Monday, April 30, 2012

This One's For My Friends Who Used to Live in Dar

This one may not be that significant for those who have never been to Dar es Salaam, but for those of you who have, you understand how miraculous it is that New Bagamoyo is finally being doubled:  from Mwenge to Tegeta.  It's's finally happening. 

The new road is to the right....can you see it? 

I expect to see comments of Hongera.....because yes, this is exciting.  Or rather, it will be, one day, when it is finished.
And Pole Sana....because yes, our driving lives are as miserable as you would imagine them to be, as we go through six detours and dodge heavy equipment every day.

Friday, April 27, 2012


These days, this is my favorite household product:

Not only does it kill these, which are our constant companions almost every day of the year,

But it also kills these, which like to jump out of the kitchen cabinets at me.

And most recently, it's very useful for killing these:

Yes, they are definitely as bad as they look. 

And the night before last, Sam woke me up at 4 in the morning because one had just stung her in her bed. 
*double shiver*

You got that right. 
It stung her through her shirt, so it wasn't worse than a bee sting.  But it was in her bed!  I got my can of Doom and we searched the room for 20 minutes but couldn't find it, so finally she just slept the rest of the night in my room.  Twice I've found them in my kids' beds....thankfully the kids weren't in them at the time.

And this morning, there was one under Grace's backpack. 

And that's why Doom is my favorite product. 
For now and all eternity.

(Pictures of bugs are not to scale.  Mosquitoes are, well, mosquito-sized.  Cockroaches are two inches long, and centipedes are 4-5 inches long.  *shiver*)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Grace Abounding

There was a time in my life when the first thing I did every morning was take my temperature. 

Every month, I hoped.  And every month, I cried.
The worst months were the ones when I was a couple of days late.  The waiting was torture, and I let my imagination get completely out of control.  What would my parents’ faces look like when we told them the good news?  Would it be a girl or a boy?  What would we name her? 

And then, the next day, only to be crushed again. 
I went through dozens of pregnancy tests.  Dozens.  It’s a good thing I could find them at the 99Cent store. 

And then God brought us Grace, and I was thrilled because brown babies were always a part of our plan.  The part of me that craved being a Mommy was filled up to the brim.   

But every month, I still hoped. 
Then Josiah came, and I was getting older, and I remember asking Gil one day, “Will you have regrets if I never get pregnant and we never did any procedure to help it along?”  And he thought about it a while and came back with a definitive No.
And I knew by then that No was my answer too.  But I knew I needed to ask it of myself, because we live in a country where “getting help” is not a possibility, yet I did not want to live with regret. 

But I realized that God’s grace had filled me up.  And that I didn’t really pay attention to what happened each month any more.

Then my addiction started.  Instead of craving a child from my womb, all I wanted was more brown babies:  the ones who were helpless and hopeless and desperately needed a Mommy.

And after Lily came, and we started to think about James and then about bringing a baby into our family from another country, I suddenly realized something.
I was afraid of getting pregnant.

Afraid because I thought it could mess up our plans for bringing home another orphan.  And suddenly, I was facing every month with relief at not being pregnant, instead of disappointment.
And that, right there, my friends, is the abounding Grace of God.
That He could take my pain, and my shame that started so many years ago, and turn it around so completely and entirely and fully---that can only be the Grace of God. 
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. 

Or rather, He will change your desires and make them His. 
He is the God of redemption.

He makes beauty from ashes.
He brings over-abundant joy from pain. 

And I am in awe.

(Just to clarify—I do know it could still happen to me.  It’s been 8 years of “not preventing” and I am now 35, so I’m guessing it won’t—but I know God does crazy things.  And if He does, well, of course, we will rejoice.  But that’s really not the point.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Left Behind

Early this morning, I put my Big Guy and my Little Guy into a taxi before the sun came up and sent them off to the airport. 

And now they are in Kenya at a conference that I was looking forward to...for years, actually.  Our mission's All-Africa Conference that happens only once every two years, when all the missionaries from all over Africa come and meet together.  And national pastors come too--strong men of God with incredible faith and amazing stories.  And we get excellent teaching and music and encouragement and prayer. 

Deep conversations with like-minded friends.  Strategic planning for the future.  Excitement at what God is doing all over Africa. 

And they're at Brackenhurst.  One of those lush, green, cold, mountainous conference centers with great food that I don't have to cook, and a kids' program, and no sweating.  I've been looking forward to going back since 2007. 

But here I sit, in my bedroom.  Sweating.  And I cooked my own dinner.

It's all because of this little sweetie. 

Lily's adoption has yet to be finalized.  And we can't get her a passport until then, which means she can't leave the country.  Which means I can't leave the country.

I suppose it's not unheard of to let a three-year-old stay with friends for five days.  But not when the particular three-year-old has only been in the family for 8 months.  The bonds that hold us are still quite fragile.  And I'm not willing to take that risk.

