Monday, December 29, 2008

Time with Family

In reverse order, photos from the past week in Davis and surrounding area

Took a little road trip today. Drove to Muir Beach and Muir Woods. Unfortunately, it was late and looking like rain by the time we got to the woods, so we didn't walk around there. We had fun exploring en route, though.

Stefan, Clara, Liesl and Anja, on Muir Beach

En route to the beach, this is reportedly the longest line of post boxes in North America

San Francisco - you can see the Golden Gate Bridge as well as Alcatraz. And a blimp over the city

The family. This photo is taken from Sausalito. We spent some time in this little town, having coffee (and hot chocolate for the kids)

Liesl and Stefan just got this fun bug the day I arrived. Obviously the top was just put down for this photo, since it's too chilly to drive it like that this time of year... Not that it's THAT cold in this area - it's been mid 40s to 50s many days, which is nice and balmy compared to Cedar Rapids, where I'm returning tomorrow!

Anja, playing in the snow on Christmas day. (Oh, and Rocky in the background. He belongs to one of the other families who were at South Lake Tahoe for the week. We just went out for the day.)

Clara, with Ianthe, one of Liesl's colleagues. It was Clara and Anja's first time to see snow, so they LOVED playing in it!

Clara and friends, enjoying the snow. BTW, we never saw the lake due to the weather. We're told this town is on the lake, but we'll have to see it another time... :)

Liesl and Stefan in the bay window of the house the others were renting for the week

This is not a picture on the wall of the house. It's a large picture window. Nice. Very nice

Scenes en route to Lake Tahoe

Chains were required for much of the drive. The 100-or-so-mile journey took us close to 4 hours since we had to crawl at 25mph across the summit. But it was beautiful, and thankfully, Stefan was driving

Fun times with the girls. This is Anja, when I took them to Border's and read them some stories

Clara, at the same store

And that's it, my week in a nutshell. No photos of the times in the kitchen, baking cookies, or watching Stefan bake incredible rusks, or listening to the girls crack up as they're playing in the bath tub, or them learning how to rollerskate.

It was GREAT to have this week with family. Tomorrow, I'm heading back to Iowa for a while.

Happy New Year, by the way. It's hard to believe 2008 is almost over... It's definitely been an unusual year. Lots to remember this year by. Political unrests. Studies. Floods. A career change.

I'm looking forward to seeing what 2009 holds.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Adjusting to life in the US . . .

I remember learning to read in English when I was in Grade 2. I could speak English by then, but, for some or other reason, I specifically remember having to get used to reading the th-sound.

Tonight, I was sitting on the couch reviewing multiplication tables with my 3rd-grade niece, Clara. She was saying her 7-time-table in Afrikaans, and it suddenly hit me that she should probably be saying it in English, since it would be better for her to be thinking in English when it comes to math and such. So I had her switch to her second language.

She's only been in the US for a little over a month, so it's been a huge adjustment to her, suddenly having to do everything in English. She's doing great, though. At times, however, you could tell how confused the poor child is getting with her numbers.

In Afrikaans, for example, forty two is "two and forty." Which could get terribly confusing when you're switching to times tables in another language. Poor kid! But at the same time, you can hear how her English is starting to affect her Afrikaans. In English, you say, "more than..." while in Afrikaans, than is translated as as (sort-of rhyming with us.) So she's starting to say things like "meer dan..." rather than "meer as..." It's got to be tough!

Three-year-old Anja, on the other hand, seems to be very quietly acquiring her second language. She's not speaking much in class, but this afternoon, I asked her a question in English, which led to an entire conversation in English. A month ago, she understood English, but hardly ever spoke it! I guess she's realized that people around her simply no longer understand when she tries to express herself in Afrikaans, so for survival, she's picking up English.

What's funny to me, though, is that whenever she doesn't know how to respond to a question, her standard answer is "nothing."

She'll catch on really quickly. No doubt. And she'll probably have the most American accent of all four people in their house.

Speaking of which: You know your accent is somehow different when no automated phone system understands what you're saying. For the most part, I'm able to adjust my accent enough that such systems understand me. My sister, on the other hand, has declared that she despises automated phone systems, since they simply don't understand her.

And we've been speaking English for much of our lives...

There are so many other things for them to get used to in the USA. They tried flavored coffee creamer tonight. Found it "very rich," while I, on the other hand, love the stuff in my coffee. French Vanilla's my favorite. I don't care for the fancy-flavored ones.

Plus I got them some cream cheese for their bagels, and my sister spread it thin like butter, asking first if you're supposed to put butter on first, or not. I guess if you're going to spread it so thin, you might as well put butter on first! But fear not, she didn't. And it's much better for your waist in any case not to put a quarter inch or more cream cheese on stuff...

Clara and I baked chocolate chunk cookies from scratch today and she declared that it's much nicer than the ready-in-the-tube kind. They tried those just for fun the other day. Since it's such a novelty. They really bake EVERYTHING from scratch in this house. Believe me. My brother-in-law is an incredible cook, as is my sister. But Stefan does stuff like bake bread (from scratch, yes, even making his own yeast from potatoes.) What really amazes me is that they're currently still mixing everything by hand since when you have to put up a house from scratch in another country, KitchenAids and hand mixers aren't on the top of the list...

Needless to say, while I was creaming the butter and sugar for the choc-chunk cookies today, I appreciated the fact that I don't usually have to do things like this by hand.

And later in the evening, I appreciated the fact that I never had to learn my times tables in more than one language...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Family

I've been having a wonderful time hanging out with my nieces. This is Anja. She's three, and thrilled that I'm here. As am I. Eight-year-old Clara's just as happy that I'm here. :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Adjusting

I've been learning about waiting. It's not an easy lesson to learn. It's not popular in our day and age to wait. We I want instant answers. But this is not a time of quick answers.

I was listening recently morning to a devotion about Advent and was reminded yet again of the sacrament of waiting.

"Waiting seems negative. Passive. Unexciting..." the speaker reminded me. "It is a time of reflection..."

This definitely has been a time of slowing down, of adjusting to life aK (after Kenya). I still think of the kids and staff in Kenya every day, about what they're probably doing, about adjustment even they are making.

I do have a job offer for a position that truly is perfect for me. But I cannot say anything more about it yet since I don't yet have the offer in writing. Can't tell you where it is, or when I'll start. I know, it's killing me. Not really, but it's really frustrating, to say the least. But at least I know that it really looks like I do have a job. Maybe. OK, more than maybe.

So, where am I?

I'm at the Eastern Iowa Airport, waiting to board a plane to Sacramento. I was able to come to the US since my job search did not include positions in Kenya, so it made no sense to stay there while waiting. And I am now heading to California to spend Christmas with my sister Liesl and her family. They recently moved to Davis, California, for Liesl's job.

So my little nieces are starting to talk with American accents. It's hilarious. At least, it is funny to me! I'll post photos when I'm at their place.

Speaking of things that are funny to me: I found this link on a blog I occasionally read. It's to singer/songwriter Dave Barnes' Christmas extravaganza. You really should check out Dave's regular site first so you'd hear what he really sounds like... This is his Christmas thing. It makes me laugh out loud, every time I watch it.



