Friday, June 27, 2008

So true

In the midst of trying to get the last things done for my departure this weekend, I perused my Google Reader list and found this poignant entry by my friend Mike. Actually, it's a quote from Greg Boyde's blog.

"Millions of people are abandoning the Christendom paradigm of the traditional Christian faith in order to become more authentic followers of Jesus. From the Emergent Church movement to the Urban Monastic Movement to a thousand other independent groups and movements, people are waking up to the truth that the Kingdom of God looks like Jesus and that the heart of Christianity is simply imitating him. Millions are waking up to the truth that followers of Jesus are called to love the unlovable, serve the oppressed, live in solidarity with the poor, proclaim Good News to the lost and be willing to lay down our life for our enemies. Multitudes are waking up to the truth that the distinctive mark of the Kingdom is the complete rejection of all hatred and violence and the complete reliance on love and service of others, including our worst enemies. Masses of people are waking up to the truth that followers of Jesus aren't called to try to win the world by acquiring power over others but by exercising power under others -- the power of self-sacrificial love."

Read more here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dzenme pan?

That's Chinese for "What to do?" What am I supposed to do with my new insights on what a missional church should look like, what Christ-like community truly is? What do I do with insights on true transformational leadership? Where do I go from here?

I take one step at a time. Make changes in the way I do life. Which is hard, since some of these ways are habits which are hard to break. Listen more. To God and those around me. Listen more. Speak less. Ask more questions. Take one step at a time. Read more. Interact. Ask questions of that which I'm reading. As God what he wants me to do as a result of that which I'm learning.

My reading pile hasn't gone down at all since I've been back in Cedar Rapids. As much as I wish I can set aside more time for reading and starting work on my next class project, I know that I'm doing what God's asking me to do right now. I'm going to where the people are, taking Christ to them through taking meals to their homes while they're cleaning, sorting through the devastation the river had left behind.

Choosing to read during this critical time would be to miss the point completely.

Instead, at this time, I shall listen. And at times when I don't hear well, I'll follow my friends who've sensed God laying ways on their hearts in which they can serve. We're all pretty overwhelmed at this stage. And cranky at times. Forgetful. On the edge.

And we've not even lost all we have in the flood.

I cannot even begin to imagine what it feels like to have lost everything... As we were driving around Danette's childhood neighborhood, handing out sandwiches and treats to very weary neighbors, one lady stood there, clutching this small, wooden plaque. A man (her husband?) who had retrieved a shotgun from the mud tried to console her. "We can get it cleaned..." She just kept staring at it, shaking her head in unbelief.

What does one say in such a case? The entire hour or two that we drove around, handing out refreshments, I just kept telling people, "I'm so sorry." "God bless you" seemed an odd thing to say as we drove off.

I am sorry. I truly am. When I walked out of my house in February to leave for class in Ethiopia, I honestly wasn't sure if I'd ever see my house again. Or any of my stuff. Homes were being burned in my neighborhood. Nothing, and no-one was safe. I left with just a bag with the most important stuff. And clothes for the class in Addis, of course.

But I came home to a place still perfectly in tact. So I cannot understand what thousands of families are feeling. Most left with just a few things, believing the river might flood by a foot or five. Some of those home were completely submerged.

"We're in this together," reads the billboard at Theater Cedar Rapids. They, too, were under water.

Amen. We are indeed in this together. Most people in town seem eager to help out, to donate time, skills, money, clothing.

It's so different from the devastation I saw in Kenya earlier this year, when neighbors turned on one another, burning one another's homes... Somehow, I think a flood might be easier to recover from.

What should I do? Continue to listen. Speak when God says. Be quiet otherwise. Learn all I can. Teach when God says I should. Or simply serve, and learn by getting dirty.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Early Celebrations

Last night, I was supposed to meet my friend Connie for dinner. As a bunch of us "chicks" were working the past few days, doing clean-up and the like, they started saying things like, "Why don't we grill on Sunday afternoon. It'll be a great break from this work!" So I figured Connie and I will get together another time, and agreed to go to her place. Everyone agreed to bring something, but I wasn't really paying attention to any of the arrangements since it was a very informal event.

On Sunday morning, Danette and I used dehumidifier water to wash our hair, seeing that the water supply in Cedar Rapids was still only at 25% of capacity, and we're supposed to limit usage to drinking and critical usage only. Later in the day, however, we were delighted to learn that things were looking up a bit, and that people in odd-numbered homes could take showers on odd-numbered days. We could also do dishes and laundry, if need be.

