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


The Sacrament of Waiting

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

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!


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’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


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 more,
listen more,
humble myself,

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


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.


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. :)