So, on this goofy note, I wish you a very merry Christmas. But I should post photos from California.

My plane's boarding. It was delayed by more than an hour due to the fuel freezing! It is bitterly cold in Iowa right now. I'm happy to go to balmy California, but happiest yet to spend time with family.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Gift from Me to Me


I treated myself to a birthday gift today and bought a painting. It was on display at a restaurant where I met missionary friends for lunch. It stared and stared at me till I took the plunge and bought it. (Very uncharacteristic of me, BTW. I do not buy art on the spur of the moment.) Now it's staring at me from the shelf at the missionary guest house where I am till tomorrow.

It's by the Kenyan artist Rix Butama and is called "Kiss of the Executive." I love the bizarre combination of colors (earth tones and bright colors), the contrast between abstract and realism, even the contrast between the stained glass windows in the back, and the matted look of the animal's skin in the foreground. And I love the contrast between what each of these represent. Anyway, I like the picture.

Now, I simply need to know where in the world I'll hang it.

I guess I'll say, "Home is where I hang my reticulated giraffe."

It is indeed a male reticulated giraffe. And you thought a giraffe is a giraffe? Just like a zebra's not just a zebra, there are different kinds of giraffes in Africa. Different kinds have different markings. And different habitats. This particular kind is found almost exclusively in Northern Kenya. And in zoos around the world, of course. How do I know it's a male? Both male and female giraffes have two horns, but as they grow older, the males have calcium deposits that grow on their skulls. Thus, the lump on its forehead is a third horn. They get two behind their regular horns, as well, so an older male giraffe will seem to have five horns. Just some fun trivia from Africa.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Waiting

The Sacrament of Waiting

Slowly
she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green,
then the orange, yellow, and red
finally she let go of her brown.
Shedding her last leaf
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky
she began her vigil of trust.

Shedding her last leaf
she watched its journey to the ground.
She stood in silence
wearing the color of emptiness, 
her branches wondering;
How do you give shade with so much gone?

And then,
the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes
they kept her hope alive.

They helped her understand that
her vulnerability,
her dependence and need,
her emptiness,
her readiness to receive
were giving her a new kind of beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence
and celebrated together
the sacrament of waiting.

by the Benedictine nun, Macrina Wiederkehr

Posted today on inward/outward

Not surprisingly, this poem really ministered to my heart this morning. It was good to be reminded that this is but a season of waiting, and as I continue to surrender to Christ, he will bring forth new life. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Two other favorites

What I love most about this photo are the contrasts in color and age. This is Khoboso and her mom, Nabiro.

I was standing on the back of a pick-up and this girl was crammed in sitting with a bunch of other women. None of us could hardly move. But the ride saved them from the 10-mile walk. It also gave me a great vantage point for a cool picture.

The View

One friend wrote that when she told her teenage daughter it was my 40th birthday yesterday, the daughter (whom I also consider a friend) said, "Oh, now she's on top of the hill."

I like the view from up here, I must say. I can look back on 40 amazing years behind me, years filled with people, places, events and opportunities I could never have dreamed up.


****

I've walked on the Great Wall,
and dived the Barrier Reef.
I've hiked the Knysna forest
and I've soared over the Serengeti plains.

I've sat around fires in the Bushveld,
and in the Maasai Mara,
hung on for dear life on jeepneys in Manilla,
and in matatus in Nairobi.

I've dodged potholes in the Rift Valley,
and gotten lost in Taiwan.
I've explored the back streets of Manhattan,
and have known the freeways of LA.

I've stood on Table Mountain,
on the rim of the Grand Canyon,
on the Twin Towers and the Statue of Liberty.
I've stood under the Eiffel Tower and on the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

I've sat in tukuls in Sudan,
and ghops in Rendille land.
I've heard the people's stories
and carried them in my heart.

I've sat with people in abject poverty,
had tea with Presidents,
sung in some of the most beautiful concert halls in the world,
listened to African children sing their hearts out.

I've swum with dolphins off the coast of Kenya,
and watched turtles lay eggs by my door on Sipidan.
I've watched bat-eared foxes care for their young,
and lionesses teach their cubs to hunt.

I've survived a massive earthquake,
and been through many typhoons and floods.
I was spared from being on a plane that crashed.

I've watched people die,
and seen a baby being born.
I've seen the dying LIVE,
and those who think they live, slip away.

I've been in debt and come out the other side.
I've cried hard, and have laughed harder.
I've been afforded much grace.
I have known and been known.

I've taken pictures in the rice paddies in Taiwan,
and in the deserts in Namibia, Kenya, the USA.
I've had my camera confiscated,
and my voice silenced.

I've chosen to speak
nevertheless.

I've been tempted.
I've succumbed.
I've resisted.
I've been thankful.

I have failed,
I have hurt.
I have succeeded,
and rejoiced.

I have lived.
I've been loved,
and I have loved.
I've had want for nothing.

I've been blessed beyond belief.

****

And this is just the beginning... I cannot wait to see what the next 40 years hold! And I'm not just saying that. I cannot wait to see where God is leading me next, what He'll be doing, and where I get to join in!

Warriors

Simply a fun photo I took this past weekend of Rendille warriors off in the distance. In the Rendille culture, they only have a circumcision ceremony every 13 years, and for the next 12/13 years, those young men protect their community. Only after that may they get married.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

God Didn't Tell Me

I was asked to write something for our church bulletin to explain my transition. For the majority of you who aren't part of New Covenant, here's what I wrote:

When talking about knowing God’s will, a very wise teacher told me years ago, “Never say, ‘God told me…’ You could be wrong, and then it makes it seem like God was wrong. Which, of course, he’s not.”

Hence, I make decisions based on several factors. I pray about options. I study the Word. I talk with advisers. And I trust God to give me peace about the process. Because he’s not yet spoken to me in an audible voice, I simply need to trust him to give me peace regarding choices I make.

Fourteen years ago I chose to leave my homeland to serve God abroad. Six years ago I chose to accept the option to continue my studies. Three years ago I chose to follow what I believed was God’s invitation to return to the continent of my birth.

When I found myself struggling to adjust to the extreme challenges of living without strong community at ELI, I followed the advice of counselors and chose to move to our base at Kipkaren. I chose to love my new community. Daily, I chose my attitude. I chose to pour all of me into the work before me while looking forward to doing more teaching, what I believed God had wired me to do.*

This summer, I was thrilled when conversations with the Kenyan board of ELI opened the door to doing training. But early in October, conversations with the U.S. board proved that they still wanted me to focus on teams and writing, that it would be a while before I could focus on teaching.

Thus, I was faced with a difficult choice. Do I stay on, or do I find someplace where I could serve God in a role where I can thrive? I spent time reading the Word, reading several papers I had written the past few months, and praying. I felt compelled that the time is right to move on, despite not yet knowing where I would be moving.

This may not make sense to you. I cannot justify the decision by saying, “God told me to resign.” He didn’t. But as I prayed and considered the choices, I had immense peace that moving on was the right thing to do.

