Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Last Video: My update for 2006

Looking back: Mozambique

In the summer of 2003 and 2004, I took teams of students to Mozambique to serve with Iris Ministries in Maputo and Dondo. As I was walking down the road in Dondo, Central Mozambique, I sensed God asking me if I'd be willing to return to Africa.

Trying something new: Video posts

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Late this afternoon, I finally got out to scrape ice off the car and move it out of the driveway in preparation of a trip to the airport. (I wanted to be able to get to Danette's Pilot in the garage. I'd much rather be driving a big SUV on these roads than a small sedan.)

What a job getting the thick sheet of ice off the windows. It was bizarre working so hard just to back the car out of the driveway, but you can't quite drive not being able to see a thing through the windows.

And that's what it's supposed to be like tonight. Whiteout conditions. Some roads in the area are closed due to power lines being down. Teams are being brought in from surrounding states to help with the power outages. Much of Cedar Rapids was without power this evening. Fortunately, in my part of town, power was out for maybe 3 seconds. I'm trusting it'll stay on for the rest of the night. It's starting to snow quite heavily, so with heavy snow packed on icy cables, it's possible we can still lose power. We're supposed to be getting up to 9" of snow in this part overnight.

I ended up not going to the airport after all, by the way. Danette's flight was canceled. She's stuck in Atlanta, hoping to get in tomorrow. I'm hoping they're able to land by early afternoon... Church has been canceled for tomorrow. I'm ready to have my friend back home.


Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
I braved the icy rain to take a few photos outside. Click on the lawn chair to see more pictures.


I was going to see Amazing Grace with my friend Pam last night and attend a Beth Moore simulcast at church today. However, I'm stuck at home. We're having a terrible storm that started last night with freezing rain. The freezing rain has continued on and off since late afternoon yesterday so that most of the windows in the house now look like etched bathroom windows because of the layer of ice on the outside. There's at least half an inch of ice out on the driveway. Not safe at all to be outside... I'll stay put right where I am. At least being stuck in the house has given me an opportunity to tackle tasks such as going through boxes that I'm storing at Danette's house. What better time to get into the attick and sort through things than now. I've had enough sorting for a bit, though. I'm going to get comfortable with a book, I think.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A little good news

My support level is officially at 83% today. Yeah God! And yeah to each and every one of my supporters. You are my team. It's my honor to represent you in Africa. It's an even greater honor to represent our Father in my corner of Kenya.

But it's more than just about financial support, and you know that. I received an e-mail from a mom this week at church. I was moved to read her message, "My boys are 6 and 4, and after you spoke to them about your serving in Africa during children's church a few weeks ago, they were very excited about you and what you'd shared. They keep reminding me that we need to pray for you. We sponsor a boy through Compassion International, but they haven't really connected with that very well. They see his picture, and I read his letters to them, but they don't ask about him or think to pray for him without being prompted. I wanted to capitalize on their connection with you as I know God wants them to have hearts for missions . . ."

I also received news from another family who have been involved for the past few years in sending me to Mozambique and Kenya. After I sent the parents a thank-you for the check, the mom told me, "Actually, the kids [teenagers] all prayed about how to support you and they each gave money from their own savings . . ."

Honestly, doing support raising is no fun. It really is much easier to simply get a check from your employer every month. At the same time, I am humbled by the thought of representing an army of individuals and families. I equally appreciate everyone who prays for me, and each and every family who get to endure their young'uns' reminders to "pray for Miss Adele in Africa." I am looking forward to getting back to Africa so they can get news from that side of the world.

But until I'm at 100% of my support, and until I get the OK from my counselor, I'll be around in Cedar Rapids, having the chance of sharing at Sunday school classes, and doing my work via my computer.

Cry, the Beloved Country

At times, I am faced with the reality of crime in my dear country. I listen to the news, reporting that crime rates are down for the past year. In fact, a recent BBC article reported that murders and violent attacks are down to just 300 a day. [sic]

Only Columbia and Iraq has higher murder rates, BBC pointed out. The same story quoted the South African president, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, saying, "Nobody can show that the overwhelming majority of the 40 or 50 million South Africans think that crime is out of control."

