Saturday, June 25, 2011

All Over the Place

You know when your mind is so full of different things that you can't really focus on any of them?  When you are experiencing so many different emotions that you don't really know what to feel? 

Yeah.  One of those weeks. 

Elation over Lily's police report.  Impatience that we still are waiting.  Crazy head all week to get ready for our youth camp next week and the team that arrived yesterday to put on the camp.  Excitement of having 14 members of our home church here with us.  Getting them all fed; getting them all sleep.  Arranging transportation.  Signing up kids for camp up until the last minute.  Camp starts tomorrow!  Yay!  But stress!  And then the temptation of despair descending on all of us over the complete nose dive of the power company this week.  Every report we hear is very, very bad.  Will it go down to six hours of power a day?  Will it come on at all?  Reports of people going without for 24, 36 hours.  So far ours has been a 15 hour cut, and now it is off again.  What will we do?  Discussing other options for power.  What will we do?  Can I live without a fridge, a washing machine, my computer? 

Ack.  Too many thoughts in my head at one time.  Did you get that camp starts tomorrow?  I won't be on here for a week or two.  Will try to update about Lily when that news comes.  Not sure what we will do if we get permission to go get here while we are at camp.  We're in for a roller coaster.  Will tell you about the ride when we get back! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

And then it happened!

The text message came about 11:00 this morning:  The social worker has received your police report!

Finally, finally, after all these weeks!  Blessed, blessed news!

There is still one more step.  The police report gets sent down to Dar, and then we wait to receive one final letter from social welfare telling us we can bring her home.  With Grace and Josiah, that only took a week or two.  We have friends who waited eight.  You just never know. 

BUT the exciting part today is that now we can introduce her to you.  The police report was the key, because that's the letter that releases her for adoption.  Up until that report, it's just speculation.  

Anyway, what am I wasting time for?  You want to meet her! 

So here she is:

Her name is Lilly Zawadi Clement.  Her mother, Zawadi Clement, died two hours after she was born, and no one ever came to claim the baby or the body.  She was a premie and stayed in the hospital a number of weeks.  Now she is almost 2 1/2 years old.

We are going to keep her name but spell it Lily.  This was an endless debate between Gil and me, because I really like the significance of giving any adopted child a new name when she enters a family.  But she does already know her name, and Gil and I both really like the name Lily, so Gil won out in the end.  She will one day be Lily Zawadi Medina.

And there was great joy in the Medina household!


There's something I didn't tell you about that visit to my daughter's orphanage.

I told you about that second day, when I held her for three hours and she wouldn't let me put her down without screaming. 

But I didn't tell you about when I left. 

I knew she would cry when I put her down.  So I figured, Okay, I'll hand her off to one of the other volunteers when I leave. She'll go from one attention-source to another, and that should pacify her. 

But it didn't.  The attention I had lavished on her for 24 hours must have made more of an impact than I thought.  Because when I left, and passed her on to a volunteer, she didn't stop screaming.

She screamed and screamed and screamed....for me.  And I turned my back on her and walked away. 

And as I have waited for week...two, three,, I keep hearing her scream.

I have been reading this book these days, the one everyone is reading. 

There's a reason I am not writing the story and God is.  He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what is all means.

I won't shield God from my anguish by claiming He's not involved in the ache of this world and Satan prowls but he's a lion on a leash and the God who governs all can be shouted at when I bruise, and I can cry and I can howl and He embraces the David-hearts who pound hard on His heart with their grief and I can moan deep that He did this--and He did.

All is grace only because all can transfigure.
(Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

Dear Amy H. up at Forever Angels is doing the best she can.  The days when she tells me that she hopes it will be Today, those are actually the worst days.  I check my phone every ten minutes to see if she has written; and as the day passes with No Word, the waiting suffocates my heart. 

But I wait.  And every day I want her more, and every day I must wait longer. 

And learn.  And trust.  And grow.  And remind myself that I don't want the change the ending, because God is writing the story.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


This is my friend Lauren.  I like her a lot. 

Three years ago, HOPAC was set to have its very first full graduating class.  I wanted it to be special.  Those were my kids, that I had taught so many years ago, and some had been at HOPAC since kindergarten.  They were going to scatter all over the world, and so I wanted them to finish well and have a sense of closure.

Lauren was my partner in crime.  We went to the principal, full of ideas for graduation activities.  He looked at us like we were asking to take kids to the moon.  Why?  Because he was British, and in England (and apparently most of the rest of the world), there is no such thing as graduation ceremonies for high school students.  (As we have discovered about a multitude of other American high school traditions, such as Student Council, Spirit Week, yearbooks, Americans do things different.)

But we persisted.  We felt it was really important.  He gave in a little; we gave in a little.  We didn't want our graduation to look American, because most of our kids are not American.  We wanted it to be uniquely HOPAC-ian. 

Since then, Lauren and I have found ourselves forever on the graduation committee.  Not that we really's just kind of assumed now.  But as we went through our third graduation this past week, we got all kinds of warm fuzzies.  We've gotten all the kinks worked out.  Many elements are unique to HOPAC.  It's super special to all the families and graduates.  Basically, Lauren and I got to help create HOPAC culture.

