Thursday, April 17, 2008

Exchange student memories

When I was a Rotary Youth Exchange student in 1987, I had a friend from India who was hosted by the same Rotary club (Bellport, Long Island, NY) and we went to the same school (Bellport Senior High). Manoj and I were great buddies. We hung out together at the weekly Rotary meetings, and we had a blast with the other exchange students in our district (Suffolk County). In fact, the photo above was from a trip we all took to Fire Island. I'm the kid in the middle with the white visor. Manoj is behind me.

Then, after the summer of 1987, Manoj and most of the other students left. Only the South Africans--maybe the Ozzies, too?--stayed (since our school year is from January-December). I became part of a new graduating class* and met a whole new group of exchange students.

Soon after I returned to South Africa, my parents moved to a new town, so the address all my friends had for me was no longer valid. And so in the process I lost contact with all my friends from around the world.

Until recently.

Thanks to Google and Facebook, some of us have reconnected. And tonight, I got a phone call from Manoj. Twenty one years have passed since we last talked! We visited forever and could've talked for hours more, catching up on what's up in each other's worlds. He's married, has a girl and their family lives in Chicago! I hope to somehow get to meet him and his family when I'm back in the Midwest. (I'm leaving for California on Friday.)

And in the process, I've reconnected with a bunch of other exchange student friends, too.

So, in case someone out there is randomly reading this and happened to be a Rotary Youth Exchange student somewhere between 1986-1988, join Facebook and connect with us! There's even a Facebook group for the cross-country tour of the summer of 1987. One person is hoping to reconnect all 326 exchange students from 40-some countries...

* Useless Trivia
I have the rare joy of being part of THREE graduating classes:
Class of 1986 back in South Africa - my real high school graduation
Class of 87 for the first half of the year - I actually have a graduation certificate from that year...
Class of 88 the second half of '87.
Hence I've been receiving 20th high school reunion invites for the past 3 years!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

In memory of . . .

Two summers ago, God blessed me with an amazing vehicle.

Yesterday, I received news yesterday from Kenya that the car had been totaled. Friends at ELI were taking care of the vehicle while I'm in the US. They were heading back from the AA rehab graduation at Ilula when they hit a pothole which led to several overcorrections and finally to the car rolling.

There were eight people in the car. One person had to get just a few stitches. Everyone else got out with only bruises and very sore bodies. They tell me that they do not believe anyone would've survived had they not been in a vehicle as incredible as this one. Looking at the pictures, I believe them.

My car had served me very, very well. It has made me and others laugh. It's sent me on amazing adventures. It has carried me through deep mud. It has carried a corpse, but more than anything, it carried Hope to families like Hannah's and the Sifunas. It brought orphans to new homes. It took groups of recovering alcoholics to share the news to others. It was strong enough to withstand the attack of a mob during the riots*. It wasn't strong enough to survive rolling. But it saved the lives of the eight inside. For that, I am thankful.

I will always have fond memories of this car. I'm sad to say good-bye to it. God knows why this happened. I don't.

In the words of my friend Ellie, "Rest in peace, great metal beast!"



* I just realized: I didn't blog about that. The story will follow in another entry later this week.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Weekend fun

Danette brought back fresh lobsters from New Hampshire on Friday. We had fun cooking them at Connie's.

Connie and I with a few of our friends...
Yummy, eh?
Two female cardinals - taken at Weir and Mary's house
Downy woodpecker
Male cardinal

I'm IT

There's this game in the blog world called tagging. Just like the game you play as a kid, someone tags you which means it's your turn to answer questions. Till today, I've not been tagged. But my friend Jenny at Standing at the Water's Edge tagged me, so here goes:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player tags 5 people and posts their name, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

What I was doing 10 years ago
Let me see. April '98. I was living in Taiwan, working as an editor for Studio Classroom. The year leading up to my 30th birthday (November that year) was a hard one. Lots of life lessons. A time in my life I wouldn't want to go through again. I was probably trying to get ahead on editing so I could leave for a trip to LA. I believe I went to the FOLIO: conference that year for the first time.