Three hundred violent crimes, every single day. Not out of control. Wow. This is the same president that claims that HIV/AIDS isn't a problem in my country, while statistics show that we are the country with the highest AIDS rates in the world, with more than 30% of all pregnant women are HIV positive. The link between the high rape rates (151 reported cases a day) and high HIV rates seem obvious to me!

As the director of SA Tourism recently pointed out, "The problem of crime can be solved, but until there is general agreement that there is a problem, we cannot move forward."

Why the fuss? I received an e-mail tonight about a specific murder that has sort of shaken things up again at home. A famous historian, David Rattray, was murdered late January. He had done much for battlefield tourism in South Africa. His life revolved around promoting the Zulu culture. Despite that, he was violently killed.

The specific e-mail I received was written by a former teacher of David Rattray. I choose to post excerpts from it on my blog so you can simply be aware of the condition in my country.

I love that people like Oprah is reaching out and making a difference in my country. We need it. Badly.

"I was fortunate enough to teach a great body of [high school] boys at St Alban's College in the 1970's. Among them was David Rattray. It was not difficult to follow his career after school. Amongst many other things he became an academic by gaining an Honours Degree in Entomology and turned out to be a brilliant businessman, a historian of international repute, a friend of the [British] Royals, a fine husband, proud father, a Zulu linguist and [close friend] of many black South Africans.

"David became a raconteur of note and producer of The Day of the Dead Moon, a mind-blowing, stunning account of the Anglo-Zulu Wars. In this collection of CDs he reiterates time and time again how fine the Zulu people are as a nation.

Apart from Nelson Mandela, I can think of no one else who has done as much for reconciliation. David was an icon and an extremely valuable national asset. Imagine my horror and sadness on the morning of Saturday 27 January 2007, to be greeted a newspaper headlines which read "Historian David Rattray Murdered," only to be followed by the headlines of The Saturday Star - "Crime: What's all the Fuss?"

The Article in The Star goes on to quote some sayings by prominent politicians:

"Nobody can show that the overwhelming majority of the 40- to 50- million South Africans feel that crime is not under control, nobody can because it is not true".
- President Thabo Mbeki

"I don't know why there is a frenzy around this 2010 [World Cup Soccer]. I want to say now that 2010 will come and pass..."
- Head of Police Jackie Selebi

"They can continue to whinge until they're blue in the face... be as negative as they want to, or they can simply leave this country..."
- Charles Nqakula, Minister of Safety and Security

As I was listening to the above news clip on YouTube, the facts seem overwhelming.

A day in the life of South Africa
51 murders
151 rapes
347 robberies

But my president says it's not a problem.

Cry, my beloved country. Cry hard. We can but cry out to God for the future of South Africa.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


There are guests in the house, missionaries who are on a year-long trip around the US doing fundraising before they can move to Afghanistan. And with people in the house, I cannot do what I like to do at night as I wind down: Pop in a movie while multi-tasking on my computer. I don't want to wake them up since they have a long day ahead of them tomorrow. So I took the time to do something I haven't done in a while: Catch up on friends' and friends-of-friends' blogs.

I always enjoy seeing what others are up to, or learning what I can from fellow writer friends. Which took me to Mike's blog. He's a friend's brother, and a gifted writer. I discovered a eulogy he had written to his boy. Take time to read it, if you will.

Hanging out with friends

Lunch break
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
My dear friend Mary gave me a call the other day. "Do you want to take a break and go watch the eagles?" she asked me.

We drove to a spot in town where there were innumerable bald eagles. I braved the cold to go and snap a few pictures.

After that, we drove to Mary's fiance, Weir's home to watch the birds in his yard. Weir's a bird expert and used to own the local wildlife goods store. In his yard, there are perhaps 20
bird feeders! As we drove up, wild turkeys ran into the woods behind the house. There were juncos feeding on the ground, downy woodpeckers hanging out on the feeders, and the trees were dotted red with perhaps 50 or more cardinals! There were also a number of other little birds which I cannot remember the names for right now. Will have to ask Weir what they are!

Click on the cardinals to see pictures of the eagles and more.