Getting to create culture is one of the main reasons why I love working there.  Nothing more fun.

This was Wednesday night, at the Annual Family Graduation Dinner.  We finally found the perfect venue.  Truly perfection.  The weather was perfect, the ambience was perfect, the food was perfect.  Celebrating beautiful HOPAC families. 

We even arranged for a lunar eclipse that night, which happened at exactly the same time as the banquet.  (We're getting pretty good at this graduation planning stuff).

Thursday was the ceremony.  One of the things our principal three years ago insisted on was doing it during the school day so that all the secondary students could be there.  We bucked this at first, because it wasn't what we were used to.  But you know what?  He was right on.  All the secondary students love going.  It's inspiring and exciting.  I had never been to any graduation before my own.  I wish I had. 

Way back in the year 2000, I was teaching second grade in California.  I wanted my class to have pen pals from another country.  Since I knew I would be heading to HOPAC the following year, I contacted the second grade teacher and asked her to pen pal with my class.  So we did.  I still remember some of the names:  Ruhi, Sajida, Iksheeta, Yonathan.  How I wish I had saved their scrawly second-grade letters! 

And on Thursday I saw them all graduate.  

This class is remarkable.  Twenty-five students, and out of that group we have students attending Yale, Princeton, MIT, and Stanford.  All from one class of 25.  About six more will also attend university in the U.S., though only 2 are American citizens.  (Well, there's also Benji, who has an American passport but has never actually been there, so I don't think he counts).

They wear Maasai cloth scarves.  We use typically-Tanzanian decorations.  And we don't use Pomp and Circumstance, when we found out it's a song about British imperialism.  Not exactly a good choice for an African school. 

I got the privilege of honoring Ab with the Service and Leadership Award.  Our wonderful Student Council president who blessed us and HOPAC this year.

Gil was voted the key note speaker by the class.  Of course, he was amazing.

And he got to present our very own Maggie with the Character award.

Parents that day told me, "Just yesterday they were starting kindergarten."  Eek! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fairy Tales Can Come True, It Can Happen to You

Once upon a time, there was this guy named Quincy.  I went to college with him.  We had lots of mutual friends, so sometimes we were in the same group that hung out together.  Then we went our separate ways.  But I remember him.

There also was this girl named Heather.  She also went to the same college, but years after me (and Quincy).  I never met her, but we had lots of mutual friends.  In fact, her church missions pastor is married to one of my best friends from college.  Heather felt God leading her to teach overseas, and she found HOPAC's website online, and she applied.  When her missions pastor found out, he hooked her up with us.  We met with him when we were in the States, and we happily agreed to make Heather a part of our family when she came to HOPAC.

Then, just a couple months before she left California, she met Quincy on a blind date.  And they both knew:  This was It.  But she still got on that plane and came to Tanzania to fulfill her commitment.

And she joined our family, every Thursday night dinner.  An auntie to my kids and an excellent friend to me.  We had a lot in common.  Especially that we both knew this guy named Quincy.

At Christmas, Quincy came out to visit Heather and stayed with us, so we got to see him again after 12 years.  We took them to Mikumi Game Reserve.  Which means we also got to witness this quite awesome event:

Can you see them waaaay back there?  (We kept our distance!)

And Gil got to be the photographer.

Today I just said good-bye to my good friend Heather, who has blessed our family (and HOPAC)tremendously this year.  I got the privilege of telling everyone how wonderful she is at our annual Teacher Appreciation banquet. 

But if we have to lose her, at least it's to this great guy named Quincy.  Is is too cliche to say that it's a small world?  Probably.  But when we went to college with Quincy 12 years ago, who would have thought that we would be witnessing his engagement?  In a game park in Tanzania?  To a HOPAC teacher? 

She leaves on Sunday to go home and marry this guy--in just a few weeks!  Love you, Heather and Quincy.  May God continue to bless you, exceedingly, abundantly!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why I Love Writing Prayer Letters

You know those sermons that stick with you forever? I remember one from my early years of college. Hillside Church, Sunday night service (back in the day when churches still had Sunday night services), Harry Brown of Cityteam ministries. He said (to paraphrase): If you (as an American church-goer) had to write a missionary prayer letter to your fellow church members on how God is using you to minister to others, what would you say?

Cuz we’re all supposed to be missionaries.


That gets drilled into our heads even when we are little in Sunday School.

But what does that even mean?

One thing that I really, really love about actually being an overseas missionary is that it forces me to actually live like a missionary. Got it? Clear as mud.

Let me explain. Let me tell you the expectations that are on us, since we serve God overseas:

We are held totally accountable for our finances. We get a stipend from HOPAC, but almost all that we live on comes from sacrificial donations. Do you know what it feels like to live like that? We think twice about how we spend it. We are constantly aware that everything we have is the result of other people’s love and faithfulness. We are forced to see what we own as sacredly entrusted to us to do God’s work. Yes, we do go on vacations and we certainly eat more than rice and beans. But we are reminded on a daily basis that all that we have belongs to God.