Five Snacks I enjoy
1. Ice cream
2. Fresh, home-made fruit smoothies
3. Fresh, home-made cookies
4. Fresh, buttery popcorn
5. Anything made from good chocolate

Things I would do if I were a billionaire
1. Give at least half the money away
2. Put away money for my nephew and nieces' college education
3. Buy a new car (long story to follow sometime this week)
4. Buy a house somewhere in the world
5. Invest the rest

Five jobs that I have had (most recent first)
1. Missionary
2. Cleaning homes
3. College ESL professor
4. Editor
5. High school English teacher

Three of my habits
1. Reading, reading, reading
2. Blogging
3. Taking photos

Bad Habits
1. Speaking before I think
2. Jumping to conclusions
3. Saying more than is necessary

Five place I have lived
1. South Africa (7 different towns)
2. Taiwan (3 different towns)
3. USA (3 different states; 5 towns)
4. Kenya (2 villages)
5. (I've moved perhaps 30 times in my life, so too many to list individual towns)

Five things not many people know about me
1. My favorite sports to play is squash and field hockey.
2. I used to coach a field hockey team when I taught high school English.
3. I never thought I'd live in the boonies someday.
4. I won't do anything I don't believe in, but if I believe in something, I'd do it for free.
5. I don't play any musical instruments.

Five People I Want to Get to Know Better: (a nice way of saying TAG!)
1. Pamela at Random Safari
2. Laura at Clearly Living
3. Leanne at Team Finke!
4. Susie in the Chalbi Desert
5. Laura at Dairy of Humanity

Saturday, April 12, 2008


The word blessed can so easily be overused. But I honestly cannot think of a better word. I've been blessed, over and over, in the short week and a half that I've been back in the US. From simple pleasures like having treats I've missed, to spending time with friends, I have been blessed indeed.
Yummy... I've been trying to practice self-discipline and not enjoy all the things I've missed, though! :)

Time with friends included connecting with my friend Melissa in Heathrow. We worked together at ORTV in Taiwan for several years.

I'll upload some other photos from time with friends in Iowa later this week.

A photo from breakfast at Yaya Mary's home earlier this week. I've been meeting with friends and supporters during most lunches and dinners this past week. It really has been wonderful to catch up with people and hear what God's been up to in their world. (I went back to her and Weir's place today to hang out and do some birdwatching through their bay window. Photos to follow.)

Tomorrow's another full day of early coffee with a friend, Sunday school, church, lunch with other friends, and much more.

Blessed, I tell you. Now, if I can just catch up on my assignments, it'd be good, too! :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

I should explain

I just got news that I've been awarded a scholarship for my studies. This is a HUGE blessing. I'm sharing this since many supporters are asking about the implications of studies on my support needs.

Apparently, some people have been asking if/how my studies are affecting ministry, if it's taking away time and energy from ministry.

I can wholeheartedly say that choosing to continue my education has been one of the best things I've done this year. So far, I have gained invaluable insight regarding missions in Africa - insights that have already helped me to be more effective in the work that I do. But even as I look ahead at future classes, I cannot help but be excited about how the classes I'm choosing will equip me to do in-depth training for pastors whom we through our "pastor's empowerment program," or even students in our one-year agricultural program. Classes such as "Africa and Islam," to name but one. (There are several more which will undoubtedly be very useful in our training, but I'll disclose those once I know for sure that they've been OK'ed.)

Insofar as taking time from ministry: These classes have not taken time away from ministry other than having me travel for the 2 classes this year. Subsequent classes will be through correspondence, so it's not like I'll be traveling for class for the next few years.

If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to ask me. I would be more than happy to visit with you about the program and classes.

And fear not: I am far from being a perpetual student! I hope to be a lifelong learner, yes. But not a perpetual student.

One other thing: Someone asked about the difference between a Ph.D. and a D.Min. It basically comes down to the former being a research degree while the latter is a practical degree. In fact, according to the Wikipedia definition, "The purpose of the Doctor of Ministry degree is to enhance the practice of ministry for persons who hold the M.Div. degree and have engaged in ministerial leadership" (emphasis mine). I'd still be doing research, yes. In fact, for my dissertation I'll be evaluating the work ELI has been doing over the past 11 years, specifically in terms of sustainable development. It's something ELI's been wanting to do, so it's mutually beneficial for me and ELI to do this study.

If you still have questions, please do not hesitate to ask. I'll be happy to explain, whether through e-mail or over a cup of coffee. Seriously. Just ask. I don't want anybody to have a misconception of what I'm doing/why I'm doing it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


This morning's news is the same as yesterday. Kenya's opposition has withdrawn from talks as the government isn't sticking to the 50-50 power sharing agreement mediated by Kofi Annan earlier this year.