So, before heading to Connie's place, it was an absolute delight to take a long nap and a short shower. (I couldn't resist taking this photo of Danette and Paka in a rare moment. Danette hardly ever naps! However, hours of cleanup has left us all a bit wiped out!)

I haven't appreciated a shower that much in a very, very long time! Plus, I am very glad we were able to shower, 'cause when we arrived at Connie's, I discovered that the impromptu barbecue was far from that! It was, in fact, a surprise birthday celebration!

Originally, the plan was apparently to have the event at a restaurant in town, but due to the crisis in town, it was decided to make it a much more low-key event. I'm glad. Simply visiting with a handful of my good friends in Cedar Rapids at Connie's house was really, really nice. It gave us a good chance to visit about everything under the sun. The marrieds in the group left early, and the 5 singles who remained made a fire in Jodie's new fire pit, sat around the fire, visited some more, and made s'mores.

It was the first time I actually had s'mores, by the way. Yes, we roast marshmallows in South Africa. But we don't add chocolate and Graham crackers. I enjoyed only one of them. As much as I like sweet stuff, more than just one would be a bit much for me!

I still can't believe the girls threw a surprise birthday party, though. It caught me completely off guard, to the point that I was really choked up! They decided that since I'll be leaving soon, and since I'll be in the village for my 40th birthday in November, they wanted to have a chance to celebrate with me. Five months early, yes, but still, they get to celebrate. Which I love.

What a blessing to have such amazing friends. I thank God for these ladies who enrich my life so greatly. Unlike the s'mores I had earlier in the night, I'd take time with them any time! They're never too much, never too sweet. They're the real deal. What a blessing to have 'em in my life. Even though they've declared me 40, months too early!

Sunday, June 15, 2008


So the terrible storm from this afternoon ended up NOT dumping much rain in this area. At least not in the area of Danette's house.

The water has gone down by several feet already. We took a drive after going to help some people with their basement, and it was good to see that some streets that were under water yesterday are starting to look better. But other areas are still completely flooded, with semis floating down the roads. The city announced that 1,300 city blocks were under water.

For those not from this area and wondering about the 500-year-flood thing, it simply relates to the likelihood of a flood like this occurring. In other words, chances are so slim for this to happen, it might happen once in five centuries And this article explains why the floods occurred. It has to do with the record snow this winter, following by record rains this spring.

The highway between here and Iowa City has been closed close to the airport. It's 27 miles from here to there, but the detour is 281-miles!

The water issue is critical around here. We girls have been laughing so hard about the fact that we've been doing hard, physical labor, but not able to take showers. We stand in line at places (like the Dairy Queen, an essential stop, you know, after a long day) and wondering about clean people...

OK, we understand some who live in the country have wells. In fact, tomorrow we'll be visiting a family with a well so we, too, can finally get cleaned up. It's about time. Especially after cleaning gutters today at a friend's house, and lugging around lots of mildewy boxes for a couple of days... We've been using water from the dehumidifier and the shop-vac to flush the toilet. We've been washing hands with hand sanitizer. We're all ready to take showers and wash out hair! Tonight, the city is shutting down water completely. Red Cross is distributing drinking water for free, which is a blessing. And it's going to be critical to have that as the city water gets shut off.

I'm tired, heading to bed. And I'm very thankful we didn't have much rain this evening. They're predicting a 60% chance of showers tomorrow. Praying that it won't happen...

New Storm

Though the water receded some today, a new storm is moving in right now. Hail is recorded in several towns in the area. We're praying for no new flooding in the basement here, and no more damage in the area! Follow the news at KCRG and Gazette. The water issue is becoming a major problem. We're not sure how long we'd have water. We're all trying our best to use as little water as possible. This morning, they reported that close to 500 city blocks are under water. Museums have been flooded. As have libraries. And business after business and home after home after home... It's really sad to see!

Tonight, friends and I are heading out to pull out the carpet at our mail lady's home. Tomorrow, we'll do the same. That's church for us tomorrow. We'll go serve wherever necessary. We can't do much, but it helps when a group of 6 "chicks" pull up and help haul stuff, or clean gutters, whatever. That's the way we felt yesterday when the girls showed up at Danette's house!

Anyway, we don't know what's going to happen the next few hours as the next storm is approaching. They're starting to talk about possible tornadoes. We don't need that. We don't need more flooding. Please pray that the rain will stop, that the water will recede, that we can start cleaning up.

