Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Everything I Love in One Video!

I knew that HOPAC was making a new recruitment video, and today it came out.

It made my day.  Partly because I love this place so much, partly because the video is so well done, but also because the missionary it features (Mark) is our partner in our new, upcoming ministry!  Everything you see HIM doing is what GIL will be doing in the very new future!

So not only does this video talk about our past ministry, but our future ministry as well!

It's less than 4 minutes, and if you have followed this blog for any length of time, please watch it!  You won't be sorry!  Enjoy getting a glimpse of our (past and future) lives, and then pass it on to any teachers you might know!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dorothy and Karama and Dreams Coming True

This story is about Dorothy, and about Karama.  And about Mother's Day too.  Don't worry, it will all make sense.

(in front)

I met Dorothy back in 2001, when she was a student in my fifth grade, and then sixth grade class at HOPAC.  I loved that class and all of us got very close.  

Dorothy was bubbly and radiant and I loved that when I was her teacher, she would write me long notes and schedule lunch meetings with me where she would pour out her 11-year-old soul.

(in center, sixth grade)

(10th grade and Grace, age 2)

When we returned to Tanzania in 2005, Gil became her Bible teacher for all of high school.  She was one of Grace's main baby-sitters and Gil was her basketball and soccer coach.

(far bottom right)

She was also a part of our youth group and she attended our summer camps.  Basically, she couldn't get away from us.  Like many of our students, she felt like our own kid in a lot of ways.  We had the privilege of watching her grow into an incredible young woman.  

(sitting to my right)
In 2009, we got to see her graduate from high school and she went off to college in the States on a big scholarship.

Gil and I visited Dorothy (on the right) and Aishi (whom we also love) in Minnesota during their freshman year of college.  

Dorothy graduated last year and started praying about where God was going to take her next.  

She knew she loved Jesus.  She knew she loved Tanzania.  She knew that God had given her the precious gift of a college education, which very, very few Tanzanians receive, and that she had a unique dual understanding of both African and American perspectives.  

Meanwhile, back in Tanzania, one of our good friends, Dyan, started a non-profit organization called Karama a number of years ago.  Karama is dedicated to helping women develop micro-enterprise skills and helping them sell their products to women in the west.  It is entirely and completely fair trade, and works to improve women's standard of living while maintaining their dignity.  Any additional profits go directly toward sponsoring African teens to attend Young Life camps.  

They sell amazing stuff, don't they?

A couple of months ago, Dorothy called me to say that she had been hired to work full-time with Karama.  She would be working with women all over Africa.   

I was happier than a bird with a French Fry.  Perfect for her because she loves Jesus and Africa.  Perfect because she understands American fashion and African social issues and she studied political science and business.  She couldn't be more perfect for the job.

Our prayer for our students over the years has always been that they would love Jesus and love Africa.  We knew that it wouldn't be true for all of them, but we sure hoped it would characterize a lot of them.  

So the joining of Dorothy with Karama is a dream come true for us and for her.  And I think God delights in doing that.

And since we're on the subject of Karama, and since Mother's Day is right around the corner, why not check out this amazing website-store?  Want to help African women?  Want to give your Mom a really unique gift you won't find anywhere else?  

Here's your link:

And just in case you're not convinced yet, here are a few samples I stole from the site:

I've got you hooked, don't I?  What are you waiting for?  Visit Karama!  And praise God that He continues to work in our students' lives.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Resurrection Sunday

Easter in San Jose with my family:

My dad's wonderful garden, a perfect spring day, an Eggcellent Eggstravaganza Cooking Competition (which Grace and I both won), eggs full of pennies....
Bundling this all up to take back with me to Tanzania.  

Really the only reason he was excited about wearing a suit.  

Cousins....all in the family by adoption.

Lily said that day, "Josiah is very handsome but he is also very weird."
Oh yes.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Astonishingly Crazy

If you could read my mind, you would know that I'm really not a very nice person.