Monday, February 19, 2007

It's the Year of the Pig: A brief introduction to Chinese culture

Most Westerners don't realize it, but today is a very significant day for about a third of the world's population: It's the first day of the Lunar New Year. Today ushers in the year of the pig. Some of my good friends in Taiwan sent me the picture above to wish me a happy New Year. You'd notice how they hold their fists together. That's just what you do on this day. It's like we'd shake hands or hug someone.

So what's the deal with the lunar New Year? Apart from the fact that it's the start of the largest annual human migration (with Chinese people traveling around their countries and the world to visit relatives), it's a time of celebration in all Chinese homes.

If you don't like the sound of fire crackers, this is not the time of year you'd want to be in Taiwan! Starting last night, people would shoot off fire crackers for the entire week at all times of day and night. (On a side note: fire crackers were banned in Beijing until this year. The ban was lifted this year, and today, 125 people were treated in that city for injuries sustained because of poor safety measures. One person totally lost his eyes!)

Why all the fireworks? It all has to do with a legendary dragon. The dragon (Nian, pronounced sort-of like knee-yen, but a shorter sound) is feared for the terror and destruction he brings. The good thing is that Nian fears the color red, and he hates loud noise and light. And so everyone wears red, there are red banners everywhere, many families keep lights and candles burning all night on the eve of the New Year, and, of course, shoot firecrackers. The way you thus greet people on New Year's day is by congratulating them that they survived the dragon!

About those red banners: People would put up signs with the words for spring (chuen) and fortune (fu). However, at this time, they'd put the words upside down! That is because the Chinese word for upside down (dao) sounds like the word that also means arrival. So, by putting the characters upside down, you're effectively saying "chuen dao" or "spring has arrived" and "fortune has arrived." (Chinese culture is very much into sounds!)

Last night, on the eve of New Year, families would not only stay up late to keep the dragon away. (In fact, very few people would've gone to bed before midnight as that would bring bad luck.) They gather for major family get togethers, almost like American Thanksgiving. But there's no turkey on the table. Dishes include fish (because the Chinese word, yu, sounds like the Chinese word for left over) and other tasty treats. By the way: You'd never finish eating all the fish during New Year's! That would be bad. There should always be some fish left over, symbolizing that they'd always have enough...

Yesterday would've been the last chance to clean the house for a few days! That is because you would risk sweeping good fortune out the door if you clean house during the first five days of the New Year. But if you HAVE to clean, you have to sweep from the outside in. Another thing that would supposedly bring bad fortune is to say anything bad during the first five days of the New Year. You cannot even admonish your kids. You're not supposed to say anything that would chase away the good fortune for the New Year.

After New Year's Eve dinner and into today, non-Christians (and some nominal Christians who fear they might offend the spirits) visit temples to burn incense to their ancestors. People would've woken up early this morning to welcome the gods of heaven and earth, and to pay respect to ancestor spirits. They would pray for good fortune for this year, although, according to a Taipei fortune teller, the year of the pig isn't going to be a good year. (Perhaps people were praying even harder today than at the start of a year for which good things are predicted!)

Today would've also been a very important day to go and visit friends and relatives to wish them all a happy New Year. (Hence the major migration!) You'd say "Hsin nian kwai le!" That means, "Happy New Year!" Starting on New Years eve and during family times together, people also play a lot of mah-jong, and many play for money.

Everyone wears new clothing, including the idols. (People clean off their idols and dress them up in new clothing.) And of course, most of the clothing would be red. Adults are expected to give every child who comes to visit a red envelope (hungbao) with money in it for good luck and to show they care. The visits thus become quite a profitable event for kids and young, single adults. (In Taiwan, a recent tradition is for people to line up to receive hungbao from the President. These only have a few cents in them, though.)

According to tradition, people aren't supposed to visit the wife's family today as it would bring bad luck! However, tomorrow will be the great migration to visit the wife's relatives and wish them a happy New Year. According to tradition, the father and brothers have to call and invite the daughter/sisters to come home. Hmmm.

