • Protection for our family as rainy season brings snakes and malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
  • For Amanda to stay encouraged as she fundraises and to reach her financial goals quickly.

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Just Sit with Them

How can sitting at a village funeral for half of the day, barely conversing with anyone, and simply eating local foods that are served to you accomplish anything? Surely there must be preaching or some miracle to really make an impact. Surely there must be an agenda or a strategy to truly bring heaven to earth. And yet, we are in awe of how our mere presence deeply impacts every person in attendance. They see Jesus when we step out of our air-conditioned vehicle and into their world. The only interaction these people have had with westerners (mostly businessmen) left them with the understanding that white people don’t eat with them and certainly don’t eat their food. They don’t greet them in their language and are unconcerned and unaffected by their suffering.

This past Tuesday we attended a funeral for a man who had been sick for a long time. He was Mr. Winard’s (the Chief Rep) wife’s brother. We sat nestled in between the people and drank a mixture of sugar and pounded maize from a cup that was probably only rinsed with water by the last person who used it. We made feeble attempts to communicate in Chitonga but most of their words went over our heads. There was nothing to do, nothing to read, nothing to say. We just sat with them. And when we left, Elisha told us that the ladies were sad I had to go. 

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Yet they may never know how their smallest act of kindness also touched my heart. We women all sat on mats in a sliver of shade from the roof of the house. I sat with my legs straight out in front of me as they did. My shins were in the sun and after 30 minutes I began putting on sunscreen. They understood that my skin is different so immediately they tried to help make room for me to scoot back. When that didn’t work, they positioned my backpack in front of my feet and draped a cloth over it to shade my legs. These people love so well.

By the middle of October it was already time to submit our year-end report to Overland. As I compiled the data, I paused to reflect on an incredible testimony concerning the headman for one of the villages in Elisha’s area of Siabbamba. Over the past 3 years, we have had a tremendous impact on the tribal leadership of the chiefdom by holding an annual 2-day intensive conference. Since the May 2017 conference, he has completely stopped drinking. Later that year we held a marriage conference for these same leaders. Pastor Tim asked us to have a paper translated to hand out to all the leaders. It explained how to ask for forgiveness, and also how to give forgiveness. It has been amazing to see the power behind that one piece of paper and the simple message it carries. After hearing our pastor preach about marriage, this man was able to make amends with his wife and restore their marriage. As a headman, he serves as a judge for disputes in his village. He said that every time someone comes to him with a problem, he has them read that piece of paper and tell him if they agree with it and most of the time, the problem is solved. This wisdom has also helped him restore other marriages, even between people that were already divorced!

We had the pleasure of hosting 5 AMT students at our base last month. By the end of the week, they really grasped the beauty of discipling the people that you are surrounded by. They sat in on deep teachings from the Bible School on our back porch and watched Chelsea minister to women’s hearts in her own home. They met our closest disciples and saw how they are considered family. They went with these men to their zones and saw how they take what they have learned and selflessly give it away to villagers in difficult to reach places. In essence, they caught a glimpse of the Kingdom and how it is not found in buildings or programs, but within men’s hearts.

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13 people squeezed into our van!

That same week Jesse was scheduled to speak to a crowd of around 1,000 people at a national conference for a denomination called The Apostle’s Church that was taking place in our chiefdom. Our team and the AMT students went and listened as he exhorted believers to be filled with the Spirit and to preach the gospel!

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Jesse preaching at far left.

Recently, we had the privilege of holding a baptism on our property for two of our workers. We have been hesitant to baptize in the lake but now that the kids have an inflatable pool, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity! Blue was very ready to be baptized and when Sydney heard about it, he said he wanted to be baptized as well! 

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sydney

 

As we have been pushing forward, the enemy also has been busy with taking lives. Many people have died just in our local area this year. One man we know lost two sons within a few months of each other. Some people that have been sick for many years have died recently. A little girl was accidentally hanged by a swing made from a bicycle tire when she was alone. As I mentioned in another newsletter, our friend’s son was stoned to death by his own uncle. Not only are people suffering with tragic loss, but ministry is taking a toll with the abundance of funerals that last about 3 days each. For those of you who are committed to pray for us, please believe with us that the thief will no longer steal, kill, and destroy but that people will experience abundant life in Jesus Christ! Also, this is the month that rain should begin so that people can being planting their seed. People are going hungry from a bad harvest last year and it is crucial that we pray for the rains to begin!!!

Thank you so much to everyone who partners with us in prayer, finances, and friendship! We couldn’t do this without all of you! Please feel free to contact us with any prayer requests at heather@overlandmissions.com.

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We have solar A/C in two bedrooms! It is life-changing!

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Teaching our Bible School students how to play a board game for the first time.

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Hosanna is 10 months old!

Zambia – A Beacon of Hope to Africa

3 years ago, our fathers met Chief Chipepo for the first time. I served lunch as they sat at a small plastic table under the shade of a tree in front of our family’s safari tent. As the lake glistened behind them, he pulled out a newspaper clipping. It was a picture of him giving a Bible to the president of Zambia. The chief then boldly quoted the prayer of the missionary and explorer David Livingstone: “Lord, on this land (Zambia) where I rest my bended knees, let it become a mighty Christian nation, a beacon of hope to the African continent and a light to the rest of the world.” Like Livingstone, our chief has devoted his life to see Zambia not only saved, but for its light to shine for all nations to see. 