During this time of transition, I’m sure of one thing: God is by my side. He will guide me. He’s never let me down before. He has reminded me of that over and over.

I choose to trust Him.

I choose to step out in faith and follow the One who calls me His.

* Paul Stevens says it well: “Normally God calls us to himself and leads us into particular expressions of service appropriate to our gifts and talents through our passions, abilities and opportunities.” (R.P. Stevens, Doing God’s Business, Eerdmans: 2006. p.36)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nariyo

Nariyo’s smile lit up the entire ghop. I was sitting next to her on the cow hide reserved for ladies. She and her four daughters sleep on this side—the left side of the ghop; her two sons have the men’s side to themselves. Nariyo’s husband died some years ago. She was illiterate at the time, and had not yet heard about Jesus.

Then she found out about literacy classes. Some were saying that if you take the class from the missionaries, they’d give you animals. (Which is not true, by the way.) So she came. She learned how to hold a book and a pencil. And she learned to read and to write.

The first book she owned was the book of Mark from the Bible. “I read and read and read,” she told me (through a translator). “I learned firsthand about Jesus, and what he did for me. I would kiss and kiss the book; I was so thankful.”


She also started going to church, and learned even more about this God who cared about her. Bit by bit, the Holy Spirit convicted her of changes she had to make in her life.

“I stopped pouring out libations to the gods,” she explained, showing how she’d always pour a bit of camel or goats milk on the floor of her ghop. And I stopped doing the quarterly animal offerings.” (Four times a year, the men in every family has to slaughter an unblemished animal. They’d first wash the nose and tail in milk, then slaughter it. The men would smear blood on their foreheads and chests, and blood would be poured onto the door posts of the ghop. This was a sin offering for the family’s sins and for their protection. Then the women would cook the meat for the family.)

Nick, the missionary translator, explained what a significant change this is. It’s very obvious when you approach a manyatta which families are believers and which aren’t. The non-believers have the branches used in the ceremonial offerings draped over their homes.”
But there were also other changes. Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, Nariyo now refused her brothers-in-law relations. (In many tribes in Kenya, widows are still inherited by the late husband’s brothers.)

We also talked about some other cultural traditions, like greetings. Nick had explained that I had worked in Taiwan before, and when I told her that the Chinese often greet one another around mealtimes with a “Have you eaten?” she covered her mouth in total shock. The Rendille would never ask someone if they’ve eaten! Since many go without meals, it’s simply too personal a question to ask.

It was not hard to see why Nariyo is so very well respected in the community. She’s on the church’s regional woman’s council (a position usually reserved for educated women) and is one of the local church’s three evangelists. Afraid to share the Gospel, she is not! He brother and his wife used to mock her for her faith, but they have since come to faith in Christ themselves. Now, they are bearing the brunt of their community’s chastisement.

I wished I could sit around and visit longer. I truly felt a heart connection with this widow. (Though she referred to me as a “grown girl” due to the fact that I’m not married!) But our visit was interrupted by impending rains. We closed in prayer, and as we drove off, my new friend waved as eagerly as she did when we arrived.

Nariyo, coming out of her ghop (house). The entrance is very narrow both for privacy as well to keep animals out.

In my few days’ visit to the Rendille people, I’ve been encouraged to see what God is doing among these people. I’ve had amazing times of simply reading God’s Word, seeking guidance for the journey forward, of praying, listening, watching what God is doing.

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading back to the city. For me, as for my friend Nariyo, the journey of faith continues. I cannot help but agree wholeheartedly with her that “All we do in faith cannot compare to that which Jesus has done for us.”

Again I am reminded that it’s not about what we do, but about living lives surrendered to Him.

For more news on what is happening in this part of the world, visit the Swanepoels' blog.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

This is where I am


This is what the people here look like.


I've been having an amazing time with God. Journaling. Reading. Praying. Watching the storms come. (This is unusual. They only have ONE DAY of rain here a year. We've had 3 days of rain since I've been here.)

Back to reading.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

CliffsNotes

I was thinking, some of you might be stopping by after the New Covenant missions update went out. Or if you just read the announcement in the bulletin about the changes in my life. And so that you don't have to browse through entries of the past few weeks or even try to read between the lines for entries never posted, here's the CliffsNotes version of the changes in my life:

I came to ELI three years ago, knowing that I'd be doing three things: Working with teams, doing communications for the ministry, and after a year, being involved in leadership training.

I come alive when I can converse with others about that which God is teaching us. Due to many, many cultural differences, the environment in which I have been for the past three years is not the best one to be having such conversations. And thus, bit by bit, the passion within me is quenched.

And as I embarked on continuing my education, God stirred up within me this passion for leadership development and mentoring. I came to a crossroads, knowing I had to be willing to be silent for another three years, or I needed to move to an environment where I could serve God with all that I am.

The choice was simple. I visited with the ELI board about moving on.

They fully understand my point of view, and my departure is in very good spirit from both sides. Like myself, they are excited to see me in an environment where I can once again thrive.

And so the journey continues. I've been talking with ministries in various parts of the world about opportunities to serve. Some of the conversations have been very exciting. Some have been challenging in the light of the current economic situation.

But through it all, I know that this is a journey God has me on. Over and over, he has been reminding me of his faithfulness, of my willingness to let go and simply surrender to him, to his purposes, to his plans. He has reminded me time and again from his Word that as I am crossing the waters, he will make the path before me wide, and make my steps firm. And with this same analogy of crossing a river on foot, He reminded me that it is a journey of utmost patience. Of concentration, even when you cannot see the other side of the river.

This past weekend, I spent time with ministry leaders and team members from one ministry I am interested in. Tomorrow, I will go to visit with leaders in a completely different part of this country. And earlier this evening, I had a very meaningful conversation with a different ministry about options in another part of the world.

As I head out tomorrow, I look forward to more time at God's feet, of listening, journaling, exploring, praying, reading. I shall be back on Tuesday and do not anticipate having an answer by then. I simply hope to have a bit clearer understanding on what my options are so that I can make an informed decision when the times comes to do so.

I wish it were simpler. But it's not. One thing is clear: God has reminded me that I can trust him. Even this morning, he reminded me of Ps. 62:7,

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

For those of you who are financial supporters, you may still send support through ELI for the time being. I will contact you with specific details once I know more.

But for now, I simply have to
ask,
knock,
ask more,
pray,
discern,
listen,
trust,
listen more,
go,
depend,
humble myself,
believe,
hope,
wait,
surrender.

I am honored that you are a part of this journey.

Mombasa

I met up with missionaries in Mombasa this weekend. We went to explore the coast one day, and took a dhow across to an island to snorkel. On our way to the island where we were to have lunch (for $10, we got fresh lobster, crab, and fish!) we passed bottle-nose dolphins. Some of us (including me) got to dive into the ocean and swim with the dolphins!

It was an incredible blessing to visit with these missionaries, to learn more about what they do and to consider how something similar might be part of my journey with God. God only knows!

What was even more incredible was to swim with wild dolphins within meters of me!

I thought these baobab trees along the coast were eerily beautiful. The local legend is that God planted these trees upside down... Some African legends also mention that after creation, God gave each of the animals one tree to plant, and the hyena planted his specimen upside down.

