Thursday, February 26, 2015

War on Thursday Mornings

The sun is still rising at 7:30, and it casts palm tree shadows on the soccer field.  The students have all jostled their way into their classrooms, a mess of lunch boxes and castle projects and blue polo shirts.

We sit on the picnic tables under the roof made of thatch, everyone in their classes or offices except a few lone gardeners sweeping, raking, watering.  And us.

The sun hasn't yet reached its feverish intensity for the day.  The Indian Ocean blinks in the distance.  The light filters through the leaves.  It is indeed our Haven of Peace.

In a little while, all the elementary kids are on the basketball court, singing their hearts out.  They are our background music.  Oh happy day!  Happy day!  You washed my sins away!  

We are a lowly band.  It's usually just Santosh, Melissa, Laura, Tracy, and me.  We spread the lists out in front of us--every student, every teacher, every gardener and cleaner; and each Thursday morning we sit and we do battle over the names.  Each week we tick more names off the lists, and by June we will have conquered them all.

And I can't help but wonder, as we sit, relatively unnoticed, under the thatch, with our lists, what is going on in unseen places and hearts, as we battle for Peace in this Haven.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Trying Not to be Predictable: Our Plan for a Missions Internship Team

Last year, I did a series on re-thinking short-term missions.  I ended it with the challenge to not be so predictable.  The world is changing, missions is changing, and we've seen a lot of the negative side effects of short-term trips.  One idea I presented is to re-think the idea of a service trip, which can often hurt more than help, and to consider the idea of a vision trip, which would do a much better job of exposing and teaching young people about missions without hurting overseas ministries.

So....we are practicing what we preach!  We're hoping this summer to host our very first internship team!  It's still in its formative stages, but we are very excited about this!

I am posting here the information that we sent our supporting churches.  I am not expecting my average reader to sit down and read through this, but I am posting it because I want it to be a resource for missions committees and overseas workers who might be interested in doing the same thing.  

Feel free to ask me questions!  Let's get this idea going!

2015 Tanzania Missions Internship Team
Hosted by:  Gil and Amy Medina, ReachGlobal

Summary:  We are inviting each of our supporting churches to send one person or one couple (with no kids) to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for three weeks in June/July.  These team members must already have a significant interest in missions.  The purpose of this trip will be to teach this team about different types of overseas ministries and missions philosophy.  Team members will be active learners and participators, but will not be serving in any specific capacity.  In response, team members will be expected to make a major presentation to their respective missions committees on what they learned, and a smaller presentation to the entire congregation about our ministry in Tanzania.

Philosophy behind this trip:
We are big fans of short-term missions.  We ourselves participated in many such trips in our younger days, and they were hugely influential in our lives and our decision to become career missionaries.  We also have hosted a number of short-term teams in our 11 years in Tanzania and all have been a big encouragement and help to our ministry. 

This year, and possibly in future years, we would like to try something different.  We have found that for those young people who are really interested in missions, short-term trips often don’t really give them a picture of what missions really looks like.  Team members engage in activities that aren’t the kind of things “real” missionaries do, and sometimes their activities actually cause harm to local ministry by taking jobs away from nationals or causing unnecessary dependence on the West. Churches in the West often justify these types of trips by pointing to the benefits they bring to the team members themselves.  They look to “missions exposure” as the main reason they want to send their young people overseas.

We absolutely believe in the benefits of missions exposure.  So we decided to construct a new type of team that will give more than the typical kind of exposure team members get from short-term teams.  Instead of a service trip, we want this to look more like an internship.  We are designing a trip that will expose interns to a variety of different kinds of ministries, in different venues and reaching different people groups in our diverse city and country.  We want interns to get “up close and personal” with these ministries, not only observing but actively engaging—asking questions, taking notes, and discussing their implications throughout the entire trip.