My friend Erin wrote a very good entry about some of the things happening. Worth reading, for sure.

I just pulled up one of my text books for reading. Not sure how much else (work, studies, visiting with supporters) is going to happen in this last stretch in Cedar Rapids. There'll be lots of cleaning up to do. I don't think we have any idea yet of the immensity of the task ahead...

Saturday, June 14, 2008


It's hard to believe this is Cedar Rapids. I managed to get on a red-eye last night to Minneapolis/St. Paul, and from there to Cedar Rapids. God did some of his "magic." No cost to change due to the nature of the crisis. (Earlier in the day I was told it would be $1,200 to change the ticket, which I wasn't going to fork out. So I decided to simply head to the airport and go standby. Didn't have to do standby after all. Yeah God.)

Anyway, Cedar Rapids is a complete disaster. And the water is rising still. One of the photos I uploaded to my Flickr account is of Mercy Hospital. Just saw an areal view of the same area while out to grab lunch, and the water has increased much more.

Three other friends from Danette's small group is here. Water is seeping in through the basement floor and wall connections. The river is still about 4 blocks from here. It's usually about 2 miles away, I'd guess. But the soil is completely drenched, so the water is seeping in everywhere.

Cedar Rapids is on water restrictions. No showers. No unnecessary use. Don't flush if you don't have to. No water served at restaurants.

We're in the process of emptying out a ton of the stuff that got damaged in Danette's basement. Next, we'll go help the neighbors with theirs. Some from the group went to buy emergency supplies to drop off at the shelters.

Read detailed news on the local newspaper site: The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

And pray that no more rain will fall
* that the river will start to go down (it's more than 30ft above its regular level now)
* that the church would step up and serve the community BIG TIME
* that those who lost everything will be comforted...

Back to the basement.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Food for Thought

My classmate Pat's blog entry today on the Missional Church is insightful. It portrays much of what we've been talking about the past two weeks.

I'd challenge you to not only read it, but think about what it would look like if we did church in this way: Sunday worship would be a celebration of all God had done the other six days. It would be a time to perhaps be equipped for ministry, to encourage one another, to worship together. And from there, we all go out into our places of work and community to be salt and light. We take God into the world with us.

This means we all become missionaries. And ministers. We use the gifts God has given us to not only work to put bread on the table, but to establish or represent God's kingdom. It also means that children, women and men would all be ministers.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Imagine that.

Blizzards and floods and tornadoes, oh my!

I'm still in Seattle, approaching the last day and a half of class. The past two weeks of class have truly been eye-opening. This class is basically an introduction to the entire program, so it covers urban theology and missiology, and several components on transformational leadership. We've had a wide range of speakers from all over the West Coast (mostly the Northwest, though) to expose us to the various tracks in the program. I'll be doing a leadership track. I will expand more later.

Yesterday, there was a blizzard on Mount Rainier yesterday (that's just north of Seattle). So, needless to say, it's been cold here the entire time we've been in Seattle. (Someone was commenting this week that it's a beautiful Junuary week!) In the meantime, Cedar Rapids and surrounding areas are having terrible floods. (That's the city in Iowa I fly to this weekend.) Many areas in the city and surrounding areas have been evacuated, and more rain is coming down on an already treacherous area.

Danette's home is removed from the areas in danger of flooding, but we'll probably go and help sand-bag etc when she picks me up from the airport Saturday morning. (Red-eye flight from here takes me through Portland and Minneapolis for an early-morning arrival. Yikes.)

And in the meantime, Danette is on a business trip in Omaha, where a tornado killed 4 scouts today and injured 40!

Please join in praying for all those affected by the floods & tornadoes, for the rain to stop, for the waters to recede, for safety for all. And let's pray that God will show us how to support those whose lives have been affected by this weather.

On a much lighter note: I have made some really neat friends this week! Our class is truly diverse, not only in nationalities, but also in denominations and backgrounds. Unfortunately, class has been so packed that we've not had as much time for discussion. It seems like everyone's truly using every moment, though, to work through some of the concepts. Meal times, break times, even the drive home (3 of us are staying at the the house of the dean, a former professor of mine from APU) is used to wrestle with ideas presented.

One simply cannot go back to your ministry environment unaffected by that which you have talked about this week. Well, at least I can't.

One of my new friends is a techie from around this area. So I've learned a few tricks from him. One of the most handy ones? To use Google Reader.