The third day of the New Year is a quiet day (unless, of course, you had traveled far to get to your wife's family, which would mean you'd have to travel back home on day 3.) Day 4 is to welcome back the family gods... Altars are set up with elaborate gifts for the spirits, including anything from bowls of rice to beer, and lots and lots of ghost money is burned. This isn't real money, but goldleaf paper that gives off a lot of smoke when burned. It's for your ancestor spirits to use in the heavens.

On the 5th day of the New Year, businesses open with a bang. Lots of firecrackers are set off as businesses open up again. And yes, that means that for the past 5 days, no-one did any business! Even in Taipei, you can usually only find places like 7Eleven open during the New Year. Most businesses close for the entire holiday! Though things wind down a bit, the celebrations are only officially over after Lantern Festival, which starts on the 15th day of the New Year.

As you can see, the Chinese culture is typically very superstitious. One of the biggest challenges in sharing Christ in that culture is to help new believers come to grips with living in a culture where much revolves around worshiping the spirits of their ancestors. How do you go home as a Christian and show respect to your ancestors but not worship them? How do you not offend family by not going to the temple to burn incense to the gods? Many traditional/Buddist families would claim that if a Christian family member will not participate in the worshiping of idols, he/she is bringing bad fortune to the family as a whole. And this presents you with a delimma. But that is a whole other issue.

What I loved most about the 7 lunar New Years that I celebrated in Taiwan was the fact that you'd usually get a good bonus right before the holidays. And that meant that if I planned far enough ahead of time to actually find seats on a plane bound off the island, that friends and I would typically travel during the week of Lunar New Year, thus avoiding sleeping with earplugs for a week, and wandering around a city without people...

Unfortunately, all my photos from Taiwan are back in South Africa, so I cannot upload pictures for you to see. I do hope, though, that through reading this, you were able to get a little bit of a glimpse of an important holiday in the Chinese world.

For more on Chinese New Year, read the Wikipedia article on this topic. Or visit the Taipei City Government's Web site for information.

In case you're wondering what the Chinese words on the picture says, it's "Da ji, da li." The literal translation, says master linguist Angela Wills, is "Big auspicious (favorable circumstances and good luck), big prosperity," or in Christianese, "Have a blessed and prosperous New Year." That's what I love about the Chinese language. Just four little characters to say so much!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Love/hate relationship

That's how I sometimes feel about e-mail. I love the instant access it gives me to friends around the world. But I have a thing with having unanswered messages... As a result, I have nights like tonight where I sit for 4 hours straight and watch my number of messages in one account go down from 70-some to 5. (Sadly, I still have 20-some messages left in my other account...) So that's where I'll stop for today, before I have a pressure ulcer or my toes turn to icicles. My bed is calling.

Oh, yeah, one of the benefits of actioning pending e-mails tonight is that international friends can now send support by clicking on the link on the right. For some strange reason, the little button I created won't work, but at least the link does. And for that, I'm thankful.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I found a gun in my car today. Seriously!

So I found a gun in my car today. Not my car, really, but the car someone's graciously allowing me to use during my stay in Iowa. Danette's house (where I'm staying) has only one garage, so I park on the street in front of the house. There's just one slight problem, which isn't huge in this part of the world: The car cannot lock. Not from the outside, at least. Not if you want to be able to unlock it again.

Anyway! I had used the car last night for Karen and my trip to the movies, so I know that there were no strange objects in the car by the time I parked it in front of the house. But today, after coming home from working at Java Creek, I went to get my cell phone charger from the car... As I reached into the car, I noticed something sticking out from under the driver's seat. It was black, metal, and looked like the handle of something like a pistol! I kid you not!

I jumped back, then looked again. I didn't touch the thing. I could see it's metal, a bit scuffed up, and there was a plastic bag scrunged in under the seat next to the gun.

What the heck?!

I ran indoors and called the police. "My name's Adele. Who do I talk to to report a gun in my car? ... No, it's not my gun. ... The car's parked on the street in front of my house. ... No the car wasn't locked. ... My address is... Sure, I'll wait."

I didn't want to let me eyes off the car. What if whoever came back to get their stuff? I kept thinking, Was is real? Yes it was! Was it there last night? Not a chance! Even if I didn't see the gun, I would've stepped on the bag! Whose is it? No idea! Should I get my camera and go take a picture of it? No, stay away!