Why are we doing this?
1.       Because we love the opportunity to help raise up the next generation of missionaries
2.       Because we want to serve the churches who serve us by helping to mentor and nurture their upcoming missionaries
3.       Because we get something out of it too!  In hosting this trip, we hope to continue to make better and stronger connections with our supporting churches.  We will ask each intern, when they return, to do a (five-minute) presentation to their congregation about us and our ministry in Tanzania.  We hope that interns will also gain a passion for our ministry and will help to advocate prayer for us as well.

Now…onto the details!
Approximate dates of Tanzania Missions Internship program:  June 15 to July 5, 2015
Each of our supporting churches are invited to send either one person or one couple (no kids) to join this team.  The number of people sent from each church can be possibly negotiable depending on how many other churches want to send interns. 

What missions committees should require of interns:
·         At least 18 years old and have graduated from high school by the time of the trip
·         Demonstrating a growing, thriving relationship with Jesus Christ
·         Already showing a significant interest in missions as a career
·         Mature and responsible
·         Involved in church ministry
·         Able and willing to travel alone internationally (This may not be necessary as we will try to bring team members together for travel, but traveling alone might be the most practical choice.)

What we will require of interns before the trip:
·         Read two books between March and June:  Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer and Discipling Nations by Darrow Miller.  We will keep interns accountable through a Facebook discussion group. 
·         Procure a passport
·         Receive travel vaccinations

What we will require of interns during the trip:
·         Be active learners and participators
·         Take a notebook with them wherever they go, asking questions and taking notes
·         Have a good attitude about new situations that might be uncomfortable
·         Conform to cultural modesty standards

Examples of ministries interns will be exposed to:
·         Our ministry to local pastors, Reach Tanzania
·         Haven of Peace Academy, MK international school
·         Community Development Ministry to impoverished neighborhoods
·         Ministry to train disabled individuals in marketable skills
·         Young Life in Africa
·         Bible translation efforts in Tanzania
·         Orphanage Ministry [and a number of other ministries that cannot be shared publically]
Interns will also interview many missionaries and nationals, travel to a few sites that teach about the history of Tanzania, and learn about missions philosophy and strategy. 

What we will require of interns after the trip:
·         To their missions committee:  A formal presentation of some kind, such as a Power-point presentation or a video, highlighting what they learned on this trip.  The missions committee could also give interns the option of writing a formal paper instead (though future missionaries need to get used to making presentations!).
·         To their congregation:  A five-minute presentation highlighting our ministry

Interns will either stay with us or in the dorm rooms at our ministry training center (two miles from our house).  Everyone will have a mattress, though not necessarily a bed! 

Cost per person:
·         Air ticket:  approximately $1800-$2000
·         Passport
·         Tanzanian visa:  $100
·         Living/travel expenses:  approximately $500
·         Travel vaccinations:  Cost varies.  Only yellow fever is required, and we do not anticipate interns needing additional vaccinations.  Recommended that interns bring malaria prophylaxis.
·         Safari trip:  approximately $150
·         Interns need to have medical insurance that will cover them internationally

If a church decides to send an intern, we ask that the missions committee of that church officially interview, support, send, and follow-up with this person.  The missions committee does not need to fully financially support this person, but should give them their official backing and encouragement to raise the rest of the money from the congregation.  All support money should go through the church and not directly to the individual. 

We recommend that each intern pay for their safari trip out of their own funds.  They will also want to bring some spending money, though all meals and activities will be covered through living expenses.

We hope you will prayerfully consider this opportunity!  We would love to serve one of your young people in this way.  Please be in contact with us regarding any comments or questions.

Together for the gospel,

Gil and Amy Medina
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sometimes Fairy Tales Come True

Once upon a time, many years ago, in a large city called Dar es Salaam, there were these foreigners living in the far northern part of the city called Mbezi Beach.

They felt left out.  They felt rejected.  All the people in the center of the city, and the southern part of the city, had all sorts of great restaurants and markets and shops.  Most importantly, they had a place called Shopper's Plaza.  At Shopper's Plaza, you could buy bacon and cheese and broccoli and all sorts of wonderful things that you couldn't find anywhere else in the city.  And those things are pretty important to foreigners.