I loved this photo, of the sail boat in the distance, right through the rocks!

The island where we snorkeled. This area is part of Kisite Marine National Park, so the fish and coral life was quite amazing!

The dolphins... As I dove into the water, they were right underneath me!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I don't get it.

Some say it's because they want to hold on to hope, and this gives them hope. Others say it's because "Now, Kenyans will be able to get US visas really easily." I think many think that the connection will benefit them in more ways than just for visas.

I have no doubt that they'll soon be disappointed. In the West, presidents' distant relatives don't usually benefit from their presidency.

But don't tell the Kenyans this. They're celebrating. BIG TIME. Even as I'm sitting here in Nairobi, drums are being pounded on Ngong Rd, not far from where I am. People stayed up all night last night to listen for the outcome. Tomorrow's been declared a national holiday. On national radio, people are saying that they'll just take Friday off, too. And today. 'Cause "a Kenyan son" is now president of America.

This morning, Obama's step-grandmother was waiting to hold a press conference. His step-brother had already had his...

Kisumu (where the said relatives live) are expanding their airport, making it big enough for Air Force One to land. They're hoping to have it ready by January. It's not a joke. Kisumu's mayor also announced today that the town has to prepare for a large influx of tourism. I'm not sure from where they hope the tourists will come. And for what. To visit "Mama Sarah?" (the step-grandmother)? I guess it goes back to the fact that they want to hold on to hope. Because in January, Kisumu was one of the worst-hit cities when their own presidential candidate was robbed of his victory.

Said one colleague of mine, "If Obama becomes President of America, it will show that America is truly democratic." We explained that the true test of democracy is if the person with the most votes actually becomes President.

For months now, matatus have been driving around with Obama's picture plastered on the back windows. Kenyan radio stations have been playing a local song declaring, "Vote for Obama. Vote for the red, white and blue." Except, Kenyans cannot vote in the US elections.

One guy interviewed in Kisumu this morning declared that "We are all African Americans." Maybe they're hoping to vote in the US elections in 2012. (Some Kenyans have been telling friends of mine that they believe Kenya will now become a state of the US, just like Alaska and Hawaii that's not attached, yet are states...)

I don't get it.

I don't think they do, either.

Some Europeans definitely don't get it. I was sitting at the airport this morning watching the news, when two people from Italy asked a British lady, "So, will Hillary now be vice president?" The Brit thought she would. I explained to them that Biden's the vice president. When his wife walked on stage, they all said, "Ah! There's Hillary!" I didn't correct them the second time around.

(I do understand that Kenyans are proud that someone who has relatives in this country is now the president-elect of the mightiest nation in the world. I don't understand that they think it's going to help them much. Except, of course, if they really believe they'll become a state. Or even a territory, for that matter.)

Anyway. I'm not going to get into political jabbering. Not here. Not now. I just think the national holiday(s) are over the top.

I was supposed to have an appointment at a seminary tomorrow. It'll have to wait till next week.

Speaking of which: My job search continues. I've had some very positive talks with one group, but due to the current economic situation, they've announced a hiring freeze. So the search continues. God knows I'm trusting HIM, and not any president of any nation or ministry, to open the right door to the right place...

I'm going to go to visit another ministry this weekend to see what they are doing. And to spend time in prayer. Going to a desert to do so. Praying that God will continue to guide my steps...

Walking in faith.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

To Ponder

My friend Tara sent me this quote: "On earth we are wayfarers, always on the go. This means that we have to keep moving forward. Therefore, be always unhappy about where you are if you want to reach where you are not. If you are pleased with what you are, you have stopped already. If you say, "It is enough," you are lost. Keep on walking, moving forward, trying for the goal."
~ Saint Augustine of Hippo

Walking, still.

Sevens

Melissa tagged me. I'm supposed to write 7 random/weird facts about myself and tag 7 others. I'm not going to tag others. If you read this and feel the urge to tell us 7 random/weird things about yourself, consider yourself tagged!

So, 7 things you might not know about me:
  1. I have no middle name. In my culture, we don't necessarily have middle names. Not having a middle name does not bother me. I've never had an urge to give myself a middle name. Though, I do have two other names... My Chinese name is Hwei-Hsin, which is derived from the words for wisdom and joy. (Because I desire to have wisdom, and I do have joy.) My Kalenjin name is Jeruto, which usually is given to a baby who was born while the mom was traveling. The only place my mom traveled when I was due, was to the hospital... I've been given that name since I was traveling back and forth between our two centers in Kenya. I like the name, though, since my life's been a bit of a travel adventure. Not intentionally, though. It's just been this way.
  2. I still don't really understand American football. In fact, I have yet to really get excited about watching a football game. I love watching rugby, however. (I love that the offense and defense are on the field at the same time for the entire game. I don't get how in football teams you keep switching!) When I do watch football, it's simply to hang out with friends. My favorite sport to play, on the other hand, is actually squash or field hockey. But it's been a while since I played either. I used to coach field hockey when I was a high school English teacher. That's in a previous life. :) I do enjoy walking, though.
  3. I've not had a television for several years now, and I don't miss it. I have nothing against television, but it would probably be the last luxury item on my list if ever I move someplace in the world again where I could actually get good TV shows. I miss watching international news, but try following that online. I watch television series on DVD. Some of my favorite shows are CSI, Monk, and Brothers & Sisters.
  4. I'm an introvert. Many people don't believe that, but I honestly am. In fact, I describe myself as "an outgoing introvert." I need alone time to get re-energized. On the Myers-Briggs, I'm an X when it comes to I/E, meaning I'm right on the border. Same for J/P - I'm borderline for Judgment vs. Perception. But I'm very strong NF (Intuition & Feeling rather than Sensing & Thinking).
  5. I am currently unemployed. Sort of. I'm in transition. I've been talking with various ministries and praying about where to serve God next. I resigned from my position at ELI with effect today. It's a journey of faith and an issue of stewardship. I believe God is asking me to trust him for this journey. I'm looking at positions in various places around the world, and could honestly end up anywhere! It's no fun being in transition, actually. As someone who likes to be focused and know what I'm doing, this really is a journey through which God is teaching me much about himself as well as about me.
  6. I'm going to Mombasa tomorrow. The last time I was in Mombasa was in 2000, when I was living in Taiwan and was sent to Kenya to write some articles. This time, I'm going to check out some ministries, and visit friends who are spending a week at the beach. I really hope to be able to scuba dive on Sunday. I love scuba diving. Scuba, bird watching and reading might be three of my favorite pastimes.
  7. I collect random factoids. Sort-of. I love reading widely and try to remember fascinating facts. With which I entertain my friends. I don't remember important things, though, like Swahili vocabulary. Or even Afrikaans vocabulary, for that matter. Afrikaans is my mother tongue, and not having constantly spoken it for the past 13 years, I get stuck on finding the right word for words I'd seldom use in Afrikaans. (Like stewardship. I was giving a talk in South Africa, and could for the life of me not figure out what it would be in Afrikaans. It's rentmeesterskap, by the way. It can be a bit embarrassing. It keeps me humble, though.) So, here's a very random fact for you: The title of this blog post is also a version of rugby. Usually, a rugby team has 15 players, but in sevens, you obviously only have seven players. These games are shorter than the regular games - typically 7 minutes on a side as opposed to 40 minutes. There. Now you know.)
Now, back to doing the layout on a newsletter for a colleague at ELI. :)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Indian Ocean

I found a cool deal last night. Friends of mine are at the coast and invited me to join them. I didn't think I'd be able to do so, till I looked around on the Internet last night at various Kenyan airlines, and discovered an incredible deal on Jetlink. I got a return ticket to Mombasa for the weekend for a whopping $70. Return, yes.

