Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thankful in Tanzania

Today is Thanksgiving! Okay, so I know it's not really, but in my mind it is. Tanzania doesn't observe American Thanksgiving (duh), so it's a normal workday for everyone. So traditionally, every year our mission team celebrates Thanksgiving on the Saturday after--hence, today!

We always manage to get a turkey from somewhere--often have a student at boarding school bring one down from Kenya, but I think that this year our team had a friend bring us a turkey from Dubai (United Arab Emerites). Yep, you got it, American Thanksgiving with an Arab turkey.

And if I do say so myself, we always manage to do pretty well for ourselves with the ingredients found here. Mmmmm....here's all our (very homemade) pies.



This team is our family while we are here. We meet with them once a week to pray, and over the years, they have cried with us, loved us, and supported us. Thanksgiving is definitely not the same without our biological family, but I am so thankful for my surrogate family.


God is good. I am so incredibly, amazingly grateful for His wonderful grace in my life. My husband, my children, my parents, all of our needs provided for, ministry that we love, the churches and families who financially support us...I am indeed blessed.

And I am, by the way, significantly more joyful regarding God's change in our plans for our Home Assignment. A couple hard days...and then acceptance and peace. I look forward to seeing what He has in store for us.

Oh, one more very, very cute thing....while taking the above picture, we were all delighted to hear Josiah say "Cheeeeeeeeeessssse!" (in baby language) for each of the three cameras that took the picture. With no prompting from us. He is definitely his father's son.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Go, Lil' Guy, Go!

Josiah's Big News:



Grace's Big News: (Notice the ears)



(She also tried to get Daddy to take video of her walking too; she couldn't understand why we just weren't as excited about her as her brother.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Not the Path I Chose...

....but I must submit to His will regardless.

Those of you who read our newsletters might have caught on to the fact that we were planning our next Home Assignment from March to May of next year. For the past six months, it's what we've been planning. Our lease is up in February, and our landlord plans to totally renovate our house (remember the cracks in the walls?) during the months we would be gone. God graciously provided us with two men who have been rapidly moving foward with plans to come out here and take over Gil's Bible classes while we were gone.

But we found out yesterday that God didn't provide us with permission to take Josiah to the States with us. And obviously, that means none of us are going.

I don't know if I have mentioned that Josiah is not adopted yet. Tanzanian law requires that you foster the child for three months, and then apply for adoption. All of it is really a formality, but a lengthy one. Josiah probably won't be officially adopted for another 8 months or so.

So, in order to travel to the States with him in March, we needed special permission from social welfare. With Grace, we got that permission twice with no problem. Lots of families we know have gotten that permission with no problem. So we assumed it would be the same for Josiah. I never once thought there would be a problem.

Then our lawyer told us the bad news. The last family who applied for permission to travel with their foster child totally blew it. They used entirely culturally inappropriate methods of manipulation to procure their letter of permission from the commissioner. They got their letter, but the commissioner was then so ticked off (he was never Prince Charming to begin with), that he declared that no more permission would be granted for families to travel with foster children.

We tried anyway. And yesterday, we found out that he meant what he said. Our permission to travel with Josiah in March was denied.

This means we have to wait until he is officially adopted before we can take our Home Assignment. But the hard part about that is that we can't totally predict when that will happen. Our lawyer told us that we can safely assume it will be completed a year from now.

Yesterday was a hard day as the realization hit me that we won't be going home in March. I've been looking foward to it for a long time. The coming of Thanksgiving and Christmas always makes me think of home and family, and I was telling myself that "it would only be three more months!" Plus, Gil leaves tomorrow for the States for two weeks to attend his brother's wedding. I would have loved to be there and am so bummed that I am missing it. So you could say that I've been a little homesick lately. Not a great time to find out that it will be another year before we can go home.

I should clarify. Tanzania is home now. I do love living here and I love what we do here. But the pain of being so far from family never completely goes away. Especially now that we have kids. My kids have such wonderful grandparents, and it breaks my heart that they are separated from each other most of the time. That's the hardest part about being a missionary, and the hardest part about getting the bad news yesterday.