I think I'm right way more than I should; I get irritated and intolerant; I am arrogant; sometimes I am too lazy to give my kids what they need.  Fear keeps me from loving people.  I can revel in seeing someone fail; I am selfish and inflexible; I stress out often and take it out on other people.  Sometimes I shock myself with my lack of love and lack of forgiveness.

Actually, forget about reading my mind; you really just need to talk to my husband or kids.

There was a time in my life when I seriously considered all the major world religions.

But I discovered, that if they were true, I was screwed.  All of them taught that the path to heaven or enlightenment was to be a really good person.

And I knew that I was not a really good person.  Or even a sort of good person.  Sure, I could smile and mind my manners and follow the rules and make people think that I was Such a Nice Girl, but I saw all that was sinister inside me.  And I knew that had the circumstances been right, if I had lived in Germany in the 30's or Rwanda in the 90's, that I would be capable of all that was evil.

I also considered that perhaps there is no heaven or enlightenment, that everything I can touch and see is all there is.  But that is even more terrifying, because then there is no answer for the evil inside me; I would be just a meaningless mixture of chemicals.  It would mean everyone just makes their own rules and there is no true beauty and no true purpose or real soul.

I'm telling you this today because I want you to know why I believe in something as astonishingly crazy as the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Of course, there was a time when I researched and I read literally dozens of books on the subject, because I didn't want to believe what I wanted to be true, I wanted to believe what is true.  And now I am convinced that the physical Resurrection of Jesus is one of the most verifiable facts of history, and I believe that it confirms that Jesus' claim to be the Son of God was not just the ravings of a mad man.

But I also believe because I cling to it as a drowning man clings to a life vest, as a man in the desert runs to a spring.  The Resurrection is Life; it is the assurance that despite the wretchedness of my heart, that God accepts me as His own, because the price has been paid.  It is oceans of beautiful, astonishing, immeasurable Grace.  It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God.

And the Resurrection shows me how all of life makes sense, how I have no need to fear, how it's all One Big Story and I (even I!) get to play a part in it.  It rips apart my selfishness; it motivates me to love other people; it gives me hope and power to change.  To change!

By the grace of God, I would give up everything for it; I would die for it; because I have already gained everything.

This is why I celebrate on Sunday.  This is why I leave this country and these people that I love and move (again) half way around the world.  Because the Resurrection is everything.

Watch this today.  Because it's awesome and I never get tired of it.

Photo credits:  Gil Medina

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hopefully This is a Non-Awkward Post

There's just no easy way to bring up the topic of money.

I tried to think of something cute and clever.  I got nothing.

Do people get tired of missionaries talking about money?  Nobody has actually told me that, but I wonder sometimes.  A lot of times.

So can I just share a few things with you?  I really hope you will get my heart in this.

(Note:  My intended audience in this post is to our Church families and friends.  Anyone else is welcome to read, of course, but this one is more personal than the greater blog sphere.)

We are fundraising right now.  We will not be able to return to Tanzania until we have reached a certain amount.

Missionary fundraising is hard and awkward and wonderful.

It's probably like the feeling a man gets when he asks a woman to marry him.  When a politician puts his name out as a candidate.  When a person hands in a resume for a job he really, really wants.

It's a very, very vulnerable feeling.  
Will people get behind us?
Will God confirm this is what He wants us to do?
Does anyone else think this is as important as we do?
Or are we just crazy?

We believe in what God has called us to do.  We believe it is really, really important.
But we cannot do it without the Church.  Literally and figuratively and spiritually and in every way possible.

No one ever wants to talk about money in our culture.  It's, like, one of the most awkward things to ever talk about.  And yet, that's our job right now.  Ugh.  Hard.  Miserable, sometimes.

But then there's the wonderful.

I remember that many years ago, Gil and I read a book on mission fundraising.  It told us that we should analyze the financial status of the people we know--look at their houses, cars, jobs, and then make an assumption as to how much money they make and how much they could afford to give us.  Then we should ask them, face to face, for that amount.