My wonderfully sweet husband offered to let me go instead of him, back when we realized that this would happen.  He knew how much I wanted to go to this conference.  But for a number of reasons, we knew it would be best for him to go.

I got over my pity-party a while ago, so I'm not feeling too terribly sorry for myself tonight.  Because you know what?  Lily is totally worth it.  Not for one moment would I change my mind about anything that led up to this. 

And so it's just us girls in the house this week:  Grace, Lily, Sam, and me.  Even the dogs are girls, including the one we are dog-sitting for another friend who went to Kenya.  No stinky boys allowed.  (Sigh....except I'm going to miss those stinky boys an awful lot.) 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Plugging In

 "The study of film is important for Christians because it is the modern-day equivalent of philosophy."

Imagine you are in high school.

And the principals (and chaplain) of your high school decide to take the entirety of middle and high school students on a field trip to the cinema.

During school hours.  To see a movie.

The most popular movie playing right now, actually.

In fact, that particular movie happens to be opening in Tanzania tonight, which means that all the students got to be the first people in Tanzania to watch it. 


Haven of Peace Academy. 

The Hunger Games.

10:00 this morning at a special showing just for us, at the cinema.

Oh yeah.  Total awesomeness.

I'm not sure who was more excited--the students or the teachers. 

And why would we take up valuable class time to do such a thing? 


"Movies are perhaps the most perfect mirror that we have so far constructed to show ourselves what we are."


"Simply put, film is the ultimate form of cultural expression in the modern world.  Film is where culture is at.  Film is the most powerful image of itself that humanity has ever produced.  No one would deny that books, art, music, politics...and so forth are significant, but film is the one 'cultural location' where all of these other categories may meet and have a discussion." 

And we couldn't think of a better (recent) movie that does all of the above.

Of course, the books have spread like wildfire through the students this year, and Gil and I devoured them all over Christmas break.

They are not our favorite books.  Not really something to read when you want to think happy thoughts.  But as a mirror of society?  A type of modern-day philosophy? 


The theme that Gil and I chose for chapels this year is "Plugged In."  We have been focusing on encouraging the students to unplug from media and plug into God, but at the same time, helping them to evaluate what they see and listen to and read through a biblical perspective.  It's very, very important to us.

So the fact that the administration also thought that it was important enough to cancel class and cart the whole lot of them over to the movie theatre made us very happy indeed.

And of course, the catch was that they had to participate in an hour of discussion afterwards.  And the discussions (and assignments) will continue next week.  But still!  We definitely have the coolest school ever.

(All quotes taken from Meaning at the Movies by Grant Horner.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Break

A visit from best friends--Caleb and Imani, swimming at the pool, staying at our favorite beach house, enjoying the zoo, spending time with Bibi and Babu, Easter Sunday. 

School starts tomorrow....but what a week!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Legacy Given To Me

Shortly after I was born, my parents became followers of Jesus.

Just four years later, they were at one of those old style Baptist missions conferences. The pastor gave an altar call for those who were called to serve in missions. I'm sure "People Need the Lord" would have been playing, had it been written then.

My parents were convicted and went forward. 

My mom especially was terrified. This was way before short-term trips where future missionaries can scope out mission fields and get used to travel before committing their lives to deepest darkest Africa.

My mom says she kept hoping that God would keep them from going. But He did not. Her mother--my grandmother--was so furious that she even consulted a lawyer to see about getting the grandchildren taken away from them. For our entire first term, my grandmother did not write to us even one time.

I had just turned six years old when we left. My dad left a lucrative position as a chief pharmacist for Kaiser, to train nationals at a small mission hospital. My mom says she cried every night for the first six months. But I had no idea. To me, she was still my happy and energetic mom. And I loved Liberia.

My parents were faithful and they persevered. Two years turned into six and Liberia became our home. I spend the bulk of my childhood under the palm trees.

And they gave their daughter the best gifts they could have:  a love for Jesus, a passion for missions, and the most amazing childhood a kid could ask for

From the time we went back to the States when I was a sophomore in high school, I wanted to go back to Africa.  And though God took me through some long years of lessons to get there, He did indeed bring me back. 

I am eternally grateful for the parents God gave me. 

Even now, their sacrifices continue, because their only grandchildren are 10,000 miles away.  Yet from the beginning, despite their heartache, they have given us total support and encouragement.

But that doesn't take away the pain of separation.  So any time we are together is especially sweet.  It had been a year since we've seen my Mom and two years since we've seen my Dad. 

So you could say that last week was a great week. 

My children wept when they left. 
Their legacy goes on. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

experiencing The Story

Last week, HOPAC's wonderfully creative people created an interactive Easter experience for all the students. 

Each part of the Easter Story was a station, and groups of students rotated through the stations, watching, tasting, feeling, and smelling the events from the last week of Jesus' life. 

HOPAC at its best.  To God be the Glory.