But of course, now we have to deal with logistics too. Rearranging dates, contacting our landlord, contacting the two wonderful men who are set to come out here, figuring out how we can reschedule everything.

It's not the path I would have chosen. I don't understand why God answered some prayers about this Home Assignment but not others. But I do know that He was capable. And thus, I know that His will is perfect, He has His reasons, and I will do best by submitting to His plan as greater than mine.

I think I am just about done throwing myself a pity-party, which is why I chose not to write yesterday. I know that there are far greater disappointments or sufferings in life, and that I have no reason to doubt His will.

I am thankful that we serve a God whose ways are greater than ours.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Think of William and Stella Today


William is Tanzanian. He is the head custodian at HOPAC.

He is wonderful. Full of joy. Full of energy. A hard worker. Happy to help. Brightens your day whenever you encounter him.

He deliberately moved into an impoverished area to plant a church. He spends his Saturdays playing soccer with dozens of kids. He works long hours and then goes home to share Jesus with people.

His young wife, Stella, has been pregnant with their first child. He has been so, so excited. It's been fun to talk to him about it whenever I see him.

Today we got the sad news that Stella delivered at 7 months. The baby lived a few hours. Then he died.

When the hospital discharged them, they gave them the baby and William took him home and buried him in their front yard.

My heart is so broken for them. Of course, my heart is broken for anyone who loses a baby pre-term. But in this case, I struggle, because I'm guessing that chances are, if that baby had been born in the States, he would have lived. Babies are born at 7 months all the time in the States and are perfectly fine.

It's just not fair.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Swimmin', Divin', Flippin'

We spend a lot of Saturdays at the pool....because, well....read my previous post. When it's this hot, you want to just sit in water all day. And since we can't all fit in the bathtub, we drive down the street to the pool.

Our Grace is a little water bug. And Daddy's been teaching her all kinds of new tricks.


Divin'






Flippin' with Daddy


Don't you wish you had a Daddy like this?


Exuberant Cheerleaders


Flying barrettes

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You Know It's Hot When...

....you go into your pantry and look in the candy basket, and you notice that the Tootsie Roll Pops are now just empty wrappers. The actual candies are just little purple and red and brown Tootsie Roll Pop puddles underneath.

Friday, November 7, 2008

One

November 1, 2008

Celebrating you!

What exactly did you want me to do?


A very obedient child. Doing exactly what is required of every one-year-old on his birthday.

Not much actually made it in the mouth.


Don't you wish sometimes that you knew what they are thinking?

Time for bed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Adventures in Rain

I awoke this morning at 4 am to an enormous clap of thunder. I seriously thought we were having an earthquake and just about jumped out of my skin. (People who are not native to California don't realize how loud earthquakes actually are).

Then the downpour started. But downpours are common, though not really at this time of year. So after the adrenalin let off, I went back to sleep. The power had also gone off, so I slept in later than usual, knowing that I wouldn't be able to do anything in the dark.

By the time we all got up around 6:15, it had been pouring for hours. Pouring like a spilled bucket. Hard, hard rain. Our yard was already more full of rain than we had ever seen it. We also heard a pounding sound in the distance but ignored it.

At about 6:30, I hear a knocking at our gate. I run out in the rain, and it's our neighbor-to-the-left. He says, "I just want you to know, the neighbors in back of you are pounding a hole in your wall. Their yard is flooded and they are trying to get the water out. They wanted to put a hole in our wall but we wouldn't let them."

Hence the pounding we were hearing. (Note: Yards in Africa are surrounded by concrete walls).

So I start running to the back of our yard, screaming for Gil the entire time. The neighbors in back of us had already succeeded in pounding one hole in the wall connecting our yard with theirs, and were in the midst of pounding another one. Water was pouring into our yard.

"No!" I started screaming. "Stop! You'll flood our yard too!"