We are held totally accountable for our time. Every year our mission requires each of us individually to write and submit extensive goals for ourselves: personally, spiritually, and in ministry. Mine this year take up 3 single spaced pages. It’s like New Year’s Resolutions on steroids. Every month, we must submit a report which states how we are doing to meet those goals.

We constantly live with a sense of calling. We have been forced to be deliberate and purposeful in everything we do. Where do we live? What neighborhood should we live in? How big should our house be? Who do we spend time with? What kind of lifestyle do we choose? How do we spend our Friday nights? How will our children be educated? Each question is answered according to our calling. Everything must be purposeful.

And finally, we have to write prayer letters every month. We’re not just held accountable to our mission to but to hundreds of other people as well. Every month, we better be doing our job, because if we’re not, we’ll have nothing to say to the scores of people who pray for us and financially support us. Yes, it’s very intimidating! But it’s also amazing.

Let me make something really clear. There isn’t anything special about us that puts us in a different category than your average Christian. There isn’t any reason why we should be put on a pedestal. Our halos aren’t shinier than anyone else’s. Our hearts are sinful and our words are not always God-honoring. We have hurt people and deliberately disobeyed God at times. We can be lazy or judgmental or set on our own agendas. Of course, we believe in the saving power of God’s grace. But we consider ourselves really blessed to be forced to live in the way that every Christian should be living anyway. We fight it sometimes, but the accountability is wonderful. It pushes us, shoves us, demands that we do what we know we should.

In some ways, because of this, I think that it’s easier to live as a Christian in this life than it is in America. CrazyLove and Radical aren’t very hard to apply over here. Of course, that’s not why we choose to live this life. But it certainly is a benefit. How to live the missionary life in America? To live knowing your money and time belong to God? To live with a sense of calling and purpose? To be held accountable for those things to the Church? Now that is the bigger question.

One of the best parts about serving as an overseas missionary is that we get “sent,” commissioned….prayed for and sent off with much fanfare. It’s inspiring and motivating and invigorating. We have a calling! Our church is behind us! We are doing God’s work! Run to the battle!

I’ve always thought it would be wonderful if the Church did that for every profession. Like if one week they brought up all the medical professionals, and another week all the business people, and another week all the stay-at-home moms. Let them give their own “missionary updates” on how God is using them to redeem humanity culturally and spiritually, and then….commission them, pray for them, send them off to do God’s work! Because aren’t we all missionaries? There really shouldn’t be a difference, should there?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

One Girl

Maggie needed a senior picture photoshoot, so Gil was happy to oblige.  And of course, setting up the lighting meant that everyone else in the house got in on the action as well.  But the focus was on Maggie.

She grew up in a small town in Tanzania, one of many children.  She figured out early on that she was really good at math and science.  And determined.  She went to boarding school from the age of 8, and once she hit secondary school, managed to get herself scholarships to better and better schools, finally finishing her last two years at HOPAC.  And this year, she was offered the ultimate scholarships of all:  full-rides to both Stanford and MIT to study engineering. 

Through an intricate set of circumstances that was one of those God-things, she has ended up living with us since November.  And then my mom came out to visit in February, so Maggie got to know her.  And then she chose Stanford University, which is only 30 minutes from my parents' house. 

So now, as she graduates next week and is being sent out into that scary world called America in August--her first time out of Tanzania, her first time on a plane ever--my parents will be there to pick her up at the airport.  And help her get a bike.  And find her way around.  And show her how to order a drink at Starbucks. 

Thanks, God!  That is really cool how You worked that out. 

And someday she will return to Tanzania and change the world. 

But for now, I'm just thankful that God gave us this opportunity to change each other's worlds, just a little bit. 

It's been such a great experience that we're doing it again next year, this time with Sam from South Africa.  But more about her later.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Sublime and the Ridiculous

When walking to the tailor:
Grace:  Mommy, why are all the kids saying 'mzungu?' Is that another way of saying Hi?
Mommy:  No, it means 'white person.'  They are saying that because I am white.
Grace:  Oh.  We don't mind that you are white, Mommy.
Grace:  When my baby sister grows up, I hope she doesn't speak Italian.  Because then we wouldn't be able to understand her.
Mommy:  What was that thumping I heard in your room a little while ago?
Grace:  (with great emotion)  Just the beating of my heart.  Because I hurt my chin this morning. 
Josiah to Grace:  You are spitting at me! 
Grace:  No, I am laughing.
Josiah:  But you are spitting!
Grace:  (indignantly)  Laughing makes the spitting come out! 
Mommy to Maggie about college life:  You might want to request a women's only floor.  Would you really want to live with guys?
Grace:  Yeah, that would be stinky.
Grace was doing a princess puzzle.
Josiah:  I like Belle.
Grace:  But she doesn't have any superpowers.
Josiah:  I know; I like her face. 
Mommy:  Why do you like her face?
Josiah:  Because she is awesome.