So, on Saturday morning, I'll be flying to Mombasa. What an unexpected breakaway! I'll get to stay at the apartment they're renting, and will get to spend time with good friends, walk on the beach, possibly dive if time/weather permits, even check out some ministries in that area...

What a treat.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Some favorite phtos from yesterday

The kids LOVED playing, eating lots, and especially making new friends. Victor and Justus wanted to be sure that I took their photo at the end of the day...

Collins and Dennis, two of my little "buddies" from Kipkaren
Friends: Shadrack, Patrick and Gideon

Veronica (the "grandma" at Kipkaren) embraces Felix after the boys' soccer game. The Kipkaren boys gave Ilula a run for the trophy (but still lost in the end)

The Sifuna kids and I ... They stopped by for the day to come and say good-bye to me



In the morning, the bus got totally stuck on the way to Ilula, so at the end of the day, the kids had to walk back to the main road so the bus wouldn't get stuck again. By 8:00, when I went to say good-night to the Ilula kids, many of them were already fast asleep! They had an AMAZING day, and so did I.

Thanks to our friend on the other side of the world who made this day possible through your generous donation.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wondering

I caught myself packing my clothes according to color.

Which makes me wonder... No. I'm not OCD.

Actually, there are better things to wonder about.

Like, about the phone interviews I'm having tonight... Or what to pack and what to purge.

And how to get that which I'm packing to wherever God takes me next.

Or how to get Flannel to calm down. She's going insane, knowing something's up since the house is getting emptier and messier at the same time as I'm sorting through what to go where.

Or what I will be saying tomorrow at the staff's good-bye to me. They understand that this is a faith journey for me. They know I'm leaving in obedience to God's leading. But how do I encourage them as I say good-bye? I had an amazing training session with the leadership team this morning. They're a great bunch. Today was the final session of the Strengths training.

I had dinner at Michelle's house tonight as it's her birthday. Juli and I walked home in the pitch dark. Not a star was to be seen as the sky is overcast. Our flashlights were making just enough light for us to see a few steps ahead of us. 

That's like the journey I'm on, I thought. God's giving me grace for the moment. Just enough to trust him for the next step. And the next. One at a time.

"I will cherish the memories of this village," I told Juli. "Of the beauty of the training center lights reflecting on the river. The dim lantern lights from neighbors' homes..."

We heard a low rumble. It honestly sounded like a growl. There are some pretty territorial dogs along the way, and I immediately pulled my daypack from my back as protection. But as I stopped to listen, I realized that it's an airplane that is passing high in the sky. Far above the clouds. We couldn't see it.

Stop.

Listen.

Discern.

Trust.

Take the next step.

Have faith.

That's the journey.

It truly is an honor to be on this journey with God.

And it's an honor that you're part of the journey...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Unforgettable

Tonight, I went to the children's home to share with the children about my leaving. I had shared in church yesterday, but with the service having been more than 3 hours long, I wasn't sure if they had really heard when my time came to share...

Sure enough, when I asked them tonight if they understood what I shared yesterday, they said, "No."

First, we talked about Saturday's upcoming event, about them going to Ilula, how we've already gotten the bull to be slaughtered. They cheered and explained how they wanted to beat Ilula at soccer and volleyball.

Using Matthew 25, I talked to them about how God has given some of them talents to do well at soccer or volleyball, some have talents doing well at school, or at singing... I explained how God had given me talents to write stories and to take photos, but also to teach. I shared how I believed God is calling me to go someplace where I can teach more, but even as I leave, that they will always be a part of me, that I will not forget them...

We recollected the days when I went to pick up some of them from their homes to bring them to the children's home. They laughed as I reminded them of the fun we had, and I assured them again that I will not be able to forget them. I encouraged them again to serve God with whatever gifts He had given them, reminding them that using those gifts will give them joy. And I prayed for them, asking them to please pray for me as I continue trusting God to open the door to the next place where I am to serve him.

Then they asked me to allow them to pray there and then. I knelt in the middle of the room, and they gathered around me, laying hands on me. Imagine . . . almost 100 little ones surrounding one adult. They had their hands all over me, some even on my nose, my cheeks, my ears . . . My hair was being flattened big time.

But none of this bothered me even for a moment.

It. Was. Precious.

They prayed earnestly for God to show me the way, and for God's presence to go before me. And then each and every one came to hug me or shake my hand. Some little ones didn't want to let go. "Come eat with us, Adele."

I couldn't, though. I had committed to having supper with a family in our community. At the next stop, after a wonderful time of playing with that family's children and encouraging the parents in their work, we prayed together, and I walked home, thankful for my flashlight. Without it, I'd be able to see nothing in front of me...

This has been yet another unforgettable day, especially the time with the kids and my colleagues. And despite good-byes being hard, I still have immense peace that this is the right thing to do.

It is time to move on to serve God in a different environment. Far from being a matter of growing tired of this ministry, it's about stewardship. Nothing happened that led me to want to leave. I simply know that I want to be a better steward of God's calling on my life.

And in my case, it would include a move to a different area.

Thank you for praying for me as I continue stepping out in faith.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Very Important Update

My dear friends,

I've been putting off writing this update, hoping that I can provide you with more details. However, even though I don't have all the details yet, I know that I need to share with you as you've been journeying with me for the past three years.

As I have been considering the area of stewardship recently, I started evaluating my own role in ministry, and whether or not I was being a good steward of God’s gifts to me through my role at ELI.

I believe God is calling me in a different direction, an area of more teaching and mentoring, an area where I can use that which God has been teaching me over the past several years in order to challenge others.

As I spent time seeking God's guidance, he lay the following passages on my heart:

2 Tim 1:6
... I remind you to stir up [rekindle, fan into flame] 
the gift of God
 that is within you...



1 Tim 4:14 
Do not 
neglect the gift 
that is within you...


1 Pet 4:10
 Like good stewards
 of the manifold grace of God,
 serve one another
 with whatever gift
 each of you has received.



Isaiah 26:4 
Trust in the LORD 
forever, 
for in the LORD God 
you have 
an everlasting rock.



Deut. 1:30 
The LORD your God 
who goes before you 
is the one who will fight for you,
 just as he did in Egypt [SA, Taiwan, US, Kenya]
 before your very eyes,
 and in the wilderness [of Kenya],
 where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, 
... until you reached this place.



There are several ministries I am looking into, and I would appreciate your prayers for guidance and clarity.