But those poor folks out in Mbezi Beach?  Well, they could buy things like flour, sugar, and beans out in their area, but if they wanted yogurt, tortilla chips, or Oreos, well, they had to drive to Shopper's Plaza.  And that usually took about an hour each direction.

It was very sad.  As the years went on, Shopper's Plaza got bigger and better, and another Shopper's Plaza opened in Dar es Salaam....but it was still nowhere near Mbezi Beach.  All the Mbezi Beach folks had to drive that looong distance and no one seemed to notice or care.

Mbezi Beach friends would wistfully wish that one day there would be a Shopper's Plaza in their area.  A couple of years ago, rumors started circulating that a Shopper's Plaza was being built in Mbezi Beach!  But they were used to having their hopes dashed, so everyone just kept saying, I'll believe it when I see it.  

And then, on February 21, 2015, a miracle happened.  A Shopper's Plaza did indeed open in Mbezi Beach!  It was a dream come true!  No more empty dreams of bacon!  No more ice cream melting in the hour trip home!

It was wonderful and beautiful.  All the Mbezi Beach friends went to the brand new Shopper's Plaza on February 21st, because it was only 10 minutes away, and everyone needed to see it for themselves.  All the friends jumped up and down and were positively giddy and spent way more money than they should have.

And they all lived happily ever after.

The End.

24 Hours (A Day in My Life)

This was not an exciting day.  But I chose to write about it because it represents a fairly ordinary day of my life here.  

Friday, February 20th

6:15  Wake up.

6:30  Wake kids up.  Make peanut butter toast and kefir smoothies.  Begin making lunch for kids.  They come to the kitchen and beg to buy lunch from the snack bar today, and I relent.  So instead of making sandwiches, I hunt down exact change for three snack bar hamburgers.  Cut up apples for snacks.  As I'm working in the kitchen, I holler out reminders:  Grace, did you fill the water bottles?  Lily, did you find your library book?  Josiah, do you have your shoes on?  

7:15  Everyone piles in the car.  Drop off kids at school.  Gil and I head to the Reach Tanzania center, where he is finishing his class on Worldview this week.  Drop off Gil.  I take the car back home.  

7:45  Eat my breakfast.  Pile dishes in the sink for my house helper.  Strain kefir.  Get on computer and finish up some projects that need to be taken to the printer today.

8:45  Head to HOPAC to help in Grace's class.  I love this; I get my teacher fix and get to know the kids in her class.  Today it's all about using descriptive words.  

10:00  Off to the main task of the day:  Find a printer who will make business cards.  There's a big company in town I've used for printing before, but I really don't want to drive that far today.  I know there's lots of little places that advertise business cards, so I decide to give one a shot.

I drive to a place not far from our house and find a little print shop.  It is approximately the same size as most American's closets.  The shelves on the walls are crammed with paper, folders, and other office supplies.  There's barely room to move, but I see a computer and a couple of large printers that look as if they are in working condition.

I ask a few questions.  Yes, they print business cards.  How do you cut them?  She pulls out a contraption that looks like a business-card hole punch.  All righty then.  Let's do this.

I choose the paper I want.  She sits me down at the computer; I pull up my file.  I click print; I can hear the printer whirring and.......the power goes off.  

I sigh.  She laughs and shrugs her shoulders.  What to do?  We exchange phone numbers and I ask her to call me when the power comes back on.

10:30  I start off on my other errand of the day:  Find powdered sugar.  Yesterday, I had made a cake for Gil's students, and a batch of cupcakes for Lily's kindergarten aide's birthday.  Then I realized I was out of powdered sugar for frosting.

So I head out to look for the sugar.  First shop:  No luck.  She points me to another shop.  Do you have powdered sugar?  I ask in Swahili.  Yes, he says, but it's ngumu.  Hard.  I take it anyway. 