By this time, Gil had joined me in the yelling. He grabbed our ladder and tried to get up on it, but the mud was so thick that it kept sinking in. Finally he managed to get high enough to see over the wall. He yelled and screamed but they wouldn't stop. By the time they were done, they had put three holes in our wall and our yard was filling up fast.

"They are waist deep in water, Amy," he told me. "They are desperate."

By this point we had seen the road outside our house, which was a rushing river instead of a road. And the outside wall of the neighbors-to-the-right of us had completely collapsed. A tree had fallen into the road as well. It looked like a war zone. I ran back inside and called our principal, telling him Gil was not going to make it to school this morning.

So then we started a frenzied attempt to get the water out of our yard. We knew that if we didn't, our wall would collapse as well. Or the water would come into the house. Neither of which were very good options.

So Gil started hacking holes in our concrete wall that faces the road. The water started draining out but pooling on the other side of the wall. So then he dug a series of ditches to get the water to drain off the property.

All of this was done in the pouring rain. Thankfully, this is Africa and it wasn't cold. While all this was happening, I was trying to appease my hungry and frightened children in a very dark house. I gave Grace a box of cornflakes and she and Josiah finished it off (by eating and by playing with them) by the time we were all back inside.

At one point I decided to try to go over to our neighbors-to-the-right (who had the collapsed wall) and see if I could help out. I only succeeded in gashing up my foot rather badly and then hobbled home. Eventually the neighbors-to-the-back, who had made the holes in our wall and drained their yard into ours came over and apologized profusely. We forgave them but I'm not sure what our landlord will do!

So now it is noon. Gil finally left for school (I'm assuming he made it unless the car is stuck in the mud somewhere), the power finally came back on, my blood is cleaned up from all over the floor, my foot is all wrapped up, and the kids are napping. The rain has stopped and the frogs are all singing happy songs. Sigh. I am exhausted! But besides a few holes in our wall, we are no worse for wear. I know I have nothing to complain about, knowing that many houses in this city were flooded this morning, or worse.

For now, I am off to make cookies for the neighbors.

Update on Wednesday evening:

I did bring cookies to the neighbors, and in doing so realized that we really should be very grateful for how our house was spared. It seems as if there was a sort of flash flood that came through our neighborhood early this morning. Many of the houses near us lost walls and had their houses flooded. Our neighbors-to-the-right not only lost their front wall, but their back wall as well. The lady described it as a "tidal wave" that came through their yard from the back, knocking over the back wall, all the way through their house and then knocking over the front wall. The house on the right side of them had the same damage done. Yet our house emerged unscathed. Thank you, Lord, for your undeserved grace!

The following pictures were taken a couple hours after it stopped raining. So they don't really do justice to what it actually looked like at the worst.


The neighbors-at-the-back, the ones who put the holes in our wall.

The view from a hole.

One of the holes in our yard.


Part of our yard


Right outside our gate, looking towards the neighbors-to-the-right


Neighbors-to-the-right


The drainage ditch in front of our house that probably saved us from further destruction. Imagine this ditch filled to the brim, and the road looking like a river.


The road to the right


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Not a Halloween Party, But Still a Little Scary

On Friday night we held an "80's Night" for our youth group. It was a "totally awesome" success. Despite the fact that our students never lived in the 80's (I am SO old), and the lack of thrift stores around here, our students did remarkably well in coming up with authentic outfits. Just for the record, our girls normally look much more sweet and innocent than this (thankfully!).

Grace kept saying, "Mommy, what's on your eyes?" Gil, by the way, was going for the "Bill and Ted's" look.

Yep, that's the man I married!

Despite how much fun they were having, I was thinking, "Do we really want to be corrupting our students with 80's culture? Shouldn't it be left back there where it belongs?" :-)

I told Randra and Savannah that if they had lived in the 80's they would have had hair to die for.

Any guesses on what they are doing? :-)

Breakdancing attempts

Let's hope these styles never return.....
This was the first time we had done a theme night with our kids and they had a blast! They want to do parties for each decade now....