As I've been praying about the changes (and in particular about resigning prior to having another position!), God lay the picture on my heart of a bridge across a river. Except, the bridge is not yet built. As I step out in faith, I believe God will put the planks in place. In this, I have found solace in passages such as Ps. 18 (specifically verse 36) and Isaiah 43: 1-5a.

This week, I get to pack up my personal belongings at Kipkaren and say good-bye to the staff and children. I'll then go to Ilula, first of all to host the second annual children's day event on Saturday.

Next week, I'll be saying good-bye to our friends in Ilula, after which I'll be driving to Nairobi, from where I will continue the job search. I will visit various ministries and will let you know as soon as I know what's next. I am not only looking in Kenya, but am also interviewing ministries in other places.

Thank you for your support in the past three years, and thank you for your continued support as I step out to follow the One who calls us.

In His service,
Adele

Questions you may have:

1. Will you continue to help the Sifuna family?

For the time being, yes. The goal is not to have them be dependent on me, but be self-sufficient. One of you recently sent me a gift which I'll be using to purchase a cow for the family. That would provide them with a daily source of income.

2. What happens to your house?
The house in Ilula has been used for visitors. It will remain the property of ELI, and they will continue to use it to host visitors. The house in Kipkaren will be turned into an office, and the furniture will be dispersed among ELI Kipkaren ministries.

3. What about the car?
While I'm continuing my job search from Nairobi, I will be able to use the vehicle. After that, ELI will decide how they can best put it to use.

4. And Flannel?
I have found a very good home for her with the kids in Ilula. In fact, when I told Hillary and his siblings that their parents had agreed for them to have Flannel, the room exploded with cheers. They will take very good care of her.

5. Who will do your work at ELI?
I've been working with a team of Kenyans to train them as a hospitality team. Other missionaries, too, will be stepping up and helping with the debriefing and challenges of having a team on the ground. Staff at the US office will be taking over the newsletters, while missionaries at Kipkaren will maintain the ELI blogs.

6. What about your support? Do we keep sending support to ELI?
I greatly appreciate your ongoing support. I will let you know as soon as possible where you and I will be going next.

Forty things

I have 23 days left till I'm forty. It's no magical age. Just a fun milestone. It means I'm still really young. :)

The other day, as I've been working on photo and graphics projects for work, and found this silly photo. Danette wasn't really reading this book. We just saw it in a bookstore someday and decided to take a picture.

So, here are some things I'd love to do before/around the time when I turn forty:

  1. Find a new job.
  2. Write supporters about the journey which God has me on.
  3. Pack up all my things in my home in Kipkaren.
  4. Figure out how to ship stuff to my next destination.
  5. Know where my next destination is...
  6. Keep trusting God.
  7. Try not to cry too hard when explaining to the children in Ilula that I'll be leaving.
  8. Enjoy my last few mornings with prayer time on my favorite rock.
  9. Enjoy the stars in the African sky.
  10. Write supporters about the journey which God has me on.
  11. Get back in the groove of doing crunches! (40/day by the time I'm 40 was the goal!)
  12. Read the last book-and-a-half for my previous class.
  13. Complete and turn in my latest paper (which, unfortunately, is overdue thanks to the major changes in my world.)
  14. Complete last-minute ELI tasks.
  15. Finish well.
  16. Make arrangement for visiting several ministries from Nairobi.
  17. Say good-bye at church.
  18. Try not to cry too hard when saying good-bye to the children and to Flannel.
  19. Find a new home for Flannel.
  20. Move all furniture out of my home in Kipkaren.
  21. Buy a cow to leave with the Sifunas so they'd have a source of income.
  22. Take photos at Allison's wedding.
  23. Make sure my car is in good enough shape to drive it to Nairobi!
  24. Get goats for staff to cook as a good-bye gift.
  25. Arrange another children's day event for the kids.
  26. Buy a bull to be roasted for children's day.
  27. Figure out where I'll be on my fortieth birthday...
  28. Keep trusting God.
  29. Be patient.
  30. Celebrate Michelle's 29th birthday.
  31. Go to Rondo for a retreat with God.
  32. Set up an automated response to my ELI e-mail account.
  33. Rest in the fact that God has our very best interests at heart.
  34. Step out in faith.
  35. Enjoy every moment of my last days in rural Africa.
  36. Don't worry about the journey forward. Instead, stay focused on God who's calling me to follow him.
  37. Live fully in the moment.
  38. Make a list of all that still needs to be done.
  39. Have chai at many people's homes as I say good-bye.
  40. Keep trusting God.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

From yesterday's wedding

I won't be uploading photos from yesterday's wedding so the bride and groom can share those with friends themselves. Here are just 3 fun pictures from the day, though.

Lying down on the job... Sometimes, getting just the right picture means you've got to get down and dirty. This is one of the reasons a photographer should be able to wear trousers...

Mursik (sour milk) is a very popular Kalenjin treat, and it's common to find it served at weddings. First, the gourd is burned inside with special charcoal, so when you pour the thick, sour milk, you sometimes see gray lines.

Got milk? Being goofy. I tried a bit of the mursik. I don't mind thick sour milk (it's like yogurt, really), but I didn't care for the charcoal taste.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Some things I discovered today

  • God (still) is good.
  • Our staff are incredibly resilient. I have never been so proud of them! After a community crisis this week, they have pulled together, corrected actions, encouraged one another, and are more committed than ever to follow God's call and seek His vision for our community.
  • Crisis brings people together.
  • Store clerks look at my with very perplexed looks on their faces when a mzungu like me starts asking for "Nubian Pony Tail" hair extensions. (A colleague had asked me to pick some up in town.)
  • Baker's Yard's Vienese loafs come out of the oven at 9 am.
  • It's a good thing I don't live in town, else I might get addicted to the hot loaves of bread.
  • My car's brakes are still not fixed! They jam completely when I park the car and put on the hand brake.
  • I cannot park and not put on the hand brake since the car runs away. Even if it's in gear, yes.
  • When there's dirt in the fuel, it clogs the carburetor.
  • Unclogging it is as simple as removing two valves, sucking the dirt out, and replacing them.
  • (No, I didn't do the cleaning of the valves.)
  • Using plain yoghurt as a substitute for cream in butternut cream soup simply doesn't work as well. But it's not bad, and it's far healthier!
  • Toulouse seems to have had another bleeding incident in my house, possibly another miscarriage. Poor cat!
  • God's Word is (still) so incredibly applicable in this day and age.

I'm heading out for chai and colleagues' homes, and to say hi to the kids. 

I know there's much, much more to discover!

Unexpected sightings

In case any of you are still wondering, there really aren't wild animals roaming around the cities in Africa.

But at the same time, I couldn't help but smile when I headed to Mayfield from the airport on Saturday night and saw giraffes on the side of the road, a zebra road kill on the side of the highway heading into town, and then, tonight, after we dropped off the team, the driver almost hit a Thompson's gazelle on that same highway. 

This time of year, because of the drought, some of the animals migrate closer to the airport, where there's more water, hence the increase in unusual sightings. Nairobi National Park borders onto the airport property. When you take off and land, you can often spot herds of zebras grazing.