11:00  I get home and discover the power is out at home as well.  So I fuss around at home.  Read my Bible; do some chores, answer some emails, eat some lunch.  I fret about the fact that nothing I had planned is getting done today.

12:00  I really need to make the frosting now so that I can deliver the cakes on time.  But the shopkeeper wasn't kidding when he said the sugar was ngumu.  I'm not going to be able to mix this up by hand, and the power is still not on.

I ask our gardener to turn on the generator so that I can use my electric mixer.  Even then, it's like trying to turn chalk into frosting.  I pound away at it.  By the time I'm done, the kitchen and myself are covered with powdered sugar, and it still has lumps in it.  But it will have to do.  

The lumpy frosting gets stuck in the decorator, making the cupcakes look like they are covered with piles of.....yeah.  Oh well.  At least kindergarteners only care about sprinkles.  

1:00  I head over to the ministry center and deliver the cake.  I head back over to HOPAC to deliver the cupcakes and help Lily's teacher with the party, since Friday afternoons, cake, and kindergarteners are not really a calm, quiet combination.  

2:20  School is over.  I visit the library; I visit the office.  I know that Gil will be getting home soon and will be exhausted, so I decide to let the kids play at school for a while.  

4:00  We head home.  I stop at my favorite fruit stand.  I buy 5 pounds of onions, 2 pineapples, 5 mangoes, 1 papaya, 6 apples, and a large bunch of bananas for about 10 dollars.  

The power is still off at home.  Gil is lying on the floor, trying to get cool.  I help Grace with some homework.  I start dinner by blanching 5 pounds of tomatoes to get the skins off.  I turn half into tomato soup for dinner, and the other half into spaghetti sauce for another day.  The power finally comes back on at 5:00.

6:00  Dinner, baths, kids to bed, and Gil and I watch The 100 Foot Journey.  

Saturday morning (now):  My task for the day?  Get business cards printed.  Hopefully today will be more successful than yesterday.  Except the power just went out.  Literally.  Just right now.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Setting Out in the Dark

Even though they are both amazing stories, I wish someone had warned me that it was a bad idea to read Unbroken and Blood Brothers back-to-back.

I'm sure you've heard of Unbroken, since it's a best seller and now a movie.  It is most definitely as mind-blowing and incredible and redemptive as everyone says it is, but you have to get through years of torture and abuse and starvation to get there.

So picking up Blood Brothers right after was probably not the best choice.  This book was a best seller in Germany, but only recently translated to English.  It was written by an MK I knew in Liberia, who grew up on the same compound as me.  I loved the descriptions of a childhood that paralleled my own, but when it got into the Liberian civil war, with its depictions of cannibalism and unfettered rape and children's heads indiscriminately smashed against walls, I was just about undone.  These things happened on streets that I had walked, to people I had known.

In the middle of this, I read an article on Auschwitz, where 1 million people were murdered.  How is that even possible, that one million people could be murdered in one facility over a period of just a few years?  And then I read another article titled "ISIS militants are using mentally challenged children as suicide bombers and crucifying others."

All week, my world was grey.  I felt like I needed my own PTSD counseling.  How can I go about making the bed and watersliding with the kids and dicing up mangoes when such evil exists?  "We have to watch The Office," I told Gil.  "I can't sleep with this stuff in my head."

I can't, I can't, I can't deal with this reality, of what one man is capable of doing to another man, to a pregnant woman, to a baby.  And I can't deal with the reality that the same depravity lies in my own heart, because we're not talking about isolated incidents of psychopaths.  We're talking about the realities on every continent, in every generation.  We can watch The Office all we want, but this is not going away.

And then another book cleared the grey.