When Chief Chipepo heard our fathers were coming to Zambia for 2 weeks of September this year, he eagerly asked to meet us all for dinner right before they left to go back home. So 3 years later our fathers again sat with this incredible leader and were astonished to hear what God has done through him since their last meeting. For years he has been visiting government officials and chiefs, preaching the gospel and distributing Bibles. 2 years ago he spearheaded the Tribal Chaplaincy Program together with Overland Missions with the goal of training and assigning an indigenous chaplain to  each of the 288 chiefdoms in Zambia to guide chiefs to lead their people in ways of the Kingdom, rather than ungodly traditional ceremonies and practices. As if his reach wasn’t enough, now Chief Chipepo is the chairman for meetings consisting of many tribal (non-government) leaders that are working together with the African Union. This means he is influencing chiefs, kings, and sultans from every country in Africa! Our fathers were already in shock after hearing his testimonies and then couldn’t believe a man of such authority would ask for THEM to lay hands on him and pray for him!  

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Chief Chipepo (middle) and his grandson (left).

 

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Chipepo Chiefdom’s First Bible School!

Almost 200 leaders from 16 different chiefdoms in Zambia gathered together in Livingstone last week for our annual Sector Conference. This conference is truly the crux of our Sector department, and is quickly becoming the most highly anticipated event of the year for our indigenous preachers. When I am seated together with everyone under the giant pavilion each year, I try to fathom the magnitude of what is taking place. I look across the crowd and think to myself, “This must be the most important meeting in the entire nation of Zambia. These are the preachers in the villages that will ultimately transform the nation with the gospel from the inside out!”

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Packed into the 5-day conference was preaching and lessons on farming, budgeting, and time management – all topics chosen to create well-rounded disciples of Christ. In the past, we have only had 7 disciples that were involved or interested in ministry that attended this conference, but this year we had to hire a minibus for the whole week because we needed to send 15 people from Chipepo! Elisha, Loyd, Livias, and Pastor Nehru brought the disciples that they are raising up in their areas and Chelsea’s ladies came as well. Our disciples said that everyone from the conference enjoyed it so much that they wanted to stay there forever! Continue reading

Seeking the Lost

The villages were emptying quickly as people scurried to the final day of soccer matches. We caught a group of men on their way to the game, but to our surprise, they graciously turned around and welcomed us to preach. Michael, Joe, and Jesse all preached great messages to this group of men and children who sat under the shade of a grass roof in front of us. As they finished speaking, my heart burned to invite them to receive Christ. I had 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes to minister to the Zambian people sitting in front of me in between changing a diaper and consoling a 3-year old that wanted to go home. After I gave a quick exhortation, 3 men stepped forward to make a decision to follow Jesus! As our team prepared to pray with them, one man decided he didn’t want to miss out and jumped up and rushed over to join them. 4 people came into the kingdom that morning! Hallelujah!

It had been 7 years since the last time Jesse and I went out preaching house-to-house with an expedition team. One of our jobs in overseeing ministry in our chiefdom is to go out and meet the short-term expedition teams who are sent to us. We decided to send this team to the area of Sinafala and inundate it with the gospel because it has had major issues with some murders and also a “witch-finder” being hired in a desperate attempt to solve that problem. At the same time we were hosting 2 AMT (Advanced Missions Training) students and a family of 6 who came to Chipepo for a week to see what life is like on the field as part of their training. We took the students along with us to join the team for a day of evangelism. After 7 days, the expedition team had ministered to around 1,500 people and 350 people received salvation!

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I’m a Drunkard and a Polygamist. How Can I Have Integrity?

It takes bold people of God to stand before indigenous leaders and begin tearing down strongholds within their culture that have been established for many generations.

This year marks the 3rd annual Headmen’s Leadership Training for the Chipepo Chiefdom. Headmen representing villages from all over Chipepo gathered together in one place for 2 full days to hear preaching about leadership by God’s design. Over 80 leaders were in attendance and when Jesse gave an invitation for salvation, 10 received Christ! 

This year we were honored to have our Pastor, Tim Franklin, as the guest speaker.

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During his 3-hour teaching on integrity, a man stood up and proclaimed, “I’m a headman, a drunkard and a polygamist. How can I have integrity?” This year the lie being dismantled is that those involved with polygamy cannot become Christians, which is what some of the churches are teaching. What a weight these men have carried – to be full of guilt and separated from God in this manner! Now they know that Jesus is calling them to walk with Him, regardless of their current sin or circumstances. Our response is never to encourage divorce that would abandon a woman and her children (Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called.” 1 Cor. 7:24). As these men have admitted that polygamy is not a good idea, we do encourage them to teach against this for the upcoming generation.

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The Boat is in the Water!

Nothing ever happens quickly in Africa. So you could understand our surprise when the boat came earlier than the projected date! I found myself driving Jesse to the airport on Easter Sunday so he could catch a flight and start making his trip towards the west coast of Africa to collect it ASAP before we had to pay too many more holding fees. The kids and I stayed at the Rapid 14 missions base while he was gone. 5 days later he arrived back in Livingstone with the 12-passenger van and the boat in tow! (If you remember, this is how we also managed to get our F-350 overseas a few years ago).

It is truly astonishing seeing the boat we purchased in Florida sitting on Lake Kariba! All of the workers that were on base that day hopped in for the maiden voyage.

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This is how you get a boat into the water missionary style:

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Sometimes I just close my eyes and let my husband do his crazy thing!

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