I love that about this part of the world.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Only in Kenya (then again, maybe not)

The hot topics on Christian radio in Nairobi this morning was the fact that a pastor threw out all the women in his church yesterday who were wearing trousers. Somehow I think this pastor has completely missed the point. How very, very sad.

I was looking for the article online, but it's not yet posted. But then I found an article about similar events last week in Southern Sudan. But that's another country, and a whole other culture. Plus, it didn't happen in church!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Highs and Lows

The staff at Ilula had invited the Kipkaren staff for a sports day yesterday. It was Moi Day, a day where you're supposed to visit the poor and people in hospitals, I'm told. So the staff from Kipkaren loaded up all of our vehicles and came to visit the staff in Ilula. :)

Though our two campuses are only 60 km (about 40 miles) apart, it is a luxury for staff to be visiting the other campus due to fuel costs as well as the logistics of running full-time ministries such as ours. In other words: The Kipkaren staff were pumped to get away for the day! And the Ilula staff just as pleased to have their friends and colleagues here for the day.

They played volleyball and soccer, ate together, had a trophy ceremony, and simply had fun.

As did I. I didn't play; just hung out with the staff and the visiting team. And when they all left last night, I stayed behind and spent the night reading to the children and visiting more with them.

I've just come back to my home for a short while to wait for someone who wanted to come and meet with me. A visit like that is usually not a simple chat, but usually a request for school fees. Which is hard. I know for a fact that such requests come from places of immense need. It's just hard when I'm the person so, so many people here turn to as a last hope. And my money can only go so far. Plus, even if I (or ELI) had all the money in the world, just giving handouts is not the solution.

But as one friend after another sat before me bringing their plight, my heart ached for them. It's life for many people in Africa. And life here isn't easy. As we prayed together, though, I remembered yet again that Jesus didn't promise us an easy life with him, but that he'll be with us, even as we face challenges.

In that, I found solace.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hmmmm. Coffee!

I shouldn't be drinking coffee this morning. I should be having black, herbal tea instead. But that simply doesn't go with quiet time in the gazebo...

I'm heading outside, then off to Ilula for the day. It's Moi Day here, a national holiday. The Kipkaren staff is playing soccer at Ilula today. I bought two goats to roast as (yet another) early birthday celebration. And as a gift to the staff. I actually like freshly-roasted goat. I even like mtumbo, goat intestines. But today, I won't be having any meat. My system's not yet ready for that.

Tomorrow, I'm flying to Nairobi for a meeting and to buy material for our home-based care offices. Somehow, in the last year or so, I've become ELI's interior decorator. To some extent, I don't mind at all. I believe beauty is part of what God created us for. Except, I really don't think I'm that good at interior decorating. Even less so at flower arranging, yet next week, I'm responsible for what to do with the 500 red and white roses we've ordered for David and Allison's wedding. No vases. Just the flowers. (Ideas are VERY welcome!)

Back to Nairobi: I'll also go and see a tropical disease doctor, so he can tell me what kind of bacteria I picked up that won't be fully killed by Cipro...

So, in short, the schedule for the next few days:

Friday-Saturday pm: Ilula

Saturday-Wednesday am: Nairobi

Wednesday-Friday: Figure out what to do with the flowers...

Saturday: David and Allison's wedding.

Lots and lots and lots of other things are happening in between all of this, in case you're wondering.

Life here simply isn't that simple. It's packed with all kinds of good stuff.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Food Poisoning is No Fun

Warning: Not for sensitive readers. (Not that I'm going to discuss my bodily functions in depth for the world to analyze, but still.)

How I feel today makes up for three years of almost no tummy issues in Kenya.

I cannot remember the last time I felt the way I do today... I made chicken risotto last night. Even took a large bowl of it to neighbors. After I had two bites, I thought I'd better stop eating. It didn't taste off. It was simply one of those times when you know you shouldn't eat more.

The two bites, however, was enough to peg me down completely. I woke up sometime in the middle of the night, and since then, well, let me simply say that I've been very, very thankful for indoor plumbing.

I've been trying to rehydrate myself with very small sips of water. By noon, I was even able to puree two apples and keep those down. For the time being, at least.

If I loose more liquids, our nurse is going to put me on IV.

I've spoken to my neighbors whom I shared the meal with, and they're all fine. Their systems can endure far more since they're not used to refridgerated food. I have a strong suspision we had no power over the weekend, and the chicken I used had thawed and refroze... 

No fun. I've been put on Cipro right away (since I could pretty well identify the cause, knowing it's bacterial) and I'm hoping that'll help.

In the meantime, I've been nappping and listening to stuff on my computer while dozing in and out off sleep. I cannot read (which I need to do!!) due to a headache.

Hopefully my next post will be far more upbeat. And hopefully it won't include a picture of me with an IV hanging on the wall beside me...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Time with God

My favorite place in Kenya for a time of refreshing and of listening to God's voice, is Rondo in the Kakamega rain forest.

This weekend, friends invited me along as they wanted to go to the forest. I didn't think twice about accepting the invite. I've had a lot on my mind lately, and was looking forward to the time in the quiet of the forest.


We had a wonderful time. I got up early every morning to watch the forest come to life while reading the Word and enjoying a cup of coffee. It doesn't get any better than that!

God spoke clearly to my heart; I am glad I took the time to listen.

And nature itself spoke loud and clear, too. I saw some incredible birds, we played cards by the fire at night, ate far too much (they serve afternoon tea with cake, but you also get dessert with lunch and dinner!), and I got a lot of my reading for class done, too.

It was completely worth the bumpy ride there and the very muddy and then bumpy ride back. In fact, the terrible roads rarely come to mind when I think of Rondo...

I'll upload more photos tomorrow. Right now, I need to sleep. We have a team here from Oregon, and my day tomorrow will be packed bit more as I spend time with them.
Cinnamon-chested bee-eater


Colobus monkeys

Blue monkey

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Shoo, fly!

There's this pesky fly buzzing around my bed.

I wish I still had Barra Barra. He'd have caught him in no time!

But somehow I think Flannel would've caught Barra Barra in now time, too.

BTW, she brought me a gift the other morning: my favorite bird, the little malachite kingfisher! Obviously I jumped at her when I saw what she was bringing in. The little bird was stunned for a moment when Flannel let go of her grip on it (only because I had a grip on the back of her neck). And then it flew straight for the window.

Only problem: It flew for the only window with screens, and promptly pegged itself into the screen. She hung there like a prize pinned to a notice board.

Poor thing.

I managed to carefully remove her from the mosquito screen and release her back into the wild, thinking I'd probably never see her again.

She was back the next morning, maybe to thank me.

I haven't seen her since.

Barra Barra and Ms. Malachite would both love to catch the fly.

Flannel, on the other hand, is fast asleep on my lap.

Which makes it hard to go get the cow tail fly swatter from behind my door. Not that it kills flies. It only shoos them away.

I should just get up and put down my mosquito net for the night, and try to sleep early for a change.

Like that would happen!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Problem with Death

This morning, during our staff devotions, our director spoke about some of the challenges brought on by death. Death itself is painful to the community. But the challenges that follow are often even more painful.