I'm reading C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair to the kids.  There's a scene where the evil queen is trying to convince Puddleglum and the children that her black, ugly, hopeless Underworld is the only reality there is, and using her dark magic, she almost succeeds.  At the very last moment, Puddleglum snaps them out of their stupor by announcing:

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things--trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.  Suppose we have.  Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.  Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only one world.  Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one.  And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it.  We're just babies making up a game, if you're right.  But four babies playing a  game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow.  That's why I'm going to stand by the play world.  I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it.  I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia....We're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland.  Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say.

Yes.  We put up our heads and we set out in the dark.

All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.  And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own...They were longing for a better country--a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.  (Hebrews 11)

Louie, Michael, and Ben--the main characters in Unbroken and Blood Brothers--they put their bets on Aslan.  Me too.

Friday, February 13, 2015


Milestones are important in adoption.

Last February, when Lily turned five, that meant she had lived with us for the same amount of time that she had lived in the orphanage.  

So last week, when Lily turned six, that meant the scales have tipped in our direction.  She's now spent the majority of her years as a Medina.  That's a good feeling.

As amazing as her orphanage was, she still was without a family for two and a half years.  We still feel the effects of that, and she is still struggling to overcome some of that learned behavior.  But we see progress, and it's always worth it.  

Lily doesn't do big crowds very well, so we celebrated with just one friend and her family.  She also doesn't do well with all eyes on her, as you can see below.  

She's a beautiful little girl, and she's ours. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Changing the World, One Tuna Sandwich at a Time

I seem to have always wanted to reject the ordinary.

As a child, my favorite color was green instead of pink.  I refused to wear the stylish clothes my mom bought me, in favor of old hand-me-down dresses.  I didn't wear a single pair of jeans until I was about sixteen.

When we moved to Liberia when I was six, I wholeheartedly embraced my identity as a Third Culture Kid.  I was thrilled to be different.  Some missionary kids struggle with not fitting into their home cultures; I reveled in the fact that I did not fit in.

I was determined not to live an ordinary life.  In high school, I volunteered to help with a Bible study for disabled kids. I spent summers at a camp for inner-city kids.  I was determined to Change the World.  I wonder now if my motivation was less about loving people and more about my fear of being ordinary.

I was terrified of suburbia and mini-vans.  I am thankful that God in His graciousness is allowing me to spend my life in Africa.  But I've discovered that even here, where adventures are much more common, the Ordinary still creeps in.

I'm in that place right now.  We're involved in ministry that is still trying to get it's toddler feet on the ground.  My husband spends the bulk of his time studying and preparing for classes.  We have very few cool, exciting stories to tell.

New relationships are coming slower than I want.  Language is coming slower than I want.  I am trying to figure out this new world of having all my children in school, and how I am supposed to divide my time and what I should and shouldn't commit to.

And every day I make meals and fill water bottles.  We do homework and pick up toys and I do some accounting for our ministry, and I help in my kids' classrooms, and I go to HOPAC board meetings.  I am busy.....but it is all ordinary.  Even power outages are a routine.

I find myself restless and discontent.  I want more.  I want to do more; I want to be more; I want to accomplish more.  I feel like I must be doing something wrong.

We look for visions from heaven, for earthquakes and thunders of God's power, and we never dream that all the time God is in the commonplace things and people near us.  If we will do the duty that lies nearest, we shall see Him.  (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, February 7)

Once again,  I must knock down the idol of Being Different.  Am I where God wants me to be?  Am I doing what God wants me to do?  Then I must embrace the Ordinary.  Pick up the toy; make the tuna sandwich; love the person in front of me.

Even though I'll always like green a whole lot more than pink.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mungu ni Mwema.

Recently I read here that World Bank development indicators have placed Tanzania the fifth most dangerous place in sub-Saharan Africa for a woman to give birth (out of about 50 countries).

So it was a happy day to visit my friend, Esta, and her brand new baby boy, Emmanuel.  Baby and mama are safe and sound, after a few scares and months of prayers and bed rest and a c-section.

(This picture doesn't accurately reflect her joy!)

He has the best dimples ever, but he slept so much I just couldn't get a picture of them.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  

Mungu ni mwema.  God is good.