Friday, August 28, 2009

House #8

We have lived in 8 different houses during 8 years of marriage. That's not counting the months we lived with family while on Home Assignment.

Sigh. It was okay before we had kids; then I was fine being a nomad. As soon as motherhood hit, I wanted to stay in one place. Permanently. And never move again. I wanted to put my pictures up on the wall and keep them there.

And I really thought that would be the case with our last house. Well, the last house before the temporary house. The landlord was great, she had no intention of moving back in (which happened to another of our past houses), and I liked everything about that house. I just didn't anticipate the walls falling down and needing to be rebuilt.

So by now I have given up the notion that I am going to stay in any house for any kind of permanency. (By the way, it's practically impossible for a foreigner to buy a house in Tanzania).

But you know what? After moping over the fact we had to leave the last house, and complaining to God because we had to leave the temporary house (the perfect one next to the school), and depressed because we had to find another house, yet again....well, after all that, He still gave me a house I don't deserve. My favorite house, in fact, of all the houses I've lived in. It is not a 30 second walk from school like the last one, but it's only a 10 minute walk (2 minute drive) from school. It's got a park for a yard. (Really, it's THAT gigantic.) And it even has a huge laundry room where I can leave my ironing board set up all the time. (Because we know what is really important in life, don't we, ladies?)

Great location. Great price. Big enough to hold 40 kids on Friday nights. Yard big enough for a soccer field and a basketball court, if we wanted to put them in. Guest room. Two year lease. Not permanent, but not bad either. And we didn't even have to look for it. It fell in our laps. More than I deserve, indeed. Especially considering all of my fretting.

So you want to see it? Here it is.

Dining Room

Laundry room/Pantry

Toy Room. This is a strange little room connecting the kitchen and the garage. We had the shelves put in and made it a Toy Room. It makes me very happy because for once I am able to keep all the kids' stuff organized. As you can see, my children are not suffering!

Living Room

Closet in Kids' Bedroom. All the bedrooms have these kind of closets.

Grace's bed. The other side of the room has another bed waiting for Josiah when he gets big enough.

Guest room. Come stay with us!


Office nook in our bedroom

Our bedroom

Master bath

Forgot to take outside pictures, so that will be next time!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Little Man

It's been one year since you've joined our family! Where has the time gone?

Went to the doctor today, and at 22 months you weigh a little over 21 pounds. So you are definitely still my (very) little guy. I love that. I missed out on the first 10 months of your life, so you can stay my baby for as long as you want.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Whatever the Circumstances

I live in a tropical paradise. I can see the glorious, sparkling Indian Ocean from the staff room at school, peeking between the trees at my house, and when I run errands around town. For fun we take a little boat to an uninhabited island and snorkel. The weather is always warm; even in “winter” it rarely goes below 66 at night. I am surrounded by Africans who are almost always warm and friendly, eager to help and eager to talk. I can walk down the road and buy melt-in-your-mouth pineapples for under a dollar, tomatoes, onions, bananas….or barbequed meat and French fries. A sense of adventure pervades every activity since life is usually unpredictable. I live in a large 3 bedroom house with a yard big enough for a soccer field, for less than what we paid for our tiny, one-bedroom apartment in California. I have a house worker who comes 5 mornings a week and does my cleaning and laundry.

Even better, my husband and I get to work and do ministry every day at a school we absolutely love. We get to spend our days with a staff from around the world who are so totally committed to the Lord and to the school that they are willing to raise support and essentially volunteer to work here. We work with students from 35 different countries who like to talk about deep things and for the most part have been shielded from the materialism and cynicism of their western peers. We have the privilege of feeling like we are doing something significant for eternity that fits our gifts perfectly, and we get to have fun while we do it.

Sound great? Envious? It’s all true. But this is also true:

We live in a developing country. Very little infrastructure exists in the city. That translates into snarled traffic where most drive dangerously, little law enforcement, garbage piled next to the streets, and no public parks. Customer service is not a cultural norm. I have to learn to adapt to a whole new system of living: there’s no yellow pages when something breaks, cultural standards of politeness and gift giving and hospitality are all different. There are often a lot of bugs. And rats. And snakes. Electricity and water supply are unpredictable. The humidity is suffocating for most of the year. Crime is high. Our car has been broken into twice; three of our friends have had violent house robberies in the past year.

Our students hand us a multitude of problems: eating disorders, self-injury, depression. Yet there are no counselors; not even the local church is equipped to deal with such issues. It’s also emotionally draining for us to form friendships with other missionaries because they are usually so transient. Every year at HOPAC, we lose and gain 30-50% of our staff. After this school year, my husband and I will be the longest-standing teachers at HOPAC—after only 7 years. Every single person there will have worked for fewer years than us. My husband has not had a close male friend for 3 years, simply because most of the young teachers at HOPAC are female. Up until this year, we have been the only staff members with young children. If we are lucky, we see our families once a year. Loneliness is often present.

I am not trying to evoke envy or pity. I’ve just been thinking about how every situation in life has two perspectives. I find that when I am in a good mood, I focus on the first perspective. When I’m in a bad mood, I focus on the second. Yet both perspectives are equally true. It’s simply a matter of what I will choose to focus on.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” How often do believers quote this verse to get them through any number of situations? Yet, in context, the verse is talking about contentment. “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” And what is that secret? “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Paul gives us another strategy earlier, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

I can choose what I think about? I can choose what I focus on? Indeed!

My desire: To resist allowing my mood to dictate which perspective I focus on, and instead train my focus to dictate my mood.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Last week, we had the very unique privilege of hosting the senior pastor, youth pastor, and treasurer of our home church in California. They came out on a vision trip, visiting Sudan and Rwanda to check out ministry possibilities (and they invited Gil to join them!), and then spent a week in Tanzania with us and a co-worker.

Do you know how incredibly cool it is to have people from your home church visit your country? Do you know how even cooler it is to have your church leaders visit? Hard to describe, really.

Thanks, FCC, for sharing these guys with us. Thanks for making it a priority. Thanks to the wives and kids who were without them for 18 days. Thanks for blessing us! We hope that we'll be all that more connected to FCC as a result of this trip, and that your vision for Africa will continue to expand.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

May Your Face Shine Upon Them

They walked into my fifth grade classroom in September of 2001. They were ten years old. I taught them long division and we read Where the Red Fern Grows and we all cried. Then the principal asked me to move up with them and teach them sixth grade, much to our delight.

We wrote to each other for two years, and then I returned just as they were starting 9th grade. Gil became their Bible teacher for the next four years. My role in their lives changed from teacher to friend/mentor. Many sleepovers, baby-sitting my kids, Youth Group on Friday nights, dinners, watching their basketball and soccer games, text message conversations late into the night, tears, laughter, questions. Staying with us for a weekend....weeks...almost a year in one case.

I have had many special students but none that I have known as long. They have come so far, accomplished so much, grown immensely in the past 8 years. I am as proud as a parent....will miss them like sisters....and just as worried.

Now they are off....three to college in the States...the fourth will join them after a gap year. Two are Tanzanian, one is Finnish, the fourth is a fascinating mixture. None have ever lived in the States before, one has never left Tanzania, all have spent the entirety or the majority of their lives in Tanzania. They've never been out of Christian school; all have spent all or most of their years at HOPAC.

So, of course I worry. I know what college life is like, what college guys are like....what college professors are like. I know what America is like.

So I pray. That they never lose their passion or vision for Africa. That they don't become too American, since that's not who they really are. That God will bless them and keep them and His face shine upon them.

And I praise God that I have been given the greatest gift a teacher can receive: the pleasure of seeing my students successfully finish. The greater joy of becoming friends.