I know, a bunch of you are probably already doing that. I just hadn't taken the time till now to explore Google Reader. As with all other Google products, this concept is brilliant! I no longer have to check in to see if a friend has finally posted a new blog entry. All blogs that I subsribe to are delivered right to my customized Reader page (and better yet, to iGoogle!)

Some of you are thinking I'm coming out of the Dark Ages here. Oh, well. What can I say. I live in the bush. But if you're clueless what I'm talking about and were like me, opening one news site and blog after another to catch up with friends and news, I'd highly recommend that you spend an hour to set up Reader. It will save you many hours!

I'm rambling. Still need to journal about today's class. Much to write about. Much more to learn, about far, far more than computer stuff.

Monday, June 09, 2008


About 10 years ago, I attended a women's conference in Japan that had a profound impact on the way I view the Sabbath. The conference speaker was Marva Dawn, a brilliant theologian. The topic? Keeping the Sabbath Wholly. As in completely, yes.

Since that time, I have tried my best to celebrate the Sabbath. "It's not a polite suggestion," Marva reminded us. "It's a biblical mandate, and something Jesus took seriously" (though not in the strict Jewish way, necessarily). She explained to us that a Sabbath rest isn't something you work toward, but rather that we can serve out of the rest we have had.

Knowing that I have another very full week of class ahead, I chose to lay low today, to rest, spend time with God, go for a walk, and finally, to meet a friend. Idelette is a South African whom I had gotten to know in Taiwan. She got married to a Canadian nine years ago, and I hadn't seen her since. This afternoon, she drove down from Vancouver, Canada, to visit for a few hours.

Tayla.jpg, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

(Above: Idelette's 3-year-old, Tayla, with some flowers a little boy brought her... He seemed quite taken by her and brought flowers twice. It was the cutest thing to watch!)

It's a bit bizarre when you had last seen a friend as a single and next as a mother of three. I had a wonderful time with them! The kids were darling.

We ran to Trader Joe's to do some shopping for Idelette, bought Thai food to go at a nearby restaurant, and went to a park to visit, let the 2 oldest ones play, and have our dinner. Some of my favorite quotes from the 5-year-old Gabrielle were, "Mom, can we please get an orphan?" and, "Mom! My poop's coming out!!" (Sorry for the graphic narrative. I just think it's hilarious when a well-mannered, beautifully-dressed little princess blurts out something so real!)

It was refreshing to spend time with an old friend. As I did on Friday night. Phebe Shen, a former roommate and colleague from my ORTV days is from this area, and we met up for Taiwanese food and a delightful visit.

Yesterday, albeit Saturday, our class met for the most hands-on journey through church history. We traveled to our prof's home near Mt. Baker where we embarked on a 2,000-foot mission trail. The trail represents the 2,000 years since Jesus sent his disciples to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Along with trees that have significant meanings (the Reformation Tree, the Trinity Tree, and the Epiphany Tree) as well as monuments to significant family events, Ray took us to the 20 markers on his trail. At each marker, he'd stop and teach in his narrative manner on the significance of the specific person. History had never been so alive to me!

Not only was it a truly hands-on learning experience, it was also a delightful time in nature. The Bakkes' farm is beautiful, and it had just stopped raining prior to us embarking on the walk. The forest was alive with raindrops dangling from moss-covered tree trunks...

Today's chance to rest, reflect, and visit with God about what I'm learning was the perfect end to a mentally challenging week, and the perfect beginning to the next 5 days of learning. I feel like I can think again after taking time out to be alone.

Click on the picture above to see photos from this past week.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

President for Sale

Justice, my classmate from Zimbabwe, stopped by this morning saying, "We are looking for someone who might want to buy a new President. Zimbabwe's ready to sell theirs." I'm couldn't help but smile. Which made one of our profs walk up and say, "What are you up to today? You tend to have this grin on your face which makes it seem like you're up to no good..."

I really am enjoying this class. I'm enjoying my classmates, too. This is most likely the only class we'll take together, but we're still seen as a cohort. The rest of the class will travel to China together, but since I took that specific class requirement in Ethiopia, I won't be going with them.

As I was getting ready for bed last night, it struck me again what a profound impact my classes can have on how I do life and ministry. As long as I implement that which I'm learning, and I have every intention to do so. It's already impacted the way I think about missions, my community and our role as Christ-followers. And there are some components built into the program that keep us accountable to doing, not just learning. I'll share more about that as time goes by.

Our class this morning is on Contemplative Leadership. Interesting concept.