Take Amin's family. His daughter died about 10 days ago. She was a young, single mother of three. She hemorrhaged while giving birth to her baby. The family rushed her to our clinic on foot, across the river, carrying the bleeding young mother on a tarp. Our nurses tried all they could to save her life, but she had already been bleeding for several hours, and there was nothing we could do to help. For that family, this was the fourth of nine grown children to die.

Today, I joined our three home-based care interns on their visit to the family.

The grandma (Rosemary) introduced us to Michelle (probably named after our nurse who had been providing ante-natal care). We sat under the banana tree and visited about the situation. The grandma's taking care of six orphans. She can take care of Michelle, but just needed help with formula, diapers, some clothing. Our home-based care team were buying formula today, plus bottles, plus clothing, diapers.

Those are things you can buy.

You cannot buy love. And this grandma obviously loved her grandchildren.

Some other relatives were trying to convince her that it would be easier to find someone to raise the baby for them, but she was adamant that she can do it.

I was strangely proud of Rosemary.

She didn't ask for money. But she also didn't pretend to have it all together. "I just need help with milk and clothing for the baby."

The home-based care team will continue to follow up, to check in on the baby as well as the other orphans.

They literally live right across the river from me.

As I held the little one, I could feel my lap getting warm. And it wasn't because the sun was beating down on us now that the rains have ended. Her urine was seeping through the rags her grandma had used as a diaper, and through the little blanket she was wrapped in. And through my skirt, onto my legs.

What do you do in a situation like this? You simply sit there. You keep holding the baby. You keep praying good things for the little one. You deal with the wet skirt when you're at home.

And what do you do about the baby? You thank God for a grandma like Rosemary, who, though she has very little in worldly terms, has a heart full of love for her grandchildren, and for God. You give out of that which God has provided for you. And you pray that this little one will grow up knowing that she is loved.

That indeed is the problem with death. Especially in Africa, where too many children are left orphaned by preventable causes such us death during childbirth, or malaria, or TB, or other opportune infections because of HIV/AIDS. They are left in the care of grandparents with no source of income, or other relatives who are already taking care of several other orphans.

And the problem doesn't go away. That's why groups like ELI will always have an enormous task before us. Because death simply is part of life.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Normal

I got to make new friends today. Since I was in town, some other missionaries invited me over to their place for brunch. I had met them not too long ago at the Eldoret airport once when they picked up a team, but we've never found the time to visit. Today, over brunch, we simply got to visit, drink 3 cups of great coffee, laugh, listen and dream.

I felt so normal.

It was a good feeling.

Unfortunately, I had to leave after an hour to go and take photos at the ELI event. But that hour of normalcy was refreshing.

Other events of my day included the graduation, interviewing students, visiting with an intern who is leaving, and spending an hour at my mechanic's place since my brakes seemed to jam every time I put the car in reverse... Not a good thing. But an hour and $3 later, the problem seems to be fixed.

Now I get to spend my evening catching up on reading. And killing mosquitoes since I forgot that I left my door open earlier. Perhaps writing the article on today's graduation. (I'll be sure not to mention in the article the student who was asked to give a 3-minute speech on what he had learned, and 20 minutes later--while he was still on page 1 of 6--the MC cut him short.)

Somewhere in between, I might throw something in the pot to eat.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spot the error


I've often seen these stickers on the back of bicycles in Kenya, and am hoping that the company who's printing them have since corrected their mistake. Do you know what the error is? (Other than the fact that sunset is misspelled.)

I'm working at sorting through my photos again for ELI's archives, so you might see a number of random photos appear on my blog in the next few days. :)

One third

One third of the South African Cabinet resigned yesterday. Eleven ministers. Plus some deputies.

A very good blog to read to get a legal view of what's happening (and that which has lead up the things this far), is Constitutionally Speaking, which is maintained by a South African law professor who addresses issues surrounding South African politics in very clear terms.

It is disturbing to watch what is happening to my country. I respect Mr. Mbeki's example, however, to other African leaders in stepping down when his party asked him to, even though I don't agree with their reasoning for asking him to resign.

I have no idea what is lying ahead for my country. No-one knows. We can only speculate. And the speculations aren't good right now.

I pray that good will somehow come forth from this political crisis.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Perspective

There's a little gazebo just 20 feet or so from my front door. It's sort-of my office. It's also my favorite reading spot, birdwatching spot, breakfast nook, outdoor living room. From here, I have a view of just a small piece of our compound, of the 2 fields adjacent to our property where the cows often graze, and of what used to be my neighbors' tilapia pond. It's peaceful and fairly private.

A hundred yards further east, we have a new gazebo, by our guest housing. Though it's just a few feet closer to the Kipkaren River, that gazebo is completely different. It's where the river picks up speed and runs over several rocks, creating the most amazing sounds. The bird life there is slightly different as there are fewer trees. Which also makes for a completely different view, both from the gazebo, and of the gazebo.

I've spent amazing times there reading, even serving meals to visitors. Other times, I have chosen to abandon the spot since my presence created a strange flow of curious visitors to come and stand by the river and stare at me while I'm reading...

Tonight, after dropping off a plate of pasta at a neighbor's home, I decided to go to sit at the river for a while to enjoy my dinner. I sat in silence, listening to the rapids and the other night sounds, watching a lightning storm in the distance, over Lake Victoria*. 

It was amazing to realize what a difference a change in perspective can make: A simple move -- all of a 2-minute walk to the other side of our compound -- allowed me to see past the trees, past the hill on the other side of the river where I live. From there, I could see the lights of our clinic down the road. (And from the clinic, you can see the lights of the children's home. While my place is smack halfway between the two, I cannot see the lights of either from my home.)

It's easy to get blinded at times by our surroundings. Sometimes, it's worth the short walk to see things from a different side.

Though things are very peaceful in my compound tonight, I was reminded that there's a storm brewing over the lake. I also remembered my neighbors on the other side of the river who lost a daughter last week when she hemorrhaged after giving birth to a perfect little girl. Her family had to carry her across the bridge to our clinic on a tarp, and it was too late for our nurses to save the young mother's life.

And I remembered Mwalimu's family, a teacher who lives just on the other side of our clinic. I saw the lights of his house this weekend when I had dinner at William and Michele's home. (Very few people in our community have electricity, so the handful that do stand out at night!) William came to tell me today that this neighbor had passed away last night from TB, and his family is gathered tonight to prepare for his funeral.

May I not forget to step out of my comfort zone to help share the pain and the joy of those around me. Like this morning, when I took my cup of coffee to a nearby neighbor's house and spent an hour listening to what is happening in their world. It's the simple actions that sometimes show we care. We don't have to wait to do something grandiose. Just be there. Step out. And love.

I don't do it nearly as often as I could.

* The Kenyan shore of the lake isn't too far from here, and I'm amazed that I've not yet made a road trip there! Will have to do convince some colleagues to do so one weekend! I've not done it till now due to the state of the road between Eldoret and Kisumu, but it's worth the drive, I'm sure.

And by the way, I had to stop halfway through my meal and retreat into the safety of my home, else the mosquitoes may have carried me off to the lake themselves...