This far, there has been no news of protests from Eldoret area. For that, I praise God! This is the essence of the issue right now according to AFP.

Kenyan newspapers urged the leaders to end the stalemate that touched off fresh protests in the capital's slums and western city of Kisumu in the past two days.

"There are legitimate fears that if the impasse is not speedily resolved, Kenya will slide back to the kind of violence unleashed in the wake of the disputed presidential elections," top selling Daily Nation said an editorial, which appealed to Kenyans to remain calm.

"Tensions are already running high. President Kibaki and Mr Odinga are squarely responsible for leading Kenya out of a possible quagmire. They cannot afford to wait until there is another explosion before moving frantically to put out the fires.

"The two leaders must meet immediately, without preconditions and without threats, and live up to the expectations of their people by forming the unity government in line with the accord they signed," it added.

Canada joined the United States, the European Union and Britain in calling for a quick resolution of the problem that has scarred the country's image as a tranquil zone at the heart of a tough, conflict-ridden region.

Not good

So, things seem to be heating up in Kenya again. Not good. Not good at all.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Touch your nose to a triangle...

Earlier this evening, I was doing some funky moves: galloping to a square, sliding to a musical instrument, touching my elbow to a food sign while keeping my foot on a yellow sign. Weird? I was playing Hullabaloo with a family from church.

I've been trying to spend quality time with supporters to get to know them as families or individuals, and tonight, it meant that I got to be part of this particular home's family night. I got to show them pictures from Kenya during dinner time, and afterwards, we played games. Fun stuff. Especially when you see little ones get excited about missions.

Earlier last week, I had lunch with another family with young kids, too, which is really an honor to me. For many of the kids (not only these families, but also from the classes where I got to share at church yesterday), I'm the first missionary the kids really get to know, which is a lot of fun, really. Many of the families have been following the Sifunas' story this past year, and were able to rejoice with me in the fact that Silas decided a week ago to follow Christ.

And they got to know Hannah and her family, and were delighted to know that Nancy is in the process of applying for nursing school...

Through my blog, these are not just stories. It's like these people are part of their world. I love that! Especially when it comes to children.

Right now, I need to sleep, though. Tomorrow's another full day of work, studying, and lunch and dinner appointments. It's all good, though. It's all good.

Except the cold weather. That's not too great. I don't get how it's April and we're still in the very low 30s here with snow in the forecast for later in the week again. This, too, shall pass, right? Of course it will. At least I have a bed at my friend Danette's house with the warmest bedding imaginable. And since Danette's out of town for work, her animals are all down in my room. In fact, right now, all three her cats are surrounding my legs. I think they like this bedding as much as I do.

I'm going to join the cats and head to Dreamland.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Non-linear thinking

  • I decided not to go and take my driver's test yesterday. Thought I might not be too alert due to jetlag.
  • Went this morning, but I have to produce some more pieces of mail to prove that I really have an Iowan address. So I might go back next week.
  • Else I'll just use my South African license. Which is completely legal.
  • I may have been the only person around Cedar Rapids wearing a coat, scarf and gloves. Some young Iowans are out in shorts and T-shirts while I'm shivering.
  • It was 34 degrees this morning. It may get up to a blistering 50 degrees later in the day. Warm enough to melt all of yesterday's snow.
  • Yes, we had snow yesterday.
  • We had heavy rains yesterday afternoon, followed by an inch of snow. More, actually, but much melted thanks to the rain.
  • This morning was the first morning in a while that I was back at scraping ice and snow off the window of the car I'm using.
  • It was also the first morning that I was wide awake at 4 am. Got to spend 2 hours in bed, reading. Then I got up.
  • Today, I get to visit with lots and lots of people at a dessert event. Tomorrow and Sunday's packed with missions events. And a wedding reception in between everything.
  • I should be working on my presentation for tonight. Not a formal presentation, no. Just some pictures from the past year. Then head home to help bake a million pies for tonight.
  • OK, I'm exaggerating, I know.
  • Some people were wondering if tonight's dessert is part of the New Covenant missions weekend. Yes, it is. That's why I'm in town.
  • Back to work.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

My Hobby?

Recently, when I was at Ilula, the kids asked me about my hobbies. They had learned about hobbies at school, obviously.