We decided way back then that would never be our approach.

How can anyone guess the financial status of a person by looking at their lifestyle?
Maybe it's all on credit cards.
And who am I to "decide" how much they should give to our ministry?
Maybe they already give away so much, that they don't have anything else to give.

And most importantly, where is the Holy Spirit in that approach?
If we really believe that God believes our ministry is important;
if we really believe that God is the one orchestrating all of this;
if we really believe that it is God who compels people to join our support team;
then who are we to "assume" who will or won't join us, and how much they can give?

We are always, always surprised.  And it is always wonderful.

Our biggest financial supporter so far is a couple that I had met twice, and Gil had never met, when they joined our support team.  I barely knew them, and even if I had, I would have never guessed that they could help us so substantially.

There are three widows on our support team.
There are other missionaries on our support team.
People from all walks of life; some who are close friends, some who we don't know well.  Some in their 80's, some in their 30's.

We have learned to have no expectations.  God always surprises us.  He delights in that, and in these days when I am feeling awkward, and anxious, and wondering if we we be able to leave on time, and wondering if people are sick of us talking about money, and wondering where it will come from....well, I must remind myself of that, over and over.

It's His work, His ministry.  And He will surprise us.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Under the Same Sky

Sometimes I stand in the street surrounded by spring beauty and orderly houses and I know I am safe, and the only thing I have to worry about is keeping Lily's hand firmly in mine.  It feels like this is the only reality and this must be how the whole world must be.

But I look up in the sky and I think about all those 7 billion people standing under the same sky, yet living in such different worlds.

And am I thinking these days about those in North Korea, who are also made of the same flesh and blood and bones that I am made of, and looking up at the same sky, and yet living in a world I cannot even comprehend.

I read this book a couple of weeks ago:

I learned that in one small country, all 25 million people are living as prisoners, starving and hopeless and beaten and frightened and desperate.

And I stand in my middle-class neighborhood and I am struck by the absolute absurdity of how it is even possible that those of us crammed into this tiny planet and looking up at the same sky can live in such vastly different worlds.

We know it's there.  We know it's there, right?  We know that people are suffering, we know that we are the richest people in the world, and we know that as followers of Christ, we are supposed to care.  We are supposed to care, and we are supposed to do something, and we do care, but we don't know what something we are supposed to do.

So we wring our hands and we share articles on Facebook and we get all teary when we read them.   And maybe we'll send money or shoes or a Christmas shoebox.  But then we go back to our TV shows and washing the dishes and cutting out coupons and going to the gym because what else can we do?  And sometimes we want to forget because thinking about suffering people is just too hard.

But as I thought about North Korea this week I was forced to consider:

Do I care?


Do I believe in the power of God?

If I answer yes to those questions then the next logical question has to be:

Then why am I not praying more?

And I started thinking about the way that I pray and how I pray and how much time I pray about which subjects.  And I started thinking about all the prayer meetings I have been to and all the things that we pray about in them.

Please pray for my husband's safety on his business trip.

And another North Korean Christian is dragged off to be tortured for owning a Bible.

Pray that God would heal us from these colds that are running through our family.

And a 14-year-old sex slave in Thailand spends another night chained to a bed, being raped by 40 men.

Pray that escrow closes on our house.

And Saeed Abedini  is beaten in prison in Iran.

Pray that my daughter gets into this college.

And a baby is aborted for having Downs Syndrome.

Pray that God would heal my back pain.

And a South Sudanese family is once again forced to run while their village is bombed.  

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Of course, we are to pray about colds and escrow and back pain.  Of course.  He numbers the hairs on our heads; He cares about the details of our lives; nothing is too small or too big for Him.

But may we look up into the sky and think about all the people under it, people who are living so very differently than our neat, orderly neighborhoods.

Do I care?  

Do I believe in the power of God?

Resolve with me, my friends, to pray for the world like their lives and souls depend on it.

Because they do.

Photo credits: Gil Medina