Minutes later, two cop cars pulled up. (One came just out of curiosity.) The guys walked over to the car, and as the first officer pulled the gun from under the seat, he said, "Ah! It's a bb gun!" He also pulled the bag from under the seat; it contained pellets.

Of course I felt stupid for calling the police on a toy gun, but believe me, it looked real. And I'd rather be safe than sorry. "It's OK," the officer assured me, "it looks real. That's why people use them to commit crimes. We'll keep it in case it was used in a holdup in this area. (!) If some kid just hid it in your car, they can come and pick it up from the station."

But the rest of the afternoon, I kept wondering why someone would stash a gun and pellets in someone else's car. Did they have to hide it in a hurry? A grown-up would probably think of a better way to hide it, wouldn't they? Was it some kind of a joke? What if it's not. What if the person comes back for the gun? Oh well.

In the end, worrying won't help. I've since decided to pull the car into the driveway. Danette's gone for the week, so it's not like it'd be in her way. But it would take far more for someone to walk into the driveway to open the car and look for the gun. And, after all, it was just a toy gun, so it's not like I have to apply for a witness protection program or something. :)

In fact, I think it's kind of funny being able to say, "Well, one day, I went to get something from my car and found a gun stashed under my seat..."

P.S. It's been snowing much of the afternoon and evening, so the car is covered in an inch or more of the white stuff, which helps, in a way. At least, this way, I'd be able to tell in the morning if someone had come back and opened the car door in the night... In fact, if the person would even just walk up to the vehicle, one should be able to tell from the size of the tracks if it's a child or an adult... Unless, of course, it snows much more after that time, or if the wind blows like they're predicting it will until early morning. Oh, well!

Friday, February 16, 2007

This is just WRONG!

It's -9F outside. That's -22C! But it's windy, so it feels like it's -25F (-31C)! That's just not right! I was out earlier, taking Danette and her mom to the airport. My computer was in the back seat for just a while, and even though I've been indoors for a while now, it still feels like my arms are resting on a block of ice. I'm very, very thankful for good heating. In fact, I came straight from the airport to Java Creek, one of the local coffee shope to sit here and work. There's a fireplace, but both comfy seats closest to the fire are taken right now. Can't wait for those people to leave so I can get closer to the fire...

Last night, my friend Karen and I went to see a movie. It was sort of silly to go out considering the cold weather. Meetings were being called off everywhere, but there we were, heading out. There were no long lines at the movies. In fact, until about 20 minutes into the movie, we were the only people in the theater. We saw The Last Sin Eater. Based on Francine Rivers' book by the same title, it's a powerful story of redemption, but also about the power that one person can have in changing their culture by seeking to know the Truth. It's well worth seeing. Perhaps not in sub-zero weather, but nevertheless, it's worth seeing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hope: Rwanda

This evening, I was watching a Joyce Meyer podcast. It looks at Rwanda and the atrocities that happened in that small African countries. You can download the programs from this site. Scroll down to February 5 and 6 and download the podcasts, then watch them on your computer using QuickTime.

This year, my hope is to spend time at ELI's base in Bukavu, in the D.R. Congo, where many Rwandan refugees have found a new home. I am praying that God will prepare my heart for what is lying ahead, that I will be able to share the Hope that we have in Christ.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

At the end of a whirlwind week

My bag is packed and ready to go. There are far too few hours before I need to get up and head to LAX. Maybe I should ask Jessie to leave a bit earlier, so we can go and pray on the beach before I go and check in for my flight. Shall see if we have the energy to do that!

It's been a whirlwind week with plenty having gotten done at the office, plus meaningful times with friends over breakfast, dinner or post-dinner chats. Tonight, I was even able to be part of the comissioning of a team leaving for Kenya tomorrow.