So I told them my hobby is photography. Which I don't know if you can consider it a hobby any more since it really is my job.

Birdwatching. Definitely a hobby.

Visiting. Reading. Writing. All hobbies of mine. Blogging, too, I guess. Never thought of it that way.

But if you think of collecting things, I can probably add "collecting driver's licenses" to the list of hobbies. I have one for South Africa, Taiwan, California, and an international license. (Can't have one from Kenya yet. Only once I finally have my Kenya residency permit can I apply for a license there.)

Today, when doing some banking, the teller asked, "Do you perhaps have a valid driver's license?" Huh? Turns out, my California license had expired in November. Yikes.

So, tomorrow I hopefully get to add a license from the state of IOWA to my collection. (As in I-o-wa. Not 10-W-A. A friend of mine was once asked "What's 10-W-A?" when she wore an IOWA sweatshirt elsewhere in the USA. Won't say which state, since my friends from that state might be embarrassed by the fact that someone in their area didn't know that there's actually a state in the Midwest called Iowa. And that most of their corn comes from here. I'm diverging. Again. Sorry.)

I'm actually sitting here reading through the blue book. I am learning things I never knew. Like that you don't need a license in Iowa to drive farming equipment on your farm.

Good to know.

OK, so I just found out I technically don't need an Iowa license since I have a valid South African license. But I think it's not a bad idea to get a local license. Then I don't have to carry around my passport as proof of identity when I go places or write checks.

I'd better study for the test. Wouldn't want to flunk it, you know!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

New Life

Last night, as I was waiting to board my flight to London, I received a call from Mark Tarus, a colleague.

"Adele!" You could hear the huge smile in his voice. "Sifuna prayed last night to receive Christ!"

The other passengers visibly stared when I responded with a loud, "YES! Praise God!"

There's no way you can just get news like that and politely say, "Well, thanks for telling me..." Not a chance. Not after praying for this moment for nine months. It's ironic. Nine months. That's how long it has taken for Silas to come to a place of surrender. Of saying I cannot conquer alcoholism on my own. Of admitting If I want to be a good father, I need Christ.

The journey ahead is still long. Becoming a Christian isn't a one-time-decision. Christ, in fact, only talked about the concept of "being born again" once. Only once. And the guy he suggested it to didn't accept get it till he saw Jesus on the cross.

On timeless other occasions, Jesus taught about his Kingdom. Of following Him. That's a choice we get to make daily. I am praying that as Silas embarks on this journey, that he will not only find freedom, but life in abundance.

My heart is full as I am still trying to fathom what God is doing in my neighbors' lives. I praise him for the victories over the past 9 months. Only God could've done it. I worship Him for that!

Culture shock

I couldn't help but smile when I walked into the ladies' room in O'Hare airport a few moments ago. It's funny to be back in the world of automatic toilet seat covers and motion-detector flush systems... Sometimes when I'm faced with the reality of village outhouses, it's hard to imagine that elsewhere in the world, something so basic as WC's can be so drastically different.

While we're on the topic: American public restrooms are nothing like loos in Japan. While there for a women's conference years ago, I was amazed to find that the seats were heated in the winter. Quite a strange discovery to be made when you don't expect it. And though the Japanese would happily bathe in public bath houses without blinking an eye, they are very, very discreet when it comes to bodily functions. So much so that public restrooms have white noise functions (sounds of a babbling brook, or chirping birds) which get triggered when you lock the door.

OK, so I made it safely from Nairobi to London to Chicago. As did my luggage. My brain isn't quite functioning at full capacity right now, hence the toilet talk. I may have left my mind in the seat pocket on the first flight, most likely when the guy in the seat next to me kept falling asleep flailing his arms in all directions. OK, it wasn't that bad. It just felt that way. I may have gotten an hour's sleep on the next flight. Even got some work done.

Back to London: my friend Melissa came to Heathrow to meet me for coffee. It's a huge gift when she does that. Melissa's not an early riser, and to come and meet me for coffee at 7 a.m. means she had to leave her home very early to catch the trains to the airport. (Thanks again, Mel!) We both started working at ORTV the same summer: 1995. Except, at that stage, Mel was an intern and I just started as full-time staff. It was fun to spend my time visiting with an old friend.

I actually have incredibly good news, but I'm going to put it in a completely different post. Don't want it to get lost between the trivialities of travel...