I was blessed to eat some of the best Thai food as well as some great Mexican food. That's always one of the benefits of being in Southern California: enjoying great cuisine from around the world.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Joy of Friendship

Last night, I fell asleep with Jessie lying on my bed reading a chapter from The Chronicles of Narnia out loud to me before quietly slipping out and turning out the light... I had to confess to her tonight that I hardly took in a word of what she read. But it was fun, nevertheless. Because she's Jessie. Because she's a good friend.

Sitting in traffic

This was a long day.

It started off with coffee with a friend who will be heading to Kenya with a team. It excited me to think of the people he and his team will get to know. I'm bummed I won't be there to host them during their visit, but spending time talking through some of their plans made me feel like I'm once again part of the process. And it was simply fun to visit with him as a good friend.

Next stop: office. My colleague Kierra and I spent time brainstorming ideas which I now get to research and design. Stuff about team follow-up and how we can improve what we're doing. The kind of stuff that really gets my mind going!

Then: an hour-long drive to Murrietta for a meeting that lasted 2 good hours. Meaningful hours, that is, followed by 3 not-so-meaningful hours of taking on SoCal freeway traffic. There was an accident on the 210, stretching my commute by a good hour, causing a delay in the rest of the evening's plans. Late for dinner with a family, I sat down to great Chinese food and wonderful conversation about what's happening in Kenya, where I'm heading, where God fits into all of this, about them coming to visit in Kenya.

Before I knew it, I was an hour late for my next commitment further east, in Glendale. But it was with good friends, and we spent time curled up on the couch talking about their world and mine. About the challenges of wanting to live an entirely disciplined life and simply not always doing it. About their jobs. About babies and such. And when I looked again, it was just an hour till pumpkin time! Hopped in the bat-mobile (I'm using Jessie's little black BMW) and completed my 180-mile trip for the day.

It was a good day, for sure. I'm tired, not only from being stuck in traffic for far too long, nor only from having several intense conversations, but also from it being so hot during my drive! I couldn't believe how hot it got, even causing my to roll down all the windows at a stage while driving!

I wish I had more time to spend with friends and supporters in this part of the world, but being here for just a week is also good in that it forces me to squeeze in as many appointments as possible...

I'm off to Dreamland again. It's just before 1 a.m. That's almost 3, Iowa time. No wonder I'm having a hard time thinking straight!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Balmy California

I'm incredibly tired and will sleep soon. Just wanted to say that it was 77F in California today... I spent the day at the office, working on projects there. Had tea with a friend after work, then dinner with the Clark family. Now I'm ready to sleeeeeeeeeep.

Monday, February 05, 2007

At home with the Clarks

About six years ago, a quiet high school graduate walked into my office in Taiwan and with it, walked into my life. Jessie was an intern for the summer, and returned the next 2 summers. Her family lived in California, and when I was in LA for a Folio conference, I got to meet some of the Clark family. When APU offered me the opportunity to come and earn a master's degree the next year, Jessie's family offered me a place to stay. We thought it would be a part-time arrangement, me living in their garage-turned-into-a-bedroom. But we all decided that it was a good arrangement, so for two years, I was the GD/"garage dweller" at the Clarks'.

Tonight, I returned home to spend the week at their house while in SoCal for meetings at the ELI office. How very blessed I am to have such amazing friends in my world. As we sat around the dinner table tonight, telling stories and laughing, my heart was warm with love for this, yet another of my "adopted families."

I can say much about them and how they've blessed my life, but it's 1 am here, which means it's 3 back in Iowa... I'm tired. Time to sleep. I'm falling asleep to a worship song, "You are good." God is good, indeed!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"I hate playing Poker with Christians!"

Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
I won't say who said it, because that won't be nice. :) But it was one of the funniest lines at the "Texas hold 'em" poker night at my friend Beth's house. I've never played poker and wasn't too keen on learning, but I went for the pure sake of hanging out with friends. The comment came as a result of one player losing all her chips, and another saying, "Oh, no! You can have 'em back!"

We had lots of fun, despite the cold weather outside. Right now, it's -11F out. That's -24C! As the night goes on, the high is supposed to be -13 (-25C)!

Fortunately, I'm flying to California tomorrow where it's warmer. But I don't mind the cold weather. Especially not when I'm indoors with good friends.

Click on the picture for a few more photos from tonight's event.